Archive for 'General'

Dec 17

Congressional leaders unveiled a wide-ranging deal on tax extenders, making some items permanent.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 is a culmination of recent work done in both chambers of Congress and renews and makes permanent important tax incentives that support both individuals and job creators. Among the provisions that would be made permanent are the enhanced Child Tax Credit, the enhanced American Opportunity Tax Credit, the enhanced Earned Income Tax Credit, the above-the-line deduction for teachers who buy school supplies, the charitable deduction of contributions of real property for conservation purposes, along with the Research & Development Tax Credit and Section 179 expensing.

The permanent R&D Tax Credit provision permanently extends the research & development tax credit and, for the first time, allows for eligible small businesses to claim the credit against the alternative minimum tax liability or against the employer’s payroll tax liability. The Section 179 provision permanently extends the small business expensing limitation and phase-out amounts in effect from 2010 to 2014; and sets a new threshold at $500,000 and $2 million, respectively, from the current amounts of $25,000 and $200,000, respectively.

In addition, the legislation suspends the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices through 2017 and delays for two years the so-called “Cadillac tax” on high-priced health insurance plans that was supposed to begin in 2018. It also phases out bonus depreciation. Another provision permanently extends the exception from subpart F income for active financing income. The legislation also permanently extends the rule reducing to five years (rather than 10 years) the period for which an S corporation must hold its assets following conversion from a C corporation to avoid the tax on built-in gains.

Another provision permanently extends the ability of individuals at least 70½ years of age to exclude from gross income qualified charitable distributions from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) of up to $100,000 per taxpayer in any tax year.

Congress is expected to vote by the end of the week on the tax legislation along with an omnibus spending bill that was also unveiled late Tuesday night (see Congress Reaches Deal on Tax Extenders).

“Santa came early this year with gifts for almost everyone in the form of numerous tax relief provisions, although the IRS may view its gift as a lump of coal,” said Peter Mills, managing editor of federal taxes for Bloomberg BNA. “Tax planners would gain more certainty because the bill would make permanent many important tax provisions, most notably the research and development credit, the expanded §179 expensing limitations, the enhanced child tax credit, and the earned income tax credit, as well as extending some popular temporary provisions, such as bonus depreciation. Foreign investors would gain advantages in increasing investment in U.S. real estate by increasing their ownership percentage of publicly traded REITs without being taxed on sales of the interests, and by exempting foreign retirement and pension funds from being taxed on sales of REITS holding U.S. real estate. It also would delay some of the taxes associated with the Affordable Care Act. The IRS fares less well under the bill with new restrictions, including a rule providing for the termination of any IRS employee who takes official actions for political purposes. Moreover, the IRS has the burden of processing these changes in time for the upcoming tax season.”

The Internal Revenue Service would receive $11.23 billion in fiscal year 2016, an increase of $290 million over the current level, specifically for customer service, identity theft and cybersecurity, according to the National Treasury Employees Union. While that figure is $1.7 billion less than the administration’s request of $12.9 billion, the NTWU noted, the final amount is an improvement over the House proposal to cut the IRS budget by almost $838 million compared to the current level.

The bill would make permanent a provision that allows retailers to depreciate remodeling and other improvements to their stores over 15 years rather than the previous standard of 39 years, the National Retail Federation pointed out. The provision, which also applies to restaurants, is important because retailers typically remodel every five to seven years. In addition to helping keep stores attractive to customers and profitable, the remodeling work creates tens of thousands of construction jobs each year.

A separate provision that allows 50 percent of the cost of improvements to be written off under “bonus deprecation” would be extended for five years, and would be expanded to cover stores and restaurants that are owned rather than just those that are leased.

Section 179 expensing, which determines the amount of an investment a small business is allowed to write off entirely in the first year rather than being depreciated over multiple years, would be made permanent and its level would be increased.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which gives retailers a tax incentive to hire the disabled, welfare recipients and other economically challenged individuals, would be renewed for five years.

Paul Gevertzman, a tax partner at Anchin, Block & Anchin, sees benefits in having more certainty about the tax provisions. “The most positive aspect of this extender package is that many of the perennially expiring provisions are either made permanent, or at least pushed off beyond another New Year’s morning expiration,” he said. “What it means for businesses is that they can now plan properly. They can operate with the knowledge that if they follow the prescribed steps they can achieve the anticipated tax result. I had one client tell me just this morning how he’s been sweating it out because they spent $20+ million dollars on equipment purchases in 2015 not knowing for certain how much of that spend could be written off this year. This bill takes the guesswork out of the equation. This certainty allows tax incentives to actually incentivize businesses to spend, rather than to simply provide a benefit to businesses post facto for what they’ve already done.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., spoke of the advantages of the tax deal during a press briefing Wednesday. “I cannot tell you how many times I have visited with small businesses and farmers who tell me, ‘Give me some certainty in the tax code, and I can go create jobs.’ We are finally delivering on one of those tax policies we’ve been trying to—for years—to get certainty in the tax code so we can create more jobs,” he said. “I think this is one of the biggest steps toward a re-write of our tax code that we’ve made in many years. And it will help us start a pro-growth, bold tax reform agenda in 2016.”

The Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees have worked on efforts in Congress to overhaul the tax code through working groups, hearings, roundtables, issue papers and markups.

“Passing this legislation and making more tax policies permanent will provide significant tax relief for hard-working taxpayers in every walk of American life, from the middle class to military families to the working poor,” said Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday. “It will do the same for businesses and job creators throughout our country, resulting in a healthier U.S. economy, increased growth, and more American jobs,” Hatch said. “Put simply, more permanence in the tax code will be a good thing for our country, and the PATH Act will provide just the kind of permanence we need.”

Earlier this year, the Senate Finance Committee reported out a bipartisan tax extenders package that extended provisions to help families, individuals and small businesses for two years. The House Ways and Means Committee advanced several tax bills that would make permanent a number of policies, like incentives for innovative research and development, among others.

The PATH Act includes a number of bipartisan legislative policies that were advanced by the two tax-writing committees.

“It makes absolutely no sense the way America handles its tax code,” said House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, in a statement. “How can families and local businesses count on tax relief each year as long as Congress can’t decide what’s permanent and what’s not? That confusion ends now, and our economy will be stronger for it.”

However, the bill will come at a cost of billions of dollars added to annual budget deficit, which may complicate passage in Congress.

“This bill highlights clear priorities for reforming our tax system,” said Wyden. “What does that mean?  Millions of working families with children will not find themselves suddenly taxed into poverty. Millions of college students won’t have the rug pulled out from under them when the tuition bill arrives. Charities can confidently plan and expand the good work they do. And small business and enterprises on the forefront of innovation now have the economic certainty they deserve. At the same time we are phasing out provisions like bonus depreciation which were always designed to be temporary. But now is not the time for Congress to slow down and pat itself on the back. Today is a down payment on tax reform and our work continues as we strive towards a complete overhaul of our broken tax system.”

The tax extenders package also includes a five-year extension of the wind energy production tax credit to lead to a phase-down of the industry-specific tax credit. The wind production tax credit will be 100 percent in 2015 and 2016, 80 percent in 2017, 60 percent in 2018 and 40 percent in 2019.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had advocated for passage of this provision. “As the father of the first wind energy tax credit in 1992, I can say that the tax credit was never meant to be permanent,” Grassley said in a statement. “I also can say that the wind energy industry is the only energy industry that came forward with a phase-out plan. The oil and nuclear industries have benefited from tax incentives that have been permanently on the books for decades.  The five-year extension for wind energy brings about the best possible long-term outcome that provides certainty, predictability and a responsible phase-down of a tax incentive for a renewable energy source.”

The tax package includes an extension of the existing biodiesel fuel blenders credit, the small agri-biodiesel producer credit, the tax credit for cellulosic biofuels producers, the alternative fuel vehicle refueling tax credit, and bonus depreciation for cellulosic biofuel facilities.

Jul 31

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Additional information on returns relating to mortgage interest.

Sec. 6050H is amended to require new information on the mortgage information statements that are required
to be sent to individuals who pay more than $600 in mortgage interest in a year. These statements will now be
required to report the outstanding principal on the mortgage at the beginning of the calendar year, the address
of the property securing the mortgage, and the mortgage origination date. This change applies to returns and
statements due after Dec. 31, 2016.

Jul 31

highway

The short-term highway funding extension passed by the Senate on Thursday contains several important tax
provisions. The bill modifies the due dates for several common tax returns, overrules the
Supreme Court’s Home Concrete decision, requires that additional information be reported on mortgage
information statements, and requires consistent basis reporting between estates and beneficiaries.

         

Due date modifications

For partnership returns -  the new due date is March 15 (for calendar-year partnerships) and the 15th day of the
third month following the close of the fiscal year (for fiscal-year partnerships).

For C corporations – the new due date is the 15th day of the fourth month following the close of the
corporation’s year.

The new due dates will apply to returns for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2015. However, for C
corporations with fiscal years ending on June 30, the new due dates will not apply until tax years beginning
after Dec. 31, 2025.

taxes-646511_640

Oct 01

Regulations issued on Tuesday finalize rules the IRS put into effect in 2012 allowing employees to deduct certain expenses paid or incurred for local lodging as business expenses.
Normally, lodging expenses a taxpayer incurs while not traveling away from home are considered personal expenses under Sec. 262(a) and are not deductible. However, under the new rules, local lodging expenses that meet certain criteria will be considered ordinary and necessary business expenses and therefore deductible under Sec. 162.
To be deductible, local lodging expenses must meet a facts-and-circumstances test under Regs. Sec. 1.162-32(a) or qualify for a safe harbor under Regs. Sec. 1.162-32(b). Local lodging expenses paid by an employer on behalf of an employee may be deductible under Sec. 132 as a working condition fringe benefit if they meet the new tests. If an employee is reimbursed by the employer for local lodging expenses, the reimbursement amount may be excludable from the employee’s income if the expense allowance arrangement qualifies as an accountable plan under Sec. 62(c).
One factor considered under the facts-and-circumstances test is whether the expense is a “bona fide condition or requirement of employment imposed by the taxpayer’s employer.” Examples given in the regulations to illustrate the facts-and-circumstances test include employees who are required to stay at a local hotel during a work-related training session; professional athletes who are required to stay at a local hotel before a home game; an employee who is relocating for work and looking for a new home; an employee who has to stay at a hotel near the office while working long hours; and employees who occasionally are on call for a night duty shift and stay at a local hotel.
Under the safe harbor, local lodging expenses will be treated as an ordinary and necessary business expense if:
· The lodging is necessary for the employee to participate fully in or be available for a bona fide business meeting, conference, training activity, or other business function;
· The lodging does not exceed five calendar days and does not occur more than once each calendar quarter;
· The employer requires the employee to remain at the activity or function overnight; and
· The lodging is not extravagant or lavish and does not provide a significant element of personal pleasure.
The final regulations clarify that expenses that do not qualify for the Regs. Sec. 1.162-32(b) safe harbor may nevertheless be deductible under the facts-and-circumstances test.
Taxpayers may apply the new rules to any tax year that is still open.

Sep 15

Ninety-four percent of small businesses use QuickBooks software for their accounting records, but the IRS does not have the budget to update its QuickBooks software yearly. Thus, it is unable to accept electronic records from many of the small businesses it is auditing. Without access to electronic records, the audit will be less efficient. Is that good or bad news for the taxpayer and/or the tax practitioner? More later.

Sep 15

The GAO says that since FY 2010, the IRS has lost 10,000 employees and had its budget cut by $900 million. More cuts are proposed for the 2015 IRS budget. Identity theft issues, foreign asset reporting, and Affordable Care Act (ACA) responsibilities will continue to absorb personnel and resources. This budget reality will hamper IRS audit goals, but there are still many audit targets that you will want to discuss with your business clients in the next few months.

The rich and their entities. High-income taxpayers will continue to receive audit attention (at about a 9% rate for those reporting income of $1 million to $5 million). Since these taxpayers often have complex tax returns with income and losses from many flow-through entities, the audit of the owner will often lead to an expansion of the IRS examination into the various entities.

Partnership returns. Partnerships are the fastest-growing segment of all tax returns filed. The IRS hopes to expand its audits of partnership and LLC returns. Flow-through losses from developers and real estate investors will get special attention. The audit rate of partnerships and LLCs was a dismal .42% for FY 2013. The IRS did special training this year to increase the number of auditors with a specialized knowledge in partnership law.

Employment taxes. Employment taxes are a focus this year, and this includes a continuing look by the IRS at:
1. Employee versus independent contractor,
2. Form 1099 compliance, and
3. S corporation reasonable compensation issues.
Remember that when the ACA’s employer mandate takes effect in 2015 and 2016, the employee versus independent contractor determination will become more important. Employer ACA penalties can be up to $3,000 for each misclassified employee.

Cash businesses. The tax gap remains a hot item, so cash-intensive businesses will receive a little more attention from the IRS. The IRS is using Form 1099-K to help it select some of these businesses for audit.

Mar 28

Keep your actual tax returns forever.  They can help when you, apply for a mortgage or disability insurance or need clues to the value of other assets. (You don’t need to keep the originals; you can scan the tax returns and keep a digital copy.

 

The IRS generally has up to three years after the tax-filing deadline to initiate an audit, so you should hold on to supporting documents for at least that long. Those documents include credit-card statements, canceled checks, debit-card transactions and receipts showing deductions; letters from charities reporting gifts; and paperwork reporting mortgage interest, capital-gains distributions and income

 

Most people can safely shred those supporting documents three years after the tax-filing deadline. But people who are self-employed or who have a small business or  income from a variety of sources or complex tax situations should keep their records longer. The IRS has up to six years to audit people who neglect to report more than 25% of their income. Shred the old documents rather than just throwing them away, so you don’t create a treasure trove of personal information for ID thieves.

 

Other tax files you should keep include records establishing the basis of your assets for as long as you own the asset (you should file those records with your tax files for the year you sell the asset).

 

Keep records showing the purchase date and price of stocks and mutual funds in taxable accounts. When you sell the investment, you’ll have to report the purchase date and price so you can establish the basis. Brokers are required to report the cost basis of stocks purchased in 2011 or later and mutual funds and ETFs purchased in 2012 and later, but Ziegler says it’s a good idea to keep your own records even for purchases after those dates in case you switch brokers. Also keep records of reinvested dividends that you’ve already paid taxes on, so you can add them to your basis when you sell and you won’t have to pay taxes on them twice. If you inherit any stocks or funds, keep records of the value on the day the original owner died, which will generally be the basis when you sell it.

 

Keep Form 8606 reporting nondeductible contributions to traditional IRAs until you withdraw all of the money from the IRAs. That way, you’ll be able to prove that you already paid taxes on the contributions and you won’t have to pay taxes on that portion of the money again when you start taking withdrawals.

 

Keep records of your home purchase cost and home improvements. You generally aren’t taxed on home-sale profits if you’ve lived in the home for at least two of the past five years and your profit is less than $250,000 if single or $500,000 if married filing jointly. But if you live in the home for a shorter time or have a bigger profit, you may have to pay taxes on part of your profits, and you can add the cost of major home improvements (not basic repairs) to the basis to reduce your taxable gain.  

 

You can toss pay stubs as soon as the information matches up with your W-2 for the year (but keep your December pay stub if it shows charitable contributions made via payroll deduction). You can toss monthly brokerage statements when the information matches up with your year-end report and your 1099s. You can toss most credit-card receipts that you don’t need for tax purposes after you check them against your monthly bill. And you can usually toss utility, phone and cable bills as soon as the next month’s bill arrives, unless you need them for tax purposes. For example, you should hang on to them if they show self-employed business expenses or they’re used for a home-office deduction, or if you want to show prospective home buyers the average monthly cost of your utilities.

 

Dec 19

The Internal Revenue Service has been doing business with nearly 1,200 vendors that owe back taxes, including one unnamed contractor that owes a whopping $525 million, the new inspector general’s report says.

 

The IRS’s 1,168 vendors owed back taxes totaling $589 million as of July 2012, according to the report released Tuesday.  Only 50 were in a payment plan to pay off their debt.

 

Apparently the IRS checks whether vendors owe back taxes when the agency awards contracts but it doesn’t continually monitor their tax bills after the contracts have been awarded.

 

The inspector general’s office is prohibited by law from revealing the name of any delinquent vendor, including the one that owed $525 million. The report says most of the back taxes, including the biggest, were delinquent for less than a year.

 

The report also excluded back taxes that were being contested, counting only those that either agreed to by the taxpayer or ordered by the court.

 

The IRS stated, “The vast majority of vendors that conduct business with the IRS meet their federal tax obligations.  We appreciate (the inspector general’s) acknowledgement that IRS has effective controls in place to prevent suspended and debarred vendors’ from receiving IRS contracts.”

 

Huh? What planet are they on?

 

Dec 11

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Nov 29

IRSTargetsThousandsOf Small BusinessesForExtraScrutiny – In 3 Parts

 

Part I – What the IRS is doing.

 The IRS has always been able to match individual tax returns against information statements and propose under reporter adjustments that come in the form of CP2000 notices. ?? But things are changing, and a new era at the IRS is upon us. ?? Now, the IRS is using information statements to find under reporting on business returns.

 

Thetaxagencyisdoingsome targetingofitsown,fingeringatleast 20,000smallbusinesses. Andthatnumber willgrow. Thescrutinyonthisgroupandinthisway isalittlefrightening.   Smallbusinesspeople acrossAmericaarereceivingIRSnotices. Morewillbecoming.TheIRSgathersdata frommanythirdparties-including credit cardcompanies-toseeif youpickedup everynickelofincome. Remembertorecordandpay

tax on all transactions?

 

In September, the IRS started its first information return-matching program for business return Forms 1120, 1120S and 1065. This program matched business return incomes to the total amounts reported on all information returns. ??  That would include merchant reporting of credit cards and third party network payments and cash reporting.

 

This year, business taxpayers also started receiving Form 1099-K, Merchant Card and Third-party Network Payments, reporting amounts received from payment settlement entities (from debit/credit cards and third-party network payers such as PayPal). To avoid taxpayer burden, the IRS stated in a letter to the National Federation of Independent Business on Feb. 9 that it will not require taxpayers to separately report amounts from Forms 1099-K on returns, and has no plans to in the future. ??

 

Wait a minute; not everyone is convinced. One Congressman, Sam Graves (R­ Mo), Chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, notes that the IRS’s first sentence begins, “Your gross receipts may have been underreported.” Says Congressman Graves that sounds like the IRS is looking for more than just additionalinformation. It soundslikeitcouldmeanmoretaxes,penalties andinterest,Sam Graves wroteinthislettertothe agency.

Mr.Gravessuggeststhattheletterscouldintimidate businesses.Hesaysthatasmallbusinessowner receivingthisnoticemaybealarmedandfeel threatened. TheIRSnoticegoesontosayyour receiptsareofffromanIRSaverage. Within30 days,pleaseprovidedocumentationtoprovewhy yournumbersdon’tfallwithinIRS’sstandard,the IRSasks.

 

YettheIRSdoesn’trevealitssourceanddoesn’tsay

whatthestandardisorwhereitcamefrom. It soundslikeyouarebeingaskedtoprovethat youdidn’tunderreportyourincome. That’s provinganegative,andcouldrequireextensive correspondenceanddocumentation.

 

AsaresultofForm1099changesandtheever-increasingwebofreporting,theIRSreceives detaileddataaboutcredit-anddebit-card transactions. TheIRSminesthedataandmaythink thatahighpercentageofcardtransactionsmay meanyouarenotreportingall thecashyoureceive.

 

‘Pleaseexplain,’theIRSmayask. – go to Part II