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IRS tax scams are on the rise.  Therefore, it’s important to use caution when viewing emails and receiving telephone calls purportedly from the IRS.  Falling victim to a tax scam can be very costly, not only in money, but also in the amount of time and aggravations it can take to straighten out the resulting mess.


Tax writers in Congress are set to begin debating and writing tax reform legislation. On September 27, the White House and GOP leaders in Congress released a framework for tax reform. The framework sets out broad principles for tax reform, leaving the details to the two tax-writing committees: the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. How quickly lawmakers will write and pass tax legislation is unclear. What is clear is that tax reform is definitely one of the top issues on Congress’ Fall agenda.


As millions of Americans recover from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, Congress is debating disaster tax relief. The relief would enhance the casualty loss rules, relax some retirement savings rules, and make other temporary changes to the tax laws, all intended to help victims of these recent disasters. At press time, a package of temporary disaster tax relief measures is pending in the House. The timeline for Senate action, however, is unclear.


IRS Exam staffing in fiscal year (FY) 2016, the latest tax year with statistics available, reached a 20-year low. As a result, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has reported that the IRS undertook fewer audits.


IRS Chief Counsel, in generic legal advice (AM-2017-003), recently described when a qualified employer may take into account the payroll tax credit for increasing research activities. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) created the payroll credit aimed at start-ups with little or no income tax liabilities. This tax break allows taxpayers to get the cash benefit of the payroll tax credit sooner as they reduce their payroll tax liability as payroll payments are made, instead of having to wait until the end of the quarter to receive the credit.


Yes, however, there are special timing rules for foreign adoptions. These rules differ from the timing rules for domestic adoptions and impact when you may claim qualified adoption expenses.


House and Senate lawmakers have started their August recess, leaving pending tax legislation for after Labor Day. In past years, September has been a busy month for tax legislation and this year is likely to be the same. Before leaving Capitol Hill, lawmakers took actions in several areas related to tax reform.


The IRS remains focused on an issue that doesn’t seem to be going away: the misclassification of workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Recently, the IRS issued still another fact sheet “reminding” employers about the importance of correctly classifying workers for purposes of federal employment taxes (FS-2017-9). Generally, employers must withhold income taxes, withhold and pay social security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment tax on wages paid to employees. They are lifted of these obligations entirely for independent contractors, with usually the only IRS-related responsibility being information reporting on amounts of $600 or more paid to a contractor.


A recent Tax Court decision and pending tax reform proposals have intersected in highlighting how stock sales can be timed for maximum tax advantage. The taxpayer in the recent case (Turan, TC Memo. 2017-141) failed to convince the Tax Court that he timely made an election with his broker to use the last-in-first-out (LIFO) method to set his cost-per-share cost basis for determining capital gains and losses on his stock trades on shares of the same company. As a result, he was required to calculate the capital gain or loss on his stock trades using the firm’s first-in-first-out (FIFO) “default” method, which, in his case, yielded a significant increase in tax liability for the year.


Country-by-Country (CbC) reporting is part of a larger initiative by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) known as the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project. CbC reporting generally impacts large multi-national businesses. Because CbC is part of BEPS it is important to be familiar with the core concepts.


An eligible taxpayer can deduct qualified interest on a qualified student loan for an eligible student's qualified educational expenses at an eligible institution. The amount of the deduction is limited, and it is phased out for taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds certain thresholds.


Lawmakers from both parties spent much of June debating and discussing tax reform, but without giving many details of what a comprehensive tax reform package could look like before year-end. At the same time, several bipartisan tax bills have been introduced in Congress, which could see their way to passage.


The much-anticipated regulations (REG-136118-15) implementing the new centralized partnership audit regime under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA) have finally been released. The BBA regime replaces the current TEFRA (Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982) procedures beginning for 2018 tax year audits, with an earlier "opt-in" for electing partnerships. Originally issued on January 19, 2017 but delayed by a January 20, 2017 White House regulatory freeze, these re-proposed regulations carry with them much of the same criticism leveled against them back in January, as well as several modifications. Most importantly, their reach will impact virtually all partnerships.


With the release of regulations on centralized partnership audits, many taxpayers hope that it will signal the re-start of a regular flow of much-needed guidance from the Treasury Department and the IRS that has been virtually stopped dead in its tracks since January 20. Others caution that the floodgates have not been opened and that the impact of several Executive Orders in discouraging guidance will be felt well into next year. Also bearing upon the recent lack of guidance are the critical vacancies within Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy that have been taking longer than usual to fill.


No. The IRS continues to treat virtual currency as property for U.S. federal tax purposes. However, last year, a government watchdog, and this year, a group of lawmakers, urged the IRS to clarify its virtual currency guidance.


Every year, millions of post-secondary students access the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This year, the DRT is unavailable for FAFSA filers because of cybersecurity concerns. The information needed to complete the FAFSA can be found on a previously filed federal income tax return.


Since taking office in January, President Trump has called for comprehensive tax reform. The President’s recently released fiscal year (FY) 2018 outlines some of his key tax reform principles. At the same time, White House officials said that more tax reform details will be released in coming weeks. These details are expected to describe rate cuts for individuals and businesses, new incentives for child and elder care, elimination of certain deductions and credits, and more.


The future of the Affordable Care Act and its associated taxes has moved to the Senate following passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in the House in April. Traditionally, legislation moves more slowly in the Senate than in the House, which means that any ACA repeal and replacement bill may be weeks if not months away.


Many businesses consider the occasional wining and dining of customers and clients just to stay in touch with them to be a necessary cost of doing business. The same goes for taking business associates or even employees out to lunch once in a while after an especially tough assignment has been completed successfully. It's easy to think of these entertainment costs as deductible business expenses, but they may not be. As a general rule, meals and entertainment are deductible as a business expense only if specific conditions are met. What's more, the deduction for either type of expense generally is limited to 50 percent of the cost.


As “hurricane season” officially begins, the IRS has released a number a tax tips, reminders and other advice to help taxpayers weather the storm of natural disasters and similar emergencies. The underlying theme for all IRS "tax tips" is that recordkeeping has generally become easier in the digital age. However, it remains the primary responsibility of the taxpayer to preserve adequate records whether or not caused by a disaster.


Individuals, trusts, estates, personal service corporations and closely held C corporations may only deduct passive activities losses from passive activity income. The rules do not apply to S corporations and partnerships but do apply to their respective shareholders and partners. In general, limited partners are not deemed to materially participate in partnership activities. Thus, a limited partner's share of partnership income is passive income. However, general partners or acting general partners may hold limited partnership interests and materially participate in the partnership.


President Trump on April 26th, just before his “100 days” in office, unveiled his highly-anticipated tax reform outline –the “2017 Tax Reform for Economic Growth and American Jobs.” The outline calls for dramatic tax cuts and simplification: lower individual tax rates under a three-bracket structure, doubling the standard deduction, and more than halving the corporate tax rate; along with changing the tax treatment of pass-through businesses, expanding child and dependent incentives, and more. Both the alternative minimum tax and the federal estate tax would be eliminated. The White House proposal does not include spending and tax incentives for infrastructure; nor a controversial “border tax.”


The Treasury Department is to undertake a review and re-evaluation of tax regulations issued by the IRS since January 1, 2016. President Trump signed an Executive Order 13789 (“Identifying and Reducing Tax Regulatory Burdens”) ordering this action on April 21. Following its review and re-evaluation, the Treasury Department will make recommendations.


The IRS processed more than 128 million returns and issued some 97 million refunds without hitting any major roadblocks by the end of the filing season. As in past years, the vast majority of returns were filed electronically. Likewise, most refunds were deposited electronically. Although the filing season has ended for most individuals, millions are on extensions.


Audit coverage rates are at low levels, the IRS has reported. According to the IRS, the audit coverage rate for individuals fell 16 percent from FY 2015 to FY 2016. The 0.7 percent audit coverage rate for individuals was the lowest coverage rate in more than a decade, the agency added.


Although the employee may end up with the same amount whether something is designated a tip or a service charge, the IRS reporting requirements for the employer do differ. Basically, any amount required to be paid by a customer rather than at the customer’s discretion is considered a service charge by the IRS.


Lawmakers continue to debate comprehensive tax reform, aiming for a package to clear Congress and be signed into law by the President before summer. At the same time a “mini” tax reform package in an Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal and replacement plan appears to have stalled in Congress.


The IRS has released the inflation-adjusted limitations on depreciation deductions for business-use passenger automobiles, light trucks, and vans first placed in service during calendar year 2017. All limitations are inflation-adjusted based upon October 2016 CPI amounts, with rounding conventions that account for almost all 2016 limits remaining the same for 2017 (only the third-year limitation for light trucks and vans rose, from $3,350 to $3,450 in 2017).


In a case that provides a lesson to anyone donating property to charity for which a deduction of more than $500 is claimed – get proof in writing and get it at the time you donate the property. After-the-fact substantiation, no matter how convincing, is not acceptable under the tax law to support a deduction.


Starting a new business venture can prove exciting, but rather costly. There are certain tax advantages that can help alleviate some of the financial burden associated with entrepreneurship.


Miscellaneous itemized deductions are certain nonbusiness expenses that individuals as taxpayers who otherwise itemize deductions may take against their taxable income. Such miscellaneous expenses are allowed only to the extent that they exceed 2-percent of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income. Miscellaneous itemized deductions may also be limited by the overall itemized deduction phase-out.


As the new administration and Congress get to work, tax reform is high on the agenda. Although legislative language has not been yet released, statements from tax writers in Congress shed some light on various proposals.


The filing season is the most active time of the year for tax scams. These scams take every shape and form, ranging from telephone calls to individuals to sophisticated schemes targeting employers and businesses. The goal of all these scams is identity theft. Using legitimate identities of unsuspecting individuals allows criminals to file fraudulent returns and claim bogus refunds.


The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), in its recently released final report for the 2016 filing season, highlighted the IRS’s response to what was good and what was bad about its performance. It signals what the IRS is doing during the 2017 filing season currently underway to improve things (TIGTA, Ref. No. 2017-40-014). Nevertheless, although the IRS had improved in a number of areas with respect to the 2016 filing season, TIGTA reports that the agency continues to be plagued by numerous challenges.


The first step is to determine if you qualify for the federal fuel tax credit. The IRS has uncovered significant fraud associated with the fuel tax credit and is watching for fraudulent claims. The credit is not available to most taxpayers but only to qualified taxpayers, such as taxpayers engaged in farming. However, some ineligible taxpayers claim the credit in order to inflate their refunds. Fuel tax credit fraud can result in a penalty of $5,000.


Tax-related identity theft spikes during the filing season. Many taxpayers discover for the first time that they are victims of identity theft when they receive a letter from the IRS.


The change in administrations in Washington has generated a new focus on tax reform. The White House and lawmakers from both parties have discussed tax cuts, infrastructure spending, and more to encourage economic growth. However, the details of their plans have yet to be revealed. Tax reform legislation may be unveiled in February.


The 2017 tax filing season launched on January 23. The IRS predicted a few speedbumps for taxpayers, especially for taxpayers who file early in anticipation of early refunds. The agency expects to receive more than 150 million individual income tax returns. The vast majority of individual income tax returns will be filed electronically and the IRS has extra safeguards in place to protect taxpayers from cybercrime.


National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, in a recent report to Congress, urged the IRS to change its culture from one that is enforcement-oriented to one that is service-oriented. Such a change, Olson provided, would create an environment that encourages taxpayer trust and confidence. In the report, Olson also highlighted key areas for tax simplification and the top-10 most litigated tax issues.


The IRS has rules that limit the deductibility of expenses and losses from a hobby or activity not engaged in for profit. If the IRS determines that an activity is not profit-driven, deductions from the activity are limited to the amount of income the activity generates. Losses from such activities cannot be used to offset other income, such as salary or investments.


The prudent businessperson is always cautious when he or she is offered a great bargain on real estate, equipment, a business interest, or some other property that just might be too good to be true. Even in connection with ordinary business transactions but especially when considering taking over a property or business that in a bargain because of some legal wrinkle, you should consider whether there might be some tax liability attached to the bargain that could come back to haunt you down the road.


Congress ended 2016 passing a few targeted tax bills and lawmakers focused on the incoming Trump administration and tax reform in 2017. President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on tax cuts for individuals and businesses. Already, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are preparing for what is expected to be spirited debate over tax cuts in 2017.


The IRS has released the 2017 optional standard mileage rates that employees, self-employed individuals, and other taxpayers can use to compute deductible costs of operating automobiles (including vans, pickups and panel trucks) for business, medical, moving and charitable purposes. The updated rates are effective for deductible transportation expenses paid or incurred on or after January 1, 2017, and for mileage allowances or reimbursements paid to, or transportation expenses paid or incurred by, an employee or a charitable volunteer on or after January 1, 2017.


The individual income tax filing season opens on January 23, 2017, the IRS has announced. The IRS also reminded taxpayers that the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) (P.L. 114-113) may impact certain refunds in 2017.


The Surface Transportation Act of 2015: Tax Provisions (enacted on Jul. 31, 2015) provided for major changes in certain tax return deadlines. To allow for a transition period for taxpayers to adjust to the new due dates, the new filing deadlines carried a delayed effective date: for tax returns for tax years starting on or after January 1, 2016. As a result, the upcoming 2017 filing season is the first year these changes will take place.


A new year may find a number of individuals with the pressing urge to take stock, clean house and become a bit more organized. With such a desire to declutter, a taxpayer may want to undergo a housecleaning of documents, receipts and papers that he or she may have stored over the years in the event of an IRS audit. Year to year, fears of an audit for claims for tax deductions, allowances and credits may have led to the accumulation of a number of tax related documents—many of which may no longer need to be kept.


One month after the presidential election, taxpayers are learning more about President-elect Donald Trump’s tax proposals for his administration. Although exact details, including legislative language, are likely months away, taxpayers have a snapshot of the president-elect’s tax proposals for individuals and businesses.


The likelihood exists that federal tax-cut legislation will become law sometime in 2017. Nevertheless, the possibility also remains that comprehensive tax legislation may be delayed until 2018 either because of difficult negotiations or intervening events, or it could eventually even get tabled indefinitely, except for a few provisions, if momentum turns to other matters. The contents of a tax bill, too, can vary – from a compromise between the House GOP’s “Better Way” blueprint and President-elect Trump’s tax plan as set forth during his campaign—to a significantly rewritten version if Senate Democrats and fiscally conservative House and Senate members are able to gain seats at the negotiating table.


Each new filing season may bring changes to the Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, as well as draft instructions for Form 1040 and any related Schedules, and this year is of no exception. The following highlights some of the changes to 2016 Form 1040, its Schedules and other Forms, which can be found on the IRS website at www.irs.gov. The draft Form 1040 and Instructions are expected to track what will appear in the final Form 1040 and Instructions this year since "tax extenders" common to past years have either been made permanent or run through 2016. Any year-end tax legislation from Congress likely will have a prospective impact only, into tax year 2017 and beyond.


Virtual currency – often referred to as ‘bitcoin” -- is a mystery for many people but an everyday currency for others. As virtual currency grows in popularity, questions arise about its taxation. The IRS treats virtual currency as property and not as currency. This means that general tax principles that apply to property transactions apply to transactions using virtual currency.


Child care can undoubtedly prove to be a costly expense for any taxpayer. In some instances, taxpayers must weigh whether the cost of child care is a deterrent to returning, or, in some cases, entering the workforce. Although the IRS may not be able to control market prices of child care options, it does offer a credit that can lessen the burden that child care costs may have on the budget of working parents.


Year-end 2016 is expected to bring a rush of tax-related legislation in Congress. Lawmakers will be up against a December 31 deadline to renew some expiring tax incentives and possibly pass new tax breaks for individuals and businesses. The year may end with what is often called a “Christmas Tree bill,” a bill that includes a variety of tax and other provisions.


Following a natural disaster, the affect such a calamity would have on ones taxes is likely the last thing on an individual’s mind—if it crosses his or her mind at all. However, as inconsequential of a thought as it may seem as an individual is contending with the physical manifestations of what a natural disaster leaves in its wake, taxpayers should know that the IRS provides hardship related relief to those individuals so affected.


The ACA created Code Sec. 5000A. Individuals must have minimum essential health insurance coverage, qualify for a health coverage exemption, or make an individual shared responsibility payment. Minimum essential coverage includes most government-sponsored health care programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare, and TRICARE.  Eligible employer-sponsored plans; individual market plans, including plans obtained through the ACA Heath Insurance Marketplace, and grandfathered plans provide minimum essential coverage.


The Tax Code is among the most complex of all federal statutes. To explain the Code, the IRS issues guidance. Recently, the IRS has used the “Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)” format to explain some of the tax laws. At the same time, questions have arisen about the FAQs. May taxpayers rely on them like other types of IRS guidance? 


With the soaring cost of college tuition rising on a yearly basis, tax-free tuition gifts to children and grandchildren can help them afford such an expensive endeavor, as well as save the generous taxpayers in gift and generation skipping taxes. Under federal law, tuition payments that are made directly to an educational institution on behalf of a student are not considered to be taxable gifts, regardless of how large, or small, the payment may be.


As lawmakers prepared to recess for November elections, they also passed several tax-related bills in September. The bills addressed IRS operations, deductions, and more. At the same time, House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement to avoid a federal government shutdown, including the IRS, after the end of the current fiscal year.


An early glimpse at the income tax picture for 2017 is now available. The new information includes estimated ranges for each 2017 tax bracket as well as projections for a growing number of inflation-sensitive tax figures, such as the tax rate brackets, personal exemption and the standard deduction. Projections – made available by Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting US – are based on the relevant inflation data recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor. The IRS is expected to release the official figures by early November. Here are a few of the more widely-applicable projected amounts: 


It’s not too early to get ready for year-end tax planning. In fact, many strategies take time to set up in order to gain maximum benefit. Here are some preliminary considerations that may help you to prepare.


Federal tax law allows taxpayers to exclude from income “qualified transportation fringe benefits.” Included in this category of benefits are van pools.


A federal tax lien on real or personal property may be terminated or altered in the following ways:


Every four years, Congress returns to work after a summer recess and is overshadowed by the looming presidential election. This year is no exception with taxpayers and lawmakers focused on Election Day, November 8. In the meantime, however, lawmakers have almost two months to take up legislation left pending when they recessed in July. Included on their agenda are many tax-related bills, potentially impacting individuals, businesses and others.


The IRS launched new online resources for service providers and participants in the sharing economy. Advances in telecommunications have fueled the growth of the sharing economy. More and more consumers are connecting with service providers for shared car services, apartments and rooms for short-term rentals, and some employment opportunities.


The IRS has released draft forms for Affordable Care Act (ACA) reporting under Code Secs. 6055 and 6056 for tax year (TY) 2016. These draft forms reflect changes from the forms used for TY 2015 and will likely reflect what compliance under the final version will entail.


The IRS has issued temporary regulations (T.D. 9780) that explain how a partnership can opt in to the new partnership audit regime that was enacted in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA). As enacted, the new audit rules will apply to partnership returns filed for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017. However, the new law allows partnerships to elect to apply the new audit regime to a return filed for a partnership tax year beginning after November 2, 2015 (the date of enactment of the BBA) and before January 1, 2018. A tax year within this period is identified as an “eligible tax year.”


The IRS announced in August new procedures for renewing an unused or expired Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). The new procedures are scheduled to take effect later this year and will impact 2016 federal individual income tax returns filed in 2017.


The Democratic and Republican nominating conventions triggered an early recess for Congress. Lawmakers left Capitol Hill in mid-July and are not scheduled to return until September. Before recessing, the House voted to undo part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and approved a reduced budget for the IRS. Leading tax writers in the Senate addressed tax-related identity theft and home buying incentives.


The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) accelerated the due date for filing Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement and Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, and any returns or statements required by the IRS to report nonemployee compensation to January 31. The change is scheduled to take effect for returns and statements required to be filed in 2017. At this time, many employers and payroll providers are reprogramming their systems for the accelerated due date.


IRS Chief Counsel recently examined the tax treatment of crowdfunding activities in a new information letter (Information Letter 2016-36). Crowdfunding is a relatively recent phenomenon, used by an individual or entity to raise funds through small individual contributions from a large number of people. The guidance notes that the income tax consequences to a taxpayer of a crowdfunding effort depend on all the facts and circumstances surrounding that effort.


A professional employer organization (PEO) is an organization that enters into an agreement with a client to perform, among other tasks, the federal employment tax withholding, reporting, and payment functions related to workers performing services for the client. Effective for wages for services performed on or after January 1, 2016, a certified professional employer organization (CPEO) may be treated, for purposes of employment tax liability, as the sole employer of a worksite employee performing services for a customer of the CPEO for remuneration the CPEO paid to the employee. To become a CPEO, a person must apply with the IRS for CPEO treatment and be certified by the IRS as meeting certain requirements. The IRS began accepting applications for CPEO certification in July 2016.


An employee or self-employed individual is allowed a deduction for the costs of meals and incidental expenses while traveling away from home for business purposes. The deduction of these costs usually requires the substantiation of the costs. However, there is an optional method provided for these taxpayers that avoids keeping receipts.


As Congress August recess nears, lawmakers are moving tax legislation for individuals and businesses. Bills targeted to tax reform, small business tax relief, and more have been introduced and are working their way to votes in the House and Senate. Congress is also grappling with the IRS’s budget for fiscal year (FY) 2017.


Phased retirement has become an increasingly popular trend lately. Along with its increased use, however, a number of questions have arisen. The IRS recently has issued guidance for determining the taxable portion of payments made to an employee during phased retirement. The guidance explains whether the payments are “received as an annuity” under Code Sec. 72 and how to determine the taxable portion of payments that are not received as an annuity.


The IRS recently released its Spring 2016 Statistics of Income (SOI) Bulletin containing a treasure-trove of useful information. The bulletin contains data gleaned from more than 148 million individual income tax returns filed for the 2014 tax year (TY). The data for 2014 reveal a corresponding increase in tax liability across all tax brackets. The SOI bulletin presents the most recent figures available for the 2014 tax year from various tax and information returns filed by U.S. taxpayers. In addition, the report compares the data to similar statistics measured in 2013. In general, the latest report shows a continued improvement in the national economy, year over year.


The Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposed an excise tax on the sale of certain medical devices by the manufacturer or importer of the device. The tax is 2.3 percent. Under the ACA, the excise tax was effective for the sale of medical devices after December 31, 2012. The tax is now under a two year moratorium.


A taxpayer changing its method of accounting must either request advance IRS consent or apply for automatic IRS consent on Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method, to make the change. Automatic consent is more favorable because the taxpayer can request the change on its return filed after the year it makes the change. A taxpayer requesting automatic consent must submit Form 3115 by the due date of the return for the year of the change. Recent IRS actions indicate that a taxpayer who fails to make a timely request for a change of accounting method may qualify for an extension of time to request the change.


Responding to growing concerns over the scope of tax-related identity theft, the House has approved legislation to give victims more information about the crime. The House also took up a bill expanding disclosure of taxpayer information in cases involving missing children and the Ways and Means Committee approved a bill impacting disclosures by exempt organizations.


The IRS is set to launch its new voluntary certification program for professional employer organizations (PEOs), also known as employee leasing organizations, on July 1, 2016. A recently-released guidance package describes how PEOs can obtain certification to become “certified PEOs” (CPEOs).


The IRS is gearing up to outsource some taxpayer collection accounts to private collection agencies. Legislation passed in 2015 directed the IRS to resume working with private collection agencies. The revived program is expected to operate in a similar manner to past ones, with emphasis on taxpayer protections.


To claim the EITC, a taxpayer must satisfy two tests with respect to earned income. First, the taxpayer must have some earned income. Additionally, the taxpayer’s earned income must fall within certain ranges as the credit is subject to income phaseout. As the taxpayer's adjusted gross income (or, if greater, earned income) rises beyond the phaseout threshold, the credit is reduced according to a percentage phaseout, until it is eliminated at the completed phaseout amount.


Yes …but only if it is a medical necessity. The IRS has ruled that uncompensated amounts paid to participate in a weight-loss program as treatment for a specific disease or diseases (including obesity) diagnosed by a physician are deductible expenses for medical care. The deduction is subject to the limitations of Code Sec. 213 and its regulations.


The 2016 filing season has closed with renewed emphasis on cybersecurity, tax-related identity theft and customer service. Despite nearly constant attack by cybercriminals, the IRS reported that taxpayer information remains secure. The agency also continued to intercept thousands of bogus returns and prevent the issuance of fraudulent refunds.


Passage of the “Tax Extenders” undeniably provided one of the major headlines – and tax benefits – to come out of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), signed into law on December 18, 2015. Although these tax extenders (over 50 of them in all) were largely made retroactive to January 1, 2015, valuable enhancements to some of these tax benefits were not made retroactive. Rather, these enhancements were made effective only starting January 1, 2016. As a result, individuals and businesses alike should treat these enhancements as brand-new tax breaks, taking a close look at whether one or several of them may apply. Here’s a list to consider as 2016 tax planning gets underway now that tax filing-season has ended.


The IRS has issued its annual Data Book for fiscal year (FY) 2015, which provides statistical information on activities such as examinations and collections conducted by the IRS from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015. For FY 2015, the Data Book shows the total number of audits conducted by the IRS was 1.37 million, down from the 1.38 million examined in FY 2014.


Individual taxpayers may claim a nonrefundable personal tax credit for qualified residential alternative energy expenditures. The residential alternative energy credit generally is equal to 30 percent of the cost of eligible solar water heaters, solar electricity equipment, fuel cell plants, small wind energy property, and geothermal heat pump property. After 2016, the credit is available only for qualified solar electric property and qualified solar water heating property placed in service before 2022.


Social media has helped to make our world smaller and when natural disasters and tragedies occur we want to help with contributions of money and/or other types of aid. At home, countless charitable organizations are providing all types of help and generally, your contributions to U.S. charities are tax-deductible. Contributions to foreign charities generally are not tax-deductible; however, special rules apply to charitable organizations in Canada, Israel and Mexico.


Tax reform continues to be highly touted in Congress as lawmakers from both parties call for simplification of countless complex rules, overhaul of tax rates, and more. At times this year, President Obama and Congressional Republicans seem far apart on a way forward, but at similar times in the past, agreements have quickly and often surprisingly emerged, most recently in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act). As the November elections approach more closely every passing day, lawmakers from both parties and the President have a short window to agree on tax legislation. The weeks leading up to Congress’ summer recess may be decisive.


Six years ago, Congress passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which set in motion a wave of new reporting and disclosure requirements by individuals, foreign financial institutions, and others. In response, the IRS created a host of new rules and regulations; and new forms for these reporting requirements. One key FATCA form – Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets – has seen usage steadily increase since passage of FATCA, the IRS recently reported. At the same time, more individuals are filing a related form – FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (known as the FBAR), which reached a record high in 2015.


Legislation enacted in 2015 provides new rules for IRS partnership audits. The new rules are a drastic departure from current rules and the IRS is hopeful that the rules will simplify the audit process and allow the IRS to conduct more partnership audits.


Under Code Sec. 1031, a taxpayer can make a tax-free exchange of property held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment. The exchange must be made for other property that the taxpayer will continue to use in a trade or business or for investment. Ordinarily, the exchange is made directly with another taxpayer who holds like-kind property. For example, an investor in real estate may exchange a building with another person who also owns real estate for use in a trade or business or for investment.


Individuals may contribute up to $5,500 to a traditional and a Roth IRA for 2016. This is the same limit as 2015. An individual age 50 and older can make a catch-up contribution of an additional $1,000 for the year. The contribution is limited to the taxpayer’s taxable compensation for the year, minus contributions to all non-Roth IRAs.


The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) made permanent many popular but previously temporary tax breaks for individuals and businesses. The PATH Act also enhanced many incentives. These enhancements should not be overlooked in tax planning both for 2016 and future years. Some of the enhancements are discussed here. If you have any questions about these or other tax breaks in the PATH Act, please contact our office. 


Tweaks to enhanced Code Sec. 179 expensing and the high-dollar health care excise tax are two proposals in President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget that could become law before the end of his term. President Obama released his FY 2017 budget proposals in February. Other proposals that could be passed by Congress include enhancements to small business tax incentives, expanded opportunities for retirement saving, revisions to the net investment income (NII) tax, and more.


Both Congress and the White House want to increase access, coverage and participation in retirement savings plans. A recent study indicates that a majority of American households may not be able to maintain their standard of living after retirement and that the current private pension system is not working well enough to avoid the problem. 


The IRS always urges taxpayers to pay their current tax liabilities when due, to avoid interest and penalties. Taxpayers who can’t pay the full amount are urged to pay as much as they can, for the same reason. But some taxpayers cannot pay their full tax liability by the normal April 15 deadline (April 18th in 2016 because of the intersection of a weekend and a District of Columbia holiday).


Under Code Sec. 469, passive losses can only be used to offset passive income. Taxpayers who have losses from a passive activity cannot use losses from a passive activity to offset nonpassive income, such as wages. A passive activity generally is an activity in which a taxpayer does not “materially participate.” Passive losses that cannot be deducted must be carried over to a future year, where they can offset newly generated passive income.


As the 2016 filing season gets underway, many individuals will be receiving new information returns from their employers and/or health insurance providers. The information returns reflect new reporting requirements put in place by the Affordable Care Act. Some taxpayers will need to wait to file their returns until they receive their information returns, but most taxpayers will not.


The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) extended and enhanced many popular tax breaks for individuals and businesses. Included in the large number of extended incentives is transit benefits parity. Moreover, Congress made transit benefits parity permanent. Many individuals may benefit from this tax break, depending on their employers.


In recent years, identity theft has mushroomed and as the filing season starts, tax-related identity theft is especially prevalent. Identity thieves typically file fraudulent returns early in the filing season, before unsuspecting taxpayers file their legitimate returns. Criminals gamble that the IRS will not detect the false return and will issue a fraudulent refund.


Yes, the IRS can impose penalties if a tax return is not timely filed or if a tax liability is not timely paid. As with all IRS penalties, the rules are complex. However, a taxpayer may avoid a penalty if he or she shows reasonable cause.


Everyone in business must keep records. Among other things, good records will help a business prepare the business tax returns, and will support items reported on tax returns. Taxpayers also must keep their business records available for inspection by the IRS.


After years of routine temporary extensions, Congress has made permanent a number of previously temporary tax breaks for individuals and businesses as well as extending others. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), signed into law by President Obama in December, opens the door to new planning opportunities.


Going into the 2016 filing season, the IRS has additional monetary resources to improve customer service and cybersecurity along with curbing identity theft. The fiscal year (FY) 2016 omnibus spending bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in December, allocates $290 million above FY 2015 funding to the IRS with instructions of where to spend the funds: customer service, tax-related identity theft and refund fraud, and cybersecurity.


The IRS has issued the 2016 optional standard mileage rates for calculating the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical, and moving purposes (Notice 2016-1; IR-2015-137). The decline in gas prices appeared to spur the drop in the optional rates.


An S election is made by a small business corporation with the consent of its shareholders. Both the corporation and its shareholders must precisely follow the S election requirements or the election will not be valid.


In between preparing for the year-end holidays, school vacations, travel, work, and so on, tax planning should not be on the back burner. Although 2015 is quickly coming to a close, there is still time, with careful planning, to execute some last minute tax strategies. In many cases, these strategies can help minimize the tax burden. Of course, every individual’s situation is different, so please contact our office for specific details about a year-end tax planning strategy customized to you.


The new Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, signed into law by President Obama in November, makes some far-reaching changes to partnership audits along with repealing automatic enrollment in health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The new law is a good preview of how Congress is looking to enhanced tax compliance as a revenue raiser. The tax compliance measures in the budget law, largely targeted to partnerships, are projected to generate more than $10 billion in revenue over 10 years.


Tucked into the pending highway and transportation spending bill is a provision authorizing the IRS to outsource some tax collection activities. If this sounds familiar, it is. Several times in the past 20 years, the IRS has contracted with private sector debt collection agencies for tax collection work. The results have been mixed, but as lawmakers scramble for money to pay for highway and transportation spending, the potential for significant revenue is attractive.


A business that has employees must withhold income taxes on payments to each employee. Each employee must first fill out Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and provide it to the employer. On the form the employee can claim exemptions, such as the personal exemption or an exemption for a spouse or child, and determine the number of withholding allowances for the employee. Based on that information, the employer calculates the employee’s income tax withholding for the year.


An S corporation can own an interest in another business entity. It can also be a partner in a partnership or a member of a limited liability company (LLC). An S corporation can own 80 percent or more of the stock of a C corporation, which can elect to join in the filing of a consolidated return with its affiliated C corporations. However, an S corporation is ineligible to be a member of the affiliated group and to join in the election to file a consolidated return.


As 2015 winds down, another temporary extension of the tax extenders appears almost certain. Despite talk in early 2015 about finding a permanent solution to the on-again, off-again extenders, the arrival of November brings a short window for Congress to extend these tax breaks. The expected late passage of these popular tax breaks also adds uncertainty to year-end tax planning as well as possibly causing a delay to the start of the 2016 filing season.


Small businesses received some welcomed news in October with passage of the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees (PACE) Act. The new law revises the definition of small employer for purposes of market reforms under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The PACE Act is intended to help protect small businesses from potential health care premium increases. At the same time, many small businesses wait for expected relief from potential penalties for stand-alone health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) deemed not to comply with the ACA.


After acknowledging earlier this year that hackers breached one of its popular online apps, the IRS has promised more identity theft protections in the 2016 filing season. The IRS, along with partners in the tax preparation community, has identified and tested more than 20 new data elements on returns to help detect and prevent identity-theft related filings. The agency is also working to prevent criminals from accessing tax-time financial products.


As the calendar approaches the end of 2015, it is helpful to think about ways to shift income and deductions into the following year. For example, spikes in income from selling investments or other property may push a taxpayer into a higher income tax bracket for 2015, including a top bracket of 39.6 percent for ordinary income and short-term capital gains, and a top bracket of 20 percent for dividends and long-term capital gains. Adjusted gross incomes that exceed the threshold for the net investment income (NII) tax can also trigger increased tax liability. Accordingly, traditional year-end techniques to defer income or to accelerate deductions can be useful.


For a business to start writing off the cost of depreciable equipment and property, it is necessary that the equipment be placed in service. To write off costs in 2015, the equipment must be placed in service by December 31, 2015. The "placed-in-service" requirement applies, for example, for taking depreciation, especially first-year bonus depreciation, under Code Sec. 168, expensing of the cost of property under Code Sec. 179, and other write-offs such as the investment tax credit under Code Sec. 46.


After a five week recess, lawmakers returned to work in September and took up several tax bills. While some tax bills moved out of committee, their ultimate passage by both the House and Senate before year-end is unclear. Congress has only a finite number of days in which to complete work on a number of tax bills including the tax extenders, possible reforms to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and energy legislation.


The approach of year-end 2015 makes it tax planning season. Tax law developments in 2015 can affect, for example, the deduction of costs and expenses, the treatment of contributions to tax-favored accounts, and the inclusion of certain benefits in income. Traditional year-end planning techniques for investments and retirement are also important. Small businesses also have some tools for year-end tax planning. Although it may seem early to contemplate year-end planning, the remaining weeks of 2015 will pass quickly and taxpayers need to be proactive.


Foreign travel expenses may be subject to allocation if the taxpayer engages in personal activities while traveling on business. A portion of the foreign travel expenses may be nondeductible if the individual engages in substantial nonbusiness activity. The allocation rules apply where the individual engages in substantial nonbusiness activity at, near, or beyond the business destination; or, when the personal destination is en route to and from the business destination.


Gross income is taxed to the person who earns it by performing services, or who owns the property that generates the income. Under the assignment of income doctrine, a taxpayer cannot avoid tax liability by assigning a right to income to someone else. The doctrine is invoked, for example, for assignments to creditors, family members, charities, and controlled entities. Thus, the income is taxable to the person who earned it, even if the person assigns the income to another and never personally receives the income. The doctrine can apply to both individuals and corporations.


In two recent cases, whistleblowers have had success before the Tax Court. In one case, Tax Court granted motions to compel production of documents filed by three whistleblowers—individuals who informed the government about a tax evasion scheme—whose reward claims the IRS had denied. In another case, the Tax Court found that the whistleblower statute does not require that a whistleblower first bring his or her information to the IRS Whistleblower Office to be eligible for an award.


President Obama signed the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 on July 31. The Act revises some important return due dates, overrules a Supreme Court tax decision, revises the employer shared responsibility requirements in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and includes other tax compliance measures.


Congress returns to work in September with a full agenda of tax legislation. Lawmakers will search for revenue to pay for a long-term federal highway and transportation bill, debate the fate of popular but temporary tax breaks, and decide on a funding level for the IRS. As passage of the Surface Transportation Act in late July showed, tax law changes can appear suddenly and can make significant changes.


The mortgage interest deduction is widely used by the majority of individuals who itemize their deductions. In fact, the size of the average mortgage interest deduction alone persuades many taxpayers to itemize their deductions. It is not without cause, therefore, that two recent developments impacting the mortgage interest deserve being highlighted. These developments involve new reporting requirements designed to catch false or inflated deductions; and a case that effectively doubles the size of the mortgage interest deduction available to joint homeowners. But first, some basics.


Many federal income taxes are paid from amounts that are withheld from payments to the taxpayer. For instance, amounts roughly equal to an employee's estimated tax liability are generally withheld from the employee's wages and paid over to the government by the employer. In contrast, estimated taxes are taxes that are paid throughout the year on income that is not subject to withholding. Individuals must make estimated tax payments if they are self-employed or their income derives from interest, dividends, investment gains, rents, alimony, or other funds that are not subject to withholding.


A business operated by two or more owners can elect to be taxed as a partnership by filing Form 8832, the Entity Classification Election form. A business is eligible to elect partnership status if it has two or more members and:


Just before Congress recessed for its August break, a package of tax extenders was approved by the Senate Finance Committee (SFC). The House and Senate both struggled to find ways to pay for a multi-year federal highway and transportation spending bill, and disagreed over the extent of cuts to the IRS's fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget. Congress did not, however, take action on proposals to allow small businesses to reimburse employees for health insurance costs.


Preliminary information from the 2015 filing season shows a mixed bag of success and failures for the IRS. The IRS successfully processed returns and issued refunds, taking into account new requirements under the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, taxpayers experienced significant difficulties in contacting the IRS and tax-related identity theft increased compared to last year.


Small business tax reform was the topic of two Congressional hearings in July. House and Senate lawmakers heard from small business owners and leaders in the tax and accounting area about concerns over tax complexity, compliance, and penalties. After the hearings, the chair of the Senate Small Business Committee said that he is moving forward with a small business tax compliance reform bill.


An S corporation may own an interest in another business entity. An S corporation can be a member of an affiliated group by owning 80 percent or more of the stock of a C corporation. The group then can elect to file on a consolidated basis, if other affiliated group rules are met. But the S corporation itself cannot join the consolidated group.


Employers generally withhold from wages by way of the wage-bracket or percentage method (Code Sec. 3402(b) and Code Sec. 3402(c)). However, an employee may request that the amount of tax withheld by the employer from the employee's wages be computed on the basis of the part-year employment method (Reg. §31.3402(h)(4)-1(c)(1)). Under this method, an individual who is employed no more than 245 days in the aggregate during a calendar year may request that the employer withhold on the basis of the part-year employment method to prevent overwithholding. Under this method, the amount of tax to be withheld is determined as if the wages paid to a part-year employee were spread evenly over the calendar year, whether or not the employee actually was employed during all of that period.


After months of waiting, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision on the fate of the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit on June 25 in King v. Burwell, 2015-1 ustc ¶50,356. In a 6 to 3 decision, the Court held that enrollees in both federally-facilitated Marketplaces and state-run Marketplaces can claim the credit, which helps offset the cost of health insurance. The decision leaves in place the current IRS regulations on the credit and the regime for administering and claiming the credit.


The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015-1 ustc ¶50,357) on June 26, 2015 continues what was set in motion in 2013: the expansion of tax benefits to same-sex married couples. In Obergefell, the Court ruled 5 to 4 that the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex. The Court further held that states must recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when a marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state.


Late in 2014, Congress passed and President Obama signed into the law the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. The new law, which enjoyed strong bipartisan support, authorizes the creation of tax-favored accounts for qualified individuals challenged by disabilities. Congress instructed Treasury and the IRS to quickly issue guidance and the agency did so in June. The new guidance covers how to establish ABLE accounts, funding for these accounts, qualified distributions, and various reporting requirements.


Taxpayers that invest in a trade or business or an activity for the production of income can only deduct losses from the activity or business if the taxpayer is at risk for the investment. A taxpayer is at risk for the amount of cash and the basis of property contributed to the activity. Taxpayers are also at risk for amounts borrowed if the taxpayer is personally liable to pay the liability, or if the taxpayer has pledged property as security for the loan (other than property already used in the business).


Now that summer 2015 is officially here and the main filing season is out of the way, tax planning may be far from your mind. However, typical summer traditions can yield tax benefits. For example, when school lets out for the summer, some parents may decide to send their young children to summer camp. Whether parents do this to supplement their children's education, enhance their athletic skills, provide social opportunities, or simply to get them out of the house, some working parents may be able to deduct certain expenses associated with the cost of sending children to day camp. That's where the child care and dependent credit under Code Sec. 21, might especially come into play.


Tax provisions are often included as revenue raisers in non-tax bills and this year is no exception. A massive trade package making its way through Congress contains a number of tax measures, impacting both individuals and businesses. At the same time, some stand-alone tax bills are moving forward in the House and Senate.


The IRS has responded to criticism from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the National Taxpayer Advocate, among others, that resolution of identity theft accounts takes too long by increasing its measures to flag suspicious tax returns, prevent issuance of fraudulent tax refunds, and to expedite identity theft case processing. As a result, the IRS's resolution time has experienced a moderate improvement from an average of 312 days, as TIGTA reported in September 2013, to an average of 278 days as reported in March 2015. (The 278-day average was based on a statistically valid sampling of 100 cases resolved between August 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012.) The IRS has recently stated that its resolution time dropped to 120 days for cases received in filing season 2013.


Employers generally have to pay employment taxes on the wages they pay to their employees. A fine point under this rule, however, is missed by many who themselves have full time jobs and don’t think of themselves as employers: a nanny who takes care of a child is considered a household employee, and the parent or other responsible person is his or her household employer. Housekeepers, maids, babysitters, and others who work in or around the residence are employees. Repairmen and other business people who provide services as independent contractors are not employees. An individual who is under age 18 or who is a student is not an employee.


Under Code Sec. 25B, a low-income taxpayer can claim a tax credit for a portion of the amounts contributed to an individual retirement account, 401(k) plan, or other retirement plan. A credit is allowed for up to $2,000 of contributions to qualified retirement savings plans. The maximum credit is $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for married couples. A taxpayer's credit amount is based on his or her filing status, adjusted gross income, tax liability and amount contributed to qualifying retirement programs. However, the percentage of contributions for which the credit is allowed decreases depending on the individual's adjusted gross income.


A taxpayer who discovers an error after filing his or her income tax return may need to file an amended return. A change in filing status, income, deductions, or credits would require an amended return. This could happen, for example, if an investment broker sends a corrected Form 1099 that changes the amount of dividends or capital gains earned by the taxpayer. Or a taxpayer who sold stock may recalculate the basis of the stock for determining gain or loss. A taxpayer amending his or her federal income tax return may also need to amend a state tax return, to reflect the change or correction.


Congress returned to work in April after a two week recess and the House immediately passed a slew of tax-related bills. In rapid succession, House lawmakers voted to repeal the federal estate tax, make permanent the state and local sales tax deduction, and make reforms to the IRS. The tax filing season concluded on April 15 with the IRS Commissioner reporting that return and refund processing went smoothly.


The IRS budget has suffered significant funding cuts to the past few fiscal year (FY) budgets. Most recently, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told reporters that the IRS has been forced to absorb a $346 million cut to its FY 2015 budget. Such drastic reductions directly impact the IRS's ability to enforce the nation's tax laws. This became evident after the IRS issued its annual Data Book for FY 2014. (The Data Book provides statistical information on examinations, collections, taxpayer assistance, and other activities.) This year, the Data Book indicated that IRS audit rates have fallen for individuals and large corporate taxpayers between FY 2013 and FY 2014. On the other hand, the audit rate for partnerships increased slightly, ostensibly as a result of the IRS's recent policy favoring more audits of this long-neglected sector.


It is never too early to begin planning for the 2016 filing season, the IRS has advised in seven new planning tips published on its website. Although the current filing season has just ended, there are steps that taxpayers can take now to avoid a tax bill when April 2016 rolls around. For example, the IRS stated that taxpayers can adjust their withholding, take stock of any changes in income or family circumstances, maintain accurate tax records, and more, in order to reduce the probability of a surprise tax bill when the next filing season arrives.


The IRS expects to receive more than 150 million individual income tax returns this year and issue billions of dollars in refunds. That huge pool of refunds drives scam artists and criminals to steal taxpayer identities and claim fraudulent refunds. The IRS has many protections in place to discover false returns and refund claims, but taxpayers still need to be proactive.


Tax reform percolates in Washington as the new Congress and the White House continue discussions over the scope and reach of tax legislation this year. Administration officials, lawmakers and Congressional staffers have signaled that off-the-record discussions have dealt with some hefty tax reform proposals but, so far, have released few details of these discussions. At the same time, Senate tax writers have opened up the tax reform process to public input.


Between now and late June, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on an important provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit. The Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, 2014-2 ustc ¶50,367, where the plaintiffs argue that the IRS erred in extending the credit to enrollees in federally facilitated Health Insurance Marketplaces (also known as Exchanges).


IRS officials, including Faris Fink, then Commissioner of the Small Business and Self-Employed Division,  announced in 2013 that the IRS would increase its scrutiny of partnership entities. Indeed, the IRS's audit statistics for 2014 have shown that Fink's prediction was accurate. While the overall audit rate for all types of businesses fell from 0.61 percent in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 to 0.57 percent for FY 2014, the audit rate for partnerships has increased.


There are three main types of IRS audits: correspondence audits, office audits, and field audits (listed in order of increasing invasiveness). Correspondence audits are initiated (and generally conducted) by postal mail. Office audits require a taxpayer and/or its representative to appear in an IRS office; and a field audit involves IRS examiners paying a visit to the taxpayer's place of business.


In Rev. Proc. 2015-20, the IRS substantially simplified the requirements for small businesses to adopt the tangible property regulations (the "repair regulations") for 2014. The relief allows small businesses to change their accounting methods, to comply with the regulations, without having to apply Code Sec. 481 and without having to file Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method.


The White House and the new Congress continue to look for common ground on tax legislation and tax reform in 2015. Both sides say tax reform is possible in 2015 and behind the usual rhetoric there seems to be a real drive to move tax reform in the 114th Congress. Reform could be similar to the comprehensive package moved nearly 30 years ago in the Tax Reform Act of 1986, or, as many observers predict, will take a new track to reflect a vastly different economy and Tax Code compared to 1986.


During a recent hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee, lawmakers challenged IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on the Service's use of civil-asset forfeiture laws, demanding to know why some small business owners were caught up in the Service's investigative web when they had committed no crime. Lawmakers also announced during the hearing that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is planning to review the IRS's practices in this area.


Employers and other organizations must obtain an employer identification number (EIN) to identify themselves for tax administration purposes, such as starting a new business, withholding taxes on wages, or creating a trust. Entities apply for an EIN by filing IRS Form SS-4. Page two of the form advises whether an applicant needs an EIN.


President Obama and the White House unveiled Obama’s tax program for 2015, with proposals designed to help middle class families. The proposals include providing a new $500 credit for two-earner families; enhancing the earned income tax credit (EITC), the child credit, and the dependent care credit; reforming and consolidating the multiple tax breaks for education; and expanding retirement savings vehicles. The tax cuts are estimated to cost $175 billion over 10 years.


The IRS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are planning outreach efforts during filing season to remind taxpayers about new requirements under the Affordable Care Act. These projects will highlight the individual shared responsibility requirement, exemptions to the individual mandate, and more. The IRS has already posted information about the Affordable Care Act on its website for taxpayers and tax professionals. The agency reported it will continue to work with tax professionals to give individuals the information they need to file their returns.


The tax code imposes a penalty on taxes that are paid after the due date (generally April 15). Taxpayers may wonder whether to save, to pay their taxes on time and avoid the penalty, or delay payment and owe a penalty. While this is a personal decision, and will vary with the taxpayer’s circumstances, a taxpayer may prefer to use their funds for other purposes and delay the tax payment, especially where the penalty is relatively small.


The required minimum distribution (RMD) rules require participants to start taking distributions when they turn age 70½. Treasury and the IRS have developed a new concept to enable retirees to preserve some of their retirement assets and to protect them from outliving their assets – the qualified longevity annuity contract or QLAC. At the same time, QLACS will help retirees to avoid limiting their retirement spending unnecessarily.


Eleventh-hour votes in Congress in December renewed a package of tax extenders for 2014, created new savings accounts for individuals with disabilities, cut the IRS’ budget, and more. At the same time, the votes helped to set the stage for the 114th Congress that convenes this month. Republicans have majorities in the House and Senate and have indicated that taxes are one of the top items on their agenda for 2015.


2014 was a notable year for tax developments on a number of fronts. Selecting the "top ten" tax developments for 2014 necessarily requires judgment calls based upon uniqueness, taxpayers affected, and forward-looking impact on 2015 and beyond. The following "top ten" list of 2014 tax developments is such a prioritization. Nevertheless, other 2014 developments may prove more significant to any particular client, depending upon circumstances. Please feel free to contact this office for a more customized look at the impact of 2014 developments upon your unique tax situation.


The IRS is expected to shortly open the 2015 filing season and both the agency and taxpayers are preparing for some turbulence. The IRS is going into the filing season with a reduced budget, which could translate into fewer audits. Legislation passed by Congress in late 2014 could delay the start of the filing season, although to date, the IRS has not announced a delay. Taxpayers and the IRS are on alert for identity theft, a pervasive problem during filing season. Additionally, new requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act kick-in.


Beginning January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required individuals to carry minimum essential health coverage or make a shared responsibility payment, unless exempt. Individuals will report on their 2014 federal income tax return if they had minimum essential health coverage for all or part of the year. Individuals who file Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, will indicate on Line 61 if they were covered by minimum essential health coverage for 2014, if they are exempt from the requirement to carry minimum essential health coverage or if they are making an individual shared responsibility payment.


The IRS has announced an increase in the optional business standard mileage reimbursement rate for 2015. The business standard mileage rate increased by one and a half cents, to 57.5 cents (up from 56 cents for 2014). The 2015 standard mileage rate for medical and moving expenses decreased slightly to 23 cents (down from 23.5 cents for 2014). The charitable mileage rate, however, is set by statute at a flat 14 cents per mile without inflation adjustment each year. The revised rates apply to deductible transportation expenses paid or incurred for business or medical/moving expenditures, or qualified charitable miles driven, on or after January 1, 2015.


The results of the mid-term elections create a new dynamic in Congress with Republicans poised to take control of both the House and Senate in January. Prospects for tax reform may have brightened for 2015. In the meantime, the lame-duck Congress must deal with some urgent tax bills, most notably the tax extenders.


When accelerating or deferring income or expenses at year end as part of an overall tax strategy, certain timing rules become critical. So does the ability to prove to the IRS when certain actions take place. The following timing rules, among others, should be considered especially important as year-end approaches:


The upcoming filing season is expected to be challenging for taxpayers and the IRS as new requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act kick-in. Taxpayers, for the first time, must make a shared responsibility payment if they fail to carry minimum essential health care coverage or qualify for an exemption. At the same time, there is growing uncertainty over one of the key elements of the Affordable Care Act: the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit as litigation makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.


As most people know, a taxpayer can take a distribution from an IRA without being taxed if the taxpayer rolls over (contributes) the amount received into an IRA within 60 days. This tax-free treatment does not apply if the individual rolled over another distribution from an IRA within the one-year period ending on the day of the second distribution.


Under Code Sec. 6020, the IRS has the authority to prepare and file a substitute tax return for a taxpayer who fails to file a timely return. If a taxpayer does not file a return or cooperate with the IRS on a substitute return, the IRS can prepare and sign a substitute return based on the information it has.


The Affordable Care Act—enacted nearly five years ago—phased in many new requirements affecting individuals and employers. One of the most far-reaching requirements, the individual mandate, took effect this year and will be reported on 2014 income tax returns filed in 2015. The IRS is bracing for an avalanche of questions about taxpayer reporting on 2014 returns and, if liable, any shared responsibility payment. For many taxpayers, the best approach is to be familiar with the basics before beginning to prepare and file their returns.


Lawmakers are scheduled to return to work after the November elections for the so-called "lame-duck" Congress. Despite what is expected to be a short session, there is likely to be movement on important tax bills.


The IRS has provided guidance and clarifications for U.S. taxpayers who have failed to disclose offshore assets and pay taxes due. The new instructions apply to taxpayers who apply for relief under the streamlined filing compliance procedures and are effective for applications submitted on or after July 1, 2014. The streamlined program is available to all U.S. taxpayers, including resident aliens living in the United States and U.S. citizens living abroad.


Businesses generally want to write off costs more quickly, to reduce their taxable income and their tax burden. One mechanism for accomplishing this is to deduct the costs of depreciable property rather than capitalizing them. Under Code Sec. 179, taxpayers can expense a prescribed amount of their costs for tangible depreciable property, even if the ordinary accounting treatment would be to capitalize the costs.


Higher-income individuals whose adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds specified thresholds must reduce their itemized deductions that are otherwise allowed on their return. This reduction in itemized deductions did not apply to tax years 2010-2012, but has been reinstated, beginning in 2013. The provision does not apply to estates and trusts.


Before the fast-approaching new year, it’s important to take some time and reflect on year-end tax planning. The weeks pass quickly and the arrival of January 1, 2015 will close the doors to some tax planning strategies and opportunities. Fortunately, there is still time for a careful review of your year-end tax planning strategy.


Taxpayers will receive some modest relief for the 2015 tax year, thanks to the mandatory annual inflation-adjustments provided under the Tax Code. When there is inflation, indexing of brackets lowers tax bills by including more of people’s incomes in lower brackets—for example by placing taxpayers’ income in the existing 15-percent bracket, rather than the existing 25-percent bracket.


As January 1, 2015 draws closer, many employers are gearing up for the “employer mandate” under the Affordable Care Act. For 2015, there is special transition relief for mid-size employers. Small employers (employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees) are always exempt from the employer mandate and related employer reporting.


Every year the IRS publishes a list of projects that are currently on its agenda. For example, the IRS may indicate through this list that it is working on a new set of procedures relating to claiming business expenses. The new 2014–2015 IRS Priority Guidance Plan, just released this September, has indicated that IRS is working on guidance relating to whether employer-provided meals offered on company premises are taxable as income to the employee. In the Priority Guidance Plan’s Employee Benefits Section B.3, the IRS listed: "Guidance under §§119 and 132 regarding employer-provided meals" in its list of projects for the upcoming year.


Under the modified accelerated cost recovery system (MACRS) (which is more commonly known as depreciation), a half-year timing (i.e., averaging) convention generally applies to the depreciation deduction for most assets during anytime within the year in which they are purchased. That is, whether you purchase a business asset in January or in December, it’s treated for depreciation purposes as being purchased on July 1st. However, a taxpayer who places more than 40 percent of its depreciable property (excluding residential rental property and nonresidential real property) into service during the last three months of the tax year must use a mid-quarter convention – decidedly less advantageous. Because of the 40 percent rule, the purchase of a vehicle or other equipment in the last month of the tax year might, in itself, trigger imposition of the mid-quarter convention. Businesses should keep in mind the 40 percent rule especially for year-end tax planning purposes.


Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, several key requirements for employers have been delayed, including reporting of health coverage offered to employees, known as Code Sec. 6056 reporting. As 2015 nears, and the prospects of further delay appear unlikely, employers and the IRS are preparing for the filing of these new information returns.


As the 2015 filing season approaches, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is bracing taxpayers for more reductions in customer service unless the agency receives more funding. According to Koskinen, the IRS is facing its biggest challenge in recent years. Koskinen, who spoke at the annual conference of the National Society of Accountants in August, also predicted that taxpayers will have to wait until after the November elections to learn the fate of many popular but expired tax incentives.


The net investment income (NII) tax under Code Sec. 1411 is imposed on income from investments, certain sales of property, and income from passive activities. NII includes net gains from the sale of property, unless the property is held in a non-passive trade or business. If the property sold is a non-passive interest in a partnership or S corporation, gain from the sale of the interest is NII only to the extent that income from a deemed sale of the entity's property would be NII. The IRS totally rewrote the regulations for the disposition of interests in a partnership or S corporation, and reissued them in the 2013 proposed regulations. Certain issues nevertheless remain as the NII enters its second tax year, having first been effective in 2013.


In certain cases, moving expenses may be tax deductible by individuals. Three key criteria must be satisfied: the move must closely-related to the start of work; a distance test must be satisfied and a time test also must be met.


No. Participatory wellness programs do not require a specific outcome in order for a participant to receive a reward.


Life expectancies for many Americans have increased to such an extent that most taxpayers who retire at age 65 expect to live for another 20 years or more. Several years ago, a number of insurance companies began to offer a new financial product, often called the longevity annuity or deferred income annuity, which requires upfront payment of a premium in exchange for a guarantee of a certain amount of fixed income starting after the purchaser reaches age 80 or 85. Despite the wisdom behind the longevity annuity, this new type of product did not sell especially well, principally for tax reasons. These roadblocks, however, have largely been removed by new regulations.


The IRS continues to ramp-up its work to fight identity theft/refund fraud and recently announced new rules allowing the use of abbreviated (truncated) personal identification numbers and employer identification numbers. Instead of showing a taxpayer's full Social Security number (SSN) or other identification number on certain forms, asterisks or Xs replace the first five digits and only the last four digits appear. The final rules, however, do impose some important limits on the use of truncated taxpayer identification numbers (known as "TTINs").


On July 22, two federal appeals courts roughly 100 miles apart reached very different conclusions about one of the most widely-used provisions of the Affordable Care Act: the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the IRS had overreached when it issued regulations providing that individuals who obtain health coverage through a federally-facilitated Affordable Care Act Marketplace are eligible for the tax credit. In contrast, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Richmond, Virginia, upheld the IRS regulations as a valid exercise of the agency's authority. The contradictory decisions create a split among the Circuits, which could prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to review the IRS regulations.


Employers may be able to claim a tax credit for a portion of their expenses for providing child care to their employees. Code Sec. 45F allows a employer-provided child care credit, which is a part of the general business credit. Businesses calculate the credit using Form 8882, Credit for Employer-Provided Childcare Facilities and Service, and enter any credit amount on Form 3800, General Business Credit, which must be attached to an employer's tax return.


Taxpayers that plan to operate a business have a variety of choices. A single individual can operate as a C corporation, an S corporation, a limited liability company (LLC), or a sole proprietorship. Two or more individuals can form a partnership, a corporation (C or S), or an LLC.


The Tax Code contains many taxpayer rights and protections. However, because the Tax Code is so large and complex, many taxpayers, who do not have the advice of a tax professional, are unaware of their rights. To clarify these protections, the IRS recently announced a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, describing 10 rights taxpayers have when dealing with the agency.


Since 2009, the IRS has operated an Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) for U.S. taxpayers who have failed to disclose foreign assets or report foreign income from those assets to the IRS or Treasury. The program provides reduced penalties and other benefits, thus giving taxpayers an opportunity to address their past noncompliance and "become right" with the government.


A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court clarifies how taxpayers may challenge an IRS summons where the taxpayer claims the summons was issued for an improper purpose. A taxpayer has a right to conduct an examination of IRS officials regarding their reasons for issuing a summons when the taxpayer points to specific facts or circumstances plausibly raising an inference of bad faith, the Court held. The Court took a different approach than one adopted by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had brought the case to the Supreme Court.


Taxpayers who are self-employed must pay self-employment tax on their income from self-employment. The self-employment tax applies in lieu of Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes paid by employees and employers on compensation from employment. Like FICA taxes, the self-employment tax consists of taxes collected for Social Security and for Medicare (hospital insurance or HI).


The simple concept of depreciation can get complicated very quickly when one is trying to determining the proper depreciation deduction for any particular asset. Here’s only a summary of some of what’s involved.


Nearly half-way into the year, tax legislation has been hotly debated in Congress but lawmakers have failed to move many bills. Only one bill, legislation to make permanent the research tax credit, has been approved by the House; its fate in the Senate still remains uncertain. Other bills, including legislation to extend many of the now-expired extenders before the 2015 filing season, have stalled. Tax measures could also be attached to other bills, especially as the days wind down to Congress' August recess.


U.S. taxpayers with foreign financial accounts must file an FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) if the aggregate value of their accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. The FBAR must be filed by June 30 of the current year to report the taxpayer's financial accounts for the prior year.


The IRS needs to significantly improve its oversight of alimony deductions, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has cautioned in a recent audit report. Alimony paid to or for a spouse or former spouse under a divorce or separation instrument is generally deductible from the payer's income and taxable to the recipient's income. TIGTA estimated the "alimony compliance gap" at more than $2.3 billion.


Transit incentives are a popular transportation fringe benefit for many employees. Although the costs of commuting to and from work are not tax-deductible (except in certain relatively rare cases), transportation fringe benefits help to offset some of the costs, including the expenses of riding mass transit or taking a van pool to work. Under current law, the value of qualified transportation fringe benefits provided to an employee is excluded from the employee's gross income and wages for income and payroll tax purposes.


If a taxpayer makes a mistake resulting in paying less federal tax to the IRS than actually owed, that taxpayer could be subject to the accuracy related penalty under Code Sec. 6662. According to the IRS, the two most common accuracy related penalties are the "substantial understatement" penalty and the "negligence or disregard of the rules or regulations" penalty. These penalties are calculated as 20-percent of the net understatement of tax.


With the April 15th filing season deadline now behind us, it’s not too early to turn your attention to next year’s deadline for filing your 2014 return. That refocus requires among other things an awareness of the direct impact that many "ordinary," as well as one-time, transactions and events will have on the tax you will eventually be obligated to pay April 15, 2015. To gain this forward-looking perspective, however, taking a moment to look back … at the filing season that has just ended, is particularly worthwhile. This generally involves a two-step process: (1) a look-back at your 2013 tax return to pinpoint new opportunities as well as "lessons learned;" and (2) a look-back at what has happened in the tax world since January 1st that may indicate new challenges to be faced for the first time on your 2014 return.

A new tax applies to certain taxpayers, beginning in 2013—the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income (NII) Tax. This is a surtax that certain higher-income taxpayers may owe in addition to their income tax or alternative minimum tax. The tax applies to individuals, estates, and trusts (but not to corporations). Individuals are subject to the tax if they have NII, and their adjusted gross income exceeds a specified threshold—$250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly; $200,000 for unmarried individuals.

As virtual currencies such as Bitcoin rise in prominence and use, the IRS has for the first time described how virtual currency will be treated for tax purposes. The agency concluded in new guidance (Notice 2014–21) that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies like it are not to be treated as currency, but as property.

The applicable federal rates (AFRs) are used for a number of federal tax provisions. For example, Code Sec. 1274 uses AFRs to determine whether a debt instrument has original issue discount (OID or imputed interest). This determination requires the calculation of the present value of payments made on the debt instrument; present value is calculated using a discount rate equal to the AFR, compounded semi-annually.

Code Sec. 162 permits a business to deduct its ordinary and necessary expenses for carrying on the business. However, Code Sec. 274 restricts the deduction of entertainment expenses incurred for business by disallowing expenses of entertainment activities and entertainment facilities. Many expenses are totally disallowed; other amounts, if allowed under Code Sec. 274, are limited to 50 percent of the expense.

The current likelihood that your business will become involved in an employment tax audit or an employment-related income tax audit has increased: the IRS is aggressively attempting to reduce the "tax gap" of uncollected revenues in a time of increasing budget austerity. Employment tax noncompliance is estimated by the IRS to account for approximately $54 billion of the tax gap. Under-reporting of FICA makes up $14 billion; under-reporting of self-employment tax accounts for $39 billion; and under-reporting of unemployment tax accounts for $1 billion in lost revenue. Add to that total amount over $50 billion in estimated employment-associated income tax lost that are the result of missteps in withholding obligations, tip reporting, and proper fringe benefit classification . . . and employers are forewarned. The IRS is stepping up its auditing in these areas and has been conducting studies to maximize the best use of its agents' time to do so.

Tax reform, frequently discussed in Washington, got a boost from two recent proposals, one from the chair of the House tax writing committee and another from the White House. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, released a massive tax reform bill in late February. In early March, President Obama released his fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget proposals, detailing over 160 tax proposals. Both proposals share some similarities but also key differences.

In January, the U.S. Tax Court threw a curve ball in many retirement planning strategies. The court held that a taxpayer could make only one nontaxable rollover contribution within each one-year period regardless of how many IRAs the taxpayer has. The court found that the one-year limitation under Code Sec. 408(d)(3)(B) is not specific to any single IRA owned by an individual but instead applies to all IRAs owned by a taxpayer. The court's decision was a departure from a long-time understanding of IRS rules and publications and, for several weeks after, it was unclear what approach the IRS would take. Now, the IRS has announced that it will follow the court's decision and revise its rules and publications. Everyone contemplating an IRA rollover needs to be aware of this important development.

One of the most complex, if not the most complex, provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the employer shared responsibility requirement (the so-called "employer mandate") and related reporting of health insurance coverage. Since passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the Obama administration has twice delayed the employer mandate and reporting. The employer mandate and reporting will generally apply to applicable large employers (ALE) starting in 2015 and to mid-size employers starting in 2016. Employers with fewer than 50 employees, have never been required, and continue to be exempt, from the employer mandate and reporting.

When an IRS is conducting a detailed audit of a taxpayer, it may want to see documents and records retained by the taxpayer. The examiner will ask the taxpayer what type of documents are maintained, and will request that the taxpayer produce particular documents for inspection.

Mid-size employers may be eligible for recently announced transition relief from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's employer shared responsibility requirements. Final regulations issued by the IRS in late January include transition relief for mid-size employers for 2015. Mid-size employers for this relief are defined generally as businesses employing at least 50 but fewer than 100 full-time employees. Exceptions and complicated measurement rules continue to apply. The final regulations also describe the treatment of seasonal employees, volunteer workers, student employees, the calculation of the employer shared responsibility payment, and much more.


In his January 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama instructed the Treasury Department to develop a new savings vehicle called "myRA." The new savings arrangements share many similarities with Roth IRAs but also have some unique features. At press time, the Treasury Department is expected to roll out myRAs before year-end 2014. Certain details on how they will operate continue to unfold.


The IRS's final "repair" regulations became effective January 1, 2014. The regulations provide a massive revision to the rules on capitalizing and deducting costs incurred with respect to tangible property. The regulations apply to amounts paid to acquire, produce or improve tangible property; every business is affected, especially those with significant fixed assets.


Yes. Identity theft is a growing problem and the start of the return filing season is one of the peak times for identity thieves filing fraudulent returns. Criminals file false returns early to get refunds and unsuspecting taxpayers are unaware their identities have been stolen until they file their returns. Individuals who believe they have been victims of identity theft should immediately alert their tax professional and the IRS. The IRS has a number of programs in place to assist victims of identity theft.


Many taxpayers find the ability to carry back a net operating loss (NOL) one of the most business-friendly provisions in the Tax Code. This is often true for new businesses. In times of economic difficulty, Congress has even relaxed the NOL carryback rules. However, there may be times when it is tax-advantaged not to carry back an NOL.


The 2014 filing season opened on January 31 and the IRS’s new Commissioner has emphasized that the agency is focused on making it run smoothly. The agency expects to process more than 140 million individual returns in 2014 and to issue more than 110 million refunds. At the same time, the IRS must balance its customer service and enforcement functions with reduced funding, protect taxpayers from i