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  • incorporate the safe harbor in Notice 2019-12 for individuals who have any portion of a charitable deduction disallowed to the receipt of SALT benefits;
  • incorporate the safe harbor in Rev. Proc. 2019-12 for business entities to deduct certain payments made to a charitable organization in exchange for SALT benefits; and
  • clarify the application of the quid pro quo principle under Code Sec. 170 to benefits received or expected to be received by the donor from a third party.

SALT Limit

An individual’s itemized deduction of SALT taxes is limited to $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately) for tax years beginning after 2017. Some states and local governments have adopted laws that allowed individuals to receive a state tax credit for contributions to certain charitable funds. These laws are aimed at getting around the SALT deduction limit by creating a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes.

The IRS issued final regulations in June 2019 that provide that the receipt of a SALT credit for a charitable contribution is the receipt of a return benefit (quid pro quo benefit). Thus, the taxpayer must reduce any contribution deduction by the amount of any SALT credit received or expected to receive in return. The regulations contain a de minimis exception if the SALT credit does not exceed 15 percent of the taxpayer’s charitable payment.

A taxpayer is not required to reduce the charitable contribution deduction because of the receipt of SALT deductions. However, the taxpayer must reduce the charitable deduction if it receives or expects to receive SALT deductions in excess of the taxpayer’s payment or the fair market value of property transferred.

Payments by Individuals

A safe harbor was provided in Notice 2019-12 for individuals who have a portion of a charitable deduction disallowed due to the receipt of a SALT credit. Under the safe harbor, any disallowed portion of the charitable contribution deduction may be treated as the payment of SALT taxes for the purposes of deducting taxes under Code Sec. 164.

The new proposed regulations incorporate the safe harbor in Notice 2019-12. The safe harbor is allowed in the tax year the charitable payment is made, but only to the extent that the SALT credit is applied as provided under state or local law to offset the individual’s SALT liability for the current or preceding tax year. Any unused credit may be carried forward as provided under state and local law.

Payments by Business Entities

The IRS also provided a safe harbor in Rev. Proc. 2019-12 that business entities may continue to deduct charitable contributions in exchange a SALT credit. A business entity may deduct the payments as ordinary and necessary business expenses under Code Sec. 162 if made for a business purpose.

The new proposed regulations incorporate the safe harbor in Rev. Proc. 2019-12. If a C corporation or specified pass-through entity makes the charitable payment in exchange for a SALT credit, it may deduct the payment as a business expense to the extent of any SALT credit received or expected to be received. In addition, the new proposal provides that if the charitable payment bears a direct relationship to the taxpayer’s business then it may be deducted as a business expense rather than a charitable contribution regardless of whether the taxpayer receives or expects to receive a SALT credit.

Benefits Received from Third Party

If a taxpayer receives any goods, services, or other benefits from a charitable organization in consideration for a contribution, then the charitable deduction must be reduced by the value of those benefits. If the contribution exceeds the fair market value of the benefits received, then only the excess is a deductible as a charitable contribution.

The new proposed regulations clarify that this quid pro quo principal applies regardless of whether the party providing the goods, services, or other benefits is the charitable organization or not. A taxpayer will be treated under the proposal as receiving goods and services in consideration for the taxpayer’s charitable contribution if, at the time the taxpayer makes the payment or transfer, the taxpayer receives or expects to receive goods or services in return.

Final regulations provide rules on the attribution of ownership of stock or other interests, for determining whether a person is a related person with respect to a controlled foreign corporation (CFC) under the foreign base company sales income rules. The regulations also provide rules to determine whether a CFC receives rents in the active conduct of a trade or business, for determining the exception from foreign personal holding company income.

The regulations adopt without change, proposed regulations published on May 20, 2019 ( NPRM REG-125135-15).

Attribution of Ownership

The regulations provide specific rules for applying principles similar to those in the Code Sec. 958(b) constructive ownership rules when determining related person status under the foreign base company sales income rules. The determination of related person status is relevant for many purposes, including whether certain types of income can be characterized as subpart F foreign base company sales or service income.

A person is a related person with respect to a CFC if the person is:

  • an individual who controls the CFC,
  • an entity that controls or is controlled by the CFC, or
  • an entity that is controlled by the same person that controls the CFC.

Rules similar to those for determining stock ownership in Code Sec. 958 apply for purposes of determining whether a person is a related person. The regulations limit the application of the downward attribution rules in Code Sec. 318(a)(3), which apply by reference to the Code Sec. 958 stock ownership rules, and which attribute ownership downward from the owner of an entity to an entity. The downward attribution rules are applied regardless of the size of the ownership interest in a partnership, estate, or trust, but are applied to corporations based on a 50-percent or more ownership interest.

The regulations address concern that application of the downward attribution rules could inappropriately treat entities (including CFCs) that do not have significant relationships with each other as related persons. Accordingly, the regulations provide that the downward attribution rules of Code Sec. 318(a)(3) and Reg. §1.958-2(d) will not apply for purposes of determining related person status under the foreign base company sales income rules.

The change does not preclude a corporation, partnership, trust, or estate from being treated as controlled by the same person or persons that control the CFC under other rules that remain applicable for the related person rules.

Additionally, an anti-abuse rule is provided with respect to the option attribution rule in Code Sec. 318(a)(4). The option attribution rule in Code Sec. 318(a)(4) and Reg. §1.958-2(e) will not be applied to treat a person with an option as owning the stock or an equity interest for purposes of the related person rule if the principal purpose of using the option was to cause a person to be treated as a related person.

The regulations also incorporate a similar rule issued in section 7(d) of Notice 2007-9, 2007-1 CB 401. The rule applies if the principal purpose for the use of an option is to qualify dividends, interest, rents or royalties paid by a foreign corporation for the Code Sec. 954(c)(6) CFC look-through exception from foreign personal holding company income. The rule applies to tax years of CFCs beginning after December 31, 2006, and ending before November 19, 2019, and to tax years of U.S. shareholders in which or with which such tax years end.

Personal Holding Company Income

The regulations modify the foreign personal holding company rules for amounts paid or incurred by a CFC in connection with the CFC’s rental income and the active rents exception. Rents are excluded from foreign personal holding company income if the rents are:

  • received from a person other than a related person, and
  • from the active conduct of a trade or business.

If rents are from leasing property as a result of marketing activities, there must be a substantial marketing organization in order to meet the active trade or business test. Under a safe harbor, an organization is substantial if active leasing expenses equal or exceed 25 percent of adjusted leasing profit. If the CFC receives rents from property it does not own, the substantiality of the organization is determined net of those rent payments.

The regulations extend the rule to apply to royalties in addition to rents. As a result, the substantiality of the organization is determined under the safe harbor net of the rents or royalties paid or incurred by the lessor CFC, for the right to use the property (or a component part of the property) that generated the rental income.

Applicability Date

The regulations generally apply to tax years of CFCs ending on or after November 19, 2019, and to tax years of U.S. shareholders in which or with which such tax years end. The regulations on the downward attribution rule, and the option anti-abuse rule for use of the option to treat a person as a related person with respect to a CFC, apply to tax years of CFCs ending on or after May 17, 2019, and to tax years of U.S. shareholders in which or with which such tax years end, with respect to amounts received or accrued by a CFC on or after May 17, 2019, to the extent the amounts are received or accrued in advance of the period to which such amounts are attributable with a principal purpose of avoiding application of the rules.

The final regulations adopt proposed rules ( REG-104259-18) published on December 21, 2018 (2018 proposed regulations), with certain modifications. The proposed regulations ( REG-112607-19) (2019 proposed regulations) provide rules under Code Secs. 59A and 6031 regarding certain aspects of the BEAT.

Final Regulations

The 2018 proposed regulations provided guidance related to the mechanics of determining a taxpayer’s BEAT liability, and addressed application of the BEAT to partnerships, banks, registered security dealers, and consolidated groups. The final BEAT regulations retain the basic approach and structure of the 2018 proposed regulations, with certain revisions.

The final regulations continue to be exclude from the denominator of the base erosion percentage Code Sec. 988 losses with respect to transactions with foreign related parties that are excluded from the numerator of the percentage. The final regulations also retain the add-back method for computing modified taxable income and the computation of base erosion minimum tax amount (BEMTA) on a taxpayer-by-taxpayer basis.

Among some of the more significant changes to the proposed rules, the final regulations:

  • adopt the "with-or-within" method to determine the gross receipts and the base erosion percentage of an aggregate group;
  • disregard transactions between parties if both parties were members of the aggregate group at the time of the transaction;
  • exclude the base erosion tax benefits and deductions attributable to the tax year of a member of an aggregate group that begins before January 1, 2018;
  • clarify that payments resulting in a reduction to determine gross income are not treated as base erosion payments;
  • require that the determination of whether a payment or accrual is a base erosion payment be made under general U.S. federal income tax law;
  • clarify the definition of a "base erosion payment," and generally exclude amounts transferred to, or exchanged with, a foreign related party in certain corporate nonrecognition transactions from that definition;
  • clarify the rules for determining the portion of U.S. branch interest paid to foreign related parties;
  • provide rules for the treatment of an interest expense determined under a U.S. tax treaty;
    include additional detail on the documentation required to satisfy the service cost method (SCM) exception;
  • modify the total loss-absorbing capacity (TLAC) exception;
  • provide that the additional one percent add-on to the BEAT rate will not apply to a taxpayer that is part of an affiliated group with de minimis banking and securities dealer activities;
  • provide that Code Sec. 15 applies only to the change in tax rate set forth in Code Sec. 59A(b)(2) and should not apply to the change in tax rate included in Code Sec. 59A(b)(1)(A) for tax years beginning in calendar year 2018;
  • change the Qualified Derivative Payments (QDP) exception;
  • clarify the rules regarding how partnerships and their partners are treated for purposes of the BEAT; and
  • clarify the anti-abuse rule and certain rules applicable to insurance companies and consolidated groups.

Applicability Dates

The final regulations (other than the reporting requirements for QDPs) apply to tax years ending on or after December 17, 2018. However, taxpayers may apply these final regulations in their entirety for tax years ending before December 17, 2018. Taxpayers may also apply provisions matching Reg. §§1.59A-1 through 1.59A-9 in their entirety for all tax years ending on or before December 6, 2019. Taxpayers choosing to apply the proposed regulations must apply them consistently and cannot selectively choose which particular provisions to apply.

The related Code Sec. 6038A regulations apply to tax years beginning Monday, June 7, 2021. The related consolidated return regulations generally apply to tax years for which the original consolidated return is due (without extensions) after December 6, 2019.

2019 Proposed Regulations

The 2019 proposed regulations provide rules regarding relating to (1) how a taxpayer determines its aggregate group for purposes of determining gross receipts and the base erosion percentage; (2) an election to waive deductions; and (3) application of the BEAT to partnerships.

The 2019 proposed regulations generally apply to tax years beginning on or after the date that the final regulations are filed with the Federal Register. Certain rules, however, have specific applicability dates. In addition, taxpayers may rely on the rules in the proposed regulations in their entirety for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before the final regulations are applicable.

Practitioner’s Observations

Arlene Fitzpatrick, a Principal in the National Tax Department of Ernst & Young LLP, told Wolters Kluwer that "there are changes and new proposed rules in the package of final and proposed regulations that are helpful, though not all changes requested through the comment process were made. For example, the rules in the final regulations to exclude, in certain circumstances, from the definition of a base erosion payment amounts transferred to, or exchanged with, a foreign related party pursuant to a specified nonrecognition transaction are welcome. Furthermore, clarifying that a built-in loss recognized on a sale or transfer of property to a foreign related party is not in itself a deduction that causes the payment to be treated as a base erosion payment is helpful. The final regulations however, retain the internal dealings rule whereby a notional payment for purposes of attribution of profits under certain tax treaties may be taken into account for purposes of determining BEAT. Thus, although deductions from internal dealings would not be allowed under the Code or regulations, and only relevant under certain treaties (the regulations do not specify the treaties), the regulations provide such amounts are relevant for purposes of determining BEAT."

Also adopted are proposed regulations on overall foreign losses, published on June 25, 2012 ( NPRM REG-134935-11), and a U.S. taxpayer’s obligation to notify the IRS of a foreign tax redetermination, published on November 7, 2007 ( NPRM REG-209020-86).

A separate set of 2019 proposed regulations were also issued ( NPRM REG-105495-19).

Final Regulations

The final regulations make extensive changes to the rules on the determination of the foreign tax credit. Many of these changes were required to implement the TCJA, including the items discussed, below.

The final regulations provide details on how income is assigned and expenses are apportioned to the Code Sec. 951A global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) and foreign branch foreign tax credit separate limitation categories added by TCJA.

The regulations provide that, for purposes of applying the expense allocation and apportionment rules, the portion of gross income related to foreign derived intangible income (FDII) or a GILTI inclusion that is offset by a Code Sec. 250 deduction is treated as exempt income. This means that fewer expenses will be allocated to the GILTI category, resulting in a higher foreign source taxable income, a higher foreign tax credit limitation, and a larger foreign tax credit offset with respect to GILTI income.

The regulations also address how the balance of foreign tax credit carryovers prior to the TCJA are allocated across new and existing separate categories. Under a default rule, foreign tax credit carryovers remain in the general category going forward. A taxpayer can elect to reconstruct the carryover regarding a foreign branch. The final regulations provide a simplified rule under which taxpayers can assign foreign tax credits to the foreign branch category proportionately, according to the ratio of foreign taxes paid or accrued by the taxpayer’s branches to total foreign taxes paid or accrued by the taxpayer in that year.

The regulations modify the proposed rule for determining foreign branch income based on the U.S. tax-adjusted books and records of the foreign branch. The proposed regulations disregarded transfers of intellectual property (IP) between a foreign branch and its owner if the transfer would result in a deemed payment that reallocates income between the foreign branch category and the general branch category. The final regulations limit the rule to transactions that occurred after the date of the proposed regulations and include an exception for transitory ownership.

The regulations provide rules for the treatment of GILTI for purposes of the interest allocation rules. In general, a controlled foreign corporation (CFC) must allocate and apportion its interest expense among groups of income for purposes of determining tested income, subpart F income and other types of net foreign source income. A U.S. taxpayer must characterize the value of its CFC for allocating and apportioning its own interest expense. A CFC allocates and apportions its interest expense using either the modified gross income (MGI) method or the asset method. The U.S. taxpayer uses the same method to characterize the stock of its CFC. The regulations take into account gross tested income from a lower-tier CFC with respect to an upper-tier CFC for allocating the upper-tier CFC’s interest expense when applying the MGI method.

Dividends, interest, rents and royalties (look-through payments) paid to a U.S. shareholder by a CFC were generally allocated to general category income to the extent that they were not treated as passive category income. Because this type of payment made directly by a U.S. shareholder is not included in the GILTI category, the regulations provide that the look-through payments are assigned either to the general category or the foreign branch category. The payments cannot be assigned to the GILTI category.

The final regulations also address certain potentially abusive borrowing arrangements involving loans by U.S. persons to foreign partnerships that artificially increase foreign source income and the foreign tax credit limitation without affecting U.S. taxable income. Under the regulations, the interest income attributable to borrowing through a partnership is allocated across the foreign tax credit separate limitation categories in the same manner as the associated interest expense.

Applicability of Final Regs

The final regulations related to statutory amendments made by the TCJA apply to tax years beginning after December 31, 2017. Regulations that contain both rules that relate to the TCJA and rules that do not relate to the TCJA generally apply to tax years that both (1) begin after December 31, 2017, and (2) end on or after December 4, 2018.

The regulations on the deemed paid credit under Code Sec. 960 apply to tax years that both begin after December 31, 2017, and end on or after December 4, 2018. The final OFL regulations apply to tax years on or after the date the regulations are filed in the Federal Register. The final foreign tax redetermination regulations apply to foreign tax redeterminations occurring in tax years ending on or after the date the regulations are filed in the Federal Register.

Proposed Regulations

Proposed foreign tax credit regulations address changes made by the TCJA, and also respond to issues raised in the 2018 proposed regulations on the foreign tax credit ( NPRM REG-105600-18). The proposed regulations address:

  • the allocation and apportionment of deductions under Code Sec. 861 through Code Sec. 865;
  • the definition of "financial services income" under Code Sec. 904(d)(2)(D);
  • the allocation and apportionment of creditable foreign taxes;
  • the interaction of branch loss and dual consolidated loss recapture rules under Code Sec. 904(f) and Code Sec. 904(g);
  • the effect of Code Sec. 905(c) foreign tax redeterminations of foreign corporations on the high-tax exception in Code Sec. 954(b)(4) and the required notification and penalty provisions;
  • the definition of "personal holding company income" under Code Sec. 954; and
  • the application of the foreign tax credit limitation rule to consolidated groups.

Allocation and Apportionment

Under the general rule, a taxpayer may allocate research and experimentation (R&E) expenses to the foreign tax credit separate limitation categories under the sales method or the gross income method. The proposed regulations revise the sales method to provide that R&E expenses are only allocated to income that represents return on intellectual property. When applying these rules, gross intangible income does not include dividends or amounts included under subpart F, GILTI or Code Sec. 1293. As a result, none of a U.S. taxpayer’s R&E expenses are allocated to the GILTI category. The proposed regulations eliminate the gross income method for purposes of allocating R&E expenses.

Stewardship expenses are related and allocable to dividends received or to be received from related corporations. The proposed regulations provide that stewardship expenses are allocated to subpart F and GILTI inclusions, to Code Sec. 78 dividends and all amounts included under the passive foreign investment company (PFIC) provisions.

Under the Code Sec. 818(f) allocation rules that apply to life insurance companies, expenses are generally apportioned ratably across all gross income. Under a new rule, the proposed regulations allocate expenses in a life-nonlife consolidated group solely among items of the insurance company that has reserves (separate entity method).

The final foreign tax credit limitations provide a matching rule for a U.S. partner that makes loans to a foreign partnership. Under the rule, the partner’s gross interest income is apportioned between U.S. and foreign sources in each separate foreign tax credit limitation category based on the partner’s interest expense apportionment ratios. The proposed regulations provide the same rule for loans from partnerships to U.S. partners (upstream partnership loans).

Redeterminations

Portions of the 2007 temporary regulations on foreign tax redeterminations ( T.D. 9362) are reproposed so that taxpayers can provide comments on the rules in light of the changes made by the TCJA. The proposed regulations address foreign tax redeterminations that affect the deemed paid credit under Code Sec. 960; procedural notification rules; and penalties for failure to notify the IRS of a foreign tax redetermination.

The proposed regulations require taxpayers to account for foreign tax redeterminations of foreign subsidiaries on an amended return that reflects the revised foreign taxes deemed paid under Code Sec. 960 and any changes to the taxpayer’s U.S. tax liability. This reflects the repeal of the pooling mechanism to account for redeterminations of foreign taxes.

A transition rule provides that post-2017 redeterminations of pre-2018 foreign income taxes must be made by adjusting the foreign corporation’s taxable income and earnings and profits and post-1986 undistributed earnings and income taxes in the pre-2018 year to which the redetermined foreign taxes relate. The proposed regulations also provide that the foreign tax redetermination rules cover situations in which the foreign tax redetermination affects whether or not the CFC qualifies for the high-tax exceptions under GILTI and subpart F.

Additional Rules

Additional provisions in the proposed regulations:

  • modify the definition of a "financial services entity" by adopting a definition of "predominately engaged in the active conduct of a banking, insurance, finance, or similar business" and "income derived in the active conduct of a banking, insurance, finance, or similar business" that is generally consistent with Code Secs. 954(h), 1297(b)(2)(B), and 953(e);
  • provide more detailed guidance on the allocation and apportionment of foreign income taxes, and generalize the rules to apply to statutory and residual groupings;
  • provide a new ordering rule for overall foreign loss recapture that addresses additional income recognition under the branch loss recapture and dual consolidated loss recapture rules: the amounts are not taken into account for purposes of the ordering rules until Code Sec. 904(f)(3) amounts are determined;
  • clarify the rules that apply to jurisdictions that do not impose corporate income tax on CFCs until earnings are distributed. or where foreign tax is contingent on a future distributions, for purposes of the high-tax exception in Code Sec. 954(b)(4);
  • apply the principles for allocating and apportioning foreign income taxes for purposes of Code Sec. 965(g); and
  • update the Code Sec. 1502 regulations relating to the computation of the consolidated foreign tax credit to reflect changes in the law, and add new rules for the determining the source and separate category of the a consolidated NOL, as well as the portion of a consolidated net operating loss (CNOL) that is apportioned to a separate return year of a member.

Applicability of Proposed Regs

The proposed regulations are generally proposed to apply to tax years that end on or after the date the proposed regulations are filed in the Federal Register, with exceptions. For example, the rules for R&E expenses are proposed to apply to tax years beginning after December 31, 2019. However taxpayers on the sales method for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2020, may rely on the proposed regulations if the rules are applied consistently. Thus, a taxpayer on the sales method for its tax year beginning in 2018 may rely on the proposed regulation, but must also apply the sales method (relying on the proposed regulation) for its tax year beginning in 2019.

Practitioner’s Observations

WK: Were you surprised by anything in the final regs?

Martin Milner: The final regulations are generally consistent with the proposed regulations and do not include any major surprises. The changes and clarifications that are in the final regulations are largely helpful. As would be expected, most of the new provisions are in the proposed portion of the package.

WK: With the proposed regs are there areas that you can see may result in pushback? If so why?

Martin Milner: The business community is likely to comment on the proposal to apportion stewardship expenses to dividends, subpart F income and GILTI (including IRC Section 78 gross-ups) because many had hoped that stewardship expenses would not be apportioned to GILTI.

WK: How did you feel about the R&E Expense Apportionment changes?

Martin Milner: The mandatory sales-based apportionment of R&E expenses to all gross intangible income related to the relevant product SIC code will be complicated in practice. However, it is helpful that the proposed rules specifically exclude dividends, subpart F income and GILTI.


Also adopted are proposed regulations on overall foreign losses, published on June 25, 2012 ( NPRM REG-134935-11), and a U.S. taxpayer’s obligation to notify the IRS of a foreign tax redetermination, published on November 7, 2007 ( NPRM REG-209020-86).

A separate set of 2019 proposed regulations were also issued ( NPRM REG-105495-19).

Final Regulations

The final regulations make extensive changes to the rules on the determination of the foreign tax credit. Many of these changes were required to implement the TCJA, including the items discussed, below.

The final regulations provide details on how income is assigned and expenses are apportioned to the Code Sec. 951A global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) and foreign branch foreign tax credit separate limitation categories added by TCJA.

The regulations provide that, for purposes of applying the expense allocation and apportionment rules, the portion of gross income related to foreign derived intangible income (FDII) or a GILTI inclusion that is offset by a Code Sec. 250 deduction is treated as exempt income. This means that fewer expenses will be allocated to the GILTI category, resulting in a higher foreign source taxable income, a higher foreign tax credit limitation, and a larger foreign tax credit offset with respect to GILTI income.

The regulations also address how the balance of foreign tax credit carryovers prior to the TCJA are allocated across new and existing separate categories. Under a default rule, foreign tax credit carryovers remain in the general category going forward. A taxpayer can elect to reconstruct the carryover regarding a foreign branch. The final regulations provide a simplified rule under which taxpayers can assign foreign tax credits to the foreign branch category proportionately, according to the ratio of foreign taxes paid or accrued by the taxpayer’s branches to total foreign taxes paid or accrued by the taxpayer in that year.

The regulations modify the proposed rule for determining foreign branch income based on the U.S. tax-adjusted books and records of the foreign branch. The proposed regulations disregarded transfers of intellectual property (IP) between a foreign branch and its owner if the transfer would result in a deemed payment that reallocates income between the foreign branch category and the general branch category. The final regulations limit the rule to transactions that occurred after the date of the proposed regulations and include an exception for transitory ownership.

The regulations provide rules for the treatment of GILTI for purposes of the interest allocation rules. In general, a controlled foreign corporation (CFC) must allocate and apportion its interest expense among groups of income for purposes of determining tested income, subpart F income and other types of net foreign source income. A U.S. taxpayer must characterize the value of its CFC for allocating and apportioning its own interest expense. A CFC allocates and apportions its interest expense using either the modified gross income (MGI) method or the asset method. The U.S. taxpayer uses the same method to characterize the stock of its CFC. The regulations take into account gross tested income from a lower-tier CFC with respect to an upper-tier CFC for allocating the upper-tier CFC’s interest expense when applying the MGI method.

Dividends, interest, rents and royalties (look-through payments) paid to a U.S. shareholder by a CFC were generally allocated to general category income to the extent that they were not treated as passive category income. Because this type of payment made directly by a U.S. shareholder is not included in the GILTI category, the regulations provide that the look-through payments are assigned either to the general category or the foreign branch category. The payments cannot be assigned to the GILTI category.

The final regulations also address certain potentially abusive borrowing arrangements involving loans by U.S. persons to foreign partnerships that artificially increase foreign source income and the foreign tax credit limitation without affecting U.S. taxable income. Under the regulations, the interest income attributable to borrowing through a partnership is allocated across the foreign tax credit separate limitation categories in the same manner as the associated interest expense.

Applicability of Final Regs

The final regulations related to statutory amendments made by the TCJA apply to tax years beginning after December 31, 2017. Regulations that contain both rules that relate to the TCJA and rules that do not relate to the TCJA generally apply to tax years that both (1) begin after December 31, 2017, and (2) end on or after December 4, 2018.

The regulations on the deemed paid credit under Code Sec. 960 apply to tax years that both begin after December 31, 2017, and end on or after December 4, 2018. The final OFL regulations apply to tax years on or after the date the regulations are filed in the Federal Register. The final foreign tax redetermination regulations apply to foreign tax redeterminations occurring in tax years ending on or after the date the regulations are filed in the Federal Register.

Proposed Regulations

Proposed foreign tax credit regulations address changes made by the TCJA, and also respond to issues raised in the 2018 proposed regulations on the foreign tax credit ( NPRM REG-105600-18). The proposed regulations address:

  • the allocation and apportionment of deductions under Code Sec. 861 through Code Sec. 865;
  • the definition of "financial services income" under Code Sec. 904(d)(2)(D);
  • the allocation and apportionment of creditable foreign taxes;
  • the interaction of branch loss and dual consolidated loss recapture rules under Code Sec. 904(f) and Code Sec. 904(g);
  • the effect of Code Sec. 905(c) foreign tax redeterminations of foreign corporations on the high-tax exception in Code Sec. 954(b)(4) and the required notification and penalty provisions;
  • the definition of "personal holding company income" under Code Sec. 954; and
  • the application of the foreign tax credit limitation rule to consolidated groups.

Allocation and Apportionment

Under the general rule, a taxpayer may allocate research and experimentation (R&E) expenses to the foreign tax credit separate limitation categories under the sales method or the gross income method. The proposed regulations revise the sales method to provide that R&E expenses are only allocated to income that represents return on intellectual property. When applying these rules, gross intangible income does not include dividends or amounts included under subpart F, GILTI or Code Sec. 1293. As a result, none of a U.S. taxpayer’s R&E expenses are allocated to the GILTI category. The proposed regulations eliminate the gross income method for purposes of allocating R&E expenses.

Stewardship expenses are related and allocable to dividends received or to be received from related corporations. The proposed regulations provide that stewardship expenses are allocated to subpart F and GILTI inclusions, to Code Sec. 78 dividends and all amounts included under the passive foreign investment company (PFIC) provisions.

Under the Code Sec. 818(f) allocation rules that apply to life insurance companies, expenses are generally apportioned ratably across all gross income. Under a new rule, the proposed regulations allocate expenses in a life-nonlife consolidated group solely among items of the insurance company that has reserves (separate entity method).

The final foreign tax credit limitations provide a matching rule for a U.S. partner that makes loans to a foreign partnership. Under the rule, the partner’s gross interest income is apportioned between U.S. and foreign sources in each separate foreign tax credit limitation category based on the partner’s interest expense apportionment ratios. The proposed regulations provide the same rule for loans from partnerships to U.S. partners (upstream partnership loans).

Redeterminations

Portions of the 2007 temporary regulations on foreign tax redeterminations ( T.D. 9362) are reproposed so that taxpayers can provide comments on the rules in light of the changes made by the TCJA. The proposed regulations address foreign tax redeterminations that affect the deemed paid credit under Code Sec. 960; procedural notification rules; and penalties for failure to notify the IRS of a foreign tax redetermination.

The proposed regulations require taxpayers to account for foreign tax redeterminations of foreign subsidiaries on an amended return that reflects the revised foreign taxes deemed paid under Code Sec. 960 and any changes to the taxpayer’s U.S. tax liability. This reflects the repeal of the pooling mechanism to account for redeterminations of foreign taxes.

A transition rule provides that post-2017 redeterminations of pre-2018 foreign income taxes must be made by adjusting the foreign corporation’s taxable income and earnings and profits and post-1986 undistributed earnings and income taxes in the pre-2018 year to which the redetermined foreign taxes relate. The proposed regulations also provide that the foreign tax redetermination rules cover situations in which the foreign tax redetermination affects whether or not the CFC qualifies for the high-tax exceptions under GILTI and subpart F.

Additional Rules

Additional provisions in the proposed regulations:

  • modify the definition of a "financial services entity" by adopting a definition of "predominately engaged in the active conduct of a banking, insurance, finance, or similar business" and "income derived in the active conduct of a banking, insurance, finance, or similar business" that is generally consistent with Code Secs. 954(h), 1297(b)(2)(B), and 953(e);
  • provide more detailed guidance on the allocation and apportionment of foreign income taxes, and generalize the rules to apply to statutory and residual groupings;
  • provide a new ordering rule for overall foreign loss recapture that addresses additional income recognition under the branch loss recapture and dual consolidated loss recapture rules: the amounts are not taken into account for purposes of the ordering rules until Code Sec. 904(f)(3) amounts are determined;
  • clarify the rules that apply to jurisdictions that do not impose corporate income tax on CFCs until earnings are distributed. or where foreign tax is contingent on a future distributions, for purposes of the high-tax exception in Code Sec. 954(b)(4);
  • apply the principles for allocating and apportioning foreign income taxes for purposes of Code Sec. 965(g); and
  • update the Code Sec. 1502 regulations relating to the computation of the consolidated foreign tax credit to reflect changes in the law, and add new rules for the determining the source and separate category of the a consolidated NOL, as well as the portion of a consolidated net operating loss (CNOL) that is apportioned to a separate return year of a member.

Applicability of Proposed Regs

The proposed regulations are generally proposed to apply to tax years that end on or after the date the proposed regulations are filed in the Federal Register, with exceptions. For example, the rules for R&E expenses are proposed to apply to tax years beginning after December 31, 2019. However taxpayers on the sales method for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2020, may rely on the proposed regulations if the rules are applied consistently. Thus, a taxpayer on the sales method for its tax year beginning in 2018 may rely on the proposed regulation, but must also apply the sales method (relying on the proposed regulation) for its tax year beginning in 2019.

Practitioner’s Observations

WK: Were you surprised by anything in the final regs?

Martin Milner: The final regulations are generally consistent with the proposed regulations and do not include any major surprises. The changes and clarifications that are in the final regulations are largely helpful. As would be expected, most of the new provisions are in the proposed portion of the package.

WK: With the proposed regs are there areas that you can see may result in pushback? If so why?

Martin Milner: The business community is likely to comment on the proposal to apportion stewardship expenses to dividends, subpart F income and GILTI (including IRC Section 78 gross-ups) because many had hoped that stewardship expenses would not be apportioned to GILTI.

WK: How did you feel about the R&E Expense Apportionment changes?

Martin Milner: The mandatory sales-based apportionment of R&E expenses to all gross intangible income related to the relevant product SIC code will be complicated in practice. However, it is helpful that the proposed rules specifically exclude dividends, subpart F income and GILTI.

The IRS has released guidance that provides that the requirement to report partners’ shares of partnership capital on the tax basis method will not be effective for 2019 partnership tax years, but will first apply to 2020 partnership tax years.

2019 Reporting

For 2019, partnerships and other persons must report partner capital accounts consistent with the reporting requirements in the 2018 forms and instructions, including the requirement to report negative tax basis capital accounts on a partner-by-partner basis.

Section 704(c) Gain or Loss

As a clarification, the notice also defines the term "partner’s share of net unrecognized Code Sec. 704(c) gain or loss," which must be reported by partnerships and other persons in 2019. Further, the notice exempts publicly traded partnerships from the requirement to report their partners’ shares of net unrecognized Code Sec. 704(c) gain or loss until further notice. Solely for purposes of completing the 2019 Forms 1065, Schedule K-1, Item N, and 8865, Schedule K-1, Item G, the notice defines a partner’s share of "net unrecognized Code Sec. 704(c) gain or loss" as the partner’s share of the net (meaning aggregate or sum) of all unrecognized gains or losses under Code Sec. 704(c) in partnership property, including Code Sec. 704(c) gains and losses arising from revaluations of partnership property.

Section 465 At-Risk Activities

The notice provides that the requirement added by the draft instructions for 2019 for partnerships to report to partners information about separate Code Sec. 465 at-risk activities will not be effective until 2020. The draft of the instructions for the 2019 Form 1065, Schedule K-1, released October 29, 2019, included a new paragraph at page 12, At-Risk Limitations, At-Risk Activity Reporting Requirements, that would expressly require partnerships or other persons that have items of income, loss, or deduction reported on the Schedule K-1 from more than one activity that may be subject to limitation under Code Sec. 465 at the partner level to report certain additional information separately for each activity on an attachment to a partner’s Schedule K-1. The new paragraph would require the partnership to identify the at-risk activity, the items of income, loss, or deduction for the activity, other items of income, loss, or deduction, partnership liabilities, and any other information that relates to the activity, such as distributions and partner loans. This requirement in the draft instructions for the 2019 Form 1065 is in addition to long-standing at-risk reporting requirements included in the instructions to the Form 1065.

Penalty Relief

Taxpayers who follow the provisions of the notice will not be subject to any penalty, including a penalty under Code Sec. 6722 for failure to furnish correct payee statements, under Code Sec. 6698 for failure to file a partnership return that shows required information, and under Code Sec. 6038 for failure to furnish information required on a Schedule K-1 (Form 8865).

The IRS has released final regulations that present guidance on how certain organizations that provide employee benefits must calculate unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) under Code Sec. 512(a).

Background

Organizations that are otherwise exempt from tax under Code Sec. 501(a) are subject to tax on their unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) under Code Sec. 511(a). Code Sec. 512(a) defines UBTI of exempt organizations and provides special rules for calculating UBTI for organizations described in Code Sec. 501(c)(7) (social and recreational clubs), voluntary employees’ beneficiary associations (VEBAs) described in Code Sec. 501(c)(9) and supplemental unemployment benefit trusts (SUBs) described in Code Sec. 501(c)(17).

Covered Entity

"Covered entity" describes VEBAs and SUBs subject to the UBTI computation rules under Code Sec. 512(a)(3). A corporation is treated as having exempt function income for a taxable year only if it files a consolidated return with the organization described in Code Sec. 501(c)(7), (9), or (17). These final regulations add a clause to clarify that the term "covered entity" includes a corporation described in Code Sec. 501(c)(2) to the extent provided in Code Sec. 512(a)(3)(C).

Nonrecognition of Gain

If a property used directly in the performance of the exempt function of a covered entity is sold by that covered entity, and other property is subsequently purchased and used by the covered entity directly in the performance of its exempt function—at any point within a four-year period beginning one year before the date of the sale and ending three years after the date of sale—gain, if any, from the sale is recognized only to the extent that the sales price of the old property exceeds the covered entity’s cost of purchasing the other property.

Limitation on Amounts Set Aside for Exempt Purposes

The total amount of investment income earned during the year should be considered when calculating whether an excess exists at the end of the year. Any investment income a covered entity earns during the taxable year is subject to unrelated business income tax (UBIT) to the extent the covered entity’s year-end assets exceed the account limit.

Effective Date

The final regulations apply to tax years beginning on or after December 10, 2019.

The regulations apply to estates of decedents dying on and after November 26, 2019.

Special Rule for Post-2025 Decedents

Reg. §20.2010-1(c) provides a special rule in cases where the portion of the credit against the estate tax that is based on the BEA is less than the sum of the credit amounts attributable to the BEA allowable in computing gift tax payable within the meaning of Code Sec. 2001(b)(2). In that situation, the portion of the credit against the net tentative estate tax that is attributable to the BEA is based upon the greater of those two credit amounts.

Inflation-Adjusted Amounts and DSUE Amount

Because the term "BEA" includes the exclusion amount, as adjusted for inflation, the examples in the regulations reflect hypothetical inflated adjusted BEAs. Reg. §20.2010-1(c)(2)(ii), Example 2, illustrates the application of the special rule based on gifts actually made, and would be inapplicable to a decedent who did not make gifts in excess of the date of death BEA, as adjusted for inflation.

Reg. §20.2010-1(c)(2)(iii) and (iv), Examples 3 and 4, illustrate that if a spouse dies during the increased BEA period, and the deceased spouse’s executor makes the portability election, the surviving spouse’s applicable exclusion amount includes the full amount of the deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE) amount based on the deceased spouse’s increased BEA. The DSUE amount is available to reduce the surviving spouse’s transfer tax liability regardless of when transfers are made.

BEA Calculations

The final rules explain how to determine the extent to which a credit allowable in computing gift tax payable is based solely on the BEA. Reg. §20.2010-1(c)(2)(iv), Example 4, addresses the application of the DSUE ordering rule, as well as the computation of the credit based solely on the BEA in a calendar period in which the transfer exhausts the remaining DSUE amount with the result that the BEA is also allowable.

TIGTA Final Audit Report

Suitability Checks

The IRS’s suitability checks for applicants to the Acceptance Agent, Enrolled Agent, and e-File Provider Programs generally ensured that only reputable individuals were accepted in the programs during fiscal year 2018. Further, the IRS’s continuous suitability checks also ensured that individuals accepted in the programs prior to the initial suitability checks had not engaged in criminal activity warranting removal from the program. TIGTA also identified that when the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported a criminal history for an applicant, the adjudication process was inconsistent depending on the program to which the individual was applying. Finally, the IRS did not take sufficient actions to address the fraudulent submission of fingerprint cards by some applicants to pass their background investigations.

TIGTA Recommendations

TIGTA recommended that the IRS:

  • assess the risk to tax administration of performing inconsistent initial and continuous suitability checks on individuals seeking to participate or enrolled in the e-File Provider, Acceptance Agent, and Enrolled Agent Programs;
  • assess the risk of the e-File Provider Program’s use of decision matrices to adjudicate an applicant’s criminal history that are inconsistent with the matrices used by the Acceptance Agent and Enrolled Agent Programs; and
  • work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to identify additional individuals who may have submitted fingerprint cards that match the fingerprints of another individual.

The IRS agreed with all the recommendations.

A: Any amount received as a "qualified scholarship" or fellowship is not required to be reported as income if your child is a candidate for a degree at an educational institution. For the college that your child attends to be treated as an educational organization, it must (1) be an institution that has as its primary function the presentation of formal instruction, (2) normally maintain a regular faculty and curriculum, and (3) have a regularly enrolled body of students in attendance at the place where the educational activities are regularly carried on. Your child has received a qualified scholarship if he or she can establish, that in accordance with the conditions of the scholarship, the funds received were used for qualified tuition and related expenses.

Qualified tuition and related expenses include tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance at the educational institution, as well as any fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for courses of instruction at the educational institution. To be treated as related expenses, the fees, books supplies, and equipment must be required of all students in the particular course of instruction. Incidental expenses, such as expenses for room and board, travel, research, equipment, and other expenses that are not required for either enrollment or attendance at the educational institution are not treated as related expenses. Any amounts that are used for room, board and other incidental expenses are not excluded from income.

Example: Assume this year your son received a scholarship in the amount of $20,000 to pay for expenses at a qualified educational institution. His expenses included $12,000 for tuition; $1,100 for books; $900 for lab supplies and fees; and $6,000 for food, housing, clothing, laundry, and other living expenses.

The $14,000 that your son paid for tuition, books and lab supplies and fees are considered to be qualified educational expenses and therefore would not have to be reported as income. The $6,000 that he spent on housing and the other living expenses is considered to be incidental expenses and would have to be reported in his income.

Note: This tax exclusion for qualified scholarships should not be confused with the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit, which has been temporarily renamed the American Opportunity Tax Credit and enhanced for 2009 and 2010 by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The American Opportunity Tax Credit can reach as high as $2,500 for 2009 and 2010 for tuition expenses paid by you for yourself, a spouse or a dependent. Scholarship money that is excluded from income cannot be used in computing your costs for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (i.e. Hope Scholarship Tax Credit). "Financial aid" in the form of student loans, however, is not counted as a scholarship and any money applied to pay tuition can qualify for the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit.

There can be all sorts of complicating factors in assessing whether a particular scholarship will be taxed, such as the treatment of work-study scholarships, educational sabbaticals, scholarships paid by an employer, and stipends to cover the tax on the non-tuition portion of attending a university. If you need additional assistance in determining the taxability of scholarships funds, please contact the office.

Step 1: Gather the necessary documents.

You will need to gather certain documents together in order to have all the ammunition you will need to tackle your net worth calculation. This information is not much different than the information that you would normally gather in anticipation of applying for a home loan, preparing your taxes or getting a property insurance policy. Here's what you'll need the most recent version of:

    • Bank statements from all checking and savings accounts (including CDs);
    • Statements from your securities broker for all securities owned including retirement accounts;
    • Mortgage statements (including home equity loans & lines of credit);
    • Credit card statements;
    • Student loan statements;
    • Loan statements for cars, boats and other personal property

In addition, you will need to have a pretty good idea of the current market value of the following assets you own: real estate, stocks and bonds, jewelry, art & other collectibles, cars, computers, furniture and other major household items, as well as any other substantial personal assets. Current market values can be obtained via a call to your local real estate agent, the stock market and classified ad pages in your newspaper, or qualified appraisers. If you own your own business or hold an interest in a partnership or trust, the current values of these will also need to be gathered.

Step 2: Add together all of your assets.

Your "assets" are items and property that you own or hold title to. They include:

    • Current balances in your bank accounts;
    • Current market value of any real estate you own;
    • Current market value of stocks, bonds & other securities you own;
    • Current market value of certain personal articles such as jewelry, art & other collectibles, cars, computers, furniture and other major household items, and any other miscellaneous personal items;
    • Amounts owed to you by others (personal loans)
    • Current cash value of life insurance policies;
    • Current market value of IRAs and self-employed retirement plans;
    • Current market value of vested equity in company retirement accounts;
    • Current market value of business interests

Step 3: Add together all of your liabilities.

Your "liabilities" are the debts that you owe and are many times connected to the acquisition or leveraging of your assets. They can include:

    • Amounts owed on real estate you own;
    • Amount owed on credit cards, lines of credit, etc...;
    • Amounts owed on student loans;
    • Amounts owed to others (personal loans);
    • Business loans that you have personally guaranteed;

Step 4: Subtract your liabilities from your assets.

Almost done -- this is the easy part. Take the total of all of your assets and subtract the total of all of your liabilities. The result is your net worth.

Hopefully, once you've done the calculation, you will arrive at a positive number, which means that your assets exceed your debts and you have a positive net worth. However, if you end up with a negative number, it may indicate that your debts exceed your assets and that you have a negative net worth. If the net worth you arrive at differs substantially from the "gut feeling" you have about your financial position, take the time to carefully review your calculation -- it may be that you simply made a calculation error or overlooked some assets that you hold.

Evaluating your outcome

If you ended up with a positive net worth, congratulations! You've probably made some good investment and/or money management decisions in your past. However, keep in mind that your net worth is an ever-changing number that reacts to economic conditions, as well as actions taken by you. It makes sense to periodically revisit this net worth calculation and make the necessary adjustments to ensure that you stay on the right financial track.

If you arrived at a negative net worth, now may be the time to evaluate your holdings and debts to decide what can be done to correct this situation. Are you holding assets that are worth less than you owe on them? Is your consumer debt a large portion of your liabilities? There are many different reasons why you may show a negative net worth, many of which can be corrected to get your financial health restored.

Calculating and understanding how your net worth reflects your current financial position can help you make decisions regarding the effectiveness of your investment and money management strategies. If you need additional assistance during the process of determining your net worth or deciding what actions you can take to improve it, please contact the office for additional guidance.

Fixed payments to charity

When you set up a charitable lead annuity trust (or CLAT, for short), the intention is for the assets of the trust, and the income they generate, to ultimately one day pass to one or more non-charitable beneficiaries, for example, your children. Before then, however, you may want one or more charities to receive some of the funds. Under a typical CLAT, the charity receives a fixed payout for a pre-determined number of years or, in some cases, for the lives of specified persons. The payments to the charity remain the same regardless of how the trust performs and no minimum payment is required. In most cases, the rules do not allow your beneficiaries to receive anything from the trust until the trust ends.

Individuals who can be used as the measuring lives would be restricted to the donor's life, the life of the donor's spouse, or a lineal ancestor of the beneficiaries. The IRS did this to prevent abuse of CLATs. Some people have tried to artificially inflate the tax benefits of CLATs by using unrelated individuals, such as those who were seriously ill and were expected to die prematurely, as the measuring lives.

Tax benefits

When the trust ends, the assets of the trust and the income earned by the trust pass to your beneficiaries tax-free. That is a potentially huge savings of federal estate and gift taxes. The top federal estate and gift tax rate in 2009 is 45 percent. If the original trust assets were passed directly to your heirs, taxes could reduce significantly your bequest. Placing the assets in a CLAT helps to preserve - and more importantly - grow them. The estate tax is fixed when the CLAT is created and not when the assets pass to your beneficiaries.

Generally, income paid to the charity is subject to tax by the owner of the trust. However, careful planning, such as funding the trust with tax-exempt bonds, can reduce or eliminate any tax liability on the part of the owner.

Timing the creation of a CLAT

CLATS need not be set-up after you die. You can fund a CLAT today and see the benefit of your gift as a charity makes good use of it. However, if you want to create a CLAT during your life, keep in mind that you will not be able to use assets in the trust.

A CLAT -- created either before or after your death -- can continue your legacy of giving to your favorite charities, while yielding overall tax savings for you and your family. Please contact the office if you have any questions on how a CLAT, or another variety of charitable trust, might work for you.

A:First of all, anything given in the business setting is presumed, until proven otherwise, not to be a gift (e.g., is taxable income) -- that is, you are either rewarding an employee for work done or providing an incentive in which he or she will be inclined to do more work in the future. However, the Tax Code and related IRS regulations still allow many gifts to remain tax-free to the employee while being tax deductible to the business. Here is a short list of the rules:

$25 gift rule

A business may deduct up to $25 in gifts given to each recipient during any given year. However, you can't get around this limit by giving to each family member of the intended recipient: they all share in one $25 limit. Items clearly of an advertising nature such as promotional items do not count as long as the item costs $4 or less.

No dollar limit exists on a deduction if the gift is given to a corporation or a partnership. The cost of gifts such as baseball tickets that will be used by an unidentified group of employees also qualifies for the unlimited deduction. However, once again, if the gift is intended eventually to go to a particular individual shareholder or partner, the deduction is limited to $25.

Separate "de minimis" rules

A "de minimis" fringe benefit from employer to employee is considered to be made tax-free to the employee. "De minimis" fringe benefits are not restricted by the $25 per recipient limit otherwise applicable outside of the employer-employee context. However, de minimis fringe benefits must be small "within reason." Typical de minimis gifts include holiday gifts such as a turkey or ham, the occasional company picnic, occasional use of the photocopy machine, occasional supper money, or flowers sent to a sick employee.

The general guidelines for de minimis fringe benefits are:

  • the value of the gift must be nominal,
  • accounting for all such gifts would be administratively nitpicking,
  • the gifts are only occasional, and
  • they are given "to promote health, good will, contentment, or efficiency" of employees.

Unfortunately, "gifts of nominal value" exclude such perks as use of a company lodge, season theater tickets, or country club dues. These cannot be given tax-free to an employee. But they do include occasional theater or sports tickets or group meals.

What's more, fringe benefits such as the use of an on-premise athletic facility or subsidized cafeteria are specifically included under IRS rules as de minimis fringe benefits. The traditional gold retirement watch -- or similar gift-- to commemorate a long period of employment is also treated as de minimis. However, cash or items readily convertible into cash, such as gift certificates, are taxable, no matter what the amount.

A: A "tax-sheltered annuity" can mean different things to different people. As used by tax professionals, a tax-sheltered annuity (TSA) is a specific type of qualified retirement plan available only to employees of certain tax-exempt charitable, religious and educational organizations, and to self-employed ministers. Under these TSA plans, a tax isn't imposed when the annuity is purchased, but is deferred until payments are received after retirement. Contribution limits, coverage and nondiscrimination restrictions and required distribution rules generally follow those imposed on regular qualified retirement plans.

Annuities in general

Annuities that are not used within the context of a tax-qualified retirement plan can nevertheless provide a useful investment vehicle with tax advantages. Annuities for these tax purposes include all periodic payments resulting from the systematic liquidation of a principal sum, including amounts received pursuant to an annuity contract, as well as amounts received from a life insurance policy if received during the life of the insured.

The portion of an annuity payment that is excludable from gross income is based on an exclusion ratio, which is determined by dividing the investment in the contract by the expected return. The annuity payment is multiplied by the exclusion ratio to determine the portion excluded from gross income. The excess is included in gross income. The excluded amount is limited to the investment in the contract.

Private annuities

Private annuities involving the transfer of property to either a charitable institution, a family member, or a corporation or business controlled by the annuitant or his family are taxable as annuities, but under slightly different rules. If the value of the property transferred exceeds the present value of the annuity, the excess is treated as an immediate gift. The excess of the present value of the annuity over the basis of the property is considered capital gain, realized as payments are received. The excess of the expected return from the annuity over the present value is the interest element, taxable as ordinary income ratably over the term of the annuity.

Charitable gift annuities

A charitable gift annuity is an annuity that a charitable organization agrees to pay in exchange for a contribution of property. If property is contributed to a charitable organization in exchange for an annuity, the excess of the property's fair market value over the present value of the annuity is a charitable contribution. No deduction is allowed if the present value of the annuity exceeds the amount contributed in exchange for the annuity

Legitimate charitable gift annuities should be distinguished from potentially abusive arrangements under which the donor transfers funds to the charity for the purpose of having the charity pay premiums on a life insurance policy or annuity which will primarily provide benefits for the donor's family. These types of transactions (also called "personal benefit contracts" have been specifically disapproved under the Code and IRS guidelines)

There are many, many ways to invest your savings (including tax-sheltered annuities), all with potentially very different tax ramifications. Before you make substantial changes to your investment portfolio, please contact the office for additional assistance with determining the possible tax effects.

A: A "tax-sheltered annuity" can mean different things to different people. As used by tax professionals, a tax-sheltered annuity (TSA) is a specific type of qualified retirement plan available only to employees of certain tax-exempt charitable, religious and educational organizations, and to self-employed ministers. Under these TSA plans, a tax isn't imposed when the annuity is purchased, but is deferred until payments are received after retirement. Contribution limits, coverage and nondiscrimination restrictions and required distribution rules generally follow those imposed on regular qualified retirement plans. Annuities in general Annuities that are not used within the context of a tax-qualified retirement plan can nevertheless provide a useful investment vehicle with tax advantages. Annuities for these tax purposes include all periodic payments resulting from the systematic liquidation of a principal sum, including amounts received pursuant to an annuity contract, as well as amounts received from a life insurance policy if received during the life of the insured. The portion of an annuity payment that is excludable from gross income is based on an exclusion ratio, which is determined by dividing the investment in the contract by the expected return. The annuity payment is multiplied by the exclusion ratio to determine the portion excluded from gross income. The excess is included in gross income. The excluded amount is limited to the investment in the contract. Private annuities Private annuities involving the transfer of property to either a charitable institution, a family member, or a corporation or business controlled by the annuitant or his family are taxable as annuities, but under slightly different rules. If the value of the property transferred exceeds the present value of the annuity, the excess is treated as an immediate gift. The excess of the present value of the annuity over the basis of the property is considered capital gain, realized as payments are received. The excess of the expected return from the annuity over the present value is the interest element, taxable as ordinary income ratably over the term of the annuity. Charitable gift annuities A charitable gift annuity is an annuity that a charitable organization agrees to pay in exchange for a contribution of property. If property is contributed to a charitable organization in exchange for an annuity, the excess of the property's fair market value over the present value of the annuity is a charitable contribution. No deduction is allowed if the present value of the annuity exceeds the amount contributed in exchange for the annuity Legitimate charitable gift annuities should be distinguished from potentially abusive arrangements under which the donor transfers funds to the charity for the purpose of having the charity pay premiums on a life insurance policy or annuity which will primarily provide benefits for the donor's family. These types of transactions (also called "personal benefit contracts" have been specifically disapproved under the Code and IRS guidelines) There are many, many ways to invest your savings (including tax-sheltered annuities), all with potentially very different tax ramifications. Before you make substantial changes to your investment portfolio, please contact the office for additional assistance with determining the possible tax effects.

Dual-income families are commonplace these days, however, some couples are discovering that their second income may not be worth the added aggravation and effort. After taking into consideration daycare expenses, commuting expenses, the countless take-out meals, and additional clothing costs, many are surprised at how much (or how little) of that second income is actually hitting their bank account.

Before you and your spouse head off for yet another hectic workweek, it may be worth your time to take a few moments to do a few simple calculations. After assessing what expenditures are necessary in order for both parents to work outside of the home, many couples quickly realize that their second income is essentially paying for the second person to be working.

Crunch the numbers. To determine whether your second income is worth the energy, you will need to calculate the estimated value of the second income. First determine how much the second income brings in after taxes. Then subtract expenses incurred due to the second person working, such as dry cleaning expenses, childcare bills, transportation costs, housecleaning services, landscaping services, and outside dining expenses. The result will be the estimated value of the second person working.

Consider the long-term. Even if your result turns out to be small, you may find that having the second person working will be beneficial to the household in the long run. However, don't forget to consider that, by losing the second income, you may also be losing future retirement benefits and social security earnings.

Take a "dry run". Before reducing down to one income, try living on the person's income you intend to keep for six months, stashing the other income into an emergency savings account. If you are able to do this, chances are you will be able to endure for the long haul.

Many different factors can affect a family's decision to have both parents work - including the fulfillment each parent may get from working regardless of whether their income is adding significantly to the household. However, if trying to make ends meet is the major reason, it may pay off to spend some time analyzing the real net benefit from that second income. If you need any assistance while determining if both spouses should work or not, please feel free to contact the office.

Although the old adage warns against doing business with friends or relatives, many of us do, especially where personal or real property is involved. While the IRS generally takes a very discerning look at most financial transactions between family members, you can avoid some of the common tax traps if you play by a few simple rules.

Of course, because there are so many types of potential transactions, there are few hard and fast rules that apply across the board. If you're thinking of selling property to a family member, or buying from a family member, you must evaluate the potential negative tax consequences before agreeing to enter into a transaction. In a worst case scenario, the IRS could set aside the transaction as if it never took place and whatever gain, or loss, you have, would evaporate.

"Arms-length" transactions

The IRS is on alert for transactions between family members because often they are not "arms-length" transactions. Conducting a transaction at "arms-length" means that pricing is established as if the seller and buyer were independent parties. To be considered an "arm's length" transaction, the seller must genuinely wants to sell his or her property at a fair market price and the buyer must offer a fair price. The transaction cannot be motivated primarily by tax avoidance. Transactions between unrelated parties, for example when you buy your new car from an automobile dealer, are "arms length" transactions. The seller is in the business of selling and the buyer is an independent third party.

Transactions between family members - say, the transfer of real estate or other property -- frequently may look, at first glance, to be not quite at arms length. Did the buyer make a fair offer? Did the seller accept a fair price? Was the sale really a gift? The rules allow the IRS to set aside abusive transactions as shams and impose penalties.

Dealing with your children

Tax problems frequently arise in transactions between parents and children. Let's say that you agree to sell your vacation home to your daughter. If your daughter pays the first and only price you gave, some warning bells may sound. Did your selling price reflect the fair market value of the property? Did the buyer investigate, or seek an appraisal, of the value of the property. Did comparable properties sell at similar prices?

If you want to claim a loss from the sale, don't count on it. The tax rules specifically disallow in most situations a loss from the sale - or exchange - of property when the sale or exchange is between members of a family -whether or not you can prove that the price is fair. The IRS's definition of family is pretty broad for this purpose. It includes brothers and sisters (whether by the whole or half blood), spouses, ancestors, and lineal descendants. Ancestors include parents and grandparents, and lineal descendants includes children and grandchildren. Thus, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles and in-laws are excluded. Stepparents, stepchildren and stepgrandchildren are excluded, but adopted children are treated the same as natural children in all respects

If you claim a gain on the sale, expect some questions from the IRS if your return is audited. The IRS can claim that you recognized too little gain, hoping to tax the rest as a taxable gift. In selling property to a family member, you should build a file of comparable prices in order to be ready for the IRS on an audit of your return.

Divorcing couples also under scrutiny

Divorce spawns many tax consequences. Often, a court will direct one spouse to transfer property to the other spouse. Generally, no gain or loss is recognized when property is transferred incident to the divorce. Problems develop over the last three words, "incident to the divorce." If the transaction is not "incident to the divorce" and one spouse claims large losses, the IRS will examine carefully whether the transaction was genuine.

Gain or loss also is not recognized when a transfer takes place between spouses who are still married, even if they don't file a joint return, and whether or not their relationship is amicable or hostile.

Be proactive to avoid future inquiries

Selling to, or buying from, a family member shouldn't be avoided just because the rules are complex. First, recognize that your transaction may be subject to special scrutiny by the IRS. If it is, you can't go on this road alone without professional backup but you can be proactive by anticipating potential challenges and by taking some simple, common sense steps:

Be prepared. Because documentation is very important to the IRS and plays a very big part in whether a claim will be allowed, it is important that you document your related party transaction every step of the way. All agreements should be in written format and corroborating evidence (such as comparable price lists) should be retained.

Invest in an independent appraisal. Unless you are a professional in selling your particular property, let an expert place a value on it. Having this sort of independent third party verify the reasonableness of the transaction price is exactly the type of documentation the IRS likes to see.

Weigh alternatives to relinquishing total control over the property. Consider "gifting" the property to a family member instead of selling it - the positive tax consequences of gifting are often overlooked.

As illustrated above, there is absolutely nothing wrong with engaging in financial transactions with related persons - as long as all parties involved are aware of the added scrutiny the transaction may bring and properly prepare for such an event. If you are contemplating such a transaction, please feel free to contact the office for additional guidance.

You have just been notified that your tax return is going to be audited ... what now? While the best defense is always a good offense (translation: take steps to avoid an audit in the first place), in the event the IRS does come knocking on your door, here are some basic guidelines you can follow to increase the chances that you will come out of your audit unscathed.

Relax. It is a normal reaction upon receiving notice of an audit to panic and feel particularly singled out, however, as in most situations, panic can be counterproductive. A better course of action is to contact an experienced professional to get additional guidance as to how best to proceed to prepare for the audit as well as to get reassurance that everything will be fine.

Be professional. In the event that you have any type of communication with the IRS prior to your audit -- written or verbal, it's important that you act in a professional, business-like manner. Verbally abusing the auditor or becoming defensive is not a good way to start off your relationship with him or her.

Organization is very important. Before the audit, take the time to gather all of your documents together and consider how they will be presented. While throwing them all into a box in a haphazard fashion is certainly one way to present your documents to your auditor, this method will also be sure to raise at least one eyebrow ... and encourage him or her to dig deeper.

As you gather your data, you may need to re-create records if no longer available. This may involve calls to charities, medical offices, the DMV, etc., to obtain the written documentation required for verification of deductions claimed. Once you are confident that you have all of the necessary documentation, organize it in a binder, separated by category as shown on your return. This will allow quick and easy access to these records during the actual audit, something that the auditor will appreciate and will give him/her the impression that you are organized and thorough.

Leave the face to face to a professional. Make sure that you retain the services of a tax professional, most likely the person who prepared your return. Having a tax professional appear on your behalf for your audit is beneficial in a number of ways.

  • A tax professional is emotionally detached from the return and less likely to become angry or defensive if questioned.
  • A tax professional can serve as a "buffer" between you and the IRS -- indicating that he/she will need to get back to the auditor on certain issues, can buy you extra time to prepare for an issue raised you didn't consider.
  • A tax professional can keep an auditor on track, making sure all inquiries are relevant to the return areas being audited.

If you disagree, appeal. If you disagree with the outcome of the audit, you still have the right to send your case to the IRS Appeals division for review. Appeals officers are usually more experienced than auditors and are more likely to negotiate with you, if necessary.

As for the "best defense is a good offense" comment? In this case, this old adage applies to how you approach the tax return preparation process throughout the year, year-in and year-out.

  • Good recordkeeping is key. Maintaining complete and accurate records throughout the year reduces the chance that you will forget to provide important information to your tax preparer, which can increase your chances of audit. Good recordkeeping will also result in a more relaxed reaction to notification of an audit as most of your upfront audit work will be complete -- this is especially true if you audit pertains to a tax year several years in the past! Tax records should be retained for at least 3 years after the filing date.
  • Provide ALL relevant information to your tax preparer. When your tax preparer is fully informed of all tax-related events that occurring during the year, the chances for errors or omissions on your return dramatically decrease.
  • Keep a low profile. Error-free, complete tax returns that are filed in a timely manner don't have the tendency to raise any of those infamous "red flags" with the IRS. During the year, if the IRS does send you correspondence, it should be responded to immediately and fully. Don't hesitate to retain professional assistance to help you "fly under the radar".

While the odds of your tax return being audited remain very low, it does happen to even the most diligent taxpayers. If you are contacted about an examination by the IRS, take a deep breath, relax and contact the office as soon as possible for additional assistance and guidance.

Apart from wages, one of the most common sources of taxable income is from investments. While investment income from non-exempt sources is generally fully taxable to individuals under the Internal Revenue Code, many of the expenses incurred in producing that income are deductible. Knowing the rules governing investment expenses can reduce -- sometimes significantly -- the tax impact of investment income.

Deductible investment expenses

Investment interest. A significant source of investment-related costs is investment interest expense. Investment interest paid related to the generation of taxable investment income is generally deductible on Schedule A of Form 1040, however certain limitations may reduce the amount deductible. For example, your deduction for investment interest paid may not exceed your net investment income. "Net investment income" is arrived at by subtracting your investment expenses (other than interest expense) from your investment income. Interest paid in excess of that amount determined to be deductible can be carried over and deducted in subsequent years (after application of these rules, of course).

Other investment expenses. Qualified investment expenses (other than interest) can be claimed as miscellaneous itemized deductions on Schedule A of your federal Form 1040 and are generally subject to the 2% threshold imposed on miscellaneous itemized deductions. If you itemize your deductions on your return, to the extent that these and other miscellaneous itemized deductions exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), they are deductible from income.

The list of investment expenses approved for inclusion as miscellaneous itemized deductions (by the IRS or the courts) is a long one -- and one worth reviewing by you as a taxpayer, as unexpected ways to reduce your taxable income can be found. Some of the investment expenses that have been determined to be deductible as miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor include:

  • Investment counsel or advisory fees, including managers or planners.
  • Subscriptions to publications offering investment advice.
  • Legal expenses for the maintenance, conservation or management of investment property.
  • Legal expenses incurred in recovering investment property or amounts earned by such property.
  • Guardian fees and expenses incurred in the production or collection of income of a ward or minor or in the management of the ward or minor's investments.
  • Clerical help and office rent connected with the management of investments and/or the collection of the income they generate.
  • Accounting fees for keeping investment income records.
  • Depreciation of home computers used to manage investments that produce taxable income.
  • Costs of premiums and other expenses for indemnity bonds for the replacement of missing securities.
  • Dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP) service charges, such as charges for holding the shares acquired through the plan, collecting and reinvesting cash dividends, keeping individual records, and providing detailed statements of accounts.
  • Proxy fight expenses if incurred in connection with a legitimate corporate policy dispute
  • Investment expenses connected with the purchase, sale or ownership of securities
  • Fees paid to a broker, bank, trustee, or other investment-related agent to collect interest or dividends on taxable investments.
  • Losses on non-federally insured deposits in an insolvent or bankrupt financial institution, if the loss is treated as an ordinary loss by the taxpayer but is not treated as a casualty loss; and subject to a $20,000 limit on losses from any one institution.
  • Allocable investment expenses of privately offered mutual funds.
  • Custodial fees.
  • Safe deposit box rent so long as the box is used for the storage of (taxable) income-producing stocks, bonds, or papers and documents related to taxable investments.
  • Travel costs incurred in making trips away from home to check on your property or to confer with investment advisors about your income-producing investments. But be careful -- if your investment property is in Vail or Maui, make sure your records establish that your trip was primarily made to check on your investment, not to take a personal vacation.

The expenses generated in connection with the management of investment property are deductible even if the property isn't currently producing income -- so long as the property is held for the production of income. And expenses incurred in reducing additional loss or to prevent anticipated losses with respect to investment property are also deductible.

Nondeductible investment expenses

What kinds of investment-related expenses are not deductible? A nonexclusive list of such expenses includes:

  • Fees charged by a broker to acquire securities. These costs are instead added to the basis of the securities. Similarly, fees paid on the sale of securities reduce the selling price.
  • Fees for establishing or administering an IRA, unless billed and paid separately and apart from the regular IRA contribution.
  • Expenses related to tax-exempt investments.
  • Trips to attend seminars or conventions connected with investment or financial planning.
  • Trips to stockholder meetings. Although an exception has been made where a taxpayer with significant holdings traveled to a meeting to protest specific practices that were hurting his investment.
  • Home office expenses, unless investing is actually the taxpayer's business.

Remember, for purposes of the rules governing investment expenses, rental and royalty income-related properties are not considered. These investments are subject to their own rules and reporting requirements, and are not included in the category of investment expenses limited by the 2% threshold.

While this discussion related to the tax treatment of investment-related expenses may appear comprehensive, other limitations and exceptions exist that may apply to your tax situation. For more information regarding how you can make the most of your investment-related expenditures, please feel free to contact the office for assistance.

Employers are required by the Internal Revenue Code to calculate, withhold, and deposit with the IRS all federal employment taxes related to wages paid to employees. Failure to comply with these requirements can find certain "responsible persons" held personally liable. Who is a responsible person for purposes of employment tax obligations? The broad interpretation defined by the courts and the IRS may surprise you.

Employer's responsibility regarding employment taxes

Employment taxes such as federal income tax, social security (FICA) tax, unemployment (FUTA) tax and various state taxes (note that state issues are not addressed in this article) are all required to be withheld from an employee's wages. Wages are defined in the Code and the accompanying IRS regulations as all remuneration for services performed by an employee for an employer, including the value of remuneration, such as benefits, paid in any form other than cash. The employer is responsible for depositing withheld taxes (along with related employer taxes) with the IRS in a timely manner.

100% penalty for non-compliance

Although the employer entity is required by law to withhold and pay over employment taxes, the penalty provisions of the Code are enforceable against any responsible person who willfully fails to withhold, account for, or pay over withholding tax to the government. The trust fund recovery penalty -- equal to 100% of the tax not withheld and/or paid over -- is a collection device that is normally assessed only if the tax can't be collected from the employer entity itself. Once assessed, however, this steep penalty becomes a personal liability of the responsible person(s) that can wreak havoc on their personal financial situation -- even personal bankruptcy is not an "out" as this penalty is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

A corporation, partnership, limited liability or other form of doing business won't insulate a "responsible person" from this obligation. But who is a responsible person for purposes of withholding and paying over employment taxes, and ultimately the possible resulting penalty for noncompliance? Also, what constitutes "willful failure to pay and/or withhold"? To give you a better understanding of your potential liability as an employer or employee, these questions are addressed below.

Who are "responsible persons"?

Typically, the types of individuals who are deemed "responsible persons" for purposes of the employment tax withholding and payment are corporate officers or employees whose job description includes managing and paying employment taxes on behalf of the employer entity.

However, the type of responsibility targeted by the Code and regulations includes familiarity with and/or control over functions that are involved in the collection and deposit of employment taxes. Unfortunately for potential targets, Internal Revenue Code Section 6672 doesn't define the term, and the courts and the IRS have not formulated a specific rule that can be applied to determine who is or is not a "responsible person." Recent cases have found the courts ruling both ways, with the IRS generally applying a broad, comprehensive standard.

A Texas district court, for example, looked at the duties performed by an executive -- and rejected her argument that responsibility should only be assigned to the person with the greatest control over the taxes. Responsibility was not limited to the person with the most authority -- it could be assigned to any number of people so long as they all had sufficient knowledge and capability.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has delineated six nonexclusive factors to determine responsibility for purposes of the penalty: whether the person: (1) is an officer or member of the board of directors; (2) owns a substantial amount of stock in the company; (3) manages the day-to-day operations of the business; (4) has the authority to hire or fire employees; (5) makes decisions as to the disbursement of funds and payment of creditors; and (6) possesses the authority to sign company checks. No one factor is dispositive, according to the court, but it is clear that the court looks to the individual's authority; what he or she could do, not what he or she actually did -- or knew.

The Ninth Circuit recently cited similar factors, holding that whether an individual had knowledge that the taxes were unpaid was irrelevant; instead, said the court, responsibility is a matter of status, duty, and authority, not knowledge. Agreeing with the Texas district court, above, the court held that the penalty provision of Code section 6672 doesn't confine liability for unpaid taxes to the single officer with the greatest control or authority over corporate affairs.

Suffice it to say that, under the various courts' interpretations -- or that of the IRS -- many corporate managers and officers who are neither assigned nor assume any actual responsibility for the regular withholding, collection or deposit of federal employment taxes would be surprised to find that they could be responsible for taxes that should have been paid over by the employer entity but weren't.

What constitutes "willful failure" to comply?

Once it has been established that an individual qualifies as a responsible person, he must also be found to have acted willfully in failing to withhold and pay the taxes. Although it may be easier to establish the ingredients for "responsibility," some courts have focused on the requirement that the individual's failure be willful, relying on various means to divine his or her intent.

An Arizona district court, for example, found that a retired company owner who had turned over the operation of his business to his children while maintaining only consultant status was indeed a responsible person -- but concluded that his past actions indicated that he did not willfully cause the nonpayment of the company's employment taxes. Since he had loaned money to the company in the past when necessary, his inaction with respect to the taxes suggested that he believed the company was meeting its obligations and the taxes were being paid.

A Texas district court found willfulness where an officer of a bankrupt company knew that the taxes were due but paid other creditors instead.

The Fifth Circuit has determined that the willfulness inquiry is the critical factor in most penalty cases, and that it requires only a voluntary, conscious, and intentional act, not a bad motive or evil intent. "A responsible person acts willfully if [s]he knows the taxes are due but uses corporate funds to pay other creditors, or if [s]he recklessly disregards the risk that the taxes may not be remitted to the government, or if, learning of the underpayment of taxes fails to use later-acquired available funds to pay the obligation.

Planning ahead

Is there any way for those with access to the inner workings of an employer's finances or tax responsibilities -- but without actual responsibility or knowledge of employment tax matters -- to protect themselves from the "responsible person" penalty? It may depend on which jurisdiction you're in -- although a survey of the courts suggests most are more willing than not to find liability. Otherwise, the wisest course may be to enter into an employment contract that carefully delineates and separates the duties and responsibilities -- and the expected scope of knowledge -- of an individual who might find himself with the dubious distinction of being responsible for a distinctly unexpected and undesirable drain on his finances.

The laws and requirements related to employment taxes can be complex and confusing with steep penalties for non-compliance. For additional assistance with your employment related tax issues, please contact the office for additional guidance.

When it comes to legal separation or divorce, there are many complex situations to address. A divorcing couple faces many important decisions and issues regarding alimony, child support, and the fair division of property. While most courts and judges will not factor in the impact of taxes on a potential property settlement or cash payments, it is important to realize how the value of assets transferred can be materially affected by the tax implications.

Dependents

One of the most argued points between separating couples regarding taxes is who gets to claim the children as dependents on their tax return, since joint filing is no longer an option. The reason this part of tax law is so important to divorcing parents is that the federal and state exemptions allowed for dependents offer a significant savings to the custodial parent, and there are also substantial child and educational credits that can be taken. The right to claim a child as a dependent from birth through college can be worth over $30,000 in tax savings.

The law states that one parent must be chosen as the head of the household, and that parent may legally claim the dependents on his or her return.

Example: If a couple was divorced or legally separated by December 31 of the last tax year, the law allows the tax exemptions to go to the parent who had physical custody of the children for the greater part of the year (the custodial parent), and that parent would be considered the head of the household. However, if the separation occurs in the last six months of the year and there hasn't yet been a legal divorce or separation by the year's end, the exemptions will go to the parent that has been providing the most financial support to the children, regardless of which parent had custody.

A non-custodial parent can only claim the dependents if the custodial parent releases the right to the exemptions and credits. This needs to be done legally by signing tax Form 8332, Release of Claim to Exemption. However, even if the non-custodial parent is not claiming the children, he or she still has the right to deduct things like medical expenses.

Child support payments are not deductible or taxable. Merely labeling payments as child support is not enough -- various requirements must be met.

Alimony

Alimony is another controversial area for separated or divorced couples, mostly because the payer of the alimony wants to deduct as much of that expense as possible, while the recipient wants to avoid paying as much tax on that income as he or she can. On a yearly tax return, the recipient of alimony is required to claim that money as taxable income, while the payer can deduct the payment, even if he or she chooses not to itemize.

Because alimony plays such a large part in a divorced couple's taxes, the government has specifically outlined what can and can not be considered as an alimony expense. The government says that an alimony payment is one that is required by a divorce or separation decree, is paid by cash, check or money order, and is not already designated as child support. The payer and recipient must not be filing a joint return, and the spouses can not be living in the same house. And the payment cannot be part of a non-cash property settlement or be designated to keep up the payer's property.

There are also complicated recapture rules that may need to be addressed in certain tax situations. When alimony must be recaptured, the payer must report as income part of what was deducted as alimony within the first two payment years.

Property

Many aspects of property settlements are too numerous and detailed to discuss at length, but separating couples should be aware that, when it comes to property distributions, basis should be considered very carefully when negotiating for specific assets.

Example: Let's say you get the house and the spouse gets the stock. The actual split up and distribution is tax-free. However, let's say the house was bought last year for $300,000 and has $100,000 of equity. The stock was bought 20 years ago, is also worth $100,000, but was bought for $10,000. Selling the house would generate no tax in this case and you would get to keep the full $100,000 equity. Selling the $100,000 of stock will generate about $25,000 to $30,000 of federal and state taxes, leaving the other spouse with a net of $70,000. While there may be no taxes to pay for several years if both parties plan to hold the assets for some time, the above example still illustrates an inequitable division of assets due to non-consideration of the underlying basis of the properties distributed.

Under a recent tax law, a spouse who acquires a partial interest in a house through a divorce settlement can move out and still exempt up to $250,000 of any taxable gain. This still holds true if he or she has not lived in the home for two of the last five years, the book states. It also applies to the spouse staying in the home. However, the divorce decree must clearly state that the home will be sold later and the proceeds will be split.

Complications and tax traps can also occur when a jointly owned business is transferred to one spouse in connection with a divorce. Professional tax assistance at the earliest stages of divorce are recommended in situations where a closely held business interest is involved.

Retirement

When a couple splits up, the courts have the authority to divide a retirement plan (whether it's an account or an accrued benefit) between the spouses. If the retirement money is in an IRA account, the individuals need to draw up a written agreement to transfer the IRA balance from one spouse to the other. However, if one spouse is the trustee of a qualified retirement plan, he or she must comply with a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to divide the accrued benefit. Each spouse will then be taxed on the money they receive from this plan, unless it is transferred directly to an IRA, in which case there will be no withholding or income tax liability until the money is withdrawn.

Extreme caution should be exercised when there are company pension and profit-sharing benefits, Keogh plan benefits, and/or IRAs to split up. Unless done appropriately, the split up of these plans will be taxable to the spouse transferring the plan to the other.

Tax Prepayment and Joint Refunds

When a couple prepays taxes by either withholding wages or paying estimated taxes throughout the year, the withholding will be credited to the spouse who earned the underlying income. In community property states, the withholding will be credited equally when spouses each report half of their income. When a joint refund is issued after a couple has separated or divorced, the couple should consult a tax advisor to determine how the refund should be divided. There is a formula that can be used to determine this amount, but it is wisest to use a qualified individual to make sure it is properly applied.

Legal and Other Expenses

To the dismay of most divorcing couples, the massive legal bills most end up paying are not deductible at tax time because they are considered personal nondeductible expenses. On the other hand, if a part of that bill was allocated to tax advice, to securing alimony, or to the protection of business income, those expenses can be deducted when itemizing. However, their total -- combined with other miscellaneous itemized deductions -- must be greater than 2% of the taxpayer's adjusted gross income to qualify.

Divorce planning and the related tax implications can completely change the character of the divorcing couple's negotiations. As many divorce attorneys are not always aware of these tax implications, it is always a good idea to have a qualified tax professional be involved in the dissolution process and planning from the very early stages. If you are in the process of divorce or are considering divorce or legal separation, please contact the office for a consultation and additional guidance.

How quickly could you convert your assets to cash if necessary? Do you have a quantitative way to evaluate management's effectiveness? Knowing your business' key financial ratios can provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of your operations and your ability to meet your financial obligations as well as help you chart your company's future.

Step 1: Calculate your ratios.

Acid Test: determines your company's ability to convert assets to cash to pay current obligations.

Cash & near cash

Current liabilities

Current Ratio measures your company's liquidity and ability to pay short-term debts.

Current assets

Current liabilities

Debt to Assets Ratio determines the extent to which your company is financed by debt.

Total debt

Total assets

Gross Profit Margin Rate: measures how much of each sales dollar can go for operating expenses and profit.

Gross Profit

Net Sales

 

Return on Assets (ROA): measures how much income is generated from your company's assets.

Net profit

Total assets

Step 2: Evaluate results.

Once you have calculated the ratios, you will need to be able to translate the numbers into results that relate to your business. Below are some examples of how you can use these ratios in your business:

Acid Test: A result of 2:0:1 means you have a two dollars' worth of easily convertible assets for each dollar of current liabilities.

Current Ratio A ratio of 2.0:1 means that the value of your current assets are twice that of what your current obligations are, a good indicator to a potential lender that your company is in sound financial condition.

Debt to Assets Ratio This ratio shows how many cents per dollar of assets are financed. An 82% ratio would indicate that your company's assets are heavily financed and may be a troubling sign to a potential lender.

Gross Profit Margin Ratio A ratio of .45:1 indicates that for every dollar of sales, your company has 45 cents to cover operating expenses and profit. This information can be used when setting pricing for your company's products and services.

Return on Assets Ratio (ROA): A ratio of .08:1 would mean that the company is bringing in 8 cents for every dollar of assets. These results can be used to determine the effectiveness of management's efforts to utilize assets.

Step 3: Compare to previous periods' results.

Take the results from the current period (e.g., this month) and deduct from the results of the previous period (e.g., last month). The result will be the net change in the ratio from one period to another. Because increases from period to period are good for one ratio (e.g., acid test) but maybe not so good for another (e.g., debt to assets ratio) it's important to analyze each ratio separately.

While changes in ratios don't always mean your company is getting off track, analyzing the cause of the changes can help uncover potential problem areas that need your attention.

There are many applications for key financial ratios to help you and your management team identify your company's strengths and weaknesses. If you would like any additional assistance with the calculation or analysis of your company's ratios, please contact the office.

Raising a family in today's economy can be difficult and many people will agree that breaks are few -- more people mean more expenditures. However, Congress has passed legislation that continues to provide tax credits and other breaks benefiting families with children.

Child tax credit

The child tax credit provides individuals with dependent children under the age of 17 at the end of the calendar year a $1,000 per child credit. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (2009 Recovery Act) increases the refundable portion of the child tax credit for 2009 and 2010 by setting the income threshold at $3,000. The credit begins to phase out for individuals with modified adjusted gross income exceeding $75,000 and $110,000 for married joint filers.

This particular social legislation comes virtually string-free -- essentially, all you need to do is show up in order to be eligible for a credit for each qualifying child. For purposes of this credit, a qualifying child is defined as a child, descendant, stepchild, or eligible foster child who is a U.S. citizen, for whom a dependency exemption can be claimed and whom is under the age of 17.

Dependent care credit

If you need to have someone care for your child in order for you to work, a dependent care credit (aka child and dependent care credit) is available to you. In order to qualify for the credit, you must maintain as your principal home a household for a child under the age of 13 whom you can claim as a dependent. Note: Other individuals can also qualify you for the credit, such as a spouse or other member of your household who is incapable of providing his or her own care, but this article will address only child care.

Credit limits. The dependent care credit is limited dollar-wise in two ways: first, the amount of expenses that count toward the credit are capped -- at $3,000 in 2008, for example -- for one dependent, and $6,000 for two or more -- regardless of how much your actual expenses are. In addition, the credit you are allowed is a percentage of the allowable expenses up to 35%, depending on income.

Earned income. The dependent care credit is only available for services you obtained in order to be "gainfully employed", i.e. to work at a paying job. If you are married, both parents must work at least part time unless one is a full-time student or is incapable of caring for him- or herself. If one spouse earns less than the $3,000 or $6,000 expense allowance, the credit calculation will be based on the lower income.

Qualifying expenses

In your home. The cost of providing care for your child in your home qualifies for the credit. If you pay FICA or FUTA taxes to the caregiver, you may include those as wages when calculating your expenses. The IRS will not try to dictate your choice of employees; you may choose higher-priced service even if lower priced service is available. The cost of domestic services that contribute to the care of the child, such as cooking and housecleaning, may also qualify -- at least to the extent those services are used by the child. Payments to a relative for child care can qualify for the credit; you may not, however, claim a credit for amounts you pay for child care to any person you could claim as your dependent.

Outside of your home. The cost of care for your eligible child qualifies for the credit if that care is provided in the home of a babysitter, in a day-care center, in a day camp or in some other facility so long as the costs are incurred so that you can work, and your child regularly spends at least eight hours a day at home. You may not claim the tuition costs for your school-age children, however; their purpose in attending school is not to enable you to work. You may, however, claim the cost of after-school care for your child under 13 whose school day ends before your workday does. Overnight camp has also been nixed as an allowable expense, despite the fact that a reasonable argument could be made that the parents of a child who would have required care during the day regardless of whether he or she was at camp should be entitled to claim at least a pro rata portion of camp fees as a child care expense.

Reduction for employer reimbursements

Some employers have established programs to reimburse employees for child care required to continue their employment. Your $3,000/$6,000 expense limits are reduced by any nontaxable benefits you receive under a qualified employer-provided dependent care program.

Divorced or separated parents

Although the dependent care credit is generally available to joint filers, a divorced or separated parent may claim the credit if certain conditions are met:

  • a home was maintained that was the principal residence of a qualifying child for more than half the year;
  • your spouse did not live there for at least the last six months of the year, and;
  • you provided more than half the annual cost of running the household.

Assuming all of these requirements are satisfied, you can ignore the other spouse's employment data and claim the credit on a separate return. You may even be eligible to take the credit if you are not entitled to claim your child on your tax return, provided you are legally divorced or separated or lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the year, you are the custodial parent, and you (or you and the other parent) had custody of the child for more than half the year and provided more than half of his or her (or their) support.

 Earned Income Tax Credit

The 2009 Recovery Act temporarily increases the earned income tax credit (EITC) for 2009 and 2010. Prior to the change, the credit percentage for the EITC, for a taxpayer with two or more qualifying children - was 40 percent of the first $12,570 of earned income. The 2009 Recovery Act raises the percentage to 45 percent of the first $12,570 of earned income for taxpayers with three or more children. The EITC phase-out range is also adjusted up by $1,880 for joint filers.

As indicated above, there are a number of family-friendly tax credits available to reduce your family's tax bill. If you think you may be able to claim these credits and would like more information, please feel free to contact the office.

For partnerships and entities taxed like partnerships (e.g., limited liability companies), each partner must compute the basis of his/her partnership interest separately from the basis of each asset owned by the partnership. Because the basis of this interest is critical to determining the tax consequences resulting from any number of transactions (e.g., distributions, sale of your interest, etc..), if your business is taxed as a partnership, it is important that you understand the concept of tax basis as well as how to keep track of that basis for tax purposes.

Note: The term "partnership interest" generally refers to an interest in any type of entity taxed as a partnership. The term "partnership" usually means any entity that is taxed as a partnership, and the term "partner" refers to any owner of an entity taxed as a partnership.

Determining your initial basis

The initial basis in your partnership interest depends on how you acquired your interest. The basis of a partnership interest that you obtained in exchange for a contribution of cash or property to the partnership is equal to the amount of money you invested plus the adjusted basis of any property that you contributed. If you purchased your partnership interest, your initial basis will be the amount of cash you paid plus the fair market value of any property that you provided as part of the purchase price.

Generally, if you receive your partnership interest as a gift, your basis will be the same basis that the donor had in the partnership interest before he or she gave it to you. On the other hand, if you inherit your partnership interest, your initial basis in the partnership interest generally will be the fair market value of the partnership interest on the date of the partner's death.

Adjustments to initial basis

Each year, various adjustments must be made to the tax basis in your partnership interest to reflect certain partnership transactions that have occurred during the year. The basis in your partnership interest is increased to reflect your proportional share of partnership income (both taxable and tax-exempt income). This increase protects you as a partner from being taxed again when (1) the partnership distributes cash to you or (2) when you dispose of your partnership interest. The basis in your partnership interest also increases if you make additional contributions of cash or other property to the partnership.

The basis in your partnership interest is likewise decreased each year to reflect your share as a partner of any partnership losses and your share of any nondeductible expenses. This adjustment is made to prevent you from obtaining a tax benefit when the partnership makes a distribution to you or when you dispose of your partnership interest. Your basis in the partnership also must be decreased by any actual or deemed distributions you received from the partnership. However, the basis in your partnership interest may never be reduced below zero.

Adjustments to a partner's basis also must be made to reflect any increases or decreases in a partner's share of the partnership's liabilities

Recordkeeping

It is important that a partnership keep proper records of all transactions that occur during the year and take the time to make the basis adjustments using these basis computation rules as close in time to the occurrence of the transaction as possible.

The general guidelines detailed above will give you a good foundation of knowledge for computing the basis of your partnership interest. For more information about how to track your basis in your partnership interest, please contact the office.

Q. I have a professional services firm and am considering hiring my wife to help out with some of the administrative tasks in the office. I don't think we'll have a problem working together but I would like to have more information about the tax aspects of such an arrangement before I make the leap. What are some of the tax advantages of hiring my spouse?

A. Small business owners have long adhered to the practice of hiring family members to help them run their businesses -- results have ranged from very rewarding to absolutely disastrous. From a purely financial aspect, however, it is very important for you as a business owner to consider the tax advantages and potential pitfalls of hiring -- or continuing to employ -- family members in your small business.

Keeping it all in the family

Pay your family -- not Uncle Sam. Hiring family members can be a way of keeping more of your business income available for you and your family. The business gets a deduction for the wages paid -- as long as the family members are performing actual services in exchange for the compensation that they are receiving. This is true even though the family member will have to include the compensation received in income.

Some of the major tax advantages that often can be achieved through hiring a family member -- in this case, your spouse -- include:

Health insurance deduction. If you are self-employed and hire your spouse as a bona fide employee, your spouse -- as one of your employees -- can be given full health insurance coverage for all family members, including you as the business owner. This will convert the family health insurance premiums into a 100% deductible expense.

Company retirement plan participation. You may be able to deduct contributions made on behalf of your spouse to a company sponsored retirement plan if they are employees. The tax rules involved to put family members into your businesses retirement plan are quite complex, however, and generally require you to give equal treatment to all employees, whether or not related.

Travel expenses. If your spouse is an employee, you may be able to deduct the costs attributable to her or him accompanying you on business travel if both of you perform a legitimate business function while travelling.

IRA contributions. Paying your spouse a salary may enable them to make deductible IRA contributions based on the earned income that they receive, or Roth contributions that will accumulate tax-free for eventual tax-free distribution.

"Reasonable compensation"

In order for a business owner to realize any of the advantages connected with the hiring family members as discussed above, it is imperative for the family member to have engaged in bona fide work that merits the compensation being paid. Because this area has such a high potential for abuse, it's definitely a hot issue with the IRS. If compensation paid to a family member is deemed excessive, payments may be reclassified as gifts or as a means of equalizing payments to shareholders.

As you decide on how much to pay your spouse working in your business, keep in mind the reasonable compensation issue. Consider the going market rate for the work that is being done and pay accordingly. This conservative approach could save you money and headaches in the event of an audit by the IRS.

Hiring your spouse can be a rewarding and cost effective solution for your small business. However, in order to get the maximum benefit from such an arrangement, proper planning should be done. For additional guidance, please feel free to contact the office.