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Archive for the ‘Tax Policy’ Category

IRS releases Circular 230 update webinar

Posted by William Byrnes on July 31, 2014


Treasury-Dept.-Seal-of-the-IRSwatch the IRS Circular 230 webinar

see Revised Circular 230 (June 2014)

What is Circular 230?

Circular 230 is a document containing the statute and regulations detailing a tax professional’s duties and obligations while practicing before the IRS; authorizing specific sanctions for violations of the duties and obligations; and, describing the procedures that apply to administrative proceedings for discipline. Circular 230 is the common name given to the body of regulations promulgated from the enabling statute found at Title 31, United States Code § 330. This statute and the body of regulations are the source of OPR’s authority. Title 31 seeks to insure tax professionals possess the requisite character, reputation, qualifications and competency to provide valuable service to clients in presenting their cases to the IRS. In short, Circular 230 consists of the “rules of engagement” for tax practice. The underlying issue in all Circular 230 cases is the tax professional’s “fitness to practice” before the IRS.

 

 

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Senate Hearing recorded for streaming: U.S. Tax Code: Love It, Leave It or Reform It!

Posted by William Byrnes on July 24, 2014


Senate-Finance-Committee

 The U.S. Tax Code: Love It, Leave It or Reform It!

 JCT Report: Present Law And Background Related To Proposals To Reform The Taxation Of Income Of Multinational  Enterprises

Watch the recorded hearing’s webcast (link via Logo above)

Wyden Statement on Corporate Inversions and the Need for Comprehensive Tax Reform (excerpt):

The U.S. tax code is infected with the chronic diseases of loopholes and inefficiency. These infections are hobbling America’s drive to create more good-wage, red, white and blue jobs here at home. They are a significant drag on the economy and are harming U.S. competitiveness. The latest outbreak of this contagion is the growing wave of corporate inversions, where American companies move their headquarters out of the U.S. in pursuit of lower tax rates.

The inversion virus now seems to be multiplying every few days. Medtronic, Mylan, Mallinckrodt and many more deals have either occurred recently or are currently in the works. Medtronic’s proposed $42 billion merger with Covidien was record-breaking when it was announced in June. But the ink in the record books had barely dried when AbbVie announced its intention on Friday to acquire Shire for almost $55 billion. According to the July 15th edition of Marketplace, “What’s going on now is a feeding frenzy … Every investment banker now has a slide deck that they’re taking to any possible company and saying, ‘you have to do a corporate inversion now, because if you don’t, your competitors will.’”

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a handful of legislative proposals to address the issue of inversions. Most of them are punitive and retroactive. Rather than incentivizing American companies to remain in the U.S., these bills would build walls around U.S. corporations in order to keep them from inverting. …

Hatch Statement at Finance Committee Hearing on International Taxation (excerpt):

For example, in 2013, the OECD launched its Base Erosion & Profit Shifting, or BEPS, project. While we appreciate the OECD’s efforts in bringing tax authorities together to discuss and work through issues, many of us have expressed concern that the BEPS project could be used by other countries as a way to increase taxes on American taxpayers. ….

This approach, in my view, completely misses the mark.

While it may put a stop to traditional inversions it could actually lead to more reverse acquisition inversions as our U.S. multinationals would, under this approach, become more attractive acquisition targets for foreign corporations.

Whether it is traditional corporate acquisition inversion or a reverse acquisition inversion, the result is the same: continued stripping of the U.S. tax base. …

Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Witness Testimony

Mr. Robert B. Stack, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Tax Affairs, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Washington, DC
Mr. Pascal Saint-Amans, Director, Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris, France
Dr. Mihir A. Desai, Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance & Professor of Law, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Dr. Peter R. Merrill, Director, National Economics and Statistics Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Washington, DC
Dr. Leslie Robinson, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Mr. Allan Sloan, Senior Editor at Large, Fortune, New York, NY

Posted in OECD, Tax Policy | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Basket Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits

Posted by William Byrnes on July 22, 2014


d54fa-6a00d8341bfae553ef01a3fd36986c970b-piTwo global banks, Deutsche Bank and Barclays Bank, and more than a dozen hedge funds, such as RenTec, misused a complex financial structure to claim billions of dollars in unjustified tax savings and to avoid leverage limits that protect the financial system from risky debt, a Senate Subcommittee investigation has concluded.  The improper use of this structured financial product, known as basket options, is the subject of a 93-page report and 5 hours of testimony.

Please see the story and links to releavnt document and recorded webcast http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/intfinlaw/2014/07/hedge-funds-using-basket-options-to-recharacterize-income-as-long-term-capital-gain-bypass-leverage-.html

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Hedge funds using “basket options” to recharacterize income as long term capital gain, bypass leverage limits – Senate webcast hearing today

Posted by William Byrnes on July 22, 2014


13.05.15-SubcommitteeTwo global banks and more than a dozen hedge funds misused a complex financial structure to claim billions of dollars in unjustified tax savings and to avoid leverage limits that protect the financial system from risky debt, a Senate Subcommittee investigation has found.

to watch the webcast and dowload the report, go to http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/intfinlaw/2014/07/hedge-funds-using-basket-options-to-recharacterize-income-as-long-term-capital-gain-bypass-leverage-.html

 

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Can the IRS learn from the UK’s Voluntary Compliance Program

Posted by William Byrnes on July 21, 2014


The UK HMRC announced on July 17, 2014 that its High Net Worth Unit (HNWU) has brought in £1bn in compliance yield (approximately US$1.7 billion).

The HNWU, which was set up in 2009, is made up of about 400 staff in 31 customer teams.  HNWU deals with the tax affairs of the 6,200 wealthiest individual customers of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – those with a net worth of £20 million or more.

s630_HMRC_sign__media_library__960_When the unit takes ownership of a customer’s tax affairs, both the customer and their authorised tax agent or adviser will receive a letter welcoming them to HNWU.  This letter also contains contact details for their Customer Relationship Manager.  The relationship manager has detailed oversight over the customer and develops a close understanding of the wealthy individuals tax risks.

The High Net Worth Unit (HNWU) deals with the tax affairs of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) wealthiest individual customers. By focusing primarily on this customer group, the unit aims to:

  • build relationships to better understand these customers and make it easier for them to pay the right amount of tax
  • tailor service delivery for these customers through proactive engagement and provide a single point of contact and a holistic approach to their tax affairs

The program, through good customer engagement with a focus on influencing behaviour, has led  to voluntary compliance of the majority of customers, enabling HMRC to allocate its audit resources against noncompliant taxpayers.

What is cooperative compliance

Cooperative compliance means enhancing the relationship between HMRC and our customers to deliver an outcome where both parties work together to achieve the highest possible level of compliance at appropriate cost. This approach is increasingly being recommended as a feature for revenue  organisations for customers with complex affairs. It reflects the growing  mutual interest in being as certain as possible about tax liabilities and in  ensuring that there are no surprises in any later reviews of these liabilities.

Cooperative compliance is not any kind of preferential treatment which compromises the legal position.  In essence it forms part of the compliance risk management process – adding deeper and broader understanding of  the world in which your client operates to our ongoing dialogue.  This approach is one that we wish to have with our HNWU customers.  It does of course rely on the foundation stones of a relationship characterised  by trust, openness and transparency.  We want to move away from only using reactive time consuming formal enquiries to a position where we can have productive pre-filing discussions which help us better understand our  customers’ actions, processes and intentions.

Certainty of Positions

…  The objective is to give earlier assurance, where  appropriate, that we don’t intend to open an enquiry or don’t require  further information. Where we are able, we will write to you and your client if no further action is needed to let you know this, rather than letting you wait until the end of the statutory enquiry period.  This is more likely to be the case where we have established an ongoing dialogue  about your client’s tax affairs. Customers who participated in the trial were  positive about the benefits of this approach.

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Highlights of the Tax Reform Act of 2014

Posted by William Byrnes on March 2, 2014


Highlights of the Tax Reform Act of 2014 (excerpted from the Ways & Means release)

New Individual and Corporate Rate Structure:  Flattens the code by reducing rates and collapsing today’s brackets into two brackets of 10 and 25 percent for virtually all taxable income, ensuring that over 99 percent of all taxpayers face maximum rates of 25 percent or less.  The plan also reduces the corporate rate to 25 percent. 

Larger Standard Deduction:  Makes the code simpler and fairer by providing a significantly more generous, inflation-adjusted standard deduction of $11,000 for individuals and $22,000 for married couples.

Larger Child Tax Credit:  Increases the child tax credit to $1,500 per child, adjusts it for inflation going forward and expands the number of families that can claim the credit.

Simpler, Improved Taxation of Investment Income:  Taxes long-term capital gains and dividends as ordinary income, but exempts 40 percent of such income from tax – resulting in a three percentage point decrease from the maximum rates individuals pay today on such income while also achieving the lowest level of double taxation on investment income in modern history.

No AMT:  In addition to lowering tax rates for families and all job creators, the plan repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for individuals, pass-through businesses and corporations.

Easier Education Benefits: Adopts recommendations stemming from the bipartisan working groups to consolidate education tax benefits so, along with the additional money from stronger economic growth, families can more easily afford the costs of a college education.

Modernized International System: Modernizes the international tax code for the first time in more than 50 years while protecting jobs, wages and profits from being shipped overseas.

Permanent R&D Incentive:  Invests in innovation by making permanent an improved Research & Development Tax Credit.

More Affordable Healthcare: While the plan generally leaves ObamaCare policies untouched and for a later debate on healthcare, there are two main exceptions given strong bipartisan support for: (1) repeal of the medical device tax and (2) repeal of the medicine cabinet tax, which prohibits use of funds from tax-free accounts to purchase over-the-counter medication without first obtaining a prescription.

IRS Accountability:  Cracks down on IRS abuses and reduces massive waste, fraud and abuse.  The plan also contains provisions prohibiting implementation of recently proposed rules affecting 501(c)(4) organizations and provides victims with information regarding the status of investigations into violations of their taxpayer rights.

Infrastructure Investment:  Dedicates $126.5 billion to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to fully fund highway and infrastructure investment through the HTF for eight years.

Simplification for Seniors:  Reflecting a proposal supported by AARP and ATR, the plan requires the IRS to develop a simple tax return to be known as Form 1040SR, for individuals over the age of 65 who receive common kinds of retirement income like annuity and Social Security payments, interest, dividends and capital gains.

Charitable Giving:  Expands opportunities to make tax-deductible contributions past the end of the tax year, makes permanent conservation easement incentives, simplifies exempt organization taxes and sets a floor instead of a cap to the amount of donations that can be deducted.  The economic growth in this plan will increase charitable giving by $2.2 billion annually.

Shrinks and Simplifies the Income Tax Code:  In addition to easing complexity and compliance burdens by adopting a larger standard deduction, enhanced child tax credit and lower rates, the plan repeals over 220 sections of the tax code; cutting the size of the income tax code by 25 percent.

In keeping with previously released drafts, the Committee seeks input and feedback on technical and policy issues raised by the draft released today.  The Committee also invites input on the accompanying technical explanation prepared by the JCT staff, a document that could serve as the basis for similar legislative history on any future tax reform legislation that may be considered by the Committee.  Additionally, as it further examines options arising from the budgetary and economic analysis, the Committee is especially interested in receiving constructive feedback on areas listed below.

1. Extenders Policy ($1 Trillion):  The proposal has been scored by JCT as deficit neutral; it does not increase the budget deficit relative to the projected deficits for the FY2014-23 budget window.  CBO’s revenue baseline for this period assumes that a number of tax policies expire and are not renewed.  However, CBO has noted that “[n]early all of those provisions have been extended previously; some, such as the research and experimentation tax credit, have been extended multiple times.”  Including a permanent extension of these policies would result in the revenue baseline being almost $1 trillion lower over the FY2014-23 budget window than projected.  In such a scenario, the proposal would therefore reduce the deficit – mostly through revenue increases – potentially by as much as $1 trillion (without considering all potential interactions among those policies and the proposal). CBO annually presents an “alternative fiscal scenario” that assumes these tax provisions are made permanent – the same assumption generally used for spending programs in CBO’s traditional baseline.  The Committee is interested in feedback on which (including none or all) of these expiring tax provisions should be included in the revenue baseline for purposes of determining whether the proposal is deficit neutral.

2. Dynamic Revenue ($700 Billion):  JCT’s analysis shows that the additional economic growth that would result from the enactment of tax reform would generate up to an additional $700 billion in tax receipts over the FY 2014-2023 budget window as a result of increased employment and higher wages.  This additional revenue, however, is not taken into account as part of JCT’s determination that the proposal is deficit neutral.  As a result, under the proposal as currently structured, this additional revenue would be available to the Federal government for a variety of purposes.  The Committee is interested in feedback on how this additional revenue should be treated (e.g., should it be used to further lower tax rates or to provide other tax benefits, should it be dedicated to deficit reduction, or should it be dedicated to some combination of the two).

3. Household Impact:  The proposal has been scored by JCT as being distributionally neutral; it does not significantly change the share of taxes paid by or the average tax rate for each income cohort reported by JCT.  However, each income cohort reported by JCT includes a heterogeneous mix of taxpayers.  For example, the combination of lower rates, the increase in the size of the standard deduction, and the reforms to the child tax credit and EITC will affect households differently depending on the number of children in the household and whether the taxpayer files jointly.  The Committee is interested in feedback as to whether and how these more detailed circumstances should be analyzed and whether there are certain distributional outcomes that are more preferable than others (e.g., effects on households with multiple children versus households without children within the same income cohort).

4. Economic Modeling:  JCT’s analysis of the proposal includes an analysis of the macroeconomic effects of tax reform on the U.S. economy, which is sometimes referred to as a dynamic score.  This dynamic score shows that the proposal would result in substantial additional economic growth and job creation as compared to the status quo.  JCT used two different economic models and a variety of assumptions to calculate the dynamic score.  The two models take different approaches to modeling the impact of the proposal on the U.S. economy.  For example, one model, the MEG model, cannot fully account for the breadth of the changes to international tax policy made by the proposal and therefore understates the extent of additional investment in the U.S economy, particularly for investment in high-technology, IP-intensive sectors.  The OLG model, on the other hand, contains a fiscal constraint that requires the debt to GDP ratio to be held constant between the pre- and post-reform economy, thus failing to capture the full benefits of reduced budget deficits on the economy.  The Committee is interested in feedback on the methodology and parameter estimates used by JCT in performing the macroeconomic analysis and recommendations on how this analysis can be improved.

5. Greater Compliance:  The current complexity of the tax code makes compliance difficult and facilitates billions of dollars in improper payments and fraud.  The most recent estimate shows that the tax gap amounts to $450 billion annually.  The proposal includes a number of reforms that would substantially simplify the tax code and improve reporting and compliance.  This improved compliance is partially – but not fully – incorporated into JCT’s analysis of the proposal. The Committee is interested in feedback on how to analyze the impact of the proposal on improving compliance, closing the tax gap, and reducing improper payments and fraud.  The Committee is interested in receiving analysis that would quantify the extent of the improved compliance and recommendations for how measurements of improved compliance should be factored into any analysis in determining whether the proposal is deficit neutral.

The draft legislation can be viewed here along with a detailed section by-section and JCT materials.  More information can be found at tax.house.gov.

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Medical Marijuana: is it a Deductible Medical Expenses?

Posted by William Byrnes on February 13, 2014


By Sean C. Barber

Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code provides for the deduction of medical expenses not otherwise covered by insurance for medical care of the taxpayer, his spouse, or a dependent.  Under Section 213 medical care is defined as “amounts paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease.”  Prescribed drug means “a drug or biological requiring a prescription of a physician.”

Regulation Section 1.213-1(e)(2) defines medicine or drug “as items legally procured and generally accepted as falling within a category of medicine or drugs.”   At first glance based on the Code it would appear that so long as the taxpayer met the requirements of Section 213, in states where medical marijuana is authorized, expenses incurred for its purchase would be deductible.

Read attorney Sean Barber’s analysis of this issue in his article published on > AdvisorFYI <

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Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): The IRS Inappropriately Bans Many Taxpayers but a 22.7% Improper Payment Persists Regardless

Posted by William Byrnes on February 11, 2014


The National Taxpayer Advocate provides the following  > report information < on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Earned Income Tax Credit and Family Credits

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate income-earning individuals and families. If you qualify, the credit could be a maximum amount of up to $6,044 in 2013. This means you could pay less or no federal tax or even get a refund.

The EITC is based on your earned income and whether or not there are qualifying children in your household. You must file a tax return to claim the EITC and if you have children, they must meet the relationship, age and residency requirements.

What is the EITC?

A taxpayer may qualify for the EITC if you worked any part of last year and made less than $51,000 in 2013.  Read more about the EITC, how to file for it, and how to receive a refund:

IRS Incorrectly Bans Many Taxpayers from Claiming EITC

The National Taxpayer Advocate reported that the IRS Incorrectly Bans Many Taxpayers from Claiming EITC (see > Taxpayer Advocate Report on EITC < )  Excerpted from the National Taxpayer Advocate report…

Section 32(k) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) authorizes the IRS to ban taxpayers from claiming the earned income tax credit (EITC) for two years if the IRS determines they claimed the credit improperly due to reckless or intentional disregard of rules and regulations.  This standard requires more than mere negligence on the part of the taxpayer.

According to IRS Chief Counsel guidance, a taxpayer’s failure to participate in an EITC audit does not justify imposing the ban.  Once the IRS imposes the ban, any EITC claimed in the next two years will be disallowed even if the taxpayer is otherwise eligible for the credit.

IRS data shows:

  • The IRS imposed the ban improperly almost 40 percent of the time in 2011;
  • Taxpayers who were (but for the 2011 ban) eligible for the credit in the following two years were deprived of a tax benefit that averaged more than $4,600 for the two years combined.

In a representative sample of two-year ban cases, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) found:

  • In 19 percent of the cases, the IRS imposed the ban solely because EITC had been disallowed in a previous year;
  • In only 10 percent of the cases did a taxpayer’s response to the audit raise the possibility that he or she had the requisite state of mind to justify the two-year ban;
  • In 69 percent of the cases, the ban was imposed without required managerial approval;
  • In almost 90 percent of the cases, neither IRS work papers nor communications to the taxpayer contained the required explanation of why the ban was imposed; and
  • Taxpayers’ average income was about $15,500.

Low income taxpayers face unique obstacles in learning EITC rules and substantiating their entitlement to the credit, but IRS procedures do not take this into account. Instead, the IRS applies the two-year ban on the basis of unexamined assumptions about the taxpayer’s state of mind or even presupposes reckless or intentional disregard of the rules and regulations, potentially causing significant harm to taxpayers who may be entitled to EITC in a subsequent year.

Treasury > reports < that the other benefit programs results in high administrative costs and low error because of the necessity of the pre-qualification for benefits by a caseworker, whereas the EITC’s program’s administrative costs are less than 1% of the program benefits.  The Treasury report continues that “the IRS screens EITC claims against certain criteria and also conducts approximately 500,000 audits of claims annually.”

Almost a Quarter of EITC Payments are in Error

Yet, considering that the IRS improperly bans taxpayers from the EITC program and performs 500,000 audits of EITC claims annually, 22.7% of the EITC is improperly paid.  A challenging problem to be addressed.  Low administrative cost but high rate of improper denial of eligibility and high rate of improper payment.  Send me (or use comments below) suggestions of how these problems may be mitigated.

2012: $55.4B Total Payments (Outlays) with $12.6B Improper Payments = 22.7% Improper Payment Rate

FISCAL REPORTING YEAR IMPROPER AMOUNT (IN BILLIONS) IMPROPER RATE
2010 $16.9 26.3%
2011 $15.2 23.5%
2012 $12.6 22.7%
2013 $13.2 22.8%
2014 $11.8 22.8%

Treasury’s EITC Program Comments

A number of factors unique to the EITC program trigger errors.  The complexity of the law contributes to confusion around eligibility requirements, mainly qualifying child relationship and residency rules.  Other factors include high program turnover of one-third annually, return preparer errors, and fraud.

The IRS will continue to address EITC noncompliance through its aggressive compliance program which includes examinations, reviews of income misreporting, systemic corrections during tax return processing, and an enhanced focus on paid return preparers.  Because tax return preparers handle two-thirds of returns claiming the EITC, the Department of the Treasury expects the implementation of new preparer requirements for registration, competency testing, continuing education, and compliance checks will improve EITC compliance, decrease fraud, and reduce overall program noncompliance.

Additional information on the program is also provided annually in the department’s Performance and Accountability Report

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2014_tf_on_individuals_small_businesses-m_1Due to a number of recent changes in the law, taxpayers are currently facing many questions connected to important issues such as healthcare, home office use, capital gains, investments, and whether an individual is considered an employee or a contractor. Financial advisors are continually looking for updated tax information that can help them provide the right answers to the right people at the right time. This brand-new resource provides fast, clear, and authoritative answers to pressing questions, and it does so in the convenient, timesaving, Q&A format for which Tax Facts is famous.

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The Development of Charity: Ancient Jewish Framework and Jurisprudence

Posted by William Byrnes on February 6, 2014


This > article < by Professor William Byrnes describes the ancient legal practices, codified in Biblical law and later rabbinical commentary, to protect the needy.

The ancient Hebrews were the first civilization to establish a charitable framework for the caretaking of the populace. The Hebrews developed a complex and comprehensive system of charity to protect the needy and vulnerable. These anti-poverty measures – including regulation of agriculture, loans, working conditions, and customs for sharing at feasts – were a significant development in the jurisprudence of charity.

The first half begins with a brief history of ancient civilization, providing context for the development of charity by exploring the living conditions of the poor.  The second half concludes with a searching analysis of the rabbinic jurisprudence that established the jurisprudence of charity.

This ancient jurisprudence is the root of the American modern philanthropic idea of charitable giving exemplified by modern equivalent provisions in the United States Tax Code.

However, the author normatively concludes that American law has in recent times deviated from these practices to the detriment of modern charitable jurisprudence. A return to the wisdom of ancient jurisprudence will improve the effectiveness of modern charity and philanthropy.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 41 (link is http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2304517)

Keywords: charity, charitable tax deduction, charitable tax exemption, history of charity, Jewish history, Jewish law, Israel

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The Private Foundation’s Topsy Turvy Road in the American Political Process

Posted by William Byrnes on January 24, 2014


This > article < by Professor William Byrnes studies this American political debate on the charitable tax exemption from 1864 to 1969, in particular, the debate regarding philanthropic, private foundations. The article’s premise is that the debate’s core has little evolved since that between the 1850s and 1870s.
To create perspective, a short brief of the modern economic significance of the foundation sector follows. Thereafter, the article begins with a review of the pre- and post-colonial attitudes toward charitable institutions leading up to the 1800s debates, illustrating the incongruity of American policy regarding whether and to what extent to grant charities tax exemption. The 1800s state debates are referenced and correlated to parts of the 1900s federal debate to show the similarity if not sameness of the arguments against and justifications for exemption. The twentieth century legislative examination primarily focuses upon the regulatory evolution for foundations. Finally, the article concludes with a brief discussion of the 1969 tax reform’s changes to the foundation rules and the significant twentieth century legislation regulating both public and private foundations.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 97 (link to article: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2304044)

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Ancient Roman Munificence: The Development of the Practice and Law of Charity

Posted by William Byrnes on January 22, 2014


This > article < by Professor William Byrnes traces Roman charity from its incipient meager beginnings during Rome’s infancy to the mature legal formula it assumed after intersecting with the Roman emperors and Christianity. During this evolution, charity went from being a haphazard and often accidental private event, to a broad undertaking of public, religious, and legal commitment. Charitable giving within ancient Rome was quite extensive and longstanding, with some obvious differences from the modern definition and practice of the activity. 

The main differences can be broken into four key aspects. First, as regards the republican period, Roman charity was invariably given with either political or ego-driven motives, connected to ambitions for friendship, political power or lasting reputation. Second, charity was almost never earmarked for the most needy. Third, Roman largesse was not religiously derived, but rather drawn from personal, or civic impetus. Last, Roman charity tended to avoid any set doctrine, but was hit and miss in application. It was not till the imperium’s grain dole, or cura annonae, and the support of select Italian children, or alimenta were established in the later Empire that the approach became more or less fixed in some basic areas. It was also in the later Empire that Christianity made an enormous impact, helping motivate Constantine – who made Christianity the state religion – and Justinian to develop legal doctrines of charity.This study of Roman charitable activities will concern itself with several streams of enquiry, one side being the historical, societal, and religious, versus the legal. From another angle, it will follow the pagan versus Christian developments. The first part is a reckoning of Roman largesse in its many expressions, with explanations of what appeared to motivate Roman benefactors. This will be buttressed by a description of the Roman view of society and how charity fit within it. The second part will deal with the specific legal expressions of euegertism (or ‘private munificence for public benefit’ ) that typify and reveal the particular genius that Romans had for casting their activities in a legal framework. This is important because Rome is the starting point of much of charity as we understand the term, both legally and institutionally in the modern world. So studying Roman giving brings into highlight and contrast the beginnings of Charity itself – arguably one of the most important developments of the civilized world, and the linchpin of the Liberal ethos.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 68 (link is http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2314731

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The IRS Median Offshore Penalty 580% of Tax Due For Those Who Make Honest Mistakes

Posted by William Byrnes on January 16, 2014


Published via the IRS Newswire (IR-2014-3) and on the Taxpayer Advocate website of the IRS on January 9, 2014, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson released her 2013 annual report to Congress.  The Taxpayer Advocate, replying on State Department statistics,  cited that “7.6 million U.S. citizens reside abroad and many more U.S. residents have FBAR filing requirements, the IRS received only 807,040 FBAR submissions in 2012.”{1}  The Taxpayer Advocate noted that “more than one million U.S. citizens reside in Mexico and many Mexican citizens reside in the U.S.”  The Report pointed out that most persons that worked in Mexico had to pay into a government mandated retirement account (known as a AFORES), and that this retirement account may be reportable to the IRS as a foreign trust.

Regarding individual international tax compliance initiatives, the IRS Newswire reported that “Analyzing results from the IRS’s 2009 OVD program, the Advocate found the median offshore penalty was about 381% of the additional tax assessed for taxpayers with median-sized account balances, and 580% of the tax assessed for taxpayers with the smallest account balances (i.e., the bottom 10%, with an average $44,855 account balance).  Taxpayers who “opted out” of the OVD program and agreed to subject themselves to audits fared better but still faced penalties of nearly 70% of the tax and interest.”

The Report stated: “Since 2009, the IRS has generally required those who failed to report offshore income and file one or more related information returns (e.g., the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)) to enter into successively more punitive offshore voluntary disclosure (OVD) programs.  … The programs were punitive, charging average penalties of more than double the unpaid tax and interest associated with the unreported accounts. … On average, the IRS assessed penalties of nearly 70% of the unpaid tax and interest in the audits of those who opted out.”  The FBAR penalty of 50% of the account balance, for up to six years of non-compliance, equals a potential maximum FBAR penalty of 300% of the account itself, without regard to the actual tax due, interest thereupon, and tax penalties.

The finding that small account holding benign taxpayers paid penalties of nearly 600% of the actual tax due appears to be a miscarriage of the intent of policy makers.  This situation has also led the Taxpayer Advocate to conclude that benign actors, in particular those with small non-reported accounts, made either soft disclosures or prospectively began to comply “… without subjecting themselves to the lengthy and seemingly-unfair OVD process.”

Regarding the 2012 IRS Streamlined OVD program, the taxpayer Advocate found that as of September 2013 2,990 taxpayers had submitted returns reporting an additional $3.8 million in taxes.

{1} Report Volume 1, Page 229.

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Taxpayer Bill of Rights

Posted by William Byrnes on January 9, 2014


Published via the IRS Newswire (IR-2014-3) and on the Taxpayer Advocate website of the IRS,  National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson today released her 2013 annual report to Congress, urging the Internal Revenue Service to adopt a comprehensive Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR).

The Newswire reminds the public that in a prior report, Olson analyzed the IRS’s processing of applications for tax-exempt status and concluded its procedures violated eight of the ten taxpayer rights she has proposed.  The current Report though provided a broad rationale, based on internal coherence, collection efficiency, and international practices for Congress to codify a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and for the meanwhile the IRS to issue its own.  Examples of international practice included, by example, references to OECD Reports and to Canada’s practice.  The Report quotes Thomas Jefferson: “A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences.”{1}

The Newswire quotes the Report “Taxpayer rights are central to voluntary compliance.  If taxpayers believe they are treated, or can be treated, in an arbitrary and capricious manner, they will mistrust the tax system and be less likely to comply with the laws voluntarily. If taxpayers have confidence in the fairness and integrity of the system, they will be more likely to comply.”

Regarding efficiency, the Newswire focuses on the report’s emphasis that the U.S. tax system is built on voluntary compliance: 98% percent of all tax revenue the IRS collects is paid timely and voluntarily. Only 2% results from IRS enforcement actions.  While arguing that knowledge of taxpayer rights promotes voluntary compliance, the report cites a survey of U.S. taxpayers conducted for TAS in 2012 that found less than half of respondents believed they have rights before the IRS and only 11 percent said they knew what those rights are.

Regarding coherence, the Report states: “The Internal Revenue Code provides dozens of real, substantive taxpayer rights.  However, these rights are scattered throughout the Code and are not presented in a coherent way. Consequently, most taxpayers have no idea what their rights are and therefore often cannot take advantage of them.”

The report calls on the IRS to take the taxpayer rights that already exist and group them into ten broad categories, modeled on the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The report says the “simplicity and clarity” of a thematic, principle-based Taxpayer Bill of Rights would help taxpayers understand their rights in general terms.

1. The Right to Be Informed

2. The Right to Quality Service

3. The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax

4. The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard

5. The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum

6. The Right to Finality

7. The Right to Privacy

8. The Right to Confidentiality

9. The Right to Retain Representation

10. The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System, Including Access to the Taxpayer Advocate Service

Read the complete Report at http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/2013-Annual-Report/full-2013-annual-report-to-congress/

{1} Report Volume 1, Page 7.

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Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013

Posted by William Byrnes on December 12, 2013


2014_tf_on_individuals_small_businesses-m_1On December 10, 2013, Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that they have reached a two-year budget agreement in advance of the budget conference’s December 13th deadline.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 would set overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion—about halfway between the Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House budget level of $967 billion. The agreement would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.

The sequester relief is fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. The agreement includes dozens of specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling $85 billion. The agreement would reduce the deficit by $23 billion.

The Summary of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 includes:

PREVENTION OF WASTE, FRAUD, AND ABUSE

  • Improving the collection of unemployment insurance overpayments
  • Strengthening Medicaid third-party liability (“dead beat dad” provision)
  • Restriction on access to the Death Master File (fee based access going forward to cover its costs)
  • Identification of inmates requesting or receiving improper payments

FEDERAL CIVILIAN AND MILITARY RETIREMENT

  • Federal Employees Retirement System for new employees
  • Annual adjustment of retired pay and retainer pay amounts for retired members of the Armed Forces under age 62

HIGHER EDUCATION

  • Default Reduction Program
  • Elimination of nonprofit servicing contract

TRANSPORTATION

  • Aviation security service fees
  • Transportation cost reimbursement

MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

  • Limitation on allowable government contractor compensation costs: limits how much a contractor could charge the federal government for an employee’s compensation to $487,000, adjusted annually to reflect changes in the Employment Cost Index. (Comment: does this mean that government contractors are receiving more than $487,000 annually for an employee? How do I sign up?).
  • Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation premium rate increases

See House Report at http://budget.house.gov/the-bipartisan-budget-act-of-2013/

See CBO Report at http://www.cbo.gov/publication/44964

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International Tax Reform – Senator Baucus fires a volley

Posted by William Byrnes on November 20, 2013


In his first volley to start a serious discussion for reform of the U.S. taxation of the international activities of U.S. parent companies, Max Baucus, Senate Finance Committee Chairman released several draft tax bills yesterday.  His release statement included, “The proposal — the first in a series of discussion drafts to overhaul America’s tax code — details ideas on how to reform international tax rules to spark economic growth, create jobs, and make U.S. businesses more competitive.” 

The primary components of the proposed draft Bills include:

  • Income from selling products and providing services to U.S. customers is taxed annually at full U.S. rates.
  • Passive and highly-mobile income is taxed annually at full U.S. rates.

The drafts include two options that apply an annual minimum tax to income from products and services sold into foreign markets:

(1)   apply a minimum tax rate to all such income, or

(2)   tax such income at a lower minimum tax rate if derived from active business operations and at the full U.S. rate if not

Examples provided of a minimum rate include 60% and 80% of applicable U.S. tax, with an allowance for tax credit maintained.

The proposal calls for a ‘deemed repatriation’ of all historical earnings of foreign subsidiaries that have not been previously subject to U.S. tax, imposing a one-off tax at an example rate of 20%, payable over eight years.  Tax credits would also be allowed as offset against this one-off tax.

The proposal seeks to eliminate of the international aspects of the “check-the-box” rule.  Finally, the proposal explores mitigating ‘base profits erosion’ (BEPS) arrangements used by foreign multinationals to avoid U.S. tax.

Senator Baucus is quoted, “Over the past three years, the Finance Committee has examined every aspect of the tax code in an effort to fix a broken system.  Through hearings, option papers and blank slate proposals, we’ve received input from key stakeholders and nearly every member of the Senate.  These discussion drafts are the next step. They represent proposals collected throughout this process and provide a path forward on tax reform.  Some are Democratic ideas. Some are Republican ideas. The common link is they are all ideas worth exploring.

The Ranking (aka Minority) Member of the Committee, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, released a statement that significant policy differences must still be bridged before international tax reform is realized: “…. but the fact is that significant policy differences remain between both sides and a final agreement was never reached.  I hope that once the budget conference negotiations have concluded that we can renew our discussions to determine whether we can find common ground to overhaul our tax code.”

The discussion draft is available at > Senate international tax proposals<

The proposed bills with legislative language are available at:

> International Tax Provisions Bill (Option 1) <

> International  Tax Provisions Bill (Option 2) < and

> International Tax Provisions Bill (Option 3)

For the entire series of Tax Reform Discussion Papers, see http://www.finance.senate.gov/issue/?id=6c61b1e9-7203-4af0-b356-357388612063

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U.S. Tightens Scrutiny of Small Businesses Skirting Obamacare Mandate

Posted by William Byrnes on November 6, 2013


The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate that will require employers with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health coverage for those employees or pay a penalty that can reach $3,000 per employee has many small business clients scrambling to plan for years ahead.  Because independent contractors are not counted toward the 50-employee limit, some small business clients may be tempted to reclassify common law employees as independent contractors to avoid the mandate.

Read Professor William Byrnes and Robert Bloink’s analysis of the issues, challenges, pitfalls and solutions for addressing a business’ future in a world of Obama Care at > Think Advisor <

 

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May A Proposed Expansion Of Master Limited Partnerships’ (MLPs) Tax Benefits For “Renewable” Energy Lead To America’s Energy Independence?

Posted by William Byrnes on October 8, 2013


As of June 2013, Master Limited Partnerships (“MLPs”) have reached a market capital of $400 billion, with over 100 MLPs traded on major exchanges.[1]  Generally established as LLCs with advantageous partnership flow through tax treatment, MLPs present attractive return vehicles to attract long term capital to the energy extraction, energy transportation (“midstream”), and most recent, energy distribution (“downstream”), markets.  However, MLPs may result in unfavorable tax treatment for investors as well.

The Mertens Federal Income Taxation August 2013 Highlight by William Byrnes, Robert Bloink and Theron West examines the tax issues for MLP investors pre- and post- the 1986 Code, imposed MLP investment restrictions, and gradual relaxation thereof.  The Highlight  concludes with an analysis of the April 2013 legislative bi-partisan proposal, the Master Limited Partnership Parity Act, to extend MLP tax treatment to renewable (“green”) energy, and why this proposal is contentious.

Given the continuing Congressional gridlock over deficit reduction and heightened sensitivity of energy industry tax breaks in light of this, even with bipartisan support, renewable energy lobbyists will probably not realize passage this year.   According to J.P. Morgan, “MLP distribution yields have generated 6-7%, and over the past twenty years, capital growth has totaled approximately 8% annually.[2]  Regardless of whether MLPs eventually are expanded to encourage renewable energy investments, for the time being they present an alternative asset class that has the potential to produce high-yield returns, and therefore high investor interest.[3]

See Mertens Highlights at > WestLaw <

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The Development of the Law of Charity and Charitable Practices

Posted by William Byrnes on August 22, 2013


The entire article may be downloaded at > William Byrnes’ SSRN academic page <

This article describes the ancient legal practices, codified in Biblical law and later rabbinical commentary, to protect the needy. The ancient Hebrews were the first civilization to establish a charitable framework for the caretaking of the populace. The Hebrews developed a complex and comprehensive system of charity to protect the needy and vulnerable. These anti-poverty measures – including regulation of agriculture, loans, working conditions, and customs for sharing at feasts – were a significant development in the jurisprudence of charity.

The first half begins with a brief history of ancient civilization, providing context for the development of charity by exploring the living conditions of the poor. The second half concludes with a searching analysis of the rabbinic jurisprudence that established the jurisprudence of charity. This ancient jurisprudence is the root of the American modern philanthropic idea of charitable giving exemplified by modern equivalent provisions in the United States Tax Code. However, the author normatively concludes that American law has in recent times deviated from these practices to the detriment of modern charitable jurisprudence. A return to the wisdom of ancient jurisprudence will improve the effectiveness of modern charity and philanthropy.

The entire article may be downloaded at > William Byrnes’ SSRN academic page <

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U.S. History of Non-Profit Tax Exemption and Deduction for Donations

Posted by William Byrnes on August 20, 2013


“. . . [w]hen the Finance Committee began public hearings on the Tax Reform Act of 1969 I referred to the bill as ‘368 pages of bewildering complexity.’  It is now 585 pages  . . . . Much of this complexity stems from the many sophisticated ways wealthy individuals – using the best advice that money can buy – have found ways to shift their income from high tax brackets to low ones, and in many instances to make themselves completely tax free.  It takes complicated amendments to end complicated devices.” Senator Russell Long, Chairman, Finance Committee

Download this entire article at > William Byrnes’ full-lenth articles on SSRN <

From the turn of the twentieth century, Congress and the states have uniformly granted tax exemption to charitable foundations, and shortly thereafter tax deductions for charitable donations.  But an examination of state and federal debates and corresponding government reports, from the War of Independence to the 1969 private foundation reforms, clearly shows that politically, America has been a house divided on the issue of the charitable foundation tax exemption.  By example, in 1863, the Treasury Department issued a ruling that exempted charitable institutions from the federal income tax but the following year, Congress rejected charitable tax exemption legislation.  However thirty years later, precisely as feared by its 1864 critics, the 1894 charitable tax exemption’s enactment carried on its coat tails a host of non-charitable associations, such as mutual savings banks, mutual insurance associations, and building and loan associations.

Yet, the political debate regarding tax exemption for the non-charitable associations did not nearly rise to the level expended upon that for philanthropic, private foundations established by industrialists for charitable purposes in the early part of the century.  But the twentieth century debate upon the foundation’s charitable exemption little changed from that posited between the 1850s and 1870s by Presidents James Madison and Ulysses Grant, political commentator James Parton and Dr. Charles Eliot, President of Harvard.  The private foundation tax exemption evoked a populist fury, leading to numerous, contentious, investigatory foundation reports from that of 1916 Commission of Industrial Relations, 1954 Reece Committee, 1960 Patman reports, and eventually the testimony and committee reports for the 1969 tax reform.  These reports uniformly alleged widespread abuse of, and by, private foundations, including tax avoidance, and economic and public policy control of the nation.  The private foundation sector sought refuge in the 1952 Cox Committee, 1965 Treasury Report, and 1970 Petersen Commission, which uncovered insignificant abuse, concluded strong public benefit, though recommending modest regulation.

During the charitable exemption debates from 1915 to 1969, Congress initiated and intermittently increased the charitable income tax deduction while scaling back the extent of exemption for both private and public foundations to the nineteenth century norms.  At first, the private foundation’s lack of differentiation from general public charities protected their insubstantially regulated exemption.  But in 1943, contemplating eliminating the charitable exemption, Congress rather drove a wedge between private and public charities.  This wedge allowed the private foundation’s critics to enact a variety of discriminatory rules, such as limiting its charitable deduction from that of public charities, and eventually snowballed to become a significant portion of the 1969 tax reform’s 585 pages.

This article studies this American political debate on the charitable tax exemption from 1864 to 1969, in particular, the debate regarding philanthropic, private foundations.  The article’s premise is that the debate’s core has little evolved since that between the 1850s and 1870s. To create perspective, a short brief of the modern economic significance of the foundation sector follows.  Thereafter, the article begins with a review of the pre- and post-colonial attitudes toward charitable institutions leading up to the 1800s debates, illustrating the incongruity of American policy regarding whether and to what extent to grant charities tax exemption.  The 1800s state debates are referenced and correlated to parts of the 1900s federal debate to show the similarity if not sameness of the arguments against and justifications for exemption.  The twentieth century legislative examination primarily focuses upon the regulatory evolution for foundations.  Finally, the article concludes with a brief discussion of the 1969 tax reform’s changes to the foundation rules and the significant twentieth century legislation regulating both public and private foundations.

Download this entire article at > William Byrnes’ full-lenth articles on SSRN <

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political rhetorical reflections while preparing for a lecture…

Posted by William Byrnes on July 30, 2013


Searching for some good examples of American populist rhetoric to amuse a Law and Economics class, I re-stumbled upon William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech.  For my non-U.S. students, the “Cross of Gold” speech is heralded as one of the best rhetorical speeches delivered in the U.S. Congress.  My memory of grade school, reading Bryan’s folksy style, quickly refreshed with his opening …

“I would be presumptuous, indeed, to present myself against the distinguished gentlemen to whom you have listened if this were but a measuring of ability; but this is not a contest among persons. The humblest citizen in all the land when clad in the armor of a righteous cause is stronger than all the whole hosts of error that they can bring. “ …

And of course his crescendo against the gold standard:

“Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”[1]

Many years later, William Jennings Bryan made a recording of this famous speech: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/williamjenningsbryan1896dnc.htm

A week past, chatting with Professor Denis Kleinfeld as he was preparing for his course on International (Offshore) Financial Centers), he referred me author Jay Starkman’s book that includes numerous entertaining anecdotes about tax and U.S. history: The Sex of a Hippopotamus: A Unique History of Taxes and Accountancy. http://www.starkman.com/hippo/index.html (I’ve ordered a copy)

What happenstance to be reminded of Bryan’s Congressional speech in favor of the income tax.  Besides having rhetorical merit near that of the Cross of Gold speech, Bryan provides a brief summary of income tax levied right ‘round the world (well, at least Europe).  This opening certainly beats that of Cross of Gold:

“Mr. Chairman, if this were a mere contest in oratory, no one would be presumptuous enough to dispute the prize with the distinguished gentlemen from New York; but clad in the armor of a righteous cause I dare oppose myself to the shafts of his genius, believing that “pebbles of truth” will be more effective than the “javelin of error,” even when hurled by the giant of the Philistines.”

His income tax speech crescendo in favor of a 2% (aghast!) maximum rate lay prelude to the expatriation regimes of today:

“Of all the mean men I have ever known, I have never known one so mean that I would be willing to say of him that his patriotism was less than 2 per cent deep.”[2]

Now, for my Law & Econ class, I’m quite partial to the rhetoric of Huey P. Long, being that we share that great, sovereign, State of Louisana.  Thus, I went with a couple of his quotes instead.  For those of you who don’t know the folksy speeches of Huey P. Long, a good one-minuter about the (lack of) difference between Republicans and Democrats – view him here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=avGl7k4OGJY

While most political economic students will know his “Every Man a King” radio address (http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/hueyplongking.htm), only students of political rhetoric will have been exposed to his 1928 “Evangeline” campaign speech:

“…It is here under this oak where Evangeline waited for her lover, Gabriel, who never came. This oak is an immortal spot, made so by Longfellow’s poem, but Evangeline is not the only one who has waited here in disappointment.

Where are the schools that you have waited for your children to have, that have never come?

Where are the roads and the highways that you send your money to build, that are no nearer now than ever before?

Where are the institutions to care for the sick and disabled?

Evangeline wept bitter tears in her disappointment, but it lasted only through one lifetime. Your tears in this country, around this oak, have lasted for generations. Give me the chance to dry the eyes of those who still weep here.”


[1] You may read the entire speech compliments of http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5354/

[2] You may read the entire speech compliments of http://www.starkman.com/hippo/history/bryan.shtml

 

Posted in Courses, Tax Policy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

LexisNexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance release …

Posted by William Byrnes on May 3, 2013


Over 400 pages of compliance analysis !! now available with the 20% discount code link in this flier –> LN Guide to FATCA_flier.

The LexisNexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance was designed in consultation, via numerous interviews and meetings, with government officials, NGO staff, large financial institution compliance officers, investment fund compliance officers, and trust companies,  in consultation with contributors who are leading industry experts. The contributors hail from several countries and an offshore financial center and include attorneys, accountants, information technology engineers, and risk managers from large, medium and small firms and from large financial institutions.  A sample chapter from the 25 is available on LexisNexis: http://www.lexisnexis.com/store/images/samples/9780769853734.pdf

book coverContributing FATCA Expert Practitioners

Kyria Ali, FCCA is a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (“ACCA”) of Baker Tilly (BVI) Limited.

Michael Alliston, Esq. is a solicitor in the London office of Herbert Smith Freehills LLP.

Ariene d’Arc Diniz e Amaral, Adv.  is a Brazilian tax attorney of Rolim, Viotti & Leite Campos Advogados.

Maarten de Bruin, Esq. is a partner of Stibbe Simont. 

Jean-Paul van den Berg, Esq.  is a tax partner of Stibbe Simont.

Amanda Castellano, Esq. spent three years as an auditor with the Internal Revenue Service.

Luzius Cavelti, Esq. is an associate at Tappolet & Partner in Zurich.

Bruno Da Silva, LL.M.  works at Loyens & Loeff, European Direct Tax Law team and is a tax treaty adviser for the Macau special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China.

Prof. J. Richard Duke, Esq. is an attorney admitted in Alabama and Florida specializing over forty years in income and estate tax planning and compliance, as well as asset protection, for high net wealth families.  He served as Counsel to the Ludwig von Mises Institute for Austrian Economics 1983-1989.

Dr. Jan Dyckmans, Esq. is a German attorney at Flick Gocke Schaumburg in Frankfurt am Main.

Arne Hansen is a legal trainee of the Hanseatisches Oberlandesgericht (Higher Regional Court of Hamburg), Germany.

Mark Heroux, J.D. is a Principal in the Tax Services Group at Baker Tilly who began his career in 1986 with the IRS Office of Chief Counsel.

Rob. H. Holt, Esq. is a practicing attorney of thirty years licensed in New York and Texas representing real estate investment companies.

Richard Kando, CPA (New York) is a Director at Navigant Consulting and served as a Special Agent with the IRS Criminal Investigation Division where he received the U.S. Department of Justice – Tax Division Assistant Attorney General’s Special Contribution Award.

Denis Kleinfeld, Esq., CPA. is a renown tax author over four decades specializing in international tax planning of high net wealth families.  He is Of Counsel to Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph, PL, in Miami, Florida and was employed as an attorney with the Internal Revenue Service in the Estate and Gift Tax Division.

Richard L. Knickerbocker, Esq.  is the senior partner in the Los Angeles office of the Knickerbocker Law Group and the former City Attorney of the City of Santa Monica.

Saloi Abou-Jaoude’ Knickerbocker Saloi Abou-Jaoude’ Knickerbocker is a Legal Administrator in the Los Angeles office of the Knickerbocker Law Group concentrated on shari’a finance.

Jeffrey Locke, Esq.  is Director at Navigant Consulting.

Josh Lom works at Herbert Smith Freehills LLP.

Prof. Stephen Polak is a Tax Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s International Tax & Financial Services Graduate Program where he lectures on Financial Products, Tax Procedure and Financial Crimes. As a U.S. Senior Internal Revenue Agent, Financial Products and Transaction Examiner he examined exotic financial products of large multi-national corporations. Currently, Prof. Polak is assigned to U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s three year National Research Program’s as a Federal State and Local Government Specialist where he examines states, cities, municipalities, and other governmental entities.

Dr. Maji C. Rhee is a professor of Waseda University located in Tokyo.

Jean Richard, Esq.  a Canadian attorney, previously worked for the Quebec Tax Department, as a Senior Tax Manager with a large international accounting firm and as a Tax & Estate consultant for a pre-eminent Canadian insurance company.  He is currently the Vice President and Sr. Wealth Management Consultant of the BMO Financial Group.

Michael J. Rinaldi, II, CPA. is a renown international tax accountant and author, responsible for the largest independent audit firm in Washington, D.C.

Edgardo Santiago-Torres, Esq., CPA, is also a Certified Public Accountant and a Chartered Global Management Accountant, pursuant to the AICPA and CIMA rules and regulations, admitted by the Puerto Rico Board of Accountancy to practice Public Accounting in Puerto Rico, and an attorney.

Hope M. Shoulders, Esq. is a licensed attorney in the State of New Jersey whom has previously worked for General Motors, National Transportation Safety Board and the Department of Commerce.

Jason Simpson, CAMS is the Director of the Miami office for Global Atlantic Partners, overseeing all operations in Florida, the Caribbean and most of Latin America. He has worked previously as a bank compliance employee at various large and mid-sized financial institutions over the past ten years.  He has been a key component in the removal of Cease and Desist Orders as well as other written regulatory agreements within a number of Domestic and International Banks, and designed complete AML units for domestic as well as international banks with over three million clients.

Dr. Alberto Gil Soriano, Esq.  worked at the European Commission’s Anti-Fraud Office in Brussels, and most recently at the Legal Department of the International Monetary Fund’s Financial Integrity Group in Washington, D.C. He currently works at the Fiscal Department of Uría Menéndez Abogados, S.L.P in Barcelona (Spain).

Lily L. Tse, CPA. is a partner of Rinaldi & Associates (Washington, D.C.).

Dr. Oliver Untersander, Esq. is partner at Tappolet & Partner in Zurich.

Mauricio Cano del Valle, Esq. is a Mexican attorney who previously worked for the Mexican Ministry of Finance (Secretaría de Hacienda) and Deloitte and Touche Mexico.  He was Managing Director of the Amicorp Group Mexico City and San Diego offices, and now has his own law firm. 

John Walker, Esq. is an accomplished attorney with a software engineering and architecture background.

Bruce Zagaris, Esq. is a partner at the Washington, D.C. law firm Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, LLP. 

Prof. William Byrnes was a Senior Manager then Associate Director at Coopers & Lybrand, before joining academia wherein he became a renowned author of 38 book and compendium volumes, 93 book & treatise chapters and supplements, and 800+ articles.  He is Associate Dean of Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s International Taxation & Financial Services Program.

Dr. Robert J. Munro is the author of 35 published books is a Senior Research Fellow and Director of Research for North America of CIDOEC at Jesus College, Cambridge University, and head of the anti money laundering studies of Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s International Taxation & Financial Services Program.

Posted in Compliance, Estate Tax, Financial Crimes, information exchange, Money Laundering, OECD, Reporting, Tax Policy, Taxation, Wealth Management | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

LexisNexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance

Posted by William Byrnes on March 1, 2013


The LexisNexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance was designed in consultation, via numerous interviews and meetings, with government officials, NGO staff, large financial institution compliance officers, investment fund compliance officers, and trust companies, from North and South America, Europe, South Africa, and Asia, and in consultation with contributors who are leading industry experts. The contributors hail from several countries and an offshore financial center and include attorneys, accountants, information technology engineers, and risk managers from large, medium and small firms and from large financial institutions. Thus, the challenges of the FATCA Compliance Officer are approached from several perspectives and contextual backgrounds.

This edition will provide the financial enterprise’s FATCA compliance officer the tools for developing a best practices compliance strategy, starting with determining what information is needed for planning the meetings with outside FATCA experts.

This 330 page Guide contains three chapters written specifically to guide a financial institution’s lead FATCA compliance officer in designing a plan of internal action within the enterprise and interaction with outside FATCA advisors with a view of best leveraging available resources and budget [see Chapters 2, 3, and 4].

This Guide includes a practical outline of the information that should be requested by, and provided to, FATCA advisors who will be working with the enterprise, and a guide to the work flow and decision processes.

Click here to pre-order the LexisNexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance!  Remember that only US customers can buy on the US Lexis store.

Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Practical Considerations for Developing a FATCA Compliance Program
Chapter 3 FATCA Compliance and Integration of Information Technology
Chapter 4 Financial Institution Account Remediation
Chapter 5 FBAR & 8938 FATCA Reporting
Chapter 6 Determining U.S. Ownership Under FATCA
Chapter 7 Foreign Financial Institutions
Chapter 8 Non-Financial Foreign Entities
Chapter 9 FACTA and the Insurance Industry
Chapter 10 Withholding and Qualified Intermediary Reporting
Chapter 11 Withholding and FATCA
Chapter 12 ”Withholdable” Payments
Chapter 13 Determining and Documenting the Payee
Chapter 14 Framework of Intergovernmental Agreements
Chapter 15 Analysis of Current Intergovernmental Agreements
Chapter 16 UK-U.S. Intergovernmental Agreement and Its Implementation
Chapter 17 Mexico-U.S. Intergovernmental Agreement and Its Implementation
Chapter 18 Japan-U.S. Intergovernmental Agreement and Its Implementation
Chapter 19 Switzerland-U.S. Intergovernmental Agreement and Its Implementation
Chapter 20 Exchange of Tax Information and the Impact of FATCA for Germany
Chapter 21 Exchange of Tax Information and the Impact of FATCA for The Netherlands
Chapter 22 Exchange of Tax Information and the Impact of FATCA for Canada
Chapter 23 Exchange of Tax Information and the Impact of FATCA for The British
Virgin Islands
Chapter 24 European Union Cross Border Information Reporting
Chapter 25 The OECD, TRACE Program, FATCA and Beyond
Index

Posted in Compliance, information exchange, OECD, Reporting, Tax Policy, Taxation | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Treasury & IRS Issue Final FATCA Regulations

Posted by William Byrnes on January 21, 2013


Treasury Advances Efforts to Secure International Participation, Streamline Compliance, and Prepare for Implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (January 17, 2013 U.S. Treasury Department of Public Affairs)

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on January 17, 2013 issued comprehensive final regulations implementing the information reporting and withholding tax provisions commonly known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Enacted by Congress in 2010, these provisions target non-compliance by U.S. taxpayers using foreign accounts. The issuance of the final regulations marks a key step in establishing a common intergovernmental approach to combating tax evasion.

These regulations provide additional certainty for financial institutions and government counterparts by finalizing the step-by-step process for U.S. account identification, information reporting, and withholding requirements for foreign financial institutions (FFIs), other foreign entities, and U.S. withholding agents.

The final regulations issued today:
 Build on intergovernmental agreements that foster international cooperation. The Treasury Department has collaborated with foreign governments to develop and sign intergovernmental agreements that facilitate the effective and efficient implementation of FATCA by eliminating legal barriers to participation, reducing administrative burdens, and ensuring the participation of all nonexempt financial institutions in a partner jurisdiction. In order to reduce administrative burdens for financial institutions with operations in multiple jurisdictions, the final regulations coordinate the obligations for financial institutions under the regulations and the intergovernmental agreements.

 Phase in the timelines for due diligence, reporting and withholding and align them with the intergovernmental agreements. The final regulations phase in over an extended transition period to provide sufficient time for financial institutions to develop necessary systems. In addition, to avoid confusion and unnecessary duplicative procedures, the final regulations align the regulatory timelines with the timelines prescribed in the intergovernmental agreements.

 Expand and clarify the scope of payments not subject to withholding. To limit market disruption, reduce administrative burdens, and establish certainty, the final regulations provide relief from withholding with respect to certain grandfathered obligations and certain payments made by nonfinancial entities.

 Refine and clarify the treatment of investment entities. To better align the obligations under FATCA with the risks posed by certain entities, the final regulations:

(1) expand and clarify the treatment of certain categories of low-risk institutions, such as governmental entities and retirement funds;

(2) provide that certain investment entities may be subject to being reported on by the FFIs with which they hold accounts rather than being required to register as FFIs and report to the IRS; and

(3) clarify the types of passive investment entities that must be identified and reported by financial institutions.

 Clarify the compliance and verification obligations of FFIs. The final regulations provide more streamlined registration and compliance procedures for groups of financial institutions, including commonly managed investment funds, and provide additional detail regarding FFIs’ obligations to verify their compliance under FATCA.

Progress on International Coordination, Including Model Intergovernmental Agreements

Since the proposed regulations were published on February 15, 2012, Treasury has collaborated with foreign governments to develop two alternative model intergovernmental agreements that facilitate the effective and efficient implementation of FATCA. These models serve as the basis for concluding bilateral agreements with interested jurisdictions and help implement the law in a manner that removes domestic legal impediments to compliance, secures wide-spread participation by every non-exempt financial institution in the partner jurisdiction, fulfills FATCA’s policy objectives, and further reduces burdens on FFIs located in partner jurisdictions. Seven countries have already signed or initialed these agreements.

Today, Treasury announced for the first time that Norway has joined the United Kingdom, Mexico, Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland, and Spain as countries that have signed or initialed model agreements. Treasury is engaged with more than 50 countries and jurisdictions to curtail offshore tax evasion, and more signed agreements are expected to follow in the near future.

Additional Background on the Model Agreements
On July 26, 2012, Treasury published its first model intergovernmental agreement (Model 1 IGA). Instead of reporting to the IRS directly, FFIs in jurisdictions that have signed Model 1 IGAs report the information about U.S. accounts required by FACTA to their respective governments who then exchange this information with the IRS.  Treasury also developed a second model intergovernmental agreement (Model 2 IGA) published on November 14, 2012. A partner jurisdiction signing an agreement based on the Model 2 IGA agrees to direct its FFIs to register with the IRS and report the information about U.S. accounts required by FATCA directly to the IRS.

These agreements do not offer an exemption from FATCA for any jurisdiction but instead offer a framework for information sharing pursuant to existing bilateral income tax treaties. Under both models, all financial institutions in a partner jurisdiction that are not otherwise excepted or exempt must report the information about U.S. accounts required by FATCA. Therefore, the IRS receives the same quality and quantity of
information about U.S. accounts from FFIs in jurisdictions with IGAs as it receives from FFIs applying the final regulations elsewhere, but these agreements help streamline reporting and remove legal impediments to
compliance.

Background on FATCA

FATCA was enacted in 2010 by Congress as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act. FATCA requires FFIs to report to the IRS information about financial accounts held by U.S. taxpayers,
or by foreign entities in which U.S. taxpayers hold a substantial ownership interest. In order to avoid withholding under FATCA, a participating FFI will have to enter into an agreement with the IRS to:

 Identify U.S. accounts,
 Report certain information to the IRS regarding U.S. accounts, and
 Withhold a 30 percent tax on certain U.S.-connected payments to non-participating FFIs and account holders who are unwilling to provide the required information.

Registration will take place through an online system. FFIs that do not register and enter into an agreement with the IRS will be subject to withholding on certain types of payments relating to U.S. investments.

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The Fiscal Cliff Conclusion: Compromise Continues Tax Cuts for Many, But Not All

Posted by William Byrnes on January 2, 2013


In the first moments of 2013, Congress eased the fiscal cliff tax increases for taxpayers earning less than $450,000 by enacting the American Taxpayer Relief Act (Act), permanently extending the Bush-era income tax cuts for this group. … While the legislation extends the current income tax rates for taxpayers earning less than $450,000 ($400,000 for single filers) per year, it allowed the Bush-era tax cuts to expire for all higher-income taxpayers.  Similarly, taxes on capital gains, dividends, and estates were increased for the wealthiest taxpayers.

How Were Income Taxes Increased by the Fiscal Cliff Compromise?

How Does the Act Impact the Current System for Tax Deductions and Exemptions?

Were Capital Gains and Dividend Rates Impacted by the Act?

How Are Estate and Gift Tax Rates Affected?

What Other Changes Were Made?

Beyond the Act: What is the “Investment Income Tax”?

Planning Under the Act: How Should Clients Plan for Higher Taxes in 2013?

Read the analysis at National Underwriters’ Advanced Markets – http://nationalunderwriteradvancedmarkets.com/articles/fc010113-a.aspx?action=16

Posted in Estate Tax, Retirement Planning, Tax Policy, Taxation, Wealth Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The life insurance fiscal cliff: The end of a tax-preferred product class?

Posted by William Byrnes on December 7, 2012


Clients today assume that the tax-free status of life insurance is a given and may have even engaged in fiscal cliff planning that involves the purchase of life insurance to provide a source of tax-free investment income. Given today’s political climate, it is important for clients to realize that no tax preference is safe and that the tax benefits they have come to expect from life insurance are no exception.

read this article at Life Health Pro e-zine

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Room for compromise: eliminating the fiscal cliff with current tax rates

Posted by William Byrnes on November 23, 2012


… While most compromise legislation has focused on allowing some of these rates to rise while maintaining current rates for lower-income groups, Congress may beable to leave most tax rates in place if they focus on capping deductions and reducing spending for all taxpayers. Of course,

US Tax Rates (Taxes on riches/wealth)

US Tax Rates (Taxes on riches/wealth) (Photo credit: mSeattle)

Read the entire article at National Underwriters’ –> Life Health Pro <–

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Retirement planning for the next 4 years

Posted by William Byrnes on November 15, 2012


Tax

Tax (Photo credit: 401(K) 2012)

With the election behind us, it is time for your clients to turn their attention to the looming tax reforms that should take shape over the next two months, and how these reforms can affect their retirement planning. Both arms of Congress will be working to reach a compromise on tax code provisions as basic as income tax rates before Jan. 1, after which the Bush-era tax cuts will expire, and rates could revert to pre-2001 levels.

Though President Obama spent little time discussing his views on tax-favored retirement accounts during his campaign, the plans he did set forth are indicative of the consequences for retirement savings. While this impact may not be immediately apparent to your clients, it is something that they need to consider as they plan for retirement this year and beyond.  See the full article on National Underwriters’ Life Health Pro http://www.lifehealthpro.com/2012/11/13/retirement-planning-for-the-next-4-years-under-pre

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How to Lose a Charitable Deduction

Posted by William Byrnes on October 21, 2011


As an advisor, your clients look to you for competent advice in planning their charitable giving. It would be terrible to find out that the gift you thoughtful suggest cannot be deducted due to an avoidable paperwork mistake. Although the IRS sometimes forgives these minor errors, others are unforgivable, as illustrated in recent IRS email advice.

The IRS was not so forgiving with a taxpayer, who made what would otherwise qualify as a tax-deductible charitable gift. The problem was that the taxpayer “failed to get a contemporaneous written acknowledgment” from the charitable organization. In its advice the IRS said it will deny the taxpayer’s charitable deduction even if the taxpayer takes remedial measures and the charity amends its Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax) to acknowledge the donation and include the information required by the Code.

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of charitable deductions in Advisor’s Journal, see Qualified Charitable Distributions from an IRA (CC 11-03) & IRS Takes Qualified IRA Charitable Distributions off the Table for 2010 (CC 11-15).

 

For in-depth analysis of the charitable deduction under Section 170, see Advisor’s Main Library: B6—The Income Tax Charitable Deduction—I.R.C. §170.

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SEC Softening its Stance on Private Placements

Posted by William Byrnes on September 26, 2011


The Obama Administration’s 2012 federal budget proposal has revived two budget proposals that recent scandals have directed a slew of regulatory attention on private placement. Considering examinations of private placements recently being characterized by a FINRA executive as a “major, major initiative, it would seem strange for the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to consider relaxing rules for marketing private placements.

Nevertheless, that’s exactly what SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro told members of Congress the agency is planning.

Speaking before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Shapiro said that the SEC is going to “take a fresh look” at rules relating to private placements and other securities offerings, both public and private. Specifically, she said that the agency will reconsider the private placement public marketing ban and the 500-investor threshold that categorizes a company as “public.”

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of private placements in Advisor’s Journal, see Private Placements Becoming Much Riskier for Firms (CC 11-78) and Private Placements Becoming Much Riskier for Firms (CC 11-78).

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Obama Budget Would Undercut Utility of Life Insurance in Small Business Planning

Posted by William Byrnes on April 11, 2011


The Obama administration’s 2012 budget includes an attack on corporate owned life insurance that could further erode its tax advantages and put a ding in carriers’ balance sheets.  Washington’s repeated assaults on corporate-owned life insurance seem to be motivated by its view of corporate owned life insurance as simply a tax arbitrage opportunity for big corporations, ignoring its importance for smaller businesses that rely on a few key people to keep them afloat.  Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For in-depth analysis of corporate-owned life insurance, see Advisor’s Main Library: D—Deductibility Of Business Insurance PremiumsE—Premiums As Taxable Income To The InsuredF—Taxability Of Corporate Owned Life Insurance Proceeds At Death.

 

Posted in Insurance, Tax Policy | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

In Recovery Again: U.S. Taxpayers Face Trouble?

Posted by William Byrnes on April 10, 2011


Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers? This topic discusses the Recovery Act spending and its effects on the national economy.  It provides wealth managers with indicators and information to help clients better understand the use of government (taxpayer) funds and their allocation as a result of the financial crisis and ensuing financial recovery.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, enacted February 2009,[1] was designed to put Americans back to work and combat the largest downturn in the economy since the Great Depression.  Through the Recovery Act, Congress allocated funds in three ways.  The single largest part of the Act —more than one-third of it, or $288 billion— was tax cuts.  Ninety-five percent of taxpayers have seen taxes go down as a result of the Act. [2]

The second-largest part or $244 billion — just under a third — was direct relief to state governments and individuals. This funding helped state governments avoid laying off teachers, firefighters and police officers and prevented states’ budget gaps from growing wider. On an individual level, the Act ensured those hardest hit by the recession received extended unemployment insurance, health coverage, and food assistance.

The remaining third or $275 billion of the Recovery Act financed the largest investment in roads since the creation of the Interstate Highway system; construction projects at military bases, ports, bridges and tunnels; overdue Superfund cleanups; clean energy projects; improvements in outdated rural water systems; upgrades to overburdened mass transit and rail systems; and much more.

The $787 billion (in total) economic Recovery plan included provisions, in sum, designed to (1) create and save jobs, (2) spur economic activity and invest in long-term economic growth, and (3) foster unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in government spending.

The Recovery Act was intended to provide a short-term jump start to the economy, but many of the projects funded by Recovery money, especially infrastructure improvements, are expected to benefit economic growth for many years. Thus, the Recovery Act’s longer-term economic investment goals include:

  • Initiating a process to computerize health records to reduce medical errors and save on health-care costs
  • Investing in the domestic renewable energy industry
  • Weatherizing 75 percent of federal buildings and more than one million homes
  • Increasing college affordability for seven million students by funding a shortfall in Pell Grants, raising the maximum grant level by $500, and providing a higher education tax cut to nearly four million students
  • Cutting taxes for 129 million working households by providing an $800 “Making Work Pay” tax credit
  • Expanding the Child Tax Credit [3]

Has the Recovery Act worked? Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

 

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IRS Kicks Off New Offshore Amnesty Program

Posted by William Byrnes on April 6, 2011


Taxpayers with assets hidden in offshore accounts will get a second chance to voluntarily declare their assets to the IRS in return for reduced penalties under the new Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (“OVDI”).

This newest offshore amnesty program offers a reduced, 25% penalty which will be calculated based on the highest aggregate amount in the taxpayer’s offshore account between 2003 and 2010.   In addition to penalties, program participants will be required to pay eight years of back taxes plus interest, accuracy related penalties, and delinquency penalties.  Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of offshore issues in Advisor’s Journal, see IRS Planning New Voluntary Disclosure Program for Offshore Assets (CC 10-118)Offshore’s Limited Shelf Life (CC 10-47)IRS Proposed FATCA Guidance Expands Offshore Compliance Initiatives (CC 10-52)

 

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1099 B2B Reporting To Be Repealed

Posted by William Byrnes on March 29, 2011


Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers? This discussion is focused on a hot topic in Washington and around the country.  The new 1099 reporting requirements that are expected to come into effect next year may be amended or removed all together. Wealth managers would be well served to be knowledgeable on the subject that not only affects clients and their businesses, but it also directly affects many wealth managers themselves who pay for goods and services as a trade or business. Thus, here at Advanced Markets we bring wealth managers in particular the most relevant and up-to-date information on the web.

Repeal of the health reform law’s business-to-business 1099 reporting requirement is a step closer, with the U.S. Senate passing an amendment on February 2 that would repeal the provision.  Praising passage of the Senate amendment, Senator Stabenow said, “Today we provided a common-sense solution for business owners so they can focus on creating jobs, not filling out paperwork for the IRS…. If left unchecked, 40 million small businesses would see their IRS 1099 paperwork increase 2000 percent.”

President Obama even praised the repeal efforts in his state of the union address, receiving a resounding round of applause.  Acknowledging that his health care reform law has its share of flaws, and offering to work with the Congress to correct those flaws, he said that “We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.”  Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 4, the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011 by majority vote (314-112, with 76 Democrats joining a unanimous House GOP).[1] The legislation, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama, would repeal an expansion currently scheduled to take effect in 2012 of information that businesses must report to the Internal Revenue Service on Form 1099.

Specifically, the new legislation would amend the Internal Revenue Code to repeal the expanded 1099 information reporting requirements on payments made to corporations, rental property expense payments, and payments for property and other gross proceeds.  The legislation would thus strike portions of section 6041 of the Internal Revenue Code which were added by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPA).

The PPA expanded tax information reporting requirements to require businesses to issue a Form 1099 for any payments to corporations (rather than just to individuals) and for any payments for property (rather than just for services or investment income) that exceed $600 per year per payee.  H.R. 4 would strike language requiring “amounts in consideration for property” and “gross proceeds” to be subject to 1099 reporting requirements under section 6041 of IRS Code in order to eliminate the expanded reporting requirements.  The bill would also repeal expanded information reporting requirements on rental property expense payments that are currently in effect.

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, repealing these expanded 1099 information reporting requirements for rental property expense payments as well as certain payments of more than $600 will reduce taxes by approximately $24.7 billion over ten years. [2]

Section 6041 of the Internal Revenue Code outlines reporting requirements and generally requires information returns to be made by every person (payor) engaged in a trade or business that makes payments aggregating $600 or more in any taxable year to another person (payee) in the course of the payor’s trade or business.  The information returns must be filed with the Internal Revenue Service and corresponding statements must be sent to each payee.

Beginning in 2012, certain payments not previously subject to 1099 reporting requirements, including those made to corporations and those made for property, will become subject to the reporting requirements under the PPA.  The PPA and subsequent legislation expanded information reporting requirements of businesses for payments of $600 or more to any vendor and on rental property expense payments.  Some argue, these new requirements would likely impose a huge tax compliance burden on small businesses, forcing them to devote resources to tax filing instead of to business expansion and job creation.

 

For previous coverage of the Health Care Reform Act’s enhanced 1099 reporting requirement in Advisor’s Journal, see Health Care Reform Causes an Avalanche of 1099s (CC 10-84).

Please check back with Advisorfyi and Advisorfx for more timely information on 1099 reporting.

 

Posted in Tax Policy | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Economy and Budget: Long-Term Outlook

Posted by William Byrnes on March 27, 2011


Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers?   A wealth manager should be able to present Advanced Market Intelligence on the long-term economic impact of government spending and its ability to raise revenues with clients.

The United States faces daunting economic and budgetary challenges. The economy has struggled to recover from the recent recession, which was triggered by a large decline in house prices and a financial crisis—events unlike anything this country has seen since the Great Depression.

For the federal government, the sharply lower revenues and elevated spending deriving from the financial turmoil and severe drop in economic activity—combined with the costs of various policies implemented in response to those conditions and an imbalance between revenues and spending that predated the recession—have caused budget deficits to surge in the past two years. The deficits of $1.4 trillion in 2009 and $1.3 trillion in 2010 are, when measured as a share of gross domestic product (GDP), the largest since 1945—representing 10.0 percent and  8.9 percent of the nation’s output, respectively. [1]

Also, the recovery in employment has been slowed not only by the moderate growth in output in the past year and a half but also by structural changes in the labor market, such as a mismatch between the requirements of available jobs and the skills of job seekers, that have hindered the employment of workers who have lost their job. Payroll employment, which declined by 7.3 million during the recent recession, gained a mere 70,000 jobs (or 0.06 percent), on net, between June 2009 and December 2010. [2]

However, under current law, CBO projects, budget deficits will drop markedly over the next few years—to $1.1 trillion in 2012, $704 billion in 2013, and $533 billion in 2014. Relative to the size of the economy, those deficits represent 7.0 percent of GDP in 2012, 4.3 percent in 2013, and 3.1 percent in 2014. From 2015 through 2021, the deficits in the baseline projections range from 2.9 percent to 3.4 percent of GDP. [3]

Nevertheless, the deficits that will accumulate under current law will push federal debt held by the public to significantly higher levels. Just two years ago, debt held by the public was less than $6 trillion, or about 40 percent of GDP; at the end of fiscal year 2010, such debt was roughly $9 trillion, or 62 percent of GDP, and by the end of 2021, it is projected to climb to $18 trillion, or 77 percent of GDP. [4] Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

 

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2012 IRS Budget Revealed !!

Posted by William Byrnes on March 26, 2011


Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers?  Increasing the IRS staffing budget in certain departments may be indicative of increasing scrutiny of client’s information and tax returns.  Increasing government scrutiny may lead to increased compliance costs in time and fees.  Consequently, a wealth manager may want to address with client the need for increasing diligence in preparation of their affairs.  Thus, Advanced Market Intelligence presents a discussion on the Internal Revenue Services’ allocations for fiscal year 2012, and contrasts 2010 data and figures.

The fiscal year 2012 proposed budget allocates $14 billion to the Department of the Treasury; a 4 percent increase above the 2010 enacted level. [1] The increase over 2010 levels is attributed to costs associated with implementation of legislation and new investments in IRS tax compliance activities that are aimed to help reduce the deficit.  Of the $14 billion appropriated to the Treasury operations, over $13.28 billion is encumbered for the Internal Revenue Service.[2]

The Internal Revenue Service has allocated its appropriations to the tune of $2.345 billion for “Taxpayer Services”; $5. 96 billion for “Enforcement” of which over $5 billion is apportioned to “Exam and Collections”; “Operations and Support” represent $4.62 billion; and “Business Systems Modernization” together with “Health Insurance Tax Credit Administration” represent approximately $351 million. [3]

The main function of the Internal Revenue Service is to collect he revenue that funds the government and administer the nation’s tax laws. [4] The IRS collected $2.345 trillion in taxes (gross receipts before tax refunds) in 2010, or 93 percent of all federal government receipts.

Total resources to support the IRS activities for fiscal year 2012 are estimated to be around $13.626 billion, including $13.283 billion from direct appropriations, an estimated $138 million from reimbursable programs, and an estimated $204 million user fees.  The direct federal budget appropriation is $1,137,784,000, 9.37 percent, more than the fiscal year 2010 enacted level of $12,146,123,000. [5]

The 2012 budget provides funding to implement enacted legislation; handle new information reporting requirements; increase compliance by addressing offshore tax evasion; expand enforcement efforts on noncompliance among corporate and high-wealth taxpayers; and enforce return preparer compliance.

The IRS estimates new enforcement personnel will generate more than $1.3 billion in additional annual enforcement revenue once the new hires reach full potential in fiscal year 2014.

Even the Department of the Treasury notes, the tax law is complex and that even sophisticated taxpayers can make honest mistakes on their tax returns.  To this end, the IRS states that it remains committed to a balanced program of assisting taxpayers to both understand the tax law and remit the proper amount of tax.

In fiscal year 2010, revenue from all enforcement sources at the IRS reached $57.6 billion, 18 percent more than in 2009.  The significant increase was attributable in part to:  Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

 

Posted in Tax Policy | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

2012 Budget Talk: Capital Gains, Dividends, and 1099 Information Reporting

Posted by William Byrnes on March 23, 2011


Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers?  A producer should be able to present a perspective of the potential impact of current budget proposals upon investments that will be realized in the future.  Thus, Advanced Market Intelligence discusses certain features to the proposed federal budget that impact fiscal year 2012.

The President’s new budget proposal included many revenue raising measures.  However, below are two areas affecting the tax code that will actually increase the deficit, and also have a strong likelihood to have an impact on clients’ decisions made today.

Currently, the maximum rate of tax on the qualified dividends and net long-term capital gains of an individual is 15 percent. [1] In addition, any qualified dividends and capital gains that would otherwise be taxed at a 10- or 15-percent ordinary income tax rate are taxed at a zero percent rate.

The zero- and 15-percent rates for qualified dividends and capital gains are scheduled to expire for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2012. [2] In 2013, the maximum income tax rate on capital gains would increase to 20 percent (18 percent for assets purchased after December 31, 2000 and held longer than five years), while all dividends would be taxed at ordinary tax rates of up to 39.6 percent.

Taxing qualified dividends at the same low rate as capital gains for all taxpayers is said to reduce the tax bias against equity investment and promote a more efficient allocation of capital.  Eliminating the special 18-percent rate on gains from assets held for more than five years is thought to further simplify the tax code.  Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

 

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2012 Federal Budget Proposed – High Debt Continues

Posted by William Byrnes on March 22, 2011


Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers? Clients will often ask for your “take” on the annual federal budget.   It is important to show the client a command of the the facts and figures before addressing the political perspective of spending and revenue.  Any producer can “mime” someone else’s perspective.  Distinguish yourself with a command of the underlying numbers.  Thus, this week Advanced Market Intelligence presents the facts and figures of the proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2012.

The new 2012 Federal Budget was released by the President.  Below is a summary of the inflows and outflows concerning next year’s proposed budget (in billions of dollars).

Outlays:

Appropriated (“discretionary”) programs:   Security $ 884/Non-security 456; Subtotal—appropriated programs: 1,340

Mandatory programs: Social Security $ 761, Medicare 485, Medicaid 269, Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) 13, Other mandatory programs 612; Subtotal, mandatory programs 2,140, Net interest 242, Disaster costs 8

Total outlays 3,819

Receipts:

Individual income taxes $ 1,141, Corporation income taxes 329

Social insurance and retirement receipts: Social Security payroll taxes 659,Medicare payroll taxes 201, Unemployment insurance 57, Other retirement 8, Excise taxes 103, Estate and gift taxes 14, Customs duties 30, Deposits of earnings, Federal Reserve System 66, Other miscellaneous receipts 20

Total receipts 2,627

2012 Deficit $ 1,101

Here are some noted observations of the current budget:   Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

 

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Highlights of the GAO Financial Audit: Bureau of the Public Debt’s Fiscal Year 2010

Posted by William Byrnes on March 20, 2011


Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers? Presents discussion on the national debt and national future financial outlook. A client wants to know what YOU think about Treasury Notes versus other types of government debt, even foreign government debt.  An understanding of the annual federal national deficit, and its impact on the federal national debt, will provide you a helpful starting point to educate your client, without providing investment advice.

We thought an introduction to the current economic condition would therefore be appropriate.  As of September 30, 2010, the federal debt managed by Bureau of the Public Debt totaled about $13,551 billion primarily for borrowings to fund the federal government’s operations.  A Government Accountability Office (GAO) Study recently showed the Federal Debt balances consisted of approximately (1) $9,023 billion as of September 30, 2010, of debt held by the public and (2) $4,528 billion as of September 30, 2010 of intragovernmental debt holdings. [1]

Debt held by the public primarily represents the amount the federal government has borrowed to finance cumulative cash deficits.  To finance a cash deficit, the federal government borrows from the public.  When a cash surplus occurs, the annual excess funds can then be used to reduce debt held by the public.  In other words, annual cash deficits or surpluses generally approximate the annual net change in the amount of federal government borrowing from the public.

Intragovernmental debt holdings represent balances of Treasury securities held by federal government accounts, primarily federal trust funds, that typically have an obligation to invest their excess annual receipts (including interest earnings) over disbursements in federal securities.

The federal debt has been audited since fiscal year 1997. Over this period, total federal debt has increased by 151 percent.  During the last 4 fiscal years, managing the federal debt has been a challenge, as evidenced by the growth of total federal debt by $5,058 billion, or 60 percent, from $8,493 billion as of September 30, 2006, to $13,551 billion as of September 30, 2010.

The increase to the federal debt became particularly acute with the onset of the recession in December 2007. Reduced federal revenues and federal government actions in response to both the financial market crisis and the economic downturn added significantly to the federal government’s borrowing needs.  And, due to the persistent effects of the recession, experts believe federal financing needs remain high.  As a result, the increases to total federal debt over the past three fiscal years represent the largest dollar increases over a three year period in history.  The largest annual dollar increase occurred in fiscal year 2009 when total federal debt increased by $1,887 billion.

During fiscal year 2010, total federal debt increased by $1,653 billion.  Of the fiscal year 2010 increase, about $1,471 billion was from the increase in debt held by the public and about $182 billion was from the increase in intragovernmental debt holdings.

During fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010, legislation was enacted to raise the statutory debt limit on five different occasions.  During this period, the statutory debt limit went from $9,815 billion to its current level of $14,294 billion, an increase of about 46 percent.  Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

 

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Taxpayer Advocate Speaks Out on Tax Reform

Posted by William Byrnes on March 9, 2011


Last month the National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson released her annual report to Congress, identifying the need for tax reform as the number one priority in tax administration.  The report also examines challenges the IRS is facing in implementing the new health care law.  Below is a highlight of some points made in the report: [1]

Tax Reform

“There has been near universal agreement for years that the tax code is broken and needs to be fixed,” Olson said in releasing the report.  “Yet no broad-based attempt to reform the tax code has been made.  This report documents the burdens the tax code imposes on taxpayers and explores why many taxpayers may nevertheless feel wedded to key aspects of the current system, undermining efforts at reform.”

Analysis of IRS data shows that taxpayers and businesses spend 6.1 billion hours a year complying with tax-filing requirements.  “If tax compliance were an industry, it would be one of the largest in the United States,” the report says.  “To consume 6.1 billion hours, the ‘tax industry’ requires the equivalent of more than three million full-time workers.”

Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

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Why is Washington Calling for Corporate Tax Reform?

Posted by William Byrnes on March 5, 2011


President Obama recently targeted corporate tax rates in his State of the Union address.  “It makes no sense, and it has to change”. “Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years — without adding to our deficit. It can be done.”

Here’s why some politicians in Washington are calling for reform:

Although America has one of the highest maximum corporate tax rates throughout industrialized nations, many large corporations pay only a fraction of the maximum rate.  In a study by a New York University Professor, the data shows that a great number of public companies are paying around half, or even less, than the maximum corporate rate.

Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI

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Passive Foreign Investment Company Special Disclosure Tax

Posted by William Byrnes on February 27, 2011


A significant number of Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Practice cases (remember the Swiss Bank Accounts) involve Passive Foreign Investment Company (PFIC) investments.  A lack of historical information on the cost basis and holding period of many PFIC investments, the Service notes, may make it difficult for taxpayers to prepare statutory PFIC computations and for the Internal Revenue Service to verify them.  As a result, resolution of many Disclosure Practice cases are said to be unduly delayed.  Therefore, for purposes of this initiative, the Internal Revenue Service is offering taxpayers an alternative to the statutory PFIC computation that will resolve PFIC issues on a basis that is consistent with the Mark to Market (MTM) methodology authorized in Internal Revenue Code section 1296 but will not require complete reconstruction of historical data.

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“Wage” War: Round One

Posted by William Byrnes on February 24, 2011


The topic Self-Employment Tax on wages versus distributions has reared its head again – as shown by the recent Federal District Court case involving David E. Watson.

The C.P.A. recently disputed and lost to the Government’s position which recharacterized dividend and loan payments from David E. Watson, P.C. (a Subchapter S corporation) to its sole shareholder and employee, David E. Watson.  The IRS assessed additional employment taxes, interest and penalties against Watson for each of tax years in which Watson’s salary was significantly lower than his total distributions.

Read the analysis at AdvisorFYI (sign up for a 2 week online free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

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Some Clarity Brought to Uncertain Tax Positions

Posted by William Byrnes on February 11, 2011


Recently, in a series of Announcements the Internal Revenue Service stated that it was developing a schedule requiring certain business taxpayers to report uncertain tax positions on their tax returns.

Now the new requirements have been finalized, businesses and wealth managers have a better idea of the direction of Uncertain Tax Position reporting.

Reported under Schedule UTP for Form 1120 series, the Uncertain Tax Position reporting currently applies to a select number of corporations (however phase-in provisions will change this by 2012 and 2014).

Who must file a Schedule UTP?

The class of organizations that must file is limited (for now).   Generally, for 2010 tax year returns most small businesses will not be included in the reporting, but that will probably change.    Nevertheless, a corporation must file Schedule UTP with its 2010 income tax return if:  To read this article excerpted above, please access AdvisorFYI

 

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