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William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Archive for October, 2017

Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation: Timing and Constructive Receipt Issues

Posted by fhalestewart on October 30, 2017


In 2009, F. Hale Stewart, JD. LL.M. graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s LLM Program.  He is the author of three books: U.S. Captive Insurance LawCaptive Insurance in Plain English and The Lifetime Income Security Solution.  He also provides commentary to the Tax Analysts News Service, as well as economic analysis to TLRAnalytics and the Bonddad Blog.  He is also an investment adviser with Thompson Creek Wealth Advisors.    

 

It’s doubtful that anybody in the Financial Services industry is unaware of qualified retirement plans such as 401(k)s and IRAs.  Knowledge of them is required to pass licensing exams and every firm includes them in sales literature.  Non-qualified plans (NQDC), however, are less well-known, largely because they are more complex and appeal to a far smaller group of potential buyers.  Although their application is narrower, in the right circumstances they can provide clients with tremendous advantages.

This post begins a series on NQDC.  We will be spending a large amount of time with the tax code and accompanying treasury regulations; this is necessary due to NQDC’s complexity and numerous regulations.  But before delving into the code, let’s use basic statutory analysis and analyze the “plain meaning” of the words, beginning with “non-qualified.”  The primary difference between NQDC and qualified plans is that the former don’t comply with §401’s safe harbors – especially the rules relating to “highly compensated individuals”[1] and the plan funds not being subject to the plan sponsor’s general creditors.[2]  In fact, the treasury regulations define NQDC as much by what it isn’t[3] as what it is.  Moving onto the other words, the Merriam Webster online dictionary defines the word “deferred” as “withheld for or until a stated time”[4] and “compensation” as “payment.”[5]  Combining these two definitions, we get: payment for services that is withheld until specifically enumerated events.

A properly implemented NQDC plan requires that the client does not formally receive income before certain events[6] or else he will become liable for the accompanying taxes at inopportune times (along with penalties).  Therefore, we need to know when a taxpayer recognizes income to avoid attribution from these events.  This naturally leads to a discussion of the two accounting methods.  The cash method stipulates that “all items which constitute gross income … are to be included for the taxable year in which actually or constructively received.”[7]  The most obvious example occurs when the taxpayer’s account increases by a specific amount of money.  The accrual method is the second system.  It has two factors: all events have occurred that fix the right to receive the income and the amount of the income can be determined with reasonable accuracy.[8]  For example, once the taxpayer has done the agreed upon work and sent an invoice, he can book the income under the accrual method.

The client must also avoid constructively receiving income, which is defined in §1.451-2(a):

Income although not actually reduced to a taxpayer’s possession is constructively received by him in the taxable year during which it is credited to his account, set apart for him, or otherwise made available so that he may draw upon it at any time, or so that he could have drawn upon it during the taxable year if notice of intention to withdraw had been given. However, income is not constructively received if the taxpayer’s control of its receipt is subject to substantial limitations or restrictions.

The service provider cannot reach, attach, pledge, or be credited with all or any portion of the money set aside under the plan.  This requires that all funds in the NQDC plan be subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture, which is discussed in treasury regulation §1.83-3(a).

a substantial risk of forfeiture exists only if rights in property that are transferred are conditioned, directly or indirectly, upon the future performance (or refraining from performance) of substantial services by any person, or upon the occurrence of a condition related to a purpose of the transfer if the possibility of forfeiture is substantial.

The most commonly used situations in NQDC contracts are continued performance by the service provider or the occurrence of a major corporate event such as a merger or acquisition, specific sales goals, going public, and the like.    

            This post only covers the surface of several key NDQC components.  However, it should provide the reader with a basic overview of these key elements.

Next, we’ll dig deeper into the definition of an NQDC plan.

 

[1] 26 U.S.C. 401(a)(4)

[2] See 26 U.S.S. 401(a)(2)

[3] The Treasury regulations define NQDC by what it isn’t.  See generally Treas. Reg. §1.409A-1(a)(2)(i) through Treas. Reg. §1-409A-1(2)(ix)

[4] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deferred

[5] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compensation

[6] 26 U.S.C. 409(A)(2)(A)(i)-(vi)

[7] Treas. Reg. §1.446-1(c)(i)

[8] Treas. Reg. §1.446-1(c)(ii)

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The Destination-based Approach to Business Taxation, Explained

Posted by fhalestewart on October 30, 2017


In 2009, F. Hale Stewart, JD. LL.M. graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s LLM Program.  He is the author of three books: U.S. Captive Insurance LawCaptive Insurance in Plain English and The Lifetime Income Security Solution.  He also provides commentary to the Tax Analysts News Service, as well as economic analysis to TLRAnalytics and the Bonddad Blog.  He is also an investment adviser with Thompson Creek Wealth Advisors.    

 

From the article:

An alternative approach has been to identify fundamental tax reforms that can deal more adequately with the new economic realities. One such approach builds on the concept of business cash-flow taxation, first proposed in the late 1970s by the Meade Committee (Institute for Fiscal Studies 1978). Originally conceived as a tax on the cash flows of domestic producers (an ‘origin-based’ tax), the cash-flow tax had many potential benefits, including eliminating the tax on normal returns to new investment, removing tax-based incentives for corporate borrowing, and eliminating the need to measure income of companies with complex business arrangements. But this standard cash-flow tax leaves in place the pressure for international tax competition via incentives for companies to shift the location of profitable activities and reported profits to low-tax countries. This shortcoming led to consideration of a destination-based cash-flow tax (DBCFT), which adds ‘border adjustment’ to cash-flow taxation and has the effect of basing the tax on the location of consumers rather than on the location of profits, production, or corporate residence.

As described in a series of papers, including Auerbach (2017), converting an origin-based cash-flow tax into a destination-based cash-flow involves relieving tax on export revenues and imposing tax on imports, in precisely the same manner as is done under existing value-added taxes (VATs). The key difference from a VAT is that the DBCFT maintains the income tax deduction for wages and salaries, and thus amounts to a tax on domestic consumption not financed by labour income, in principal a much more progressive tax than the VAT.

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IRS Reading Room Releases of Interest

Posted by fhalestewart on October 29, 2017


In 2009, F. Hale Stewart, JD. LL.M. graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s LLM Program.  He is the author of three books: U.S. Captive Insurance LawCaptive Insurance in Plain English and The Lifetime Income Security Solution.  He also provides commentary to the Tax Analysts News Service, as well as economic analysis to TLRAnalytics and the Bonddad Blog.  He is also an investment adviser with Thompson Creek Wealth Advisors.    

Every weekend, the Service releases PLRs and other non-precedential documents via the electronic reading room.

Electing out of GST Exemptions.

Denial of tax-exempt status

Denial of tax-exempt status

Denial of tax-exempt status

 

 

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The Latest Tax Policy Headlines

Posted by fhalestewart on October 28, 2017


In 2009, F. Hale Stewart, JD. LL.M. graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s LLM Program.  He is the author of three books: U.S. Captive Insurance LawCaptive Insurance in Plain English and The Lifetime Income Security Solution.  He also provides commentary to the Tax Analysts News Service, as well as economic analysis to TLRAnalytics and the Bonddad Blog.  He is also an investment adviser with Thompson Creek Wealth Advisors.    

The Republican Congress has vowed to pass tax reform by the end of the year — a very ambitious schedule.  This makes the situation very fast-moving and fluid.

What executives are saying about the tax bill (BB)

One big obstacle to tax reform (BB)

Lobbyists are swarming capital hill (BB)

Major divisions still exist for the tax bill (WaPo)

Tax bill shrouded in mystery (Politico)

 

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Today’s Tax Policy Headlines

Posted by fhalestewart on October 27, 2017


In 2009, F. Hale Stewart, JD. LL.M. graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s LLM Program.  He is the author of three books: U.S. Captive Insurance LawCaptive Insurance in Plain English and The Lifetime Income Security Solution.  He also provides commentary to the Tax Analysts News Service, as well as economic analysis to TLRAnalytics and the Bonddad Blog.  He is also an investment adviser with Thompson Creek Wealth Advisors.    

 

House narrowly passes budget (WaPo)

House passes budget (NYT)

Republicans from high tax states send party message (WaPo)

Major divisions remain on tax legislation (WaPo)

6 things that could derail the GOP’s tax plan (Politico)

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401(k) Contribution Cuts are Still on the Table

Posted by fhalestewart on October 25, 2017


In 2009, F. Hale Stewart, JD. LL.M. graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s LLM Program.  He is the author of three books: U.S. Captive Insurance LawCaptive Insurance in Plain English and The Lifetime Income Security Solution.  He also provides commentary to the Tax Analysts News Service, as well as economic analysis to TLRAnalytics and the Bonddad Blog.  He is also an investment adviser with Thompson Creek Wealth Advisors.    

 

From the Washington Post:

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady on Wednesday suggested a tax bill he is preparing to introduce could force changes to 401(k) plans and other retirement accounts, potentially bucking a promise from President Trump that those accounts would be left alone.

Brady, speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, said “we think in tax reform we can create incentives for people to save more and save sooner.”

He said he was “working very closely with the president,” but he also said many people who have tax-incentivized retirement accounts contribute $200 per month or less, a level he thought was too low.

…..

Several hours later, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R – Utah) said he would also not agree to Trump’s vow to protect 401(k) plans, saying instead that he was open to changes if they made sense.

This situation is VERY fluid.  According to the same article, key provisions of the bill such as the actual tax brackets and specific deductions are still being hammered out.

 

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Today’s Stories on Proposed Tax Cuts

Posted by fhalestewart on October 24, 2017


In 2009, F. Hale Stewart, JD. LL.M. graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s LLM Program.  He is the author of three books: U.S. Captive Insurance Law, Captive Insurance in Plain English and The Lifetime Income Security Solution.  He also provides commentary to the Tax Analysts News Service, as well as economic analysis to TLRAnalytics and the Bonddad Blog.  He is also an investment adviser with Thompson Creek Wealth Advisors.    

 

Here’s a list of articles from this mornings papers

Trump’s promise narrows GOP’s options (WaPo)

Trump is making tax-cutting difficult (NYT)

Tax cuts are coming; so are the fights to pay for them (NYT)

Trump promises “No change” to 401(k) plans (NYT)

A look inside the White House’s tax planning (Politico)

Draft is coming in days (Bloomberg)

Conservative leaders open to keeping top rate (Bloomberg)

 

 

 

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Are FLP Discounts Back?

Posted by fhalestewart on October 23, 2017


From Wealthmanagement.com

In a report issued on Oct. 2, 2017, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recommended that the proposed Internal Revenue Code Section 2704 regulations be withdrawn. Those regs would have restricted the use of partnerships and other entities to generate valuation discounts. The Internal Revenue Service had released a proposal in August 2016 in an attempt to limit what it perceived as an erosion of the applicability of Section 2704 and the creation of artificial valuation discounts. A hearing was held on on Dec. 1, 2016. Almost 30,000 formal comments were submitted to the Treasury.

The report states: “Treasury and the IRS now believe that the proposed regulations’ approach to the problem of artificial valuation discounts is unworkable…. The proposed regulations could have affected valuation discounts even where discount factors, such as lack of control or lack of a market, were not created artificially as a value-depressing device.” It goes on to say that: “Treasury and the IRS plan to publish a withdrawal of the proposed regulations shortly in the Federal Register.”

In 1998, the IRS issued a series of TAMs that outlined several fact patterns the Service believed were suspect.  They then began attacking various FLP structures, winning a fair number of cases.  But at some point, enough case law developed to show practitioners what not to do.  Once jurisprudence weeded out the bad patterns, FLP discounts continued anew.

Last year, the Treasury issued revised valuation rules, essentially gutting FLPs.  But now it appears the Treasury is reversing its stance.  But before moving forward, I’d wait until we see the new regulations published.

  

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Conservation Easements Are Having a Difficult Time Qualifying

Posted by bonddad on October 22, 2017


The Service made certain conservation easements a listed transaction in Notice 2017-10.

Now we’re seeing conservation easements that aren’t subject to reporting requirements run into aggressive judicial analysis.  From Bloomberg Law:

In BC Ranch II, LP v. Commissioner, the Fifth Circuit recently reversed the Tax Court in holding that a taxpayer qualified for a charitable contribution deduction for the donation of a conservation easement. The main issue involved whether the easement in question violated the in perpetuity requirement of §170(h)(2)(C). In BC Ranch, two limited partnerships donated one conservation easement each to a qualified donee and, subsequently, sold limited partnership interests. Each limited partnership interest entitled the limited partner to one five-acre homesite parcel. Pursuant to the deed of easement, the property covered by the easements could be amended, but only to the limited extent needed to modify the boundaries of the five-acre homesite parcels. Further, any modification could only be done within the ranch property subject to the easement. The modification provision also prohibited any amendment that would increase any homesite parcel above five acres. For any such a modification to occur, the donor, the donee, and the owner of the homesite parcel in question would have to agree and the modification would be permitted only if the boundary line modification did not, in the donee’s reasonable judgment, directly or indirectly result in any material adverse effect on any of the conservation purposes.

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