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

Byrnes & Bloink’s TaxFacts Intelligence Weekly (Friday June 26, 2020)

Posted by William Byrnes on June 26, 2020

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Prof. William H. Byrnes
        Robert Bloink, J.D., LL.M.


This week the new ERISA E-disclosure safe harbor was finalized, we have some news on GRATs, and some additional COVID-related updates pertaining to PTO donations and the always loved (but often misunderstood!) home office deduction. How goes the home office for you, dear reader?

DOL Finalizes E-Disclosure Safe Harbor

The DOL finalized its e-disclosure safe harbor proposal, allowing electronic distribution of notices and disclosures required by ERISA. Under the safe harbor documents, retirement plans can deliver documents electronically by posting required documents on the plan sponsor’s website and furnishing notice of internet availability to participants via email. The sponsor can also send the documents directly via email to plan participants, whether in an attachment or in the body of the email. For more information on the new e-disclosure safe harbor, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

9th Circuit Affirms GRAT Included in Decedent’s Estate

The Ninth Circuit recently confirmed that a decedent’s estate included the value of a grantor retained annuity trust because the decedent received annuity payments up until the date of her death. The decedent in this case died before the GRAT terminated, meaning that there was no actual transfer of the trust property. She had created the GRAT structure to transfer interests in a family business to her daughters, receiving a $302,529 annuity payment annually for 15 years. The business generated enough income so that the value of the partnership interest was not decreased by the monthly annuity payments. Under IRC Section 2036(a), because the decedent was still enjoying the economic benefit of the property at death, the entire value was included in her gross estate. The court rejected the argument that the value should be excluded because the statute does not specifically list “annuities” as property that may be pulled into the estate. For more information on the use of GRATs, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

Home Office Deductions in the Age of Covid-19

With so many taxpayers working from home–some indefinitely–do to Covid-19, many are likely wondering whether they can deduct their home office expenses. In short, traditional W-2 employees cannot deduct their home office expenses regardless of whether they would otherwise qualify for the deduction. The 2017 tax reform legislation eliminated this deduction for 2018-2025. Self-employed taxpayers can deduct expenses associated with maintaining a home office if the office is used regularly and exclusively as the taxpayer’s principal place of business (if the office is within the dwelling unit). A home office deduction is permitted for self-employed taxpayers with separate structures if the office/workspace is used “in connection with” the trade or business. For more information on the home office deduction, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

IRS Provides Relief for Employee Donations of Unused Sick, Vacation & PTO

The IRS has provided relief so that employees can forgo sick, vacation or personal leave because of the COVID-19 pandemic without adverse tax consequences. Under the guidance, an employer can make cash payments to charitable organizations that provide relief to victims of the COVID-19 pandemic in exchange for sick, vacation or personal leave which their employees forgo. Those amounts will not be treated as compensation and the employees will not be treated as receiving the value of the leave as income. For more information on the charitable contributions, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More


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