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

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TaxFacts Intelligence June 3, 2021

Posted by William Byrnes on June 4, 2021

Happy Summer, readers! This week’s newsletter is dedicated to helping clients—both employers and employees—maximize their health-related benefits and tax credits (even when those benefits are only available for a limited time). Do you have questions about situation-specific COBRA eligibility, little-known HSA tricks or the ever-evolving EEOC vaccine guidance for employers? Read on to see if we’ve got the answers this week. 

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

EEOC Updates Vaccine Incentive Guidance for Employers

The EEOC has posted an update to its vaccine guidance for employers. Under the new guidance, employers are permitted to offer incentives to employees who voluntarily provide confirmation that they have received the COVID-19 vaccine from a third party. Requesting these confirmations will not be treated as disability-related inquiries under the ADA or requests for genetic information under GINA. Employers should be aware that these incentives are treated differently than incentives offered for employer-provided vaccines. If the incentive is actually for the purpose of encouraging an employee to receive the vaccine from the employer or an agent, employers should continue to use caution against offering an incentive that can be construed as “coercive”. That’s because employees must provide certain health information before receiving the vaccine—and employees should not be pressured to disclose medical information to their employers. For more information on the available tax credit for employers who offer paid vaccine leave to employees, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

Related Questions:

773. What happens when the employee has exhausted the paid time off under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)? Does the employee have the right to return to work?

8895. What is a “de minimis” fringe benefit?

Am I Eligible for Federal COBRA Assistance? Case-Specific IRS Guidance

The IRS guidance on the availability and implementation of the ARPA 100 percent COBRA premium assistance provides some useful guidance on specific scenarios that employers and employees may now be facing. Generally, individuals remain assistance-eligible individuals (AEIs) during eligibility waiting periods if the period overlaps with the subsidy period. For example, the individual will be an AEI during periods outside the open enrollment period for a spouse’s employer-sponsored health coverage. Employers who change health plan options must place the AEI in the plan that’s most similar to their pre-termination plan, even if it’s more expensive (and the 100 percent subsidy will continue to apply). Importantly, employers who are no longer covered by federal COBRA requirements may still be required to advance the subsidy (for example, if the employer terminated employees so that the federal rules no longer apply). If the employer was subject to COBRA when the individual experienced the reduction in hours or involuntary termination, the employer must offer the subsidy. For more information on the COBRA premium subsidy, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

Related Questions:

0121. COBRA Subsidies Back on the Table for 2021

371. When must an election to receive COBRA continuation coverage be made?

Maximizing Post-Pandemic HSA Benefits

HSAs and other tax-preferred health benefits have taken on a whole new meaning in the wake of the pandemic. It’s important that clients fully understand the rules so that they aren’t leaving valuable benefits on the table. In 2022, annual HSA contribution limits will rise to $3,650 for self-only coverage or $7,300 for family HDHP coverage. (HDHPs are health insurance plans that have a minimum annual deductible of $1,400 for self-only coverage ($2,800 for family coverage).). Taxpayers aged 55 and up can contribute an extra $1,000 per year. Taxpayers don’t have to fund an employer-sponsored HSA. Even if the client has been laid off or furloughed, clients with HDHP coverage can open an HSA at their bank and fund the account independently. Additionally, clients who have lost their jobs continue to have access to the funds in their old HSA, and can even transfer that HSA to a new provider. In other words, as long as the client remains covered by a HDHP, there is no “use it or lose it” rule. The funds simply roll over from year to year and continue to grow tax-free. For 2021, that same benefit has been extended to health FSAs. With an HSA, however, the rollover benefit is even more substantial because once the participant reaches age 65, the account can be accessed without penalty for any reason—much like a typical retirement account. The funds are simply taxed as ordinary income upon withdrawal, like a 401(k) or IRA. For more information on HSA advantages, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

Related Questions:

388. What is a Health Savings Account (HSA) and how can an HSA be established?

391. Who is an eligible individual for purposes of a Health Savings Account (HSA)?

DOL Released Final Rule on Considering Non-Financial Factors in Selecting Retirement Plan Investments The DOL released a final rule on whether environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors can be considered when retirement plan fiduciaries are selecting plan investments without violating their fiduciary duties.  Plan fiduciaries are obligated to act solely in the interest of plan participants and beneficiaries when making investment decisions.  The final rule confirms the DOL position that plan fiduciaries must select investments based on pecuniary, financial factors.  Fiduciaries are required to compare reasonably available investment alternatives–but are not required to scour the markets.  The rule also includes an “all things being equal test”–meaning that fiduciaries are not prohibited from considering or selecting investments that promote or support non-pecuniary goals, provided that they satisfy their duties of prudence and loyalty in making the selection.  For more information, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More We are curious for your feedback on the rule and its impact on your function as a financial advisor, if any? Email me at williambyrnes-gmail

Texas A&M, annual budget of $6.3 billion (FY2020), is the largest U.S. public university, one of only 60 accredited U.S. universities of the American Association of Universities (R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity) and one of only 17 U.S. universities that hold the triple U.S. federal grant of Land, Sea, and Space!

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Byrnes & Bloink’s TaxFacts Intelligence Weekly for Financial Advisors (December 5 edition)

Posted by William Byrnes on December 6, 2019

Texas A&M University School of Law has launched its International Tax online graduate curriculum for tax professionals. Apply now for Jan 13 – April 19 transfer pricing courses.  Texas A&M University is a public university and is ranked 1st among public universities for its superior education at an affordable cost (Fiske, 2018) and ranked 1st of Texas public universities for best value (Money, 2018). To apply for the inaugural cohort opportunity, contact Jeff Green, Graduate Programs Coordinator, T: +1 (817) 212-3866, E: jeffgreen@law.tamu.edu or contact David Dye, Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs, T (817) 212-3954, E: ddye@law.tamu.edu. Texas A&M Admissions website: https://law.tamu.edu/distance-education/international-tax

Final Regulations Confirm: No “Clawback” for Gifts Made Under Expanded Transfer Tax Exemption

The 2017 tax reform legislation significantly expanded the transfer tax exemption, which applies to exempt both lifetime and postmortem gifts from transfer taxes. However, the new provision is set to sunset after 2025, leading many taxpayers to question whether large gifts made while the provision is effective would be exempt once the exemption reverts to the much lower $5 million (as adjusted for inflation) limit. In general, the exemption applies first to gifts made during life and then to the individual’s remaining estate. Under the final regulations, estates are allowed to compute the available estate tax credit using the higher of the basic exclusion amount that applied to gifts made during life or the basic exclusion amount applicable on the date of death. Essentially, this rule provides certainty that taxpayers can make large gifts now (i.e., gifts that exceed the $5 million exemption) without generating transfer tax liability if the exemption amount is reduced in the future. For more information on the estate tax, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

Court Finds Prudent Process Sufficient to Overcome DOL Fiduciary Liability

Many retirement plan sponsors and advisors have been left in uncertainty since the DOL fiduciary rule was vacated. A September 2019 case involving a DOL fiduciary enforcement action may shed light on resolution of fiduciary issues in the retirement plan context. In this case, the court found that retirement committee members were not liable under ERIA for a failure to monitor the committee’s investment manager more closely. The committee here had implemented processes and procedures, including regular meetings and reports, and acted in accordance with those procedures. After the DOL initiated action, the court agreed that the committee was entitled to rely upon those procedures. Once an error or problem arose and the committee became aware—or reasonably should have become aware—of the issue, the committee correctly increased its oversight until the issue was resolved. Here, that issue was that the committee’s instructions with respect to investments were not being followed. Once the committee noticed, they stepped up oversight. Importantly, this ruling shows that a prudent process is often sufficient to avoid fiduciary liability even if a decision results in investment losses. For more information on the fiduciary standard, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More

IRS Cracking Down on Syndicated Conservation Easements

In recently released IR-2019-182, the IRS announced that it has substantially increased resources to crack down on syndicated conservation easements. Under the IRC, a special rule allows taxpayers to take a deduction for donations of qualified conservation easements (an exception to the general rule prohibiting deductions for donations of less than an entire interest in property). A qualified conservation easement is a contribution of real property including a restriction (granted in perpetuity) for the use of the property, which must be used for conservation purposes. Syndications are often set up to purchase real property for conservation easements. Most syndications involve tiers of pass-through entities so that investors in the entities can more fully use the charitable deduction (which is subject to an adjusted gross income cap like any other charitable deduction). Often, the actual deduction will far exceed the amounts invested—sometimes because inflated property values are used. These and substantially similar arrangements are now classified as listed transactions, which must be disclosed to the IRS. Clients should be made aware of this increased potential for enforcement across several IRS divisions. For more information on the requirements for claiming a conservation easement deduction, visit Tax Facts Online. Read More


2020’s Tax Facts Offers a Complete Web, App-Based, and Print Experience

Reducing complicated tax questions to understandable answers that can be immediately put into real-life practice, Tax Facts works when and where you need it….on your desktop, at home on your laptop, and on the go through your tablet or smartphone.  Questions? Contact customer service: TaxFactsHelp@alm.com800-543-0874

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