Category Archives: Personal tax returns

Can You Discharge Those Unpaid 1040 Taxes in Bankruptcy?

by Larry Goldsmith, CPA, JD, CFF, MAFF

Last week, I reviewed a new client’s IRS transcript. The client apparently filed his individual income tax returns late and wanted to file bankruptcy to discharge his 1040 tax obligations. I subsequently learned that the IRS filed substitute individual income tax returns on the client’s behalf and issued an income tax deficiency before the income tax returns were filed.

 The question was: if the Internal Revenue Service files a substitute tax return on behalf of the debtor/ taxpayer, before the taxpayer files their own income tax returns would that late tax return be considered eligible for a bankruptcy discharge under Section 523 tax return?

I have to admit that it was my belief at the time that if the late filed tax returns increased the income tax assessment, the late filed tax returns would be dischargeable if the tax returns qualified under the various timing constraints. However, after further research, examining several court cases, I have concluded that if the income tax returns were filed after the IRS had issued a substitute tax return, or issued a deficiency, a bankruptcy discharge is not attainable, even where the debtor subsequently filed an income tax return.

It appears that the bankruptcy courts have not consistently held on issues of discharge where the debtor filed a late tax return prior to the IRS issuing a notice of deficiency. From the Appellate court statements I doubt if the courts would favor the discharge of the late filed income tax returns.

Here are a couple of cases exemplifying the court’s consistency in this matter:

IN RE PAYNE 431 F.3D 1055 (7TH CIR 2005)

The taxpayer failed to file a 1986 tax return, and the IRS subsequently filed a substitute tax return for the debtor. In 1992 the taxpayer filed an offer in compromise that was rejected. The taxpayer filed a Chapter 7 in 1997. The bankruptcy court discharged the 1986 tax debt.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals stated that, the substitute tax return and an offer in compromise do not constitute a tax return and therefore the income taxes were not dischargeable.

MALLO V. INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE

A married couple filing jointly, the Mallos filed their individual income taxes several years after the IRS issued notices of deficiency. Two years after filing the income tax returns the Mallos filed bankruptcy seeking to discharge the income tax obligations.

The Mallo bankruptcy court held that post assessment filings do not constitute tax returns and are therefore excepted from discharge under 523(a)(1).

The Court of Appeals held that tax debt was not dischargeable because, “the filing of a return after an assessment negates an honest and reasonable attempt to comply with tax law”.

The Court of Appeals held that, “if a Form 1040 is filed late, the tax debt is non-dischargeable under 523(a)(1)(b)(i). The court reasoned that a late tax return is not a return as defined by Section 523(a); it does not satisfy applicable filing requirements.

The Court observed that the definition of a filed tax return differs from the IRS’s definition.

The U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged the different interpretations and stated that further review was not warranted, thereby upholding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit findings.

My advice after researching this matter? Always file your tax returns in a timely manner.

Questions or comments? E-mail me at larry@cjbs.com if you have any questions about this posting or if I may be of assistance in any way.

Larry Goldsmith is an experienced Financial Forensic expert and CPA who investigates and verifies financial income and assets in matrimonial matters. CJBS, LLC is a Chicago based firm that assists its clients with a wide range of accounting and financial issues, protecting and expanding the value of mid-size companies. 

Navigating the Tax Obstacles of Investing in 2014

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

Michael Blitstein, CJBS

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA

It’s never been easy to navigate the various tax consequences of buying and selling securities and investments. Among the many obstacles investors need to consider in 2014 is the relatively new net investment income tax (“NIIT”). This 3.8% tax may apply to your net investment income if your income exceeds certain levels. And the tax can show up when you least expect it – for example, passive activity and qualified dividend income are subject to the tax. Some other tax issues related to investing should also be considered.

Capital Gains Tax and Timing
Although time, not timing, is generally the key to long-term investment success, timing can have a dramatic impact on the tax consequences of investment activities. Your long-term capital gains rate might be as much as 20 percentage points lower than your ordinary income rate. The long-term gains rate applies to investments held for more than 12 months. The applicable rate depends on your income level and the type of asset sold. Holding on to an investment until you’ve owned it more than a year may help substantially cut tax on any gain.

Remember, appreciating investments that don’t generate current income aren’t taxed until sold. Deferring tax and perhaps allowing you to time the sale to your advantage can help, such as in a year when you have capital losses to absorb the capital gain. If you’ve already recognized some gains during the year and want to reduce your 2014 tax liability, consider selling unrealized loss positions before the end of the year.

Loss Carryovers
If net losses exceed net gains, you can deduct only $3,000 ($1,500 for married filing separately) of the net losses per year against ordinary income. You can carry forward excess losses indefinitely. Loss carryovers can be a powerful tax-saving tool in future years if you have an investment portfolio, real estate holdings or a practice that might generate future capital gains. Also remember that capital gain distributions from mutual funds can absorb capital losses.

Income Investments
Qualified dividends are taxed at the favorable long-term capital gains tax rate rather than the higher, ordinary income tax rate. Qualified dividends are, however, included in investment income under the 3.8% NIIT.

Interest income generally is taxed at ordinary income rates, which are now as high as 39.6%. Stocks that pay qualified dividends may be more attractive tax wise than other income investments, such as CD’s, money market accounts and bonds. Note some dividends are subject to ordinary income rates.

Keep in mind that state and municipal bonds usually pay a lower interest rate, but their rate of return may be higher than the after tax rate of return for a taxable investment, depending on your tax rate. Be aware certain tax-exempt interest can trigger or increase alternative minimum tax.

Mutual Funds
Investing in mutual funds is an easy way to diversify your portfolio. But beware of the tax ramifications. First, mutual funds with high turnover rates can create income that’s taxed at ordinary income rates. Choosing funds that provide primarily long-term capital gains can save you more tax dollars.

Second, earnings on mutual funds are typically reinvested, and unless you keep track of these additions and increase your basis accordingly, you may report more gain than required when you sell the fund.

Additionally, buying equity mutual fund shares later in the year can be costly tax wise.  Such funds often declare a large capital gains distribution at year-end. If you own shares on the distribution record date, you’ll be taxed on the full distribution amount even if it includes significant gains realized by the fund before you owned the shares. And you’ll pay tax on those gains in the current year, even if you reinvest the distribution.

Paying Attention to Details
If you don’t pay attention to details, the tax consequences of a sale may be different from what you expect. For example, the trade date, not the settlement date, of publicly traded securities determines the year in which you recognize the gain or loss. And if you bought the same security at different times and prices and want to sell the high tax basis shares to reduce gain or increase a loss to offset other gains, be sure to specifically identify which block of shares is being sold.

Passive Activities
If you’ve invested in a trade or business in which you don’t materially participate, remember the passive activity rules. Why? Passive activity income may be subject to the 3.8% NIIT, and passive activity losses generally are deductible only against income from other passive activities. Disallowed losses can be carried forward to future years, subject to the same limitations.

The Internal Revenue tax code is ever evolving and recent tax law changes have provided increased complexity. Tax obstacles related to investing is just one reason why it’s important to plan ahead and consider taking advantage of strategies available to you. You should always consult with your tax adviser to determine the best course of action.

Michael W. Blitstein, CPA is a partner with the firm of CJBS, LLC, in Northbrook, Illinois. For more than 30 years, Michael has worked closely with the dental community and is intimately familiar with the unique professional and regulatory challenges of creating, running and maintaining a successful dental practice. Michael advises his clients on tax, business and retirement planning, developing short and long-term strategic plans designed to achieve success for dental practice principals and their businesses.

He can be reached at michael@cjbs.com

www.cjbs.com

My Perspective of Accountants and CPAs

Larry Goldsmith

by Larry Goldsmith, JD, CPA, MAFF, and Julieann Chaet, CPA, MAFF

I’ve always looked at accountants, CPAs or not, as instruments or tools to be used by the IRS or the banks, or buyers and sellers of businesses. What I mean by that is, accountants working in public accounting firms complete the tasks for the Internal Revenue Service to collect its taxes. We provide the measuring stick used by bankers to lend money. We are the instrument that verifies income and assets for the buyers and sellers of businesses. We are important because we produce the tax returns the IRS looks for and the financial statements the banks require. We provide the verification to business that the company is profitable.

To our clients, we become the trusted individuals they depend on to prepare their tax returns or to prepare their company’s financial statement. But all too many times clients will make financial decisions without asking for their accountant’s opinion. I have to say my favorite clients are the ones who call me up to say “Are you busy?” or “Do you have a minute?”  The truth is, I was busy, but that interruption when they ask for my opinion or ask me a question, can save them hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

It usually takes only minutes to answer a client’s question when they call or e-mail. It’s when clients don’t ask the questions, that it can cause problems that can cost more than money.

I prepared very few tax returns this tax season because I was thankfully busy with my forensics work. However, one of the tax returns that I did prepare was absolutely gut-wrenching. A month later, I still think about these particular clients who I’ve never personally met. As I was sorting through their data and inputting the numbers into our tax program, I became curious. I thought I must be missing something. I finished preparing the tax return. The couple owed what was for them a lot of money – thousands of dollars.

So I asked the partner whose name is on the return, “what’s the deal?” Apparently, this 62 year old couple was making over $100,000 a year for at least the last 5 years. Both husband and wife had their own careers. They owned a home. The husband had even gone back to school to further his professional degree while maintaining his career.

The problem started with a stroke – a stroke had debilitated the husband at the age of 59. The husband could no longer care for himself so a full-time nurse was brought in to care for him. After a couple years the wife could no longer afford the full-time nurse so she quit her job to care for her husband. They sold their house and moved into their daughter’s apartment.

By the time I was preparing the couple’s tax return, most of the couple’s savings including IRAs and proceeds from the house had been spent on living expenses and the husband’s medical care.

So what did I do?  I saw Larry Goldsmith, the head of CJBS’s Financial Group’s litigation, asset protection and tax practices team walking past my desk. “Larry, you need to do something!”, I said. I didn’t care that he was just walking in from the polar vortex that we were having outside, and that maybe he wanted to take off his hat and defrost. This woman was going to live probably for another decade or two. Her husband could live years in his current condition, and all their money was squandered on medical bills. Where would the money come from to pay the tax return?

Unfortunately, even with his vast experience and resources for this sort of thing, Larry wasn’t able to provide a solution. It was too late. The truth is the couple was financially bankrupt and didn’t know it. Their liabilities (the monies they owed) far exceeded the monies and assets they possessed. They spent their savings along with their IRA’s that she would one day need because she didn’t know that there were taxes to pay on the IRAs.

Thousands of dollars of her savings were spent caring for her husband that didn’t need to be. The wife did not know about different agencies that could’ve helped or the benefits of financial planning. She did not know that creditors cannot seize her IRAs from her.

You see she never asked the questions of her accountant so the accountant wasn’t aware of all that was happening.

We became aware the day we called her to try to make sense of the documents in front of me.  There is a solution, but it requires planning.

Julieann Chaet, CPA, MAFF

Julieann is the Manager of CJBS’ forensic accounting and litigation services practice.

Call Julieann at 847.580.5449, or e-mail: jc@cjbs.com

 

Larry Goldsmith, JD, CPA, MAFF

Call Larry at 847.580.5427, or e-mail: Larry@cjbs.com

House will not consider tax extender legislation in 2013

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA 

Legislation to extend the group of expiring provisions commonly known as “tax extenders” will not be considered by Congress in 2013.  House lawmakers will begin their winter district work period on December 13th, but tax extender legislation is not on the legislative floor schedule and no markup is planned in the Ways and Means Committee.

The House is likely to consider legislation dealing with Medicare payment rates for physicians, a fiscal year 2014 budget conference agreement and, possibly, a conference report on the farm bill.

Rather than following its typical pattern of passing a one or two-year extension of tax incentives in late December, Congress could approve an extenders bill in 2014 that applies retroactively, possibly as part of larger comprehensive tax reform legislation.

CJBS, LLC is a Chicago based firm that assists its clients with a wide range of accounting and financial issues, protecting and expanding the value of mid-size companies. E-mail me at michael@cjbs.com if you have any questions about this posting or if I may be of assistance in any way.

www.cjbs.com

Will You Be Paying More Tax on Similar or Less Income?

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA 

Most taxpayers would agree that paying more tax on similar or less income does not sound appealing.  The health care reform package (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010) imposes a new 3.8 percent Medicare contribution tax on the net investment income of higher-income individuals. Although this tax has a wide reach, certain steps may be taken to lessen its impact.

Net investment income. Net investment income, for purposes of the new 3.8 percent Medicare tax, includes interest, dividends, annuities, royalties and rents and other gross income attributable to a passive activity. Gains from the sale of property that is not used in an active business and income from the investment of working capital are treated as investment income as well. However, the tax does not apply to nontaxable income, such as tax-exempt interest or veterans’ benefits. Further, an individual’s capital gains income – both long-term and short-term – will be subject to the tax. This includes gain from the sale of a principal residence, unless the gain is excluded from income under Code Section 121, and gains from the sale of a vacation home. Planning the sale of “big ticket items”, therefore, now often requires attention to the new 3.8 percent surtax.

The tax also applies to estates and trusts, on the lesser of undistributed net income or the excess of the trust/estate adjusted gross income (AGI) over the threshold amount ($11,200) for the highest tax bracket for trusts and estates, and to investment income they distribute. Use of family trusts and other trust-based strategies now must factor in the 3.8 percent surtax in the construction and operation of the trust.  Executors must also be aware of how the 3.8 percent surtax is applied against income on assets held by the estate rather than immediately distributed.

Deductions. Net investment income for purposes of the new 3.8 percent tax is gross income or net gain, reduced by deductions that are “properly allocable” to the income or gain. This is a key term that the Treasury Department expects to address in future guidance. For passively-managed real property, allocable expenses will still include depreciation and operating expenses. Indirect expenses such as tax preparation fees may also qualify.

For capital gain property, this formula puts a premium on keeping tabs on amounts that increase your property’s basis. It also puts the focus on investment expenses that may reduce net gains: interest on loans to purchase investments, investment counsel and advice, and fees to collect income. Other costs, such as brokers’ fees, may increase basis or reduce the amount realized from an investment.

Thresholds and impact. The tax applies to the lesser of net investment income or modified AGI above $200,000 for individuals and heads of household, $250,000 for joint filers and surviving spouses, and $125,000 for married filing separately.

The tax can have a substantial impact if you have income above the specified thresholds. Also, remember that, in addition to the tax on investment income, you may also face other tax increases that have taken effect beginning in 2013. The top marginal income tax rate is now 39.6 percent and the top tax rate on long-term capital gains has increased from 15 percent to 20 percent. Thus, the cumulative rate on capital gains for someone in the highest rate bracket has increased to 23.8 percent. Moreover, the 3.8 percent surtax’s thresholds are not indexed for inflation, so a greater number of taxpayers may be affected as time elapses.

Exceptions. Certain items and taxpayers are not subject to the 3.8 percent tax. A significant exception applies to distributions from qualified plans, 401(k) plans, tax-sheltered annuities, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and eligible deferred compensation plans. At the present time, however, there is no exception for distributions from nonqualified deferred compensation plans, although some experts claim that not carving out such an exception was a Congressional oversight that should be rectified by an amendment to the law.

The exception for distributions from retirement plans suggests that potentially taxed investors may want to shift wages and investments to retirement plans such as 401(k) plans, 403(b) annuities, and IRAs. Increasing contributions will reduce income and may help you stay below the applicable thresholds. Business owners may want to set up retirement plans, especially 401(k) plans, if they have not yet established a plan, and should consider increasing their contributions to existing plans.

Prudent planning is necessary to create and implement efficient and effective tax strategies that will allow for goals and objectives to be met.  The new 3.8 percent Medicare contribution tax on the net investment income is no exception.  Please seek the advice from your tax professional to determine how this affects you.

CJBS, LLC is a Chicago based firm that assists its clients with a wide range of accounting and financial issues, protecting and expanding the value of mid-size companies. E-mail me at michael@cjbs.com if you have any questions about this posting or if I may be of assistance in any way.

www.cjbs.com

Tax Audit Red Flags

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA

The IRS audits only slightly more than 1% of all individual tax returns annually. So why do they pick some returns to investigate and ignore others?  Although there’s no sure way to avoid an IRS audit, you should be aware of the following red flags that could increase your chances of drawing unwanted attention from the IRS.

You Have Foreign Assets…

Stashing money overseas? Then you’re probably well aware that the IRS has been ramping up its efforts to rein in offshore accounts.  Launched in 2009, the agency’s voluntary disclosure program has already raked in more than $5 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties for illegally hiding assets in offshore accounts.

Taxpayers are asked to check a box on Schedule B if they have an ownership interest in foreign accounts. If they then fail to provide information about those assets, it will undoubtedly trigger an audit.

Indicating on your return that you do business in foreign countries or take many trips abroad for work could also raise eyebrows if no foreign assets are reported.

Your Return Has Too Many Zeroes…

While rounding numbers on your tax return to the nearest dollar is okay, rounding to the nearest thousand is not – especially when itemizing deductions like business expenses, unreimbursed employee expenses and job hunting costs.  If you submit figures like $5,000 in auto costs, $2,000 in gas mileage and $4,000 in lodging, it may look like you pulled those numbers out of thin air or inflated them by rounding – since it’s unlikely that every single expense was a perfect multiple of $1,000.

You Have a Home Office…

Just because you do some work on your couch while watching TV doesn’t mean it counts as a home office.

After years of watching people abuse the home office deduction, the IRS is on the look out. In order to avoid being scrutinized, make sure you only claim reasonable expenses – and only those that directly apply to the part of the home used as an office.  Remember, the credit can only be claimed if the home office is your primary place of business and is used exclusively for work. People get into trouble when the IRS suspects they are mixing personal costs with their business costs.

You Forgot Some Income…

For people who earn money from various places, remembering to report every single cent can be difficult. But ‘I forgot’ isn’t a good enough excuse for the IRS.  For any miscellaneous income over $600 you received throughout the year, the company you worked for should send you a Form 1099. If you don’t receive it for some reason – it was mistakenly sent to a previous address, for instance – you can be sure that the IRS will still get it.  You can either request the missing form from the employer or simply report the income without the form. This is why it helps to track your income throughout the year.

Of course, some people earn money that may not get reported on.  Even if the IRS doesn’t know about it, you must report this income as well or you risk the agency finding out.

You Exaggerate Donations…

Even good deeds can spark suspicion at the IRS.  If you report extremely high charitable contributions – especially relative to your income – make sure you have the proof to back it up.  Receipts for cash donations of more than $250 are required in the event the IRS comes knocking.  Donating items gets a little trickier, because it’s common for people to think the items are worth a lot more than someone will actually pay for them. So it’s important to be reasonable with your valuations.

You Own a Money Losing Business…

If you own a business that is reporting losses year after year, the IRS may grow suspicious that it’s actually a hobby.  There’s a rule-of-thumb saying you must have a profit in two [out] of five years – if you don’t have a profit they’re going to look at it as a hobby.  To fend off the IRS, make sure to keep diligent financial records and do little things like have business cards and company letterhead.

You Have a Shady Tax Preparer...

If your tax preparer tries to convince you to claim deductions that sound too good to be true or to report income that doesn’t line up with what you would have reported, watch out.  You want a preparer that will get you the best refund possible – but not if it means breaking the law.

CJBS, LLC is a Chicago based firm that assists its clients with a wide range of accounting and financial issues, protecting and expanding the value of mid-size companies. E-mail me at michael@cjbs.com if you have any questions about this posting or if I may be of assistance in any way.

www.cjbs.com

IRS Increases Audit Examinations

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA 

The Internal Revenue Service has stepped up its examinations in the past year of taxpayers with high adjusted gross income.

The IRS released its 2012 IRS Data Book on March 25th, providing a snapshot of agency activities for the fiscal year. The report describes activities conducted by the IRS between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012, and includes information about returns filed, taxes collected, enforcement, taxpayer assistance and the IRS budget and workforce, among others.

The IRS said it examined just under 1 percent of all tax returns filed and about 1 percent of all individual income tax returns during fiscal year 2012.  Overall, in fiscal year 2012, individual income tax returns in higher adjusted gross income (“AGI”) classes were more likely to be examined than returns in lower AGI classes.

The IRS examined about 12.1 percent of the 337,477 tax returns reporting income of $1 million or more, compared to 2.8 percent of those reporting at least $200,000 and under $1 million, and 0.4 percent of those reporting income under $200,000 who didn’t file a Schedule C, E, F or Schedule 2106, and 1.1 percent of those with income under $200,000 and filing Schedule E or Form 2106. Of the 1.5 million individual tax returns examined, nearly 54,000 resulted in additional refunds. In addition, the IRS examined 1.6 percent of corporation income tax returns, excluding S corporation returns, in fiscal 2012.

During fiscal year 2012, the IRS collected almost $2.5 trillion in Federal revenue and processed 237 million returns, of which almost 145 million were filed electronically. Out of the 146 million individual income tax returns filed, almost 81 percent were e-filed. More than 120 million individual income tax return filers received a tax refund, which totaled almost $322.7 billion.

IRS acknowledged that one of the biggest challenges confronting the IRS today is tax refund fraud caused by identity theft. The IRS has more than doubled the number of staff dedicated to preventing refund fraud and assisting taxpayers victimized by identity theft, with more than 3,000 employees working in this area. As a result of these increased efforts, the IRS during fiscal year 2012 was able to prevent the issuance of more than 3 million fraudulent refunds worth more than $20 billion. Despite these efforts, much more work remains on identity theft as well as on overall refund fraud.

The IRS made significant progress last year on international enforcement, specifically in its efforts to combat the practice of illegally hiding assets and income in offshore accounts. They have continued a two-pronged approach: offering a voluntary disclosure program for those who want to come in and get right with the government, while at the same time pursuing tax evaders and the promoters and banks assisting them.

CJBS, LLC is a Chicago based firm that assists its clients with a wide range of accounting and financial issues, protecting and expanding the value of mid-size companies. E-mail me at michael@cjbs.com if you have any questions about this posting or if I may be of assistance in any way.

www.cjbs.com

Tax Policies of the Major Presidential Candidates

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA 

On November 6, 2012, Americans will elect the occupant of the White House for the next four years. As President of the United States, the winner will play a major role shaping tax policy and possibly reforming the entire Tax Code. This briefing describes the tax policies of President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney, with analysis of the potential impact of their tax positions both for the immediate future and for 2014 and beyond.

Impact

Under current law, the Bush-era tax cuts (reduced income tax rates, reduced capital gains/dividends tax rates, and much more) are scheduled to expire after December 31, 2012. Effective January 1, 2013, sequestration under the Budget Control Act of 2011 is scheduled to take effect, with the goal of reducing the Federal budget deficit by nearly $1 trillion over 10 years. In addition, after 2011, a host of so-called tax extenders expired, and after 2012, numerous additional temporary incentives are scheduled to sunset. Moreover, the 2012 payroll tax holiday, which reduced the employee-share of OASDI taxes by two percentage points, is also slated to expire after December 31, 2012. The combination of all these events has many commentators referring to 2013 as “taxmageddon” or the “fiscal cliff.”

The balance between Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate may also change on election day. However, whether either party acquires sufficient political capital, let alone a mandate, on taxes to address short-term issues such as sunsetting provisions and long-term issues like tax reform, remains to be seen.

Caution

Between the date of publication and election day, the positions of the candidates may change. CJBS has based this briefing on what we consider accurate, nonpartisan and unbiased information at the time of publication.

SELECTED POSITIONS
Obama —Individual taxes Romney – Individual taxes
2013 rates higher for higher-income taxpayers only 2013 rates same as 2012 for all taxpayers
Unspecified future date: lower rates for middle/lower income brackets Unspecified future date: 20% income tax rate reduction for all taxpayers
Higher capital gains/dividend rate for higher-income taxpayers Eliminate tax on investment income for AGI below $200,000
$3.5 million estate tax exemption/45% rate Abolish the estate tax
Replace AMT with “Buffett rule” Repeal the AMT
Obama – Corporate Taxes Romney—Corporate Taxes
Reduce maximum corporate tax rate to 28% (25% for manufacturing) Reduce maximum corporate rate to 25%
Maintain worldwide system but with reforms Implement territorial system of international tax
 SELECTED CHANGES IN FEDERAL TAXES: 2012-2013 IF CONGRESS FAILS TO ACT
2012 2013
Top individual tax rate 35% 39.6%
Capital Gains 15%* 20%
Dividends 15%* Taxed at ordinary income rates
Top estate tax rate 35% 55%
Child tax credit $1,000 $500
AOTC Up to $2,500 Unavailable
Code Sec. 179 dollar limit $139,000** $25,000
WOTC for veterans Up to $9,600 Unavailable
Research tax credit Unavailable Unavailable
Wind energy PTC Available Unavailable
*Zero percent for taxpayers in the 10 and 15 percent brackets
**As adjusted for inflation

Individuals: 2014 and Beyond

The basic goal for tax reform on the individual tax level expressed by both candidates is to broaden the tax base and lower tax rates. The candidates agree that tax reform should be revenue neutral. Each candidate also forecasts an improved economy from the savings of a simplified tax system and lower overall rates.

Businesses: 2014 and Beyond

Corporate tax reform, and business tax reform in general, has been raised by several Congressional committees and both candidates over the past year as a necessary long range step in making businesses more innovative and competitive. Based upon the multilayered considerations involved, however, concrete changes are not anticipated until 2014 or later.  Specific issues include:

  • Corporate Tax Rates
  • International Proposals
  • Other Business Reforms

Note: A more comprehensive PDF version of this brief can be seen on the CJBS website at: http://www.cjbs.com/Email/October2012/CJBS_long.pdf

CJBS, LLC is a Chicago based firm that assists its clients with a wide range of accounting and financial issues, protecting and expanding the value of mid-size companies. E-mail me at michael@cjbs.com if you have any questions about this posting or if I may be of assistance in any way.

www.cjbs.com

IRS Expands Its Fresh Start Initiative; Provides Penalty and Installment Payment Relief

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA 

The IRS announced enhancements to its “Fresh Start” initiative by providing higher dollar thresholds for using the streamlined application process for installment agreements and new penalty relief for qualified individuals affected by the economy in 2011. The IRS doubled the dollar threshold amount and increased the maximum term for streamlined installment agreements. Unemployed taxpayers, if they file their returns after April 17th, and the self-employed may be eligible for late payment penalty relief. The agency has updated its online materials about the Fresh Start initiative to reflect the new relief.

Fresh Start

The IRS launched its Fresh Start initiative in early 2011 to help taxpayers affected by the economic slowdown. The IRS modified its lien policies by increasing the lien-filing threshold to $10,000 from $5,000 and by creating a process in which a lien will be released if the taxpayer qualifies for a direct-debit installment agreement. Additionally, it eased and streamlined installment agreements to make them available to more small businesses. Small businesses with an outstanding tax liability balance of $25,000 or less are able to apply for an installment agreement without providing a financial statement and financial verification. Additionally, they could apply for up to 60 months to pay off their outstanding tax liability.

Installment Agreements

Effective immediately, the IRS has raised the threshold amount for using the streamlined installment agreement without having to provide a financial statement or verification from an outstanding tax liability of $25,000 or less to a balance due of $50,000 or less. The agency also increased the maximum term for streamlined installment agreements from the current 60 months to 72 months.

Taxpayers must agree to direct-debit payments. Under the Direct Debit Installment Agreement (DDIA) system, funds are automatically debited from a taxpayer’s bank account for the agreed upon installment amount.

Taxpayers should file Form 9465-F, Installment Agreement Request, but do not need to provide a financial statement, Form 433-A, Collection Information Statement for Wage Earners and Self-Employed Individuals, or Form 433-F, Collection Information Statement. Taxpayers seeking installment agreements exceeding $50,000 will still need to furnish a financial statement. Taxpayers must also pay down their balance due if over $50,000 to take advantage of the expanded streamlined program.

Penalty Relief

Taxpayers normally have until April 17, 2012, to file their 2011 tax returns and pay any tax due. Taxpayers requesting an extension of time to file have until October 15, 2012, to file their 2011 returns. This year, certain unemployed and self-employed taxpayers may be eligible for a six-month grace period on failure-to-pay penalties. Penalty relief is available to the following two groups of taxpayers:

  • Wage earners who have been unemployed at least 30 consecutive days during 2011 or in 2012 up to the April 17th deadline for filing a Federal tax return this year.
  • Self-employed individuals who experienced a 25 percent or greater reduction in business income in 2011 due to the economy.

The taxpayer’s 2011 calendar year balance must not exceed $50,000. Additionally, the taxpayer’s income must not exceed $200,000 if he or she files a joint return or $100,000 if he or she files as single or head of household.

The request for relief from the failure to pay penalty is only available for tax year 2011 and only if all taxes, interest and any other penalties are paid in full by October 15, 2012.

Generally, taxpayers who fail to pay taxes owed by the original due date are subject to a failure to pay penalty of 0.5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month after the due date that the taxes are not paid. The penalty can reach 25 percent of the unpaid taxes. Thus, under this program, taxpayers will have until October 15, 2012, to avoid the penalty.

The IRS is legally required to continue to charge interest at the current annual rate of three percent on the unpaid tax liability. It does not have the authority to waive statutorily imposed interest. Taxpayers should note that the failure to file penalty remains in effect at 5 percent a month with a 25 percent cap.

Offers in Compromise

The IRS also reminded taxpayers that the expanded streamline Offer in Compromise (OIC) program, one of the first Fresh Start Initiative, is still available. The streamlined OIC application is available to more taxpayers, has fewer financial document requirements, and, most importantly to struggling taxpayers, a greater flexibility and more common-sense approach to determining feasibility of collection.

CJBS, LLC is a Chicago based firm that assists its clients with a wide range of accounting and financial issues, protecting and expanding the value of mid-size companies. E-mail me at michael@cjbs.com if you have any questions about this posting or if I may be of assistance in any way.

www.cjbs.com

Lawmakers Set Stage for Tax Reform Debate After April Recess

by Michael W. Blitstein, CPA 

Democrats and Republicans have begun a two week recess with lawmakers returning home to promote very different visions of tax reform. Before recessing, the House passed a Republican budget blueprint calling for individual and business rate cuts, the Ways and Means Committee approved a GOP small business tax package, and the Senate prepared to debate the so-called “Buffett Rule.” Congress also approved a short-term extension of Federal transportation excise taxes and funding.

The small employer incentive in the Senate bill appears to be a good and targeted expansion of the employer credit in the HIRE Act, Adam Lambert, CPA, managing director, Employment Tax Services, Grant Thornton, LLP, New York, told CCH: “The proposed credit has less limitations and hurdles for small businesses to jump.”

GOP budget

The House voted to approve the GOP budget blueprint on March 29th. The GOP budget proposes to cut the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, reduce the individual tax rates to 10 and 25 percent and eliminate unspecified tax preferences.

Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, recently said that he is developing a bipartisan legislative proposal to overhaul corporate taxation and reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate to 25 percent. Portman said his proposal would be revenue-neutral by reducing tax preferences.

Buffett Rule

Democratic leaders have indicated that the Senate will vote on the Buffett Rule after the two week recess. The vote is expected to be on April 16th on the Paying a Fair Share Act, which would subject taxpayers earning over $2 million to a 30 percent minimum federal tax rate. The tax would be phased-in for taxpayers with incomes between $1 million and $2 million.

 Small Businesses

On March 28th, the Ways and Means Committee approved the Small Business Tax Cut Act along party lines. The GOP bill would allow a deduction for 20 percent of qualified domestic business income of the taxpayer for the tax year, or taxable income for the tax year, whichever is less. However, a taxpayer’s deduction for any tax year could not exceed 50 percent of certain W-2 wages of the qualified small business.

In the Senate, the Democratic bill would provide a 10 percent income tax credit on new payroll (through either hiring or increased wages) added in 2012. The maximum increase in eligible wages would be capped at $5 million per employer and the amount of the credit would be capped at $500,000. The bill would also extend 100 percent bonus depreciation through the end of 2012.

Transportation

Before recessing, the House and Senate approved an extension of Federal transportation excise taxes and funding, which President Obama signed on March 30th. The extension was necessary because Congress failed to pass a comprehensive transportation bill before the expiration of transportation tax authority and funding.

The Senate-passed transportation bill has become bogged down in the House. Some House members are opposed to its non-transportation tax provisions

CJBS, LLC is a Chicago based firm that assists its clients with a wide range of accounting and financial issues, protecting and expanding the value of mid-size companies. E-mail me at michael@cjbs.com if you have any questions about this posting or if I may be of assistance in any way.

www.cjbs.com