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Tax Briefing(s)

As the new administration and Congress get to work, tax reform is high on the agenda. Although legislative language has not been yet released, statements from tax writers in Congress shed some light on various proposals.


The filing season is the most active time of the year for tax scams. These scams take every shape and form, ranging from telephone calls to individuals to sophisticated schemes targeting employers and businesses. The goal of all these scams is identity theft. Using legitimate identities of unsuspecting individuals allows criminals to file fraudulent returns and claim bogus refunds.


The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), in its recently released final report for the 2016 filing season, highlighted the IRS’s response to what was good and what was bad about its performance. It signals what the IRS is doing during the 2017 filing season currently underway to improve things (TIGTA, Ref. No. 2017-40-014). Nevertheless, although the IRS had improved in a number of areas with respect to the 2016 filing season, TIGTA reports that the agency continues to be plagued by numerous challenges.


The first step is to determine if you qualify for the federal fuel tax credit. The IRS has uncovered significant fraud associated with the fuel tax credit and is watching for fraudulent claims. The credit is not available to most taxpayers but only to qualified taxpayers, such as taxpayers engaged in farming. However, some ineligible taxpayers claim the credit in order to inflate their refunds. Fuel tax credit fraud can result in a penalty of $5,000.


Tax-related identity theft spikes during the filing season. Many taxpayers discover for the first time that they are victims of identity theft when they receive a letter from the IRS.


As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important federal tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of March 2017.


Before the fast-approaching new year, it’s important to take some time and reflect on year-end tax planning. The weeks pass quickly and the arrival of January 1, 2015 will close the doors to some tax planning strategies and opportunities. Fortunately, there is still time for a careful review of your year-end tax planning strategy.


Taxpayers will receive some modest relief for the 2015 tax year, thanks to the mandatory annual inflation-adjustments provided under the Tax Code. When there is inflation, indexing of brackets lowers tax bills by including more of people’s incomes in lower brackets—for example by placing taxpayers’ income in the existing 15-percent bracket, rather than the existing 25-percent bracket.


As January 1, 2015 draws closer, many employers are gearing up for the “employer mandate” under the Affordable Care Act. For 2015, there is special transition relief for mid-size employers. Small employers (employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees) are always exempt from the employer mandate and related employer reporting.


Every year the IRS publishes a list of projects that are currently on its agenda. For example, the IRS may indicate through this list that it is working on a new set of procedures relating to claiming business expenses. The new 2014–2015 IRS Priority Guidance Plan, just released this September, has indicated that IRS is working on guidance relating to whether employer-provided meals offered on company premises are taxable as income to the employee. In the Priority Guidance Plan’s Employee Benefits Section B.3, the IRS listed: "Guidance under §§119 and 132 regarding employer-provided meals" in its list of projects for the upcoming year.


Under the modified accelerated cost recovery system (MACRS) (which is more commonly known as depreciation), a half-year timing (i.e., averaging) convention generally applies to the depreciation deduction for most assets during anytime within the year in which they are purchased. That is, whether you purchase a business asset in January or in December, it’s treated for depreciation purposes as being purchased on July 1st. However, a taxpayer who places more than 40 percent of its depreciable property (excluding residential rental property and nonresidential real property) into service during the last three months of the tax year must use a mid-quarter convention – decidedly less advantageous. Because of the 40 percent rule, the purchase of a vehicle or other equipment in the last month of the tax year might, in itself, trigger imposition of the mid-quarter convention. Businesses should keep in mind the 40 percent rule especially for year-end tax planning purposes.


As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of October 2014.


Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, several key requirements for employers have been delayed, including reporting of health coverage offered to employees, known as Code Sec. 6056 reporting. As 2015 nears, and the prospects of further delay appear unlikely, employers and the IRS are preparing for the filing of these new information returns.


As the 2015 filing season approaches, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is bracing taxpayers for more reductions in customer service unless the agency receives more funding. According to Koskinen, the IRS is facing its biggest challenge in recent years. Koskinen, who spoke at the annual conference of the National Society of Accountants in August, also predicted that taxpayers will have to wait until after the November elections to learn the fate of many popular but expired tax incentives.


Life expectancies for many Americans have increased to such an extent that most taxpayers who retire at age 65 expect to live for another 20 years or more. Several years ago, a number of insurance companies began to offer a new financial product, often called the longevity annuity or deferred income annuity, which requires upfront payment of a premium in exchange for a guarantee of a certain amount of fixed income starting after the purchaser reaches age 80 or 85. Despite the wisdom behind the longevity annuity, this new type of product did not sell especially well, principally for tax reasons. These roadblocks, however, have largely been removed by new regulations.