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Archive for the ‘NewTaxLaws’ Category

IRS QBI Proposed Regs

Posted by taxguru on August 8, 2018

As most people know, the most complicated aspect of the TCJA was the brand new Section 199A deduction for 20% of Qualified Business Income (QBI).  In a perfect example of hasty, sloppy, vague, poorly explained legislation, how this new tax break will work in the real world is a big mystery.  In my 43 years in the tax biz, I can’t recall a more poorly defined bit of tax legislation.

Since the TCJA was signed into law in December, there has been an unending stream of articles, books, webinars and seminars on how we tax pros are supposed to calculate and handle this new QBI deduction.  To say that there are huge discrepancies between how people have been interpreting this new IRC Section 199A is a massive understatement.  Many tax analysts have made the correct assumption that the actual real life application of this new deduction won’t be firmed up for several years, after disputes with IRS over real life tax returns have been adjudicated in court.

The IRS has also been studying this issue and has just today published their first draft of proposed regulations on the QBI deduction.  Contrary to popular belief, what IRS thinks about a certain tax matter doesn’t automatically make it indisputable gospel.  It is just their opinion and taxpayers and their advisors are free to exercise their own differing opinions if there is some valid logic behind them.  With a law as vaguely written as TCJA, there are gigantic opportunities for a slew of different interpretations that will make just as much logical sense as what the IRS has come up with and will in the future.   

IRS Press Release: IRS issues proposed regulations on new 20 percent deduction for passthrough businesses

The proposed regulations184 page PDF

IRS FAQ Page on Section 199A

Tony Nitti’s review of the proposed regs in Forbes

Kiplinger’s 3-Page FAQs from 7/12/2018 (before the release of IRS proposed regs)

Review of proposed regs from TaxSpeaker (nee Jennings Seminars)

Posted in IRS, NewTaxLaws, QBI | Comments Off on IRS QBI Proposed Regs

New Rules For Deducting Meals & Entertainment

Posted by taxguru on April 25, 2018

As I mentioned earlier, the big “Tax Reform” law, aka the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), that was passed and signed into law in late December 2017, was so hastily and sloppily written that it contains several areas that are so vague and contradictory that they have everyone puzzled as to how they should be applied in real life.  One of these is the matter of deducting the costs of business meals and entertainment.  While it will most likely take several years to arrive at a firm and definitive interpretation of the law, we who do reside in the real world don’t have the luxury of waiting that long.  We need to know right now how to advise our clients. 

To that end, the fine folks at TaxCoach have assembled a handy chart comparing the rules for deducting various types of meals and entertainment expenses under the old 2017 tax law versus the new 2018 law.  They shared it with us during today’s weekly online strategy meeting.  Theirs was a PowerPoint file, which I have converted to its basic graphic and text components for this blog post.  The following chart and explanation are the creations of TaxCoach

Click on the chart below for a more legible full size version.

TC-M E(17v18)

Here are some changes you probably won’t like. Like a kitchen food processor, the new law slices, dices, and purees some of the most popular deductions for meal & entertainment expenses. The chart summarizes deductions under the old and new law.

For starters, there’s real speculation that the law may have unintentionally eliminated deductions for the classic “three martini” lunch entirely. Under the old rules, meals with prospects, clients, and referral sources were deductible under the same rules governing entertainment expenses. The new law repeals the umbrella deduction for entertainment expenses , which would appear to include business meals. However, the Senate explanation to their version of the bill, which ultimately made it into law, states that “Taxpayers may still generally deduct 50% of the food and beverage expenses associated with operating their trade or business (e.g., meals consumed by employees on work travel).”

So, which is it? Are traditional business meals still deductible or not? Well, we just don’t know. So until we get some guidance, prudence suggests you should continue to document those expenses, including the business purpose of the meal, to protect your deductions if we get clarification on the question. Better to have your ducks in a row and not need them than to need them and not have them!

Transportation expenses to and from business meals are still deductible, as they’re governed by a different section of the code that remains good today.

Unfortunately, there’s no doubt at all that the old “entertainment” deduction is gone. Under the old rules, you could deduct 50% of the cost of any entertainment expenses that took place directly before or after a a substantial, bona fide discussion directly related to the active conduct of your business. Deductions included the face value of tickets to sporting and theatrical events, food and beverages, parking, taxes, and tips. The new law repeals that deduction, regardless of how much business you discuss at the event or what business entity you operate. Now, none of those expenses are deductible – not even transportation to and from the venue.

The new law also tightens rules for deducting the cost of providing food and beverages to your employees under the “convenience of the employer” or “de minimis” fringe benefit rules. The new law cuts those deductions to just 50%, and eliminates them entirely after 2025.

Posted in meals, NewTaxLaws | Comments Off on New Rules For Deducting Meals & Entertainment

Tax Related Items in Omnibus Spending Bill

Posted by taxguru on March 31, 2018

As has long been common practice by our rulers in DC, they once again voted on and passed legislation that consisted of over 2,000 pages without giving anyone time to read it beforehand, including themselves.  They have been following the advice of their former leader, Nancy Pelosi, that  “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” 

This kind of reckless behavior has long been one of my many pet peeves about how business is conducted in DC and also in State capitols.  My dream is that there could one day be a law forbidding any public official from voting on any legislation until s/he has signed a sworn affidavit, under penalties of perjury just like we have to do on our tax returns (read the fine print above the signature line on your 1040), before they are allowed to cast a vote.  Only then, will they have a real incentive to reduce the length of their legislation to CliffsNotes size instead of matching the combined lengths of War and Peace and Moby Dick

Who among us would want to hire an attorney who advises his/her clients to just sign every document presented to them and then figure out what those documents mean later on down the road?  Those attorneys would be disbarred and sued out of existence for malpractice.  However, as we know all too well, our elected officials are held to completely different (lower) standards than those of us who work and live in the real world.  Just one of the many perks of elected royalty that our founding fathers definitely didn’t intend.

Back to the monstrous spending bill that Trump begrudgingly signed.  I don’t know anyone who has time to wade through it, looking for the tax related items included in its 2,200 pages.  Staying up to date on new tax laws is even tougher than normal at this time of year, as we are in the home stretch towards the April 17 Tax Day deadline.

Luckily, there are dedicated people at the tax publishing companies who have done that research for us and have boiled those 2,200 pages down to the tax related essentials.  Because I use their WebLibrary frequently, once again, the first of these special reports that I have come across is a 13 page PDF from TheTaxBook.  I have posted a copy in one of my online storage drives for your downloading and viewing pleasure.

This may just be the first analysis of the omnibus spending bill by TheTaxBook folks because the very last words on the very last page of this summary are:

Technical Corrections
The new law also amends a number of prior law provisions for technical errors that produced unintended results.

I hope they are planning to give us the specific details on those corrections so that we don’t have to pore over those 2,200 pages ourselves. 

Posted in NewTaxLaws | Comments Off on Tax Related Items in Omnibus Spending Bill

New Tax Law–Informational Brochures

Posted by taxguru on March 19, 2018

As everyone knows who has tried to understand the big Tax Reform law, the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act (TCJA) that was rushed through near the end of December, it is a bit of a mess, to put it mildly.  As is too typical for our rulers of both establishment parties, they were extremely reckless in their writing of the actual legislation.  Last minute modifications in the margins in pen, pencil, and crayon just heightened the absurdity of this process, which has long been compared to the production of sausages.

Conan O’Brien did some parodies of these handwritten tax law details.

Handwritten Additions To The GOP Tax Bill

More Handwritten Additions To The GOP Tax Bill

Even the typed portions of the law were not properly proofread before the law was passed and signed by Trump. New mistakes and ambiguities as to the intentions of our rulers are popping up on almost a daily basis. Supposedly the GOP rulers are trying to pass a technical corrections bill to fix their drafting mistakes, and the Dims are taking their standard obstructionist approach of simply opposing anything the GOP wants; so it’s anyone’s guess whether the mistakes will ever be corrected.  

In the meantime, we in the real world outside of the fantasyland of DC have to do out best to try and comply with the various confusing aspects of the new law.  All of this confusion could be considered as bad or as an opportunity to game the system even more. 

Some of the big areas of confusion that will affect a lot of business owners include:

Whether or not the deduction for all business meals has been killed, or just certain kinds of meals and entertainment.  There are tax experts taking both sides on this.

 

The new deduction for up to 20% of Qualified Business Income (QBI) has been receiving a lot of press and is probably the messiest and hardest to understand part of this entire tax bill.  The attendance at webinars I have been taking on this topic has been huge, compared to presentations on other facets of the new law, illustrating how widespread the confusion is among tax practitioners.  Many tax pros are predicting that ironing out the actual real world application of this portion of the tax law may take several years, as cases make their way to the Tax Court.  Of course, by that time, there could be an entirely new “Tax Reform” law in place, depending on who is in power in DC.

So as of right now, we are all in a learning and adjusting phase.  Rather than try to dig through the entire TCJA in one sitting, some tax publishers have broken it down into more reasonable bite-size pieces.  My favorite tax reference source, TheTaxBook, has taken this approach and has published eight different informational brochures on some of the topics in the TCJA, which I have uploaded to one of my online document storage locations for your downloading and viewing pleasure. 

New Tax Law – This is the first brochure they produced, giving a quick summary of the entire bill.

Individuals

Corporations

Depreciation

Employers

Excess Business Loss & Net Operating Loss

New Business Income Deduction – Covering the new QBI deduction

Retirement & Other Savings Accounts

Posted in NewTaxLaws, taxbook | Comments Off on New Tax Law–Informational Brochures

Retroactive 2017 Extenders

Posted by taxguru on February 13, 2018

How is this for another illustration of how screwed up things are in DC?  As has been covered extensively, our royal rulers passed a huge and very complicated mess of a tax law near the end of December 2017 that takes effect in 2018.  Then, after that, in February of 2018, they passed a law that retroactively, as of January 1, 2017, extends several tax breaks that had expired as of the end of 2016.

It’s like the popular story telling technique used in so many movies and TV shows nowadays, where everything is revealed in strange convoluted order.  Doing things in normal chronological order seems to be too old fashioned for people in these here modern times. 

These extensions are good news for the folks on the TaxBook discussion board, who have been panicking about what to do for their early filing clients and whether or not to charge them for amending returns to pick up the newly restored deductions that they couldn’t claim before now. 

The University of Illinois Tax School has a good eight page PDF summary of this newest retroactive tax law that will affect many 2017 tax returns.  I will post links to other useful explanations and summaries of this newest tax law, as I discover them around the ‘net.

How these retroactive Federal tax changes will affect State tax returns, many of which automatically conform with Federal law, is yet to be seen; but will be certain to add to the confusion of this current Tax Season.

Anyone in DC, Dimm or GOP, who claims that our tax system has been simplified is a 100% certifiable moron.

More info this retroactive legislation:

   From Congress – H.R.1892 – Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

   From TheTaxBook6 page PDF summary

   From The Tax Foundation: Budget Deal Would Retroactively Extend Several Expired Tax Provisions

   From Intuit’s Tax Pro Center: Government Shutdown Averted and Tax Provisions Providing Tax Relief Passed

Posted in NewTaxLaws | Comments Off on Retroactive 2017 Extenders

Checking out the new tax law…

Posted by taxguru on January 31, 2018

I intentionally avoided discussing the new tax law over the past several months as it went back and forth between the House and the Senate and was lied about in the press. Besides the heavy doubts surrounding the ability of the GOP in DC being able to pass any significant legislation, it would have been a big waste of everyone’s time dissecting and analyzing provisions that wouldn’t become part of the actual law.

With all of the promises that this latest reform of the tax code would make everything so simple and fair that doing our taxes would be so much fun, this gave me such a case of deja vu because it exactly mirrored the analogy I have been using for decades to describe how tax laws are created and the changes they undergo as they move through the legislative processes.  The poster I designed decades ago to graphically illustrate this is just as relevant to this latest handiwork by our rulers as it was back in the 1980s.     

Now that a unified bill has been passed and signed into law, it’s time to take some serious looks at exactly what it contains.  Just like our rulers in DC who voted on this bill, those of us in the real world don’t have time to read and try to interpret all 500 or so pages of the actual legislation; so we rely on professionals who have done that and produced easy to follow summaries.

While there is a very good chance that many people will save some money on their tax returns because of the new law, the actual amounts will vary on a case by case basis.  The figures being bandied about by our rulers in DC, as well as the calculated "costs" of the new law have been pulled out of their recta, as are all such predictions from everyone in DC, including the GAO, OMB, CBO, WTF, et al.  They have never been right when it comes to comparing their supposedly detailed calculated predictions with the real world results and there is there is absolutely no reason to expect these latest predictions to be any more accurate.   

One thing is certain.  This new law does not simplify the tax game one bit.  As always, every attempt by our rulers in DC to make taxes so simple that we practitioners will have no more work ends up doing the exact opposite.  It’s another case of increased job security for those of us in the tax profession.  All of these new changes to the Tax Code actually give us many more more opportunities to help clients structure things to save on the amount of taxes they pay. 

There may be some different rules for the Tax Game, but there are still plenty of ways to "game the system," to borrow a favorite phrase of the Left.  Even with robots and other forms of automation taking over various occupations, there is no way any kind of artificial intelligence can replace the tax saving abilities of a skilled and knowledgeable professional tax advisor, especially one who utilizes the tax savings strategies of the TaxCoach system

As I have done in previous years when significant new tax laws have been enacted, I am planning to post links to handy summaries of those laws to share with readers.  If anyone has seen a good summary that they would like to share, please send me a link to it and I will include it here. 

While the pickings are a bit sparse right now, during the traditionally slow holiday season, I do know that most tax research services, including the fine folks at TaxCoach, are planning to release their analyses in the early part of January.

Here is what I have come across so far:

From my favorite tax reference service, The TaxBook19 Page PDF Summary

From Forbes: Tax Geek Tuesday: Making Sense Of The New ‘20% Qualified Business Income Deduction‘ (31 page PDF version)  Thanks to Ohio CPA Dana Stahl for passing this along to me.

From TaxCoach: They are planning a lot of detailed guides, which I will be sharing here.  Here is their first one page summary.  

From RIA (another thanks to Dana Stahl):

Special Study on Business Tax Changes in the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (20 page pdf)

Special Study on Individual Tax Changes in the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (23 page pdf)

Special Study on S corp, partnership & other changes in the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (11 page pdf)

A new two page brochure from The TaxBook.

The National Association of Realtors has published an analysis of the new tax law as it affects Realtors, homeowners and real estate investors.  I learned about this 1/31/18 from the weekly marketing webinar with the TaxCoach group, which has been on the forefront of learning how to utilize the new tax law to help clients minimize their taxes. 

     23 Page PDF downloadable version

     Web Version

From Intuit: Tax Reform Law: What Clients Should Know  (1 page PDF)

Posted in NewTaxLaws | Comments Off on Checking out the new tax law…

Prepaying Taxes

Posted by taxguru on December 28, 2017

The new tax law does include a lot of changes; some good and some not so good.  Remember that the word “Reform” just means to change shape, not always as an improvement for the better.  This latest reformation-reformulation of our taxation policies does, surprisingly, eliminate and reduce a lot of deductions that have been around at least since many years before I started preparing tax returns in 1975. 

I don’t have time to discuss too many of the changes right now, as I have been busy doing a lot of year-end consulting with clients.  However one big change does need to be covered ASAP.  In fact, the following is based on some emails I sent to clients earlier today, who had asked about the idea of prepaying their property taxes before the end of this month.

As has been widely publicized, the new tax law, effective for 2018, puts a $10,000 cap on Schedule A deductions for State and Local taxes, including property taxes on personal use property.  There is no such limit on deducting taxes on business or rental properties, which are shown on different schedules with the 1040.

For those in high tax states such as Calif, this upcoming limit does have many people choosing to prepay some of their State and Local taxes before the end of 2017 in order to claim them without the limit on their deductibility.

There are special rules for deducting property taxes that do prevent too much prepayment.  The taxes paid and deducted have to be actually assessed and thus a true current liability. In Calif, the current year 2017/18 taxes are payable half by October 10, 2017 and the other half by April 10, 2018.  This means you can send the county the money for the 4/10/18 installment by 12/31/17 and deduct it on your 2017 1040. 

This is also the case for other states that allow their property taxes to be paid in multiple payments, such as Oklahoma that has due dates of December 31, 2017 and March 31, 2018 for their2017/18 tax assessments.   

Since taxes for the 2018/19 and future years have not yet been assessed, any payments sent in for those years are not legally deductible.  This has been such a hot topic that IRS issued a press release on this issue yesterday.

IRS Advisory: Prepaid Real Property Taxes May Be Deductible in 2017 if Assessed and Paid in 2017

Income Taxes

While the above discussion focuses on property taxes, it also applies to payments of State income taxes, which are included in the new $10,000 limit.  The final 2017 estimated tax payments for both IRS and the States are technically due January 16, 2018.  For the past few months, with the threat of this new limit looming, I have been advising clients to send in their final 2017 ES payment by 12/31/17 in order to definitely be able to claim it.  Since Federal income tax payments are not deductible anywhere, making that final payment for 2017 in December or January makes absolutely no difference of any kind.

Just as with the issue of timing of a deduction for property taxes, a similar concept applies to State income tax payments.  Since 2017 is almost over and income taxes on what you earned are already accruing, you are allowed to deduct payments for your 2017 State income taxes.  You re not technically allowed to prepay in 2017 for what you expect your 2018 income taxes to be because as of 12/31/17, you have no legal liability for any 2018 income taxes. 

However there is an easy way around this little technicality if you are desperate to maximize your 2017 State income tax deduction.  You could send your State a huge check postmarked by 12/31/17 for thousands more than your 2017 taxes could possibly be and have it all applied to your 2017 account with the State.  Later on, when you file your 2017 State income tax return, have the overpayment rolled over to your 2018 account. 

I should point out that this discussion also applies to those folks who are lucky enough to reside in one of the cities that require their residents to pay separate City income taxes.

 

 

Taxes Are Not Donations

While this limit on deducting State and Local taxes was being debated over the past few months, some people suggested just claiming those payments as charitable donations on their tax returns as a way to avoid the $10,000 limit.  That idea would not fly for some very basic reasons. 

While it is true that governments do qualify as charities and deductions can be taken for voluntary contributions paid to them, that isn’t how tax payments work.  First is the fact that a legitimate deductible charitable donation has to be completely voluntary with no strings attached and nothing of value can be received back in return for the payment.  Nobody can say with a straight face that paying property and income taxes is in any way voluntary, or that nothing is received in return for those payments.  Paying those taxes allows you to keep the property and stay out of prison. Those are quite valuable things you receive in exchange for the “contributions” paid to the State and County.  Anyone who tries that trick will hasten their trip to the hoosegow. 

 

TaxCoach Software: Are you giving your clients what they really want?

Posted in Deductions, NewTaxLaws, PropertyTax, StateTaxes | Comments Off on Prepaying Taxes

Better late than never

Posted by taxguru on December 29, 2015

Despite many predictions that it would be impossible for the current do-nothing Congress to get an extender bill up to the White House before the end if the year, they seemed to have done it, with less than two weeks to spare. 

Considering that many of the provisions are retroactive to the beginning of 2015, it doesn’t give calendar year taxpayers much time to take advantage of the newly restored tax breaks.  With the maximum Section 179 allowance increasing from $25,000 to $500,000, there will most likely be a lot of year-end purchases of business vehicles and equipment.  Remember that the newly acquired assets have to be placed into service before January 1, 2016 in order to be deducted on the 2015 tax return.  Just paying for them by December 31 isn’t good enough.

As I come across them, I will be posting links to as much useful coverage of this newly passed legislation as I can find.

From Tax Foundation: The Twelve Most Important Provisions in the Latest Tax Bill

SECTION BY SECTION SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED “PROTECTING AMERICANS FROM TAX HIKES ACT OF 2015" – 20 page PDF

From AICPA: Congress Passes Extender and Other Tax Legislation

From Spidell:  2015-2016 extenders and new tax laws

From CCH: House Passes Extenders Package

From Congress: Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015

From Western CPE: 2015 Extender Bill Passed By Congress

Posted in NewTaxLaws | Comments Off on Better late than never

New IRS Due Dates

Posted by taxguru on August 24, 2015

As is often the case with the bozos in Congress, they love to slip various tax items into unrelated legislation.  Such was the case with the recently signed Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015. 

As part of this new law, some long running due dates for certain kinds of tax returns will be changing in the next year. 

The ones that will likely be most widely felt among the practitioner community are:

Partnerships – Form 1065 (or an extension request) will be due a month earlier than previously, March 15 instead of April 15.  This is no surprise and continues a recent trend to give some distance in time between the due dates of tax returns for pass-through entities and the due dates for individual tax returns (1040s) so that we aren’t scrambling to do all of the tax returns on the same day.   

C Corporations – Form 1120 (or an extension request) will be due four and a half months after the end of the tax year, instead of the long standing three and a half month timeframe.  However, there is an odd exception in the law just for corporations with tax years ending June 30.  Their returns (or extensions) will still be due by September 15, three and a half months after the end of the year.  As a long time believer and advocate of a non-December tax year for corporations, that will mean a lot of due date changes for our clients, except for the several June 30 ones.

 

Longer Statute of Limitations (SOL)
This highway bill also modified the definition of “Substantial Understatement of Income” that allows IRS an SOL of six years to audit tax returns if the cost bases of assets that were sold were overstated. 

I am often asked how long tax related records need to be retained.  This new provision extends the time you should keep records of assets that were sold to at least six years after the tax returns reporting their sales were filed with IRS.

 

Forbes had some good recaps of these new changes:

IRS Audit Period Just Doubled From Three Years To Six Years For Many

Many IRS Tax Return Due Dates Just Changed, FBARs Too

 

For a number of years now, my favorite tax reference source has been The TaxBook.  They recently posted this very informative three page PDF recap of the tax aspects of this highway bill. 

Highway Bill Contains New Tax Law Changes

TaxCoach Software: Are you giving your clients what they really want?

Posted in Due Dates, NewTaxLaws | Comments Off on New IRS Due Dates

New Taxing Schemes

Posted by taxguru on July 3, 2015

Oregon launches program to tax drivers by the mile – Using Big Brother tracking devices to monitor every place we go. That can’t result in anything but more problems.

.

The Windy City is enacting a 9 percent tax on streaming services. – Starting in the Socialist Utopia of Chicago, and soon to spread to others.

Posted in NewTaxLaws | Comments Off on New Taxing Schemes