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On December 20, President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan, year-end government spending and tax package, just hours before federal funding was set to expire. Trump's signature on the over 2,000-page spending package avoided a government shutdown.


The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) ( P.L. 111-148) individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power. However, the central question of whether the rest of the ACA remains valid after Congress removed the penalty for not having health insurance remained unanswered. Instead, the case was sent back to the district court to reconsider how much of the ACA could survive without the individual mandate penalty.


Proposed qualified opportunity zone regulations issued on October 29, 2018 ( REG-115420-18) and May 1, 2019 ( REG-120186-18) under Code Sec. 1400Z-2 have been finalized with modifications. The regulations. which were issued in a 550 page document, are comprehensive.


The IRS has issued final regulations that provide guidance on transfers of appreciated property by U.S. persons to partnerships with foreign partners related to the transferor. Specifically, the regulations override the general nonrecognition rule under Code Sec. 721(a) unless the partnership adopts the remedial allocation method and certain other requirements are satisfied. The regulations affect U.S. partners in domestic or foreign partnerships.


The IRS has released Publication 5382, "Internal Revenue Service Progress Update / Fiscal Year 2019—Putting Taxpayers First." This new annual report describes accomplishments across the agency, and highlights the work of IRS employees during the past year. It covers a variety of taxpayer service efforts, including development of the new Taxpayer Withholding Estimator, as well as operations support efforts on areas involving information technology modernization, human capital office initiatives, and others.


Bridget Roberts, the Acting National Taxpayer Advocate, released her 2019 Annual Report to Congress. The report discusses the key challenges facing the IRS regarding the implementation of the Taxpayer First Act, inadequate taxpayer service and limited funding of the agency. Further, Roberts released the third edition of the National Taxpayer Advocate’s "Purple Book," which presents 58 legislative recommendations designed to strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration.


The IRS has modified the applicability dates for proposed regulations under Code Sec. 382 that were issued with NPRM REG-125710-18, September 10, 2019 (2019 proposed regulations). The IRS is withdrawing the text of the proposed applicability dates, and proposing revised applicability dates. The newly issued proposed rules would also provide transition relief.


The Treasury and IRS have issued final regulations on the due diligence and reporting rules for persons making certain U.S. source payments to foreign persons. Guidance is also provided on reporting by foreign financial institutions on U.S. accounts. The regulations are effective on the date the regulations are published in the Federal Register.


Taxpayers have been provided with additional guidance for complying with the Code Sec. 871(m) regulations on dividend equivalent payments for 2021, 2022, and 2023. The Treasury Department and the IRS intend to amend the regulations to delay the effective/applicability date of certain rules. Further, the phase-in period provided in Notice 2018-762, I.R.B. 2018-40, 522, has been extended.


A taxpayer changing its method of accounting must either request advance IRS consent or apply for automatic IRS consent on Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method, to make the change. Automatic consent is more favorable because the taxpayer can request the change on its return filed after the year it makes the change. A taxpayer requesting automatic consent must submit Form 3115 by the due date of the return for the year of the change. Recent IRS actions indicate that a taxpayer who fails to make a timely request for a change of accounting method may qualify for an extension of time to request the change.


Responding to growing concerns over the scope of tax-related identity theft, the House has approved legislation to give victims more information about the crime. The House also took up a bill expanding disclosure of taxpayer information in cases involving missing children and the Ways and Means Committee approved a bill impacting disclosures by exempt organizations.


Passage of the “Tax Extenders” undeniably provided one of the major headlines – and tax benefits – to come out of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), signed into law on December 18, 2015. Although these tax extenders (over 50 of them in all) were largely made retroactive to January 1, 2015, valuable enhancements to some of these tax benefits were not made retroactive. Rather, these enhancements were made effective only starting January 1, 2016. As a result, individuals and businesses alike should treat these enhancements as brand-new tax breaks, taking a close look at whether one or several of them may apply. Here’s a list to consider as 2016 tax planning gets underway now that tax filing-season has ended.


Under Code Sec. 1031, a taxpayer can make a tax-free exchange of property held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment. The exchange must be made for other property that the taxpayer will continue to use in a trade or business or for investment. Ordinarily, the exchange is made directly with another taxpayer who holds like-kind property. For example, an investor in real estate may exchange a building with another person who also owns real estate for use in a trade or business or for investment.


The IRS always urges taxpayers to pay their current tax liabilities when due, to avoid interest and penalties. Taxpayers who can’t pay the full amount are urged to pay as much as they can, for the same reason. But some taxpayers cannot pay their full tax liability by the normal April 15 deadline (April 18th in 2016 because of the intersection of a weekend and a District of Columbia holiday).


Under Code Sec. 469, passive losses can only be used to offset passive income. Taxpayers who have losses from a passive activity cannot use losses from a passive activity to offset nonpassive income, such as wages. A passive activity generally is an activity in which a taxpayer does not “materially participate.” Passive losses that cannot be deducted must be carried over to a future year, where they can offset newly generated passive income.


An S election is made by a small business corporation with the consent of its shareholders. Both the corporation and its shareholders must precisely follow the S election requirements or the election will not be valid.


The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), enacted in 2010, requires certain U.S. taxpayers to report their interests in specified foreign financial assets.  The reporting requirement may apply if the assets have an aggregate value exceeding certain thresholds. The IRS has released Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, for this reporting requirement under FATCA.