Revenooers Comin’ After High Earners!

And the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) doesn’t like the IRS’ “MO”.

In its most recent audit report, last week, TIGTA notes that IRS has taken steps to improve its audit coverage of high-income taxpayers.  But it should reevaluate whether the threshold of $200,000 for its High-Income and High-Wealth strategy results in an efficient allocation of audit resources.

Translation:  “Doesn’t everybody make $200,000 or more each year?”

TIGTA says that because IRS is devoting more audit resources to these taxpayers, it is important to know at what level of income or wealth taxpayers tend to begin establishing complex financial holdings that are at greater risk for noncompliance with the law.

IRS’ High-Income and High-Wealth strategy devotes nearly 50 percent of its high-income audits to taxpayers earning $200,000 to $399,999, whose tax returns potentially present the least productivity of all high-income taxpayers, says TIGTA.

“The IRS should reevaluate the income level it uses to identify taxpayers for its High-Income and High-Wealth strategy so that it can better allocate audit resources to the most significant audit risks,” says J. Russell George, TIGTA major domo.

The IRS Large Business and International Division (LB&I) established the Global High Wealth (GHW) Industry, which takes a comprehensive approach in auditing high-income taxpayers by extending audits beyond the individual tax return to the entities which these taxpayers control.

But IRS is using resources from three other LB&I industries to assist with auditing GHW cases, though no evaluation has been made regarding the impact of that decision on those other industries.  Further – and importantly – IRS cannot quantify its GHW audit performance because of limitations of IRS audit information systems, and GHW has not implemented a quality review process for its audits.

And you can thank Obama for recently eliminating a process (the “file and suspend method” of claiming Social Security benefits) via recent legislation which will nix this strategy used by married folk to maximize their lifetime benefits.

Under this approach, a higher earning spouse would claim benefits at his full retirement age (presently 66) but suspend the benefits until a later date allowing the Social Security credits to continue to grow.  The lower earning spouse would then claim benefits based on the higher earning spouse’s earnings record, which would be more than the benefits based on his or her own earnings record.  The new rules eliminate this opportunity for claims filed after April 30, 2016.

CONSULT YOUR TAX ADVISOR – This article contains general information about various tax matters.  You should consult your CPA regarding the implications to your own particular situation.

Jeff Quinn, the author of this article, is a shareholder in Ashley Quinn, CPAs and Consultants, Ltd., with offices in Incline Village and Reno.  He welcomes comments at jquinn@ashleyquinncpas.com.

Don’t Forget to Sign the Darned Return!

So you go through all the hassle of getting your records together and getting that return assembled, but at the eleventh hour, you send that joint return to the Revenooers without having your spouse sign the darned thing.

Bad Karma – as learned the hard way by taxpayers Mr. and Mrs. Reifler, who the Tax Court recently slammed down hard as technically not having actually filed a timely return at all in the circumstances!

Mr. and Mrs. Reifler, you see, were married folk who even employed an accountant to prepare their returns.  Mr. Reifler had significant business experience.  For tax year 2000, Mr. Reifler signed the return and left it for the Mrs. to sign but she didn’t – for whatever reason.  Mr. Reifler didn’t notice the omission when he mailed it to IRS before the October 15, 2001 extended due date.

IRS and the taxpayers both acknowledged that Mrs. Reifler relied on her hubby to handle the family financial and tax matters, including preparation and filing of the tax returns, and that she, indeed, intended to file a joint return for 2000.

In any case, the IRS Service Center returned the 2000 return to the taxpayers because of the missing signature (as is the usual procedure in our experience) though the taxpayers claim there was no explanatory information from the IRS regarding why they sent the package back.  Mr. Reifler thought nothing of it because he had requested copies of his tax returns from time to time from IRS for various business reasons.  But unfortunately, upon receipt of the returned return, the taxpayers did not subsequently send the original return back to IRS with the requisite signature.

Sooooo, in 2002, IRS issued a delinquency notice to the taxpayers, informing them that the 2000 return had not actually been received in Uncle Sam’s grubby hands, whereupon the taxpayers then did both sign and return a second copy of their 1040.  And it was this second copy which IRS officially accepted as the originally filed 2000 return – albeit delinquent at this point.

The ensuing beef between the taxpayers and the IRS led the parties to an eventual day in the Tax Court, where the taxpayers made two arguments in support of their claim that the original 2000 return (without Mrs.’ Signature) was validly and timely filed.

  • They first argued the so-called “substantial compliance doctrine,” claiming that their tax return need not have been “perfect” to be valid, as sanctioned by the Supreme Court previously in the Zellerbach Paper Co. case, noting that if a return “purports to be a return, is sworn to as such…and evinces an honest and genuine endeavor to satisfy the law,” it will be treated as a return.
  • The second argument advanced by the Reiflers was based on the so-called “tacit consent doctrine,” premised on the notion that absent Mrs. R’s signature, they truly intended to file a joint tax return.

“No Bueno” concluded the Tax Court on both counts.  And indeed, adding insult to injury as

usually happens, the Court also found that the taxpayers did not exercise ordinary business care and prudence in handling the original 2000 return when IRS sent it back, therefore concluding that the failure to file penalty was applicable!

Moral of the story?  Make sure that both hubby and wifey sign before they seal and deliver!

CONSULT YOUR TAX ADVISOR – This article contains general information about various tax matters.  You should consult your CPA regarding the implications to your own particular situation.

Jeff Quinn, the author of this article, is a shareholder in Ashley Quinn, CPAs and Consultants, Ltd., with offices in Incline Village and Reno.  He welcomes comments at jquinn@ashleyquinncpas.com.

Busy September Tax Court

The Tax Court was quite busy in September – particularly in hammering taxpayers with a “nice try, but no cigar” conclusion to their cases.  Three in particular:

  • In Ronald C. Fish v. Commissioner, the taxpayer tried one which has been pled to us on many occasions by beleaguered taxpayers:  deduction on the 1040 of losses passed through from partnership investments owned by his IRA.  The taxpayer in this case argued that (in his view) an IRA has “all the attributes of a grantor trust and is therefore a pass through entity which makes all items of income, deduction and credit treated as belonging…(to him) and reportable on …(his) individual tax return.”  Of course, IRS and the Tax Court did not agree, because clearly transactions occurring within the IRA do not result in taxable events which are reported on the holder’s individual income tax return.  The law is quite clear that only distributions from and payments out of an IRA trigger income tax consequences for the payee or distribute.  And if you think about it, the taxpayer eventually will get the benefit of the losses – in the form of less dough available within the IRA to distribute to him as retirement income.  It’s just that simple.
  • And then we have Donald L. Dunnigan v. Commissioner which was another “nice try” on the taxpayer’s part, but to no avail.  Seems that Dunnigan obtained a business line of credit to help support his sole proprietorship appraisal business, and he drew $50,000 down on the line over time.  In 2009, he was unable to repay the borrowed funds in full, negotiating with the lender to settle the obligation for about $15 grand.  The lender ultimately issued a Form 1099-C at year end, reporting the $35 grand as cancellation of indebtedness income, of course, but erroneously checked the box on the form indicating that the taxpayer was not “personally liable” for the debt repayment.  So, in preparing his income tax return for the year, Dunnigan improperly relied on the incorrect 1099-C, in addition to concluding that he was exonerated from reporting the income on some theory of “hardship” (due to a medical condition).  Unfortunately, neither claim succeeded, in that the incorrect 1099-C was irrelevant, given the actual legal agreement which the taxpayer had signed in the first place, and further, the law does not provide any form of “hardship” exception for health reasons relative to this kind of tax event.
  • Finally, in Charles Okonkwo, et ux. v. Commissioner, IRS slapped the taxpayers for trying to deduct a rental loss associated with a house rented to their daughter for less than a “fair market value” rental rate.  The Internal Revenue Code is crystal clear in stating that a dwelling unit is used as a residence of the taxpayers (and thus, by definition, a personal use property and not a rental property) if the taxpayers or a family member uses it for personal purposes for more than a defined period of time and/or does not pay fair market value rent.  Thus, daughter’s use of the residence in question was personal and is attributed to the taxpayers themselves.  Result:  no allowable rental loss!

CONSULT YOUR TAX ADVISOR – This article contains general information about various tax matters.  You should consult your CPA regarding the implications to your own particular situation.  Jeff Quinn, the author of this article, is a shareholder in Ashley Quinn, CPAs and Consultants, Ltd., with offices in Incline Village and Reno.  He may be reached at 831-7288, and welcomes comments at jquinn@ashleyquinncpas.com.

“Kiddie Tax” Nuisance

Recall that some dependent children must file a Form 8615 with their tax return, and subject unearned (generally, investment) income to income taxation at his parents’ tax rate.  The form must be filed for any child who meets all of the following conditions:

  • The child had more than $2,000 of unearned income.
  • The child is required to file a tax return.
  • The child either was under age 18 at the end of the tax year, or was age 18 at the end of the year and did not have earned income that provided more than half of his support, or was a full-time student at least age 19 and under age 24 at year end and did not have earned income that provided more than half of his support.
  • At least one of the child’s parents was alive at the end of the year.
  • The child does not file a joint return.Read More

Importance Of Keeping IRS Informed Of Your Current Address

 

So you think you can move around and keep one step ahead of the IRS, thus avoiding receipt of their occasional nasty grams which most of us get at one time or another.

But it’s not that simple, and you keep the Revenooers in the dark at your peril!

The Internal Revenue Code repeatedly uses the phrase “last known address” which is an important concept with respect to your ability to receive refunds, as well as a variety of notices and documents which IRS may send you from time to time.  And now hear this:  when a document is sent to a taxpayer’s “last known address,” it is legally effective even if the taxpayer never receives it!Read More

So You Want To Convert That Second Home To A Rental

 

A recent decision of the Tax Court (in the Redisch case) reminds us of how a bloke has to act with respect to the “conversion” of that vacation home to a rental property, entitling the taxpayer to the potential tax benefits of that rental loss, and the possibility of even deducting a loss upon the eventual sale of the property.

The Court found the facts in this case fairly cut and dried, in concluding that these folks did not convert their Florida vacation home to property “held for the production of income”.  Their rental effort wasn’t serious and the property was actually never rented.  As a result, they couldn’t deduct their rental expenses or claim a loss on the sale.Read More