If You Want to Deduct It, You Have to Pay It!

            Such was the reminder emanating from the Tax Court in its recent decision in the Copeland case.

Mr. and Mrs. Copeland are cash basis taxpayers – like most ordinary folk.  And also like many others in this era of unusually low interest rates, they refinanced their home mortgage in 2010, though at a time by which they had fallen a little behind in their payments, thus owing the lender some past due accumulated interest.  The terms of the refi were such that the accumulated past due interest was rolled into the principal of the new loan.

So, along comes year end and tax return filing time, when the Copelands deducted the accumulated past due interest amount – which wasn’t actually paid, though incorporated into the new loan balance.  Needless to say, the Revenooers didn’t go for this, and neither did the Court.

The Court reminds us all that “it is well settled that a cash basis taxpayer ‘pays’ interest only when he pays cash or its equivalent to his lender.”  The delivery of a promissory note to satisfy an interest obligation, without an accompanying discharge of the note, is a mere promise to pay, not a payment in cash or its equivalent.  “The rationale for this rule,” stated the Court, is that the note may never be paid, and if it is not paid, the taxpayer has parted with nothing more than his promise to pay.”

And get ready for the next round at the foot of the Supremes, regarding Obama’s now infamous “Affordable Care Act (ACA),” otherwise known in polite company as the “Obamacare” law.

The latest issue, which has been decided inconsistently by two Circuit Courts of Appeal, has to do with the validity of Obama’s declaration that “premium tax credits” are available to folks who purchase their health insurance on the Federal exchange, as opposed to an exchange sponsored by a state.  There are only 14 of the latter, and the Feds have stepped in to run Obamacare in the other 36 states.  The problem, however, is that the verbatim of the law (which nobody in Congress actually read before enacting it) only permits the “premium tax credits” as applicable to insurance purchased through one of the state exchanges.

If this one goes the wrong way for Obama, the ACA might just meet its maker, because of the economic and actuarial assumptions which underlie the whole mess.  If those folks in the 36 states who are using the Federal exchange are not going to be allowed to receive their premium tax credit subsidies, the whole mess could come crashing down because a whole bunch of folks won’t be able to afford the cost of the health insurance.

Stay tuned, and keep your fingers crossed.

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, welcomes comments at jquinn@ashleyquinncpas.com, and invites readers to consider his other commentary at http://blog.nolo.com/taxes.

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