Posts Tagged ‘accountants’

IRS Expands Help to Struggling Taxpayers

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

From – AccountingToday.com

The Internal Revenue Service is expanding its Fresh Start initiative to help more unemployed and financially stressed taxpayers with installment agreements and relief from failure-to-file penalties.

Under the new Fresh Start provisions, which expanded on an effort that the IRS began in 2008, certain taxpayers who have been unemployed for 30 days or longer will be able to avoid failure-to-pay penalties. In addition, the IRS said Wednesday it is doubling the dollar threshold for taxpayers eligible for installment agreements to help more people qualify for the program.

“We have an obligation to work with taxpayers who are struggling to make ends meet,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman in a statement. ”This new approach makes sense for taxpayers and for the nation’s tax system, and it’s part of a wider effort we have underway to help struggling taxpayers.”

To assist those taxpayers who are most in need, the IRS will grant a six-month grace period on failure-to-pay penalties to certain wage earners and self-employed individuals. However, the request for an extension of time to pay will result in relief from the failure-to-pay penalty for tax year 2011 only if the tax, interest and any other penalties are fully paid by Oct. 15, 2012.

The penalty relief will be available to two taxpayer categories: wage earners who have been unemployed at least 30 consecutive days during 2011 or in 2012 up to the April 17 deadline for filing a federal tax return this year; and self-employed individuals who experienced a 25 percent or greater reduction in business income in 2011 due to the economy.

The penalty relief is also subject to certain income limits. A taxpayer’s income must not exceed $200,000 if he or she files as married filing jointly, or not exceed $100,000 if he or she files as single or head of household. The penalty relief is also restricted to taxpayers whose calendar year 2011 balance due does not exceed $50,000.

Taxpayers who meet those eligibility criteria will need to complete a new Form 1127A to seek the 2011 penalty relief. The new form is available on IRS.gov/form1127.

The failure-to-pay penalty is generally half of 1 percent per month, with an upper limit of 25 percent. Under the newly expanded Fresh Start relief, taxpayers can avoid that penalty until Oct. 15, 2012, which is six months beyond this year’s filing deadline. However, the IRS noted that it is still legally required to charge interest on unpaid back taxes and does not have the authority to waive this charge, which is currently 3 percent on an annual basis.

Even with the new penalty relief becoming available, the IRS is strongly encouraging taxpayers to file their returns on time by April 17 or file for an extension. Failure-to-file penalties applied to unpaid taxes remain in effect and are generally 5 percent per month, with a 25 percent cap.

Installment Agreements
The new Fresh Start provisions will also provide more taxpayers with the ability to use streamlined installment agreements to catch up on their back taxes.

Effective immediately, the new threshold for using an installment agreement without having to supply the IRS with a financial statement has increased from $25,000 to $50,000, to reduce taxpayer burden.

Taxpayers who owe up to $50,000 in back taxes will now be able to enter into a streamlined agreement with the IRS to stretch out the payment over a series of months or years. The maximum term for streamlined installment agreements has also been raised to 72 months from the current 60-month maximum.

Taxpayers who are seeking installment agreements of over $50,000 will still need to supply the IRS with a Collection Information Statement (Form 433-A or Form 433-F). Taxpayers may also pay down their balance due to $50,000 or less to take advantage of this payment option.

An installment agreement is an option for those who cannot pay their entire tax bills by the due date. While the penalties are reduced, interest continues to accrue on the outstanding balance. To qualify for the new expanded streamlined installment agreement, a taxpayer must agree to monthly direct debit payments.

Taxpayers can set up an installment agreement with the IRS by going to the On-line Payment Agreement page on IRS.gov and following the instructions.

These changes supplement a number of efforts to help struggling taxpayers, including the “Fresh Start” program announced last year. Input from the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council and the IRS National Taxpayer Advocate’s office contributed to the formulation of the Fresh Start program. The initiative includes a variety of changes to help individuals and businesses pay back taxes more easily and with less burden, including the issuance of fewer tax liens.

“Our goal is to help people meet their obligations and get back on their feet financially,” said Shulman.

Offers in Compromise
Under the first round of Fresh Start last year, the IRS expanded a new streamlined Offer in Compromise program to cover a larger group of struggling taxpayers. An offer-in-compromise is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed.

The IRS said it recognizes that many taxpayers are still struggling to pay their bills so the agency has been working to put in place more common-sense changes to the OIC program to more closely reflect real-world situations. For example, the IRS now has more flexibility with financial analysis for determining reasonable collection potential for distressed taxpayers.

Generally, an offer will not be accepted if the IRS believes that the liability can be paid in full as a lump sum or through a payment agreement. The IRS noted that it examines the taxpayer’s income and assets to make a determination regarding the taxpayer’s ability to pay.

A series of eight short videos are available to familiarize taxpayers and practitioners with the IRS collection process. The series “Owe Taxes? Understanding IRS Collection Efforts”, is available on the IRS Web site. For more information please see, IRS Expands Help to Struggling Taxpayers at AccountingToday.com.

‘Taxmageddon’ looms at end of payroll tax holiday

Monday, February 20th, 2012

From – Washingtonpost.com

With Congress voting last week to extend the payroll tax holiday, 160 million workers will be spared an immediate tax hike. But the move leaves them facing an even bigger hit in January, when the holiday ends and the payroll tax joins a long list of levies already set to sharply and abruptly go up.

On Dec. 31, the George W. Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire, raising rates on investment income, estates and gifts, and earnings at all levels. Overnight, the marriage penalty for joint filers will spring back to life, the value of the child credit will drop from $1,000 to $500, and the rate everyone pays on the first $8,700 of wages will jump from 10 percent to 15 percent.

The Social Security payroll tax will pop back up to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent under the deal approved Friday by Congress. And new Medicare taxes enacted as part of President Obama’s health-care initiative will for the first time strike high-income households.

The potential shock to the nation’s pocketbook is so enormous, congressional aides have dubbed it “Taxmageddon.” Some economists say it could push the fragile U.S. economy back into recession, particularly if automatic cuts to federal agencies, also set for January, are permitted to take effect.

Obama and congressional Republicans say they hope to avert the coming blow, which stands to suck roughly $500 billion out of the economy in 2013. But both sides are bracing for another epic showdown in the weeks after the November election, as Democrats prepare to use Taxmageddon to break the partisan impasse over taxes that has blocked action on an array of issues, from modernizing the nation’s infrastructure to taming the national debt.

“I see the framework of a big agreement in the lame-duck [congressional session] to finally put this divisiveness behind us,” said Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), a senior member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. “Obama’s going to have great leverage to get something done.”

Since they took control of the House last year, congressional Republicans have needed nothing from Obama. They were the holdouts, demanding big cuts in federal spending in exchange for helping Obama keep the government open and raise the legal limit on government borrowing, known as the debt ceiling.

But in December, deadlock will cut the other way. Republicans need Obama if they want to prevent one of the biggest tax increases in U.S. history — nearly $5 trillion over the next decade, by official estimates — and block deep cuts to the Pentagon that could be triggered as part of last summer’s debt-ceiling accord.

The tax shock is set to occur after the Nov. 6 election but before the new Congress — and potentially a new president — take office two months later. While the outcome of the contest is likely to color the tax debate, Obama will either be freshly reelected or on his way out and, therefore, free to play hardball with Congress.

White House officials say Obama will not sign another full extension of the Bush tax cuts, as he did in December 2010. Obama is demanding a partial extension that would preserve the cuts for middle-class taxpayers but permit rates to rise on household income over $250,000.

“The president has made clear that he will veto any bill that extends the Bush-era tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent of individuals,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said. “We will continue to fight for tax relief for the middle class and those trying to get in it, while insisting on a policy that asks the wealthiest individuals to pay their fair share.”

Many Republicans and outside analysts say they doubt Obama would make good on his veto threat. Allowing all of the Bush tax cuts to expire would harm middle-class taxpayers, along with the wealthy, and carry grave risks for the economy.

“My forecast is that tax rates are not going to rise for everyone on January 1, 2013,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, who predicted that Taxmageddon, combined with the cuts from the debt-ceiling deal, would slash economic growth by nearly three percentage points next year. “That would be pretty difficult for the economy to overcome.”

Still, Democratic spines may be stiffened by polls showing broad support for their latest tax strategy, which emphasizes higher taxes for millionaires rather than the merely well-off. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 72 percent of Americans support raising taxes on people with incomes over $1 million a year, in line with Obama’s call for a “Buffett Rule” that would require those families to pay an effective tax rate of at least 30 percent.

“The tax issue, for the first time in decades, has flipped so Democrats actually have the high ground,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), the No. 3 Senate Democrat and the man who came up with the idea of raising the income threshold. “Most Americans share our belief that, while the middle class should not pay an increase in taxes, the wealthiest among us should.”

He said Senate Democrats plan to press that advantage in the coming months, staging numerous votes on issues of tax “fairness.” Republican reluctance to target the rich is their “Achilles’ heel” politically, he said.

Schumer predicted that before November, Republicans would drop their opposition to tax increases for millionaires. “Politically, it’s going to be very harmful to say, ‘I’m not for something like the Buffett Rule, when even 60 percent of Republicans are for it,” he said.

Many Republicans maintain that they would never raise taxes on a group the GOP views as small-business owners and “job creators.” Besides, Republican strategists said, they are likely to have bargaining chips of their own in December.

For instance, without congressional action, nearly 30 million families will have to pay the alternative minimum tax, which adds thousands of dollars to the average tax bill, in April 2013. Congress typically protects those people through annual adjustments, and the latest “AMT patch” expired in December.

Another potential GOP tactical advantage: the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner acknowledged in congressional testimony last week that Obama may need Congress to raise the legal limit on borrowing, now set at $16.4 trillion, before the end of the year.

“This idea that they hold all the cards? They don’t,” said a senior Republican Senate aide. “We’ve got more leverage than these crowing Democrats like to think.”

Then there’s the matter of the election itself. With control of both chambers of Congress and the White House all potentially in play Nov. 6, the voters could upend Democrats’ best-laid plans. If Republicans claim the White House and the Senate after an election waged in part over tax policy, demoralized Democrats might agree to extend all the Bush cuts without a fight.

“It depends on who’s president,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. If Obama is reelected and Democrats hold the Senate, he said, “it makes it much more difficult” for Republicans to press for a full extension.

While some Republicans are ready to man the tax barricades, among others the GOP’s anti-tax orthodoxy is starting to crack. Forty Republicans in the House and 32 in the Senate have endorsed the concept of a grand bargain to tackle the national debt, which would require Republicans to raise taxes and Democrats to accept cuts in federal health and retirement benefits. With Obama continuing to call for a grand bargain, that group is working with Democrats behind the scenes to draft a plan able to win bipartisan support.

Meanwhile, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) has said he would take higher taxes over defense cuts. And during unsuccessful debt-reduction talks last year, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), one of the Senate’s most ardent conservatives, drafted a plan that would have included $300 billion in new revenue over a decade.

“I think one of the reasons that you saw Pat Toomey offer what he did is a realization that we’re going to have a $5 trillion tax increase at the end of the year,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). “Hopefully, this year we’ll actually do something constructive and work out something that’s sensible over the long haul.”

For more information please see Taxageddon looms at end of payroll tax holiday at the Washingtonpost.com

New IRS tax gap numbers highlight future audit areas

Monday, February 20th, 2012
From – Beyond415.com

The IRS’ recently released tax gap study, which measures data from 2006 returns, shows that the tax gap has increased from $345 billion dollars a year in 2001 to $450 billion in 2006. The majority of the tax gap (83%) can be attributed to underreporting, which includes understating income and overstating deductions. The IRS has several tools to narrow the underreporting tax gap, including pre-refund notices and return rejections, underreporter inquiries and, most significantly, audits.

The IRS will focus its limited audit resources in the following areas, which have the highest rates of misreporting.

On Jan. 26, the IRS also modified its online payment arrangement (OPA) application at IRS.gov to allow for taxpayers to request installment agreements for balances of up to $50,000. The current application allows for balances of up to $25,000 and payment terms of up to five years.

Information reporting and disclosures

The IRS continues to use tax return disclosures and third-party information to better select taxpayers for audit. Specifically, look for the IRS to use information to address the following issues:

  • Misreporting stock basis: The IRS issued regulations under a new law that will require stock brokers and mutual fund companies to report basis and other information for most stock purchased in 2011 and all stock purchased in 2012 and later. Form 1099-B will report the information to investors and the IRS. The IRS will use the underreporter notice program and audits to correct perceived misreporting in this area.
  • Underreporting business income: Form 1099-K reporting is now required for recipients of payment card transactions or payments through third-party network arrangements, such as PayPal. The IRS expects to receive more than 56 million Forms 1099-K in 2012 that it can match against filed and unfiled tax returns.
  • Uncertain tax position reporting for large corporations: In 2011, certain large corporations were required to start disclosing an uncertain tax position (UTP) on their 2010 tax returns. A UTP is generally defined as a stance on a tax return in which the corporation sets aside a reserve to either pay the higher amount of tax later or litigate the matter in the future. The transparency in reporting a UTP allows the IRS to better select returns for audit.
  • Offshore tax disclosure compliance: The IRS and the Department of Justice are continuing to press foreign financial institutions, especially Swiss banks, to disclose US account holders. The IRS has embarked on its third voluntary disclosure program to allow taxpayers to disclose foreign assets and income.
  • Worker classification: The IRS is conducting a three-year National Research Program study of employment tax noncompliance. The tax gap study concluded that 17% of the tax gap can be attributed to underreporting and underpayment of employment taxes. The main issue is proper worker classification – that is, independent contractor or employee. The IRS knows there is noncompliance in this area. In fact, employment tax audits have a change rate of more than 86%. The IRS has a strategic motivation for reclassifying workers as independent contractors: Form W-2 recipients are 99% compliant, whereas the misreporting percentage of independent contractors and small business owners is 43%.

Small businesses

According to the IRS, small business underreporting makes up 40% of the tax gap, or about $179 billion a year. With a limited budget for 2012, the IRS will continue to focus on this area.

  • Cash-based businesses: Taxpayers who do not receive information statements, such as many small cash-based businesses, are the most noncompliant. An IRS study showed that information reporting and fear of an audit were important factors contributing to voluntary compliance, ranking directly after a taxpayer’s personal integrity. The IRS will continue to focus on retail, web and service businesses in audits to find unreported income.
  • Deduction of S corporation and partnership losses: In 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that 68% of all S corporation returns misreported at least one item. However, more alarming to the IRS were inaccurate S corporation losses taken on shareholder tax returns. The losses were most often inaccurate because of insufficient basis to deduct the loss. The average error per return was $21,600. Because more than 90% of all S corporations use a paid preparer, look for the IRS to leverage tax preparers to correct this misreporting and deter noncompliance by proposing preparer penalties in this area.
  • S corporation shareholder compensation: The same 2009 GAO study also concluded that S corporation shareholders are underpaying themselves to avoid employment taxes on wages. About 13% of S corporations are paying inadequate wage compensation and making payments in the form of distributions that are not subject to self-employment tax (unlike partnership distributions). The median misreporting adjustment for underpaid shareholder compensation was $20,127 – a loss of about $1.5 billion a year in unreported employment taxes. The IRS has already shown an interest in examining more 2011 S corporation returns.

For more information please see New IRS tax gap numbers highlight future audit areas at Beyond415.com

Jobless rate at 3-year low as payrolls surge

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

From – Reuters

The United States created jobs at the fastest pace in nine months in January and the unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped to a near three-year low, giving a boost to President Barack Obama.

Nonfarm payrolls jumped 243,000, the Labor Department said on Friday, as factory jobs grew by the most in a year. The jobless rate fell to 8.3 percent – the lowest since February 2009 – from 8.5 percent in December.

The gain in employment was the largest since April and it far outstripped the 150,000 predicted in a Reuters poll of economists. It hinted at underlying economic strength and lessened chances of further stimulus from the Federal Reserve.

“More pistons in the economic engine have begun to fire, pointing to accelerating economic growth. One of the happiest persons reading this job report is President Obama,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University Channel Islands.

The payroll gains were widespread – from retail to temporary help, and from construction to manufacturing – an indication the recovery was becoming more durable.

A survey of households showed the unemployment rate declined even as new job seekers flooded into the labor force. Economists had expected the jobless rate, which has now fallen 0.8 percentage point since August, to hold steady.

“I think this is a sign that maybe the economy is reaching that holy grail of a self-sustaining economic expansion,” Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh, told Reuters Insider.

The outlook was further brightened by a separate report showing service sector activity quickened last month to a near one-year high. A gauge of service sector employment touched a six-year high.

The fairly upbeat data buoyed stocks on Wall Street, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index hitting an 11-year high. The Dow Jones industrial average rose to a near four year high, while the Standard & Poor’s index extended its 2012 advance to about 7 percent.

U.S. Treasury debt prices tumbled as investors dialed back expectations on Fed easing. The dollar was little changed against a basket of currencies after rising earlier in the session.

The employment report contrasted with a fairly glum assessment of the economy offered by the Fed last week.

Officials at the central bank have been debating whether to buy more bonds – a program dubbed QE3 – to drive interest rates lower. It also raised doubts about the Fed’s expectation that it could hold interest rates near zero at least through late 2014.

“At the very least this scales back QE3 (quantitative easing) odds. The surprisingly persistent decline in the unemployment rate also calls into question how firmly wedded the Fed is to the late-2014 rate guidance,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

Interest rate futures indicated that at least some traders were beginning to lay bets the Fed could move interest rates up in early 2014.

Fed fund futures were pricing in a 38 percent chance of a January 2014 rate hike, up from 29 percent before the report, and the first better than even chance of a rate hike was in April 2014, according to CME Group, where the contracts are traded.

However, economists at most leading Wall Street firms still believe the Fed will undertake another bond-buying program, according to a Reuters poll.

DON’T MUCK IT UP

Obama welcomed the strong jobs report and urged Congress to extend a payroll tax cut and benefits for long-term unemployed, which expire at the end of this month.

“Now is not is not the time for self-inflicted wounds to our economy. I want to send a clear message for Congress. Do not slow down the recovery that we are on, don’t muck it up,” he said at a firehouse in Arlington, Virginia.

Republicans acknowledged the improvement in the labor market, but said the jobless rate was still too high.

“Our economy still isn’t creating jobs the way it should be and that’s why we need a new approach,” said House Speaker John Boehner.

While employment growth has quickened there are no jobs for three out of every four unemployed people and 23.8 million Americans are either out of work or underemployed. The level of employment is still 5.57 million from its pre-recession level.

But steady progress is being made. The economy added 60,000 more jobs in November and December than previously reported.

In addition, average hourly earnings rose four cents, which should help to support spending. The report suggested that expectations of a slowdown in U.S. economic growth in the first quarter were not yet impacting on companies’ hiring decisions.

Employment in the private sector surged 257,000 – the largest gain since April. Government payrolls fell 14,000, the least since September.

U.S. economic growth accelerated to a 2.8 percent annual rate in the final three months of 2011, but it was widely expected to slow as businesses ease back on efforts to rebuild inventories and exports slip amid a likely recession in Europe.

Some economists cautioned that January’s jobs figures could overstate the pulse of the recovery, citing still lackluster consumer confidence, income and spending growth.

While some said the jobless rate could drop below 8 percent by year end, others warned it would likely move up in the near-term as people who had given up the search for a job re-enter the workforce.

“For this to mark an upturn in the labor market, then businesses will have to continue to hire on this scale throughout the winter,” said Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at the Conference Board in New York.

CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM

The unemployment rate has now declined for five straight months, although part of the drop reflects discouraged Americans giving up the hunt for work.

A broad measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have stopped looking and those working only part time but who want more work, slipped to a near three-year low of 15.1 percent in January from 15.2 percent in December.

Revisions to the payrolls figures showed 180,000 more jobs were created last year than previously believed.

Mild winter weather boosted employment last month in construction, which added 21,000 jobs after a 31,000 increase in December. Manufacturing payrolls surged 50,000, the largest gain in a year, after rising 32,000 the prior month.

Overall, the goods-producing sector added 81,000 jobs last month, the most since January 2006.

Transportation and warehousing employment increased 13,100 and courier jobs only fell 1,500. Last month, the Labor Department reported a large increase in courier jobs in December, but revisions showed they actually declined.

Retail employment rose 10,500 after gaining 6,200 in December. Temporary help services jumped 20,100 after rising 8,300, a potentially good sign for future permanent hiring. For more information please see Jobless rate at 3-year as payrolls surge on Reuters.

Tax issues to watch for when working from home

Friday, January 6th, 2012

From – Journal of Accountancy

With unemployment still near the highest rate in decades, it is not surprising to find many people working out of their homes. Now may be a good time to review the criteria for claiming a deduction for the business use of part of a person’s residence.

Your home office must be used in a trade or business activity. You cannot take a deduction if you use your home for a profit-seeking activity that is not a trade or business. For example, if you use part of your home to manage your personal investments, you cannot take a home office deduction.

The home office must be used regularly and exclusively for business. You must regularly use a room or other separately identifiable area of your home only for your business. You do not meet this requirement if you use the area for both business and personal purposes. For example, an attorney who writes legal briefs at the kitchen table cannot claim a home office deduction for the kitchen.

You do not have to meet the exclusive-use test if you use part of your home to store inventory or product samples or as a day care facility.

Your home office must be one of the following:

  • Your principal place of business. Your home office also will qualify as your principal place of business if you use it regularly for administrative activities and you have no other fixed location where you conduct substantial administrative activities; or
  • A place to meet with patients, clients or customers in the normal course of your business. Using your home for occasional meetings and telephone calls is insufficient; or
  • A separate structure not attached to the dwelling unit used for trade or business purposes. The structure does not have to be your principal place of business or a place where you meet patients, clients or customers. For example, John operates a floral shop in town. He grows plants in a greenhouse behind his home and sells them in his shop. He uses the greenhouse exclusively and regularly in his business. Even though it is not his principal place of business, because it is separate from his dwelling, he can deduct the expenses for its use.

If you are an employee, you must use your home office for the convenience of your employer. If the employer does not require the employee to work from home and provides an office or work space elsewhere, a home office is likely to be considered a matter of the employee’s convenience and therefore not deductible.

Even if the taxpayer’s home office meets the above rules, the deduction may be limited. Expenses attributable to business use that you could deduct even if the home were not used for business, such as home mortgage interest and real estate taxes, are fully deductible. Otherwise, home office expenses are deductible only to the extent of gross business income, reduced by other allowable business expenses unrelated to the home; any expenses that are not deductible due to the income limitation may be carried forward.

For more information please see Home Office Deduction at Journal of Accountancy.

Congress Passes Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Extension

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

From – Journal of Accountancy

The reduced 4.2% Social Security tax rate will remain in effect at least through February.

The Senate and the House of Representatives on Friday both agreed by unanimous consent to extend the reduced rate, and President Barack Obama signed the bill—the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 (H.R. 3765)—the same day. The reduced rate had been scheduled to end after Dec. 31.

In the new year, a conference committee of representatives and senators will be appointed to discuss extending the reduced rate for the rest of 2012.

The employee portion of the Social Security tax was reduced from 6.2% of the first $106,800 of wages to  4.2% for 2011 by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, P.L. 111-312. The employer portion remained at 6.2%. Under the law enacted Friday, the 4.2% rate is extended through Feb. 29, 2012.

The act provides special rules for 2012 so that taxpayers with self-employment income and income from employment in excess of $18,350 (one-sixth of the 2012 Social Security wage base of $110,100) do not receive an extra benefit. If a full-year extension of the payroll tax cut is not enacted, taxpayers with income from employment for January and February that exceeds $18,350 will be required to recapture the excess benefit they receive. The recapture provision was included instead of a cap on the amount of employment income because of the compliance difficulties that would cause employers.

Because the extension affects withholding and was enacted only a little over a week before the higher payroll tax was scheduled to go into effect, it is not clear how well employers and payroll companies will be able to handle that change. The IRS on Friday notified employers that they should implement the lower payroll tax rate as soon as possible in 2012, but not later than Jan. 31 (IR-2011-124). The IRS also said that if an employer overwithholds during January, it should make an offsetting adjustment in workers’ pay as soon as possible, but not later than March 31, 2012. The IRS also said that it will issue more guidance on implementing the provisions of the two-month extension, including revised employment tax forms and information for employees who may be subject to the recapture provision.

The act also extends certain unemployment benefits and blocks a cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

Congress’ use of unanimous consent to approve the extension allowed it to send the bill to the president without requiring lawmakers who had left the capital to return to Washington. For more information please visit Congress passes temporary payroll tax cut extension on Journal of Accountancy.

IRS Sets Tax Filing Extension at 5 Months for Partnership, Estate and Trust Returns

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

The Internal Revenue Service has issued final regulations shortening the automatic extension time period for partnership, trust and estate tax returns from six to five months, meaning the returns are due Sept. 15.

The final regulations in TD 9531 put in place a temporary change that was originally promulgated in July 2008.
Those temporary and proposed regulations reduced the automatic six-month extension of time to file to five months for certain pass-through entities, including most partnerships, estates, and certain trusts.

As these pass-through entities were previously allowed to obtain an automatic six-month extension of time to file certain returns under 2005 regulations, the Treasury Department and the IRS requested comments on whether, and how, a five-month extension of time to file for these pass-through entities might increase or reduce overall taxpayer burden. Approximately 70 comments were received in response to the notice of proposed rulemaking.

A public hearing was held on Jan. 13, 2009. Three speakers appeared at the public hearing and commented on the notice of proposed rulemaking.

Pass-through entities used to be entitled to an automatic three-month extension of the time to file certain returns by filing one form, and could also request a discretionary additional three-month extension of time to file by filing a second form. TD 9229 provided temporary regulations that simplified the extension process by allowing most taxpayers, including pass-through entities, to obtain a six-month automatic extension of time to file by filing one single form. In the 2008 final and temporary regulations, TD 9407, the Treasury Department and the IRS finalized rules granting an automatic six-month extension of time to file for non-pass-through entities and granting certain pass-through entities a five-month automatic extension of time to file certain returns. The five-month extension included in the 2008 final and temporary regulations for certain pass-through entities responded to comments received on the 2005 temporary regulations.

Commentators expressed concern that an automatic six-month extension for pass-through entities would unduly burden individual and corporate taxpayers with ownership interests in pass-through entities because individual and corporate taxpayers might not receive information returns from pass-through entities in sufficient time to complete their income tax returns in an accurate and timely manner.

Recognizing the inherent conflict between providing sufficient time for pass-through entities to prepare returns and ensuring that the owners and beneficiaries of pass-through entities timely receive information returns needed to file their own returns, the 2008 proposed and temporary regulations specifically requested comments on whether a shorter filing extension period for pass-through entities might increase or reduce overall taxpayer burden.

The IRS received approximately 70 comments.
Several commentators suggested that the Treasury Department and the IRS should consider changing the filing and extension due dates for individual and corporate tax returns rather than shortening the extension period for pass-through entities. For example, some commentators suggested moving the individual taxpayer return due date to April 30th, or allowing individuals and corporations a seven-month extension of time to file returns. Other commentators suggested moving up the filing date for partnership, trust, and estate taxpayers to March 15th, thereby allowing these entities a full six-month extension of time to file until September 15th so that individual taxpayers with ownership interests in the entities would receive information timely.

However, the IRS said these suggestions are not viable options for a regulation project because the due dates for filing tax returns are determined by statute. Section 6081 of the Tax Code provides that, except in the case of taxpayers who are abroad, the maximum extension of time to file a tax return cannot exceed six months. Accordingly, without legislative action, the Treasury Department and the IRS cannot change the due date for filing tax returns or increase the maximum extension of time to file a tax return for pass-through entities, individuals or corporations.

Although the comments with regard to shortening the automatic extension period for these pass-through entities varied as to time periods, the majority of commentators agreed that a less than six-month extension period for pass-through entities would generally reduce overall taxpayer burden by allowing taxpayers with ownership interests in pass-through entities to receive information in a more timely fashion vis-à-vis preparation of their own individual or corporate income tax returns. There was no clear consensus, however, regarding what the optimal period of extension would be for reducing taxpayer burden.

The Treasury Department and the IRS considered several extension periods for pass-through entities, including a four-month and a five-month extension period, when drafting the proposed and temporary regulations. The Treasury Department and the IRS ultimately decided upon a five-month automatic extension period for the proposed and temporary regulations. Many comments were received supporting the five-month extension period. Some commentators noted, however, that the five-month extension period would not alleviate the burden on corporate taxpayers with ownership interests in pass-through entities. These commentators expressed a concern that even a five-month extension period for these entities would, in most cases, simply align the extended due date for pass-through entities with the extended due date for corporate returns, resulting in the same delay of information to corporate owners of these entities. That delay, the commentators contend, would greatly increase the need for filing amended returns.

Commentators suggested shortening the automatic extension for these entities to less than five months. In opting for the five-month extension, the Treasury Department and the IRS recognize that some corporations with ownership interests in pass-through entities may continue to experience delayed receipt of information needed to complete their own corporate returns. The Treasury Department and the IRS, however, continue to believe that a five-month extension period reduces the overall burden on taxpayers and strikes the most reasonable balance for all affected taxpayers. The five-month extension period allows pass-through entities, including complex and tiered entities, an adequate time for preparation of the required pass-through returns and also ensures the timely and accurate dissemination of information to a large number of taxpayers who require that information for completion of their own income tax returns.

Electing large partnerships required to file Form 1065-B, “U.S. Return of Income for Electing Large Partnerships,” for any taxable year will be allowed an automatic six-month extension of time to file the return, however, because these pass-through entities are statutorily required to furnish Schedules K-1 by March 15, regardless of any extension of time to file the return.

Retirement Financial Plans

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

When hearing about retirement plans, many clients tend to think about the most popular of the bunch: individual retirement accounts (IRAs), 401(k) s or the Roth IRAs.

While each of these certainly has its merits, one common belief is that business owners can’t put away all that much into these plans, which is generally true.

I actually attend spoke at a retirement home two weekends ago in Upper Marlboro, Maryland and retirees were shocked at where else they could have been saving for retirement, and the tax benefits that you can allow yourself under some plans.

Other plans do allow for greater contributions, and that’s where life for some people can get a bit more interesting.

In fact, some plans allow for contributions of up to $49,000, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Some plans such as the ones below:

Plans covered:
• SEP IRAs
• SIMPLE IRAs
• 401(k)s
• Solo 401(k) / Individual-K
• Profit Sharing
• Money Purchase Pension
• Defined Benefit

Intuit Sees Slow Growth in Small Biz Employment

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Intuit’s monthly Small Business Employment Index, covering the period between April 24 and May 23, found that small business employment grew by 0.2 percent in May, equating to an annual growth rate of nearly 2.6 percent.

The index is based on figures from small businesses with fewer than 20 employees that use Intuit Online Payroll.
“The rate of small business job growth is the same as April’s,” said Susan Woodward, the economist who worked with Intuit to create the index. “But because compensation and hours dropped slightly, we can say the market for small business employment is a bit softer than last month.

However, in light of recent tumult in Japan, Greece, and right here at home, it’s a comfort that small business employment continues to improve at all.”

Based on the latest data, the employment growth rate for April was revised slightly down to 0.2 percent, equating to 45,000 jobs added for the month. Since the hiring trend began in October 2009, small businesses have created 685,000 jobs.

Small business hourly employees worked an average of 107.9 hours in May, making for a 24.9-hour workweek. This is a 0.13 percent decrease from the revised April figure of 108.1 hours.

“As small business employers react to economic pressures driven by such factors as rising gas prices and natural disasters, we see the job market soften,” Woodward said. “Employers cut back on employee hours when they have less work for people to do.”

Average monthly pay for all small business employees was $2,624 per month in May. This is a 0.14 percent decline compared to the April revised estimate of $2,628 per month. The equivalent annual wages would be about $31,500 per year, which is part-time work for many small business employees. Roughly 65 percent of small business employees are hourly, and only 27 percent of them worked more than 140 hours for the month in April.

“With small businesses assigning fewer hours to employees, average monthly pay declines too,” said Woodward. “Again, we see small businesses absorbing the shock of major events like natural disasters.”

The Intuit Index also breaks down employment by census divisions and states across the country.

“Job growth, although slow, continued in small businesses across most of the country in May,” said Nora Denzel, senior vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Employee Management Solutions division. “But the East South Central division, where severe flooding along the Mississippi River affected thousands of homes and businesses, showed job losses in May.”

IRS Showcases Small Business Tools

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

To mark Small Business Week, the Internal Revenue Service is highlighting the tax benefits and resources available to small businesses this year.

The IRS is encouraging those who are self-employed or own a small business to take advantage of the tax benefits and learn about various IRS resources that can help them meet their federal tax obligations.

“When you’re running a business, you don’t need to be a tax expert, too. But you do need some basics to stay tax compliant so your business can thrive,” said IRS Commissioner for the Small Business and Self-Employed Division Faris Fink in a statement. “There are many tax credits and deductions currently available. So now is a good time to learn about the tools and services the IRS offers.”

The Small Business Tax Center (www.irs.gov/smallbiz) has links to some of the most useful tools the IRS offers, including the Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop, a downloadable tax calendar, common forms and their instructions and help on everything from how to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) online to how to engage with the IRS in the event of an audit.

The IRS is offering a free, 30-minute webinar called “Small Business Advantage” to show small business owners what’s available to them. The webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, May 18 at 2 p.m. ET. To register and watch, visit IRS.gov and type “webinars” into the search box.

The IRS also urged small businesses to take advantage of the tax-saving opportunities available when they file their 2011 returns. Two key provisions that business owners should consider are the small business health care tax credit and faster write-offs on certain capital expenditures.

The small business health care tax credit aims to help small employers provide health insurance coverage to their employees. It is specifically intended for those who employ low- and moderate-income workers. The credit is designed to encourage both small businesses and small tax-exempt organizations to offer health insurance coverage for the first time or maintain coverage they already have. More information about the credit is available on the Affordable Care Act page on IRS.gov.

Many small businesses that invest in new property and equipment can deduct most or all of these purchases on their 2011 returns. Normally, businesses recover capital investments through annual depreciation deductions spread over several years. But many small businesses can get these deductions sooner during 2011. Claim these tax benefits on Form 4562. Special rules and limitations apply. Details can be found in the instructions to Form 4562, Publication 946 and Revenue Procedure 2011-26.