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As lawmakers return to work after their August recess, Hurricane Harvey has increased expectations on Congress to quickly pass disaster-relief tax breaks. September is also expected to bring Congressional hearings on tax reform and possibly the unveiling of tax reform legislation. At the same time, lawmakers must address the federal government’s budget, including the IRS.


Parents incur a variety of expenses associated with children. As a general rule, personal expenditures are not deductible. However, there are several deductions and credits that help defray some of the costs associated with raising children, including some costs related to education. Some of the most common deductions and credits related to minors are the dependency exemption, the child tax credit, and the dependent care credit. Also not to be overlooked are tax-sheltered savings plans used for education, such as the Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).


Two recent court cases indicate that, although use of a conservation easement to gain a charitable deduction must continue to be arranged with care, some flexibility in determining ultimate deductibility may be beginning to be easier to come by. The IRS had been winning a string of cases that affirmed its strict interpretation of Internal Revenue Code Section 170 on conservation easement. The two latest judicial opinions, however, help give taxpayers some much-needed leeway in proving that the rules were followed, keeping in mind that Congress wanted to encourage conservation easements rather than have its rules interpreted so strictly that they thwart that purpose.


A partnership is created when persons join together with the intent to conduct unincorporated venture and share profits. Intent is determined from facts and circumstances, including the division of profits and losses, the ownership of capital, the conduct of parties, and whether a written agreement exists. Despite such nuances in the process, however, distinguishing the existence of a partnership from other joint investments or ventures is often critical in determining tax liability and reporting obligations.


Gross income is taxed to the individual who earns it or to owner of property that generates the income. Under the so-called “assignment of income doctrine,” a taxpayer may not avoid tax by assigning the right to income to another.


As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important federal tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of September 2017.


The IRS has made several changes to its examination (aka, "audit") functions that are designed to expedite the process and relieve some burden on business taxpayers. These include the expansion of the Fast Track Settlement (FTS) program for small business, self-employed (SB/SE) taxpayers and a new process for issuing information document requests (IDRs) in large case audits.


The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) (E.S. Windsor, 2013-2 ustc ¶50,400) generated many questions about federal taxes and same-sex couples. The IRS has responded with a general rule recognizing same-sex marriages nationwide. The agency also promised that more guidance will be released before the start of the 2014 filing season.


Small employers will be able to purchase health insurance for their employees for 2014 and subsequent years through Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplaces. Many of these small employers may also be eligible for the Code Sec. 45R tax credit that helps to offset the cost of insurance. In August, the IRS issued new rules on the Code Sec. 45R small employer health insurance credit in the form of proposed regulations. The regulations describe in detail how employers can claim the credit, especially for years after 2013.


When starting a business or changing an existing one there are several types of business entities to choose from, each of which offers its own advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the size of your business, one form may be more suitable than another. For example, a software firm consisting of one principal founder and several part time contractors and employees would be more suited to a sole proprietorship than a corporate or partnership form. But where there are multiple business members, the decision can become more complicated. One form of business that has become increasingly popular is called a limited liability company, or LLC.


The Tax Code provides that the IRS generally may not select an individual, partnership, or corporate tax return for audit after a period of three years has expired, dating from the tax return's filing date or due date, whichever is later. For example, if a taxpayer filed his 2011 Form 1040 on February 10, 2012, and the due date for the filing of returns that year was April 17, 2012, then the statute of limitations period ends on April 17, 2015, and not February 10, 2015. On the other hand, if the taxpayer filed his tax return late, on November 10, 2012, and had not obtained an extension of time to file, the statute of limitations period would run from November 10, 2012.


When Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its companion bill, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (collectively known as the Affordable Care Act) in 2010, lawmakers staggered the effective dates of various provisions.  The most well-known provision, the so-called individual mandate, is scheduled to take effect in 2014.  A number of other provisions are scheduled to take effect in 2013. All of these require careful planning before their effective dates.


Some individuals must pay estimated taxes or face a penalty in the form of interest on the amount underpaid. Self-employed persons, retirees, and nonworking individuals most often must pay estimated taxes to avoid the penalty. But an employee may need to pay them if the amount of tax withheld from wages is insufficient to cover the tax owed on other income. The potential tax owed on investment income also may increase the need for paying estimated tax, even among wage earners.


On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited landmark decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and its companion law, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA). In a 5 to 4 decision of historic proportions, the nation's highest court upheld the law – except for a certain Medicaid provision involving state funding.  Key to the Court's approval of President Obama's signature health care law was the finding that the linchpin individual mandate was constitutional.  The requirement under the individual mandate that individuals pay a penalty if they fail to carry minimum essential health insurance coverage was declared within the Constitution based upon Congress's power to tax.

The family partnership is a common device for reducing the overall tax burden of family members. Family members who contribute property or services to a partnership in exchange for partnership interests are subject to the same general tax rules that apply to unrelated partners. If the related persons deal with each other at arm's length, their partnership is recognized for tax purposes and the terms of the partnership agreement governing their shares of partnership income and loss are respected.

The just-released 2011 IRS Data Book provides statistical information on IRS examinations, collections and other activities for the most recent fiscal year ended in 2011. The 2011 Data Book statistics, when compared to the 2010 version, shows, among other things, a notable increase in the odds of being audited within several high-income categories.

Building on earlier steps to help taxpayers buffeted by the economic slowdown, the IRS recently enhanced its "Fresh Start" initiative. The IRS has announced penalty relief for unemployed individuals who cannot pay their taxes on time and has increased the threshold amount for streamlined installment agreements.

Taxpayers with children should be aware of the numerous tax breaks for which they may qualify. Among them are: the dependency exemption, child tax credit, child care credit, and adoption credit. As they get older, education tax credits for higher education may be available; as is a new tax code requirement for employer-sponsored health care to cover young adults up to age 26. Employers of parents with young children may also qualify for the child care assistance credit.

The Treasury Department is authorized to offset a taxpayer’s tax refund to satisfy certain debts. A spouse who believes that his or her portion of the refund should not be used to offset the debt that the other spouse owes may request a refund from the IRS.

In light of the IRS’s new Voluntary Worker Classification Settlement Program (VCSP), which it announced this fall, the distinction between independent contractors and employees has become a “hot issue” for many businesses. The IRS has devoted considerable effort to rectifying worker misclassification in the past, and continues the trend with this new program.  It is available to employers that have misclassified employees as independent contractors and wish to voluntarily rectify the situation before the IRS or Department of Labor initiates an examination.

A transaction may comply with a literal reading of the Tax Code but result in unreasonable tax consequences that are not intended by the tax laws. To combat these transactions, the IRS has used for many years a doctrine known as the economic substance doctrine.  Congress codified the doctrine in 2010 and recently the IRS issued instructions to examiners explaining how to apply the codified doctrine.

Americans donate hundreds of millions of dollars every year to charity. It is important that every donation be used as the donors intended and that the charity is legitimate. The IRS oversees the activities of charitable organizations. This is a huge job because of the number and diversity of tax-exempt organizations and one that the IRS takes very seriously.

A limited liability company (LLC) is a business entity created under state law. Every state and the District of Columbia have LLC statutes that govern the formation and operation of LLCs.

Often, timing is everything or so the adage goes. From medicine to sports and cooking, timing can make all the difference in the outcome. What about with taxes? What are your chances of being audited? Does timing play a factor in raising or decreasing your risk of being audited by the IRS? For example, does the time when you file your income tax return affect the IRS's decision to audit you? Some individuals think filing early will decrease their risk of an audit, while others file at the very-last minute, believing this will reduce their chance of being audited. And some taxpayers don't think timing matters at all.


You may have done some spring cleaning and found that you have a lot of clothes that you no longer wear or want, and would like to donate to charity. Used clothing that you want to donate to charity and take a charitable deduction for, however, is subject to a few rules and requirements.

The IRS has released the numbers behind its activities from October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008 in a publication called the 2008 IRS Data Book. This annually released information provides statistics on returns filed, taxes collected, and the IRS's enforcement efforts.

The IRS allows taxpayers with a charitable inclination to take a deduction for a wide range of donated items. However, the IRS does provide specific guidelines for those taxpayers contributing non-cash items, from the type of charity you can donate to in order to take a deduction to the quality of the goods you contribute and how to value them for deduction purposes. If your summer cleaning has led, or may lead, you to set aside clothes and other items for charity, and you would like to know how to value these items for tax purposes, read on.

In order to be tax deductible, compensation must be a reasonable payment for services. Smaller companies, whose employees frequently hold significant ownership interests, are particularly vulnerable to IRS attack on their compensation deductions.


Although you may want your traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs) to keep accumulating tax-free well into your old age, the IRS sets certain deadlines. The price for getting an upfront deduction when contributing to a traditional IRA (or having a rollover IRA) is that Uncle Sam eventually starts taxing it once you reach 70½. The required minimum distribution (RMD) rules under the Internal Revenue Code accomplish that.

'Tax risk management" is a fairly recent term first used by large accounting firms to underscore to businesses the opportunities and pitfalls inherent within the particular tax positions taken by a business at any point in time. The collapse of Enron and WorldCom, and Congress's response through Sarbanes/Oxley legislation, have elevated corporate tax departments from what were once sleepy backroom operations to key participants in corporate bottom-line performance. Tax reserves and other tax forecasts now take a more prominent role in SEC-required disclosure and their resulting impact on shareholder value. Corporate boards and top executives are now held directly responsible for tax-related mistakes.

If you call attention to your return, it probably will be noticed. Whether by writing in red across your return a "tax protestor" slogan, by not signing your return, or by not filling in all required lines, you will get your return noticed and at the very least you'll get a letter asking to further explain your position. Absent such blatant attention-getting behavior, however, your chances of audit depends upon the numerical amounts you place on your return and how they compare to certain norms determined by IRS computers (and kept secret from the public). Some audit selection is also done randomly, although those odds are less than a fraction of one percent under current practice.

More small businesses get into trouble with the IRS over payroll taxes than any other type of tax. Payroll taxes are a huge source of government revenue and the IRS takes them very seriously. It is actively looking for businesses that have fallen behind in their payroll taxes or aren't depositing them. When the IRS finds a noncompliant business, it hits hard with penalties.

Information returns usually arrive in January or February and consist of either Form 1099 or Form 1098. For some, they seem as ubiquitous as their holiday mail in December. Form 1099s are especially likely to populate your mailbox, being used to report a whole array of income other than wages, salaries and tips. While a Form 1099 is not needed to record every taxable transaction, one Form 1099 can record multiple transactions; for example, from your broker for dividends and stock trades. The payer will send a Form 1099 to you by the end of January and will file the form with the IRS by the end of February. Typical forms are sent out for dividend and interest income, self-employment or independent contractor's income, student loan interest and mortgage interest statements.


Q: After what period is my federal tax return safe from audit? A: Generally, the time-frame within which the IRS can examine a federal tax return you have filed is three years. To be more specific, Code Sec. 6501 states that the IRS has three years from the later of the deadline for filing the return (usually April 15th for individuals) or the date you actually filed the return. This means that if you file your return on May 10, 2009, the IRS will have until May 10, 2012 to look at it and "assess a deficiency;" not April 17, 2012.

For U.S. taxpayers, owning assets held in foreign countries may have a variety of benefits, from ease of use for frequent travelers or those employed abroad to diversification of an investment portfolio. There are, however, additional rules and requirements to follow in connection with the payment of taxes. Some of these rules are very different from those for similar types of domestic income, and more than a few are quite complex.

The general rule on business expenses is that you must prove everything in detail to be entitled to a deduction. Logs, preferably made contemporaneously to the business transaction, must show date, amount, and business purpose and you must produce receipts. Fortunately, the tax law has a practical side. Congress, the IRS and the courts each have applied their own brand of practicality in allowing certain exceptions to be made to the business substantiation rule.

Generally, if you do volunteer work for a charity, you are not entitled to deduct the cost of services you perform for the charity. However, if in connection with the volunteer work you incur out-of-pocket expenses, you may be entitled to deduct some of those expenses.


How much am I really worth? This is a question that has run through most of our minds at one time or another. However, if you aren't an accountant or mathematician, it may seem like an impossible number to figure out. The good news is that, using a simple step format, you can compute your net worth in no time at all.


Q: The holidays are approaching and I would like to consider giving gifts of appreciation to my employees. What kinds of gifts can I give my employees that they would not have to declare as income on their tax returns?I also would like to make sure my company would be able to deduct the costs of these gifts.

You have just been notified that your tax return is going to be audited ... what now? While the best defense is always a good offense (translation: take steps to avoid an audit in the first place), in the event the IRS does come knocking on your door, here are some basic guidelines you can follow to increase the chances that you will come out of your audit unscathed.


When it comes to legal separation or divorce, there are many complex situations to address. A divorcing couple faces many important decisions and issues regarding alimony, child support, and the fair division of property. While most courts and judges will not factor in the impact of taxes on a potential property settlement or cash payments, it is important to realize how the value of assets transferred can be materially affected by the tax implications.


Q. I have a professional services firm and am considering hiring my wife to help out with some of the administrative tasks in the office. I don't think we'll have a problem working together but I would like to have more information about the tax aspects of such an arrangement before I make the leap. What are some of the tax advantages of hiring my spouse?


Keeping the family business in the family upon the death or retirement of the business owner is not as easy as one would think. In fact, almost 30% of all family businesses never successfully pass to the next generation. What many business owners do not know is that many problems can be avoided by developing a sound business succession plan in advance.


Starting your own small business can be hectic - yet fun and personally fulfilling. As you work towards opening the doors, don't let the onerous task of keeping the books rain on your parade. With a little planning upfront and a promise to "keep it simple", you can get an effective system up and running in no time.


In addition to decisions that affect the day to day operations of the company, the new business owner will also be faced with accounting and tax related decisions. Whether to use the cash or accrual method of accounting, for example, although not always a matter of choice, is an important decision that must be considered carefully.


As you open the doors of your new business, the last thing on your mind may be the potential for loss of profits through employee oversight or theft - especially if you are the only employee. However, setting up some basic internal controls to guard against future loss before you hire others can save you headaches in the future.


Q. My company recently downsized its workforce and eliminated my position. I thought this would be a good opportunity to start my own consulting business in the same industry. What are some of the things I should consider before my last day on the job?


Maintaining good financial records is an important part of running a successful business. Not only will good records help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your business' operations, but they will also help out tremendously if the IRS comes knocking on your door.


After your tax returns have been filed, several questions arise: What do you do with the stack of paperwork? What should you keep? What should you throw away? Will you ever need any of these documents again? Fortunately, recent tax provisions have made it easier for you to part with some of your tax-related clutter.


The decision to start your own business comes with many other important decisions. One of the first tasks you will encounter is choosing the legal form of your new business. There are quite a few choices of legal entities, each with their own advantages and disadvantages that must be taken into consideration along with your own personal tax situation.


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