News + Updates | Archives: 2014

FAQ: Why use a partnership instead of an S corporation?

Taxpayers that plan to operate a business have a variety of choices. A single individual can operate as a C corporation, an S corporation, a limited liability company (LLC), or a sole proprietorship. Two or more individuals can form a partnership, a corporation (C or S), or an LLC.

Nontax considerations

State law and nontax considerations are an important consideration in choosing the form of the business and may play a decisive role. A general partner of a partnership has unlimited liability for the debts of the business. This can be modified by using a limited partnership (LP), which must have at least one general partner and at least one limited partner. The general partner still have unlimited liability, but a limited partner’s liability is limited to its contribution to the partnership. A corporation has limited liability; shareholders generally are not responsible for the liabilities of the corporation beyond their contributions to the entity.

Federal tax considerations

At the same time, it is crucial to consider federal tax requirements and consequences when choosing the form of business entity. A primary federal tax consideration is avoiding a double layer of tax on business income. This can be accomplished by operating as a passthrough entity, such as a partnership or S corporation. Income is not taxed at the entity level. It passes through to partners and shareholders and is taxed at their rates.

In contrast, C corporations are taxable entities. Furthermore, when a C corporation pays a dividend to its shareholders, this generally is taxable to the shareholder. It must be noted that income of a passthrough entity is allocable and taxable to its owners, whether or not the income is actually distributed to the partner or shareholder. Dividends are not taxed unless there is an actual distribution.

While a partnership is organized under state law, an S corporation is a creature of the federal tax system. The S corporation is a regular corporation for state law purposes.

Advantages of partnerships

Unlike an S corporation shareholder, anyone or any entity can be a partner. S corporations are limited to 100 shareholders; only certain individuals, estates and trusts are eligible to be shareholders. C corporations and nonresident aliens cannot be shareholders of an S corporation.

S corporations are limited to a single class of stock; income and losses must be allocated on the same basis to each shareholder. Having only one class of stock may affect the corporation’s ability to raise capital. A partnership can have different classes of partners and has more flexibility for allocating income and losses to different types of partners.

Partnership liabilities can increase a partner’s basis in the partnership, offsetting distributions of cash and reducing their taxation. The increased basis allowed partners to use losses generated by the partnership. Liabilities of an S corporation do not create stock basis; separate bases in stock and debt must be calculated. This lack of basis may limit the use of losses generated by the S corporation.

Contributions of appreciated property by a partner to the partnership generally are not taxable, even if the partner is not part of a group controlling the partnership. Contributions by a shareholder to a corporation are tax-free only if the shareholders are part of a group controlling 80 percent of the corporation after the contribution. However, a partnership must follow special allocation rules for handling built-in gain on contributed property, whereas S corporations do not have special allocation rules in this circumstance.


In general, a partnership offers more flexibility than an S corporation in the treatment of taxes. However, S corporation shareholders do have limited legal liability, while general partners are not insulated from the partnership’s debts and liabilities.


FAQ: What is the self-employment tax?

Taxpayers who are self-employed must pay self-employment tax on their income from self-employment. The self-employment tax applies in lieu of Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes paid by employees and employers on compensation from employment. Like FICA taxes, the self-employment tax consists of taxes collected for Social Security and for Medicare (hospital insurance or HI).

The self-employment tax is levied and collected as part of the income tax. The tax must be taken into account in determining an individual’s estimated taxes. The self-employed taxpayer is responsible for the self-employment tax, in effect paying both the employer’s and the employee’s share of the tax. The tax is calculated on Schedule SE, filed with the individual’s income tax return, and is then reported on the Form 1040.

Self-Employment Tax Rate

The self-employment tax rate is 15.3 percent of self-employment income. This is the same overall percentage that applies to an employee’s compensation. The rate combines the 12.4 percent Social Security tax and the 2.9 percent Medicare tax. Self-employed individuals can deduct one-half of the self-employment tax. (For 2011 and 2012, the Social Security tax rate was reduced from 12.4 to 10.4 percent.) If the individual’s net earnings from self-employment are less than $400 (or $100 for a church employee), the individual does not owe self-employment tax.

Like FICA taxes, the 12.4 percent Social Security tax only applies to earning up to a specified threshold. For 2013, this threshold was $113,700; for 2014, the threshold is $117,000. There is no ceiling for applying the 2.9 percent Medicare tax.


The tax applies to net earnings from self-employment. This is the taxpayer’s gross income for the year from operating a trade or business, minus the deductions allowable to the trade or business, plus the taxpayer’s distributive share of income or loss from a partnership.

A person is self-employed if he or she carries on a trade or business as a sole proprietor or independent contractor. A general partner of a partnership that carries on a trade or business is also considered to be self-employed. Self-employment does not include the performance of services by an employee. However, an employee who also carries on a separate business part-time can be self-employed with respect to the business.

Additional Medicare Tax

Effective for 2013 and subsequent years, both employees and self-employed individuals must pay an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax if their FICA wages or self-employment income exceeds specified thresholds $250,000 for joint filers; $125,000 for married filing separately; and $200,000 for all other taxpayers. This tax is determined on Form 8959.


Congress juggles immediate/long-term tax issues

Nearly half-way into the year, tax legislation has been hotly debated in Congress but lawmakers have failed to move many bills. Only one bill, legislation to make permanent the research tax credit, has been approved by the House; its fate in the Senate still remains uncertain. Other bills, including legislation to extend many of the now-expired extenders before the 2015 filing season, have stalled. Tax measures could also be attached to other bills, especially as the days wind down to Congress’ August recess.

Tax extenders

Legislation to extend nearly all of the extenders seemed to be almost assured of passage in the Senate after the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) approved the EXPIRE Act in April. The EXPIRE Act would extend through 2015 many of the popular but temporary tax incentives, including the higher education tuition deduction, the state and local sales tax deduction, the deduction for mortgage premiums, research tax credit, Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), and more. In May, the EXPIRE Act became bogged down in procedural votes in the Senate. Democrats and Republicans could not agree whether amendments would be allowed and if so, how many amendments.

In the meantime, individual lawmakers have introduced bills to extend some of the extenders. The bills must be referred to committees (the SFC or the House Ways and Means Committee) for action. Committee chairs ultimately determine if the bills will be brought before the committee. SFC Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has signaled that the EXPIRE Act is likely his best attempt to move an extenders bill. Wyden has also said that he will not promote another extenders bill after 2015 (hence the name, EXPIRE Act). Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp, R-Mich., has largely kept the committee’s focus on the proposals outlined in his proposed Tax Reform Act of 2014.

Lawmakers have roughly eight weeks before their month-long August recess to act on the extenders. Our office will keep you posted of developments.

Research tax credit

The research tax credit is a very popular business tax incentive. Its popularity has pushed it to the front of the line in the House for renewal. One drawback is the credit’s cost: estimated at $155 billion over 10 years.

In May, the House approved the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2014. The bill attracted support from both Democrats and Republicans. The bill makes permanent and enhances the research tax credit. The bill is not offset, which is a stumbling block to winning support from Senate Democrats. In fact, President Obama has said he would veto the bill in its present form if it reaches his desk. There is a possibility, albeit slight, that the Senate could pass its own version of the research tax credit and the House and Senate would try to reach a compromise in conference.

Corporate taxation

President Obama, lawmakers from both parties and many taxpayers agree that the U.S. corporate tax rate should be reduced. They disagree on how to pay, or if to offset, any reduction. President Obama continues to promote the elimination of some business tax preferences, particularly tax incentives for oil, gas and fossil fuel producers, as the way to pay for a corporate tax rate cut. The President also has called for using some of the revenues to fund road and bridge construction.

Democrats in the House and Senate have also honed in on so-called “corporate inversions.” These occur when U.S. companies merge with foreign ones for tax purposes. The merged entity is often located in a low-tax jurisdiction, such as Ireland with a corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent, compared to the U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent. House and Senate Democrats have introduced companion bills (Stop Corporate Inversions Act of 2014) to curb these mergers. Under current law, a corporate inversion will not be respected for U.S. tax purposes if 80 percent or more of the new combined corporation (incorporated offshore) is owned by historic shareholders of the U.S. corporation. The bill would reduce the threshold to 50 percent. House and Senate Republicans are not expected to support the bill.

Other bills

On July 1, the interest rate on federal subsidized Stafford loans is set to increase from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. Legislation introduced in the Senate, the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act, would provide a one-year “fix” by setting the rate at the primary interest rate offered through the Federal Reserve discount window. The bill would be paid for by the so-called “Buffett Rule,” which generally would disallow certain tax preferences to higher income individuals. Along with the student loan bill, lawmakers have on their agenda legislation to renew federal highway spending, as discussed above. A final highway bill with tax-related provisions could be approved before the August recess. Some lawmakers have proposed a hike in the federal gasoline tax but it is unlikely to be approved.

If you have any questions about tax legislation, please contact our office.


FAQ: What are the current amounts of employer-provided tax-free transit benefits?

Transit incentives are a popular transportation fringe benefit for many employees. Although the costs of commuting to and from work are not tax-deductible (except in certain relatively rare cases), transportation fringe benefits help to offset some of the costs, including the expenses of riding mass transit or taking a van pool to work. Under current law, the value of qualified transportation fringe benefits provided to an employee is excluded from the employee’s gross income and wages for income and payroll tax purposes.

Qualified benefits

Only certain transit benefits qualify for this special tax treatment. They are:

  • Transportation in a commuter highway vehicle if the transportation is in connection with travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment (for example, van pooling),
  • Transit passes,
  • Qualified parking, and
  • Qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements.

Employers have some latitude regarding which, if any, transit benefits they want to offer. An employer may simultaneously provide an employee with any one or more of the first three qualified transportation fringes. However, an employee may not exclude a bicycle commuting reimbursement for any month in which he or she receives any of the other incentives.

Excluded from gross income

As long as the amount of the transit pass, qualified parking or other benefit does not exceed the statutory monthly limits, the amounts are not wages for purposes of Social Security and Medicare, the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), and federal income tax withholding. However, if the amounts do exceed the statutory limits, the excess must be included in the employee’s gross income.


For 2014, the maximum that may be excluded is $250 per month for qualified parking, but only $130 for transit passes and van pooling. The exclusion for qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement is limited to a per employee limitation of $20 per month multiplied by the number of qualified bicycle commuting months during the calendar year.

At the end of 2013, the monthly cap on the transit passes and van pools of the commuter benefit dropped to $130 per month-from $240 per month-because transit benefits parity expired. The amount of qualified parking, however, increased to $250 per month, from $240 per month, because of an adjustment for inflation required under the Tax Code.

Pending legislation

Parity could be restored and made retroactive to January 1, 2014. In April, the Senate Finance Committee approved the EXPIRE Act, which would restore parity by increasing the transit pass and van pool benefits to $250 per month – the same amount as parking. The EXPIRE Act is not a permanent fix. The bill would extend parity through the end of 2015. On January 1, 2016, parity would again expire.

The EXPIRE Act also includes special treatment for bikeshare costs. In 2013, the IRS announced that bikeshare arrangements would not be treated as a transportation fringe benefit unless Congress makes them so. The EXPIRE Act modifies the definition of qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement to include expenses associated with the use of a bikesharing arrangement.

Both the House and Senate must pass legislation in order to extend transit benefits parity. At this time, transit benefits parity has not moved in the House. One deterrent is the cost of extending parity. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, a two-year extension of parity (through 2015) would cost $180 million over 10 years.

Retroactive extension

Retroactive extension of transit benefit parity would create some administrative challenges for employers. The last time there was a retroactive extension, the IRS provided special guidance to employers on how to account for the retroactive change when filing employment tax returns and Forms W-2. The IRS would likely do the same if there is a retroactive extension of transit benefit parity to January 1, 2014.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about transportation fringe benefits. Our office will keep you posted of developments.

Looking back before moving forward: post filing-season checkup for 2014 tax savings

With the April 15th filing season deadline now behind us, it’s not too early to turn your attention to next year’s deadline for filing your 2014 return. That refocus requires among other things an awareness of the direct impact that many “ordinary,” as well as one-time, transactions and events will have on the tax you will eventually be obligated to pay April 15, 2015. To gain this forward-looking perspective, however, taking a moment to look back … at the filing season that has just ended, is particularly worthwhile. This generally involves a two-step process: (1) a look-back at your 2013 tax return to pinpoint new opportunities as well as “lessons learned;” and (2) a look-back at what has happened in the tax world since January 1st that may indicate new challenges to be faced for the first time on your 2014 return.

Your 2013 Form 1040

Examining your 2013 Form 1040 individual tax return can help you identify certain changes that you might want to consider this year, as well encourage you to continue what you’re doing right. These “key ingredients” to your 2014 return may include, among many others considerations, a fresh look at:

Your refund or balance due. While it is nice to get a big refund check from the IRS, it often indicates unnecessary overpayments over the course of the year that has provided the federal government with an interest-free loan in the form of your money. Now’s the time to investigate the reasons behind a refund and whether you need to take steps to lower wage withholding and/or quarterly estimated tax payments.

If on the other hand you had to pay the IRS when filing your return (or requesting an extension), you should consider whether it was due to a sudden windfall of income that will not repeat itself; or because you no longer have the same itemized deductions, you had a change in marital status, or you claimed a one-time tax credit such as for energy savings or education. Likewise, examining anticipated changes between your 2013 and 2014 tax years—marriage, the birth of a child, becoming a homeowner, retiring, etc.—can help warn you whether your’re headed for an underpayment or overpayment of your 2014 tax liability.

Investment income. One area that blindsided many taxpayers on their 2013 returns was the increased tax bill applicable to investment income. Because of the “great recession,” many investors had carryforward losses that could offset gains realized for a number of years as markets gradually improved. For many, however, 2013 saw not only a significant rise in investment income but also a rise in realized taxable investment gains that were no longer covered by carryforward losses used up during the 2010–2012 period.

Furthermore, dividends and long-term capital gains for the first time in 2013 were taxed at a new, higher 20 percent rate for higher income taxpayers and an additional 3.8 percent net investment income tax surtax for those in the higher income brackets. Short-term capital gains saw the highest rate jump, from 35 percent to 43.4 percent rate, which reflected a new 39.6 percent regular rate and the new 3.8 percent net investment income tax rate. This tax structure remains in place for 2014.

Personal exemption/itemized deductions. Effective January 1, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) revived the personal exemption phaseout (PEP). The applicable threshold levels are $250,000 for unmarried taxpayers; $275,000 for heads of households; $300,000 for married couples filing a joint return (and surviving spouses); and $150,000 for married couples filing separate returns (adjusted for inflation after 2013). Likewise, for it revived the limitation on itemized deductions (known as the “Pease” limitation after the member of Congress who sponsored the original legislation) for those same taxpayers.

Medical and dental expenses. Starting in 2013, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) increased the threshold to claim an itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses from 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) to 10 percent of AGI. However, there is a temporary exemption for individuals age 65 and older until December 31, 2016. Qualified individuals may continue to deduct total medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income through 2016. If the qualified individual is married and only one spouse is age 65 or older, the taxpayer may still deduct total medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income.

Recordkeeping. If you cannot find the paperwork necessary to prove your right to a deduction or credit, you cannot claim it. An organized tax recordkeeping system—whether on paper or computerized–therefore is an essential component to maximizing tax savings.

Filing Season Developments

So far this year, the IRS, other federal agencies and the courts have issued guidance on individual and business taxation, retirement savings, foreign accounts, the ACA, and much more. Congress has also been busy working up a “tax extenders” bill as well as tax reform proposals. All these developments can impact how you plan to maximize benefits on your 2014 income tax return.

Tax reform. President Obama, the chairs of the House and Senate tax writing committees, and individual lawmakers all made tax reform proposals in early 2014. The proposals range from comprehensive tax reform to more piece-meal approaches. Although only small, piecemeal proposals have the most promising chances for passage this year, taxpayers should not ignore the broader push toward tax reform that will be taking shape in 2015 and 2016.

Tax extenders. The Senate Finance Committee (SFC) approved legislation (EXPIRE Act) in April that would extend nearly all of the tax extenders that expired after 2013. Included in the EXPIRE Act are individual incentives such as the state and local sales tax deduction, the higher education tuition deduction, transit benefits parity, and the classroom teacher’s deduction; along with business incentives such as enhanced Code 179 small business expensing, bonus depreciation, the research tax credit, and more. Congress may now move quickly on an extenders bill or it may not come up with a compromise until after the November mid-term elections. Many of these tax benefits are significant and will directly impact the 2014 tax that taxpayers will pay.

Individual mandate. The Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate took effect January 1, 2014. Individuals failing to carry minimum essential coverage after January 1, 2014 and who are not exempt from the requirement will make an individual shared responsibility payment when they file their 2014 federal income tax returns in 2015. There are some exemptions, including a hardship exemption if the taxpayer experienced problems in signing up with a Health Insurance Marketplace before March 31, 2014. Further guidance is expected before 2014 tax year returns need to be filed, especially on how to calculate the payment and how to report to the IRS that an individual has minimum essential coverage.

Employer mandate. The ACA’s shared responsibility provision for employers (also known as the “employer mandate”) will generally apply to large employers starting in 2015, rather than the original 2014 launch date. Transition relief provided in February final regulations provides additional time to mid-size employers with 50 or more but fewer than 100 employees, generally delaying implementation until 2016. Employers that employ fewer than 50 full-time or full time equivalent employees are permanently exempt from the employer mandate. The final regulations do not change this treatment under the statute.

Other recent tax developments to be aware of for 2014 planning purposes include:

  • IRA rollovers. The IRS announced that, starting in 2015, it intends to follow a one-rollover-per-year limitation on Individual Retirement Account (IRA) rollovers as an aggregate limit.
  • myRAs. In January, President Obama directed the Treasury Department to create a new retirement savings vehicle, “myRA,” to be rolled out before 2015.
  • Same-sex married couples. In April, the IRS released guidance on how the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), applies to qualified retirement plans, opting not to require recognition before June 26, 2013.
  • Passive activity losses. The Tax Court found in March that a trust owning rental real estate could qualify for the rental real estate exception to passive activity loss treatment.
  • FATCA deadline. The IRS has indicated that it is holding firm on the July 1, 2014, deadline for foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to comply with the FATCA information reporting requirements or withhold 30 percent from payments of U.S.-source income to their U.S. account holders.
  • Vehicle depreciation. The IRS announced that inflation-adjusted limitations on depreciation deductions for business use passenger autos, light trucks and vans first placed in service during calendar year 2014 are relatively unchanged from 2013 (except for first year $8,000 bonus depreciation that may be removed if Congress does not act in time.
  • Severance payments. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court held that supplemental unemployment benefits (SUB) payments made to terminated employees and not tied to the receipt of state unemployment benefits are wages for FICA tax purposes.
  • Virtual currency. The IRS announced that convertible virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, would be treated as property and not as currency, thus creating immediate tax consequences for those using Bitcoins to pay for goods.

Please contact this office if you’d like further information on how an examination of your 2013 return, and examination of recent tax developments, may point to revised strategies for lowering your eventual tax bill for 2014.


“Repair” regulations require taxpayer action In 2014 and beyond

The IRS’s final “repair” regulations became effective January 1, 2014. The regulations provide a massive revision to the rules on capitalizing and deducting costs incurred with respect to tangible property. The regulations apply to amounts paid to acquire, produce or improve tangible property; every business is affected, especially those with significant fixed assets.

Required and elective changes

There is a lot of work ahead for most taxpayers to comply with the new rules. There are three categories of changes under the regulations:

  • Changes that are required and are retroactive, with full adjustments under Code Sec. 481(a), in effect applying the regulations to previous years;
  • Required changes with modified or prospective Code Sec. 481(a) adjustment beginning in 2014; and
  • Elective changes that do not require any adjustments under Code Sec. 481.

Required changes with full adjustments include unit of property changes, deducting repairs (including the routine maintenance safe harbor), deducting dealer expenses that facilitate the sale of property, the optional method for rotable spare parts, capitalizing improvements and capitalizing certain acquisition or production costs. Elective changes can include capitalizing repair and maintenance costs of they are capitalized for financial accounting purposes.

Rev. Proc. 2014-16

The IRS issued Rev. Proc. 2014-16, granting automatic consent to taxpayers to change their accounting methods to comply with the final regulations. Rev. Proc. 2014-16 applies to all the significant provisions in the final regulations, such as repairs and improvements; materials and supplies, including rotable and temporary spare parts; and costs that have to be capitalized as improvements. Rev. Proc. 2014-16 supersedes Rev. Proc. 2012-19, which applied to changes made under the temporary and proposed repair regulations issued at the end of 2011.

There are 14 automatic method changes provided by Rev. Proc. 2014-16 for the repair regulations. Taxpayers may file for automatic consent on a single Form 3115, even if they are making changes in more than area. The normal scope limitations on changing accounting methods do not apply to a taxpayer making one or more changes for any tax year beginning before January 1, 2015. Scope changes would normally apply if the taxpayer is under examination, is in the final year of a trade or business, or is changing the same accounting method it changed in the previous five years.

Filing deadlines

For past years, taxpayers can apply the 2011 proposed and temporary (TD 9564) regulations or the 2013 final regulations to either 2012 or 2013, and can do this on a section-by-section basis. Taxpayers that decide to apply the final or temporary regulations to 2013 must file for an automatic change of accounting method (Form 3115) by September 15, 2014. Taxpayers applying the regulations to 2014 must file for an automatic change by September 15, 2015. (Both dates apply to calendar-year taxpayers.) The government has indicated it is unlikely to postpone the effective date of the regulations.


Rev. Proc. 2014-16 does not apply to dispositions of tangible property. The government issued reproposed regulations in this area (NPRM REG-110732-13). Although these regulations may not be finalized until later in 2014, the IRS expects to issue Rev. Proc. 2014-17 before then to allow taxpayers to make automatic accounting method changes under the proposed regulations. The procedure will provide some relief by allowing taxpayers to revoke general asset account elections that they made under the temporary regulations. No comments were submitted on these proposed regulations; it is likely the final regulations will not have any significant changes.

Treasury set to develop new retirement savings vehicle: myRAs

In his January 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama instructed the Treasury Department to develop a new savings vehicle called “myRA.” The new savings arrangements share many similarities with Roth IRAs but also have some unique features. At press time, the Treasury Department is expected to roll out myRAs before year-end 2014. Certain details on how they will operate continue to unfold.

Saving for retirement

In his address, President Obama cautioned that Social Security, by itself, is often not enough to meet the financial needs of retirement. Many Americans participate in retirement savings arrangements, such as 401(k) plans, but many do not. President Obama subsequently issued an executive order directing the Treasury department to create a new retirement savings arrangement-myRA-that would protect the principal contributed while earning interest at a rate based on yields on outstanding Treasury securities. The President also instructed Treasury to develop and launch myRAs before 2015.

Key features

myRAs will be offered by automatic payroll deduction and will be portable. That means the accounts will not be tied to a single employer. However, employers must choose to offer myRAs to their employees. The White House is hoping that the ease of setting up these accounts will encourage employers, especially small employers, to offer myRAs to their employees.

After Treasury launches myRAs, employees of participating employers will be able to sign up to participate in the accounts. Employees will be able to enroll in the program with a minimum contribution of $25. An employee can then elect to have a portion of each paycheck (as little as $5) directly deposited into a myRA automatically. Employers will not contribute to myRAs.

The Treasury Department has posted some basic information about myRAs. Account holders will be able to build savings for 30 years or until their myRA reaches $15,000, whichever comes first. After that, myRA balances will roll over to private-sector retirement accounts. Contributions to myRAs can be withdrawn tax-free at any time. Earnings will be tax-free unless withdrawn before the saver is age 59 ½.

Funds in a myRA will earn interest at the same variable rate as the Government Securities Investment Fund in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) available to employees of the federal government. TSP has explained that this fund invests exclusively in U.S. Treasury securities. The earnings consist entirely of interest income on the securities. TSP has acknowledged that this fund is subject to inflation risk, or the possibility that the investment will not grow enough to offset the reduction in purchasing power that results from inflation. This is one concern that some financial advisors have raised about myRAs.

More details expected

The Treasury Department is expected to issue rules and regulations for myRAs just as it has for IRAs, Roth IRAs and other retirement savings vehicles. Several questions are expected to be answered in the guidance, such as how rollover of funds in myRAs will work. The Treasury Department also is expected to describe in greater detail the income qualifications. At this time, Obama administration officials have indicated that myRAs will be available to individuals with annual incomes of less than $129,000 a year and $191,000 for couples. These amounts are expected to be adjusted annually for inflation.

As discussed above, more details about myRAs will be available as 2014 unfolds. Obama administration officials have described myRAs as “starter savings accounts” and in many respects, myRAs may be most attractive to individuals just starting out in the workforce. However, myRAs also could be part of the retirement savings portfolio of individuals who have been in the workforce longer.

If you have any questions about myRAs, please contact our office. We will keep you posted of developments.

Final employer mandate regulations include transition relief for mid-size employers

Mid-size employers may be eligible for recently announced transition relief from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s employer shared responsibility requirements. Final regulations issued by the IRS in late January include transition relief for mid-size employers for 2015. Mid-size employers for this relief are defined generally as businesses employing at least 50 but fewer than 100 full-time employees. Exceptions and complicated measurement rules continue to apply. The final regulations also describe the treatment of seasonal employees, volunteer workers, student employees, the calculation of the employer shared responsibility payment, and much more.

Delayed implementation

As enacted in 2010, the Affordable Care Act required applicable large employers (ALEs) to make an assessable payment if any full-time employee is certified to receive a health insurance premium tax credit or cost-sharing reduction, and either:

  • The employer does not offer to its full-time employees and their dependents the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage (MEC) under an eligible employer-sponsored plan; or
  • The employer offers its full-time employees and their dependents the opportunity to enroll in MEC under an employer-sponsored plan, but the coverage is either unaffordable or does not provide minimum value.

The employer shared responsibility requirement was scheduled to apply January 1, 2014, the same effective date for the individual mandate and the health insurance premium assistance tax credit. In July 2013, the Obama administration announced that employer shared responsibility requirements would not apply for 2014.

The final regulations make further changes. Under the final regulations, the employer mandate will generally apply to large employers (employers with 100 or more employees) starting in 2015 and to qualified mid-size employers (employers with 50 to 99 employees) starting in 2016. Employers that employ fewer than 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents (FTEs) are not subject to the employer mandate.

Caution. Determining the number of employees for purposes of the employer shared responsibility requirement is a complex calculation for many employers that is beyond the scope of this article. The Affordable Care Act and the final regulations describe how to calculate full-time employees (including FTEs) and also which employees are excluded from that calculation. Please contact our office for details about the Affordable Care Act and your business.

Transition relief for mid-size employers

Qualified employers are not subject to the employer mandate until 2016 if they satisfy certain conditions. Among other requirements, the employer must employ on average at least 50 full-time employees (including FTEs) but fewer than 100 full-time employees (including FTEs) on business days during 2014. Additionally, the final regulations impose a broad maintenance of previously offered heath coverage requirement.

The final regulations do not allow an employer to reduce the size of its workforce or the overall hours of service of its employees in order to satisfy the workforce size condition and thus be eligible for the transition relief. A reduction in workforce size or overall hours of service for bona fide business reasons, however, will not be considered to have been made in order to satisfy the workforce size condition. This provision is certainly one that is expected to generate many questions. The IRS may provide additional guidance and/or clarification in 2014 and our office will keep you posted of developments.

Additionally, the final regulations also modify the extent of required coverage. Proposed regulations required that the employer provide coverage to 95 percent of its full-time employees. The final regulations delay the 95 percent requirement until 2016 for larger employers. For 2015, larger employers need only provide coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees.

Special types of employees

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, questions have arisen about the treatment of certain types of employees. These include seasonal employees, short-term employees, volunteer workers, and student employees. The final regulations clarify some of the issues surrounding these employees.

Many industries employ seasonal workers. The final regulations describe who may qualify as a seasonal worker. The retail industry, which employs many workers for the holiday season, asked the IRS to specify which events or periods of time that would be treated as holiday seasons. The final regulations, however, do not indicate specific holidays or the length of any holiday season as these will differ for different employers, the IRS explained.

For volunteer workers, such as volunteer fire fighters and first responders, the final regulations provide that an individual’s hours of service do not include hours worked as a “bona fide volunteer.” This definition, the IRS explained, encompasses any volunteer who is an employee of a government entity or a Code Sec. 501(c)(3) organization whose compensation is limited to reimbursement of certain expenses or other forms of compensation.

Many college, university and vocational student students are engaged in federal and state work-study programs. The final regulations provide that hours of service for purposes of the employer mandate do not include hours of service performed by students in federal or other governmental work-study programs. The IRS noted the potential for abuse by labeling individuals who receive compensation as “interns” to avoid the employer mandate. Therefore, the IRS did not adopt a special rule for student employees working as interns for an outside employer, and the general rules apply.

The final regulations do not allow an employer to reduce the size of its workforce or the overall hours of service of its employees in order to satisfy the workforce size condition and thus be eligible for the transition relief. A reduction in workforce size or overall hours of service for bona fide business reasons, however, will not be considered to have been made in order to satisfy the workforce size condition. This provision is certainly one that is expected to generate many questions. The IRS may provide additional guidance and/or clarification in 2014 and our office will keep you posted of developments.

Waiting period limitation

The Affordable Care Act generally requires that an employee (or dependent) cannot wait more than 90 days before employer-provided coverage becomes effective. The IRS issued final regulations in February on the 90-day waiting period limitation. The IRS also issued proposed regulations generally allowing employers to require new employees to complete a reasonable orientation period. The proposed regulations set forth one month as the maximum length of any orientation period.

If you have any questions about the final regulations for the employer mandate, the transition relief, the 90-day waiting period, or any aspects of the Affordable Care Act, please contact our office.

How Do I? Gather the right paperwork for a charitable deduction

Taxpayers must generally provide documentation to support (or to “substantiate”) a claim for any contributions made to charity that they are planning to deduct from their income. Assuming that the contribution was made to a qualified organization, that the taxpayer has received either no benefit from the contribution or a benefit that was less than the value of the contribution, and that the taxpayer otherwise met the requirements for a qualified contribution, then taxpayers should worry next whether they have the proper records to prove their claim.

Cash donations

The taxpayer must provide records to prove a donation of any amount of cash (including payments by cash, check, electronic funds transfer or debit, and credit card). Acceptable records for cash donations of less than $250 generally include:

  • An account statement or canceled check;
  • A written letter, e-mail or other properly issued receipt from the qualified organization bearing the name of the organization and the date and amount of the contribution; and/or
  • A pay stub, Form W–2, or other payroll document showing the amount of a contribution made from payroll.

Caution: A taxpayer cannot substantiate deductions through written records it has prepared on its own behalf, such as a checkbook or personal notes.

Cash donations of more than $250. If a taxpayer donated $250 or more in cash at any one time, the taxpayer must provide a contemporaneous written acknowledgment of the donation from the qualified organization. For each donation of $250 or more, the taxpayer must obtain a separate written acknowledgment. Furthermore, this written acknowledgement must:

  • State the amount of the contribution; and
  • State whether the qualified organization provided the taxpayer with any goods or services in exchange for the donation, and if so estimate their value; and
  • Be received by the taxpayer before the earlier of (1) the return’s filing date or (2) the due date of the return, plus any extensions.

Note: The written acknowledgment ideally would also show the date of the contribution. If it does not, the taxpayer must also provide a bank record that indicates the date.

The acknowledgment must contain a statement of whether or not a taxpayer received any goods or services as a result of the donation, even if no goods or services were received. Even if the donation was for tithes to a religious organization, such as a church, synagogue, or mosque, the acknowledgment should state that the only goods and services received were of intangible religious value. The Tax Court has upheld the disallowance of charitable contribution deductions where the written acknowledgment omitted such a statement regarding goods or services provided.

Noncash contributions

As with cash contributions, the requirements for substantiating noncash contributions increase with the value of the contribution. For example, to substantiate noncash contributions of less than $250, taxpayers must show a receipt or other written communication from the charitable organizations.

To substantiate a noncash contribution between $250 and $500, the taxpayer must obtain a written acknowledgment of the contribution from the qualified organization prior to the earlier of the filing date or due date of its return. The acknowledgment must also describe the type and value of the goods and services, if any, provided to the taxpayer as a result of the donation.

To substantiate noncash contributions totaling between $500 and $5,000 or donations of publically traded securities, a taxpayer must complete Section A of Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions. To substantiate noncash contributions of $5,000 or more (for example, donations of art, jewelry, vehicles, qualified conservation contributions, or intellectual property) the taxpayer must complete Section B of Form 8283. Generally, this would also require the taxpayer to obtain a qualified appraisal of the property’s fair market value.

A word about valuation. A charity is not obligated to provide a value to any noncash contribution; its written receipt only needs to describe the item(s) and note the date of the contribution. The taxpayer, however, is not relieved from making a good-faith estimate of value, which of course the IRS may dispute on any audit. “Thrift-shop” value is often used to value donations of clothing and household goods.

Caution: Last year the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a report finding that the IRS was not accurately monitoring the reporting of noncash contributions requiring completion of Form 8283. The IRS responded that it agreed that it needed to initiate more correspondence audits with taxpayers claiming noncash contributions without the necessary Form 8283 and appraisal.

Vehicles. A taxpayer who donates a motor vehicle, boat, or airplane to charity must deduct either the gross proceeds from the qualified organization’s sale of the vehicle or, if the vehicle is used within the charity’s mission, the fair market value of the vehicle on the date of the contribution, whichever is smaller. The taxpayer must also obtain and attach Form 1098-C, Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats, and Airplanes, to its return in addition to Form 8283.

The requirements for substantiating charitable contributions can be complicated. Please contact our office with questions.

FAQ: What is a cost-segregation study of business assets?

Taxpayers using real estate in their business often can generate significant tax savings and increase cash flow by using the technique of cost segregation. Cost segregation is the identification and separate depreciation of personal property components and land improvements. Like its predecessor, component depreciation, cost segregation allows a taxpayer to separately depreciate various elements of a building more rapidly than the underlying building itself.

Real and personal property

Under MACRS, a building must be depreciated over 27.5 years (residential rental property) or 39 years (nonresidential real property), using the straight-line method. Cost segregation allows depreciation and recovery of the cost of personal property elements of the building over five to seven years, using an accelerated depreciation method (200-percent declining balance). Components that are not classified as personal property must be included in the building’s basis and depreciated over the appropriate period as real property.

Building elements are eligible for cost segregation if they are considered personal property under Code Sec. 1245 and under the former investment tax credit rules of Code Sec. 38. Classification as personal property under state law can also avoid state and local real property taxes.

Cost segregation study

To use cost segregation, the taxpayer must obtain a cost segregation study, which may be conducted by a cost segregation specialist. The specialist will conduct a feasibility study to determine whether a cost segregation study can provide tax savings. The building must be inspected, and the study must identify the components that may qualify as depreciable personal property. The actual installed cost of the component must be obtained.

The items of personal property must be identified in the study. The study should also provide the legal authority (regulations, cases, rulings, etc.) for treating an item as personal property or a land improvement, and should explain the methodology for determining the property’s depreciable basis.

Ideally, the study should be conducted before the building is placed in service (e.g. when the building is under construction or at the time of purchase), although the study can be conducted after a building is placed in service. The building does not have to be new. If the building is being purchased, the sales contract can allocate the sales price between real and personal property.

IRS guidelines

The IRS has provided unofficial guidance to its examiners for reviewing cost segregation studies – Audit Technique Guide for Cost Segregation, dated March 2008. The guide explains why studies are prepared, how studies are prepared, and what to look for in reviewing a study. The guide is available on the IRS website. The IRS also described cost segregation methodology in a private letter ruling, PLR 7941002. Both guidance documents remain in current use by both taxpayers and IRS agents in assessing the correctness of any particular cost segregation study.