Lance Wallach - March 12 2012
The Internal Revenue Service has expanded its "Fresh Start" initiative to help struggling taxpayers who owe taxes. The following four tips explain the expanded relief for taxpayers. Offer in Compromise Under the first round of Fresh Start in 2011, the IRS expanded the Offer in Compromise (OIC) 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 recognizes many taxpayers are still struggling to pay their bills so the agency has been working on more common-sense changes to the OIC program to more closely reflect real-world situations. 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 looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to make a determination regarding the taxpayer’s ability to pay. Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, abusive tax shelters, , and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients financial, international tax, and estate planning. He writes about 412(i), 419, Section79, FBAR, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education’s CPA’s Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as the AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case.
Announced February 8, 2011, the IRS 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI) program is a welcome but conditional amnesty allowing taxpayers with foreign accounts to come clean and get into compliance with the IRS. The program runs through Sept. 9, 2011. There’s been discussion of “opting out” of the program to take your chances in audit, but it’s a topic fraught with danger. Now, however, there is guidance about opting out of the program that makes much of it transparent. Because of this late date it is recommended that you properly file FBARs and the 90-day request for amnesty extension. This is the first important step. If the forms are not done properly, you will have extensive problems and will not have to think about opting out. If your forms are properly done and filed, then your situation should be discussed with someone who is experienced in these matters. Under the OVDI, taxpayers are subject to a penalty of 25 percent of the highest aggregate account balance on their undisclosed account(s) between 2003 and 2010. If the value was less than $75,000 at all times during those years, the penalty is only 12.5 percent. These account balance penalties are in lieu of all other penalties that may apply, including FBAR and offshore-related information return penalties. Plus, participants are required to pay taxes and interest on any monies (such as interest income on foreign accounts) they previously failed to report. Finally, they must pay an accuracy-related penalty equal to 20 percent of the underpayment of tax, plus interest. Opting out of the program can make sense for some, though it involves taking your chances with an IRS examination. Someone should represent you with extensive experience in this. We always suggest they should at least be a CPA with years of experience in international tax. It’s even better if you use one that was with the international tax division of the IRS for a number of years. The IRS has published a separate guide detailing the rules and procedures for opting out.
Here are some of the rules: 1. IRS Summary. The IRS employee who has been handling your case summarizes it, agreeing or disagreeing with your view of penalties, and listing how extensive an audit he or she recommends. 2. Program Status Report. Before you can opt out, the IRS sends a letter reporting on the status of your disclosure and what you still must submit. If you’ve given enough data, the IRS will calculate what you would owe under the OVDI. You should provide any missing items within 30 days. 3. Taxpayer Submission. Within 20 days, the taxpayer opts out in writing and makes a written case what penalties should apply and why. 4. Central Committee. A Committee of IRS Managers reviews the summary and decides how extensive an audit to conduct. The IRS says “the taxpayer is not to be punished (or rewarded) for opting out.” The Committee also decides whether to assign your case for a normal civil audit or to assign it for a criminal exam. 5. Written Warning. The IRS sends another letter explaining that opting out must be in writing and is irrevocable. You have 20 days thereafter to opt out in writing. 6. Interview? Some audits will include taxpayer interviews.Bottom Line? The “opt out” procedure is helpful but still a bit daunting. If you are considering it, make sure you get some solid advice from an experienced person who, in my opinion, should have worked for the IRS and is a CPA about the nature of your case. This is just one of the many options that should be discussed with your advisor. There are many other strategies that you may want to utilize. Your advisor should be aware of all your options, and should explain them. If not, consider engaging someone else. Remember, the penalties can be very large, especially if your advisor is not skilled at this. There is even the potential for criminal prosecution. See taxadvisorexpert.com for the latest information in this area or to contact one of our professionals today.
Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, abusive tax shelters, international tax, and other subjects. He writes about FBAR, OVDI, international taxation, captive insurance plans and other topics. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for more than 50 publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and others.
The IRS is cracking down on what it considers to be abusive tax shelters. Many of them are being marketed to small business owners by insurance professionals, financial planners and even accountants and attorneys.I speak at numerous conventions, for both business owners and accountants. And after I speak, I am always approached by many people who have questions about tax reduction plans that they have heard about. Below are the most common 419 tax reduction insurance plans.
These come in various versions, and most of them have or will get the participant audited and the salesman sued. They purportedly allow the business owner to make a large tax-deductible contribution, and some or all of the contribution pays for a life insurance product. The IRS has been disallowing most versions of these plans for years, yet they continue to be sold. After everyone gets into trouble and the insurance agents get sued, the promoters of the abusive versions sometimes change the name of their company and call the plan something else. The insurance companies whose policies are sold are legitimate companies. What usually is not legitimate is the way that most of the plans are operated. There can also be a $200,000 IRS fine facing the insurance agent who sold the plan if Form 8918 has not been properly filed. I've reviewed hundreds of these forms for agents and have yet to see one that was filled out correctly. When the IRS audits a participant in one of these plans, the tax deductions are lost. There is also the interest and large penalties to consider. The business owner can also be facing a $200,000-a-year fine if he did not properly file Form 8886. Most of these forms have been filled out improperly. In my talks with the IRS, I was told that the IRS considers not filling out Form 8886 properly almost the same as not filing at all. 412(i) retirement plans The IRS has been auditing participants in these types of retirement plans. While there is generally nothing wrong with many of the newer plans, the IRS considered most of the older abusive plans. Forms 8918 and 8886 are also required for abusive 412(i) plans. I have been an expert witness in a lot of these 419 and 412(i) lawsuits and I have not lost one of them. If you sold one or more of these plans, get someone who really knows what they are doing to help you immediately. Many advisers will take your money and claim to be able to help you. Make sure they have experience helping agents that have sold these types of plans. Don't let them learn on the job, with your career and money at stake. Do not wait for IRS to come and get you, or for your client to sue you. Time is of the essence. Most insurance professionals need help to correct their improperly completed Form 8918 or to fill it out properly in the first place. If you have not previously filled out the form it is late, and therefore you should immediately seek assistance. There are plenty of legitimate tax reduction insurance plans out there. Just make sure that you know the history of the people with whom you conduct business. Remember, if something looks too good to be true, it usually is. Be careful.
Accountants, insurance professionals and others need to be careful that they don’t become what the IRS calls material advisors. If they sell or give advice, or sign tax returns for abusive, listed or similar plans; they risk a minimum $100,000 fine. Their client will then probably sue them after having dealt with the IRS.
In 2010, the IRS raided the offices of Grist Mill in Simsbury, Conn., and seized the retirement benefit plan administration firm’s files and records. In McGehee Family Clinic, the Tax Court ruled that a clinic and shareholder’s investment in an employee benefit plan marketed under the name “Benistar” was a listed transaction because it was substantially similar to the transaction described in Notice 95-34 (1995-1 C.B.309). This is at least the second case in which the court has ruled against the Benistar welfare benefit plan, by denominating it a listed transaction.
The McGehee Family Clinic enrolled in the Grist Mill Plan in May 2001 and claimed deductions for contributions to it in 2002 and 2005. The returns did not include a Form 8886, Reportable Transaction Disclosure Statement, or similar disclosure. The IRS disallowed the latter deduction and adjusted the 2004 return of shareholder Robert Prosser and his wife to include the $50,000 payment to the plan. Click here to read more.
IRS Hiring Agents in Abusive Transactions Group
FAST PITCH NETWORKING
Posted: Dec. 10
By Lance Wallach
Here it is. Here is your proof of my predictions. Perhaps you didn’t believe me when I told you the IRS was coming after what it has deemed “abusive transactions,” but here it is, right from the IRS’s own job posting. If you were involved with a 419e, 412i, listed transaction, abusive tax shelter, Section 79, or captive, and you haven’t yet approached an expert for help with your situation, you had better do it now, before the notices start piling up on your desk. A portion of the exact announcement from the Department of the Treasury:
Job Title: INTERNAL REVENUE AGENT (ABUSIVE TRANSACTIONS GROUP)
Agency: Internal Revenue Service
Open Period: Monday, October 18, 2010 to Monday,November 01, 2010
Sub Agency: Internal Revenue Service
Job Announcement Number: 11PH1-SBB0058-0512-12/13
Who May Be Considered:
· IRS employees on Career or Career Conditional Appointments in the competitive service
· Treasury Office of Chief Counsel employees on Career or Career Conditional Appointments or with prior competitive status
· IRS employees on Term Appointments with potential conversion to a Career or Career Conditional Appointment in the same line of work
According to the job description, the agents of the Abusive Transactions Group will be conducting examinations of individuals, sole proprietorships, small corporations, partnerships and fiduciaries. They will be examining tax returns and will “determine the correct tax liability, and identify situations with potential for understated taxes.” These agents will work in the Small Business/Self Employed Business Division (SB/SE) which provides examinations for about 7 million small businesses and upwards of 33 million self-employed and supplemental income taxpayers. This group specifically goes after taxpayers who generally have higher incomes than most taxpayers, need to file more tax forms, and generally need to rely more on paid tax preparers. Their examinations can contain “special audit features or anticipated accounting, tax law, or investigative issues,” and look to make sure that, for example, specialty returns are filed properly. The fines are severe. Under IRC 6707A, fines are up to $200,000 annually for not properly disclosing participation in a listed transaction. There was a moratorium on those fines until June 2010, pending new legislation to reduce them, but the new law virtually guarantees you will be fined. The fines had been $200,000 per year on the corporate level and $100,000 per year on the personal level. You got the fine even if you made no contributions for the year. All you had to do was to be in the plan and fail to properly disclose your participation. You can possibly still avoid all this by properly filing form 8886 IMMEDIATELY with the IRS. Time is especially of the essence now. You MUST file before you are assessed the penalty. For months the Service has been holding off on actually collecting from people that they assessed because they did not know what Congress was going to do. But now they do know, so they are going to move aggressively to collection with people they have already assessed. There is no reason not to now. This is especially true because the new legislation still does not provide for a right of appeal or judicial review. The Service is still judge, jury, and executioner. Its word is absolute as far as determining what is a listed transaction. So you have to file form 8886 fast, but you also have to file it properly. The Service treats forms that are incorrectly filed as if they were never filed. You get fined for filing incorrectly, or for not filing at all. The Statute of Limitations does not begin unless you properly file. That means the IRS can come back to get you any time in the future unless you file properly. If you don’t want these new IRS Agents, or any other IRS agents for that matter, to be earning their paychecks by coming after you, make sure you have done all you can to ensure that you have filed properly by reaching out for expert help today.
By Lance Wallach
CPAs are the best and most qualified professionals when it comes to serving their clients needs, but they need to know when and how to coordinate with other experts.
Over the last twenty years we have worked with thousands of practitioners who have decided to add financial services to their practices. They do it for a variety of reasons, but the most common are as follows: *They don’t want to refer their client elsewhere when they request financial services. * They want to remain competitive. *They want to diversify and increase their revenue as opposed to depending solely on tax and accounting revenue.
419, 412i, Captive Insurance and section 79 plans continue to get large IRS fines.
By Lance Wallach
Life insurance agents recently have started pushing the newest variety of high ticket items. After the IRS has almost put 419 plans out of business and severely curtailed abusive 412i plans they needed another way to sell large commission life insurance policies. Many of the promoters of the 419 and 412i plans are now promoting section 79 and captive insurance plans. They claim that these plans allow businesses to tax deduct life insurance. These promoters as in the past claim, that most of the benefits would be for the business owners. I have been an expert witness in many cases against these abusive plans and my side has never lost a case.
Recently my office has been receiving over fifty calls per month from people that are being threatened with large IRS fines. Most of these people (including CPAs) do not understand why this is happening. These fines are primarily the result of greed. Insurance company, insurance agent, plan promoter and even IRS greed. Insurance companies are always looking for ways to sell large amounts of life insurance. Taxpayers are constantly looking for larger tax deductions. Insurance agents want to earn large life insurance commissions. The IRS has started additional enforcement action against taxpayers and accountants.Read more here
In recent years, some section 412(i) plans have been funded with life insurance using face amounts in excess of the maximum death benefit a qualified plan is permitted to pay. Ideally, the plan should limit the proceeds that can be paid as a death benefit in the event of a participant’s death. Excess amounts would revert to the plan. Effective February 13, 2004, the purchase of excessive life insurance in any plan is considered a listed transaction if the face amount of the insurance exceeds the amount that can be issued by $100,000 or more and the employer has deducted the premiums for the insurance.
A 412(i) plan in and of itself is not a listed transaction; however, the IRS has a task force auditing 412i plans.
An employer has not engaged in a listed transaction simply because it is a 412(i) plan.
Just because a 412(i) plan was audited and sanctioned for certain items, does not necessarily mean the plan engaged in a listed transaction. Some 412(i) plans have been audited and sanctioned for issues not related to listed transactions.
Companies should carefully evaluate proposed investments in plans such as the Grist Mill Plan. The claimed deductions will not be available, and penalties will be assessed for lack of disclosure if the investment is similar to the investments described in Notice 95-34. In addition, under IRC 6707A, IRS fines participants a large amount of money for not properly disclosing their participation in listed, reportable or similar transactions; an issue that was not before the Tax Court in either Curcio or McGehee. The disclosure needs to be made for every year the participant is in a plan. The forms need to be properly filed even for years that no contributions are made. I have received numerous calls from participants who did disclose and still got fined because the forms were not filled in properly. A plan administrator told me that he assisted hundreds of his participants file forms, and they still all received very large IRS fines for not properly filling in the forms.
IRS has been attacking all 419 welfare benefit plans, many 412i retirement plans, captive insurance plans with life insurance in them and Section 79 plans.
Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, abusive tax shelters, financial, international tax, and estate planning. He writes about 412(i), 419, Section79, FBAR, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Pubic Radio’s All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education’s CPA’s Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as the AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case.
By Lance Wallach
You may want to think about participation in the IRS’ offshore tax amnesty program (called the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative). Do you want to play audit roulette with the IRS? Some clients think they are too small to be prosecuted. They are wrong. To the average businessperson, only the guys with tens of millions secretly stashed in Swiss bank accounts get prosecuted. Don't tell that to Michael Schiavo. He was just prosecuted for hiding money in a Swiss account back in 2003. How much money does the IRS say he hid? A whopping $90,000. That’s it. But wait, there is more to the story. Schiavo attempted to do a quiet disclosure during the 2009 amnesty but instead of filling out the amnesty paperwork, he simply trusted that by coming forward voluntarily he could avoid criminal prosecution. He was wrong on all counts. Nothing is too small for the IRS, and nothing is too old.
“So, to save a whopping $40,624 in taxes, this guy risked a felony conviction and prison time, not to mention steep penalties that could very easily eat up the entire $90,000, and also his criminal and civil defense costs.
The smart taxpayers are the ones coming forward and not having to look over their shoulders for the next 10 years. Time is running out. The tax amnesty runs through August but it takes at least days to jump through all the hoops. We will also fight hard to reduce the penalties down even more. Remember, the IRS can go as low as 5%. Don’t want this to happen to you? Visit www.taxadvisorexpert.com today!
Taxpayers Who Previously Adopted 419, 412i, Captive Insurance or Section 79 Plans are in Big Trouble
By Lance Wallach, CLU, CHFC
In recent years, the IRS has identified many of these arrangements as abusive devices to funnel tax deductible dollars to shareholders and classified these arrangements as listed transactions." Insurance agents, financial planners, accountants and attorneys seeking large life insurance commissions sold these plans.
Finance Toolbox - June 2011
In general, taxpayers who engage in a “listed transaction” must report such transaction to the IRS on Form 8886 every year that they “participate” in the transaction, and you do not necessarily have to make a contribution or claim a tax deduction to participate. Section 6707A of the Code imposes severe penalties for failure to file Form 8886 with respect to a listed transaction. But you are also in trouble if you file incorrectly. I have received numerous phone calls from business owners who filed and still got fined. Not only do you have to file Form 8886, but it also has to be prepared correctly. I only know of two people in the U.S. who have filed these forms properly for clients. They tell me that was after hundreds of hours of research and over 50 phones calls to various IRS personnel. The filing instructions for Form 8886 presume a timely filling. Most people file late and follow the directions for currently preparing the forms. Then the IRS fines the business owner. The tax court does not have jurisdiction to abate or lower such penalties imposed by the IRS.
"Many taxpayers who are no longer taking current tax deductions for these plans continue to enjoy the benefit of previous tax deductions by continuing the deferral of income from contributions and deductions taken in prior years."
Many business owners adopted 412i, 419, captive insurance and Section 79 plans based upon representations provided by insurance professionals that the plans were legitimate plans and were not informed that they were engaging in a listed transaction. Upon audit, these taxpayers were shocked when the IRS asserted penalties under Section 6707A of the Code in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Numerous complaints from these taxpayers caused Congress to impose a moratorium on assessment of Section 6707A penalties.
The moratorium on IRS fines expired on June 1, 2010. The IRS immediately started sending out notices proposing the imposition of Section 6707A penalties along with requests for lengthy extensions of the Statute of Limitations for the purpose of assessing tax. Many of these taxpayers stopped taking deductions for contributions to these plans years ago, and are confused and upset by the IRS’s inquiry, especially when the taxpayer had previously reached a monetary settlement with the IRS regarding its deductions. Logic and common sense dictate that a penalty should not apply if the taxpayer no longer benefits from the arrangement. Treas. Reg. Sec. 1.6011-4(c)(3)(i) provides that a taxpayer has participated in a listed transaction if the taxpayer’s tax return reflects tax consequences or a tax strategy described in the published guidance identifying the transaction as a listed transaction or a transaction that is the same or substantially similar to a listed transaction.
Clearly, the primary benefit in the participation of these plans is the large tax deduction generated by such participation. Many taxpayers who are no longer taking current tax deductions for these plans continue to enjoy the benefit of previous tax deductions by continuing the deferral of income from contributions and deductions taken in prior years. While the regulations do not expand on what constitutes “reflecting the tax consequences of the strategy,” it could be argued that continued benefit from a tax deferral for a previous tax deduction is within the contemplation of a “tax consequence” of the plan strategy. Also, many taxpayers who no longer make contributions or claim tax deductions continue to pay administrative fees. Sometimes, money is taken from the plan to pay premiums to keep life insurance policies in force. In these ways, it could be argued that these taxpayers are still “contributing,” and thus still must file Form 8886.
It is clear that the extent to which a taxpayer benefits from the transaction depends on the purpose of a particular transaction as described in the published guidance that caused such transaction to be a listed transaction. Revenue Ruling 2004-20, which classifies 419(e) transactions, appears to be concerned with the employer’s contribution/deduction amount rather than the continued deferral of the income in previous years. Another important issue is that the IRS has called CPAs material advisors if they signed tax returns containing the plan, and got paid a certain amount of money for tax advice on the plan. The fine is $100,000 for the CPA, or $200,000 if the CPA is incorporated. To avoid the fine, the CPA has to properly file Form 8918.