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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Another Affordable Care Act Oddity

To help more people obtain health insurance, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides a subsidy in the form of a refundable, advanceable tax credit - the Premium Tax Credit (PTC). Generally, if your household income is at least 100% of the Federal poverty line, but not over 400% of that line, and you are not offered affordable coverage from your employer, you are eligible.

For many people, their household income is roughly the same each month. But not for everyone. Perhaps you started the year with monthly income within the eligibility range and obtained subsidized insurance for those months. But, then you get a better paying job or a bonus (but still no offer of affordable health insurance from your employer), and your annual household income goes above 400% of the FPL?  Well, then you have to repay the subsidy you got in the earlier months even though for those months, you could not afford the coverage.

Sounds rough, but not easy to resolve.  If the PTC were changed to be based month by month on your income, it would favor those who can defer lots of income to the last month of the year. Perhaps the problem is more tied to the "cliff" in the PTC that causes someone to completely lose the subsidy once their income crosses the 400% of the FPL (more on that here).  And, all of this puts the PTC person in a situation that an employee with employer-subsidized coverage is not in. That is, there is no cliff that causes an employee to lose his or her income exclusion for what the employer pays towards the employee's health coverage.

What do you think would work to make the PTC more fair?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

AICPA tax reform suggestions for individuals

This week the AICPA Tax Section submitted comments to the Senate Finance Working Group on Individual Taxation.  The suggestions address:
1. Simplified Income Tax Rate Structure;
2. Education Incentives;
3. Identity Theft and Tax Fraud;
4. Relief for Missed Elections (9100 Relief); and
5. “Kiddie Tax” Rules.

Some of these have been long-time suggestions of the AICPA Tax Division, such as unifying the education incentives to make them more usable and simpler.

The Senate Finance Committee is seeking comments for its five working group, with comments due by April 15!  I'm guessing they will also take them shortly thereafter (or anytime).

I'll have more later. I plan to submit comments.  Do you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Need for greater tax literacy and regulation of preparers

I was shocked by the March 13, 2015 IRS release warning individuals to chose their tax professional carefully. The IRS found that some "unscrupulous preparers" instructed their clients to make individual shared responsibility payment directly to the preparer! That is stealing!

I fault the clients, preparers and the complex system.

The IRS has tried to regulate all return preparers but been held up by a need for a statute change that Congress will have to address (see quick summary from IRS on this).  Of course, truly unscrupulous people will still find a way around the law.

So, more is needed to educate individuals about the tax system so they better understand what is reasonable and what is not reasonable. This should be part of a high school civics class. Also, individuals should be penalized if they pay someone to preparer their return and that person does not sign their return and list their PTIN.  I've mentioned this before and some people thought I was being too harsh. But, the IRS can't find all scammers and people are responsible for the return they file. Knowing they will get penalized by going to an unscrupulous preparer (one who will take the client's money but not sign the return), perhaps we'd see fewer unscrupulous preparers.

And, some of this issue relates to the individual shared responsibility payment.  It is owed for any month, starting in 2014, that an individual does not have health insurance and doesn't meet an exemption.  I think it is reasonable that many people would not think that is a tax return item (but not sure why they think then that the payment goes directly to their return preparer).

What do you think?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Busy Season Updates - TPR and ACA

Well into the start of busy season, the IRS issued important guidance on some parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how small businesses can adopt the tangible property regulations (TPR).  I've got a summary of the ACA updates (and beyond) in a short article in the 3/12/15 AICPA Tax Insider - An update on Affordable Care Act busy season developments.

Here is my summary of the TPR items as well as a recent news release by the California Franchise Tax Board on conformity with TPR.

Policy Item: Both the ACA items (particularly the relief from the $100/employee/day penalty for health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) that violate ACA provisions), and the TPR relief for small businesses came after many diligent tax practitioners had already invested time with their clients and clients had invested money and may have changed business practices that may have been adverse to employees (to fix HRA problems).  It would be nice to see some practice implemented such that IRS can get this filing season related guidance out well before the start of filing season. Perhaps there should be a meeting in October with IRS and key tax practitioner groups (AICPA, NAEA, etc.) to identify the filing season challenges and suggest solutions that the IRS could issue guidance on before December).

What do you think?

Here is my TPR summary:  Hope it is helpful.

Adopting the Tangible Property Regulations
in Light of IRS Simplified Procedure of Rev. Proc. 2015-20
+ FTB Announcement on Conformity

On February 13, 2015, the IRS finally responded to requests of many practitioners to provide relief from filing Forms 3115 for all clients with depreciable assets, whether used for business or rental properties. Basically, this guidance – Rev. Proc. 2015-20, allows “a small business taxpayer, defined as a business with total assets of less than $10 million or average annual gross receipts of $10 million or less for the prior three taxable years” to adopt the tangible property regulations (TPR) on a cut-off basis. That means, no need for a Form 3115 or calculation of any §481(a) adjustment. With this approach, the small business just adopts the TPR for its tax year beginning on or after 1/1/14. The taxpayer continues to use its old method for repairs versus capitalization and supplies for prior tax years.

It is highly recommended that you read Rev. Proc. 2015-20. This will help in deciding whether to take this simplified method versus reviewing the clients tax records to determine where it has method changes and §481(a) adjustments. For example, you need to review the records to determine if in the past, something was expensed as a repair which the TPR would treat as an improvement. If that item would still be on the depreciation records if capitalized back in the year incurred, it generates a positive §481(a) adjustment. There may also be pre-2014 transactions where something was capitalized as an improvement when under the TPR, it is not an improvement so should have been expensed. If this asset is still being depreciated, a negative §481(a) adjustment is generated equal to the adjustment basis of the asset at 12/31/13 (assuming the taxpayer is using a calendar year as its tax year). 

The nature of the possible adjustments to adopt the TPR for prior years are summarized in Rev. Proc. 2015-14, Section 10.11 on Tangible Property. This was formerly in Rev. Proc. 2014-16.

Also relevant are the regulations on dispositions of property that related to the TPR. These regulations and Rev. Proc. 2014-54 (now part of Rev. Proc. 2015-14) allowed a one-time retroactive adjustment via a negative Section 481(a) adjustment for 2014 (assuming a calendar year) (see Section 6 of Rev. Proc. 2015-14).

Some observations to consider when you read Rev. Proc. 2015-20 and decide whether to go the Form 3115/§481(a) route or the simplified approach for your small clients.

Rev. Proc. 2015-20 Simplified Approach
(No 3115 or 481(a) adj.)
Rev. Proc. 2015-14 Method Changes and Forms 3115
Audit protection for prior years
Possibility of reducing 2014 taxable income for any negative §481(a) adjustment (after using the netting process of Rev. Proc. 2015-14).
(note that if the 481(a) adjustment relates to a passive activity, it is a passive activity deduction only usable against passive activity income).
Ability to make the optional late partial disposition election that is only available for 2014 (producing a negative §81(a) adjustment).
Time commitment
To consider whether to go the simplified route (no 3115 or §481(a) adjustment) or do the full method adoption.
Time is needed to review depreciation schedule and inquire about past repairs. Need to review supplies treatment in light of TPR. Creation of documents to support required §481(a) adjustments. Spend time with Rev. Proc. 2015-14 on how to make the method changes.
Taxpayer’s tax records
·   2014 and later follow TPR
·   Tax years prior to 2014 follow the taxpayer’s method used prior to the TPR.
All of taxpayer’s tax records follow the TPR (due to the §481(a) adjustments made).

Additional Information
·         Rev. Proc. 2015-20 includes a special rule in identifying taxpayers eligible for the $10 million measure of being “small.” Basically, if the taxpayer has separate and distinct trades or businesses, it does not aggregate their gross receipts to see if the $10 million threshold is crossed.  See Section 4 of Rev. Proc. 2015-20.
·         In Rev. Proc. 2015-20, the IRS requests comments on whether the $500 de minimis safe harbor election amount of Reg. 1.263(a)-1(f) should be increased.
·         In February 2015, the IRS announced a new address for Form 3115 required to be mailed to Ogden.
·         In March 2015, the IRS released FAQs on the TPR. The FAQ on Rev. Proc. 2015-20 suggests that taxpayers using the simplified procedure include a statement on the 2014 return that the taxpayer is a qualifying trade or business using the simplified procedure of Rev. Proc. 2015-20.

California and TPR and Method Changes
In its March 2015 newsletter, the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) explains how the federal TPR apply in California and the effect of a federal Form 3115. Quoting one key part of this news:

Does California Follow the Repair Regulations?

Yes, for taxable years starting on or after January 1, 2010, California conforms to the Internal Revenue Code as enacted on January 1, 2009. Any regulations for the Internal Revenue Code as in effect on January 1, 2009, are applicable as regulations of the FTB unless they conflict with a provision of the Revenue and Taxation Code or a regulation of the FTB. The FTB is currently not aware of any specific repair regulations which the FTB would not follow”

The FTB also states that any method change made for federal income tax purposes also changes the method for California purposes. FTB notes though, that if the §481(a) adjustment involves depreciation, the §481(a) amount for California corporations will be different..

Finally, the FTB states that it will follow Rev. Proc. 2015-20.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Use Tax Lookup Tables

Source: Kentucky 2014 Individual Tax Form Instructions
 I like use tax lookup tables. These are tables a few states allow for individuals to estimate their use tax owed, which they then include on their state income tax form to become use tax compliant.  No need to keep records of all use tax transactions.  I'm not sure what data and projections states use to create the look-up tables.  I compare three state tables in this post - here.

What do you think? Do you use one (if available)?  Do you think they are good estimates?