Improvements to Interior Parts of Nonresidential Buildings

This article is to alert you to a beneficial change in the tax rules for many improvements to interior parts of nonresidential buildings (‘‘qualified improvement property’’ or ‘‘QIP’’). You may recall that following the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (‘‘TCJA’’), any QIP placed in service after Dec. 31, 2017 was not considered to be eligible for 100% bonus depreciation. Therefore, the cost of QIP had to be deducted over a 39-year period instead of entirely in the year the QIP was placed in service. That result was due to an inadvertent drafting error by Congress.

The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (‘‘CARES Act’’) was signed into law on Mar. 27, 2020. The CARES Act corrects the TCJA drafting error for QIP. Thus, most businesses are now allowed to claim 100% bonus depreciation for QIP, as long as certain other requirements are met. What also is helpful is that the correction is retroactive, and it reaches back to apply to any QIP placed in service after Dec. 31, 2017. Unfortunately, improvements related to the enlargement of a building, any elevator or escalator, or the internal structural framework continue to be outside of the definition of QIP.

In the current business climate, you may not be in a position to undertake new capital expenditures, even if needed as a practical matter and even if the substitution of 100% bonus depreciation for a 39-year depreciation period significantly lowers the true cost of QIP. But it’s good to know that when you are ready to undertake qualifying improvements, the generous subsidy of 100% bonus depreciation will be available.

And, the retroactive effect of the CARES Act presents favorable opportunities for qualifying expenditures you’ve already made. We can revisit and add to documentation that you’ve already provided me to identify QIP expenditures.

For not-yet-filed returns, we can simply reflect the favorable treatment for QIP on the return.

If you’ve filed returns that didn’t claim 100% bonus depreciation for what may prove to be QIP, we can investigate based on available documentation as discussed above. If there is QIP that was in fact eligible for 100% bonus depreciation, note that IRS has, for past retroactive favorable depreciation changes, provided taxpayers with detailed guidance for how the benefit is claimed. That is, IRS clarified how much flexibility taxpayers have in choosing between a one-time downward adjustment to income on their current returns or an amendment to the return for the year the QIP was placed in service. I will monitor what your options are as anticipated IRS guidance for the QIP correction is released.

If you have any questions about the news shared above, or about how you can take advantage of it, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Tax Relief provided by the CARES Act

We hope that you are keeping yourself, your loved ones, and your community safe from COVID-19 (commonly referred to as the Coronavirus). Along with those paramount health concerns, you may be wondering about some of the recent tax changes meant to help everyone coping with the Coronavirus fallout. In addition to the summary of IRS actions and earlier-enacted federal tax legislation that we previously sent you, we now want to update you on the tax-related provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress’s gigantic economic stimulus package that the President signed into law on March 27, 2020.

Recovery rebates for individuals. To help individuals stay afloat during this time of economic uncertainty, the government will send up to $1,200 payments to eligible taxpayers and $2,400 for married couples filing joints returns. An additional $500 additional payment will be sent to taxpayers for each qualifying child dependent under age 17 (using the qualification rules under the Child Tax Credit).

Rebates are gradually phased out, at a rate of 5% of the individual’s adjusted gross income over $75,000 (singles or marrieds filing separately), $122,500 (head of household), and $150,000 (joint). There is no income floor or ‘‘phase-in’’—all recipients who are under the phaseout threshold will receive the same amounts. Tax filers must have provided, on the relevant tax returns or other documents (see below), Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for each family member for whom a rebate is claimed. Adoption taxpayer identification numbers will be accepted for adopted children. SSNs are not required for spouses of active military members. The rebates are not available to nonresident aliens, to estates and trusts, or to individuals who themselves could be claimed as dependents.

The rebates will be paid out in the form of checks or direct deposits. Most individuals won’t have to take any action to receive a rebate. IRS will compute the rebate based on a taxpayer’s tax year 2019 return (or tax year 2018, if no 2019 return has yet been filed). If no 2018 return has been filed, IRS will use information for 2019 provided in Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, or Form RRB-1099, Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement.

Rebates are payable whether or not tax is owed. Thus, individuals who had little or no income, such as those who filed returns simply to claim the refundable earned income credit or child tax credit, qualify for a rebate.

Waiver of 10% early distribution penalty. The additional 10% tax on early distributions from IRAs and defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) plans) is waived for distributions made between January 1 and December 31, 2020 by a person who (or whose family) is infected with the Coronavirus or who is economically harmed by the Coronavirus (a qualified individual). Penalty-free distributions are limited to $100,000, and may, subject to guidelines, be re-contributed to the plan or IRA. Income arising from the distributions is spread out over three years unless the employee elects to turn down the spread out. Employers may amend defined contribution plans to provide for these distributions. Additionally, defined contribution plans are permitted additional flexibility in the amount and repayment terms of loans to employees who are qualified individuals.

Waiver of required distribution rules. Required minimum distributions that otherwise would have to be made in 2020 from defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) plans) and IRAs are waived. This includes distributions that would have been required by April 1, 2020, due to the account owner’s having turned age 70 1/2 in 2019.

Charitable deduction liberalizations. The CARES Act makes four significant liberalizations to the rules governing charitable deductions:

(1) Individuals will be able to claim a $300 above-the-line deduction for cash contributions made, generally, to public charities in 2020. This rule effectively allows a limited charitable deduction to taxpayers claiming the standard deduction.

(2) The limitation on charitable deductions for individuals that is generally 60% of modified adjusted gross income (the contribution base) doesn’t apply to cash contributions made, generally, to public charities in 2020 (qualifying contributions). Instead, an individual’s qualifying contributions, reduced by other contributions, can be as much as 100% of the contribution base. No connection between the contributions and COVID-19 activities is required.

(3) Similarly, the limitation on charitable deductions for corporations that is generally 10% of (modified) taxable income doesn’t apply to qualifying contributions made in 2020. Instead, a corporation’s qualifying contributions, reduced by other contributions, can be as much as 25% of (modified) taxable income. No connection between the contributions and COVID-19 activities is required.

(4) For contributions of food inventory made in 2020, the deduction limitation increases from 15% to 25% of taxable income for C corporations and, for other taxpayers, from 15% to 25% of the net aggregate income from all businesses from which the contributions were made.

Exclusion for employer payments of student loans. An employee currently may exclude $5,250 from income for benefits from an employer-sponsored educational assistance program. The CARES Act expands the definition of expenses qualifying for the exclusion to include employer payments of student loan debt made before January 1, 2021.

Break for remote care services provided by high deductible health plans. For plan years beginning before 2021, the CARES Act allows high deductible health plans to pay for expenses for tele-health and other remote services without regard to the deductible amount for the plan.

Break for nonprescription medical products. For amounts paid after December 31, 2019, the CARES Act allows amounts paid from Health Savings Accounts and Archer Medical Savings Accounts to be treated as paid for medical care even if they aren’t paid under a prescription. And, amounts paid for menstrual care products are treated as amounts paid for medical care. For reimbursements after December 31, 2019, the same rules apply to Flexible Spending Arrangements and Health Reimbursement Arrangements.

Business only provisions

Employee retention credit for employers. Eligible employers can qualify for a refundable credit against, generally, the employer’s 6.2% portion of the Social Security (OASDI) payroll tax (or against the Railroad Retirement tax) for 50% of certain wages (below) paid to employees during the COVID-19 crisis.

The credit is available to employers carrying on business during 2020, including non-profits (but not government entities), whose operations for a calendar quarter have been fully or partially suspended as a result of a government order limiting commerce, travel or group meetings. The credit is also available to employers who have experienced a more than 50% reduction in quarterly receipts, measured on a year-over-year basis relative to the corresponding 2019 quarter, with the eligible quarters continuing until the quarter after there is a quarter in which receipts are greater than 80% of the receipts for the corresponding 2019 quarter.

For employers with more than 100 employees in 2019, the eligible wages are wages of employees who aren’t providing services because of the business suspension or reduction in gross receipts described above.

For employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees in 2019, all employee wages are eligible, even if employees haven’t been prevented from providing services. The credit is provided for wages and compensation, including health benefits, and is provided for the first $10,000 in eligible wages and compensation paid by the employer to an employee. Thus, the credit is a maximum $5,000 per employee.

Wages don’t include (1) wages taken into account for purposes of the payroll credits provided by the earlier Families First Coronavirus Response Act for required paid sick leave or required paid family leave, (2) wages taken into account for the employer income tax credit for paid family and medical leave (under Code Sec. 45S) or (3) wages in a period in which an employer is allowed for an employee a work opportunity credit (under Code Sec. 51). An employer can elect to not have the credit apply on a quarter-by-quarter basis.

The IRS has authority to advance payments to eligible employers and to waive penalties for employers who do not deposit applicable payroll taxes in reasonable anticipation of receiving the credit. The credit is not available to employers receiving Small Business Interruption Loans. The credit is provided for wages paid after March 12, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

Delayed payment of employer payroll taxes. Taxpayers (including self-employeds) will be able to defer paying the employer portion of certain payroll taxes through the end of 2020, with all 2020 deferred amounts due in two equal installments, one at the end of 2021, the other at the end of 2022. Taxes that can be deferred include the 6.2% employer portion of the Social Security (OASDI) payroll tax and the employer and employee representative portion of Railroad Retirement taxes (that are attributable to the employer 6.2% Social Security (OASDI) rate). The relief isn’t available if the taxpayer has had debt forgiveness under the CARES Act for certain loans under the Small Business Act as modified by the CARES Act (see below). For self-employeds, the deferral applies to 50% of the Self-Employment Contributions Act tax liability (including any related estimated tax liability).

Net operating loss liberalizations. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the 2017 Tax Law) limited NOLs arising after 2017 to 80% of taxable income and eliminated the ability to carry NOLs back to prior tax years. For NOLs arising in tax years beginning before 2021, the CARES Act allows taxpayers to carryback 100% of NOLs to the prior five tax years, effectively delaying for carrybacks the 80% taxable income limitation and carryback prohibition until 2021.

The Act also temporarily liberalizes the treatment of NOL carryforwards. For tax years beginning before 2021, taxpayers can take an NOL deduction equal to 100% of taxable income (rather than the present 80% limit). For tax years beginning after 2021, taxpayers will be eligible for: (1) a 100% deduction of NOLs arising in tax years before 2018, and (2) a deduction limited to 80% of taxable income for NOLs arising in tax years after 2017.

The provision also includes special rules for REITS, life insurance companies, and the Code Sec. 965 transition tax. There are also technical corrections to the 2017 Tax Law effective dates for NOL changes.

Deferral of noncorporate taxpayer loss limits. The CARES Act retroactively turns off the excess active business loss limitation rule of the TCJA in Code Sec. 461(l) by deferring its effective date to tax years beginning after December 31, 2020 (rather than December 31, 2017). (Under the rule, active net business losses in excess of $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) are disallowed by the 2017 Tax Law and were treated as NOL carryforwards in the following tax year.)

The CARES Act clarifies, in a technical amendment that is retroactive, that an excess loss is treated as part of any net operating loss for the year, but isn’t automatically carried forward to the next year. Another technical amendment clarifies that excess business losses do not include any deduction under Code Sec. 172 (NOL deduction) or Code Sec. 199A (qualified business income deduction).

Still another technical amendment clarifies that business deductions and income don’t include any deductions, gross income or gain attributable to performing services as an employee. And because capital losses of non-corporations cannot offset ordinary income under the NOL rules, capital loss deductions are not taken into account in computing the Code Sec. 461(l) loss and the amount of capital gain taken into account cannot exceed the lesser of capital gain net income from a trade or business or capital gain net income.

Acceleration of corporate AMT liability credit. The 2017 Tax Law repealed the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) and allowed corporations to claim outstanding AMT credits subject to certain limits for tax years before 2021, at which time any remaining AMT credit could be claimed as fully-refundable. The CARES Act allows corporations to claim 100% of AMT credits in 2019 as fully-refundable and further provides an election to accelerate the refund to 2018.

Relaxation of business interest deduction limit. The 2017 Tax Law generally limited the amount of business interest allowed as a deduction to 30% of adjusted taxable income (ATI). The CARES Act generally allows businesses, unless they elect otherwise, to increase the interest limitation to 50% of ATI for 2019 and 2020, and to elect to use 2019 ATI in calculating their 2020 limitation. For partnerships, the 30% of ATI limit remains in place for 2019 but is 50% for 2020. However, unless a partner elects otherwise, 50% of any business interest allocated to a partner in 2019 is deductible in 2020 and not subject to the 50% (formerly 30%) ATI limitation. The remaining 50% of excess business interest from 2019 allocated to the partner is subject to the ATI limitations. Partnerships, like other businesses, may elect to use 2019 partnership ATI in calculating their 2020 limitation.

Technical correction to restore faster write-offs for interior building improvements. The CARES Act makes a technical correction to the 2017 Tax Law that retroactively treats (1) a wide variety of interior, non-load-bearing building improvements (qualified improvement property (QIP)) as eligible for bonus deprecation (and hence a 100% write-off) or for treatment as 15-year MACRS property or (2) if required to be treated as alternative depreciation system property, as eligible for a write-off over 20 years. The correction of the error in the 2017 Tax Law restores the eligibility of QIP for bonus depreciation, and in giving QIP 15-year MACRS status, restores 15-year MACRS write-offs for many leasehold, restaurant and retail improvements.

Accelerated payment of credits for required paid sick leave and family leave. The CARES Act authorizes IRS broadly to allow employers an accelerated benefit of the paid sick leave and paid family leave credits allowed by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by, for example, not requiring deposits of payroll taxes in the amount of credits earned.

Pension funding delay. The CARES Act gives single employer pension plan companies more time to meet their funding obligations by delaying the due date for any contribution otherwise due during 2020 until January 1, 2021. At that time, contributions due earlier will be due with interest. Also, a plan can treat its status for benefit restrictions as of December 31, 2019 as applying throughout 2020.

Certain SBA loan debt forgiveness isn’t taxable. Amounts of Small Business Administration Section 7(a)(36) guaranteed loans that are forgiven under the CARES Act aren’t taxable as discharge of indebtedness income if the forgiven amounts are used for one of several permitted purposes. The loans have to be made during the period beginning on February 15, 2020 and ending on June 30, 2020.

Suspension of certain alcohol excise taxes. The CARES Act suspends alcohol taxes on spirits withdrawn during 2020 from a bonded premises for use in or contained in hand sanitizer produced and distributed in a manner consistent with FDA guidance related to the outbreak of virus SARSCoV- 2 or COVID-19.

Suspension of certain aviation taxes. The CARES Act suspends excise taxes on air transportation of persons and of property and on the excise tax imposed on kerosene used in commercial aviation. The suspension runs from March 28, 2020 to December 31, 2020.

Bernie Sanders Tax Plan

Tony Nitti is a regular contributor to Forbes.com, covering tax policy and key court decisions.  He has recently written articles on the tax plans of the various Democratic candidates.  Click here to view the article on Bernie Sanders’ tax plan.

President’s Budget would extend TCJA

President Trump has issued a budget proposal for fiscal year 2021. Among its provisions are an extension, through 2035, of the wealth transfer tax (i.e., estate, gift, etc.) cuts and individual income tax cuts contained in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The TCJA contained provisions that cut tax rates and made other changes to individual income tax rules; these provisions are scheduled to expire for tax years beginning before Jan. 1, 2026.   The TCJA also increased the estate/gift tax exclusion to $11 million plus annual cost of living increases for estates of decedents dying and gifts made before Jan. 1, 2026.

President’s budget would extend TCJA provisions. The budget states that the administration supports the extension of the individual and estate tax provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act through 2035.

Other tax provisions in President’s budget:

The budget proposes $12.0 billion in fiscal year 2021 base funding for IRS. The budget provides $300 million to continue IRS efforts to modernize its information technology infrastructure and enhance taxpayers’ ability to interact with the IRS securely and electronically.

The budget includes funding to digitize more IRS communications to taxpayers so they can respond quickly and accurately to IRS questions; create a call-back function for certain IRS telephone lines so taxpayers do not need to wait on hold to speak with an IRS representative; and make it easier for taxpayers to make and schedule payments online.

The budget also proposes legislation enabling additional funding to expand tax enforcement. These additional proposed investments are estimated to generate approximately $79 billion in additional revenue at a cost of $15 billion, yielding a net savings of $64 billion over 10 years.

The budget also includes several compliance proposals, including: improving oversight of paid tax preparers; giving IRS the authority to correct more errors on tax returns before refunds are issued; requiring a valid Social Security Number for work in order to claim certain tax credits; and increasing wage and information reporting.

SECURE Act

Congress recently passed, and the President signed into law, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act), landmark legislation that may affect how you plan for your retirement. Many of the provisions go into effect in 2020, which means now is the time to consider how these new rules may affect your tax and retirement-planning situation.

Here is a look at some of the more important elements of the SECURE Act that have an impact on individuals. The changes in the law might provide you and your family with tax-savings opportunities. However, not all of the changes are favorable, and there may be steps you could take to minimize their impact.

Repeal of the maximum age for traditional IRA contributions. Before 2020, traditional IRA contributions were not allowed once the individual attained age 70½. Starting in 2020, the new rules allow an individual of any age to make contributions to a traditional IRA, as long as the individual has compensation, which generally means earned income from wages or self-employment.

Required minimum distribution age raised from 70½ to 72. Before 2020, retirement plan participants and IRA owners were generally required to begin taking required minimum distributions, or RMDs, from their plan by April 1 of the year following the year they reached age 70½. The age 70½ requirement was first applied in the retirement plan context in the early 1960s and, until recently, had not been adjusted to account for increases in life expectancy.

For distributions required to be made after Dec. 31, 2019, for individuals who attain age 70½ after that date, the age at which individuals must begin taking distributions from their retirement plan or IRA is increased from 70½ to 72.

Partial elimination of stretch IRAs. For deaths of plan participants or IRA owners occurring before 2020, beneficiaries (both spousal and nonspousal) were generally allowed to stretch out the tax-deferral advantages of the plan or IRA by taking distributions over the beneficiary’s life or life expectancy (in the IRA context, this is sometimes referred to as a “stretch IRA”).

However, for deaths of plan participants or IRA owners beginning in 2020 (later for some participants in collectively bargained plans and governmental plans), distributions to most nonspouse beneficiaries are generally required to be distributed within ten years following the plan participant’s or IRA owner’s death (10-year rule). So, for those beneficiaries, the “stretching” strategy is no longer allowed.

Exceptions to the 10-year rule are allowed for distributions to (1) the surviving spouse of the plan participant or IRA owner; (2) a child of the plan participant or IRA owner who has not reached majority; (3) a chronically ill individual; and (4) any other individual who is not more than ten years younger than the plan participant or IRA owner. Those beneficiaries who qualify under this exception may generally still take their distributions over their life expectancy (as allowed under the rules in effect for deaths occurring before 2020).

Expansion of Section 529 education savings plans to cover registered apprenticeships and distributions to repay certain student loans. A Section 529 education savings plan (a 529 plan, also known as a qualified tuition program) is a tax-exempt program established and maintained by a state, or one or more eligible educational institutions (public or private). Any person can make nondeductible cash contributions to a 529 plan on behalf of a designated beneficiary. The earnings on the contributions accumulate tax-free. Distributions from a 529 plan are excludable up to the amount of the designated beneficiary’s qualified higher education expenses.

Before 2019, qualified higher education expenses didn’t include the expenses of registered apprenticeships or student loan repayments.

But for distributions made after Dec. 31, 2018 (the effective date is retroactive), tax-free distributions from 529 plans can be used to pay for fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for the designated beneficiary s participation in an apprenticeship program. In addition, tax-free distributions (up to $10,000) are allowed to pay the principal or interest on a qualified education loan of the designated beneficiary, or a sibling of the designated beneficiary.

Kiddie tax changes. In 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA, P.L. 115-97), which made changes to the so-called “kiddie tax,” which is a tax on the unearned income of certain children. Before enactment of the TCJA, the net unearned income of a child was taxed at the parents’ tax rates if the parents’ tax rates were higher than the tax rates of the child.

Under the TCJA, for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, the taxable income of a child attributable to net unearned income is taxed according to the brackets applicable to trusts and estates. Children to whom the kiddie tax rules apply and who have net unearned income also have a reduced exemption amount under the alternative minimum tax (AMT) rules.

There had been concern that the TCJA changes unfairly increased the tax on certain children, including those who were receiving government payments (i.e., unearned income) because they were survivors of deceased military personnel (“gold star children”), first responders, and emergency medical workers.

The new rules enacted on Dec. 20, 2019, repeal the kiddie tax measures that were added by the TCJA. So, starting in 2020 (with the option to start retroactively in 2018 and/or 2019), the unearned income of children is taxed under the pre-TCJA rules, and not at trust/estate rates. And starting retroactively in 2018, the new rules also eliminate the reduced AMT exemption amount for children to whom the kiddie tax rules apply and who have net unearned income.

Penalty-free retirement plan withdrawals for expenses related to the birth or adoption of a child. Generally, a distribution from a retirement plan must be included in income. And, unless an exception applies (for example, distributions in case of financial hardship), a distribution before the age of 59½ is subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty on the amount includible in income.

Starting in 2020, plan distributions (up to $5,000) that are used to pay for expenses related to the birth or adoption of a child are penalty-free. That $5,000 amount applies on an individual basis, so for a married couple, each spouse may receive a penalty-free distribution up to $5,000 for a qualified birth or adoption.

Taxable non-tuition fellowship and stipend payments are treated as compensation for IRA purposes. Before 2020, stipends and non-tuition fellowship payments received by graduate and postdoctoral students were not treated as compensation for IRA contribution purposes, and so could not be used as the basis for making IRA contributions.

Starting in 2020, the new rules remove that obstacle by permitting taxable non-tuition fellowship and stipend payments to be treated as compensation for IRA contribution purposes. This change will enable students receiving those payments to begin saving for retirement without delay.

Tax-exempt difficulty-of-care payments are treated as compensation for determining retirement contribution limits. Many home healthcare workers do not have taxable income because their only compensation comes from “difficulty-of-care” payments that are exempt from taxation. Because those workers did not have taxable income, they were not able to save for retirement in a qualified retirement plan or IRA.

For contributions made to IRAs after Dec. 20, 2019 (and retroactively starting in 2016 for contributions made to certain qualified retirement plans), the new rules allow home healthcare workers to contribute to a retirement plan or IRA by providing that tax-exempt difficulty-of-care payments are treated as compensation for purposes of calculating the contribution limits to certain qualified plans and IRAs.

Senate approves bill to avoid shutdown

On Thursday, February 14, the Senate approved a budget measure (H.J. Res 31) that would avoid a government shutdown. The House was expected to take up and pass the measure in the evening of February 14, and President Trump has indicated he will sign the bill.

The bill includes $11.3 billion in funding for the IRS in fiscal 2019. The final vote was 83-16. The measure stipulates that $77 million must be used to implement tax reform. The bill also contains language that prohibits the Treasury Department from finalizing any regulation related to the standards used to determine the tax-exempt status of a 501(c)(4) organization.

In addition, the appropriations bill provides the IRS with $4.86 billion for enforcement, $3.7 billion for operations support, $2.5 billion for taxpayer services, and $110 million for business systems modernization.

Ultra-Millionaire Tax

On January 24, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposed an “Ultra-Millionaire Tax,” a proposal to tax the wealth of the richest 0.1% of Americans. The Ultra-Millionaire Tax would apply only to households with a net worth (i.e., the sum of all assets net of debts) of $50 million or more — roughly the wealthiest 75,000 households, or the top 0.1%.

Under the tax, there would be an annual 2% tax on household net worth between $50 million and $1 billion. In addition, there would be a 1% annual Billionaire Surtax (3% tax overall) on household net worth above $1 billion. No additional tax would apply to any household with a net worth of less than $50 million (99.9% of American households). A 40% “exit tax” on the net worth above $50 million would apply to U.S. citizens who renounce their citizenship.

It was estimated that the tax would raise around $2.75 trillion over ten years (i.e., the budget window 2019-2028), of which $0.3 trillion would come from the billionaire 1% surtax. The wealth tax would raise approximately 1.0% of GDP per year ($210 billion relative to a $21.1 trillion GDP in 2019).

SALT Limitation Workaround

The Treasury and IRS have proposed new regulations that will block high-tax states’ attempts to circumvent the new $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions.

The $10,000 limit on the SALT deduction was part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, an overhaul of the tax code, which was passed last year.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — among the states with the highest property taxes — had put legislation in place to help taxpayers bypass the limit on the deduction.

Those plans included permitting municipalities to set up charitable funds and allowing taxpayers to contribute to them. This would allow taxpayers to donate to state-run charitable funds and receive a credit against their state tax bills while also deducting the charitable donation on the Federal income tax return.

However, the Supreme Court has held that a charitable contribution must be a transfer of money or property without adequate consideration. Meaning that there can be no benefit received with these transfers.

Therefore, under the proposed regs, a taxpayer who makes payments or transfers property to an entity eligible to receive tax deductible contributions would have to reduce its charitable deduction by the amount of any state or local tax credit the taxpayer receives or expects to receive. For example, if a state grants a 70% state tax credit and the taxpayer pays $1,000 to an eligible entity, the taxpayer receives a $700 state tax credit. The taxpayer would have to reduce the $1,000 contribution by the $700 state tax credit, leaving an allowable contribution deduction of $300 on the taxpayer’s federal income tax return.

The rule would also not apply for tax credits of no more than 15% of the cash paid to the state. Thus, for example, a taxpayer who makes a $1,000 contribution to an eligible entity would not be required to reduce the $1,000 deduction on the taxpayer’s federal income tax return if the state or local tax credit received or expected to be received was no more than $150.

If you would like to discuss these new regulations in further detail or any other tax planning, please give us a call.

 

ARM is Hiring!

ARM is hiring full-time staff auditors, a summer audit intern and a winter tax intern to join our growing firm! Full-time employment opportunities are available upon completion of successful internships. Check out our job postings on our website at www.armcpa.com/careers.

 ARM will also be attending the upcoming Ohio University 2018 Business Conference on September 6th from 3pm – 6pm. Please be sure to stop by our booth to learn more about our current employment opportunities.

 

Charitable Deduction Strategy

Under the new tax law, many taxpayers find themselves receiving more benefit taking the standard deduction instead of itemizing. This is due to several reasons, but most notably the law has changed the standard deduction available to $24,000 for taxpayers who are married filing joint plus another $1,300 per taxpayer who is over the age of 65. Another important factor is the taxes portion of the itemized deductions (state and local tax payments and real estate taxes) now getting capped at $10,000. Because of these changes, many taxpayers who donate to charity won’t receive tax benefit for their donations because they will still benefit by taking the standard deduction. If you donate to charity every year and still find yourself taking the standard deduction, there may be a great tax planning opportunity for you to take advantage of known as a donor-advised fund.

Example: You’re filing a married filing joint return. Let’s say your state and local tax payments plus your real estate taxes are capped at $10,000 and you have $8,000 of mortgage interest. This puts you at $18,000 of total deductions. Since the standard deduction is now $24,000, you wouldn’t receive tax benefit for the first $6,000 of charitable contributions. In other words, if you gave $6,000 or less every year to charity, you wouldn’t receive any tax benefit for those contributions. This is where the donor-advised fund comes into play. You could, for example, donate five years of contributions (6,000 x 5 = $30,000) into a donor-advised fund all in one year. Doing this, you would receive the $30,000 deduction in the year you donated to the donor-advised fund. Here’s what your deductions would look like:

Not using donor-advised fund:

Year 1 – Year 5: $24,000 per year = $120,000

Total = $120,000

Using donor-advised fund:

Year 1: $18,000 (mortgage and taxes) + $30,000 (contributed to donor-advised fund) = $48,000

Year 2 – Year 5: $24,000 per year (giving $0 to charity) = $96,000

Total = $144,000

Once the contribution to the donor-advised fund is made, the funds now belong to the charity since donor-advised funds are components of a qualified charitable organization. The charity has ultimate control over the distribution, but you can still advise the charity on who to distribute to, how much to distribute, and the timing of the distributions to the ultimate recipient. The charity will generally follow your recommendations and must retain discretion regarding the use of the funds.

If you would like to discuss donor-advised funds in further detail or any other tax planning, please give us a call.