Author Archives: Michael J. Wilson

199A Regulations Address Specified Service Trades or Businesses with Other Business Elements

In a prior blog post, we addressed rules in the proposed regulations for the treatment of a trade or business that is not a specified service trades or business (“SSTB”) but has some relatively small elements that are attributable to the performance of services in a field that would qualify as an SSTB. The topic of this post is the rules for the treatment of an SSTB that has some incidental or relatively small non-SSTB elements, which are contained in Section 1.199A-5(c)(3).

Under these rules, if a non-SSTB has (1) 50% or more common ownership with an SSTB, (2) shares expenses, such as shared wages or overhead expenses, with the SSTB, and (3) gross receipts that are no more than 5% of the total combined (SSTB and non-SSTB) gross receipts, then the non-SSTB will be treated as part of the SSTB for Section 199A purposes. Common ownership is determined by applying the related party rules in Sections 267(b) and 707(b).

The proposed regulations provide an example where a dermatologist provides medical services to patients and also sells skin care products to patients. The same employees and office space are used for the medical services and the sale of skin care products. The gross receipts of the skin care product sales do not exceed 5% of the combined gross receipts. Under the rule, the sale of the skin care products (which is not an SSTB) will be treated as incident to, and part of, the medical service SSTB. Therefore, the qualified business income, w-2 wages, and any unadjusted basis of qualified property attributable to the skin care products business will not be eligible for Section 199A purposes unless the dermatologist is under the taxable income thresholds specified in Section 199A.

The proposed regulations do not address a scenario where the gross receipts of the skin care products business were, for example, 6% of the total combined gross receipts. Presumably, the skin care products business would then be considered a separate trade or business (a non-SSTB) from the dermatology practice, which would be an SSTB. A potential gotcha is for a business that is an SSTB that is entrepreneurial and tries to expand into a business that is not a SSTB. For example, consider a financial services business that starts-up a business to create personal budgeting and retirement software and that uses some of the employees and office space of the financial services business. Unless and until either (1) the gross receipts of the software start-up exceeds 5% of the combined gross receipts or (2) there are no longer any shared expenses, then the software business will be treated as a part of the financial services SSTB.

View the proposed regulations. 

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043

199A Proposed Regulations Address Businesses with De Minimis Specified Service Trade or Business Elements

The proposed Section 199A regulations contain rules for the treatment of a trade or business that is not a specified service trades or business (“SSTB”) but has some relatively small elements that are attributable to the performance of services in a field that would qualify as an SSTB. These rules are contained in Section 1.199A-5(c)(1), and the SSTB issue is important because, with some exceptions based upon income level, income from an SSTB is not eligible for the Section 199A deduction.

Under these rules, if a non-SSTB has some relatively small elements that are SSTB services, then the SSTB services will not taint the treatment of the overall business. Specifically, the rule provides that for a trade or business with gross receipts of $25M or less for a taxable year (before application of the aggregation rules), the trade or business will not be treated as an SSTB if less than 10% of its gross receipts are attributable to an SSTB. If the gross receipts of the trade or business are more than $25M, then the 10% threshold is dropped to 5%. For example, if an eye glass store had $10M total gross receipts, and $9.5M of such gross receipts were attributable to the sale of eye glasses, and $0.5M of the gross receipts attributable to eye examinations performed by ophthalmologists, then the entire trade or business would be considered a non-SSTB for purposes of the Section 199A deduction.

The regulations do not address a scenario where, for example, $2M of the gross receipts were attributable to eye examinations. In that scenario, will the entire $10M business be treated as an SSTB? That does not seem like it should be the correct answer. A better answer would be that the eye glass and eye exam activities are treated as two separate trades or business for Section 199A purposes.

In interesting scenario is if the individual taxpayer operated the eye glass ($9.5M of gross receipts) and eye exam ($0.50M of gross receipts) businesses in separate entities. In that case, the eye glass business would be a non-SSTB, and the eye exam business would be an SSTB (and thus not eligible for the Section 199A deduction). However, a tax planning opportunity may exist to merge the two entities, and then take advantage of the aggregation rule to “cleanse” the eye exam business of its SSTB taint by having it become a de minimis part of the eye glass business under the aggregation rules.

View the proposed regulations. 

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043

199A Proposed Regulations Address the ”Crack-and-Pack” Strategy

Since the enactment of Section 199A as part of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act late last year, tax practitioners have been devising ways to take a specified service trade or business, such as a physician group, and segregate the parts of the business that are a specified service trade or business from the parts that are not. For example, there has been speculation as to whether an S corporation operating a physician group that provides medical services (which is a specified service trade or business), owns its building, and employs administrative and billing staff could be divided into three S corporations. S corporation 1 would provide medical services to patients, S corporation 2 would own the medical office building and lease it to S corporation 1, and S corporation 3 would employ the administrative and billing staff and provide its services to S corporation 1 in exchange for fees. The hope would be that the common owners of the three S corporations would be eligible for a 199A deduction with respect to S corporation 2 and S corporation 3 (they would generally not be eligible for a 199A deduction if all of the components of the physician group were contained within one entity).

The proposed 199A regulations provide rules addressing this issue in Section 1.199A-5(c)(2). These rules provide that a specified service trade or business includes any trade or business that provides 80% or more of its property or services to a specified service trade or business if there is 50% or more common ownership (using the related party rules in Sections 267(b) and 707(b)) of the two trades or businesses. If a trade or business provides less than 80% of its property or services to a specified service trade or business that has 50% or more common ownership, then the portion of the trade or business providing property or services to the commonly-controlled business will be treated as part of the specified service trade or business. For example, if a dentist owns a dental practice and a building used in the practice in separate entities, and 40% of the real estate is leased to the dental practice and 60% of the real estate is leased to an unrelated tenant, then 40% of the real estate business will be treated as part of the dental specified service trade or business. But, if 80% of the real estate was leased to the dental practice, then all of the real estate would be treated as part of the dental specified service trade or business.

View the proposed regulations. 

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043

Accrual-Method Taxpayers with Audited Financials May Have to Recognize Income Sooner

Section 13221 of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act amended IRC section 451 to link the all events test for accrual-method taxpayers to revenue recognition on the taxpayer’s audited and certain other financial statements. Specifically, new IRC section 451(b) (old 451(b) through (i) were redesignated as 451(d) through (k)) provides that for accrual-method taxpayers “the all events test with respect to any item of gross income (or portion thereof) shall not be treated as met any later than when such item (or portion thereof) is taken into account in revenue in” either (1) an applicable financial statement or (2) another financial statement specified by the IRS. In other words, taxpayers subject to this rule must include an item in income for tax purposes upon the earlier satisfaction of the all events test or the recognition of such item in revenue in the applicable or specified financial statement. For example, any unbilled receivables for partially performed services must be recognized for income tax purposes to the extent the amounts are taken into income for financial statement purposes, instead of when the services are complete or the taxpayer has the right to invoice the customer. The new rule does not apply to income from mortgage servicing rights.

The new rule defines an “applicable financial statement” as (1) a financial statement that is certified as being prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and that is (a) a 10-K or annual statement to shareholders required to be filed with the SEC, (b) an audited financial statement used for credit purposes, reporting to shareholders, partners, other proprietors, or beneficiaries, or for any other substantial nontax purpose, or (c) filed with any other federal agency for purposes other than federal tax purposes; (2) certain financial statements made on the basis of international financial reporting standards filed with certain agencies of a foreign government; or (3) a financial statement filed with any other regulatory or governmental body specified by the IRS. It appears that (1)(b) would capture accrual-method taxpayers that have audited GAAP financial statements as a requirement of their lender or as a requirement of their owners, such as a private equity fund owner.

This new rule should also be considered by affected taxpayers in relation to the relatively new and complex revenue recognition standards in ASC 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, which becomes applicable to nonpublic GAAP companies later this year (unless adopted earlier). For example, a taxpayer’s tax function and financial accounting function would need to coordinate to ensure that the sales price of contracts containing multiple performance obligations (i.e., bundles of goods and services, such as software sales agreements that include a software license, periodic software updates, and maintenance and support services) is allocated to the separate components in the same manner for financial statement and tax purposes.

The new tax rule is effective for tax years beginning after 2017.

Discussion of the new tax rule begins on page 272 of the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Conference Report.

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043

Department of Revenue Publishes Guidance on New Sales and Use Tax Exemptions

The Florida Department of Revenue recently issued a Tax Information Publication (TIP No. 17A01-08) offering guidance on the new sales and use tax exemption for animal and aquaculture health products that came into effect on July 1, 2017. Under the new exemption, animal health products administered to, applied to, or consumed by livestock or poultry to alleviate pain or cure or prevent sickness, disease, or suffering are exempt from sales tax. In addition, aquaculture health products that are used by aquaculture producers to prevent fungi, bacteria, and parasitic diseases in the production of aquaculture products are also exempt from sales tax. To be eligible for these exemptions, the purchaser must furnish the seller with an exemption certificate stating that the purchased item is exclusively for an exempted use. The TIP provides details on the contents of the exemption certificate.

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043

Tax Court Rejects IRS’ Attempt to Narrow Reasonable Cause Exception

Earlier this month, the Tax Court rejected an argument by the IRS that in order to establish good faith reliance on a tax advisor, for purposes of avoiding penalties, the taxpayer, a foreign corporation, needed to have (1) conducted an independent investigation into the tax advisor’s background and experience instead of merely relying upon the recommendation of the tax adviser by the taxpayer’s US legal counsel, and (2) hired a tax expert that specialized in international tax law or an attorney with an LL.M. degree.  The Tax Court found that the IRS attempted to impose greater conditions on the taxpayer than what is required under existing law. The Tax Court ruled that the taxpayer reasonably relied upon the recommendation of its legal counsel in hiring the tax advisor. Furthermore, the standard is not whether the tax advisor was an expert in international tax law or an attorney with an LL.M. degree, but instead whether the tax advisor was “a competent professional who had sufficient expertise to justify reliance.”

The opinion in the case, Grecian Magnesite, Industrial & Shipping Co., S.A. v. Commissioner, 149 T.C. 3 (2017), can be found here.

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043

Follow-Up to Florida Sales Tax Rate on Commercial Leases is Reduced

We previously blogged that the Florida Legislature enacted a reduction to the state sales tax rate on commercial real property leases from 6% to 5.8% effective January 1, 2018. The language of the new statute is unclear as to whether the rate decrease would apply to current leases. However, we have confirmed with a representative of the Florida Department of Revenue that they interpret the rate reduction as applying to current leases for periods after December 31, 2017.

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043

Florida Sales Tax Rate on Commercial Leases is Reduced

Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 7109 on May 25, 2017, which reduces the state sales tax rate on commercial real property leases from 6% to 5.8% effective January 1, 2018. However, this rate decrease will not apply to current leases, because the bill provides that the tax rate in effect at the time the tenant occupies or uses the property is applicable, regardless of when a rent payment is due or paid. The bill does not change the local option sales tax, which is imposed in 0.5% increments. So, for example, the applicable rate in Sarasota County for leases commencing on or after January 1, 2018, would be 6.8% (instead of the current 7%). Florida is the only state that charges sales tax on the lease of commercial real property.

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043

The S Corporation Inversion – How to Convert an S Corporation into a Tax Partnership Tax-Free

Tax inversions have been in the news for several years now, but almost always in the context of a public US company reincorporating in a foreign country to achieve lower tax rates on non-US source income. However, there is another type of inversion, the S corporation inversion, that does not involve any foreign countries but can be an elegant solution to a problem faced my many small and medium-sized businesses operated as S corporations.

Many businesses start as S corporations for good tax reasons, but later in their lifecycle want to convert to a tax partnership (such as an LLC taxed as a partnership) for a variety of business and tax reasons. For example, perhaps a private equity fund or foreign investor (which are both impermissible S corporation shareholders) want to invest in the business and become owners. Another example is where an S corporation wants to grant an equity interest to a key employee in exchange for their past and future services. Oftentimes, the best approach in this case is to grant the employee a “profits interest” in the business, but S corporations cannot grant such interests, while tax partnerships can. Simply converting or merging the S corporation into an LLC taxed as a partnership is not satisfactory, because that transaction would trigger the taxable liquidation of the S corporation.

One method to convert to a tax partnership tax-free, without undergoing an inversion, is the “LLC drop-down,” which entails the S corporation forming a wholly-owned LLC, that is initially a disregarded entity for tax purposes, and transferring all of the S corporation’s assets and business to the new LLC. Once this is accomplished, the new investors can invest in the business by investing into the new LLC, which will become a tax partnership. However, this restructuring is deceptively simple, because migrating the S corporation’s business to the new LLC can create many issues, including (1) migrating employees, payroll, and benefit plans to the new LLC; (2) opening new operating and payroll bank accounts for the new LLC; (3) consulting with insurance agents to obtain coverage for the new LLC; (4) assigning customer, lease, vendor, and other key agreements to the new LLC, which oftentimes requires the counterparty’s consent; (5) transferring or obtaining new licenses and permits for the new LLC to operate the business; and (6) obtaining lender consent.

These headaches can oftentimes be avoided by utilizing an S corporation inversion. The S corporation inversion is accomplished by having the shareholders of the S corporation (“Old S”) transfer their stock to a newly formed S corporation (“New S”) in exchange for all the stock of New S. Old S immediately makes an election to be a qualified subchapter S subsidiary, and so Old S will be disregarded for tax purposes. New S then forms a wholly-owned LLC, which is initially disregarded for tax purposes, and then merges Old S into the new LLC, with new LLC as the survivor of the merger. The merger is without tax consequences, because it’s a merger of two entities, Old S and LLC, that are disregarded for tax purposes. Furthermore, by operation of the Florida merger statute, all of the assets, liabilities, contracts, and legal relationships of Old S transfer to LLC and in most circumstances no third party consents are required. Now the old business is in a new LLC that can take on new investors in a tax partnership format and without many of the headaches of migrating a business to a new legal entity. For guidance on this structure, see Treasury Regulation Section 1.1361-5(b)(c), Example 2.

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043

Ally Law London Firm Wins Article 50 Brexit Challenge

Williams Parker has international reach as the Florida member of Ally law – one of the world’s leading law firm networks. Our companion firm in London, Edwin Coe, represented the winning claimant, Dier Dos Santos, in the high-profile litigation in the U.K. challenging Article 50 and the Brexit vote. The High Court of Justice ruled that based on a 300-year-old law, the U.K. government does not have the constitutional capacity to trigger U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union without a Parliamentary vote. More information on the ruling and its consequences can be found here.

Williams Parker regularly works with Ally Law attorneys to make sure our clients receive the legal support they need wherever in the world they might operate or have investments. Ally Law includes over 1,300 lawyers in 41 countries. More information on Ally Law can be found on our website.

Michael J. Wilson
mwilson@williamsparker.com
941-536-2043