Tag Archives: attorneys

When is a Rose Not a Rose? IRS Tries to Plug Carried Interest Loophole by Claiming Roses are Not Flowers

The sweeping tax law passed in December requires partners holding some “carried interests” (partnership interests disproportionately large as compared to the relative capital contributed) to recognize gain at ordinary income tax rates (up to 37%) if their holding periods do not exceed three years, as opposed to the one-year holding period normally required to qualify for 20%-tax-rate long-term capital gain. The idea is that these interests are associated with services — often performed by hedge fund and private equity managers — that don’t carry the investment risk associated with a normal capital asset, and therefore holders of these partnership interests should have to own the interests longer to qualify for a low tax rate.

The statute categorically exempts partnership interests held by “corporations” from the new rules. Without explanation, the IRS announced this week it will take the position that “S corporations” are not “corporations” for the purposes of the carried interest law, even though by definition the opposite is true throughout the Internal Revenue Code. Their interpretation is akin to claiming roses aren’t flowers.

There are common sense reasons why S corporations should not be exempt from the carried interest statute. Because S corporations are pass-through entities, there is no practical difference between an individual owning a carried interest directly, as opposed to owning it through an S corporation. Yet read literally, the statute produces different results in these practically comparable situations.

Still, statutes are supposed to mean what they say. S corporations are corporations, just like roses are flowers. Unless Congress changes the statute, the Internal Revenue Service may have a hard time defending its position in litigation.

See our prior discussion of the new carried interest law:

E. John Wagner, II

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

Tax Savings Estimator: Qualified Business Income Deduction

If you own a business taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or S corporation, the new Section 199A Qualified Business Income Deduction offers one of the biggest potential tax benefits under the recently-enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It allows you to deduct up to twenty percent of your business income. If your income exceeds $157,500 ($315,000 for a married joint filer), the deduction is limited by filters tied to your company’s employee payroll and depreciable property ownership. There are other restrictions, but for most business owners our calculator offers a useful, simplified estimate of tax savings from the new deduction.

Curious whether you should change the tax status of your company? Read our analysis here: Should You Reform Your Business for Tax Reform?

E. John Wagner, II

A Guide to the Toll Charge of the Tax Act

Shareholders in foreign businesses could find themselves hit with an immediate tax on offshore earnings under the recently passed “Tax Act,” officially known as “An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.”  Before the Tax Act, most foreign income earned by US shareholders through foreign corporations would only be subject to US taxes when the foreign income was paid to those US shareholders as dividends. The Subpart F rules were a way for the United States to capture some of this offshore income in the US tax base, but careful planning meant many US shareholders with foreign companies could keep money offshore and out of the US tax system for years. Some estimates put the amount of this offshore money at nearly $3 trillion, so any change to how the United States treats foreign taxes would look into how best to address these offshore earnings.

The Tax Act will look to capture some of this offshore income through a one-time immediate increase in the Subpart F income of certain US persons investing in foreign corporations.  The amount of income immediately taxed by the United States will increase by the greater of (i) accumulated post-1986 deferred foreign income determined as of November 2, 2017, or (ii) the accumulated post-1986 deferred foreign income determined as of December 31, 2017.  The tax rate on this deferred foreign income will be 8 percent for non-cash E&P and 15.5 percent for cash E&P.  This one-time tax has been referred to as a “Toll Charge” for how it may allow offshore income to flow back into the United States.

The Toll Charge is not a routine E&P calculation for US shareholders of foreign corporations.  Year-by-year ownership percentages, whether E&P is cash or non-cash, and the availability of certain foreign tax credits will all affect the final tax due.  The Tax Act has allowed for the payment of the Toll Charge in installments if sufficient cash to make payments is unavailable.

For more information regarding the Tax Act, please see our recent related blog posts linked below:

Jamie E. Koepsel
(941) 552-2562

Welcome the New Year With Our Updated Tax Reform Review

On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed into law the most important rewrite of the US tax code in decades. The federal law, which is entitled “An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution of the budget for the fiscal year 2018” (the Act), has no other name, as its short title, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was stricken from the bill shortly before being signed.

We have prepared a summary of the Act as a non-exhaustive discussion of key changes to the tax code. We will continue to analyze the Act and will post updates and recommend planning strategies on this blog.

For more information regarding the Act, please see our previous related blog posts linked below:

On behalf of everyone at Williams Parker, we hope you and your family have a healthy and happy 2018.

Please note this post was co-authored by Elizabeth Diaz, Colton Castro, and Nicholas Gard. 

Elizabeth P. Diaz

Colton F. Castro
(941) 329-6608

Nicholas A. Gard
(941) 552-2563

2017 Year-End Planning for Art, Equipment, and Other Non-Real Estate 1031 Exchanges

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates Section 1031 Exchanges for non-real estate transactions effective January 1, 2018.  But you still have time to plan If you anticipated executing an early-2018 1031 Exchange with art, equipment, or other non-real estate investment assets.

The Act includes a transition rule that allows a taxpayer to complete a non-real estate 1031 Exchange during 2018 if the taxpayer either acquires replacement property for a “reverse” exchange or disposes of relinquished property for a “forward” exchange before January 1, 2018.

To take advantage with property you haven’t sold, consider causing a related-party taxpayer—such as a corporation you control—to purchase the property before year-end, and escrowing the proceeds with a qualified intermediary. The related party can sell the property to an unrelated party with a stepped-up tax basis a few years later.  You can complete the 1031 Exchange in 2018 using the escrowed proceeds in the usual 1031 Exchange time frames.

For a reverse exchange, you can park replacement property purchased before year end with an accommodation titleholder, and complete the exchange by selling the relinquished property in 2018 within the usual 1031 Exchange time frames, with the same result.

These strategies are not risk-less.  For example, in the forward exchange scenario, you will recognize gain and pay tax if you can’t complete the exchange within 180 days, even though you initially “sold” property to a related party.  But in the right situation, some taxpayers might nevertheless use the transition rules to make something out of nothing.

To read the transition rules, see page 192 of the Act.

E. John Wagner, II


Should You Reform Your Business for Tax Reform?

If you own a closely-held business, it likely utilizes a “pass-through” S corporation or partnership tax classification.  The owners pay income tax individually on pass-through entity income, whether or not the business distributes the income.

C corporations are different.  C corporations pay tax on their own income.  The shareholders pay an additional dividend tax only when the C corporation distributes dividends.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that Congress likely will pass Tuesday, the federal tax rate on retained C corporation income will drop from 35% to 21%.  The top individual tax rate, which also applies to pass-through entities, will equal 37%.  The Act makes C corporation tax status more attractive than in the past.

Should you convert your pass-through business to a C corporation?  

Should you change the tax classification of your business?

The short-answer: Probably not, unless you plan to own the business a long time and indefinitely reinvest profits.

A longer answer:

Under the Act, converting your business into a C corporation creates a trade-off between:

  1. a lower tax rate on operating income, leaving more cash to reinvest in the business; and
  2. paying more tax (or getting a lower purchase price) when you sell the company, and having less flexibility taking profits out of the business in the meantime.

If you convert your Florida-based pass-through business to a C corporation, the business will pay state income taxes that pass-through entities avoid. The C corporation’s combined federal and state tax rate will reach just over 25% on reinvested income.

The problems? You will pay a higher or equivalent tax rate, as compared to the pass-through tax rate, if you take the profits out of the corporation.  If you sell the business as a C corporation you will (1) pay about a 43% combined corporate-level and shareholder-level tax rate on the sale gain (versus a likely 20% or 23.8% rate as a pass-through), or (2) receive a lower purchase price to compensate a buyer willing to purchase the corporation stock for forgoing a tax basis step up in the corporate assets.  And if laws or circumstances change, you cannot always readily convert back to pass-through status without negative tax consequences.

What’s in the Act for Pass-Through S Corporations and Partnerships?

The Act includes a new deduction of up-to-20% of income for pass-through businesses.  If your business earns $10 million of income, you might qualify to deduct $2 million.  The deduction would save $740,000 in federal income tax and reduce the business’ effective income tax rate from about 36% to approximately 29%.

The catch?  For taxpayers with income over about $400,000 (or a lower threshold for persons other than married, joint filers), the Act limits the deduction to (1) 50% of the wages paid to employees, or (2) the sum of 25% of wages, plus 2.5% of the value of owned depreciable property.  If the business earns a $10 million profit, but its payroll is $3 million, you may only qualify to deduct $1.5 million, not $2 million. Unless the business has a lot of payroll or owns substantial depreciable property, its tax rate may remain in the mid-to-high 30% range.

Despite the new deduction, the Act leaves most pass-through entity owners paying a higher tax rate than C corporations pay on reinvested business profits.  But most pass-through entities retain the advantages of a lower tax rate on profits distributed to owners and on the sale of the business.

What to Do?

If you can predict future payroll and equipment purchases, the price and timing of a business sale, and Congress’ whims, you can perform a present value calculation to decide whether pass-through or C corporation tax status is best for your business.  The calculation would compare the pre-business-sale tax savings from the reduced C corporation tax rate on reinvested profits, against the increased tax on distributed profits and from a future business sale.

The math is more complicated for businesses qualifying for other tax breaks, such as the Section 1202 small business stock gain exclusion.  It grows even more complicated if the model considers the tax effects of an owner’s death.

If your crystal ball isn’t clear, you are stuck making best guesses about the future of politics and your business.  But if you frequently take profits out of your business or imagine selling it in the foreseeable future, you probably will stick with the pass-through  tax status your business already uses.

For more comprehensive information regarding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, follow this link to our previous post.

E. John Wagner, II

What’s in the Tax Reform Bill?

Congress is set to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which includes the most comprehensive changes to the federal tax law in over thirty years.

We will provide insight regarding the new law in the coming days and weeks.

In the meantime, here is a chart summarizing salient provisions in the Act.

Here is a link to the Act (including Congress’ explanation of the law beginning on page 510).

E. John Wagner, II

The U.S.-Japan Income Tax Treaty

Japan has long been one of the United States’ largest trading partners.  Japan is also one of the United States’ longest-standing tax treaty partners.  The first U.S.-Japan income tax treaty was concluded in 1954.  Updated treaties were signed in 1971 and 2003, and a protocol in 2013 further modernized the treaty.  The U.S.-Japan income tax treaty largely follows the model tax convention published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), of which both countries are members.

The U.S.-Japan income tax treaty helps reduce the incidence of double taxation and encourages the cross-border movement of people and goods.  In general, the tax treaty allocates or restricts taxing rights between the two countries so that a resident of either the United States or Japan does not pay tax in both countries with respect to the same income (or pays reduced rates of tax in one of the countries).

For example, dividends paid by a company which is a resident of the United States to a resident of Japan may generally be taxed in both Japan and the U.S., but the rate of tax imposed by the United States with respect to such dividends is limited to either 5% or 10% (or, in some circumstances, such tax may be eliminated).  In the case of interest and royalties paid by a resident of one of the countries, only the country in which the recipient of the interest or royalty payment resides may tax such payments.  Similarly, capital gains derived by a resident of the United States or Japan from the sale of property other than real estate are generally taxable only by the country in which the seller of the property resides.  Gains from the sale of real estate and certain real estate holding companies, however, remain taxable in both countries under the tax treaty.

The tax treaty also provides for tie-breaker rules so that the same person is not considered a resident of both countries and provides a limited safe harbor for wages and salaries paid to residents of one country who perform employment services in the other country.  Other provisions relate to the taxation of diplomats, athletes, and branches or “permanent establishments” of multinational businesses, among other special situations.  Where disputes regarding the taxation of cross-border activities arise, notwithstanding the provisions of the treaty, the treaty provides a dispute resolution mechanism whereby the U.S. and Japanese governments can come to a mutual agreement to reduce or eliminate the additional taxation.

Recent U.S.-Japan income tax treaty documents and Treasury Department technical explanations are available at treasury.gov.

Nicholas A. Gard
(941) 552-2563

Tax Reform Swings a Hand Ax at Carried Interests; What Does it Mean and How Can I Plan Around It?

While tax reform has a long march before becoming law, the amended House of Representatives bill passed yesterday swings an ax at lower-tax-rate-capital-gain-eligible “carried” partnership interests, though it swings a smaller ax—like a hand ax rather than a full-sized ax—than proposals in years past.

This latest proposal focuses on limited industries and allows an escape hatch for interests held more than three years. Here are the details:

How Do I Know if I Have a Carried Interest, and Why are Carried Interests Special?

The phrase “carried interest” applies to a partnership interest granted to a partner for services.  The idea is that the capital-investing partners “carry” the service partner, who does not make a capital contribution in proportion to the service partner’s interest.

Partnerships often structure carried interests to have little or no value at grant, causing the recipient to recognize little or no wage or other compensation income at that time.  Later, if the partnership recognizes long-term capital gain, the partnership allocates part of that gain to the service-providing partner.  This results in the service partner paying tax at a tax rate as little as half the rate on wage or compensation income (approximately 20%, as compared to approximately 40%, depending on the circumstances).

Why Change the Tax Treatment of Carried Interests?

Critics complain that carried interest partnership allocations amount to a bonus that should be taxed at the higher ordinary rates, like wage income and other incentive compensation.  The most vocal criticism focuses on hedge funds, private equity firms, and real estate investment firms, where critics see carried interest allocations as the equivalent of management fees.  Past Congressional proposals would have recharacterized a percentage or all partnership allocations to carried interests as compensation income, without regard to industry.

Carried interest advocates respond that many carried interest holders invest years of effort before receiving an allocation to their partnership interests, and therefore make the equivalent of an investment associated with a capital contribution.

Proposed Changes in the House Bill

The amended House bill takes a middle ground between the current law and prior Congressional proposals to curb the eligibility of carried interests for long-term-capital gain allocations. The bill focuses on carried interests in hedge funds, private equity firms, and real estate investment firms, not traditional operating businesses.

In targeted firms, the bill allows a partnership to allocate long-term capital gain to a carried interest partner who has held his or her partnership interest more than three years. If the partner has held the interest for three years or less, the proposal recharacterizes the allocation as short-term capital gain. In most cases, short-term capital gain characterization results in income taxation at the same rate as wage or other compensation income, but still allows the partner to avoid employment taxes.

It remains uncertain whether this proposal will survive reconciliation with a to-be-passed Senate tax reform bill.

Future Planning

Even if the proposal becomes law, look for motivated taxpayers to form “shelf” entities to begin the running of the three-year holding period while undertaking limited business activity. The taxpayers will then have such partnerships ready to use in the future, when a more substantial opportunity arises. Others will design hybrid debt-equity capital structures such that even service-providing partners’ interests qualify as capital interests rather than carried interests.

Read the carried interest proposal (see Section 3314 of the House amendment to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act).

E. John Wagner, II