Williams Parker shareholder Mike Wilson recently led a Williams Parker team in the representation of several affiliated taxpayers that were under a combined audit by the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) in connection with the taxpayers’ treatment of several thousand workers as partners, instead of as employees or independent contractors, for payroll tax purposes over multiple years. By characterizing their workers as partners, the taxpayers’ took the position that the workers’ compensation was not reportable on Form W-2 or subject to withholding or payroll tax obligations. Instead, the compensation was a guaranteed payment, reportable on the workers’ Schedule K-1, and subject to self-employment tax to be paid by the workers. Not surprisingly, the Service took a very aggressive position regarding the classification of the workers as partners, arguing they were properly characterized as employees. With an exposure for the taxpayers of approximately $16,000,000 of tax, interest, and penalties, Williams Parker was able to settle the four-year dispute with the Service for approximately 12 percent of such amount.
Treasury recently finalized regulations clarifying the application of the bankruptcy and insolvency exceptions to cancellation of debt income involving a debtor partnership with one or more partners that are disregarded for income tax purposes. Section 108(a)(1)(A) and (B) exclude cancellation of debt from income if the cancellation or discharge occurred in a bankruptcy case or to the extent the taxpayer is insolvent. Where the debtor is a tax partnership, these exceptions are applied at the partner level instead of at the partnership level. Where a partner is a disregarded entity or grantor trust, the final regulations clarify that the bankruptcy and insolvency exceptions are applied by looking through the disregarded entity or grantor trust to the ultimate owner for income tax purposes. Consequently, the insolvency analysis is applied to the ultimate owner of the disregarded entity or grantor trust, and not to the disregarded entity or grantor trust itself. Similarly, in order for the bankruptcy exception to apply, the ultimate owner of the disregarded entity or grantor trust must be subject to a bankruptcy court’s jurisdiction.
The final regulations can be found here: : https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/06/10/2016-13779/guidance-under-section-108a-concerning-the-exclusion-of-section-61a12-discharge-of-indebtedness