Tag Archives: Tax Law

For Want of a Nail? How Long-Term Capital Gain Eligibility Can Turn on a Single Piece of Paper

An old proverb teaches that the absence of a horseshoe nail can cause the downfall of a kingdom. A recent Tax Court cases suggest a real estate owner’s eligibility for long-term capital gain can turn on something just as trivial:  a single piece of paper.

The Sugar Land case involved real estate businesspersons who, though various entities, held some land for investment purposes and other land for development purposes. During 2008, they decided to abandon development plans for raw land they originally intended to develop. In 2008, they executed an owner resolution expressing their change of intent. Their land holding company subsequently sold most of the property to an unrelated homebuilder in three transactions in 2011 and 2012. The company then sold substantially all the remaining property to related entities in four transactions spanning 2012 through 2016. The related entities developed that land for resale.

The IRS asserted that the 2012 sales should have generated ordinary income instead of long-term capital gain. Despite several factors militating against capital gain eligibility—including nearby development activity by related entities–the Tax Court found that the sales qualified as long-term capital gain. The court identified the 2008 owner resolution as the critical factor showing their intent.

The Sugar Land opinion is a bookend to the Fargo case we discussed in 2015. In Fargo, the Tax Court held that a taxpayer who held land without developing it for over a decade recognized ordinary income on its sale. The court reasoned that the long holding period did not overcome the absence of an owner resolution or other documentation evidencing the abandonment of the owner’s original development plan. The taxpayer could not recognize long-term capital gain.

Lesson learned? Silly or not, documenting the non-development intent for holding raw land can make a big difference in the income tax bill when the property is sold. If you want long-term capital gain, take a few minutes to make sure the owners execute a contemporaneous resolution or governing documents expressing the intent to hold the property for investment, not development. Otherwise you might tell a tale of losing your own financial kingdom, for want of just one piece of paper.

Helpful Resources:

E. John Wagner, II
jwagner@williamsparker.com
941-536-2037

Charitable Giving Under the New Tax Act – The Standard Deduction Bump

One of the more visible changes from the Tax Act will be the increase in the standard deduction. When completing an annual tax return, a taxpayer has the choice to either take a standard deduction or to itemize deductions. The standard deduction is a flat dollar amount which reduces your taxable income for the year, with the same standard deduction amount applying to every taxpayer who takes the standard deduction. The itemized deduction instead allows a taxpayer to deduct a number of different expenses from throughout the year, including certain medical expenses, mortgage interest, casualty and theft losses, state and local taxes paid, and charitable contributions. Whether a taxpayer uses the standard deduction or itemizes his or her deductions will depend on whether that taxpayer’s itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction amount.

In 2017, the standard deduction amount was $6,350 for single taxpayers and $12,700 for married taxpayers filing jointly. The Tax Act has nearly doubled these amounts for 2018, with the standard deduction increased to $12,000 for single taxpayers and $24,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. Limitations have also been placed on deducting state and local taxes (capped at $10,000) and on mortgage interest (limited to new loans, capped at $750,000).

Taxpayers now have a higher standard deduction amount they need to pass before itemizing their deductions and they have more limited expenses available in order to get over that bar. Fewer people will be generating the expenses needed to make itemizing deductions worthwhile. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the percentage of taxpayers itemizing deductions will drop from 30% to only 6%.

If fewer taxpayers are itemizing their deductions, the tax benefits of charitable giving will be available to fewer taxpayers. The Tax Policy Center estimates charitable giving to drop anywhere from $12 billion to $20 billion in the next year. Taxpayers may instead bunch their charitable gifts into a single year, itemizing their deductions in such a year while using the standard deduction in subsequent years rather than spreading out these gifts over a stretch of years.

People charitably give to their favorite organizations out of a humanitarian desire to help less fortunate people and to benefit the wider community; a smaller tax incentive will not change this. But the smaller tax incentive is expected to have a negative impact both for a taxpayer’s ability to deduct charitable gifts and for the amount of gifts charitable organizations expect to receive.

Jamie E. Koepsel
jkoepsel@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2562

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
jwagner@williamsparker.com
941-536-2037

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

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
jwagner@williamsparker.com
941-536-2037

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
ediaz@williamsparker.com
941-329-6631

Colton F. Castro
ccastro@williamsparker.com
(941) 329-6608

Nicholas A. Gard
ngard@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2563

Planning to Live Beyond 2025? How You Can Still Enjoy Estate Tax Reform’s Sunset Special

The just-enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubles the federal estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer lifetime tax exemptions through 2025. The exemptions revert to their pre-Act levels on January 1, 2026. Ignoring inflation adjustments, the combined exemptions for a married couple will then fall from over $22 million to $11 million. At the 40% Federal transfer tax rate, a 2026 sunset will increase a married couple’s estate tax by $4.4 million.

Do you want to avoid $4.4 million of estate tax, even if you plan to celebrate the 2026 New Year amongst the living?

A married couple can permanently harvest the increased exemptions by gifting assets with value up to the full $22 million exemption amount before 2026. If you gift into a generation-skipping trust, the exempted assets can pass through many generations free of transfer tax. With valuation discounts for lack of control and lack of marketability still fully available, family business assets are particularly attractive for gifting.

A taxpayer can not use the increased exemption until he or she first make gifts exhausting his or her pre-Act exemption. An individual does not create an additional tax benefit until he or she first gifts about $5.5 million worth of property. A couple does not capture the full additional benefit until they give away property worth over $22 million.

These ordering rules create an obstacle for many, who can not afford to give away that much property. Married taxpayers in that situation may consider funding “Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts.” Each spouse gifts assets to a trust for the other spouse, leaving the gifted assets available to the beneficiary spouse for his or her lifetime. When the beneficiary spouse dies, the remaining trust assets pass to children or other beneficiaries free of estate tax. Persons who created such trusts shortly before 2013, when another legislative sunset almost reduced the lifetime exemptions, can fund their existing trusts with additional gifts.

Many families will wait until 2026 is closer before taking action. Families with sufficient wealth to afford substantial gifting, who also expect estate tax liability even with the increased exemptions, should consider gifting sooner, to remove appreciation in the gifted assets before 2026 from their future taxable estates.

For more information regarding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, follow these links:

E. John Wagner, II
jwagner@williamsparker.com
941-536-2037

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
jwagner@williamsparker.com
941-536-2037

 

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
jwagner@williamsparker.com
941-536-2037

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
jwagner@williamsparker.com
941-536-2037