Tag Archives: Florida

How the 2020 Election Might Impact Federal Gift and Estate Tax Law

There has been a lot of discussion about the impact that the upcoming election might have on federal gift and estate tax law. In light of this, we feel that it would be helpful to provide an update of the current situation and a brief summary of some of the planning opportunities that may be beneficial in the current environment. We also want to highlight the recent passage of the SECURE Act and discuss the impact this new law might have on your estate plan.

The current available estate and gift tax exemption is $11.58 million. Generally speaking, this is the amount that can be transferred during lifetime (by gift) or at death before transfer tax is imposed. Under current law, this exemption amount is tied to the rate of inflation and is therefore likely to gradually increase through 2025. If Congress does not act in the interim, then on January 1, 2026, the estate and gift tax exemption will reduce to $5 million, as indexed for inflation.

The Internal Revenue Service issued final Treasury regulations confirming that taxable gifts made between 2017 and 2026, in excess of the exemption amount available on the date of death, will not be “clawed back” into the gross estate for federal estate tax purposes. In other words, if a taxable gift of $11 million is made this year, and in the year of the transferor’s death the exemption amount is $5 million, the transferor’s estate will not pay transfer tax on the excess $6 million that was gifted when the exemption amount was $11 million. The anti-clawback regulations provide unique tax planning opportunities to lock in the temporary increase in the exemption via gifting prior to its reversion.

Since the upcoming elections may yield a political shift in both the executive and legislative branches, the estate and gift tax exemption might be adjusted prior to January 1, 2026. There is also discussion that such a political shift could lead to the imposition of an additional tax on unrealized appreciation upon the transfer of assets by gift or at death and an increase in both marginal gift and estate tax rates. Obviously, we do not know what the upcoming election holds, and we do not know what legislation might be passed in the coming years. Regardless, it seems prudent for those who potentially might have a taxable estate to monitor the situation and consider whether they wish to avail themselves of any planning opportunities before any possible changes are made.

Given the current situation, most people are drawn to strategies that allow them to make a gift in a manner that will (1) lock in the current $11.58 million exemption amount; (2) remove assets, and the appreciation thereon, from their gross estate; and (3) retain some use of the gifted assets after the gift. Some popular strategies that meet these criteria are as follows:

Spousal Lifetime/Limited Access Trust (SLAT): A SLAT is an irrevocable trust established by someone for the benefit of his or her spouse. The general concept is that the gifted SLAT funds remain available for the spouse (and possibly children) during the spouse’s lifetime. A SLAT is structured so that it does not qualify for the marital deduction; thus it utilizes the transferor spouse’s exemption. During the beneficiary spouse’s lifetime, the beneficiary spouse retains use of the funds. When the beneficiary spouse dies, however, such access is lost, and the trust assets are distributed or held in further trust for designated beneficiaries.

Many people like to maximize this strategy by having both spouses create SLATs for the benefit of each other. This is permitted; however, such SLATs must be carefully structured to include enough differences so as not to be deemed reciprocal trusts.

Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT): A GRAT is an irrevocable trust that is established for a specific term of years. During the term, the grantor retains the right to receive an annual payment from the trust. The term of the GRAT and the amount of the payment can be modified based on how much of the exemption the grantor wishes to utilize. As long as the assets in the GRAT appreciate greater than the Section 7520 rate (currently only 0.4 percent), then there will be assets that can pass to beneficiaries tax-free at the end of the term. A grantor who wishes to utilize a larger portion of his or her exemption through a GRAT would reduce the size of the annual payment that comes back during the term of the GRAT.

Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT): A QPRT is an irrevocable trust funded with the grantor’s personal residence (or secondary home) in which the grantor retains the right to use the residence for a term of years. Upon the expiration of such term (if the grantor survives the term), the ownership of the property will pass to the remainder beneficiaries, either outright or subject to continuing trust.

The establishment of a QPRT will be deemed a taxable gift of the remainder interest to the trust beneficiaries. The value of the taxable gift will be the overall fair market value of the transferred property reduced by the value of the retained interest (i.e., the term of years selected). This allows the grantor to transfer the full value of the residence using only the exemption equal to the value of the remainder interest. After the term of the QPRT ends, the grantor may lease the property back from the remainder beneficiaries for fair market value.

The federal income tax consequences of the aforementioned trusts should also be considered. Each of the trusts, at least for a period of time, is structured as a “grantor trust,” which means that the grantor is taxed on all the income earned by the trust during such time period. This may be beneficial because the income taxes paid by the grantor serve as an additional transfer of wealth to the beneficiaries, free of transfer tax. Another important income tax consequence is that when a gift is made during life, the recipient of the gift receives a “transferred basis” in the asset. This means that the recipient of the gifted asset has the same basis in the asset that the transferor held. Alternatively, if an asset is transferred upon death, the recipient’s basis would be adjusted to the asset’s fair market value, which is generally more desirable for income tax purposes. Therefore, the specific assets utilized for any gifting strategy must be carefully considered.

This is not an exhaustive list of options. For example, those who do not care to retain any interest in the gifted assets can continue to utilize outright gifting directly to a beneficiary or to a trust for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. The gifted assets could consist of closely held business interests, which might qualify for a valuation discount. If you have previously loaned money to a beneficiary, you might consider forgiving the note and thereby triggering a gift. Some clients are also looking to refinance existing loans at lower current applicable rates. You should speak with your estate planning attorney to determine which techniques are appropriate for you. There are a multitude of options, depending on your intent, family structure, asset holdings, and market outlook.

The SECURE Act and Its Impact

In addition to the possible changes to the transfer tax rules, the recent passage of the SECURE Act has caused a major change in how many retirement plans can be administered and distributed following the account owner’s death. Many of such plans are now subject to a 10-year payout requirement after the death of the account owner. Previously, such accounts could generally be paid out over the life expectancy of the named beneficiary. For many plans, this change will result in an acceleration of the income tax liability following the account owner’s death. Therefore, we also suggest that you review your retirement accounts and the named beneficiaries of such accounts to ensure that the treatment of such assets after your death is consistent with your intent.

If you would like to review the options available in further detail, or if you simply feel that it may be beneficial to review your estate plan in light of the SECURE Act or our uncertain political and estate tax environment, please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help you protect your intent and preserve your estate for you and your family. 

FINAL OPPORTUNITY TO FILE – 2020 Florida Annual Uniform Business Reports

The deadline to file a 2020 Florida Annual Uniform Business Report for your Corporation, Limited Liability Company, Limited Partnership, or Limited Liability Limited Partnership to maintain its active status with the State of Florida was June 30, 2020. If you have not already filed a Florida Annual Report for your entity for 2020, you may still do so to avoid the administrative dissolution of the entity by filing the report by the close of business on Friday, September 18, 2020, and paying a $400 late fee in addition to the standard filing fee. Failure to file a 2020 Florida Annual Report by Friday, September 18, 2020, for an entity will result in the entity’s administrative dissolution or revocation on September 25, 2020. Entities that are administratively dissolved or revoked may be reinstated; however, such reinstatement will require the submission of a reinstatement application, as well as the payment of a reinstatement fee and the standard annual report fee.

Even if a third party, like Cross Street Corporate Services, LLC, serves as your entity’s registered agent, it is your responsibility to file the Annual Report with the State of Florida. Annual Reports should be electronically filed at the Florida Department of State’s website: www.sunbiz.org. If you need assistance, please contact us.

You may disregard this notice if your entity was formed in 2020 or has already filed a Florida Annual Report for 2020.

Treasury Releases Guidance Implementing Executive Action on Employment Tax Deferral

On Friday, August 28, the Treasury Department (“Treasury”) released guidance implementing President Trump’s executive directive to defer the employee portion of social security tax.  As part of the continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Notice 2020-65 allows employers to make this deferral during the period of September 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 for employees earning below a threshold amount of $4,000 during a bi-weekly pay period. This threshold is to be determined on a per-pay period basis rather than as an annualized amount. While not clearly stated in the Notice, both Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) have framed the deferral as optional for employers.

For those employers who do choose to defer the employee share of social security tax, these amounts will be postponed until the period beginning on January 1, 2021 and ending on April 30, 2021. This could mean that absent further legislation affording permanent forgiveness of these amounts, employees would be obligated to make increased payroll payments for that four-month period. If employers fail to withhold and deposit any deferred amounts by May 1, 2021, the Notice states that they will be on the hook for penalties and interest—again, assuming Congress fails to enact legislation that says otherwise.    

What remains unclear is whether employees may choose to opt out of an employer’s choice to defer and how employers should treat the deferred taxes of employees who are terminated before these amounts are fully repaid in 2021. The Notice does, however, state that “[i]f necessary, the [employer] may make arrangements to otherwise collect the total Applicable Taxes from the employee,” suggesting that an employer could, for example, deduct any deferred tax owing from an employee’s final paycheck to the extent permitted by the Fair Labor Standards Act.  

The IRS has released a draft update of Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, on which employers may take into account employee social security withholding that is deferred. The key change appears to be on page 3, line 24, which asks for the “Deferred amount of the employee share of social security tax included in line 13b.”

We hope to see more concrete guidance from Treasury in the coming weeks.

Join Us for a Webinar: Employment Law and Tax Developments Businesses Might Have Missed While Focused on COVID-19

Over the last several months there have been developments in employment law and tax not directly related to COVID-19 that you may have missed. While businesses have been focused on responding to COVID-19—learning about the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, the PPP, and developments with unemployment—the Supreme Court and government agencies have been making decisions that impact the workplace.

We invite you to join us for a complimentary, one-hour Zoom webinar to discuss some of these decisions and how they may impact the workplace.

TOPICS INCLUDE:

  • Expansion of Title VII protection of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Expansion of rights of religious employers
  • Changes to certain provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Updates from the National Labor Relations Board on workplace investigations and work email
  • Amendment to the Florida Civil Rights Act
  • Tax planning for 2020
  • Tax provisions supporting businesses

Wednesday, August 12
10:00 – 11:00 a.m. 

REGISTER NOW >

PRESENTED BY:

Jennifer Fowler-Hermes
Board Certified Labor & Employment Attorney | Williams Parker

Gail E. Farb
Labor & Employment Attorney | Williams Parker

Beth C. Ebersole
CPA, ABV | Kerkering, Barberio & Co.

Moderator:
Thomas B. Luzier
Board Certified Real Estate Attorney | Williams Parker

IRS Releases Guidance for Retirement Plan Related Relief under the CARES Act

As discussed in our prior blog post, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) provides special relief provisions for individuals in relation to their retirement plans. The provisions of the CARES Act, however, created uncertainties for both plan administrators and individuals when dealing with the administration of their respective retirement plans. On June 22 and June 23, the IRS issued Notice 2020-50 and Notice 2020-51, respectively, which provide guidance related to treatment of coronavirus-related distributions and the 2020 waiver of required minimum distributions (“RMDs”). On July 17, the IRS issued News Release 2020-162 to remind individuals about the CARES Act relief related to RMDs.

Notice 2020-50: IRS Guidance on Coronavirus-Related Distributions

Notice 2020-50 expands the definition of a qualified individual (i.e. the individuals who are able to take advantage of the retirement plan related relief provided under the CARES Act) and provides helpful guidance for reporting coronavirus-related distributions from retirement plans. As a reminder, a coronavirus-related distribution is a distribution from an eligible retirement plan to a Qualified Individual (defined below) between January 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020.

Definition of a Qualified Individual

As provided in an IRS News Release, the definition of qualified individual, as expanded under Notice 2020-50, is anyone who

  • is diagnosed, or whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed, with the virus SARS-CoV-2 or the coronavirus disease 2019 (collectively, “COVID-19”) by a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (including a test authorized under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act); or
  • experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of the individual, the individual’s spouse, or a member of the individual’s household (that is, someone who shares the individual’s principal residence):
    • being quarantined, being furloughed or laid off, or having work hours reduced due to COVID-19;
    • being unable to work due to lack of childcare due to COVID-19;
    • closing or reducing hours of a business that they own or operate due to COVID-19;
    • having pay or self-employment income reduced due to COVID-19; or
    • having a job offer rescinded or start date for a job delayed due to COVID-19.

This expanded definition will allow more individuals to reap the benefits associated with receiving coronavirus-related distributions.

Reporting a Coronavirus-Related Distributions

For the Qualified Individual to receive favorable tax treatment, the Qualified Individual must report the distribution on his or her for Form 1040 (Individual Income Tax Return) (if applicable) and on Form 8915-E (Qualified 2020 Disaster Retirement Plan Distributions and Repayments) for 2020. Form 8915-E is expected to be available before the end of 2020. The favorable tax treatment includes the waiver of the 10-percent additional tax, the allowance of the pro-rata inclusion in income, and recontribution benefits. For more information on these benefits, please see our prior blog post.

If the Qualified Individual recontributes his or her coronavirus-related distributions to an eligible retirement plan, the method to report such recontribution depends on whether the Qualified Individual elected to include the coronavirus-related distribution ratably over a 3-year period. If the Qualified Individual reports the entire coronavirus-related distribution in the year of distribution and recontributes such distribution in a later year, the Qualified Individual is required to file a revised Form 8915-E (and amended Form 1040, if applicable).

If the Qualified Individual instead elects the ratable inclusion, then the amount of the recontribution will decrease the amount of the coronavirus-related distribution included in income for that year. The recontribution will be reported on Form 8915-E. Further, if a Qualified Individual recontributes an amount that is greater than the amount included in gross income for the taxable year, the excess recontribution amount may be carried forward, or carried back, to reduce the amount of the coronavirus-related distribution included in income in the future year, or prior year, respectively.  If the excess recontribution amount is carried back, a revised Form 8915-E (and amended Form 1040, if applicable) must be filed.

Notice 2020-50 also provides detailed guidance for plan administrators for retirement plan loans.

Notice 2020-51: IRS Guidance on Waiver of Required Minimum Distributions

As discussed in our prior blog post, the CARES Act provides a waiver of RMDs from certain retirement accounts. This new waiver rule may certainly be beneficial for individuals who wish for their retirement plan funds to grow tax-deferred in 2020; however, it also created uncertainty, especially in relation to options for rollovers.

Fortunately, Notice 2020-51 provides that distributions from a retirement plan that would have been an RMD but for the CARES Act are eligible for rollover into an eligible retirement plan, as long as other general rollover requirements are met. Further, an IRA owner or beneficiary who already received an amount that would have been an RMD but for the CARES Act may repay such distribution to the distributing IRA. Such repayment will be treated as a rollover for income tax purposes, which means the owner or beneficiary will not have to pay income tax on the distribution.

Generally, an individual must rollover a payment within 60 days to avoid tax and penalties and is only allowed one rollover within a 12-moth period. In Notice 2020-23, the IRS previously extended the rollover deadline to July 15 for RMDs distributed after January 2020. To provide further relief for individuals who already received distributions in 2020, Notice 2020-51 provides a special rule that the deadline to rollover a payment described above is extended to August 31, 2020. Thus, pursuant to Notice 2020-51, individuals who received distributions in January are now also eligible for rollover relief.

Further, these rollovers will not count towards the one rollover per 12-months limitation and are not restricted by the general rule against rollovers for non-spousal beneficiaries.

Notice 2020-51 also provides information related to the SECURE Act, guidance about plan amendments, and advice regarding other various issues addressed by FAQs.

Attorney Colton F. Castro contributed to this blog post.

With $130 Billion Left, PPP Application Deadline Extended

On July 1, 2020, the House waived through Senate-passed legislation (S. 4116) that extends the deadline to apply for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the centerpiece of relief under the CARES Act. The PPP provides forgivable loans to certain small businesses to cover payroll and other permissible expenses.

The original deadline to apply for PPP loans was last Tuesday, June 30, 2020. With the President’s signature over the weekend on July 4, 2020, the deadline for businesses to take advantage of the nearly $130 billion in remaining PPP funds is now August 8, 2020. Business owners interested in applying for a PPP loan should contact their local lender about the program. We are happy to discuss the PPP and other available economic relief for your business.

On-Demand Webinar: Novel Issues Relating to Employees Working Remotely

As more employees work from home, employers are facing questions about how to comply with employment laws in a manner that minimizes risks associated with remote work. Our Business Solutions team recently presented a webinar addressing many of the employment-related issues arising from remote work. The head of our Labor & Employment practice, Jennifer Fowler-Hermes and L&E attorney John Getty were joined by Brad Hall, a workers’ compensation defense attorney, to discuss a variety of topics, including how to properly track work hours, complying with employment laws, the importance of telework agreements, and whether and to what extent workers’ compensation laws apply. Watch it on-demand below.

 

2020 Florida Annual Uniform Business Reports – Due June 30

While usually required to be filed by May 1 of every year, due to COVID-19 the Florida Secretary of State extended the deadline for Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, Limited Partnerships, and Limited Liability Limited Partnerships to file their 2020 Florida Annual Uniform Business Report to June 30, 2020. A non-negotiable late fee of $400 will be added to the State’s filing fee for entities that file their Florida Annual Report after this deadline. Failure to file a 2020 Florida Annual Report for an entity will result in the administrative dissolution or revocation of the entity in September 2020.

Even if a third party, like Cross Street Corporate Services, LLC, serves as your entity’s registered agent, it is your responsibility to file the Annual Report with the State of Florida. Annual Reports should be electronically filed at the Florida Department of State’s website.

If you have specific questions for the Florida Secretary of State regarding filing your annual report, you can speak to someone with the Florida Secretary of State’s Division of Corporations by calling 850-245-6000. The Florida Secretary of State also answers a number of commonly asked questions about filing annual reports online.

If Williams Parker’s affiliate, Cross Street Corporate Services, LLC, serves as your registered agent, when you file the annual report on www.sunbiz.org, please be sure that the fields relating to the name and address of the Registered Agent are completed as follows:

  • Registered Agent Name:  This field should remain blank.  Do not list an individual attorney or Williams Parker here.
  • Business to Serve as Registered Agent:  Please list Cross Street Corporate Services, LLC, in this field.
  • Street Address of Registered Agent:  Please list 200 South Orange Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236 in this field.

If you are changing your registered agent to Cross Street please type your name and “as Agent” in the signature field.

Please let us know if there is anything we can do to assist you in filing your entity’s annual report.

PPP Flexibility Act Expected to Be Signed into Law

On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (H.R. 7010), which was approved by the House late last week. President Trump is expected to sign the Act into law. As a part of the larger Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) provides loans to small-to-mid-sized businesses suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. As enacted, the PPP loans are to be forgivable when used for specific business and payroll expenses during a specified timeframe. Any forgiven loan amounts are excluded from businesses’ taxable income. However, due to insufficient funding and lengthier pandemic-related shutdowns, the PPP relief became inaccessible for many businesses.

The changes made to the PPP by the new legislation include:

  • Allowing businesses 24 weeks (or until December 31, 2020, if it comes first) post-loan origination to use loan money that will qualify for forgiveness. This applies to both new and existing loans.
  • Reducing the amount of loan money required to be spent on payroll expenses from 75 percent to 60 percent, allowing more funds to be spent on rent, utility payments, and mortgage interest.
  • Extending the time period for the rehiring exception to forgiveness reduction from June 30, 2020 to December 31, 2020 and adding new exceptions for employers who could not find qualified employees or were unable to restore business operations to February 15, 2020 levels due to COVID-19-related operating restrictions.
  • Extending the loan terms from two to five years, unless otherwise modified by lenders and borrowers.
  • Permitting payroll tax deferment for businesses that receive PPP loans regardless of loan forgiveness. Under the CARES Act and subsequent interpretive guidance, payroll tax deferral could only be utilized up until a business received notification of loan forgiveness.
  • Replacing the six-month deferral of PPP payments due with deferral until the date on which the amount of loan forgiveness is provided to the lender.

The legislation does not clarify the parameters of the required PPP certification that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes [a] loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.” It also does not address the deductibility of expenses paid for by PPP loan funds, as previously discussed in a prior post. Further PPP corrections and guidance are expected.

Join Us for a Webinar on Business Basics

Every day is a new reality, especially in times of crisis, when the only constant seems to be change itself.

Whether dealing with challenges faced from COVID-19 or using the current time to plan new ventures, it is important to plan and implement strategies in line with today’s fluid business environment. Whether starting a new business or confirming that your existing business is on track, knowing the basics can help maximize your success.

Join Williams Parker attorneys Jennifer Fowler-Hermes and Elizabeth Stamoulis, accompanied by Kathy Hargreaves, CPA, CFP®, CPC®, of Kerkering and Barberio, for a virtual and interactive presentation covering:

• Basic business and employment documents
• Protecting intellectual property
• Properly classifying workers to avoid missteps
• Tax implications and proper tax registration

BUSINESS BASIC: GETTING IT RIGHT FROM THE START (OR IN THE MIDDLE)

Friday, June 12
10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

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Our Business Solutions team helps business owners and entities assess and manage risk, advise on tax and compliance issues, provide workout and turnaround guidance, and offer creditor, restructuring, and bankruptcy representation. We work with HR executives to assess potential employment liability; review, update, and advise on employment policies; defend employment law claims; and assist with regulatory guidelines. For those seeing opportunity amidst uncertainty, the firm offers start-up guidance on tax, employment, and intellectual property issues. Its attorneys assist commercial and residential landlords and tenants with abatements, deferments, amendments, forbearance, and help identify remedies, including business interruption insurance and updated lease provisions. Should litigation arise, the team is prepared to advocate on your behalf.