George W. Colburn, CPA
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On December 20, President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan, year-end government spending and tax package, just hours before federal funding was set to expire. Trump's signature on the over 2,000-page spending package avoided a government shutdown.


The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) ( P.L. 111-148) individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power. However, the central question of whether the rest of the ACA remains valid after Congress removed the penalty for not having health insurance remained unanswered. Instead, the case was sent back to the district court to reconsider how much of the ACA could survive without the individual mandate penalty.


Proposed qualified opportunity zone regulations issued on October 29, 2018 ( REG-115420-18) and May 1, 2019 ( REG-120186-18) under Code Sec. 1400Z-2 have been finalized with modifications. The regulations. which were issued in a 550 page document, are comprehensive.


The IRS has issued final regulations that provide guidance on transfers of appreciated property by U.S. persons to partnerships with foreign partners related to the transferor. Specifically, the regulations override the general nonrecognition rule under Code Sec. 721(a) unless the partnership adopts the remedial allocation method and certain other requirements are satisfied. The regulations affect U.S. partners in domestic or foreign partnerships.


The IRS has released Publication 5382, "Internal Revenue Service Progress Update / Fiscal Year 2019—Putting Taxpayers First." This new annual report describes accomplishments across the agency, and highlights the work of IRS employees during the past year. It covers a variety of taxpayer service efforts, including development of the new Taxpayer Withholding Estimator, as well as operations support efforts on areas involving information technology modernization, human capital office initiatives, and others.


Bridget Roberts, the Acting National Taxpayer Advocate, released her 2019 Annual Report to Congress. The report discusses the key challenges facing the IRS regarding the implementation of the Taxpayer First Act, inadequate taxpayer service and limited funding of the agency. Further, Roberts released the third edition of the National Taxpayer Advocate’s "Purple Book," which presents 58 legislative recommendations designed to strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration.


The IRS has modified the applicability dates for proposed regulations under Code Sec. 382 that were issued with NPRM REG-125710-18, September 10, 2019 (2019 proposed regulations). The IRS is withdrawing the text of the proposed applicability dates, and proposing revised applicability dates. The newly issued proposed rules would also provide transition relief.


The Treasury and IRS have issued final regulations on the due diligence and reporting rules for persons making certain U.S. source payments to foreign persons. Guidance is also provided on reporting by foreign financial institutions on U.S. accounts. The regulations are effective on the date the regulations are published in the Federal Register.


Taxpayers have been provided with additional guidance for complying with the Code Sec. 871(m) regulations on dividend equivalent payments for 2021, 2022, and 2023. The Treasury Department and the IRS intend to amend the regulations to delay the effective/applicability date of certain rules. Further, the phase-in period provided in Notice 2018-762, I.R.B. 2018-40, 522, has been extended.


The fate of many of the tax incentives taxpayers have grown accustomed to over recent years will likely remain up in the air until Congress and the Administration finally face off weeks before year-end 2012. While the results of Election Day will have bearing on the outcome, no crystal ball can predict how the ultimate short-term compromise will unfold. As a result, some year-end tax planning must be deferred and executed ”at the eleventh hour” only after Congress passes and the President signs what will likely result in a stopgap, temporary compromise for 2013. Tax rates for higher-bracket individuals and a long list of “extenders” provisions such as the child tax credit, the enhanced education credits and the optional deduction for state and local sales tax, hang in the balance. Real tax reform for 2014 and beyond, in any event, won’t be hammered out until 2013 is well underway.


The tax code provides for 50 percent first-year bonus depreciation for 2012. If property qualifies for bonus depreciation, the taxpayer can deduct 50 percent of the cost of the property in 2012. This can help a business bear the cost of investing in needed equipment, as well as facilitate cash flow and provide operating funds for the business. It is not too late to qualify for 50-percent bonus depreciation for 2012.


In recent years, the IRS has been cracking down on abuses of the tax deduction for donations to charity and contributions of used vehicles have been especially scrutinized. The charitable contribution rules, however, are far from being easy to understand. Many taxpayers genuinely are confused by the rules and unintentionally value their contributions to charity at amounts higher than appropriate.


In 2013, a new and unique tax will take effect—a 3.8 percent "unearned income Medicare contribution" tax as part of the structure in place to pay for health care reform. The tax will be imposed on the "net investment income" (NII) of individuals, estates, and trusts that exceeds specified thresholds. The tax will generally fall on passive income, but will also apply generally to capital gains from the disposition of property.


Whether or not the IRS will allow a deduction for year-end bonuses for services performed during that year depends not only on the timing of the payment, but also the events surrounding the payment. If your business is planning to provide year-end bonuses to employees, you may find the following tax tips useful in your planning.


As 2013 draws closer, news reports about “taxmageddon” and “taxpocalypse,” describing expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, are proliferating. Many taxpayers are asking what they can do to prepare. The answer is to prepare early. September may seem too early to be discussing year-end tax planning, but the uncertainty over the Bush-era tax cuts, incentives for businesses, and much more, requires proactive strategizing. Ultimately, the fate of these tax incentives will be resolved; until then, taxpayers need to be flexible in their year-end tax planning.


Some individuals must pay estimated taxes or face a penalty in the form of interest on the amount underpaid. Self-employed persons, retirees, and nonworking individuals most often must pay estimated taxes to avoid the penalty. But an employee may need to pay them if the amount of tax withheld from wages is insufficient to cover the tax owed on other income. The potential tax owed on investment income also may increase the need for paying estimated tax, even among wage earners.


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