Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tax increases under a 2nd Obama Administration

President Barack Obama’s re-election means his administration will push to let tax cuts enacted during the George W. Bush era expire for high earners, as scheduled, at year-end. Obama wants to increase the top federal income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 35 percent, boost rates on long-term capital gains to as much as 23.8 percent, and shrink exemptions from estate-and-gift taxes.

Wealthy investors have about a month and a half to examine their investment gains and losses left over from previous years, as well as to consider ways to move income into 2012 and transfer assets to heirs.
Capital Gains
An investor who sells $100 of stock with a cost basis of $20 in 2012 would see proceeds (after capital gains taxes are hiked) of $88. Next year, if Congress doesn’t act, earnings from the sale would drop to $80.96 if rates rise to 23.8 percent. That means the stock price would need to rise by at least 9 percent for an investor to be better off selling in 2013.
Investors shouldn’t accelerate sales of securities just to avoid a higher tax rate, said Saccacio, who is based in Los Angeles. They should consider how long they planned to hold stocks and whether they need to rebalance. Those who decide to sell at current capital gains rates can re-invest in the securities if they remain attractive without violating so-called wash-sale rules under the Internal Revenue Service code that apply to stocks sold at a loss, he said.
Bonuses, Dividends
Closely held businesses that have a choice to pay bonuses or dividends in 2012 or 2013 should do so before year-end. The tax rate on dividends may skyrocket next year from 15 percent now with the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and levies set to take effect from the health-care law.
Employees who have a choice to receive their bonus this year should do so and consider exercising stock options that are set to expire, she said.
Surtax on unearned income
The 2010 health-care law applies a 3.8 percent surtax on unearned income in 2013 for married couples making more than $250,000 and individuals earning at least $200,000.
Payroll Tax
The law also increases the Medicare payroll tax levied on wages by 0.9 percentage points for high earners.  Also, Obama's tax deduction of 2% on the employee portion of Social Security is due to end on 12/31.  Apparently there is little in the way of support for a further pushing of the payroll deduction.
Estate Tax
Legislation enacted in 2010 raised the lifetime estate-and- gift-tax exclusion for 2011 and 2012. This year individuals can transfer up to $5.12 million free of estate and gift taxes. Those levels are scheduled to expire at the end of 2012 and Obama wants to set the estate tax threshold at $3.5 million while dropping the gift-tax exemption to $1 million as it was in 2009.  That is an estimated estate tax increase of $372,600 (based on a lower taxable thrreshold and a 23% capital gains rate).

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Affordable Care Act Tax Effects

The Affordable Care Act's tax effects are evaluated below. It contains some tax provisions that are in effect and more that will be implemented during the next several years. The following is a list of provisions for which the IRS has issued proposed and/or final guidance.

Minimum Value

On April 26, 2012, the IRS issued Notice 2012-31, which provides information on an approach to determining whether an eligible employer-sponsored health plan provides minimum value. Starting in 2014, whether such a plan provides minimum value will be relevant to eligibility for the premium tax credit and application of the employer shared responsibility payment.

Information Reporting on Health Insurance Coverage

On April 26, 2012, the IRS issued Notices 2012-32 and 2012-33, which invited comments to help inform the development of guidance on annual information reporting related to health insurance coverage. The information reporting is to be provided by health insurance issuers, certain employers that sponsor self-insured plans, government agencies and certain other parties that provide health insurance coverage.

Disclosure of Return Information

On April 27, 2012, the IRS issued proposed regulations with rules for disclosure of return information to be used to carry out eligibility determinations for advance payments of the premium tax credit, Medicaid and other health insurance affordability programs. The proposed regulations solicit public comments.

Small Business Health Care Tax Credit

This new credit helps small businesses and small tax-exempt organizations afford the cost of covering their employees and is specifically targeted for those with low- and moderate-income workers. The credit is designed to encourage small employers to offer health insurance coverage for the first time or maintain coverage they already have. In general, the credit is available to small employers that pay at least half the cost of single coverage for their employees.

Health Flexible Spending Arrangements

Effective Jan. 1, 2011, the cost of an over-the-counter medicine or drug cannot be reimbursed from Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs) or health reimbursement arrangements unless a prescription is obtained. The change does not affect insulin, even if purchased without a prescription, or other health care expenses such as medical devices, eye glasses, contact lenses, co-pays and deductibles. This standard applies only to purchases made on or after Jan. 1, 2011. A similar rule went into effect on Jan. 1, 2011, for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and Archer Medical Savings Accounts (Archer MSAs). Employers and employees should take these changes into account as they make health benefit decisions. For more information, see news release IR-2010-95, Notice 2010-59, Revenue Ruling 2010-23 and our questions and answers. FSA and HRA participants can continue using debit cards to buy prescribed over-the-counter medicines, if requirements are met. For more information, see news release IR-2010-128 and Notice 2011-5.
In addition, starting in 2013, there are new rules about the amount that can be contributed to an FSA. Notice 2012-40 provides information about these rules and flexibility for employers applying the new rules and requests comments about other possible administrative changes to the rules on FSA contributions. The Notice provides instructions on how to submit comments.

Proposed Regulations Issued on Medical Device Excise Tax

On Feb. 3, 2012, the IRS issued proposed regulations on the new 2.3-percent medical device excise tax (IRC §4191) that manufacturers and importers will pay on their sales of taxable medical devices starting in 2013.

Health Insurance Premium Tax Credit

Starting in 2014, individuals and families can take a new premium tax credit to help them afford health insurance coverage purchased through an Affordable Insurance Exchange. Exchanges will operate in every state and the District of Columbia. The premium tax credit is refundable so taxpayers who have little or no income tax liability can still benefit. The credit also can be paid in advance to a taxpayer’s insurance company to help cover the cost of premiums. On May 18, 2012, the IRS issued final regulations which provide guidance for individuals who enroll in qualified health plans through Exchanges and claim the premium tax credit, and for Exchanges that make qualified health plans available to individuals and employers.
The portion of the law that will allow eligible individuals to use tax credits to purchase health coverage through an Exchange is not effective until 2014.
Exchanges will offer individuals a choice of health plans that meet certain benefit and cost standards. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) administers the requirements for the Exchanges and the health plans they offer

Health Coverage for Older Children

Health coverage for an employee's children under 27 years of age is now generally tax-free to the employee.  These changes immediately allow employers with cafeteria plans –– plans that allow employees to choose from a menu of tax-free benefit options and cash or taxable benefits –– to permit employees to begin making pre-tax contributions to pay for this expanded benefit. This also applies to self-employed individuals who qualify for the self-employed health insurance deduction on their federal income tax return.

Excise Tax on Indoor Tanning Services

A 10-percent excise tax on indoor UV tanning services went into effect on July 1, 2010. Payments are made along with Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return. The tax doesn't apply to phototherapy services performed by a licensed medical professional on his or her premises. There's also an exception for certain physical fitness facilities that offer tanning as an incidental service to members without a separately identifiable fee. For more information on the tax and how it is administered, see the Indoor Tanning Services Tax Center.

Reporting Employer Provided Health Coverage in Form W-2

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to report the cost of coverage under an employer-sponsored group health plan on an employee’s Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, in Box 12, using Code DD. Many employers are eligible for transition relief for tax-year 2012 and beyond, until the IRS issues final guidance for this reporting requirement.
The amount reported does not affect tax liability, as the value of the employer excludible contribution to health coverage continues to be excludible from an employee's income, and it is not taxable. This reporting is for informational purposes only, to show employees the value of their health care benefits so they can be more informed consumers.
More information about the reporting can be found on Form W-2 Reporting of Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage.

Adoption Credit

The Affordable Care Act raises the maximum adoption credit to $13,360 per child, up from $13,170 in 2010 and $12,150 in 2009. The adoption tax credit is refundable for tax year 2011, meaning that eligible taxpayers can get it even if they owe no tax for that year. In general, the credit is based on the reasonable and necessary expenses related to a legal adoption, including adoption fees, court costs, attorney’s fees and travel expenses. Income limits and other special rules apply. In addition to attaching Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses (see instructions), eligible taxpayers must include with their 2011 paper tax return one or more adoption-related documents to avoid delaying their refund. Taxpayers may also be asked, after filing their returns, to substantiate any qualified adoption expenses they paid.
For other information, see our news release, tax tip, questions and answers, flyer, Notice 2010-66, Revenue Procedure 2010-31, Revenue Procedure 2010-35 and Revenue Procedure 2011-52.

Medicare Shared Savings Program

The Affordable Care Act establishes a Medicare shared savings program (MSSP) which encourages Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to facilitate cooperation among providers to improve the quality of care provided to Medicare beneficiaries and reduce unnecessary costs. More information can be found in Notice 2011-20.

Qualified Therapeutic Discovery Project Program

This program was designed to provide tax credits and grants to small firms that show significant potential to produce new and cost-saving therapies, support U.S. jobs and increase U.S. competitiveness. Applicants were required to have their research projects certified as eligible for the credit or grant. IRS guidance describes the application process.

Group Health Plan Requirements

The Affordable Care Act establishes a number of new requirements for group health plans. Interim guidance on changes to the nondiscrimination requirements for group health plans can be found in Notice 2011-1, which provides that employers will not be subject to penalties until after additional guidance is issued. Additionally, TD 9575 and REG-4003810, issued by DOL, HHS and IRS, provide information on the summary of benefits and coverage and the uniform glossary. Notice 2012-59 provides guidance to group health plans on the waiting periods they may apply before coverage starts.

Tax-Exempt 501(c)(29) Qualified Nonprofit Health Insurance Issuers

The Affordable Care Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan program (CO-OP program). It also provides for tax exemption for recipients of CO-OP program grants and loans that meet additional requirements under section 501(c)(29). IRS Notice 2011-23 outlined the requirements for tax exemption under section 501(c)(29) and solicited written comments regarding these requirements as well as the application process. Revenue Procedure 2012-11, issued in conjunction with temporary regulations and a notice of proposed rulemaking, sets out the procedures for issuing determination letters and rulings on the exempt status of organizations applying for recognition of exemption under 501(c)(29).
An overview of the CO-OP program is available on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Medicare Part D Coverage Gap “donut hole” Rebate

The Affordable Care Act provides a one-time $250 rebate in 2010 to assist Medicare Part D recipients who have reached their Medicare drug plan’s coverage gap. This payment is not taxable. This payment is not made by the IRS. More information can be found at www.medicare.gov.

Additional Requirements for Tax-Exempt Hospitals

The Affordable Care Act added new requirements for charitable hospitals. (See Notice 2010-39 and Notice 2011-52.) On June 22, 2012, the IRS issued proposed regulations which provide information on the requirements for charitable hospitals relating to financial assistance and emergency medical care policies, charges for emergency or medically necessary care provided to individuals eligible for financial assistance, and billing and collections. Comments on the proposed regulations are requested by Sept. 24, 2012.
Form 990, Schedule H, for tax year 2010 was revised to include a new Part V, Section B, to gather information on hospitals' compliance with the new requirements and on related policies and practices. To give the hospital community time to familiarize itself with the types of information the IRS is requesting, Part V, Section B of Schedule H was made optional for the 2010 tax year (see Announcement 2011-37).
The IRS considered public input and made revisions to Part V, Section B for tax year 2011 (see the Form 990, Schedule H and instructions). Hospitals are required to complete all parts and sections of Schedule H for tax year 2011, with the exception of lines 1-7 of Part V, Section B, which relate to community health needs assessments (see Notice 2012-4). These lines are optional for 2011. The IRS continues to welcome public input on the new requirements for charitable hospitals under the Affordable Care Act.

Annual Fee on Branded Prescription Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Importers

The Affordable Care Act created an annual fee payable beginning in 2011 by certain manufacturers and importers of brand name pharmaceuticals. On Aug. 15, 2011, the IRS issued temporary regulations and a notice of proposed rulemaking on the branded prescription drug fee. The temporary regulations describe the rules related to the fee, including how it is computed and how it is paid.
On Nov. 4, 2011, the IRS issued Notice 2011-92 which provides additional guidance on the branded prescription drug fee for the 2012 fee year.

Modification of Section 833 Treatment of Certain Health Organizations

The Affordable Care Act amended section 833 of the Code, which provides special rules for the taxation of Blue Cross and Blue Shield organizations and certain other organizations that provide health insurance.

Medical Loss Ratio (MLR)

Beginning in 2011, insurance companies are required to spend a specified percentage of premium dollars on medical care and quality improvement activities, meeting a medical loss ratio (MLR) standard. Insurance companies that are not meeting the MLR standard will be required to provide rebates to their consumers beginning in 2012.

Limitation on Deduction for Compensation Paid by Certain Health Insurance Providers

The Affordable Care Act amended section 162(m) of the Code to limit the compensation deduction available to certain health insurance providers. The amendment goes into effect for taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2012, but may affect deferred compensation attributable to services performed in a taxable year beginning after Dec. 31, 2009. Initial guidance on the application of this provision can be found in Notice 2011-2, which also solicited comments on the application of the amended provision.

Employer Shared Responsibility Payment

Starting in 2014, certain employers must offer health coverage to their full-time employees or a shared responsibility payment may apply. Information may be found in news releases IR-2011-92 and IR-2011-50 and Notices 2011-73, 2011-36 and 2012-17. Additionally, Notice 2012-58 expands upon and modifies previous guidance and describes safe harbors that employers may use to determine whether certain workers are full-time employees and to establish that coverage is affordable at least through the end of 2014. Notice 2012-59 provides related guidance for group health plans on the waiting periods they may apply before starting coverage.

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

The Affordable Care Act establishes the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund, the institute will assist patients, clinicians, purchasers and policy-makers in making informed health decisions by advancing clinical effectiveness research. The trust fund will be funded in part by fees paid by issuers of health insurance policies and sponsors of self-insured health plans.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

New rules on whether to classify a purchase as an Expense (Repair) or when there is a need to Capitalize the purchase?

In economically slow times the governemnt allows faster depreciation (or expensing) to encourage (stimulate) large asset purchases.  However, quickened expensing opportunities are intended as temporary measures designed to stimulate business activity. When the business climate moderates, normal depreciation rules return.  This is when companies will focus on what constitutes a repair or expense deduction and what expenditures create a new asset that must be capitalized and the cost recovered through depreciation deductions.
In the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (SBJA), Congress raised the Section 179 deduction amount to $500,000 for tax years beginning in 2010 and 2011. And they also extended 50-percent bonus depreciation to qualified assets placed in service during 2010.  Also, in an effort to relieve businesses in the Job Creation Act of 2010, Congress increased the bonus-depreciation percentage to 100 percent for qualifying property acquired and placed in service after September 8, 2010 and before January 1, 2012.

Recent IRS Audit Guide
Amid all the potential stimulus surrounding the announcement of higher tax write-offs for asset purchases, the IRS issued a new Audit Technique Guide and instructed its auditors to focus on the issue of whether expenditures should be capitalized or deducted.
Under current rules, repair expenses are currently deductible if they are incidental in nature and neither materially add to the value of the property nor appreciably prolong its useful life. Costs for materials and supplies consumed during the year are also currently deductible.
However, expenditures must be capitalized if they are for permanent improvements or betterments that increase the value of the property, restore its value or use, substantially prolong its useful life or adapt the property to a new or different use.

Unit of Property
A key component in determining whether an expenditure should be capitalized or expensed is the unit of property (UOP). The smaller the UOP, the more likely it is that costs incurred in connection with that UOP will have to be capitalized.
A significant amount of the guidance in the temporary regulations centers on what constitutes the “unit of property” that is being placed in service, repaired, or improved. The definition for a unit of property is different for personal and real property as compared to a building.
In general, for real or personal property that is not a building, all the components that are functionally interdependent comprise a single unit of property. Components of property are functionally interdependent if the placing in service of one component by the taxpayer is dependent on the placing in service of the other component by the taxpayer.
A building is defined as its structure and structure components. Structure components include walls, partitions, floors and ceilings, paneling, tiling, windows, and doors. Also, within the structure are building systems.

For example, In Ingram Industries, Inc. v. Commissioner, the Court addressed whether the costs of cleaning, inspecting and repairing towboat engines were capital expenditures. The IRS focused on the engines and argued that the work performed increased the value and prolonged the useful life of the engines. Ingram argued that the appropriate focus was on the towboat. The Court agreed with Ingram, stating that the record did not support a practice (industry or otherwise) to purchase or treat towboat engines separately from the towboats.
The Court reasoned that the towboats and engines, if properly maintained, were both expected to last 40 years, that the towboats were purchased with the engines and that the engines were designed to be maintained without removing them from the boat. The Court also noted that there was no evidence indicating that towboat owners regularly and periodically replaced the towboat engines. The Court held that the expenditures did not increase the value or useful life of the towboat or the engine and could be deducted.

Capitalization Policies
Many companies make capitalization/expense decisions based on the dollar amount of the expenditure. For example, a business may regularly deduct amounts less than $1,000, while higher expenditures are reviewed to determine the proper accounting and tax treatment.  The IRS will examine these under the threshold expenses in much greater detail going forward.