Friday, June 2, 2017

Important FBAR and International Tax Information For 2012


By Lance Wallach

For individual tax returns (Forms 1040) due to be filed in 2012 (due this year by April 17, 2012, unless extended), the IRS has issued new Form 8938, "Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets," requiring the disclosure of certain foreign accounts and assets.

Whether an individual is required to file this form is complicated, but basically this applies to the following assets if owned in 2011:
Financial accounts   in foreign financial institutions.
Any stock or   securities issued by foreign corporations or entities, any interest in a   foreign partnership, trust or estate, as well as any financial instrument or   contract issued by a foreign person, and foreign pension plans and deferred   compensation arrangements (but not foreign social security).  You are   not, however, required to report foreign assets (1) if the assets are held in   a U.S. brokerage account; (2) if you are required to disclose the asset on   certain other tax form such as Form 3520 or Form 5471; or (3) if such assets   (other than stock) are used in your trade or business.
Whether you have to file Form 8938 depends on the total value of such foreign assets at year end as well as the highest value at any point in the year.  For U.S. citizens and residents filing joint tax returns, you must file Form 8938 if the year-end value of the foreign assets is $100,000 or more or, if the value at any time during the year exceeded $150,000.  On joint returns, all foreign-based assets owned by the spouses are considered in determining these thresholds.  For married spouses filing separately and for unmarried persons, the thresholds are $50,000 (year end) and $75,000 (high value during the year).

There are different rules regarding certain persons who live abroad.  There are also rules regarding valuation of certain assets.  These are spelled out in greater detail in the Form 8938 instructions.

If required, Form 8938 is to be filed with your Federal Income Tax Return (Form 1040).  Currently only individuals having filing requirements must fill out the Form 8938, but it is expected that this will be extended to corporations, partnerships and trusts in the future.

The IRS may impose penalties for failure to file Form 8938 if you lack reasonable cause or willfully neglected to file.  In addition, if you underpay your tax as a result of a transaction involving an undisclosed foreign financial asset, the penalty for such failure may be 40 percent of the underpayment (instead of the normal 20 percent).  In addition, the statute of limitations for assessing tax may be extended if you fail to file the form.

It is important to note that Form 8938 is in addition to the annual Foreign Bank Account Form or "FBAR," which has different filing requirements.  The FBAR,  generally is required if you have ownership or signature authority over one or more foreign bank accounts with a value of over $10,000 on any date in the prior year.  The FBAR is not part of your income tax return, but is filed separately and must be received by the Department of Treasury in Detroit by June 30 (timely mailing does not apply to that form).


Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters.  He writes about 412(i), 419, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education's CPA's Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007, wallachinc@gmail.com or visit www.taxaudit419.com and www.taxlibrary.us

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

IRS Attacks Business Owners in 419, 412, Section 79 and Captive Insurance Plans Under Section 6707A

Taxpayers who previously adopted 419, 412i, captive
insurance or Section 79 plans are in big trouble.
In recent years, the IRS has identified many of these arrangements as abusive devices to funnel tax deductible dollars to shareholders and classified these arrangements as listed transactions." These plans were sold by insurance agents, financial planners, accountants and attorneys seeking large life insurance commissions. In general, taxpayers who engage in a “listed transaction” must report such transaction to the IRS on Form 8886 every year that they “participate” in the transaction, and you do not necessarily have to make a contribution or claim a tax deduction to participate. Section 6707A of the Code imposes severe penalties for failure to file Form 8886 with respect to a listed transaction. But you are also in trouble if you file incorrectly. I have received numerous phone calls from business owners who filed and still got fined. Not only do you have to file Form 8886, but it also has to be prepared correctly. I only know of two people in the U.S. who have filed these forms properly for clients. They tell me that was after hundreds of hours of research and over 50 phones calls to various IRS personnel. The filing instructions for Form 8886 presume a timely filling. Most people file late and follow the directions for currently preparing the forms. Then the IRS fines the business owner. The tax court does not have jurisdiction to abate or lower such penalties imposed by the IRS.
"Many taxpayers who are no longer taking current tax deductions for these plans continue to enjoy the benefit of previous tax deductions by continuing the deferral of income from contributions and deductions taken in prior years."
Many business owners adopted 412i, 419, captive insurance and Section 79 plans based upon representations provided by insurance professionals that the plans were legitimate plans and were not informed that they were engaging in a listed transaction. Upon audit, these taxpayers were shocked when the IRS asserted penalties under Section 6707A of the Code in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Numerous complaints from these taxpayers caused Congress to impose a moratorium on assessment of Section 6707A penalties.
The moratorium on IRS fines expired on June 1, 2010. The IRS immediately started sending out notices proposing the imposition of Section 6707A penalties along with requests for lengthy extensions of the Statute of Limitations for the purpose of assessing tax. Many of these taxpayers stopped taking deductions for contributions to these plans years ago, and are confused and upset by the IRS’s inquiry, especially when the taxpayer had previously reached a monetary settlement with the IRS regarding its deductions. Logic and common sense dictate that a penalty should not apply if the taxpayer no longer benefits from the arrangement. Treas. Reg. Sec. 1.6011-4(c)(3)(i) provides that a taxpayer has participated in a listed transaction if the taxpayer’s tax return reflects tax consequences or a tax strategy described in the published guidance identifying the transaction as a listed transaction or a transaction that is the same or substantially similar to a listed transaction.
Clearly, the primary benefit in the participation of these plans is the large tax deduction generated by such participation. Many taxpayers who are no longer taking current tax deductions for these plans continue to enjoy the benefit of previous tax deductions by continuing the deferral of income from contributions and deductions taken in prior years. While the regulations do not expand on what constitutes “reflecting the tax consequences of the strategy,” it could be argued that continued benefit from a tax deferral for a previous tax deduction is within the contemplation of a “tax consequence” of the plan strategy. Also, many taxpayers who no longer make contributions or claim tax deductions continue to pay administrative fees. Sometimes, money is taken from the plan to pay premiums to keep life insurance policies in force. In these ways, it could be argued that these taxpayers are still “contributing,” and thus still must file Form 8886.
It is clear that the extent to which a taxpayer benefits from the transaction depends on the purpose of a particular transaction as described in the published guidance that caused such transaction to be a listed transaction. Revenue Ruling 2004-20, which classifies 419(e) transactions, appears to be concerned with the employer’s contribution/deduction amount rather than the continued deferral of the income in previous years. Another important issue is that the IRS has called CPAs material advisors if they signed tax returns containing the plan, and got paid a certain amount of money for tax advice on the plan. The fine is $100,000 for the CPA, or $200,000 if the CPA is incorporated. To avoid the fine, the CPA has to properly file Form 8918.



The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any other type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters. He writes about 412(i), 419, and captive insurance plans; speaks at more than ten conventions annually; writes for over fifty publications; is quoted regularly in the press; and has been featured on TV and radio financial talk shows. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams (John Wiley and Sons), Bisk Education’s CPA’s Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as AICPA best-selling books including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007, wallachinc@gmail.com or visit www.taxadvisorexperts.org or www.taxlibrary.us.

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any other type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

IRS makes taxpayers aware of many scams that will get them in trouble

Ezine Articles

Dec 21

By Lance Wallach

"Taxpayers should be wary of scams to avoid paying taxes that seem too good to be true, especially during these challenging economic times," IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. "There is no secret trick that can eliminate a person's tax obligations. People should be wary of anyone peddling any of these scams."

Tax schemes are illegal and can lead to problems for both scam artists and taxpayers who risk significant penalties, interest and possible criminal prosecution.

The IRS urges taxpayers to avoid these common schemes.


Abusive Retirement Plans

The IRS continues to uncover abuses in retirement plan arrangements, including Roth Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). The IRS is looking for transactions that taxpayers are using to avoid the limitations on contributions to IRAs as well as transactions that are not properly reported as early distributions. Taxpayers should be wary of advisers who encourage them to shift appreciated assets into IRAs or companies owned by their IRAs at less than fair market value to circumvent annual contribution limits. Other variations have included the use of limited liability companies to engage in activity that is considered prohibited.

419 plans

If they have cash value life insurance in them they are abusive. Some of the plans like Nova, run by Benistar can also be criminal. For more on 419 plans visit www.taxaudit419.com

412i plans
Such plans can be abusive with cash value life insurance. For more information visit  www.taxlibrary.com or www.experttaxadvisors.org.

Captive insurance plans

These were listed transactions and then taken off the list. IRS still looks closely at them. They are usually sold by life insurance agents.

Section 79 plans

IRS is looking very closely at section 79 plans. They are usually sold by life insurance agents.
Hiding Income Offshore

The IRS aggressively pursues taxpayers and promoters involved in abusive offshore transactions. Taxpayers have tried to avoid or evade U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or through other entities. Recently, the IRS provided guidance to auditors on how to deal with those hiding income offshore in undisclosed accounts. The IRS draws a clear line between taxpayers with offshore accounts who voluntarily come forward and those who fail to come forward.

Taxpayers also evade taxes by using offshore debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or life insurance plans. The IRS has also identified abusive offshore schemes including those that involve use of electronic funds transfer and payment systems, offshore business merchant accounts and private banking relationships.

Filing False or Misleading Forms

The IRS is seeing scam artists file false or misleading returns to claim refunds that they are not entitled to. Frivolous information returns, such as Form 1099-Original Issue Discount (OID), claiming false withholding credits are used to legitimize erroneous refund claims. The new scam has evolved from an earlier phony argument that a "strawman" bank account has been created for each citizen. Under this scheme, taxpayers fabricate an information return, arguing they used their "strawman" account to pay for goods and services and falsely claim the corresponding amount as withholding as a way to seek a tax refund.

Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions

The IRS continues to observe the misuse of tax-exempt organizations. Abuse includes arrangements to improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets or income from donated property. The IRS also continues to investigate various schemes involving the donation of non-cash assets, including easements on property, closely held corporate stock and real property. Often, the donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can purchase the items back at a later date at a price the donor sets. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 imposed increased penalties for inaccurate appraisals and new definitions of qualified appraisals and qualified appraisers for taxpayers claiming charitable contributions.

Return Preparer Fraud


Dishonest return preparers can cause many headaches for taxpayers who fall victim to their ploys. Such preparers derive financial gain by skimming a portion of their clients' refunds and charging inflated fees for return preparation services. They attract new clients by promising large refunds. Taxpayers should choose carefullywhen hiring a tax preparer. As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No matter who prepares the return, the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for its accuracy. Since 2002, the courts have issued injunctions ordering dozens of individuals to cease preparing returns, and the Department of Justice has filed complaints against dozens of others, which are pending in court.

Frivolous Arguments

Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and unfounded claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. The IRS has a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should stay away from. Taxpayers who file a tax return or make a submission based on one of the positions on the list are subject to a $5,000 penalty. More information is available on IRS.gov.

False Claims for Refund and Requests for Abatement

This scam involves a request for abatement of previously assessed tax using Form 843 Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement. Many individuals who try this have not previously filed tax returns. The tax they are trying to have abated has been assessed by the IRS through the Substitute for Return Program. The filer uses Form 843 to list reasons for the request. Often, one of the reasons given is "Failed to properly compute and/or calculate Section 83-Property Transferred in Connection with Performance of Service."


Disguised Corporate Ownership


Some taxpayers form corporations and other entities in certain states for the primary purpose of disguising the ownership of a business or financial activity. Such entities can be used to facilitate underreporting of income, fictitious deductions, non-filing of tax returns, participating in listed transactions, money laundering, financial crimes, and even terrorist financing. The IRS is working with state authorities to identify these entities and to bring the owners of these entities into compliance.

Zero Wages

Filing a phony wage- or income-related information return to replace a legitimate information return has been used as an illegal method to lower the amount of taxes owed. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a "corrected" Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. The taxpayer also may submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a payer to the IRS. Sometimes fraudsters even include an explanation on their Form 4852 that cites statutory language on the definition of wages or may include some reference to a paying company that refuses to issue a corrected Form W-2 for fear of IRS retaliation. Taxpayers should resist any temptation to participate in any of the variations of this scheme.

Misuse of Trusts
For years, unscrupulous promoters have urged taxpayers to transfer assets into trusts. While there are many legitimate, valid uses of trusts in tax and estate planning, some promoted transactions promise reduction of income subject to tax, deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the promised tax benefits and are being used primarily as a means to avoid income tax liability and hide assets from creditors, including the IRS.

The IRS has recently seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to divert income and deduct personal expenses. As with other arrangements, taxpayers should seek the advice of a trusted professional before entering into a trust arrangement.

Fuel Tax Credit Scams

The IRS is receiving claims for the fuel tax credit that are unreasonable. Some taxpayers, such as farmers who use fuel for off-highway business purposes, may be eligible for the fuel tax credit. But some individuals are claiming the tax credit for nontaxable uses of fuel when their occupation or income level makes the claim unreasonable. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim, potentially subjecting those who improperly claim the credit to a $5,000 penalty.

Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters.  He writes about 412(i), 419, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Pubic Radio's All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education's CPA's Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007, wallachinc@gmail.com

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.


419 Welfare Benefit Plans


HG EXPERTS

Legal Experts Directory

May 9, 2012     By  Sam Susser


A view from a former IRS Agent, CPA, College Professor

Welfare Benefit Plans (WBP), also known as Welfare Benefit Trusts and Welfare Benefit Funds are vehicles by which employers may offer their employees and retirees with certain types of insurance coverage (e.g., life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care), as well as other benefits such as severance payments and educational funding. If properly designed and in compliance with IRC sections 419 and 419A, WBPs offer employers with a valid tax deduction. However, as is the case with many plans that offer opportunities for deductibility, some WBPs fail to comply with Code standards, invite abuse, and otherwise are used inappropriately as a basis to reduce taxable income.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has targeted WBP, designating many such plans as “listed transactions.” The IRS’ attack arsenal includes, but is not limited to: Notice 2007-83 (where the IRS intends to challenge claimed tax benefits meeting the definition of a “listed transaction”); Notice 2007-84 (where the IRS may challenge trust arrangements purporting to provide non-discriminatory medical and life insurance benefits, if such plans are, in substance, discriminatory); Revenue Ruling 2007-65 (where the IRS will not disallow deductions for such arrangements for prior year tax years, except to the extent that deductions have exceeded the amount of insurance included on the participant’s Form W-2 for a particular year), and IR-2007-170 (the IRS’ guidance position on WBPs). Accordingly, taxpayers who have claimed deductions pursuant to Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 419 are receiving letters from the IRS inviting them to an audit.

THE GOOD:
Let’s start off with a proposition that may surprise many of you – the IRS is generally good. No, that’s not an oxymoron. The rest of this article is in the words of Sam Susser:

For over 35 years, I have had the privilege of representing the IRS and the US taxpayers on tax audits. Our goal was to always determine the correct tax –whether the outcome was a deficiency or a refund. The bottom line, which the IRS supported, was to “do the right thing.” Over these years, I have met and befriended many competent and exemplary agents. As with all industries, there are a few who simply go through the motions, and there are a few who are simply incompetent. Fortunately, the latter two groups are in the minority. Now that I represent clients who are being audited by IRS, my objectives have not changed. The right thing must still be done. I only hope to get a well-versed agent who knows the law and can make a determination based on facts and circumstances, and not by preconceived notions.

I have been resolving the WBP issue mostly at the Revenue Agent (RA) level. Most RAs are knowledgeable in the area of WBP, and it it a pleasure dealing with them. My clients became involved with both abusive plans as well as what I determined to be non-abusive plan. Because most clients have sought the opinions of an independent professional tax attorney, CPA, Enrolled Agent , or other independent professionals who the IRS deems to be knowledgeable and capable of rendering an opinion on a Plan, Prior to 2007 I had a good case for abating the penalty and any interest thereon due to the reasonable cause exception. The RAs accepted my briefs for penalty relief and I usually resolved the case agreed at the agent’s level. The right thing was being done by both sides. Since 2007 the bar has been raised in meeting the reasonable cause exception. Simply put, if taxpayers failed to file Forms 8886 with their tax returns, the penalty could no longer be abated due to reasonable cause. If we do not come to an agreement, the case would, at taxpayer’s additional expense, proceed to the Appeals Division. This would normally be a good strategy in nebulous circumstances. With rare exceptions this is not a good strategy under these circumstances as explained later.
Just as there are good and bad IRS agents, there are good and bad WBPs. The abusive plans that have been sold should not affect those plans that adhere to the spirit of the tax laws. Thus, of the many plans sold to taxpayers, some can be considered “good.” The “bad” WBPs should not taint the “good” ones.
IR-2007-170, Oct. 17, 2007, recognizes that “[t]here are many legitimate welfare benefit funds that provide benefits, such as health insurance and life insurance, to employees and retirees. However, the arrangements the IRS is cautioning employers about is primarily benefits the owner or other key employees of businesses, sometimes in the form of distributions of cash, loans, or life insurance policies.”
THE BAD:
A persistent pattern that I see with WBPs is that the IRS appears to presumptively hold such plans as improper contrary to the statement in IR-2007-170. From what I have indirectly encountered, it appears that the IRS may interview the plan administrator, with the primary objective of securing the plan’s participants (and audit targets) rather than determining whether the limitations of a Code Section 419 deduction were satisfied. No determination is made as to whether the plan meets or fails to meet Code requirements. The plan participants then receive audit letters: one to the entity claiming the deduction, and the other to the owner(s) of such entity. These audit letters are generally accompanied by a lengthy “canned” Information Document Request (IDR) ostensibly written by IRS attorneys.

During my decades with the IRS, IDRs are usually focused documents seeking very specific documents and information to determine whether further action is required. However, my review of IDRs on the subject of WBPs shows them to be akin to document production demands in a civil litigation. The IRS basically wants everything associated with the WBP – there is no specific focus. Moreover, they have a very expansive definition of documents, and seek them whether they are in the taxpayer’s possession, or in the possession of the taxpayer’s “attorneys, accountants, affiliates, advisers, representatives, or other persons directly or indirectly employed by you, hired by you, or connected with you, or your representatives, and anyone else subject to your control.”

What was most disturbing about these IDRs that I have seen is the fact that the RAs also have, on a number of occasions, requested copies of the tax returns for the tax year(s) under audit. This indicated to me, especially since the name of the WBP is repeatedly mentioned in the IDR, that my client was selected from the list provided by the plan administrator to the IRS. This in itself is not necessarily bad since this is a useful tool for the IRS in obtaining names of participants of plans that might not meet the muster of the Code and IRS pronouncements. However, I would think that the “give me everything from everybody” approach should not be the first step in an IRS inquiry into the validity of a WBP.

Other clients received audit letters with a similar IDR requesting information including copies of the returns under examination. These clients, however, had stopped participating in the plan many years prior to the audit years. Nonetheless, since the client's name was still on the Plan’s list of participants, the client was going to be audited. The IRS takes the position that the cash surrender value of any life insurance policy in the plan is available to the client and is therefore income to that client for the year the IRS has decided to audit Accordingly, the RAs are proposing adjustments in years in which no deduction to the WBP have been taken.
THE … ?
To rub salt into the wound, the RA has enclosed an explanation as to why the deduction is disallowed, and has proposed a statutory underpayment penalty. The tax law provides for a penalty to be imposed where a taxpayer makes a substantial understatement of their tax liability. For individual taxpayers, a substantial underpayment exists when the understatement for the year exceeds the greater of ten percent of the tax required to be shown on the return, or $5,000. This is a relatively low threshold and is easily met by most taxpayers. The penalty is twenty percent of the tax underpayment.

Following the RA’s review, the taxpayer can expect to receive a 20 – 40 page “boiler-plated” or “canned” write-up, which will wind up as the Revenue Agent Report (RAR). The RARs that I’ve seen appear obviously drafted by IRS attorneys. Sometimes the RAR is shortened as a result of “cut and paste” procedures assembled by the RA. The RARs also contain alternative positions for these proposed disallowances. Taxpayers and representatives can take little comfort when all indications lead to the conclusion that the IRS has made a determination prior to assessing all the facts and circumstances of any given case standing on its own merits. My concern is that the WBP that meet IRS requirements are swept together with those that do not, and are unjustly branded as “bad.” The participants of these “good” plans must now overcome the preconceived notions of the RA. This becomes a difficult task as RAs won't deviate from the “boiler-plated” positions, forcing the taxpayer to expend funds in seeking further relief . The Appeals Division has similarly received a directive to sustain the RA RAR thus effectively eliminating the appeals right the taxpayers normally have. The only "appeals" route a taxpayer can take is to petition the Courts for a hearing. The time, expense, and outcome in defending a WBP under this scenario are enigmatic (hence the “…?”), and well, simply put, can really become downright UGLY!

CONCLUSION:
The IRS needs to examine WBPs on a plan by plan basis, and make a determination based on the facts and circumstances of each plan. Specifically, they should be charged with independently evaluating whether a particular WBP generally adheres to the Code and the IRS’s issued pronouncements. The RA and those in charge of this project should be cognizant of the statement issued by Donald L. Korb (Chief Counsel for the IRS): “The guidance targets specific abuses involving a limited group of arrangements that claim to be welfare benefit funds.” (emphasis provided). He continues to state that: “[T]oday’s action sends a strong signal that these abusive schemes must stop.” (emphasis provided). For those plans that the IRS deems to be abusive, the IRS can concentrate its resources in auditing the plan participants. The IRS hierarchy needs to eliminate the UGLY, recognize the GOOD, and pursue the BAD.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Susser
Sam Susser began his IRS career on 2/1/71, and spent most the succeeding years as an international examiner with brief stints in the Review Section and the Appeals Division. He closed out his IRS tenure spending four years as International Team Manager for South Florida. Currently Sam is in private practice and can be reached at 561-742-1005

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.




Copyright Lance Wallach, CLU, CHFC


IRS Audits Focus on Captive Insurance Plans April 2011 Edition


April 2011 Edition


By Lance Wallach

The IRS started auditing § 419 plans in the 1990s, and then continued going after § 412(i) and other plans that they considered abusive, listed, or reportable transactions, or substantially similar to such transactions. If an IRS audit disallows the § 419 plan or the § 412(i) plan, not only does the taxpayer lose the deduction and pay interest and penalties, but then the IRS comes back under IRC 6707A and imposes large fines for not properly filing.

Insurance agents, financial planners and even accountants sold many of these plans. The main motivations for buying into one were large tax deductions. The motivation for the sellers of the plans was the very large life insurance premiums generated. These plans, which were vetted by the insurance companies, put lots of insurance on the books. Some of these plans continue to be sold, even after IRS disallowances and lawsuits against insurance agents, plan promoters and insurance companies.

In a recent tax court case, Curcio v. Commissioner (TC Memo 2010-115), the tax court ruled that an investment in an employee welfare benefit plan marketed under the name “Benistar” was a listed transaction in that the transaction in question was substantially similar to the transaction described in IRS Notice 95-34. A subsequent case, McGehee Family Clinic, largely followed Curcio, though it was technically decided on other grounds. The parties stipulated to be bound by Curcio on the issue of whether the amounts paid by McGehee in connection with the Benistar 419 Plan and Trust were deductible. Curcio did not appear to have been decided yet at the time McGehee was argued. The McGehee opinion (Case No. 10-102, United States Tax Court, September 15, 2010) does contain an exhaustive analysis and discussion of virtually all of the relevant issues.

Taxpayers and their representatives should be aware that the IRS has disallowed deductions for contributions to these arrangements. The IRS is cracking down on small business owners who participate in tax reduction insurance plans and the brokers who sold them. Some of these plans include defined benefit retirement plans, IRAs, or even 401(k) plans with life insurance.

In order to fully grasp the severity of the situation, one must have an understanding of IRS Notice 95-34, which was issued in response to trust arrangements sold to companies that were designed to provide deductible benefits such as life insurance, disability and severance pay benefits. The promoters of these arrangements claimed that all employer contributions were tax-deductible when paid, by relying on the 10-or-more-employer exemption from the IRC § 419 limits. It was claimed that permissible tax deductions were unlimited in amount.
  
In general, contributions to a welfare benefit fund are not fully deductible when paid. Sections 419 and 419A impose strict limits on the amount of tax-deductible prefunding permitted for contributions to a welfare benefit fund. Section 419A(F)(6) provides an exemption from § 419 and § 419A for certain “10-or-more employers” welfare benefit funds. In general, for this exemption to apply, the fund must have more than one contributing employer, of which no single employer can contribute more than 10 percent of the total contributions, and the plan must not be experience-rated with respect to individual employers.

According to the Notice, these arrangements typically involve an investment in variable life or universal life insurance contracts on the lives of the covered employees. The problem is that the employer contributions are large relative to the cost of the amount of term insurance that would be required to provide the death benefits under the arrangement, and the trust administrator may obtain cash to pay benefits other than death benefits, by such means as cashing in or withdrawing the cash value of the insurance policies. The plans are also often designed so that a particular employer’s contributions or its employees’ benefits may be determined in a way that insulates the employer to a significant extent from the experience of other subscribing employers. In general, the contributions and claimed tax deductions tend to be disproportionate to the economic realities of the arrangements.

Benistar advertised that enrollees should expect to obtain the same type of tax benefits as listed in the transaction described in Notice 95-34. The benefits of enrollment listed in its advertising packet included: 
  • Virtually unlimited deductions for the employer;
  • Contributions could vary from year to year;
  • Benefits could be provided to one or more key executives on a selective basis;
  • No need to provide benefits to rank-and-file employees;
  • Contributions to the plan were not limited by qualified plan rules and would not interfere with pension, profit sharing or 401(k) plans;
  • Funds inside the plan would accumulate tax-free;
  • Beneficiaries could receive death proceeds free of both income tax and estate tax;
  • The program could be arranged for tax-free distribution at a later date;
  • Funds in the plan were secure from the hands of creditors.

The Court said that the Benistar Plan was factually similar to the plans described in Notice 95-34 at all relevant times.

In rendering its decision the court heavily cited Curcio, in which the court also ruled in favor of the IRS. As noted in Curcio, the insurance policies, overwhelmingly variable or universal life policies, required large contributions relative to the cost of the amount of term insurance that would be required to provide the death benefits under the arrangement. The Benistar Plan owned the insurance contracts.

Following Curcio, as the Court has stipulated, the Court held that the contributions to Benistar were not deductible under § 162(a) because participants could receive the value reflected in the underlying insurance policies purchased by Benistar—despite the payment of benefits by Benistar seeming to be contingent upon an unanticipated event (the death of the insured while employed). As long as plan participants were willing to abide by Benistar’s distribution policies, there was no reason ever to forfeit a policy to the plan. In fact, in estimating life insurance rates, the taxpayers’ expert in Curcio assumed that there would be no forfeitures, even though he admitted that an insurance company would generally assume a reasonable rate of policy lapses.

The McGehee Family Clinic had enrolled in the Benistar Plan in May 2001 and claimed deductions for contributions to it in 2002 and 2005. The returns did not include a Form 8886, Reportable Transaction Disclosure Statement, or similar disclosure.

The IRS disallowed the latter deduction and adjusted the 2004 return of shareholder Robert Prosser and his wife to include the $50,000 payment to the plan. The IRS also assessed tax deficiencies and the enhanced 30 percent penalty totaling almost $21,000 against the clinic and $21,000 against the Prossers. The court ruled that the Prossers failed to prove a reasonable cause or good faith exception.

Other important facts:

  • In recent years, some § 412(i) plans have been funded with life insurance using face amounts in excess of the maximum death benefit a qualified plan is permitted to pay.  Ideally, the plan should limit the proceeds that can be paid as a death benefit in the event of a participant’s death.  Excess amounts would revert to the plan.  Effective February 13, 2004, the purchase of excessive life insurance in any plan is considered a listed transaction if the face amount of the insurance exceeds the amount that can be issued by $100,000 or more and the employer has deducted the premiums for the insurance.
  • A 412(i) plan in and of itself is not a listed transaction; however, the IRS has a task force auditing 412(i) plans.
  • An employer has not engaged in a listed transaction simply because it is a 412(i) plan.
  • Just because a 412(i) plan was audited and sanctioned for certain items, does not necessarily mean the plan engaged in a listed transaction. Some 412(i) plans have been audited and sanctioned for issues not related to listed transactions.


Companies should carefully evaluate proposed investments in plans such as the Benistar Plan. The claimed deductions will not be available, and penalties will be assessed for lack of disclosure if the investment is similar to the investments described in Notice 95-34. In addition, under IRC 6707A, IRS fines participants a large amount of money for not properly disclosing their participation in listed, reportable or similar transactions; an issue that was not before the tax court in either Curcio or McGehee. The disclosure needs to be made for every year the participant is in a plan. The forms need to be properly filed even for years that no contributions are made. I have received numerous calls from participants who did disclose and still got fined because the forms were not filled in properly. A plan administrator told me that he assisted hundreds of his participants with filing forms, and they still all received very large IRS fines for not properly filling in the forms.

IRS has targeted all 419 welfare benefit plans, many 412(i) retirement plans, captive insurance plans with life insurance in them and Section 79 plans.

Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the American Institute of CPAs faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters.  He speaks at more than ten conventions annually and writes for over fifty publications. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education's CPA's Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Mr. Wallach may be reached at 516/938.5007, wallachinc@gmail.com, or at www.taxaudit419.com or www.lancewallach.com.
The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.