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The House has approved two tax bills that are part of Republicans’ three-pronged "Tax Reform 2.0" package. The two measures, approved by the House on September 27, focus on retirement savings and business innovation.


The House has approved a tax bill that would make permanent tax reform’s individual and small business tax cuts enacted last December. The controversial bill is part of Republican’s three-bill "Tax Reform 2.0" package, two of which cleared the House on September 27 (see the previous story in this Issue).


Stakeholders are urging the IRS to clarify its guidance on tax reform’s new passthrough deduction. The IRS held an October 16 public hearing on proposed rules for the new Code Sec. 199Apassthrough deduction at its headquarters in Washington D.C. The IRS released the proposed regulations, REG-107892-18, on August 8.


Top Senate tax writers have introduced a bipartisan bill to prevent duplicative taxation on digital goods and services. The bill aims to establish a framework across multiple jurisdictions for taxation of digital goods and services, including electronic music, literature, and mobile apps, among other things.


The IRS has released Draft Instructions for the 2018 Form 1040. Additionally, the IRS has cautioned taxpayers that the draft instructions are subject to change. The IRS released a draft of the 2018 Form 1040 and six accompanying schedules last June.


The IRS’s new Commissioner was officially sworn in on October 1 by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. IRS Commissioner Charles "Chuck" P. Rettig will lead the implementation of tax reform enacted last December under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) ( P.L. 115-97).


The Senate Small Business Committee held an October 3 hearing on expanding opportunities for small businesses through the tax code. Senate lawmakers examined tax reform’s effect on small businesses and discussed witnesses’ proposals to address ambiguity in the new tax code.


The Tax Code contains many taxpayer rights and protections. However, because the Tax Code is so large and complex, many taxpayers, who do not have the advice of a tax professional, are unaware of their rights. To clarify these protections, the IRS recently announced a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, describing 10 rights taxpayers have when dealing with the agency.


Taxpayers who are self-employed must pay self-employment tax on their income from self-employment. The self-employment tax applies in lieu of Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes paid by employees and employers on compensation from employment. Like FICA taxes, the self-employment tax consists of taxes collected for Social Security and for Medicare (hospital insurance or HI).


The simple concept of depreciation can get complicated very quickly when one is trying to determining the proper depreciation deduction for any particular asset. Here’s only a summary of some of what’s involved.


Nearly half-way into the year, tax legislation has been hotly debated in Congress but lawmakers have failed to move many bills. Only one bill, legislation to make permanent the research tax credit, has been approved by the House; its fate in the Senate still remains uncertain. Other bills, including legislation to extend many of the now-expired extenders before the 2015 filing season, have stalled. Tax measures could also be attached to other bills, especially as the days wind down to Congress' August recess.


Transit incentives are a popular transportation fringe benefit for many employees. Although the costs of commuting to and from work are not tax-deductible (except in certain relatively rare cases), transportation fringe benefits help to offset some of the costs, including the expenses of riding mass transit or taking a van pool to work. Under current law, the value of qualified transportation fringe benefits provided to an employee is excluded from the employee's gross income and wages for income and payroll tax purposes.


With the April 15th filing season deadline now behind us, it’s not too early to turn your attention to next year’s deadline for filing your 2014 return. That refocus requires among other things an awareness of the direct impact that many "ordinary," as well as one-time, transactions and events will have on the tax you will eventually be obligated to pay April 15, 2015. To gain this forward-looking perspective, however, taking a moment to look back … at the filing season that has just ended, is particularly worthwhile. This generally involves a two-step process: (1) a look-back at your 2013 tax return to pinpoint new opportunities as well as "lessons learned;" and (2) a look-back at what has happened in the tax world since January 1st that may indicate new challenges to be faced for the first time on your 2014 return.

A new tax applies to certain taxpayers, beginning in 2013—the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income (NII) Tax. This is a surtax that certain higher-income taxpayers may owe in addition to their income tax or alternative minimum tax. The tax applies to individuals, estates, and trusts (but not to corporations). Individuals are subject to the tax if they have NII, and their adjusted gross income exceeds a specified threshold—$250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly; $200,000 for unmarried individuals.

As virtual currencies such as Bitcoin rise in prominence and use, the IRS has for the first time described how virtual currency will be treated for tax purposes. The agency concluded in new guidance (Notice 2014–21) that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies like it are not to be treated as currency, but as property.

The applicable federal rates (AFRs) are used for a number of federal tax provisions. For example, Code Sec. 1274 uses AFRs to determine whether a debt instrument has original issue discount (OID or imputed interest). This determination requires the calculation of the present value of payments made on the debt instrument; present value is calculated using a discount rate equal to the AFR, compounded semi-annually.

Code Sec. 162 permits a business to deduct its ordinary and necessary expenses for carrying on the business. However, Code Sec. 274 restricts the deduction of entertainment expenses incurred for business by disallowing expenses of entertainment activities and entertainment facilities. Many expenses are totally disallowed; other amounts, if allowed under Code Sec. 274, are limited to 50 percent of the expense.

The current likelihood that your business will become involved in an employment tax audit or an employment-related income tax audit has increased: the IRS is aggressively attempting to reduce the "tax gap" of uncollected revenues in a time of increasing budget austerity. Employment tax noncompliance is estimated by the IRS to account for approximately $54 billion of the tax gap. Under-reporting of FICA makes up $14 billion; under-reporting of self-employment tax accounts for $39 billion; and under-reporting of unemployment tax accounts for $1 billion in lost revenue. Add to that total amount over $50 billion in estimated employment-associated income tax lost that are the result of missteps in withholding obligations, tip reporting, and proper fringe benefit classification . . . and employers are forewarned. The IRS is stepping up its auditing in these areas and has been conducting studies to maximize the best use of its agents' time to do so.

In response to the economic downturn that has affected the retirement portfolios of millions of individuals across the country, Congress has been considering a variety of alternatives to offer relief to those who face financial emergencies and need immediate access to their funds. Two of the most significant proposals that have been recommended include: (1) significant broadening of the suspension of the 10 percent penalty tax on early withdrawals from IRAs and defined contribution plans, and (2) extending the temporary suspension of the penalty tax imposed on individuals age 70 ½ or older who do not take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from certain retirement plans.