Is Everyone Now an Employee in California?

By Jeffrey Davine

On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County.  It is likely that this case will drastically alter the landscape in California as to how workers are classified.  From a tax perspective, the result could be significantly increased costs and administrative burdens for businesses operating in California.

Worker Classification.
For tax purposes, workers are divided into two categories- employees and independent contractors.  The tax withholding and reporting obligations with respect to each category of worker are substantially different and significant dollars can turn on how a worker is classified. Continue reading “Is Everyone Now an Employee in California?”

How Does the Suspension of Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions Impact Your Trust or Estate?

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By Jeffrey Eisen and Daniel Cousineau

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspends miscellaneous itemized deductions (i.e., those deductions subject to a 2% floor) from 2018 through 2025, creating an incentive for taxpayers to try and characterize their expenses as giving rise to itemized deductions rather than miscellaneous itemized deductions. General discussion of the new tax law has overlooked this repeal’s impact on estates and non-grantor trusts (i.e., most irrevocable trusts), including a time-sensitive planning opportunity.

Prior to the new legislation, an individual could claim miscellaneous itemized deductions for certain types of expenses that were not specifically enumerated in Internal Revenue Code Section 67. These expenses were not deductible until they exceeded 2% of an individual’s adjusted gross income. Expenses specifically enumerated in Section 67 were itemized deductions not subject to the same 2% floor, making them more attractive to taxpayers than miscellaneous itemized deductions. The new legislation suspends miscellaneous itemized deductions but keeps itemized deductions (subject to certain other restrictions not relevant here). Continue reading “How Does the Suspension of Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions Impact Your Trust or Estate?”

#MeToo Can Be #Costly

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By Jeffrey Davine

General Rule- Deduction for Settlement Payments.

If an employer settles a claim made by an employee (or former employee), the employer may generally claim a deduction for the amount that is paid to the employee to resolve his/her claims.  The expense is treated as an ordinary and necessary business expense and a deduction may be claimed pursuant to Section 162(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.

For example, if an employer pays an employee $25,000 to settle the employee’s claims for back wages, emotional distress, and age discrimination, the employer may deduct the $25,000 on its tax return (the employer’s tax reporting obligations with respect to the $25,000 payment and how the payment should be allocated among the claims made by the employee are topics for a different article). Continue reading “#MeToo Can Be #Costly”

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act released by the Conference Committee, that resolved differences in the versions of the Act passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, is almost certain to be signed into law by the President.  You can read our preliminary summary of this far-reaching tax legislation here, but these are the highlights:

Individuals

  • Tax brackets are adjusted, with the maximum rate reduced from 39.6% to 37%.
  • The mortgage interest deduction on a principal residence is limited to debt of $750,000 (down from $1 million).
  • Several itemized deductions are reduced or eliminated, including state and local taxes (“SALT”) in excess of $10,000.
  • The standard deduction is doubled to $12,000 for single individuals and $24,000 for joint filers.
    More on provisions affecting individuals

Estate and Gift Tax Continue reading “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”

Year-End Tax Planning for College Football Fans

By David Wheeler Newman

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Fans of college athletics may have heard something about tax legislation barreling through Congress this month, and didn’t pay much attention since it sounded like boring stuff that only meant something to big tech companies stashing their billions overseas.  But buried in the 500 pages of the legislation that has now passed both chambers is a year-end tax planning opportunity for sports fans.  Or, more precisely, a tax break that has been available to sports fans for over thirty years will be eliminated starting in 2018. Continue reading “Year-End Tax Planning for College Football Fans”

IRS Announces Key Estate and Gift Tax Exemptions for 2018

By Jeffrey K. Eisen

On October 19, IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2017-58, announcing inflation adjustments for 2018 for dozens of important figures across the Internal Revenue Code, including the following two key numbers regarding the estate tax, gift tax and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax:

1.       Gift Tax Annual Exclusion Increases to $15,000. For gifts made in 2018, the gift tax annual exclusion will be $15,000.  This is the amount an individual can give to as many donees as desired in one year without using any of the donor’s estate and gift tax exemption.  The best way to think about this is that a person can stand on the street corner and give $15,000 to every person who passes by, and the donor will not use any of his or her estate and gift tax exemption.

This also means that a married couple can give each donee up to $30,000 in 2018 without using either spouse’s estate and gift tax exemption amount.

The annual exclusion had been stuck at $14,000 since 2013.  Even though the annual exclusion is indexed for inflation, under the Congressional version of rounding (not the one you learned in elementary school), the annual exclusion does not get rounded up to the nearest $1,000, it only gets rounded down.  Thus, the inflation adjustment must actually push the annual exclusion past the next $1,000, which explains how it can take five years for the annual exclusion to increase. Continue reading “IRS Announces Key Estate and Gift Tax Exemptions for 2018”

The White House Framework for Tax Legislation

White House
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By David Wheeler Newman

On September 27, the White House released a document called the “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code,” containing an outline prepared by the administration plus the senior Republican members of the tax-writing committees of Congress. The Framework is far less detailed than previous proposals for structural tax reform, but is instead described as a “template” which the authors intend for Congress to use to prepare actual legislation. This template calls for new tax rates for individuals and businesses and would create a territorial international tax system.  Some key headlines:

Estate Tax.  The Framework calls for a repeal of the estate tax.  In announcing the tax plan, the President said that repeal would overwhelmingly help farmers and small business owners.  However, most farm families are not actually affected by the estate tax, which only applies to estates valued at over $5.49 million.  The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center projects that estate tax of $19.95 billion will arise from Americans dying in 2017, of which about $30 million, or 00.15%, will be paid by the estates of farmers and small business owners.

The Framework would also repeal the generation skipping transfer tax. The proposal is silent on the gift tax. Continue reading “The White House Framework for Tax Legislation”

New Partnership Audit Regime and Partnership M&A Transactions

business man financial inspector and secretary making report, calculating or checking balance. Internal Revenue Service inspector checking document. Audit concept.
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By Robin C. Gilden

Background:

Congress has changed the way partnership[1] audits will be conducted in the future. Beginning with tax years starting on or after January 1, 2018, audits will still be done at the partnership level; however unlike current practice where adjustments and additional tax payments are made at the partner level, under the new rules the adjustments and additional tax payments will in many cases now be done at the partnership level with the payments made in the year the tax audit is finalized. The changes were made to make it easier for the IRS to audit partnerships.

The new rules raise a number of unanswered questions in the M&A arena all of which require a significant rethinking of the way partnership M&A transactions are structured and documented. There are likely to be significant differences in the responses to the Open Issues set out below between a transaction involving a LLC, which would survive as a separate legal entity after the acquisition, and a limited partnership which would terminate and not exist as a separate legal entity after the acquisition as it would only have one member. Continue reading “New Partnership Audit Regime and Partnership M&A Transactions”

IRS Gives Surviving Spouses a Second (or Third) Bite at the Portability Apple

By Jeffrey Eisen

“Portability” is the ability of a surviving spouse to use not only his or her own estate tax exemption, but also some or all of the exemption of the first spouse to die, as long as the first spouse died in 2011 or later.  With the estate tax exemption for 2017 at $5,490,000, this can allow estates of nearly $11,000,000 to escape estate tax. While a full discussion of portability is beyond the scope of this post, suffice it to say that portability can save the day in one or more of these situations: if proper estate planning has not been done, if life insurance, IRAs or retirement plans left to the surviving spouse constitute a very large portion of a couple’s assets, or if a couple’s assets of any type are worth near the value of one exemption but less than both (e.g., $4,500,000 to $10,500,000).

The catch is that if the deceased spouse’s assets are worth less than his or her exemption amount, the deceased spouse’s executor has to file a federal estate tax return (Form 706) for the deceased spouse to “claim” the deceased spouse’s unused exemption and thus invoke “portability.”   This is the direct opposite of the normal rule that if a decedent’s estate is worth less than the estate tax exemption amount (after taking lifetime gifts into account), no estate tax return filing is necessary.  But if the deceased spouse’s executor does not file a timely estate tax return for the deceased spouse (nine months after the date of death, or an additional six months thereafter if a request for an extension was properly filed by the nine month deadline), the ability to use portability is permanently lost. Continue reading “IRS Gives Surviving Spouses a Second (or Third) Bite at the Portability Apple”

California State Board of Equalization Gutted

By Jeffrey D. Davine

The Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act of 2017

Established by the California Constitution in 1879, the California State Board of Equalization (the “BOE”) has been the agency charged with administering most of the taxes imposed by California.  In addition, the BOE was the tribunal whose function was to decide taxpayer appeals of decisions by the California Franchise Tax Board (the “FTB”) concerning income tax matters.  All of this is about to change with the passage of AB 102.  AB 102, which is named the “Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act of 2017” (the “Act”), was signed into law by Governor Brown on June 27th.  The Act effectively cuts the legs out from underneath the BOE.

Background

In March of this year, the California Department of Finance issued a derisive report asserting that the BOE misallocated tax revenues, used BOE employees to assist elected BOE members with political activities, and attempted to improperly affect BOE audits.  In response, and at the urging of the Governor, the Act was passed by the California Legislature. Continue reading “California State Board of Equalization Gutted”