Tax Relief for Victims of California and Iowa Disasters

The California wildfires and the Iowa derecho that occurred this summer have wreaked havoc on area residents. While federal disaster relief is available, the IRS recently released information on assistance it may offer. According to the IRS, victims of the latest California wildfires and the August 10th Iowa derecho now have until December 15, 2020 to file individual and business tax returns and make payments. It is not necessary for taxpayers to indicate on the return they are in a disaster zone. The IRS will automatically provide filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer within these disaster areas.

FEMA designated the following areas for disaster relief: Linn County in Iowa and Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties in California. Any additional areas added to disaster relief status will automatically be provided the same relief. An updated list of affected localities can be found on the disaster relief page at IRS.gov. In the event an affected taxpayer does receive a penalty notice, the IRS recommends calling the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.

Taxpayers with a valid extension to file their return by October 15, 2020 will now have until December 15, 2020 to file their tax returns and make payments due during this time period. The IRS noted that tax payments related to 2019 returns that were due on July 15, 2020 are not eligible for this relief.

The December 15, 2020 deadline also applies to quarterly estimated income tax payments due on September 15, 2020, and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on October 31, 2020. It also applies to tax-exempt organizations, operating on a calendar-year basis, that had a valid extension due to run out on November 15, 2020. Businesses with extensions also have the additional time including, among others, calendar-year corporations whose 2019 extensions run out on October 15, 2020.

Individuals and businesses in a federally declared disaster area who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can choose to claim them in the year the loss occurred (2020) or in the prior year tax return (2019). These returns must have the FEMA declaration number on any return claiming the loss: 4558 for California or 4557 for Iowa. See Publication 547 for details.

For information on disaster recovery, visit disasterassistance.gov.

CARES Act Rules for IRAs, RMDs & the August 31 Deadline

Retirees over the age of 70 ½ might be struggling to make sense of the new regulations with the passage of the SECURE Act at the end of 2019 and the current CARES Act. These new regulations may be confusing for retirees in regard to required minimum distribution (RMD) rules.

The SECURE Act passed last December is permanent and essentially raises the age for RMDs to 72; however, it went into effect January 2020. Therefore, if an individual turned 70 ½ in 2019, RMDs must still be taken in 2019 and 2020, since the age of 72 would not be reached until 2021.

So, how does the CARES Act come into play? Some say it’s like an RMD holiday. The CARES Act legislation essentially suspended RMDs from IRAs, inherited IRAs, 401(k)s, and inherited 401(k)s during 2020 and gave everyone the chance to put it back into their account within 60 days without taxation.

If an individual has already taken some or all RMDs and has gone past the 60-day mark, these funds may still be rolled over. The recently issued Notice 2020-51 allows an account holder to rollover all RMDs funds, distributed January 2020 to now, provided the rollover is made by August 31, 2020. Additionally, this move will not count as the one-per-year rollover allowed, so you may still enact a rollover for another purpose.

Another new benefit for retirement accounts is the ability to make a withdrawal from a qualified retirement plan or IRA due to a COVID-19 related issue. An individual can “self-certify” they have been financially impacted due to coronavirus-related circumstances. Plus, individuals under 59 ½ will be exempt from the 10% penalty tax for early withdrawal. Congress realized the need for hardship withdrawals, which meant individuals could access funds in their accounts without penalty. The maximum withdrawal amount is capped at $100,000.00. Participants may be permitted to recontribute the amount over a 3-year period, following the date of distribution, without affecting normal contribution limits. Repayment may be spread over the years 2020, 2021, and 2022 equally, as opposed to the entire amount being taxable the year the distribution was taken.

IRS waives requirements.

IRS Rules on Deductions & Expenses Regarding Your PPP Loan

Have you considered taking a deduction on your expenses paid with PPP funds?

While it might be tempting, the IRS considers this double-dipping. Standard business deductions are not allowed by the IRS if payment of those expenses also results in PPP loan forgiveness.

Under the CARES Act, PPP loans for small businesses can be totally forgiven provided the funds are primarily used to retain employees, among meeting other requirements. However, CARES Act guidelines also state loan forgiveness is not tax-deductible. The forgiveness of your loan will result in a “class of exempt income” under 1.265(b)(1) of the Regulations.

According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, “The money coming in the PPP is not taxable. So, if the money that is coming is not taxable, you cannot double-dip. You cannot say that you’re going to get deductions for workers that you did not pay for.”

Mnuchin stated that he had personally reviewed the IRS guidance and if the loan forgiveness had been deemed taxable, business deductions would be allowed. “This is basically tax 101,” said Mnuchin.

Many lawmakers have expressed a desire to re-address these guidelines in future legislation since the intent of the PPP loan program was to help small businesses maximize their ability to maintain fluidity, retain employees, and recover from this crisis as best possible. It is quite likely that IRS guidelines on tax exemption may be specifically addressed in any new coronavirus-related legislation to clarify the original intent of the PPP loan program under the CARES Act.

Link to IRS document.

IRS Expands Eligibility on COVID-19 Distributions from IRAs

The IRS expanded its guidelines on June 20th with Notice 2020-50 that allows additional qualified individuals to take a coronavirus-related distribution (CRD) while avoiding the usual restrictions on early IRA distributions. Under the CARES Act, qualified individuals may receive favorable treatment for IRA distributions up to $100,000 from eligible retirement plans (i.e. 401k/403b and 457s) until December 31, 2020. Additionally, the 10% tax on early distributions is waived for any CRD if the distribution is taken before the account holder reaches 59 ½.

The Notice expands eligibility of “qualified individual” under the CARES Act

The original Act indicates a qualified individual is someone diagnosed with COVID-19, whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a CDC approved test or a person who experienced adverse financial consequences resulting from being quarantined, furloughed or laid off or having hours reduced, unable to work due to lack of child care or closing or reduced hours for a business owned by the individual, any as a result of COVID-19.

The definition of “qualified” was expanded to include the individual and/or spouse, or a member of the individual’s household who had a job offer rescinded or start date delayed due to COVID-19. Additionally, a qualified individual includes someone whose income is affected by COVID-19 because a spouse or other household member (sharing the principal residence) experienced an income reduction due to COVID-19.

Also qualifying are household members unable to work due to lack of childcare because of COVID-19, as well as business owners/operators who lose income due to closing or reducing hours of business due to COVID-19.

Notice 2020-50 clarifies that while it is optional for employers and plans to designate distributions as COVID-related, qualified individuals whose distributions meet the above requirements will still receive this favorable federal tax treatment, even if a distribution is not classified as a CRD by the employer.

The CARES Act also provides somewhat of a tax holiday to a Qualified Individual

While a distribution from a qualified retirement plan is generally included in taxable income in the year of distribution, the CARES Act permits a qualified individual to include a CRD in taxable income ratably over a three-year period.  Notice 2020-50 clarifies this is an election on the part of the qualified individual who may choose instead to include the entire CRD in taxable income in the year of receipt; however, this election may not be changed. All CRDs must be treated in the same manner as reflected on the qualified individual’s 2020 tax return.

Additionally, the CARES Act permits a qualified individual to re-contribute a CRD to a qualified retirement plan. Unlike the tax treatment of a CRD, whether a CRD will be re-contributed to a qualified retirement plan or the manner in which it will be re-contributed, does not have to be determined before the filing of the qualified individual’s 2020 tax return.  Notice 2020-50 says that the decision can be made at any time during the three-year period and provides for the filing of amended returns to reflect the re-contribution of all or a portion of the CRD.

Link to IRS Notice 2020-50

What You Need to Know About the Centralized Partnership Audit Regime

What You Need to Know About the Centralized Partnership Audit Regime was originally published in AAPL’s Winter 2019 Edition of Private Lender Magazine.

Fund managers may not be aware of their new role during an IRS audit of companies with partnered members. The new centralized partnership audit regime (CPAR) introduced by the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) started with the 2018 tax year.

Under the old rules, there was no mechanism for the IRS to collect tax at the partnership level when issuing an IRS audit adjustment. Instead, the IRS had to seek payment of underpaid tax directly from partnership members. The old rules left the IRS with the inability to effectively collect tax from partnerships that have dozens, or even hundreds, of minority members.

The CPAR resolves the issue by allowing the IRS to collect tax directly from a partnership and shifts the responsibility for the collection of tax to the partnership.

Under Sec. 6221(b), certain partnerships are eligible to elect out of the BBA annually. If electing out, the IRS would generally make any adjustment relating to the partnership’s return in an audit of a partner, not an examination of the partnership. The partnership would not owe any taxes, interest or penalties.

A partnership can elect out of the CPAR if the partnership meets specific eligibility requirements. A partnership  is eligible within a tax year if it has 100 or fewer eligible partners. Eligible partners are individuals, C corporations, S corporations, foreign entities that would be C corporations if they were domestic entities, and estates of deceased partners.

A partnership is not eligible if it is required to issue a Schedule K-1 to any of the following partners:

  • Other partnerships
  • Disregarded entities
  • Trusts
  • An estate of an individual other than a deceased partner
  • Any person who holds an interest in the partnership on behalf of another person
  • Foreign entities that would not be treated as a C corporation were it a domestic entity

With these restrictions, fund managers will often find that their fund does not meet the eligibility requirements to elect out of the CPAR based on the composition of the fund’s investors.

Role of the Partnership Representative

Section 6223 of the code provides that unless the partnership has made a valid election out of the CPAR, each partnership must designate a partner or other person with a substantial presence in the U.S. as the partnership representative who shall have the sole authority to act on behalf of the partnership.

If an entity is designated as a partnership representative, the partnership must also appoint an individual to act on the entity’s behalf (a designated individual). To be a designated individual, the appointed person must also have a substantial presence in the U.S.

The partnership representative (or designated individual) can be the fund manager or any other individual, such as a CFO or controller. With the CPAR allowing the IRS to make tax assessments and collections of tax, interest and penalties at the partnership level, there are a few issues for fund managers and partnership representatives to consider:

  • Should the private placement memorandum (PPM) or LLC operating agreement be updated?
  • Can the fund withhold the tax from current year distributions, and what effect would that have on the fund’s yield?
  • Will a prior-year tax liability be shouldered unevenly by the current investors whose composition has changed through the admittance of new investors, or can the tax be specially allocated?
  • How to plan for the collection of taxes from investors who have already redeemed their investment from the fund

LLC Operating Agreement Revisions

Fund managers should review their PPM and LLC operating agreements with their legal counsel and tax advisors. Suggested changes include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Replacement of a “tax matters partner” with a “partnership representative”
  • A statement that under section 6223, the partnership and its members are bound by actions of the partnership representative in dealings with the IRS
  • The elections or opt-outs that the partnership representative may make
  • That the designation for a partnership tax year remains in effect until the designation terminates
  • The partnership being held responsible for remittance of additional tax rather than individual partners being taxed
  • Current partners may be held responsible for the tax liabilities of prior partners
  • A disclosure that the taxes, interest and penalties would be calculated based on the highest tax rates

Observations

The 2018 IRS Data Book published in May 2019 accounts for the number of IRS examinations in 2018 of the 2017 tax year. Out of the 195 million tax returns filed in 2018 for the 2017 tax year, only 8,945 partnerships were selected for audit. Compare that with the 892,187 of individual tax returns audited, and it is clear to see that the IRS saw little benefit in pursuing audits of nontaxable partnerships. The question arises of whether we will see the IRS increase the number of partnership examinations for 2018 and future tax years.

Conversely, IRS audit rates are dropping overall due to a shrinking IRS budget. Examinations decreased by one-third in the past five years, down to only 0.5% of all tax returns filed. This decrease is anticipated to continue to trend lower. With such a low likelihood of an IRS examination, fund managers will want to ensure that their LLC operating agreement language is up-to-date for their changing responsibility but will not need to be overly concerned about being selected for an audit.

About the Author:

Beeta Lecha is a principal at Spiegel Accountancy Corp. She leads the Taxation and Fund Accounting practices. Lecha has 13 years of private equity and alternative investments experience, primarily focusing on private lending and real estate funds. In addition to fund accounting and investor reporting, Lecha provides tax strategy, tax planning and tax compliance for fund managers and real estate investors. Lecha is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the California Society of CPAs (CALCPA). She serves on the Education Advisory Committee of the American Association of Private Lenders (AAPL).