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FAST PITCH NETWORKING

IRS Hiring Agents in Abusive Transactions Group

Posted: Dec. 10, 2010

By Lance Wallach

Here it is. Here is your proof of my predictions. Perhaps you didn't believe me when I told you the IRS was coming after what it has deemed "abusive transactions," but here it is, right from the IRS's own job posting. If you were involved with a 419e, 412i, listed transaction, abusive tax shelter, Section 79, or captive, and you haven't yet approached an expert for help with your situation, you had better do it now, before the notices start piling up on your desk.

A portion of the exact announcement from the Department of the Treasury:

Job Title: INTERNAL REVENUE AGENT (ABUSIVE TRANSACTIONS GROUP)

www.vebaplan.com for help or google lance wallach

Monetary Loss: $500.

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Anonymous
Plainview, New York, United States #686005

benistar

Anonymous
#578385

Enrolled Agents Journal March*April 2006

A Rose By Any Other Name, or

Whatever Happened to All Those 419A(f)(6) Providers?

By Ronald H. Snyder, JD, MAAA, EA & Lance Wallach, CLU, ChFC, CIMC

For years promoters of life insurance companies and agents have tried to find ways of claiming that the premiums paid by business owners were tax deductible. This allowed them to sell policies at a “discount”.

The problem became especially bad a few years ago with all of the outlandish claims about how §§419A(f)(5) and 419A(f)(6) exempted employers from any tax deduction limits. Many other inaccurate statements were made as well, until the IRS finally put a stop to such assertions by issuing regulations and naming such plans as “potentially abusive tax shelters” (or “listed transactions”) that needed to be disclosed and registered. This appeared to put an end to the scourge of such scurrilous promoters, as such plans began to disappear from the landscape.

And what happened to all the providers that were peddling §§419A(f)(5) and (6) life insurance plans a couple of years ago? We recently found the answer: most of them found a new life as promoters of so-called “419(e)” welfare benefit plans.

We recently reviewed several §419(e) plans, and it appears that many of them are nothing more than recycled §419A(f)(5) and §419A(f)(6)...

The “Tax Guide” written by one vendor’s attorney is illustrative: he confuses the difference between a “multi-employer trust” (a Taft-Hartley, collectively-bargained plan), a “multiple-employer trust” (a plan with more than one unrelated employer) and a “10-or-more employer trust” (a plan seeking to comply with IRC §419A(f)(6)).

Background: Section 419 of the Internal Revenue Code

Section 419 was added to the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) in 1984 to curb abuses in welfare benefit plan tax deductions. §419(a) does not authorize tax deductions, but provides as follows: “Contributions paid or accrued by an employer to a welfare benefit fund * * * shall not be deductible under this chapter * * *.”. It simply limits the amount that would be deductible under another IRC section to the “qualified cost for the taxable year”. (§419(b))

Section 419(e) of the IRC defines a “welfare benefit fund” as “any fund-- (A) which is part of a plan of an employer, and (B) through which the employer provides welfare benefits to employees or their beneficiaries.” It also defines the term "fund", but excludes from that definition “amounts held by an insurance company pursuant to an insurance contract” under conditions described.

None of the vendors provides an analysis under §419(e) as to whether or not the life insurance policies they promote are to be included or excluded from the definition of a “fund”. In fact, such policies will be included and therefore subject to the limitations of §§419 and 419A.

Errors Commonly Made

Materials from the various plans commonly make several mistakes in their analyses:

1. They claim not to be required to comply with IRC §505 non-discrimination requirements. While it is true that §505 specifically lists “organizations described in paragraph (9) or (20) of section 501(c)”, IRC §4976 imposes a 100% excise tax on any “post-retirement medical benefit or life insurance benefit provided with respect to a key employee” * * * “unless the plan meets the requirements of section 505(b) with respect to such benefit (whether or not such requirements apply to such plan).” (Italics added) Failure to comply with §505(b) means that the plan will never be able to distribute an insurance policy to a key employee without the 100% penalty!

2. Vendors commonly assert that contributions to their plan are tax deductible because they fall within the limitations imposed under IRC §419; however, §419 is simply a limitation on tax deductions. Providers must cite the section of the IRC under which contributions to their plan would be tax-deductible. Many fail to do so. Others claim that the deductions are ordinary and necessary business expense under §162, citing Regs. §1.162-10 in error: there is no mention in that section of life insurance or a death benefit as a welfare benefit.

3. The reason that promoters fail to cite a section of the IRC to support a tax deduction is because, once such section is cited, it becomes apparent that their method of covering only selected key and highly-compensated employees for participation in the plan fails to comply with IRC §414(t) requirements relative to coverage of controlled groups and affiliated service groups.

4. Life insurance premiums could be treated as W-2 wages and deducted under §162 to the extent they were reasonable. Other than that, however, no section of the Internal Revenue Code authorizes tax deductions for a discriminatory life insurance arrangement. IRC §264(a) provides that “[n]o deduction shall be allowed for * * * [p]remiums on any life insurance policy * * * if the taxpayer is directly or indirectly a beneficiary under the policy.” As was made clear in the Neonatology case (Neonatology Associates v. Commissioner, 115 TC 5, 2000), the appropriate treatment of employer-paid life insurance premiums under a putative welfare benefit plan is under §79, which comes with its own nondiscrimination requirements.

5. Some plans claim to impute income for current protection under the PS 58 rules. However, PS58 treatment is available only to qualified retirement plans and split-dollar plans. (Note: none of the 419(e) plans claim to comply with the split-dollar regulations.) Income is imputed under Table I to participants under Group-Term Life Insurance plans that comply with §79. This issue is addressed in footnotes 17 and 18 of the Neonatology case.

6. Several of the plans claim to be exempt from ERISA. They appear to rely upon the ERISA Top-Hat exemption (applicable to deferred compensation plans). However, that only exempts a plan from certain ERISA requirements, not ERISA itself. It is instructive that none of the plans claiming exemption from ERISA has filed the Top-Hat notification with the Dept. of Labor.

7. Some of the plans offer severance benefits as a “welfare benefit”, which approach has never been approved by the IRS. Other plans offer strategies for obtaining a cash benefit by terminating a single-employer trust. The distribution of a cash benefit is a form of deferred compensation, yet none of the plans offering such benefit complies with the IRC §409A requirements applicable to such benefits.

8. Some vendors permit participation by employees who are self-employed, such as sole proprietors, partners or members of an LLC or LLP taxed as a partnership. This issue was also addressed in the Neonatology case where contributions on behalf of such persons were deemed to be dividends or personal payments rather than welfare benefit plan expenses.

[Note: bona fide employees of an LLC or LLP that has elected to be taxed as a corporation may participate in a plan.]

9. Most of the plans fail under §419 itself. §419(c) limits the current tax deduction to the “qualified cost”, which includes the “qualified direct cost” and additions to a “qualified asset account” (subject to the limits of §419A(b)). Under Regs. §1.419-1T, A-6, “the "qualified direct cost" of a welfare benefit fund for any taxable year * * * is the aggregate amount which would have been allowable as a deduction to the employer for benefits provided by such fund during such year (including insurance coverage for such year) * * *.” “Thus, for example, if a calendar year welfare benefit fund pays an insurance company * * * the full premium for coverage of its current employees under a term * * * insurance policy, * * * only the portion of the premium for coverage during [the year] will be treated as a "qualified direct cost" * * *.” (Italics added)

Most vendors pretend that the whole or universal life insurance premium is an appropriate measurement of cost for Key Employees, and those plans that cover rank and file employees use current term insurance premiums as the appropriate measure of cost for such employees. This approach doesn’t meet any set of nondiscrimination requirements applicable to such plans.

10. Some vendors claim that they are justified in providing a larger deduction than the amount required to pay term insurance costs for the current tax year, but, as cited above, the only justification under §419(e) itself is as additions to a qualified asset account and is subject to the limitations imposed by §419A. In addition, §419A adds several additional limitations to plans and contributions, including requirements that:

A. contributions be limited to a safe harbor amount or be certified by an actuary as to the amount of such contributions (§419A(c)(5));

B. actuarial assumptions be “reasonable in the aggregate” and that the actuary use a level annual cost method (§419A(c)(2));

C. benefits with respect to a Key Employee be segregated and their benefits can only be paid from such account (§419A(d));

D. the rules of subsections (b), (c), (m), and (n) of IRC section 414 shall apply to such plans (§419A(h)).

E. the plan comply with §505(b) nondiscrimination requirements (§419A(e)).

Circular 230 Issues

Circular 230 imposes many requirements on tax professionals with respect to tax shelter transactions. A tax practitioner can get into trouble in the promotion of such plans, in advising clients with respect to such transactions and in preparing tax returns. IRC §§6707 and 6707A add a new concept of “reportable transactions” and impose substantial penalties for failure to disclose participation in certain reportable transactions (including all listed transactions).

This is a veritable minefield for tax practitioners to negotiate carefully or avoid altogether. The advisor must exercise great caution and due diligence when presented with any potential contemplated tax reduction or avoidance transaction. Failure to disclose could subject taxpayers and their tax advisors to potentially Draconian penalties.

Summary

Key points of this article include:

· Practitioners need to be able to differentiate between a legitimate §419(e) plan and one that is legally inadequate when their client approaches them with respect to such plan or has the practitioner to prepare his return;

· Many plans incorrectly purport to be exempt from compliance with ERISA, IRC §§414, 505, 79, etc.

· Tax deductions must be claimed under an authorizing section of the IRC and are limited to the qualified direct cost and additions to a qualified asset account as certified by the plan’s actuary.

Conclusion

Irresponsible vendors such as most of the promoters who previously promoted IRC §419A(f)(6) plans were responsible for the IRS’s issuing restrictive regulations under that Section. Now many of the same individuals have elected simply to claim that a life insurance plan is a welfare benefit plan and therefore tax-deductible because it uses a single-employer trust rather than a "10-or-more-employer plan".

This is an open invitation to the IRS to issue new onerous Regulations and more indictments and legal actions against the unscrupulous promoters who feed off of the naivety of clients and the greed of life insurance companies who encourage and endorse (and even own) such plans.

The last line of defense of the innocent client is the accountant or attorney who is asked by a client to review such arrangement or prepare a tax return claiming a deduction for contributions to such a plan. Under these circumstances accountants and attorneys should be careful not to rely upon the materials made available by the plan vendors, but should review any proposed plan thoroughly, or refer the review to a specialist.

Ron Snyder practices as an ERISA attorney and Enrolled Actuary in the field of employee benefits.

Lance Wallach speaks and writes extensively about VEBAs retirement plans, and tax reduction strategies. He speaks at more than 70 conventions annually and writes for more than 50 publications. For more information and additional articles on these subjects, call 516-938-5007 or visit www.vebaplan.com..

This information 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.

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Anonymous
to k Plainview, New York, United States #603785

NSA: Member Link

Your link to accounting, tax and practice management ideas, tools, news and information.

Captive Insurance and Other Tax Reduction Strategies – The Good, Bad, and Ugly

By Lance Wallach May 14, 2008

Every accountant knows that increased cash flow and cost savings are critical for businesses in 2008. What is uncertain is the best path to recommend to garner these benefits.

Over the past decade business owners have been overwhelmed by a plethora of choices designed to reduce the cost of providing employee benefits while increasing their own retirement savings. The solutions ranged from traditional pension and profit sharing plans to more advanced strategies.

Some strategies, such as IRS section 419 and 412(i) plans, used life insurance as vehicles to bring about benefits. Unfortunately, the high life insurance commissions (often 90% of the contribution, or more) fostered an environment that led to aggressive and noncompliant plans.

The result has been thousands of audits and an IRS task force seeking out tax shelter promotion. For unknowing clients, the tax consequences are enormous. For their accountant advisors, the liability may be equally extreme.

Recently, there has been an explosion in the marketing of a financial product called Captive Insurance. These so called “Captives” are typically small insurance companies designed to insure the risks of an individual business under IRS...

While captives can be a great cost saving tool, they also are expensive to build and manage. Also, captives are allowed to garner tax benefits because they operate as real insurance companies. Advisors and business owners who misuse captives or market them as estate planning tools, asset protection vehicles, tax deferral or other benefits not related to the true business purpose of an insurance company face grave regulatory and tax consequences.

A recent concern is the integration of small captives with life insurance policies. Small captives under section 831(b) have no statutory authority to deduct life premiums. Also, if a small captive uses life insurance as an investment, the cash value of the life policy can be taxable at corporate rates, and then will be taxable again when distributed. The consequence of this double taxation is to devastate the efficacy of the life insurance, and it extends serious liability to any accountant who recommends the plan or even signs the tax return of the business that pays premiums to the captive.

The IRS is aware that several large insurance companies are promoting their life insurance policies as investments with small captives. The outcome looks eerily like that of the 419 and 412(i) plans mentioned above.

Remember, if something looks too good to be true, it usually is. There are safe and conservative ways to use captive insurance structures to lower costs and obtain benefits for businesses. And, some types of captive insurance products do have statutory protection for deducting life insurance premiums (although not 831(b) captives). Learning what works and is safe is the first step an accountant should take in helping his or her clients use these powerful, but highly technical insurance tools.

Lance Wallach speaks and writes extensively about VEBAs, retirement plans, and tax reduction strategies. He speaks at more than 70 conventions annually, writes for 50 publications, and was the National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year. Contact him at 516.938.5007 or visit www.vebaplan.com.

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.

National Society of Accountants

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Anonymous
to k Plainview, New York, United States #607264

TAX MATTERS

TAX BRIEFS

ABUSIVE INSURANCE PLANS GET RED FLAG

The IRS in Notice 2007-83 identified as listed transactions certain trust arrangements involving cash-value life insurance policies. Revenue Ruling 2007-65, issued simultaneously, addressed situations where the tax deduction has been disallowed, in part or in whole, for premiums paid on such cash-value life insurance policies. Also simultaneously issued was Notice 2007-84, which disallows tax deductions and imposes severe penalties for welfare benefit plans that primarily and impermissibly benefit shareholders and highly compensated employees.

Taxpayers participating in these listed transactions must disclose such participation to the Service by January 15. Failure to disclose can result in severe penalties--- up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for corporations.

Ruling 2007-65 aims at situations where cash-value life insurance is purchased on owner/employees and other key employees, while only term insurance is offered to the rank and file. These are sold as 419(e), 419(f) (6), and 419 plans. Other arrangements described by the ruling may also be listed transactions. A business in such an arrangement cannot deduct premiums paid for cash-value life insurance.

A CPA who is approached by a client about one of these arrangements must exercise the utmost degree of caution, and not only on behalf of the client. The severe penalties noted above can also be applied...

Prepared by Lance Wallach, CLU, ChFC, CIMC, of Plainview, N.Y.,

516-938-5007, a writer and speaker on voluntary employee’s beneficiary associations and other employee benefits.

Journal of Accountancy January 2008

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Anonymous
to k Plainview, New York, United States #650302

. IRS Investigation & Curcio v. Commissioner

The IRS contacted CMI in December 2006, asserting that CMI's contributions to the Benistar 419 Plan were not deductible under § 419A(f)(6), and commenced an investigation. (Snyder Aff. Ex. S.) The scope of the investigation eventually expanded to include Jones's individual tax liability for tax years 2003, 2004, and 2005. (Id. Ex. T; Jones Aff. ¶ 7.) Jones appealed the IRS's determination of his liability for the tax years in question in light of its conclusion that the Benistar 419 Plan did not satisfy the requirements of § 419A(f)(6). (Doc. No. 34 Ex. D.) After several years of investigation, the IRS determined that the contributions to the Benistar 419 Plan were non-deductible deferred compensation and issued Jones a notice of deficiency on July 17, 2009. (Id. Ex. P.)

In 2010, the Tax Court issued its decision in Curcio v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2010-115, 2010 WL 2134321 (T.C. 2010). Curcio consolidated "three groups of test cases to resolve a number of disputes regarding companies participating in the Benistar § 419 Plan & Trust." Id. at *2. Carpenter testified over the course of two days as a witness for the taxpayers in Curcio. (See Snyder Aff. Ex. C.) During his testimony, Carpenter stated that Defendants kept a contribution summary that listed details of each employer and the historical account contributions and premium payments, segregated those records, and ensured that plan participants were current...

Jones commenced the instant action in the Hennepin County District Court on July 14, 2011, asserting claims of intentional misrepresentation and violations of the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act, Minn. Stat. § 325F.69, and the Minnesota False Statement in Advertising Act, Minn. Stat. § 325F.67. Defendants removed the action to this Court, and presently before the Court are Defendants' Motions for Sanctions (Doc. No. 13) and Summary Judgment (Docs. No. 19, 21). The issues have been fully briefed, and the Court heard oral argument on July 25, 2012. The Motions are ripe for disposition

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Anonymous
#575711

Dolan Media Newswires 01/22/2010

Small Business Retirement Plans Fuel Litigation

Small businesses facing audits and potentially huge tax penalties over certain types of retirement plans are filing lawsuits against those who marketed, designed and sold the plans. The 412(i) and 419(e) plans were marketed in the past several years as a way for small business owners to set up retirement or welfare benefits plans while leveraging huge tax savings, but the IRS put them on a list of abusive tax shelters and has more recently focused audits on them.

The penalties for such transactions are extremely high and can pile up quickly - $100,000 per individual and $200,000 per entity per tax year for each failure to disclose the transaction - often exceeding the disallowed taxes.

There are business owners who owe $6,000 in taxes but have been assessed $1.2 million in penalties. The existing cases involve many types of businesses, including doctors' offices, dental practices, grocery store owners, mortgage companies and restaurant owners. Some are trying to negotiate with the IRS. Others are not waiting. A class action has been filed and cases in several states are ongoing. The business owners claim that they were targeted by insurance companies; and their agents to purchase the plans without any disclosure that the IRS viewed the plans as abusive tax shelters. Other defendants include financial advisors who...

A 412(i) plan is a form of defined benefit pension plan. A 419(e) plan is a similar type of health and benefits plan. Typically, these were sold to small, privately held businesses with fewer than 20 employees and several million dollars in gross revenues. What distinguished a legitimate plan from the plans at issue were the life insurance policies used to fund them. The employer would make large cash contributions in the form of insurance premiums, deducting the entire amounts. The insurance policy was designed to have a "springing cash value," meaning that for the first 5-7 years it would have a near-zero cash value, and then spring up in value.

Just before it sprung, the owner would purchase the policy from the trust at the low cash value, thus making a tax-free transaction. After the cash value shot up, the owner could take tax-free loans against it. Meanwhile, the insurance agents collected exorbitant commissions on the premiums - 80 to 110 percent of the first year's premium, which could exceed $1 million.

Technically, the IRS's problems with the plans were that the "springing cash" structure disqualified them from being 412(i) plans and that the premiums, which dwarfed any payout to a beneficiary, violated incidental death benefit rules.

Under §6707A of the Internal Revenue Code, once the IRS flags something as an abusive tax shelter, or "listed transaction," penalties are imposed per year for each failure to disclose it. Another allegation is that businesses weren't told that they had to file Form 8886, which discloses a listed transaction.

According to Lance Wallach of Plainview, N.Y. (516-938-5007), who testifies as an expert in cases involving the plans, the vast majority of accountants either did not file the forms for their clients or did not fill them out correctly.

Because the IRS did not begin to focus audits on these types of plans until some years after they became listed transactions, the penalties have already stacked up by the time of the audits.

Another reason plaintiffs are going to court is that there are few alternatives - the penalties are not appealable and must be paid before filing an administrative claim for a refund.

The suits allege misrepresentation, fraud and other consumer claims. "In street language, they lied," said Peter Losavio, a plaintiffs' attorney in Baton Rouge, La., who is investigating several cases. So far they have had mixed results. Losavio said that the strength of an individual case would depend on the disclosures made and what the sellers knew or should have known about the risks.

In 2004, the IRS issued notices and revenue rulings indicating that the plans were listed transactions. But plaintiffs' lawyers allege that there were earlier signs that the plans ran afoul of the tax laws, evidenced by the fact that the IRS is auditing plans that existed before 2004.

"Insurance companies were aware this was dancing a tightrope," said William Noll, a tax attorney in Malvern, Pa. "These plans were being scrutinized by the IRS at the same time they were being promoted, but there wasn't any disclosure of the scrutiny to unwitting customers."

A defense attorney, who represents benefits professionals in pending lawsuits, said the main defense is that the plans complied with the regulations at the time and that "nobody can predict the future."

An employee benefits attorney who has settled several cases against insurance companies, said that although the lost tax benefit is not recoverable, other damages include the hefty commissions - which in one of his cases amounted to $860,000 the first year - as well as the costs of handling the audit and filing amended tax returns.

Defying the individualized approach an attorney filed a class action in federal court against four insurance companies claiming that they were aware that since the 1980s the IRS had been calling the policies potentially abusive and that in 2002 the IRS gave lectures calling the plans not just abusive but "criminal." A judge dismissed the case against one of the insurers that sold 412(i) plans.

The court said that the plaintiffs failed to show the statements made by the insurance companies were fraudulent at the time they were made, because IRS statements prior to the revenue rulings indicated that the agency may or may not take the position that the plans were abusive. The attorney, whose suit also names law firm for its opinion letters approving the plans, will appeal the dismissal to the 5th Circuit.

In a case that survived a similar motion to dismiss, a small business owner is suing Hartford Insurance to recover a "seven-figure" sum in penalties and fees paid to the IRS. A trial is expected in August.

Last July, in response to a letter from members of Congress, the IRS put a moratorium on collection of §6707A penalties, but only in cases where the tax benefits were less than $100,000 per year for individuals and $200,000 for entities. That moratorium was recently extended until March 1, 2010.

But tax experts say the audits and penalties continue. "There's a bit of a disconnect between what members of Congress thought they meant by suspending collection and what is happening in practice. Clients are still getting bills and threats of liens," Wallach said.

"Thousands of business owners are being hit with million-dollar-plus fines. ... The audits are continuing and escalating. I just got four calls today," he said. A bill has been introduced in Congress to make the penalties less draconian, but nobody is expecting a magic bullet.

"From what we know, Congress is looking to make the penalties more proportionate to the tax benefit received instead of a fixed amount."

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Anonymous
to m Plainview, New York, United States #603900

NSA: Member Link

Your link to accounting, tax and practice management ideas, tools, news and information.

Captive Insurance and Other Tax Reduction Strategies – The Good, Bad, and Ugly

By Lance Wallach May 14, 2008

Every accountant knows that increased cash flow and cost savings are critical for businesses in 2008. What is uncertain is the best path to recommend to garner these benefits.

Over the past decade business owners have been overwhelmed by a plethora of choices designed to reduce the cost of providing employee benefits while increasing their own retirement savings. The solutions ranged from traditional pension and profit sharing plans to more advanced strategies.

Some strategies, such as IRS section 419 and 412(i) plans, used life insurance as vehicles to bring about benefits. Unfortunately, the high life insurance commissions (often 90% of the contribution, or more) fostered an environment that led to aggressive and noncompliant plans.

The result has been thousands of audits and an IRS task force seeking out tax shelter promotion. For unknowing clients, the tax consequences are enormous. For their accountant advisors, the liability may be equally extreme.

Recently, there has been an explosion in the marketing of a financial product called Captive Insurance. These so called “Captives” are typically small insurance companies designed to insure the risks of an individual business under IRS...

While captives can be a great cost saving tool, they also are expensive to build and manage. Also, captives are allowed to garner tax benefits because they operate as real insurance companies. Advisors and business owners who misuse captives or market them as estate planning tools, asset protection vehicles, tax deferral or other benefits not related to the true business purpose of an insurance company face grave regulatory and tax consequences.

A recent concern is the integration of small captives with life insurance policies. Small captives under section 831(b) have no statutory authority to deduct life premiums. Also, if a small captive uses life insurance as an investment, the cash value of the life policy can be taxable at corporate rates, and then will be taxable again when distributed. The consequence of this double taxation is to devastate the efficacy of the life insurance, and it extends serious liability to any accountant who recommends the plan or even signs the tax return of the business that pays premiums to the captive.

The IRS is aware that several large insurance companies are promoting their life insurance policies as investments with small captives. The outcome looks eerily like that of the 419 and 412(i) plans mentioned above.

Remember, if something looks too good to be true, it usually is. There are safe and conservative ways to use captive insurance structures to lower costs and obtain benefits for businesses. And, some types of captive insurance products do have statutory protection for deducting life insurance premiums (although not 831(b) captives). Learning what works and is safe is the first step an accountant should take in helping his or her clients use these powerful, but highly technical insurance tools.

Lance Wallach speaks and writes extensively about VEBAs, retirement plans, and tax reduction strategies. He speaks at more than 70 conventions annually, writes for 50 publications, and was the National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year. Contact him at 516.938.5007 or visit www.vebaplan.com.

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.

National Society of Accountants

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Anonymous
to m Plainview, New York, United States #686008

benistar

Anonymous
#574005

March 8, 2010

In a speech last May, President Obama said, "Nobody likes paying taxes . . . . And yet, even as most American citizens and businesses meet these responsibilities, there are others who are shirking theirs." He was referring to offshore tax havens and other loopholes that wealthy Americans often exploit to reduce their tax burden. But it doesn't take moving money to Switzerland to avoid paying taxes. If history is any guide, 2010 will be a year in which many Americans use a few simple methods to reduce their tax liability, which could potentially cost the government billions of dollars.

This year is the last before the expiration of tax cuts originally put in place by the Bush administration. If Congress allows these tax cuts to expire, as the president supports, in 2011 the top marginal tax rates will increase from 28, 33, and 35 percent to 31, 36, and 39.6 percent.

Although it is not certain that tax rates will go up, many wealthy Americans are looking at 2010 as the end of the party. "Everybody thinks taxes are going up and tax breaks are being eliminated. Everybody's thinking this, and they're planning for it," says Lance Wallach, a New York author, lecturer, and financial consultant who advises high net-worth clients, including entertainers and athletes. His phone is ringing off the hook with questions from clients about how they can take advantage of this year's rates relative to 2011's.

One of the most popular...

Creative maneuvering. This would not be the first year taxpayers have pursued this strategy. In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president with promises to raise taxes on wealthy Americans, which Congress did in 1993, boosting the top marginal rate from 31 to 39.6 percent. In late 1992, many taxpayers, expecting rates to be higher the next year because of Clinton's victory, moved more income onto 1992's tax return to avoid paying more with the higher rate. Robert Carroll, an economist at a Washington research organization called the Tax Foundation, estimates that about $20 billion was shifted and paid at the 31 percent rate rather than the 39.6 percent—meaning there was about $1.5 billion that the federal government did not collect in revenue.

Something similar could happen this year. "Anyone who has flexibility with income is going to try to shift their income," says Carroll. An example of flexibility would be a business owner who gives himself or herself a bonus in December 2010 rather than January 2011.

There's also an incentive to delay tax deductions. For example, state property and income taxes can be deducted from federal income tax returns. Wallach says he is recommending that clients hold off on paying those taxes until next year, so that the deductions can be cashed in at the higher rate.

Some may choose to delay charitable gifts for the same reason—charitable giving is tax deductible, so some taxpayers may decide to hold off on a gift they would make in 2010 and instead give a larger amount in 2011. "What we know from history, if the taxes go up, people will delay their giving," says Nancy Raybin, chair of the Giving Institute, an association of nonprofit consultants. But Raybin says such delays usually are not significantly damaging to charities because people will often just push a gift forward a few months—from December to January, for example. "If there's a 12-month delay, it could be a problem. But if a donor is just delaying one month, it's not a big problem," she says.

These tax-avoidance strategies will probably be a one-time deal for those who pursue them. A study by economist Austan Goolsbee, currently a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, found that the 1993 drop-off in reported income was temporary. Income bounced back in following years. If tax rates appear to be steady after 2011, accelerating one's income or delaying deductions is no longer advantageous. But taxpayers will continue to look for ways to reduce their liability—they just need the time and money to find the loopholes. Wallach says most of his clients will adjust to higher tax rates with his help. "For the very sophisticated people, there will always be loopholes," he says, such as deducting travel and entertainment expenses. "None of my clients pay more in taxes than a schoolteacher." For issues like these Wallach has various websites including www.taxlibrary.us .

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Anonymous
to k Plainview, New York, United States #605347

TAX MATTERS

TAX BRIEFS

ABUSIVE INSURANCE PLANS GET RED FLAG

The IRS in Notice 2007-83 identified as listed transactions certain trust arrangements involving cash-value life insurance policies. Revenue Ruling 2007-65, issued simultaneously, addressed situations where the tax deduction has been disallowed, in part or in whole, for premiums paid on such cash-value life insurance policies. Also simultaneously issued was Notice 2007-84, which disallows tax deductions and imposes severe penalties for welfare benefit plans that primarily and impermissibly benefit shareholders and highly compensated employees.

Taxpayers participating in these listed transactions must disclose such participation to the Service by January 15. Failure to disclose can result in severe penalties--- up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for corporations.

Ruling 2007-65 aims at situations where cash-value life insurance is purchased on owner/employees and other key employees, while only term insurance is offered to the rank and file. These are sold as 419(e), 419(f) (6), and 419 plans. Other arrangements described by the ruling may also be listed transactions. A business in such an arrangement cannot deduct premiums paid for cash-value life insurance.

A CPA who is approached by a client about one of these arrangements must exercise the utmost degree of caution, and not only on behalf of the client. The severe penalties noted above can also be applied...

Prepared by Lance Wallach, CLU, ChFC, CIMC, of Plainview, N.Y.,

516-938-5007, a writer and speaker on voluntary employee’s beneficiary associations and other employee benefits.

Journal of Accountancy January 2008

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