IRS Updates IDES Technical FAQs for FATCA

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May 31, 2016

On May 27, the IRS updated the technical FAQs for the International Data Exchange Service (IDES) used by foreign financial institutions (FFIs) and other organizations to file information returns required by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.  Among other changes, the IRS provided a work-around for direct-reporting non-financial foreign entities (direct reporting NFFEs) that must register with the IRS and file annual FATCA reports disclosing certain information regarding their substantial U.S. owners.

In general, passive NFFEs provide information on their substantial U.S. owners to withholding agents on Form W-8BEN-E.  However, a passive NFFE may register as a direct reporting NFFE and receive a global intermediary identification number (GIIN)  from the IRS.  A direct reporting NFFE provides information on its substantial U.S. owners to the IRS and provides its GIIN on Form W-8BEN-E rather than providing the information on its substantial U.S. owners to withholding agents.

Because FFIs in Model 1 IGA jurisdictions report information on their U.S. account holders to local tax authorities who then exchange the information with the IRS via IDES, the IDES system does not accept registrations from entities in Model 1 IGA jurisdictions.  This is a problem for direct-reporting NFFEs in Model 1 IGA jurisdictions that must use IDES to file Form 8966 (FATCA Report).  As a workaround, FAQ A17 instructs such direct-reporting NFFEs to register using “Other” as their country of tax residence in Question 3A, provide its country of jurisdiction/tax residence tax identification number in question 3B, and select “None of the Above” for the entity’s FATCA Classification in its country of jurisdiction/tax residence.

Other updates included the addition of FAQ B11 regarding which issues were corrected in an April 2016 maintenance release, an update to FAQ E21 regarding the exchange of the initialization vector as part of CBC cipher mode, and the addition of FAQ E22 regarding the effect on recently uploaded files of updating the public key certificate.

Wellness Program Cash Rewards and Salary-Reduction Premium Reimbursements Taxable

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May 27, 2016

Recently, the IRS clarified whether employees are taxed for receiving cash rewards and reimbursements from their employers for participating in wellness programs.  In CCA 201622031, the IRS ruled that an employee must include in gross income (1) employer-provided cash rewards and non-medical care benefits for participating in a wellness program and (2) reimbursements of premiums for participating in a wellness program if the premiums were originally made by salary reduction through a Section 125 cafeteria plan.

In CCA 201622031, the taxpayer inquired whether an employee’s income includes (a) employer-provided cash rewards or non-medical care benefits, such as gym membership fees, for participating in a wellness program; and (b) reimbursements of premiums for participating in a wellness program if the premiums were originally made by salary reduction through a cafeteria plan.  The IRS ruled that Sections 105 and 106 do not apply to these rewards and reimbursements, which are includible in the employee’s gross income and are also subject to employment taxation.

NGOs Argue For Public CbC Reporting and Clearer Definition of Employee

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May 23, 2016

At an IRS hearing (transcript) on May 13, NGOs that advocate for tax transparency and financial fairness argued that the Treasury and the IRS should publish country-by-country (CbC) reports.  In December 2015, the Treasury and the IRS issued proposed regulations  (see previous coverage) requiring CbC reporting by a U.S. parent entity of a multinational enterprise (MNE) group with annual revenue of $850 million or more.  These reports contain information on a CbC basis of a MNE group’s income and taxes paid, and certain indicators of economic activity (e.g., the number of employees, the size of investments in the subsidiaries, the profits and losses), to help the tax authorities combat tax base erosion and profit shifting.

The reports would be protected from disclosure and could be only used by the IRS, other U.S. governmental agencies in specific circumstances, and competent authorities of treaty partners who also adhere to strict confidentiality rules.  However, representatives from several NGOs requested the CbC reports be made public.  The groups argued that base erosion and profit shifting are problems too complex and burdensome for U.S. tax authorities to handle on their own, and that publishing the reports would “crowd source” the work.  These NGOs suggested that even if the Treasury and the IRS do not publish CbC reports, they should at least (a) deem the CbC reports Treasury reports that other federal law enforcement and senior policy makers can use and not tax returns subject to the confidentiality rules under Section 6103 or (b) provide aggregate data on CbC reporting if the reports are considered tax returns.

Heather Lowe, representing Global Financial Integrity, pointed out that the proposed regulations treat employees and independent contractors ambiguously.  The proposed regulations would require a reporting entity to count the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, which are determined by reference to “employees that perform their activities for the U.S. MNE group within [the] tax jurisdiction of residence.”  For this purpose, a reporting entity “may” count as employees “independent contractors that participate in the ordinary operating activities of a constituent entity.”  But the proposed regulations do not further define “independent contractors” and “ordinary operating activities.”   Lowe suggested that employees should include (a) people for whom the subsidiary pays payroll, Social Security, and other employment taxes, and (b) people for whom those taxes would be paid were they employed by the parent entity in the U.S.

Some NGOs also argued for expanding the scope of CbC reports to include information on deferred taxes and uncertain tax positions—two potential indicators of profit shifting and tax avoidance.  Currently, the IRS requires corporations with $10 million or more in assets to report uncertain tax, but the proposed regulations do not require CbC reporting of this information.

IRS Reports Automatic Alerts for Missed Employment Tax Payments Already Improving Compliance

In a previous post, we discussed the improved automated system that the IRS implemented to issue more timely and accurate federal tax deposit (FTD) alerts to employers that may owe employment taxes at the end of a quarter.  FTD alerts are generated automatically by the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) and notify employers of potential employment tax violations by comparing  employment tax deposits against those made during the same quarter in the previous year.  The IRS has improved the algorithm used to identify potential missed payments.   Previously, the system would not generate an FTD alert to the employer until the 13th week of the quarter.  The new algorithm allows the IRS to predict when an employer may owe employment taxes at quarter end, which will allow the agency to issue FTD three times during the quarter.  According to a director in the IRS Small Business/Self-Employed Division, Darren Gulliot, the IRS has been studying employers’ responses to certain types of IRS outreach, such as field visits, soft notices, and prerecorded messages, to determine the most effective types of outreach.  These combined efforts have resulted in a more than 50% decrease in the number of FTD alerts issued during the first three months of 2016 when compared to that same time period in 2015, and the alerts issued have become more accurate, meaning that fewer employers will receive FTD alerts, but the ones who do receive them will likely be liable for employment tax that quarter.

The IRS is modifying the system to notify the IRS of potential missed payments within 48-72 hours rather than 12-13 weeks under the current system.

 

IRS Webinar Answers ACA Information Reporting Questions

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May 16, 2016

Last week, the IRS released a webinar on identifying and correcting errors on information returns related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The ACA requires health insurers and some employers to file information returns with the IRS and furnish a copy to the recipient.  The 2015 returns are due by May 31, 2016, if filing on paper, or June 30, 2016, if filing electronically through the ACA Information Reporting (AIR) System.  The IRS webinar addressed frequently asked questions on four topics: correcting specific forms; TIN solicitation and correcting TIN errors; correcting AIR filing; and penalties, exceptions, and penalty relief.

Form-Specific Corrections

To correct errors on Forms 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C, an entity must complete the proper form with the corrected information and mark it as a corrected return.  An entity should not file a return that includes only the corrected information.  Employers used to filing Forms W-2c to correct Forms W-2 will find this approach different from the process with which they are familiar.

To correct a Form 1095-B previously filed with the IRS, an entity should file a complete and corrected Form 1095-B that is marked as corrected, with a Form 1094-B Transmittal (which cannot and should not be marked as corrected).  To correct a Form 1095-C previously filed with the IRS, an entity must file a complete and corrected Form 1095-C that is marked as corrected, with a Form 1094-C Transmittal that is not marked as corrected.  Next, the entity must furnish the employee with a copy of the corrected Form 1095-C.  Employers using the qualifying offer method or the qualifying offer method transition relief for 2015, however, are not required to furnish the copy to the employee in certain cases.

To correct a Form 1094-C that is the authoritative transmittal previously filed with the IRS, an entity should file a standalone Form 1094-C.  An entity need not correct a Form 1094-C that is not the authoritative transmittal.

Some filers have expressed confusion as to why they must file corrected returns given that the IRS has indicated that a recipient of a Form 1095-B or Form 1095-C need not correct their tax return to reflect information reflected on a corrected form.  The webinar makes clear that regardless of that approach, filers must correct returns timely.  In terms of timing, an entity should file a correction as soon as the error is discovered if the filing deadline has already passed.  If an entity has already furnished Forms 1095-B or 1095-C to recipients but finds an error before filing with the IRS, the entity needs to file with the IRS a regular return, i.e., not marked as corrected, containing the accurate information. A new original, i.e., not marked as corrected, form should be provided to the responsible individual or employee as soon as possible.

TIN Solicitation and Error Corrections

In an effort to assuage a key concern of many filing entities, the IRS stated that an error message for missing and/or incorrect information is not a proposed penalty notice.  However, when an entity receives an error message regarding a name/TIN mismatch, the entity should file a correction if it has correct information.  If the entity lacks the TIN, it may use the date of birth and avoid penalties for failure to report a TIN, provided that the entity followed the three-step TIN solicitation process under Notice 2015-68: “(1) the initial solicitation is made at an individual’s first enrollment or, if already enrolled on September 17, 2015, the next open season, (2) the second solicitation is made at a reasonable time thereafter, and (3) the third solicitation is made by December 31 of the year following the initial solicitation.” The webinar is unclear whether the receipt of an error message triggers an obligation for filers to engage in a new round of TIN solicitation.

If an entity has not solicited a TIN, e.g., the individual was already enrolled on September 17, 2015, and the next open season is not until July 2016, the entity may be unable to correct the error before the return filing deadline.  In this case, the entity should still file a correction when it obtains the TIN or the date of birth if the TIN is not provided.  If a Penalty Notice 972CG is issued, the entity will have the opportunity to show whether good-faith relief or a reasonable-cause waiver applies.

AIR Filing Corrections

The IRS also clarified AIR’s transmission responses, which are defined under IRS Publication 5165.  An AIR filing will generate one of five responses: accepted, accepted with errors, partially accepted, rejected, or not found by AIR.  “Accepted with errors” means that AIR found at least one of the submissions had errors, but did not find fatal errors – i.e., the submission had unusable data – which would prompt a “rejected” response.  “Partially accepted” means AIR accepted some of the submissions and rejected others.  If AIR rejected any attempted filings, the entity must cure the problem and transmit the return again rather than use the correction process.

If AIR identifies errors, an entity will receive an acknowledgement in XML with an attached Error Data File.  Again, this error message is not a proposed penalty notice.  Rather, to assist the entity, the Error Date File includes unique IDs to identify the erroneous returns, and error codes and descriptions to identify the specific errors.  After locating and identifying the error, the entity must prepare corrected returns, which must reference the unique IDs of the returns being corrected.  AIR will assign unique IDs to the corrected returns, which the entity can then transmit through AIR.

Penalties and Penalty Relief

ACA-related information reporting is subject to the general penalties under Sections 6721 and 6722 of the Code for failure to (1) furnish correct copies to employees and insured individuals or (2) file complete and accurate information returns with the IRS.  The penalty for each incorrect information return is $260 and up to $3,178,500 for each type of failure, for entities with over $5 million in average annual gross receipts over the last three taxable years.  Only one penalty applies per record, even if the record has multiple errors, such as incorrect TIN and incorrect months of coverage.  For late returns, penalty amounts per return start at $50 and increase to $520, depending when the correction is filed and whether the failure was due to intentional disregard.  Further, a penalty may apply if an entity is required to file electronically because it has 250 or more returns but the entity files on paper and fails to apply for a waiver using Form 8508.

The IRS has provided good-faith relief to entities that file or furnish incorrect or incomplete – but not late – information, including TINs or dates of birth, if the entity can show that it made a good-faith effort to comply with the requirements.  Good-faith relief does not apply to egregious mistakes, e.g., where an entity transmits returns with just names and addresses and no health coverage information.  Further, good-faith relief does not excuse an entity from the continuing obligations to identify and correct errors in returns previously filed with the IRS.  An entity must correct errors within a reasonable period of time after discovering them (corrections must be filed within 30 days).  Importantly, if subsequent events, such as a retroactive enrollment or change in coverage make the information reported on a Form 1095-B or Form 1095-C incorrect, the entity has an affirmative obligation to correct the return even though it was correct when initially filed.

In addition to the good-faith relief, inconsequential errors and omissions are not subject to these penalties.  An error or omission is inconsequential if it does not stop the IRS from correlating the required information with the affected person’s tax return, or otherwise using the return. Errors and omissions are not inconsequential, however, if they pertain to the TIN and/or surnames of the recipient or other covered individuals, or if the return furnished to a recipient is not the appropriate form or substitute form.  Many errors relating to addresses or to an individual’s first name may be inconsequential, and are not required to be corrected.

Another exception is available for a de minimis number of failures to provide correct information if the filing entity corrects that information by August 1 of the calendar year to which the information relates, or November 1 for 2016.  For a calendar year, penalties do not apply to the greater of 10 returns or half a percent of the total number of returns the entity is required to file or furnish.

Finally, a filer may qualify for a reasonable cause waiver under Section 6724 of the Code for a failure that is due to a reasonable cause and not willful neglect.  To establish “reasonable cause,” an entity must show that it acted responsibly before and after the failure occurred and that the entity had significant mitigating factors or the failure was due to events beyond its control.  Significant mitigating factors include, for instance, that an entity was not previously required to file or furnish the particular type of form, and that an entity has an established history of filing complete and accurate information returns.  Events beyond an entity’s control include fire or other casualty that make relevant business records unavailable and prevent the entity from timely filing.

U.S. District Court Finds Taxpayer Had Reasonable Basis for Classifying Workers as Independent Contractors

In an area IRS auditors are increasingly scrutinizing, a U.S. district court sided with the taxpayer in its claim for an employment tax refund on the grounds that the taxpayer had a reasonable basis for classifying its workers as independent contractors and thus was not liable for back employment taxes.  In Nelly Home Care, Inc. v. United States, the IRS asserted after an audit of a homecare services company that the company had misclassified its workers as independent contractors and assessed back employment taxes owed as a result of the misclassification.  Refund claims for employment taxes are within the jurisdiction of the U.S. district courts, so the taxpayer paid the taxes and filed a refund action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The calculation of FICA and federal income tax withholding in reclassification cases is determined under the special rates of Section 3509 of the Internal Revenue Code when an employer incorrectly classifies an employee as an independent contractor but issues a Form 1099-MISC. The court noted that IRS auditors are increasingly relying on this section to scrutinize worker misclassifications.  However, Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978, which was never codified, provides a safe harbor for taxpayers that owe back employment taxes due to worker classification errors.  An employer may qualify for the safe harbor by showing that it had a “reasonable basis” to not classify workers as employees, provided the basis arose from reliance on one of four conditions: (i) judicial precedent, published rulings, technical advice with respect to the taxpayer, or a letter ruling to the taxpayer; (ii) a past IRS audit of the taxpayer in which there was no assessment attributable to the treatment of workers in substantially similar positions to the workers at issue; (iii) longstanding recognized practice of a significant segment of the industry in which the worker was engaged; or (iv) any other factors that a court considers sufficient to establish a “reasonable basis.”

The taxpayer in Nelly Home Care argued unsuccessfully that it satisfied the second and third conditions as a basis for its reasonable belief. However, the court found that the record demonstrated that the taxpayer satisfied the fourth condition for demonstrating that it had a reasonable basis and, therefore, was relieved of the employer’s responsibility to withhold income taxes on and apply FICA taxes to the payments.  Specifically, the court considered the inquiries made of other companies’ practices, the personal experience of the taxpayer in the industry, and the IRS’s silence regarding the taxpayer’s classification during its audits of the owner’s personal tax returns.  Notably, the court warned that its decision “in no way endorses” the taxpayer’s classification of its workers as independent contractors.

Proposed Regulations Impose Reporting Obligations on Foreign-Owned U.S. Entities

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May 10, 2016

Today, the IRS published proposed regulations that would impose reporting obligations upon a domestic disregarded entity wholly owned by a foreign person (foreign-owned DDE).  Specifically, the proposed regulations would amend Treasury Regulation § 301.7701-2(c) to treat a foreign-owned DDE as a domestic corporation separate from its owner for the limited purposes of the reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements that apply to 25 percent foreign-owned domestic corporations under Section 6038A of the Internal Revenue Code.  These changes broaden the IRS’s access to information that would help the IRS enforce tax laws under the Code and international treaties and agreements.

The proposed regulations would render foreign-owned DDEs reporting corporations under Section 6038A.  Accordingly, a transaction between a foreign-owned DDE and its foreign owner (or another disregarded entity of the same owner) would be considered a reportable transaction for purposes of the reporting and recordkeeping rules under Section 6038A, even though the transaction involves a disregarded entity and generally would not be considered a transaction for other purposes (e.g., adjustment under Section 482).  Thus, a foreign-owned DDE would be required to file Form 5472 for reportable transactions between the entity and its foreign owner or other foreign-related parties, and maintain supporting records.  Further, to file information returns, a foreign-owned DDE would have to obtain an Employer Identification Number by filing a Form SS-4 that includes responsible party information.

This rulemaking project is still in its infancy, and it remains to be seen if and how the IRS harmonizes the proposed regulations with existing rules.  For example, the proposed regulations impose a filing obligation on a foreign-owned DDE for reportable transactions even if its foreign owner already has an obligation to report the income resulting from those transactions (e.g., transactions resulting in income effectively connected with the conduct of a U.S. trade or business).  The Treasury Department and the IRS sought comments on possible alternative methods for reporting the disregarded entity’s transactions in these cases.  In the preambles, the IRS also stated that it is considering changing corporate, partnership, and other tax or information returns (or their instructions) to require foreign-owned DDEs to identify all the foreign and domestic disregarded entities it owns, consistent with the proposed regulations.

These proposed regulations will apply for tax years ending on or after May 10, 2017.  Comments and public hearing requests are due by August 8, 2016.

IRS Error Leads to Erroneous Penalty Notices

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May 9, 2016

The IRS announced that some taxpayers may have been erroneously assessed failure to deposit penalties after an IRS system error failed to account for the April 15, 2016, holiday in Washington, D.C.  The holiday moved the deadline for payroll tax deposit to April 18, 2016.  However, some taxpayers who timely deposited payroll taxes by the later date were assessed failure to deposit penalties.  The notice is titled “Your Federal Tax Deposit Wasn’t Submitted Correctly.” At the bottom, the date due is shown as April 15, 2016, and the date received is shown as April 18, 2016.  The IRS will contact affected taxpayers and no taxpayer action is required.

New ITIN Requirements in PATH Act Pose Challenges for Taxpayers and IRS

The PATH Act, signed into law in December 2015, may cause trouble for nonresident aliens who use individual tax identification numbers (ITINs) to file U.S. tax returns, as it creates additional hurdles to maintain a valid ITIN.  First, ITINs granted before 2013 must be renewed between 2017 and 2020 pursuant to a staggered schedule or they will expire.  Second, if an individual fails to file a U.S. tax return for three years, their ITIN will expire.  Third, the Treasury must adopt a system that will require in-person ITIN applications.

The new requirements are part of Congress’s attempts to reform certain IRS programs in order to improve their reliability, but it will likely inconvenience many taxpayers seeking to acquire ITINs.  Nonresident alien individuals need to obtain an ITIN to complete a Form 8233 asserting treaty relief from withholding on personal services income.  The process is already a difficult one for many nonresident alien taxpayers due to various procedural hurdles—such as obtaining a written denial letter from the Social Security Administration—that already existed.  Moreover, many nonresident aliens whose income is exempt from U.S. tax under a treaty do not file a Form 1040-NR and attach Form 8833 as required.  The changes in the PATH Act may force them to meet this filing requirement.

The result of the changes will increase the volume of applicants, since many will need to be renewed in the coming years.  Speaking at the recent American Bar Association Section of Taxation meeting in Washington, D.C., Julie Hanlon-Bolton, a representative from the IRS Wage and Investment Division, stated that the IRS is currently debating whether the ITIN offices will require additional staffing, and whether new or expanded offices may be needed in Austin, Texas.  This would require employing additional certified acceptance agents.  A certified acceptance agent is someone who has been trained to verify the authenticity of identification documents and trained in the process for a person to apply for an ITIN.

First Friday FATCA Update

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May 6, 2016

Recently, the IRS released the Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs) entered into between the United States and the following foreign treaty partners, in these respective forms:

  • Vietnam, Model 1B;
  • Panama, Model 1A.

The IRS also released the Competent Authority Agreements (CAAs) implementing the IGAs between the United States and the following treaty partners:

  • Bulgaria (Model 1B IGA signed on December 5, 2014);
  • Curacao (Model 1A IGA signed on December 16, 2014);
  • Cyprus (Model 1A IGA signed on December 12, 2014);
  • France (Model 1A IGA signed on November 14, 2013);
  • Israel (Model 1A IGA signed on June 30, 2014);
  • Philippines (Model 1A IGA signed on July 13, 2015);
  • Saint Lucia (Model 1A IGA signed on November 19, 2015);
  • Slovak Republic (Model 1A IGA signed on July 31, 2015).

Since our last monthly FATCA update, we have also addressed other recent FATCA developments:

  • The U.S. government filed its brief in opposition to a petition for certiorari seeking Supreme Court review of FATCA reporting requirements for foreign account holders (see previous coverage).
  • The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, in Crawford v. United States Department of the Treasury, dismissed a challenge to FATCA brought by Senator Rand Paul and several current and former U.S. citizens living abroad on standing grounds (see previous coverage).
  • The IRS released a new Form W-8BEN-E – which is used by foreign entities to report their U.S. tax status and identity to withholding agents – along with updated instructions (see previous coverage).

Under FATCA, IGAs come in two forms: Model 1 or Model 2.  Under a Model 1 IGA, the foreign treaty partner agrees to collect information of U.S. accountholders in foreign financial institutions (FFIs) operating within its jurisdiction and transmit the information to the IRS.  Model 1 IGAs are drafted as either reciprocal (Model 1A) agreements or nonreciprocal (Model 1B) agreements.  By contrast, Model 2 IGAs are issued in only a nonreciprocal format and require FFIs to report information directly to the IRS.

A CAA is a bilateral agreement between the United States and the treaty partner to clarify or interpret treaty provisions.  A CAA implementing an IGA typically establishes and prescribes the rules and procedures necessary to implement certain provisions in the IGA and the Tax Information Exchange Agreement, if applicable.  Specific topics include registration of the treaty partner’s financial institutions, time and manner of exchange of information, remediation and enforcement, confidentiality and data safeguards, and cost allocation.  Generally, a CAA becomes operative on the later of (1) the date the IGA enters into force, or (2) the date the CAA is signed by the competent authorities of the United States and the treaty partner.

The Treasury Department website publishes IGAs, and the IRS publishes their implementing CAAs.

IRS Modifies 2015 6050W Letter Ruling

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May 6, 2016

The IRS released a modified private letter ruling superseding a ruling issued in late 2015 under Section 6050W.  That ruling had determined that the party requesting the ruling was a third-party settlement organization.  The new ruling does not change the conclusion, but removes one rationale upon which the earlier ruling had based its determination.

In PLR 201604003, the IRS indicated that the party requesting the ruling was a third-party settlement organization, in part because it was the only party that had all the information necessary to report on Form 1099-K accurately.  This is because it was the only party who was aware of the gross amount of the reportable payment transactions.  PLR 201619006 removed this paragraph from the ruling.  The rationale in the original ruling raised questions for practitioners because it is a factor that is not present in the 6050W statute or regulations.  It was unclear whether the IRS would consider a party that might not otherwise be a third-party settlement organization to be a third-party settlement organization if it was the only party with the required information.  Similarly, if a party that otherwise would have been a third-party settlement organization lacked the required information, would it not be required to file Forms 1099-K?  It is unclear whether the IRS removed the language because it was an invalid basis for its determination or if the IRS learned that the facts differed from those in the original ruling.

IRS To Implement Certification Program For Professional Employer Organizations

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May 5, 2016

Today, the IRS released temporary and proposed regulations implementing a new voluntary certification program for professional employer organizations (PEOs).  These regulations set forth the application process and the tax status, background, experience, business location, financial reporting, bonding, and other requirements PEOs must meet to become and remain certified.  The IRS will begin accepting applications for CPEO certification on July 1, 2016, and will release a revenue procedure further detailing the application process in the coming weeks.  We will provide more details on the regulations when we have had the opportunity to review them.

IRS Issues Regulations Relating to Employees of Disregarded Entities

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May 5, 2016

Yesterday, Treasury and the IRS released final and temporary regulations under Section 7701 meant to clarify issues related to the employment of owners of disregarded entities.  In 2009, the IRS issues regulations that required disregarded entities be treated as a corporation for purposes of employment taxes including federal income tax withholding and Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes for Social Security and Medicare.  The regulations provided that a disregarded entity was disregarded, however, for purposes of self-employment taxes and included an example that demonstrated the application of the rule to an individual who was the single owner of a disregarded entity.  In the example, the disregarded entity is treated as the employee of its employees but the owner remains subject to self-employment tax on the disregarded entity’s activities.  In other words, the owner is not treated as an employee.

Rev. Rul. 69-184 provides that partners are not employees of the partnership for purposes of FICA taxes, Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax, and federal income tax withholding.  This is true even if the partner would qualify as an employee under the common law test.  This made it difficult—if not impossible—for partnerships to allow employees to participate in the business with equity ownership such as options even if the employee owned only a very small portion of the partnership.  The 2009 regulations raised questions, however, provided some hope that a disregarded entity whose sole owner was a partnership could be used to as the employer of the partnership’s partners. Doing so would have allowed partners in the partnership to be treated as employees of the disregarded entity and participate in tax-favored employee benefit plans, such as cafeteria plans.  The final and temporary regulations clarify that that an individual who owns and portion of a partnership may not be treated as an employee of the partnership or of a disregarded entity owned by the partnership.

As a result, payments made to partners should not be reported on Form W-2, but should be reported on Schedule K-1.  Such payments are not subject to federal income tax withholding or FICA taxes, but will be subject to self-employment taxes when the partner files his or her individual income tax return.  In addition, if partners are currently participating in a disregarded entity’s employee benefit plans, such as a health plan or cafeteria plan, the plan has until the later of August 1, 2016, or the first day of the latest-starting plan year following May 4, 2016.