Proposed Bill Would Streamline Employer Reporting Under ACA

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October 16, 2017

On October 3, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House and the Senate to streamline the employer health-coverage reporting requirements under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  In contrast to the ACA repeal-and-replace bills proposed in the past several months, which do not directly affect ACA information reporting provisions (see prior coverage), the Commonsense Reporting Act would direct the Treasury Department to implement a more streamlined, prospective reporting system less burdensome than the current requirements.  Specifically, the legislation would create a voluntary prospective reporting system for employer-provided health coverage and permit employers who use this system to provide employee statements under section 6056 only to employees who have purchased coverage through an exchange, rather than to the entire workforce.  The Commonsense Reporting Act has bipartisan support, and may gain more traction if Congress seeks to improve the ACA and its exchanges rather than repeal and replace the ACA entirely.

The ACA requires employers and insurance carriers to gather monthly data and report them to the IRS and their employees annually under sections 6055 and 6056.  This reporting is intended to verify compliance with the individual and employer mandates, and to administer premium tax credits and cost sharing subsidies under the state and federally-facilitated insurance exchanges.  Section 6056 requires applicable large employers (ALEs) to file a return with the IRS and provide a statement to each full-time employee with information regarding the offer of employer-sponsored health care coverage.

At its core, the Commonsense Reporting Act would create a voluntary prospective reporting system.  This system would allow employers to make available data regarding their health plans not later than 45 days before the first day of open enrollment, rather than at the end of a tax year.  The data required includes the employer’s name and EIN, as well as certifications regarding:

  • whether minimum essential coverage under section 5000A(f) is offered to the following groups: full-time employees, part-time employees, dependents, or spouses;
  • whether the coverage meets the minimum value requirement of section 36B;
  • whether the coverage satisfies one of the affordability safe harbors under section 4980H; and
  • whether the employer reasonably expects to be liable for any shared responsibility payments under section 4980H for the year.

The employer would also need to provide the months during the prospective reporting period that this coverage is available, and the applicable waiting periods.

The proposed legislation would also ease an employer’s obligation to furnish employee statements (Forms 1095-C) regarding employer-provided coverage pursuant to section 6056.  Specifically, employers who use the voluntary prospective reporting system must provide employee statements only to those who have purchased coverage through an Exchange (based on information provided by the Exchange to the employer), rather than to the entire workforce.  Presumably, the rationale is that an employee covered through an Exchange can use information provided in Part II of the Form 1095-C—regarding whether, in each month, the employer offered minimum essential coverage (MEC) that is affordable and that provides minimum value—to apply for the premium tax credit.  This credit is available only for employees covered through an Exchange and only for the months in which the employee was not eligible for affordable employer-provided MEC that provides minimum value and any other MEC outside the individual market.

In addition to these changes to employer health-coverage reporting, the proposed legislation would also: (a) direct the IRS to accept full names and dates of birth in lieu of dependents’ and spouses’ Social Security numbers and require the Social Security Administration to assist in the data-matching process; (b) allow for electronic transmission of employee and enrollee statements without requiring recipients to affirmatively opt-in to electronic receipt; and (c) require the Government Accountability Office to study the functionality of the voluntary prospective reporting system.

Although the legislation has attracted the support of a large number of business groups, it remains unclear whether it can overcome the current reluctance among Republican Representatives and Senators to take any action that may further entrench the ACA.  Given the White House’s recent actions that appear designed to weaken the ACA, White House support may also be difficult to garner.  We will monitor the legislation for further developments.

First Friday FATCA Update

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October 6, 2017

Since our last monthly FATCA update, the IRS has issued Notice 2017-46, providing welcomed reprieve for U.S. financial institutions with respect to the collection of foreign taxpayer identification numbers (FTINs) required of them by FATCA to avoid Chapter 3 withholding.  The notice delays the date on which U.S. financial institutions must begin collecting FTINs to January 1, 2018, provides a phase-in period for obtaining FTINs from account holders documented before January 1, 2018, that will end on December 31, 2019, and limits the circumstances in which FTINs are required (see prior coverage).  This week, an IRS official reiterated that a change in an accountholder’s address to another jurisdiction is a change in circumstances that will invalidate the Form W-8 for payments made after the change provided an FTIN is otherwise required, necessitating the collection of an FTIN if an FTIN is otherwise required with respect to the payment(s).

Additionally, the Treasury Department has also released the Model 1A intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the United States and Kazakhstan.

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 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 competent authority agreement (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.

Graham-Cassidy Bill Eliminates Premium Tax Credit But Retains ACA Information Reporting Requirements

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September 21, 2017

With the September 30 budget reconciliation deadline looming, Senate Republican leaders recently released the Graham-Cassidy proposal, which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but retain most of its information reporting requirements.  A departure from previous GOP proposals (see discussions here and here), the Graham-Cassidy proposal would completely eliminate federal premium tax credits by January 2020, and not provide any other health insurance tax credits.  The legislation would instead put in place a system of block grants to the states which states could use to increase health coverage, but would not be required to use for that purpose.  The proposal would also zero out penalties for the individual and employer mandates beginning in 2016.

The information reporting rules under Code sections 6055 and 6056 would be retained under the proposal, but it is unclear what purpose the Form 1095-B would serve after 2019 when there is no penalty for failing to comply with the individual mandate and no premium tax credit or other health insurance tax credit.  The bill likely does not repeal the provisions because of limitations on the budget reconciliation process, which requires that changes have a budgetary impact.  The proposal would also keep in place the 3.8% net investment income tax, as well as the 0.9% additional Medicare tax on wages above a certain threshold that varies based on filing status and that employers are required to withhold and remit when paying wages to an employee over $250,000.

The Senate has until the end of this month to pass a bill with 51 Senate votes under the budget reconciliation process, before rules preventing a Democratic filibuster expire.  A vote is expected next week.

Proposed Regulations Would Allow Truncated SSN on Forms W-2 Furnished to Employees

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September 20, 2017

The IRS recently issued proposed regulations that would allow employers to truncate employees’ social security numbers (SSNs) on copies of Forms W-2 furnished to employees, to help protect employees from identity theft.  The truncated SSNs must appear in the form of IRS truncated taxpayer identification numbers (TTINs): the first five digits of the nine-digit SSN are replaced with Xs or asterisks.  For example, a TTIN replacing an SSN appears in the form XXX‑XX‑1234 or ***‑**‑1234.  Employers may also use TTINs on Forms W-2 furnished to employees for payment of wages in the form of group-term life insurance.  But as with information returns filed with the IRS, employers cannot use TTINs on copies of the Forms W-2 filed with the Social Security Administration.   If finalized, these regulations would be applicable to Forms W-2 required to be furnished after December 31, 2018, due to concerns with providing state tax administrators sufficient time to accommodate TTIN usage on Forms W-2.  Comments on the proposed regulations are due by December 18, 2017.

The proposed regulations reflect statutory changes made in late 2015 by section 409 of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act.  Section 409 of the PATH Act amended Code section 6051(a)(2) by striking “his social security account number” from the list of information required on Form W-2 and inserting “an identifying number for the employee” instead.  The IRS already permitted the usage of TTINs on a number of information returns furnished to payees including Forms 1095, 1099, 1098, and others.  The use of TTINs is intended to help reduce identity theft by reducing the number of documents that include both an individual’s name and TIN.

Tax Relief for Leave-Based Donation Programs and Qualified Plan Distribution Extended to Hurricane Irma Victims

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September 18, 2017

The IRS recently announced favorable tax relief for “leave-based donation programs” designed to aid victims of Hurricane Irma, as well as easier access to funds in qualified retirement plans for these victims.  These forms of relief were provided to victims of Hurricane Harvey last month (see prior coverage), and as expected, were promptly extended to victims of Hurricane Irma.

Specifically, under Notice 2017-52, employees may forgo paid vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for cash donation the employer makes, before January 1, 2019, to charitable organization providing relief for the Hurricane Irma victims.  The IRS will not treat the donated leave as income or wages to the employee, and will permit employers to deduct the donations as business expenses.  Similarly, in Announcement 2017-13, the IRS extended to employees affected by Hurricane Irma the relaxed distribution rules announced following Hurricane Harvey for plan loans and hardship distributions from qualified retirement plans.  The relief generally permits plan sponsors to adopt amendments permitting plan loans and hardship withdrawals later than would otherwise be required to provide such options, waives the six-month suspension of contributions for hardship withdrawals, and allows the disbursement of hardship withdrawals and plan loans before certain procedural requirements are satisfied.

As we discussed with respect to Hurricane Harvey, employers looking to provide further relief to their employees have other long-standing options, as well.  For example, Notice 2006-59 provides favorable tax treatment similar to that provided under Notice 2017-52 for “leave-sharing plans” that permit employees to deposit leave in an employer-sponsored leave bank for use by other employees who have been harmed by a major disaster.  Additionally, section 139 permits individuals to exclude from gross income and wages any “qualified disaster relief payment” for reasonable and necessary personal, family, living, or funeral expenses, among others; and the payments may be made through company-sponsored private foundations (see our recent Client Alert on section 139 disaster relief payments).

Hurricane Harvey Prompts IRS to Provide Tax Relief for Leave-Based Donation Programs

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September 7, 2017

The IRS recently released Notice 2017-48, providing favorable tax relief for “leave-based donation programs” designed to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey.  Under these programs, employees may elect to forgo vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for payments that the employer makes to charitable organizations described under section 170(c).  Under this notice, payments employees elect to forgo do not constitute income or wages of the employees for federal income and employment tax purposes if the employer makes the payments, before January 1, 2019, to charitable organizations for the relief of victims of Hurricane Harvey.  The IRS will not assert that an opportunity to make this election results in employees’ constructive receipt of the payments.  Thus, the employer would not need to include the payments in Box 1, 3 (if applicable), or 5 of the Forms W-2 for employees electing to forgo their vacation, sick, or personal leave.

With respect to employer deductions, the IRS will not assert that an employer is permitted to deduct these cash payments exclusively under the rules of section 170, applicable to deductions for charitable contributions, rather than the rules of section 162.  Accordingly, the deduction will not be limited by the percentage limitation under section 170(b)(2)(A) or subject to the procedural requirements of section 170(a).  Thus, payments made to charitable organizations pursuant to leave-based donation programs are deductible to the extent the payments would be deductible under section 162 if paid to the employees (i.e., the payments would have constituted reasonable compensation and met certain other requirements).

The requirements of Notice 2017-48 are straightforward, but if an employer fails to comply, the general tax doctrines of assignment of income and constructive receipt would apply.  Under these doctrines, if an employee can choose between receiving compensation or assigning the right to that compensation to someone else, the employee has constructive receipt of the compensation even though he or she never actually receives it.  (These concepts also create difficulties for paid-time off programs under which employees can choose to use PTO or receive cash.)  Thus, without special tax relief, an employee who assigns the right to compensation to a charitable organization would be taxed on that compensation, and the employer would have corresponding income and employment tax withholding and reporting obligations.  Although the employee would be entitled to take an itemized deduction for charitable contributions in that amount, this below-the-line deduction only affects income taxes (and not FICA taxes), and would not fully offset the amount of the income for non-itemizers who claim the standard deduction ($6,300 for single filers in 2016).

The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey and the impending threat of Hurricane Irma, which is currently affecting islands in the Eastern Caribbean islands, have renewed interest in favorable charitable contribution tax rules that extend beyond the parameters of section 170.  Apart from Notice 2017-48, the IRS has also previously provided certain special tax treatment for disaster relief payments employers provide to their employees.  On August 30, the IRS provided for easier access to funds in qualified retirement plans in IRS Announcement 2017-11.  The rules generally permit plan sponsors to adopt amendments permitting plan loans and hardship withdrawals later than would otherwise be required to provide such options, waive the six-month suspension of contributions for hardship withdrawals, and allow the disbursement of hardship withdrawals and plan loans before certain procedural requirements are satisfied.  Although the relief provided in Announcement 2017-11 applies only to those affected by Hurricane Harvey (and Notice 2017-48 applies only to charitable contributions designed to aid such individuals), it is likely the IRS will provide similar relief to those affected by Hurricane Irma if it makes landfall in the United States, as appears likely at this time.

Employers looking to provide further relief to their employees have other long-standing options, as well.  For example, Notice 2006-59 provides favorable tax treatment similar to that provided under Notice 2017-48 for “leave-sharing plans” that permits employees to deposit leave in an employer-sponsored leave bank for use by other employees who have been harmed by a major disaster.  Additionally, section 139 permits individuals to exclude from gross income and wages any “qualified disaster relief payment” for reasonable and necessary personal, family, living, or funeral expenses, among others; and the payments may be made through company-sponsored private foundations (see our recent Client Alert on section 139 disaster relief payments).

First Friday FATCA Update

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September 1, 2017

Since our previous monthly FATCA update, we have addressed the following recent FATCA developments:

  • The Sixth Circuit issued an opinion on August 18, 2017 upholding the dismissal of a challenge to FATCA brought by Senator Rand Paul and several current and former U.S. citizens living abroad who hold foreign accounts (see prior coverage).
  • The IRS posted draft instructions to the Form 8966 (FATCA Report) dated August 9, 2017, with some changes pertaining to participating foreign financial institutions (PFFIs) and other changes reflecting the final and temporary Chapter 4 regulations released in January of this year (see prior coverage).

Additionally, an official with the IRS Office of Chief Counsel recently stated that the IRS will delay the date on which U.S. financial institutions must start treating an otherwise valid Form W‑8 as invalid merely because it does not include a foreign taxpayer identification number (FTIN) or a reasonable explanation for its absence, to avoid Chapter 3 withholding.  Specifically, a valid Form W-8 obtained before January 1, 2018, will not be treated as invalid on that date if the form simply lacks the FTIN or a reasonable explanation for its absence (e.g., the account holder’s country of residence does not provide TINs).  It is unclear what form the relief will take, but it is possible the IRS will continue to allow a U.S. financial institution to treat a Form W-8 as valid if the financial institution does not have actual knowledge that the beneficial owner has an FTIN for some period of time.

This informal relief from the new FTIN requirement (issued in final and temporary regulations in late 2016) is welcomed by banks and withholding agents that report income for foreign account holders.  The relief is still reflected in FAQs on the IRS website (see prior coverage).  But since Form W-8s expire on three-year cycles, banks and agents still have to update their withholding policies and annual re-solicitation processes to comply with the new FTIN requirements.  Additionally, banks and agents are still waiting for further guidance on how they can update Form W‑8s issued before 2018 with the newly‑required FTIN or reasonable explanation.  An IRS FAQ posted in April 2017 specifies that the information can be provided in a written statement, including an email, but it is unclear what other requirements might apply to such a statement.

Since our previous monthly FATCA update, the IRS has also released the Competent Authority Agreements (CAAs) implementing intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) between the United States and the following treaty partners:

  • Anguilla (Model 1B IGA signed on January 15, 2017);
  • Italy (Model 1A IGA signed on January 10, 2014).

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 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.

Version III of Senate GOP Health Care Bill Retains Same Health Coverage Reporting Rules

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July 20, 2017

Senate Republicans have just released another update to the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  This updated bill preserves the same health coverage reporting rules under the prior version that was released a week ago on July 13 (discussed here).  Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell stated that he expects a vote early next week on a motion to start the debate on either a repeal-and-replace bill or a standalone ACA-repeal bill.

Updated FAQs on FFI Agreement Renewal

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July 19, 2017

Recently, the IRS updated its FATCA frequently asked questions to include four new FAQs addressing the renewal of foreign financial institution (FFI) agreements.  The new FAQs address the requirement that financial institutions (FIs) must renew their FFI agreements by July 31, 2017, pursuant to Revenue Procedure 2017-16, to be treated as having in effect an FFI agreement as of January 1, 2017.

FAQ#8 clarifies that, generally, FATCA requires the following types of FIs to renew their FFI agreements: participating FFIs not covered by an intergovernmental agreement (IGA); reporting Model 2 FFIs; reporting Model 1 FFIs operating branches outside of Model 1 jurisdictions (other than branches treated as nonparticipating FFIs under Article 4(5) of the Model 1 IGA).  By contrast, renewal is not required for the following types of entities: reporting Model 1 FFIs that are not operating branches outside of Model 1 jurisdictions; registered deemed-compliant FFIs (regardless of location); sponsoring entities; direct reporting non-financial foreign entities (NFFEs); and trustees of trustee-documented trust.

FAQ#9 provides that entities that do not need to renew their FFI agreements do not need to take any action—and do not even need to select “No” on the “Renew FFI Agreement” link—to remain on the FFI list and retain their Global Intermediary Identification Number (GIIN).

FAQ#10 clarifies that an entity that, before January 1, 2017, entered into the FFI agreement under Rev. Proc. 2014-38 (which terminated on December 31, 2016), and that failed to renew its FFI agreement by July 31, 2017, will be considered a nonparticipating FFI as of January 1, 2017, and will be removed from the FFI List.

If an entity that is required to renew its FFI agreement incorrectly selected “No” when asked if renewal is required, FAQ#11 provides that the entity can simply return to the FATCA FFI Registration system home page, click on the “Renew FFI Agreement” link, and select “Yes” to complete the renewal application before the deadline on July 31, 2017.

Updated Senate GOP Health Care Bill Retains Additional Medicare Tax and Most Health Coverage Reporting Rules

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July 13, 2017

This morning, Senate Republican leaders released an updated Better Care Reconciliation Act that would largely retain the existing health coverage reporting regime enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In contrast to the prior Senate bill (see prior coverage), the updated bill would keep in place the 3.8% net investment income tax, as well as the 0.9% additional Medicare tax, which employers are required to withhold and remit when paying wages to an employee over a certain threshold (e.g., $200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for joint filers). The updated bill is otherwise similar to the prior bill from a health reporting standpoint, as it would keep the current premium tax credit (with new restrictions effective in 2020) and retain the information reporting rules under Code sections 6055 and 6056. (The House bill passed on May 4, 2017 (discussed here and here), by contrast, would introduce an age-based health insurance coverage credit along with new information reporting requirements.) The updated bill would also zero out penalties for the individual and employer mandates beginning in 2016.

In addition to the ACA repeal-and-replace efforts in the Senate bill, the House Committee on Appropriations included in its appropriation bill a provision that would stop the IRS from using its funding to enforce the individual mandate or the related information reporting rule under Code section 6055 for minimum essential coverage (on Form 1095-B or 1095-C). This provision would be effective on October 1 this year. Apart from significantly cutting IRS funding, however, the appropriation bill would not otherwise affect IRS enforcement of information reporting by applicable large employers regarding employer-provided health insurance coverage. Thus, even if both the Senate health care bill and the House appropriation bill were to become law as currently proposed, applicable large employers would still be required to file Forms 1094-C and 1095-C pursuant to Code section 6056 in the coming years.

Late Form W-2s Doubled, Penalties to Come

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July 12, 2017

The earlier filing deadline on January 31 for Forms W-2 resulted in more than double the number of late-filed returns, according to Tim McGarvey, Social Security Administration branch chief, who was speaking on an IRS payroll industry conference call.  He said that, to date, the SSA has received close to 50,000 late Form W-2 submissions, compared to an average of 25,000 late submissions annually in the past few years.  In response to an inquiry from the Tax Withholding & Reporting Blog, Mr. McGarvey indicated that the 50,000 submissions represent approximately 4 million late-filed 2016 Forms W-2.

In addition to the jump in the number of late-filed returns, Mr. McGarvey said that the number of Forms W-2c filed has also increased dramatically—up 30 percent from last year.  In response to an inquiry, Mr. McGarvey reported that the SSA has received approximately 2.7 million Forms W-2c in 2017, with some 2.2 million of those correcting 2016 returns.  That compares to a total of approximately 2 million Forms W-2c processed in 2015.

The January 31 deadline for filing and furnishing recipients with the Form W-2 and a Form 1099-MISC that reports nonemployee compensation (Box 7) became required under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act to combat identity theft and fraudulent claims for refund (see prior coverage).

Late filers and those that struggled to provide accurate filings by the January 31 deadline should take steps now to prepare for the 2017 filing season.  Employers who provide taxable non-cash fringe benefits (such as the personal use of company cars) may want to consider imputing income for those benefits using the special accounting rule and flexibility in Announcement 85-113, if they are not already doing so.  Announcement 85-113 permits employers to treat non-cash fringe benefits as received on certain dates throughout the year (such as on the first of each month, each quarter, semi-annually, or annually).  It also allows employers to treat the value of non-cash fringe benefits actually received in the last two months of the calendar year as received in the following calendar year.  Making use of these rules can ease the year-end payroll crunch.  The earlier employers can provide copies of Forms W-2 to employees, the greater the chance there is for employees to identify errors and request corrections before the January 31 filing deadline.

Mobile Workforce Bill Passes House Again, Senate Fate Uncertain

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July 7, 2017

On June 20, 2017, the House of Representatives passed legislation to simplify state income tax rules for employees who temporarily work outside their home state.  Under the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2017 (H.R. 1393), a state generally could tax a nonresident’s wages earned in the state only if he or she is working in the state for more than 30 days during the year.  Likewise, employers would have no corresponding duty to withhold and report the tax unless the 30-workday threshold is met.  Propelled by bipartisan support, similar measures have twice passed in the House in 2012 and 2015 but failed to gain traction in the Senate.  Currently, legislation similar to the House bill is awaiting Senate consideration, and once again, faces an uphill battle amidst concerns that the bill would cause significant revenue losses to certain states—including New York—with large employment centers close to state borders.

The bill is intended to reduce confusion and compliance costs stemming from inconsistent state income tax laws on nonresident employees and their employers.  Currently, forty-three states impose personal income tax on wages, including nonresidents’ wages earned in the state.  Thus, a traveling employee working on temporary projects in multiple states may be obligated to file and pay taxes in each of those states, and the employer would have corresponding withholding and reporting obligations.  Although states have three main measures that reduce compliance costs, the measures are largely piecemeal and inconsistent.  First, states generally provide an income tax credit for income taxes paid to other states, but the credit system does not eliminate the travelling employee’s obligation to file a nonresident return and the employer’s obligation to withhold and report the tax.  Second, some states waive the income tax obligations of nonresident employees and employers based on de minimis earnings and/or time spent in the state, but the waiver thresholds vary, and not all states have them.  Third, some bordering states have entered into reciprocity agreements under which each state agrees not to tax each other’s residents’ wages (see prior coverage of NY-NJ reciprocity agreement).  But these agreements only cover one-third of the states, and are geared toward regular commuters living near state borders, rather than employees traveling to multiple states for temporary work.

The bill would impose a 30-workday threshold on state income taxation of nonresidents, but would not prevent states from adopting higher or other types of thresholds.  Reciprocity agreements of bordering states, for instance, would still be effective.  Moreover, the bill allows an employer to avoid withholding and reporting penalties if they simply rely on their employees’ annual determination of days to be spent working in the nonresident state (barring actual knowledge of fraud, collusion, or use of a daily time and attendance system).  The bill also defines what constitutes a workday to minimize double counting.  The bill would not cover the wages of professional athletes, professional entertainers, certain production employees, and prominent public figures paid on a per-event basis.  Additionally, the bill does not specifically address equity or trailing compensation and employees who work for more than one related employer.

The bill likely faces an uphill battle in the Senate because the bill would cause significant revenue losses to certain states.  Generally, states that have large employment centers close to a state border (e.g., Illinois, Massachusetts, California, and New York) would lose the most revenue, while their neighboring states (e.g., New Jersey) from which employees travel would gain revenue.  Notably, New York would likely lose between $55 million and $120 million per year—an amount greater than the estimated revenue impact on all the other states combined (a $55 million to $100 million loss).  For these reasons, three members of the House Committee on the Judiciary opposed the bill and proposed to replace the 30-workday threshold with a 14‑workday threshold.  This is, not coincidentally, the threshold New York currently has in place for employer withholding obligations (but not for employee income tax liability or employer reporting obligations).  Although rejected, the effort to reduce the threshold may ultimately reshape the bill in the Senate or signal its continued lack of action.

With the Senate preoccupied with other legislative matters such as health reform (see prior coverage of health insurance reporting under the American Health Care Act) and opposition from some powerful Senators, it is unclear whether the Senate will consider the mobile workforce bill despite bipartisan interest.  In the meantime, employers with employees temporarily working in multiple states must continue to meet their nonresident state income tax withholding and reporting obligations.  We will continue to monitor further developments on the mobile workforce bill and its impact on state income tax filing, withholding, and reporting rules.

Senate GOP Health Care Bill Would Retain Most Existing Health Coverage Reporting Rules

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June 23, 2017

Yesterday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a draft version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which would retain much of the existing health coverage reporting rules enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act.  Unlike the House bill passed on May 4, 2017 (discussed here and here), which would introduce an age-based health insurance coverage credit and corresponding information reporting requirements, the Senate bill would keep the current premium tax credit (with new restrictions effective in 2020), and leave untouched the information reporting regime under Code sections 6055 and 6056.  Thus, Applicable large employers (ALEs) would still be required to file Forms 1094-C and 1095-C pursuant to Code section 6056, even though the bill would reduce penalties for failure to comply with the employer mandate to zero beginning in 2016.  Similarly, the Senate bill does not eliminate the requirement for providers of minimum essential coverage under section 6055 to report coverage on Form 1095-B (or Form 1095-C) despite eliminating the penalty on individuals for failing to maintain coverage. The Senate bill would, however, repeal the additional Medicare tax and thereby eliminate employers’ corresponding reporting and withholding obligations beginning in 2023.

The fate of this draft bill remains uncertain, as several Republican Senators have already expressed unwillingness to support the bill, which is not expected to find any support among Senate Democrats.  We will continue to monitor further developments on the Senate bill and its impact on the information reporting regime for health insurance coverage.

IRS Releases Five CbC Reporting Agreements

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June 9, 2017

The IRS has released the first set of competent authority arrangements (CAAs) for the automatic exchange of country-by-country (CbC) reports, with Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Africa.  These CAAs are implemented under Action 13 of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, requiring jurisdictions to exchange standardized CbC reports beginning in 2018.  Specifically, under the OECD’s Guidance (see prior coverage regarding recent updates), multinational enterprise (MNE) groups with $750 million Euros or a near equivalent amount in domestic currency must report revenue, profit or loss, capital and accumulated earnings, and number of employees for each country in which they operate.  These CbC reports will assist each jurisdiction’s tax authorities to identify the bases of economic activity for each of these companies, in order to combat tax base erosion and profit shifting.

The CAAs are substantially similar, and each requires the competent authorities of the foreign country and the United States to exchange annually, on an automatic basis, CbC reports received from each reporting entity that is a tax resident in its jurisdiction, provided that one or more constituent entities of the reporting entity’s group is a tax resident in the other jurisdiction, or is subject to tax with respect to the business carried out through a permanent establishment in the other jurisdiction.  Each competent authority is to notify the other competent authority when it has reason to believe that CbC reporting is incorrect or incomplete or the reporting entity did not comply with its CbC reporting obligations under domestic law.

The CAAs provide an aggressive implementation schedule.  Generally, a CbC report is intended to be first exchanged with respect to fiscal years of MNEs commencing on or after January 1, 2016 (or January 1, 2017 in the case of Iceland).  This CbC report is intended to be exchanged as soon as possible and no later than 18 months after the last day of the MNE’s fiscal year to which the report relates.  For fiscal years of MNEs commencing on or after January 1, 2017 (or January 1, 2018 in the case of Iceland), the CbC reports are intended to be exchanged as soon as possible and no later than 15 months after the last day of the fiscal year.

In the United States, CbC reporting is required for U.S. persons that are the ultimate parent entity of a MNE with revenue of $850 million or more in the preceding accounting year, for taxable years beginning on or after June 30, 2016, under the IRS’s final regulations issued last summer (see prior coverage).  Reporting entities must file a new Form 8975, the “Country by Country Report,” which the IRS is currently developing.

We will provide updates upon the release of additional CAAs, the Form 8975, and OECD guidance on CbC reporting.

IRS FATCA Portal Now Accepting FFI Agreement Renewals

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June 6, 2017

Today, the IRS announced that it has updated the FATCA registration system to allow foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to renew their FFI agreements.  A new link, “Renew FFI Agreement” appears on the registration portal’s home page allowing a financial institution (FI) to determine whether it must renew its FFI agreement (see prior coverage).  The FI can review and edit its registration form and information, and renew its FFI agreement.

All FIs whose prior FFI agreement expired on December 31, 2016, and that wish to retain their Global Intermediary Identification Number (GIIN) must do so by July 31, 2017, to be treated as having in effect an FFI agreement as of January 1, 2017.  FFIs that are required to update their FFI agreement and that do not do so by July 31, 2017, will be treated as having terminated their FFI agreement as of January 1, 2017, and may be removed from the IRS’s FFI list, potentially subjecting them to withholding under FATCA.

IRS Approves First Group of Certified PEOs under Voluntary Certification Program

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June 5, 2017

Last week, the IRS announced that it issued notices of certification to 84 organizations that applied for voluntary certification as a certified professional employer organization (CPEO), nearly a year after the IRS finished implementing this program (see prior coverage).  The IRS will publish the CPEO’s name, address, and effective date of certification, once it has received the surety bond.  Applicants that have yet to receive a notice of certification will receive a decision from the IRS in the coming weeks and months.

Congress enacted Code sections 3511 and 7705 in late 2014 to establish a voluntary certification program for professional employer organizations (PEOs), which generally provide employers (customers) with payroll and employment services.  Unlike a PEO, a CPEO is treated as the employer of any individual performing services for a customer with respect to wages and other compensation paid to the individual by the CPEO.  Thus, a CPEO is solely responsible for its customers’ payroll tax—i.e., FICA, FUTA, and RRTA taxes, and Federal income tax withholding—liabilities, and is a “successor employer” who may tack onto the wages it pays to the employees to those already paid by the customers earlier in the year.  The customers remain eligible for certain wage-related credits as if they were still the common law employers of the employees.  To become and remain certified, CPEOs must meet certain tax compliance, background, experience, business location, financial reporting, bonding, and other requirements.

The impact of the CPEO program outside the payroll-tax world has been limited thus far.  For instance, certification does not provide greater flexibility for PEO sponsorship of qualified employee benefit plans.  In the employer-provided health insurance context, the certification program leaves unresolved issues for how PEOs and their customers comply with the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate (see prior coverage).  While the ACA’s employer mandate may become effectively repealed should the Senate pass the new American Health Care Act (AHCA) after the House of Representatives did so last month (see prior coverage here and here), the AHCA would impose its own information reporting requirements on employers with respect to offers of healthcare coverage or lack of eligible healthcare coverage for their employees.  It remains to be seen if the AHCA becomes law, what information reporting requirements will remain, and how PEOs and CPEOs can alleviate these obligations for their customers.

First Friday FATCA Update

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June 2, 2017

Since our last FATCA Update, the IRS has published a reminder that foreign financial institutions (FFIs) required by FATCA to renew their FFI agreements must do so by July 31, 2017.  The IRS released an updated FFI agreement on December 30, 2016, that is effective on or after January 1, 2017 (see prior coverage).  All financial institutions (FIs) whose prior FFI agreement expired on December 31, 2016, and that wish to retain their Global Intermediary Identification Number (GIIN) must do so by July 31, 2017 to be treated as having in effect an FFI agreement as of January 1, 2017.  According to the IRS, a new “Renew FFI Agreement” link will become available on the FFI’s account homepage in a future update to the FATCA registration portal.

Generally, FATCA requires the following types of FIs to renew their FFI agreements: participating FFIs not covered by an intergovernmental agreement (IGA); reporting Model 2 FFIs; reporting Model 1 FFIs operating branches outside of Model 1 jurisdictions.  By contrast, renewal is not required for reporting Model 1 FFIs that are not operating branches outside of Model 1 jurisdictions; registered deemed-compliant FFIs (regardless of location); sponsoring entities; direct reporting non-financial foreign entities (NFFEs); and trustees of trustee-documented trust.

Since our last update, Treasury has not published any new intergovernmental agreements (IGAs), and the IRS has not published any new competent authority agreements (CAAs).  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.

Information Reporting Provisions of AHCA Unchanged from Earlier Bill

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May 5, 2017

Yesterday, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on a near party-line vote, 217-213.  The legislation would repeal many provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but would retain and expand many of the ACA’s information reporting requirements.  After the House failed to pass the AHCA in late March, Republicans have worked to secure additional support for the legislation.

Although Republicans made changes to the legislation to enable it to pass the House, those changes do not substantively effect the information reporting provisions, including the new health insurance coverage credit reporting under section 6050X beginning in 2020, Form W-2 reporting of employer offers of coverage beginning in 2020, and the additional reporting required by providers of minimal essential coverage under Code section 6055.  (See earlier coverage here.)

The legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where budget reconciliation rules and tepid support from some Republicans may make it difficult to secure passage.

IRS Provides Interim Guidance for Claiming Payroll Tax Credit for Research Activities

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April 19, 2017

The Treasury and the IRS recently released Notice 2017-23 providing interim guidance related to  the payroll tax credit for research expenditures by qualified small businesses under Code § 3111(f).  (See prior coverage.)  Specifically, the notice provides interim guidance on the time and manner of making the payroll tax credit election and claiming the credit, and on the definitions of “qualified small business” and “gross receipts.”  Comments are requested by July 17, 2017.

Code § 41(a) provides a research tax credit against federal income taxes.  Effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015, Code §§ 41(h) and 3111(f) allow a “qualified small business” to elect to apply a portion of the § 41(a) research credit against the employer portion of the social security tax under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act.  Generally, a corporation, partnership, or individual is a qualified small business if its “gross receipts” are less than $5 million and the entity did not have gross receipts more than 5 years ago.  The election must be made on or before the due date of the tax return for the taxable year (e.g., Form 1065 for a partnership, or Form 1120-S for an S corporation).  The amount elected shall not exceed $250,000, and each quarter, the amount that the employer may claim is capped by the employer portion of the social security tax imposed for that calendar quarter.

The notice provides that, to make a payroll tax credit election, a qualified small business must attach a completed Form 6765 to its timely filed (including extensions) return for the taxable year to which the election applies.  The notice provides interim relief for qualified small businesses that timely filed returns for taxable years on or after December 31, 2015, but failed to make the payroll tax credit election.  In this case, the entity may make the election on an amended return filed on or before December 31, 2017.  To do so, the business must either: (1) indicate on the top of its Form 6765 that the form is “FILED PURSUANT TO NOTICE 2017-23”; or (2) attach a statement to this effect to the Form 6765.

A qualified small business can claim the payroll tax credit on its Form 941 for the first calendar quarter beginning after it makes the election by filing the Form 6765.  Similarly, if the qualified small business files annual employment tax returns, it may claim the credit for the return that includes the first quarter beginning after the date on which the business files the election.  A qualified small business claiming the credit must attach a completed Form 8974 to the employment tax return.  On the Form 8974, the taxpayer filing the employment tax return claiming the credit provides the Employer Identification Number (EIN) used on the Form 6765.

For qualified small businesses filing quarterly employment tax returns, they must use the Form 8974 to apply the social security tax limit to the amount of the payroll tax credit it elected on Form 6765 and to determine the amount of the credit allowed on its quarterly employment tax return.  If the payroll tax credit elected exceeds the employer portion of the social security tax for that quarter, then the excess determined on the Form 8974 is carried over to the succeeding calendar quarter(s), subject to applicable social security tax limitation(s).

The notice also provides guidance for purposes of defining a “qualified small business.”  Specifically, the notice provides that the term “gross receipts” is determined under Code § 448(c)(3) (without regard to Code § 448(c)(3)(A)) and Treas. Reg. § 1.448-1T(f)(2)(iii) and (iv)), rather than Code § 41(c)(7) and Treas. Reg. § 1.41-3(c).  Therefore, gross receipts for purposes of the notice do not, as Treas. Reg. § 1.41- 3(c) does, exclude amounts representing returns or allowances, receipts from the sale or exchange of capital assets under Code § 1221, repayments of loans or similar instruments, returns from a sale or exchange not in the ordinary course of business, and certain other amounts.

IRS Guidance on Reporting W-2/SSN Data Breaches

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April 6, 2017

The IRS recently laid out reporting procedures for employers and payroll service providers that have fallen victim to various Form W-2 phishing scams.  In many of these scams, the perpetrator poses as an executive in the company and requests Form W-2 and Social Security Number (SSN) information from an employee in the company’s payroll or human resources departments (see prior coverage).  If successful, the perpetrator will immediately try to monetize the stolen information by filing fraudulent tax returns claiming a refund, selling the information on the black market, or using the names and SSNs to commit other crimes.  Thus, time is of the essence when responding to these data breaches.

According to the IRS’s instructions, an employer or payroll service provider that suffers a Form W-2 data loss should immediately notify the following parties:

  1. IRS. The entity should email dataloss@irs.gov, with “W2 Data Loss” in the subject line, and provide the following information: (a) business name; (b) business employer identification number (EIN) associated with the data loss; (c) contact name; (d) contact phone number; (e) summary of how the data loss occurred; and (f) volume of employees impacted.  This notification should not include any employee personally identifiable information data.  Moreover, the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media channels to request personal or financial information.  Thus, these types of requests should not be taken as IRS requests.
  2. State tax agencies. Since any data loss could affect the victim’s tax accounts with the states, the affected entity should email the Federal Tax Administrators at StateAlert@taxadmin.org for information on how to report the victim’s information to the applicable states.
  3. Other law enforcement officials. The entity should file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), and may be asked to file a report with their local law enforcement agency.
  4. Employees. The entity should ask its employees to review the IRS’s Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft and IRS Publication 5027 (Identity Theft Information for Taxpayers).  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that victims of identity theft take various immediately actions, including: (a) filing a complaint with the FTC at identitytheft.gov; (b) contacting one of the three major credit bureaus to place a “fraud alert” on the victim’s credit card records; and (c) closing any financial or credit accounts opened by identity thieves.

The IRS has also established technical reporting requirements for employers and payroll service providers that only received the phishing email without falling victim.  Tax professionals who experience a data loss also should promptly report the loss pursuant to the IRS’s procedures.

House Republicans’ ACA Repeal-and-Replace Bill Would Change Health Coverage Reporting Requirements

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March 7, 2017

A House Republican bill, entitled the American Health Care Act, would repeal many provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but retain and expand the information reporting rules.  Released on March 6, the proposal consists of two parts: (1) a bill drafted by the House Ways and Means Committee, to eliminate the ACA’s taxes and income-based subsidies, zero out penalties for the individual and employer mandates, and establish a new individual tax credit; and (2) a bill drafted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to freeze and reform Medicaid.

The Ways & Means bill would help taxpayers pay for health insurance by expanding health savings accounts, and by providing an advanceable, refundable tax credit—the “health insurance coverage” credit—for purchasing state-approved, major medical health insurance and unsubsidized COBRA coverage.  Unlike the leaked bill obtained by Politico on February 24, the bills do not cap the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance.  Although the legislation is unlikely to pass in its current form, as it is headed for markup by the two Committees later this week, it does provide insight into the thinking of House Republicans.

Those hoping for a full repeal of the ACA’s reporting provisions will be disappointed as the ACA’s reporting regime would largely survive, at least temporarily.  Applicable large employers (ALEs), for instance, would still be required to file Forms 1094-C and 1095-C pursuant to Code section 6056, even though the bill would reduce penalties for failure to comply with the employer mandate to zero beginning in 2016.  Similarly, the Ways & Means bill does not eliminate the requirement for providers of minimum essential coverage to report coverage on Form 1095-B (or Form 1095-C) despite eliminating the penalty on individuals for failing to maintain coverage.

However, the Ways & Means bill would alter health insurance reporting in three ways.  First, the bill would establish new information reporting rules under Code section 6050X for the health insurance coverage credit beginning in 2020.  Second, the bill would expand information reporting under Code section 6055 regarding the ACA’s premium tax credits used for qualifying off-Exchange coverage in 2018 and 2019.  Third, the bill would repeal the additional Medicare tax and thereby eliminate employers’ corresponding reporting and withholding obligations beginning in 2020.

New Reporting Rules for Health Insurance Coverage Credits Beginning in 2020

The bill would replace the ACA’s premium tax credit with the health insurance coverage credit for purchasing eligible health insurance—state-approved, major medical health insurance and unsubsidized COBRA coverage—starting in 2020.  Generally, an individual is eligible for this credit only if he or she lacks access to government health insurance programs or offer of employer coverage.  The credit amount varies from $2,000 to $4,000 annually per person based on age, and phases out for those earning over $75,000 per year ($150,000 for joint filers).  The credit maxes out at $14,000 per family, and is capped by the actual amount paid for eligible health insurance.  Treasury would be required to establish a program for making advance payments of the credit, on behalf of eligible taxpayers, to providers of eligible health insurance or designated health savings accounts no later than 2020.

Reporting for Health Insurance Coverage Credit.  To administer the health insurance coverage credit, the bill would create Code section 6050X that would require providers of eligible health insurance to file information returns with the IRS and furnish taxpayer statements, starting in 2020.  The return must contain the following information: (a) the name, address, and taxpayer identification number (TIN) of each covered individual; (b) the premiums paid under the policy; (c) the amount of advance payments made on behalf of the individual; (d) the months during which the individual is covered under the policy; (e) whether the policy constitutes a high deductible health plan; and (f) any other information as Treasury may prescribe.  The bill does not specify how often providers would be required to file returns reporting this information with the IRS, but it would authorize Treasury to require a provider to report on a monthly basis if the provider receives advance payments.  A provider would also be required to furnish taxpayers, by January 31 of the year after the year of coverage, written statements containing the following information: (a) the name, address, and basic contact information of the covered entity required to file the return; and (b) the information required to be shown on the return with respect to the individual.

Employer Statement for Advance Payment Application.  The advance payment program would require an applicant—if he or she (or any qualifing family member taken into account to determine the credit amount) is employed—to submit a written statement from the applicable employer stating whether the applicant or the qualifying family member is eligible for “other specified coverage” in connection with the employment.  Other specified coverage generally includes coverage under an employer-provided group health plan (other than unsubsidized COBRA continuation coverage or plan providing excepted benefits), Medicare Part A, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and certain other government sponsored health insurance programs.  An employer shall provide this written statement at the request of any employee once the advance payment program is established.  This statement is not required if the taxpayer simply seeks the credit without advance payment.

Employer Coverage Reporting on Form W-2.  The bill would require reporting of offers of coverage by employers on the Form W-2 beginning with the 2020 tax year.  Employers would be required to report each month in which the employee is eligible for other specified coverage in connection with employment.  This requirement would likely demand a substantial revision to the current Form W-2, which is already crowded with information.  The Form W-2 reporting requirement appears to be intended to replace the reporting rules under Section 6056 based on a statement in the Ways and Means Committee summary.

Although the budget reconciliation rules limit Congress’s ability to repeal the current coverage reporting rules, the Ways and Means Committee states that Treasury can stop enforcing any reporting not required for tax purposes.  Given the elimination of penalties for individuals who fail to maintain minimum essential coverage and ALEs that fail to offer coverage, this statement may serve as a green light to undo many of the Form 1095-B and 1095-C reporting requirements once the ACA’s premium tax credits are eliminated and Form W-2 reporting is in place in 2020.

Reasonable Cause Waiver.  The bill would make these new information returns and written statements subject to the standard information reporting penalties under Code section 6721 (penalties for late, incomplete, or incorrect filing with IRS) and Code section 6722 (penalties for late, incomplete, or incorrect statements furnished to payees).  The bill also extends the reasonable cause waiver under Code section 6724 to information reporting penalties with respect to the new health insurance coverage credit returns, so that the IRS may waive such penalties if the failure is “due to reasonable cause and not to willful neglect.”

Transitional Reporting Rules for Premium Tax Credits in 2018 and 2019

The Ways & Means bill would allow the ACA’s premium tax credits to be used for off-Exchange qualified health plans in 2018 and 2019 before eliminating the credits in 2020.  The premium tax credit is a refundable, income-based credit that helps eligible individuals and families pay premiums for coverage under a “qualified health plan,” which, under current law, only includes plans sold on ACA Exchanges, and does not include catastrophic-only health plans.  The bill, however, would expand the definition of qualified health plan to include off-Exchange and catastrophic-only health insurance plans that otherwise meet the requirements for a qualified health plan, so that these types of plans would also be eligible for the premium tax credit.  Advance payment of the credit is only available for coverage enrolled in through an Exchange.

To aid in the administration of the expanded credit, the bill would amend Code section 6055(b) to require providers of minimum essential coverage to report certain information related to premium tax credits for off-Exchange qualified health plans.  Because employer-sponsored coverage does not qualify for the credit, employers sponsoring self-insured plans generally would not be required to report additional information on the Form 1095-C beyond that already required under Code sections 6055 and 6056.  Health insurance issuers who provide coverage eligible for the credit would be required to report annually to the IRS: (a) a statement that the plan is a qualified health plan (determined without regard to whether the plan is offered on an Exchange); (b) the premiums paid for the coverage; (c) the months during which this coverage was provided to the individual; (d) the adjusted monthly premium for the applicable second lowest cost silver plan for each month of coverage; and (e) any other information as Treasury may prescribe.  These new reporting requirements would apply only in 2018 and 2019, before the premium tax credit is scrapped and replaced by the health insurance coverage credit in 2020.

Repeal of Additional Medicare Tax

The bill would also repeal the additional Medicare tax under Code section 3101(b)(2), beginning in 2018.  This 0.9% tax is imposed on an employee’s wages in excess of a certain threshold (e.g., $200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for joint filers).  Under current law, employers are required to withhold and remit additional Medicare taxes when it pays wages to an employee over $200,000.  The additional Medicare tax has complicated the process for correcting employment tax errors because unlike other FICA taxes (and more like income tax withholding) the additional Medicare tax is paid on the employee’s individual income tax return.  As a result, the employer cannot make changes to the amount of additional Medicare tax reported after the end of the calendar year.  The elimination of the additional Medicare tax will likely be welcomed by employers and employees affected by it.  In addition, the bill would also repeal the net investment income tax that expanded the Medicare portion of FICA taxes to non-wage income for individuals with incomes in excess of certain thresholds.

What to Expect Next

The fate of the legislation is uncertain, and it will likely undergo substantive changes before House Republicans move the bill to the floor.  A key issue that House Republicans are reportedly debating is how to structure the health insurance coverage tax credit.  Additionally, the decision to eliminate the cap on tax breaks for employer-provided health insurance that was included in the draft language leaked in late February may mean that the legislative proposal will need to be amended to include another funding source.  However these issues are resolved, the legislation makes it clear that a health insurance reporting regime is likely to survive Republicans’ ACA repeal-and-replace efforts.  We will continue to monitor further developments on the proposal and its impact on the information reporting regime for health insurance coverage.

Discharge of Federal Student Loans Not Income to Defrauded Students; Creditors Relieved From Information Reporting Regarding Discharge

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January 23, 2017

The IRS announced in Rev. Proc. 2017-24 that creditors of federal student loans made to former students of American Career Institutes, Inc. (ACI) that were discharged under the Department of Education’s “Defense to Repayment” or “Closed School” discharge processes need not file or furnish a Form 1099-C reporting the loan discharge.  Former ACI students whose loans were discharged do not need include in income the amount of the loans discharged.  Only the federal loans discharged under one of the two named processes are subject to the relief.

Two years ago, in Rev. Proc. 2015-57, the IRS provided the same income exclusion under the same conditions to former students defrauded by Corinthian Colleges, Inc.  However, unlike Rev. Proc. 2017-24, Rev. Proc. 2015-57 did not alleviate the information reporting obligations under Code section 6050P for the creditors of those loans.  Rev. Proc. 2017-24 amends the earlier revenue procedure to eliminate the reporting requirement for loans made to former Corinthian College students whose loans were discharged.  Thus, these creditors need not file Forms 1099-C with the IRS or furnish payee statements regarding the loan discharges.

Under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), the Closed School discharge process allows DOE to discharge a Federal student loan obtained by a student, or by a parent on behalf of a student, who was attending a school at the time it closed or who withdrew from the school within a certain period before the closing date.  Federal student loans for this purpose include Federal Family Education Loans, Federal Perkins Loans, and Federal Director Loans.  The HEA excludes from income the amount of these loans discharged under the Closed School discharge process.

Under the Defense to Repayment discharge process, DOE must discharge a Federal Direct Loan if the borrower establishes, as a defense against repayment, that a school’s actions would give rise to a cause of action against the school under applicable state law.  Federal Family Education Loans can also be discharged under this process if certain other requirements are met.  Although the HEA does not exclude from income the amount of loans discharged under this process, two other authorities are relevant.  First, a common law tax principle is that a debt that is reduced due to a legal infirmity relating back to the original sale transaction (e.g., fraud) is not income to the extent of the debt reduction.  Second, under Code section 108(a)(1)(B), a taxpayer may exclude from income a discharge of indebtedness to the extent the taxpayer is insolvent.  The Treasury and IRS concluded that all or most borrowers who took out Federal student loans to attend ACI-owned schools are eligible for one or both of these exclusions.

IRS Begins Requesting Missing ACA Returns from Employers

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January 19, 2017

Despite an uncertain future for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the IRS is moving forward with enforcement efforts for 2015.  Employers have recently begun receiving IRS Letter 5699 requesting Forms 1094-C and 1095-C for 2015.  The letter notifies the recipient that it may have been an applicable large employer (ALE) in 2015 with ACA reporting obligations and that the IRS has not yet received Forms 1095-C for 2015.  The returns were due on June 30, 2016, for electronic filings through the ACA Information Reporting (AIR) system, or May 31, 2016, for paper filing (see prior coverage).

The letter requires that, within 30 days from the date of the letter, the recipient must provide one of the following responses: (1) the recipient was an ALE for 2015 and has already filed the returns; (2) the recipient was an ALE for 2015 and is now enclosing the returns with the response; (3) the recipient was an ALE for 2015 and will file the returns by a certain date; (4) the recipient was not an ALE in 2015; or (5) an explanation of why the recipient has not filed the returns and any actions the recipient intends to take.

Code section 6056 requires ALEs to file ACA information returns with the IRS, and furnish statements to full-time employees relating to any health insurance coverage the employer offered the employee.  Failure to file returns may result in penalties under Section 6721 (penalties for late, incomplete, or incorrect filing with IRS) and Section 6722 (penalties for late, incomplete, or incorrect statements furnished to payees, in this case, employees).  Importantly, the “good faith” penalty relief previously announced by the IRS applies only to incorrect or incomplete ACA returns—not to late filing of returns (see prior coverage).  Accordingly, ALEs who failed to file the required returns by the deadline may be subject to penalties of up to $520 for each return they failed to file with the IRS and furnish to employees, in addition to any employer shared responsibility penalties that may apply if the ALE failed to offer the required coverage.

While the change in political administration casts uncertainty on the future of the ACA and its penalties, the IRS’s actions indicate that its enforcement efforts are moving forward.  The request for missing ACA returns may mean that the IRS will begin assessing ACA reporting penalties and employer shared responsibility penalties in the near future.  Accordingly, ALEs that have not yet filed the 2015 ACA returns should do so as soon as possible and timely respond to Letter 5699 if they receive one.

First Friday FATCA Update

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January 6, 2017

Since our last monthly FATCA update, we have addressed several other recent FATCA developments, including a flurry of FATCA-related regulations released by the IRS and Treasury Department:

  • Late Friday, December 30, 2016, the IRS and Treasury Department released four regulation packages related to its implementation of FATCA (see previous coverage).   These regulations largely finalized the 2014 temporary FATCA regulations and 2014 temporary FATCA coordination regulations with the changes that the IRS had previously announced in a series of notices.
  • The final regulations released by the IRS under FATCA on December 30, 2016, finalized the temporary presumption rules promulgated on March 6, 2014 with no substantive changes, but several changes were made to the final coordinating regulations under Chapter 3 and Chapter 61, also released on the same date (see previous coverage).
  • In the preamble to the final FATCA regulations released on December 30, 2016, the IRS rejected a request from a commenter that the regulations be modified to permit a non-financial foreign entity (NFFE) operating in an IGA jurisdiction to determine its Chapter 4 status using the criteria specified in the IGA (see previous coverage).
  • The IRS released final agreements for foreign financial institutions (FFIs) and qualified intermediaries (QIs) to enter into with the IRS, set forth in Revenue Procedure 2017-16 and Revenue Procedure 2017-15, respectively (see previous coverage).
  • Two FATCA transition rules expired on January 1, 2017:  One related to limited branches and limited FFIs, and one related to the deadline for sponsoring entities to register their sponsored entities with the IRS (see previous coverage).
  • The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2016-56 to add to the list of countries subject to the reporting requirements of Code section 6049, which generally relate to reporting on bank interest paid to nonresident alien individuals (see previous coverage).
  • The IRS issued Notice 2016-76 providing phased-in application of certain section 871(m) withholding rules applicable to dividend equivalents, and easing several reporting and withholding requirements for withholding agents and qualified derivatives dealers (QDDs) (see previous coverage).

In addition, the Treasury Department recently released the Intergovernmental Agreements (IGA) entered into between the United States and the following treaty partners, in these respective forms:

  • Grenada, Model 1B;
  • Macau, Model 2;
  • Taiwan, Model 2.

Further, the IRS released the Competent Authority Agreement (CAA) implementing the Model 1A IGA between the United States and Guyana entered into on October 17, 2016.

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 Guidance Provides Transition Relief for Withholding Agents and Qualified Derivative Dealers under Section 871(m)

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December 7, 2016

Last week, the IRS issued Notice 2016-76 providing phased-in application of certain section 871(m) withholding rules applicable to dividend equivalents.  In addition to providing good-faith relief to certain transactions in 2017 and 2018, the Notice eases several reporting and withholding requirements for withholding agents and qualified derivatives dealers (QDDs).

Section 871(m) of the Code imposes withholding on certain payments that are determined by reference to or contingent upon the payment of a U.S. source dividend.  Thus, when a foreign financial institution issues derivatives based on U.S. equities to non-U.S. investors, it must withhold on the dividend payments it makes to the non-U.S. investors.  In 2015, the IRS issued final and temporary regulations (T.D. 9734) specifying certain withholding and reporting requirements under section 871(m).  Earlier this summer, the IRS proposed a qualified intermediary (QI) agreement (Notice 2016-42) that spells out a new QDD regime, which was developed to mitigate cascading withholding that would occur as a result of the withholding requirements imposed on dividend equivalents (see prior coverage).

Good-Faith Relief

Notice 2016-76 provides good-faith transition relief during 2017 for delta-one transactions and during 2018 for non-delta-one transactions.  (Delta means the “ratio of a change in the fair market value of a contract to a small change in the fair market value of the property referenced by the contract.”  A delta-one transaction is a transaction in which changes in the fair market value of the derivative precisely mirror changes in the fair market value of the underlying property.)  The IRS will take into account the extent to which a taxpayer or withholding agent made “a good faith effort” to comply with the section 871(m) regulations.  Relevant factors include a withholding agent’s efforts to build or update documentation and withholding systems and comply with the transition rules under Notice 2016-76.

Quarterly Deposit of Withholdings in 2017

During 2017, a withholding agent will be considered to have satisfied the deposit requirements for section 871(m) dividend equivalent payments if it deposits amounts withheld during any calendar quarter by the last day of that quarter.  The agent should write “Notice 2016-76” on the center, top portion of the 2017 Form 1042.

Qualified Derivative Dealers

The Notice also eased, in four ways, the reporting obligations of intermediaries applying for QDD status.  First, the IRS’s enforcement of the QDD rules and the 871(m) regulations in 2017 will take into account good-faith efforts by intermediaries to comply with the regulations and the QI agreement.

Second, the Notice allows an intermediary to certify its QDD status during interim periods.  Generally, a QDD must provide a valid Form W-8IMY certifying QDD status to a withholding agent, and the agent is not required to withhold on its payments regarding a potential or actual section 871(m) transaction to a QDD in its QDD capacity.  An intermediary that has submitted a QI application by March 31, 2017 may claim QDD status on Form W-8IMY for six months after submitting the application, pending approval of its QI agreement and QDD status.  If an intermediary has not yet submitted a QI application but intends to do so by March 31, 2017, it may claim QDD status on Form W-8IMY until the end of the sixth full month after the month in which it actually submits the QI application (provided the application is submitted by March 31, 2017).  An intermediary may not represent QDD status if it no longer intends to submit an application by March 31, 2017, or if its application has been denied.

Third, the Notice allows an intermediary to provide a Form W-8IMY certifying its QDD status to a withholding agent before it has received a QI-EIN from the IRS.  The intermediary must write “awaiting QI-EIN” on line 8 of Part I of the Form W-8IMY.  While the intermediary must provide its QI-EIN to the withholding agent as soon as practicable after receiving it, the intermediary need not provide a newly executed form, provided the original form remains accurate and valid.  If QDD status is denied, however, an intermediary must notify the withholding agent immediately, and the agent must notify the IRS such notification when it files its Form 1042, listing the name and EIN (if available) of any intermediary whose QDD status was withdrawn for any of these reasons.

A withholding agent may rely on the “awaiting QI-EIN” statement unless it knows or has reason to know that the intermediary cannot validly represent that it is a QDD.  Thus, a withholding agent is not required to determine when a QDD has applied for or actually possesses a QI agreement.  Nor is it required to verify whether a QDD’s EIN is a QI-EIN.  A withholding agent may only rely on an “awaiting QI-EIN” statement for up to six months after receiving the form, unless a QI-EIN is provided within that time.

Fourth, the Notice provides that failure-to-deposit penalties will not be assessed against a QDD before it actually receives its QI-EIN (which the IRS issues upon approving a QI application).  This relief from penalty is available only if the QDD deposits the amounts withheld within 3 days of receiving its QI-EIN.  Extended relief is available to a QDD that applies to enroll in the Electronic Federal Tax Payment Systems (EFTPS) within 30 days of receiving a QI-EIN, provided that the QDD deposits the amounts withheld within 3 days of enrolling in EFTPS.

Other Rules

The Notice also addressed other issues under the section 871(m) regulations.  Specifically, the Notice provided: (a) a simplified standard that withholding agents may use to determine whether transactions are combined transactions under Treas. Reg. §1.871-15(n); (b) a net-delta exposure test for a QDD’s section 871(m) amount; and (c) transition relief for certain existing exchange-traded notes listed in section V.d of the Notice until January 1, 2020.

IRS Extends Transitional Relief for PATH Act’s Changes to Form 1098-T Reporting for Colleges and Universities

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November 17, 2016

In Announcement 2016-42, the IRS recently provided transitional penalty relief to certain colleges and universities with respect to new Form 1098-T reporting requirements under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015.  Specifically, the IRS will not impose penalties under Code section 6721 or 6722 on an eligible educational institution with respect to Forms 1098-T required to be filed and furnished for the 2017 calendar year, if the institution reports the total amount billed for qualified tuition and related expenses instead of the total payments received, as required by section 212 of the PATH Act.  This transitional relief for 2017 reporting effectively extends the same transitional relief for 2016 reporting in Announcement 2016-17, released this spring (see prior coverage).  In both instances, the IRS provided transitional relief because numerous eligible educational institutions indicated that, despite their diligent efforts, they have not fully implemented accounting systems, software, and business practices necessary to satisfy the new reporting requirement.

Earlier this year, the IRS issued proposed regulations to reflect other changes made to the Form 1098-T reporting requirements by Congress as part of the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 (TPEA) and the PATH Act (see prior coverage).

Final Regulations Amend Section 6050P Regulations to Remove 36-Month Nonpayment Testing Period

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November 15, 2016

Last week, the IRS issued final regulations removing the 36-month nonpayment testing period from the regulations issued under section 6050P of the Code.  The final regulations adopted the proposed regulations issued in 2014 without significant changes.

Code section 6050P requires certain financial entities to file a Form 1099-C when it cancels (in whole or in part) debt of a debtor in the amount of $600 or more.  This obligation is generally triggered when an identifiable event, as defined in the regulations, occurs.  Unlike all of the other identifiable events, the expiration of the 36-month nonpayment period, which creates a rebuttable presumption that an “identifiable event” occurred that would trigger the obligation to report the cancellation of debt on Form 1099-C, does not necessarily reflect a discharge of the underlying debt.  The presumption of discharge could be rebutted if the creditor showed that it had undertaken significant bona fide collection activity in the calendar year during which the 36-month period expired or if the facts and circumstances existing as of the January 31 following such calendar year indicated the debt had not been discharged.

As a result of the final regulations, entities required to report under Section 6050P will no longer need to file Form 1099-C reporting cancellation of debt because of the expiration of the 36-month nonpayment period and the lack of bona fide collection activity.  The IRS removed the rule because it often caused significant confusion.  Although a creditor could be obligated to file a Form 1099-C as a result of the rule, the creditor may not have actually discharged the debt.  Nonetheless, the rule may lead a debtor to conclude that the debt has actually been discharged because he or she received a Form 1099-C and the rule may create confusion among creditors regarding whether they may legally continue to pursue the debt following issuance of the Form 1099-C.  (For examples, see FDIC v. Cashion (holding that the issuance of Form 1099-C does not discharge the underlying debt) and Franklin Credit Mgmt. Corp. v. Nicholas (holding that Form 1099-C is a writing that serves as prima facie evidence that a debt has been discharged).)  Furthermore, issuing a Form 1099-C may cause the IRS to initiate collection action against the debtor for failing to report income from the cancellation of debt reported on Form 1099-C even though the creditor has not actually discharged the debt.  To alleviate confusion and simplify tax administration, the IRS eliminated the 36-month nonpayment testing period, thus limiting identifiable events to the defined events that coincide with an actual cancellation of debt.

New Bill Would Exempt Premiums Paid on Non-Cash-Value Property Insurance From FATCA Withholding

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October 13, 2016

Rep. Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.) recently introduced in the House of Representatives a bill that would exempt premiums paid on non-cash-value property and casualty insurance from coverage under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).  Specifically, H.R. 6159 would amend the definition of “withholdable payment,” to which FATCA reporting and withholding rules apply, under Code Section 1473(1) to exempt premiums paid for any insurance contract that has an aggregate cash value of zero or less, and that is not considered for purposes of determining whether the insurance company is a life insurance company under Code Section 816.  Cash value generally means the amount that is payable to the policyholder upon policy surrender or termination, or that can be borrowed, except that cash value does not include any death, sickness, or casualty loss benefit, refund of and dividends not exceeding premiums paid (less cost of insurance charges), and certain advance premium or deposit.  In other words, the proposed bill would exclude from FATCA coverage premiums paid on property and casualty insurance that does not have an investment or earnings component.

Currently, FATCA withholding potentially applies to all insurance premiums, regardless of whether the premiums are for life insurance, annuities, or property and casualty coverage, if the payments are made to a nonparticipating FFI or passive NFFE.  However, many non-U.S. property and casualty insurers are excepted NFFEs that are not subject to withholding.  The proposed legislation would streamline the documentation process required for withholding agents making property and casualty insurance premium payments for U.S. risks as the withholding agents would no longer be required to document the FATCA status of the insurance company they are paying.  Because such premiums are generally not subject to Chapter 3 withholding, the premium payments could in many cases be made without the need for a Form W-8BEN-E from the insurer.  Some insurance buyers currently pay premiums to foreign insurance companies through a U.S. insurance broker to avoid the requirement to collect documentation from non-U.S. insurers because the FATCA rules treat such payments as a payment to a U.S. person, provided that the buyer does not know or have reason to know that the broker will not comply with its withholding obligations under FATCA.

September 28 Deadline Approaches For Work Opportunity Tax Credit Certification

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September 27, 2016

The IRS recently reminded employers to certify certain new hires by September 28 to qualify for the newly expanded Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC).  The WOTC is a federal tax credit available to employers who hire eligible workers—e.g., certain veterans, public assistance recipients—who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment.  Congress enacted the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act last December, which retroactively extended the WOTC for nine categories of eligible workers hired on or after January 1, 2015, and adding a tenth category for certain long-term unemployment recipients hired on or after January 1, 2016.  Accordingly, the ten categories of eligible workers include:

  • Qualified IV-A Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients;
  • Unemployed veterans, including disabled veterans;
  • Ex-felons;
  • Designated community residents living in Empowerment Zones or Rural Renewal Counties;
  • Vocational rehabilitation referrals;
  • Summer youth employees living in Empowerment Zones;
  • Food stamp (SNAP) recipients;
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients;
  • Long-term family assistance recipients;
  • Qualified long-term unemployment recipients (who begin work after 2015).

To qualify for the WOTC, an employer normally must first request certification by filing the IRS’s Form 8850 with the applicable state workforce agency within 28 days after the eligible worker begins to work.  Under the transition relief, however, the certification deadline is extended to September 28, 2016, for eligible workers hired between January 1, 2015, and August 31, 2016.  To claim the WOTC when filing its income tax returns, an employer calculates the WOTC on Form 5884, and claims it as a general business credit on Form 3800.

Additional requirements for claiming the WOTC credit can be found in the instructions to Form 8850, Notice 2016-22, and Notice 2016-40.

First Friday FATCA Update

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August 5, 2016

Recently, the IRS released the Competent Authority Agreements (CAAs) implementing the Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs) between the United States and the following treaty partners:

  • Georgia (Model 1B IGA signed on July 10, 2015);
  • British Virgin Islands (Model 1B IGA signed on June 30, 2014).

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

  • The IRS announced that on January 1, 2017, Treasury will update the IGA list to provide that certain jurisdictions that have not brought their IGA into force will no longer be treated as if they have an IGA in effect (see previous coverage).
  • The United States and Singapore issued a joint statement announcing that they are negotiating a Tax Information Exchange Agreement and Reciprocal Model 1A IGA to replace the nonreciprocal Model 1B IGA currently in effect (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.

Treasury to Remove Jurisdictions from List of Countries Treated as Having IGAs in Effect

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August 1, 2016

Last week, the IRS announced that on January 1, 2017, the U.S. Treasury will remove some jurisdictions from the list of foreign jurisdictions that are treated as having intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) in effect.  To remain on the list after December 31, 2016, each jurisdiction that seeks to continue to be treated as having an IGA in effect must provide to the Treasury a detailed explanation of its failure to bring an IGA into force and a step-by-step plan and timeline for signing the IGA, or if the IGA has already been signed, to bring the IGA into force.  Since 2013, the Treasury has provided a list of jurisdictions that are as having an IGA in force as long as the jurisdiction is taking “reasonable steps” or showing “firm resolve” to sign the IGA (if no IGA has been signed) or to bring the IGA into force.

As of today, the United States has signed IGAs with 83 jurisdictions and 61 of those IGAs are in effect.  Another 30 jurisdictions are considered to have an agreement in substance, but have not yet signed an IGA.  The jurisdictions who are treated as having an IGA in effect that have not yet signed an agreement or who have signed an agreement but not yet brought it into effect are: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Bahrain, Belgium, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Macao, Malaysia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, South Korea, St. Lucia, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.

Under FATCA, an IGA is a bilateral agreement between the United States and a foreign jurisdiction to collect information related to U.S. accountholders at foreign financial institutions (FFIs) in the foreign jurisdiction and transmit the information to the IRS.  If a foreign jurisdiction lacks an IGA in force, then FFIs in that jurisdiction face greater FATCA compliance burdens.  First, they must register with the IRS as participating FFIs (rather than registered deemed compliant FFIs) to avoid the mandatory 30% withholding on payments of U.S. source FDAP income that they receive.  This subjects them to the full requirements of the Treasury Regulations governing FATCA rather than the streamlined procedures in the IGAs.  Further, they are often subject to conflicting obligations, because the foreign jurisdiction may have privacy or bank laws that conflict with the disclosure requirements of FATCA.

In the announcement, the IRS stressed that a jurisdiction initially determined to have shown firm resolve to bring an IGA into force will not retain that status indefinitely (e.g., if the jurisdiction fails to follow its proposed plan and timeline for bringing an IGA into force).  If the IRS determines that a jurisdiction ceases to be treated as having an IGA effect, an FFI in the jurisdiction generally will have to enter into a FFI Agreement to comply with the FFI’s FATCA reporting obligations within 60 days.

IRS Simplifies Filing Requirements for Section 83(b) Elections

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July 27, 2016

On July 25, the IRS released final regulations eliminating the requirement that taxpayers making a Section 83(b) election file a copy of the election notice with their federal income tax return.  Under Section 83, the fair market value of property received (less any basis in the property) for the performance of services is generally included in income when the property is no longer subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture or when the taxpayer’s interest in the property is transferable.  However, taxpayers may elect under Section 83(b) to include the property’s fair market value (less any basis in it) as of the date of transfer in income in the year of transfer.  Despite the upfront tax liability, this election may actually defer taxation on the appreciated value of the property and subject the appreciation to capital gains rates rather than ordinary income rates.  Under the prior regulations, taxpayers who make an 83(b) election must submit to the IRS a copy of the election notice not only within 30 days after the date of the transfer, but also with their federal income tax return for the year of the transfer.  Last summer, the Treasury and the IRS proposed to eliminate the latter filing requirement, and after receiving no comments, adopted the final regulations without modification.

The requirement to file an election notice with the annual return was duplicative and easy to miss because taxpayers making an 83(b) election were already required to submit to the IRS the election notice within 30 days after the date of the transfer.  Further, as the IRS explained in the preambles to the proposed regulations, this requirement had become an obstacle to electronic filing of returns for certain taxpayers, since commercial e-filing software does not consistently allow for submitting an 83(b) election notice with the return.  The final regulations apply to transfers on or after January 1, 2016, and taxpayers can also rely on these regulations for transfers in 2015.  As a result, taxpayers are not required to file a copy of any 83(b) election made in 2015 with their 2015 tax returns.

Significantly, the final regulations ease compliance for non-resident alien employees of multinational companies.  Although foreign tax consequences can make transfers of restricted stock to such employees undesirable from the employee’s perspective, it may be desirable for the employee to make a section 83(b) election when restricted stock is transferred.  This is particularly true for start-ups and other companies where the value of the shares is small when granted and is likely to increase.  (It is often undesirable to make an 83(b) election for a mature company where the value of the stock is high at transfer and may decline.)

When nonresident alien employees working outside of the United States receive non-vested equity compensation, they may have no obligation to file a U.S. tax return, and could easily neglect to file a return for purposes of filing the election notice.  (Because the employees are nonresident aliens working outside the United States, the income from their 83(b) elections would presumably be foreign source income resulting in no U.S. income tax due in the year of transfer.)  But if these employees become U.S. residents between the grant and vesting dates, their failure to file nonresident returns and attach the 83(b) election notices would invalidate their 83(b) elections, thereby subjecting the value of the property to U.S. income tax upon vesting based on their U.S. resident status at the time of vesting.  Under the final regulations, these employees – and any other service providers – must simply file an election notice with the IRS within 30 days after the date of the transfer.

Although the final regulations simplified filing obligations under Section 83(b), the IRS emphasized taxpayers’ recordkeeping responsibilities under Section 6001, especially to show the basis of property reported on taxpayers’ returns.  Thus, to protect themselves from tax-return audit liability, executives and other service providers who receive restricted property under an 83(b) election must be careful to keep records of the original cost of the property received, and retain the records until at least the period of the limitations for the returns expires.

IRS Audit Guidelines Provide Insights for Withholding Agents

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July 21, 2016

In audit guidelines contained in a recent International Practice Unit, the IRS advised its agents that when a U.S. business buys intangibles, such as patents, copyrights, formulas, good will, brands, or franchises, from a foreign seller and agrees to pay for them contingent on their productivity, the contingent payments should be treated as royalties.  As such, the payments are potentially subject to withholding under Chapter 3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Generally, Chapter 3 withholding is required on payments to foreign persons of fixed, determinable, annual, or periodical (FDAP) income from sources within the U.S. that are not ECI.  Royalties, such as those from an intangible or a patent, are U.S. source FDAP income if the intangible or patent is used in the U.S.  In contrast, payments for the purchase of an intangible or patent are treated as non-FDAP sales proceeds, and hence are not subject to Chapter 3 withholding.  The IRS’s Practice Unit reminds agents that when a U.S. business buys intangibles, such as patents, from a foreign seller and agrees to pay for them contingent on their productivity, the contingent payments are treated as royalties, not sales proceeds.

Withholding agents should carefully consider whether any payments for intangibles should be treated as royalties and are thus subject to withholding.  The audit guidelines also provide an important reminder to withholding agents about the importance of understanding the source of payments it makes to foreign persons.  The Practice Unit emphasizes that if the source of a payment cannot be determined or is not known, the IRS examiner should treat the amount as U.S. source.  Accordingly, withholding agents should document the source of its payments to foreign persons and ensure that they know whether amounts are U.S. source before making payment to avoid secondary liability for withholding failures.

Proposed QI Agreement Includes Rules for Qualified Derivatives Dealers

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July 7, 2016

The IRS recently issued a proposed qualified intermediary (QI) agreement (Notice 2016-42) that spells out the new qualified derivatives dealer (QDD) regime.  The final QI agreement will be issued later in 2016 and will apply to agreements in starting January 1, 2017, replacing the 2014 QI agreement that will expire on December 31, 2016.  The QDD regime replaces the qualified securities lender (QSL) regime in Notice 2010-46.  The QSL rules will continue to apply for substitute dividend payments made under sale-repurchase or securities lending transactions.

The QDD regime was developed to mitigate cascading withholding that would occur as a result of the withholding requirements imposed on “dividend equivalents.”  Section 871(m) of the Code imposes withholding on certain payments that are determined by reference to or contingent upon the payment of a U.S. source dividend.  As a result, when a foreign financial institution holds U.S. equities and issues derivatives to non-U.S. investors that are based on the stock, it may be subject to withholding on dividend payments made with respect to the underlying equities and have to withhold on the payments it makes to the holders of the derivatives.

Under the proposed QI agreement, only a subset of QIs called “eligible entities” will be permitted to act as QDDs.  Eligible entities are: (1) regulated securities dealers; (2) regulated banks; and (3) certain entities wholly-owned by regulated banks.  Under the QDD regime, a dividend payment to a QDD is not subject to withholding if the QDD provides the withholding agent with a Form W-8IMY indicating the QDD’s status.  The QDD certification is made on Form W-8IMY even though the QDD is acting as a principal with respect to the transaction.

If a QI acts as a QDD, it must act as a QDD for all payments made as a principal with respect to potential Section 871(m) transactions, including any sale-repurchases or securities lending transactions that qualify as such, and all payments received as a principal with respect to potential Section 871(m) transactions and underlying securities, excluding payments effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business. All securities lending and sale-repurchase transactions the QI enters into that are Section 871(m) transactions will be deemed to be entered into by the QI as a principal.

When a QI is acting as a QDD, it must assume primary withholding responsibilities under Chapters 3 and 4 and primary Form 1099 reporting and Section 3406 backup withholding responsibility for all payments related to potential Section 871(m) transactions that it receives as a principal—even if such payments are not dividend equivalent payments.  As a consequence, a QDD will be required to withhold to the extent required for the applicable dividend on the dividend payment date.  In contrast, when a QI is acting as intermediary, i.e., not as a principal, with respect to such a payment, it may choose to act as a QI (and choose whether or not to assume primary withholding and reporting responsibility with respect to the payment) or a nonqualified intermediary (NQI).

A QDD is liable for any tax on any dividends and dividend equivalents it receives in its dealer capacity to the extent the QDD is not contractually required to make offsetting payments that reference the same dividend or dividend equivalent that it received as a dealer.  For purposes of determining the QDD tax liability, payments received by a QDD acting as a proprietary trader are treated as payments received in a non-dealer capacity, while transactions properly reflected in a QDD’s dealer book are presumed to be held in its dealer capacity.  A QDD will reports its QDD tax liability on Form 1042, Annual Withholding Tax Return for U.S. Source Income of Foreign Persons.  When a foreign branch of a U.S. financial institution acts as a QDD, the branch is not required to report the QDD tax liability for income related to potential Section 871(m) transactions and underlying securities; instead, the U.S. financial institution will file the appropriate tax return to report and pay its tax liability.

The proposed QI agreement also updated requirements relating to periodic review and certification of compliance, substitute interest, limitation of benefits for treaty claims, and other items.

ACA E-Filing Deadline Passed

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July 1, 2016

June 30, 2016 was the deadline to file ACA information returns for the year 2015 with the IRS through the ACA Information Reporting (AIR) system. In a QuickAlerts Bulletin, the IRS reiterated that:

• The AIR system will continue to accept information returns filed after June 30, 2016.

• If transmissions or submissions were rejected by the AIR system, the filer has 60 days from the date of rejection to submit a replacement and have the rejected submission treated as timely filed.

• If the filer submitted and received “Accepted with Errors” messages, the entity may continue to submit corrections after June 30, 2016.

The IRS has publicly stated in recent months that a filer of Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C and 1095-C that miss the AIR filing due date will avoid the late filing penalties under section 6721 if the filer has made legitimate efforts to register with the AIR system and to file its information returns, and it continues to make such efforts and completes the process as soon as possible.

Argentina Reported To Begin Negotiating IGA With United States

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June 27, 2016

In the next few weeks, Argentina’s Federal Administration of Public Revenue (AFIP) will begin negotiating an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the U.S. Treasury Department to ease compliance with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”), according to La Nacion. Neither AFIP nor the U.S. Treasury or the IRS, however, has announced possible negotiations. Argentina and Russia are the only two individual countries in the G20 that have yet to enter into IGAs with the United States. Many banks operating in Argentina registered with the IRS as participating FFIs to avoid mandatory 30% withholding on payments of U.S. source FDAP income that they receive. The lack of an IGA complicates compliance because the Argentinian bank secrecy and privacy laws conflict with the disclosure requirements of FATCA. The banks sought to avoid violating such laws by seeking consent from U.S. account holders to disclose the information required by FATCA.

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. The report in La Nacion does not indicate which model Argentina plans to seek, but suggests that they may seek to put in place a Model 1A agreement that would allow for the exchange of information on Argentinian citizens with accounts in U.S. financial institutions.

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 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.

DOJ Repeatedly Signals Intent to Ramp Up Criminal Prosecutions for Employment Tax Failures

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April 14, 2016

The U.S. Department of Justice has recently proposed amendments to the U.S. Sentencing Commission Guidelines Manual (the “Guidelines”) to sharpen criminal prosecution of willful tax violations. Code section 7202 provides that any person who willfully fails to collect or truthfully account for and pay taxes when required shall be guilty of a felony and, if convicted, subject to a fine up to $10,000 and up to five years’ imprisonment. Since 1987, the background commentary in the sentencing guidelines has stated that Code section 7202 violations are “infrequently prosecuted.” In its annual letter to the Sentencing Commission, the Justice Department explained that defense attorneys have been citing this language to argue for more lenient sentences in Code section 7202 cases. The Justice Department recommended that the sentence be deleted because it is no longer true: Prosecutions have grown from three cases in 2002 to 46 cases in 2014. The Sentencing Commission subsequently recommended that the Guidelines be amended to delete the sentence as a requested.

At a Federal Bar Association Tax Law Conference on March 4, 2016, two attorneys from the Justice Department confirmed that the proposed change reflects the Justice Department’s commitment to employment tax enforcement and is dedicating additional resources to Code section 7202 cases. Employment tax withholdings represent 70 percent of all revenue collected by the Internal Revenue Service, and rampant violations are prompting the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute employment tax violations more aggressively. Speaking at the Federal Bar Association Tax Law Conference on March 4, 2016, Caroline. D. Ciraolo, the Department of Justice Tax Division Acting Assistant Attorney General, said that the Justice Department will seek more civil injunctions in employment tax cases, which involve employers who fail to collect, account for, and deposit employment wage withholdings. Employers subject to a civil injunction must pay employment taxes on time, notify the IRS when the taxes have been paid, refrain from assigning property to or paying creditors until the taxpayers have paid employment tax obligations accruing after the date of the injunction, and inform the IRS if they establish a new business.

More recently, Noreene Stehlik, a recently appointed Senior Litigation Counsel at the Department of Justice Tax Division, also affirmed the Justice Department’s commitment to employment tax enforcement. At a D.C. Bar Taxation Section conference on April 13, 2016, Stehlik stated that the Justice Department has, in the first quarter of 2016, sought almost as many civil injunctions as it sought in all of 2015. She added that employers not complying with civil injunctions may be subject to criminal prosecution.

The Justice Department’s more aggressive approach seems to embrace the idea that when an employer, payor, or withholding agent makes the decision to use trust fund taxes (i.e., taxes withheld from employees, taxes withheld for backup withholding purposes, and taxes withheld under Chapters 3 and 4 of the Code) to pay other creditors, the use of such funds is tantamount to theft. Businesses that engage in this practice tend to be in dire straits financially and should not make matters worse by using funds held in trust for the government. Engaging in such practices often leads to personal liability for the individuals approving or making the decisions to improperly use the funds, but may also lead to criminal prosecution based upon recent comments from the Justice Department.

Proposed Regulations on Country-by-Country Reporting Raises Concerns for ABA

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March 24, 2016

On March 23, 2016, the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Taxation commented on proposed Treasury regulations requiring country-by-country (CbC) reporting by U.S. persons that are the ultimate parent entity of a multinational enterprise (MNE) group with annual revenue of $850 million or more in the preceding accounting year.  Issued in December 2015, Proposed Regulation § 1.6038-4 would require these U.S. persons to file annual reports containing information on a CbC basis of a MNE group’s income, taxes paid, and certain indicators of the location of economic activity.

The United States, through bilateral agreements with other tax jurisdictions, may exchange U.S. CbC reports with those tax jurisdictions in which the U.S. MNE group operates. Every information exchange agreement to which the United States is a party requires both parties to treat the information as confidential, implement data safeguards, and use the information only for tax administration purposes. The United States will stop automatic exchange with tax jurisdictions violating those requirements until the violations are cured.

Aimed at combating tax base erosion and international profit shifting, the proposed regulation will give the IRS greater transparency into the operations and tax positions taken by U.S. MNE groups. While the information in a CbC report will not itself constitute conclusive evidence of federal income tax or transfer pricing violations, they may form the basis for the IRS’s further inquiries into transfer pricing practices or other tax matters.

Members of the ABA Taxation Section, while generally supportive of the proposed regulations, urged the IRS to implement changes and provide clarification. Section members expressed concern that the delay of the U.S. effective date to mid-2016 “will cause hardships for U.S. companies because they will be required to submit CbC reports directly to foreign tax authorities for fiscal year 2016 with the concomitant problems of multiple filings and potentially weaker data confidentiality protections.” Further, a mid-year effective date would cause reporting issues for calendar year-end U.S. MNEs with foreign constituents having a 2016 accounting year that begins before the publication date of the final regulations and carries over into 2017.

Regarding the timing and manner of filing reports, section members urged the IRS to allow MNEs (a) to file within a 12-month period after the end of the accounting period to which the report relates, rather than impose an accelerated deadline; and (b) to use mix-source data to generate their CbC reports. Section members also asked the IRS to issue tie-breaker rules for residency determinations, clarify the meaning of “tax jurisdiction of residence” for purposes of determining territorial income, and clarify how partnerships are treated under the $850 million threshold.

ACA Filing Update: AIR Program, Penalties and Corrections

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March 22, 2016

According to recent comments from IRS staff, the launch of the Affordable Care Act Information Returns (AIR) program for electronic filing of ACA-related forms (Forms 1095-B and -C and Forms 1094-B and -C) has been successful.  On March 22, Melodye Mitchell, Chief of Modernized e-File Development Services at the IRS Wage and Investment Division, said that the AIR program has received several million ACA-related forms for the 2015 tax year and has rejected less than two percent of them.  The low rejection rate is good news for practitioners and filers who have been concerned that the system would reject entire filings due to errors based on IRS comments.

With perhaps 100 million total returns expected to be filed and most forms required to be filed electronically, the AIR program should see millions of additional forms filed over the next few months.  Notice 2016-4 extended the deadline for employers and health insurers to file 2015 Forms 1095-B and 1095-C with the IRS until June 30 through the AIR program.  An earlier deadline applied for very small filers that are permitted to file paper returns with the IRS.  Copies of the forms are required to be provided to employees and insured individuals no later than March 31 of this year, rather than the standard deadline of January 31 for furnishing such returns.

The ACA-related forms—the first filed for most employers and insurers—will likely contain many errors.  Under the Internal Revenue Code, ACA-related information reporting is subject to the general penalties for failure to (1) furnish correct copies to employees and insured individuals or (2) file correct information returns with the IRS.  However, the Notice 2016-4 provided “good faith relief” from these penalties to filers that make a “good faith effort to comply” with the requirements and “act[] in a responsible manner” if “the failure is due to significant mitigating factors or events beyond the reporting entity’s control.”  This relief only applies to incorrect or incomplete—rather than late—furnishing or filing of information.  In the absence of relief, the penalty for each incorrect statement or information return is $260 and up to $3,178,500 for each type of failure for taxpayers with over $5 million in average annual gross receipts over the last three taxable years.  Reduced penalties may apply if errors are corrected before certain deadlines.

To ensure eligibility for the good-faith relief, a filer should ensure that it acts in a responsible manner.  That includes correcting errors within a reasonable period of time after discovering that the information reported on a return was incorrect (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 Form 1095-B or -C incorrect, the filer has an affirmative obligation to correct the return even though it was correct when initially filed.

Court Allows Foreclosure of Delinquent Taxpayer’s Home and Business Property for Employment Tax Liability

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March 18, 2016

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico recently held that the government is entitled to foreclose federal tax liens against a delinquent taxpayer’s home and business property, even though the taxpayer’s wife may be a joint owner. In United States v. Fields, Samuel Fields, the sole proprietor of a dry cleaner business, owed $211,855.80 in employment and unemployment taxes from 1993 to 2009. The IRS had made assessments against Fields starting in 1995. In 2005, for no consideration, Fields executed deeds to his two real properties – his home residence and business property – located in New Mexico, stating that he and his wife were joint owners. The U.S. Department of Justice sought partial summary judgment against Fields personally and to foreclose its federal tax liens against his home and business property.

The key issue was whether the federal tax liens were superior to the wife’s interests in the properties. Under Internal Revenue Code Sections 6321 and 6322, if a person fails to pay federal taxes owed, on the day the taxes are assessed a statutory tax lien arises and attaches to all property rights owned by the person. Further, the tax liens will also defeat a third party’s interest in the property unless that third party is a certain secured interest holder, a judgment lien creditor, or a purchaser. While priority of federal tax liens is determined by federal law, property interests are determined under state law – New Mexico law, in this case.

The court held that the tax liens arising from assessments made before Fields executed the deeds encumber and are superior to the property interests of both Fields and his wife. But the tax liens arising from assessments made after Fields executed the deeds, as a matter of law, only encumber and are superior to Fields’ interests in half of the value of each property. Although the United States may ultimately be entitled to the full value of each property if the deeds were a fraudulent transfer under New Mexico law, this issue may involve a factual determination as to Fields’ intent, and so the United States did not include it in its motion for partial summary judgment. Thus, the court permitted the foreclosure, as Section 7403(c) allows district courts to order the sale of property subject to a federal tax lien regardless of homestead exemptions or other ownership interests.

This case is part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s commitment to cracking down on employment tax violations.