The Senate has passed the extender bill and sent it to the President. The Hill reports:
By a 76 to 16 vote, the Senate passed a measure that would extend more than four dozen tax breaks for both businesses and individuals just through 2014.
Republicans and Democrats latched on to the one-year deal after the White House undercut negotiations on a broader bipartisan package, underscoring divisions between Democrats in the wake of this year’s heavy losses at the polls. Senators from both parties said Tuesday that they would have preferred legislation that restored the tax breaks through 2015.
The President is expected to sign. That means we now know what the 2014 tax law is with two weeks left in the year. Unfortunately, all of the revived provisions die again on January 1, and Congress will have to go through this whole exercise to raise Lazarus again.
What does this do for year-end planning?
Fixed asset frenzy. Taxpayers who can place fixed assets in service between now and year-end can qualify for the $500,000 Section 179 deduction or 50% bonus depreciation.
The Section 179 rule allows taxpayers to fully deduct the cost of up to $500,000 in assets placed in service during 2014 that would otherwise be capitalized and depreciated over a period of years. It can apply no new or used property. It is normally unavailable for real estate or rental property. It is limited to taxable income, and it phases out dollar-for-dollar as fixed asset acquisitions exceed $500,000.
Bonus depreciation enables taxpayers to deduct 50% of the cost of qualifying property in the year in which it is placed in service. The remaining cost is depreciated under normal depreciation rules. It is only available for new property with a life up to 20 years, but it is not limited by taxable income or amount of assets placed in service, so it can generate net operating losses.
Remember that the tax law applies special limits to both Section 179 and bonus depreciation for vehicles.
S corporation Built-in gains. The tax law requires S corporations to pay a 35% corporate-level tax on “built-in gains” included in taxable income during the “recognition period” after the convert from C corporation status. “Built-in gains” are income items, including appreciation of asset values, that exist at the time a C corporation becomes an S corporation.
This rule was enacted in 1986 with a ten-year “recognition period.” The tax goes away after the recognition period is over. The bill reduced the recognition period to five years for gains recognized in 2014. That opens tax planning doors. Taxpayers that have been S corporations for more than five years can unload appreciated assets. Taxpayers in their fifth S corporation year can reduce their taxable income to push any gains recognized this year past the recognition period — assuming this provision is extended to 2015.
IRA donations. The extender bill revives the provision allowing IRAs owned by individuals subject to the minimum distribution rules to make direct donations of up to $100,000 to charity. These donations do not show up as income or as itemized deductions on the owner returns.
Other tax breaks revived through the end of 2014 include the research credit, the deduction for state and local sales taxes, the educator expense deduction, charitable donations of conservation easements, and energy production tax credits. The Tax Policy Blog has more coverage, including a complete list of the extended benefits.
Paul Neiffer, Senate Passes Tax Extender Bill 76-16
Robert D. Flach, FINALLY!
The U.S. is the only developed country in the world that requires citizens who live abroad to file tax returns. This is so complicated that it is virtually impossible to do without an accountant, and that can cost more than $1,000 a year, even for very simple tax returns.
But that’s only the beginning. There are additional reporting requirements for Americans who live abroad. The FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) requires holders of foreign financial accounts to report detailed information about all such accounts each year. It can take many days to obtain and compile the information and then prepare the form.
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2010 made matters worse. Fatca compliance costs for foreign banks are so high that many banks have closed the accounts of Americans living abroad. Joining the ranks of the “unbanked” is becoming the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Our thumbless Congress, eager to to score cheap political points by cracking down on international “millionaires and billionaires,” has inadvertently, but effectively, made it ridiculously difficult for ordinary Americans working overseas to commit personal finance. They have enacted horrific financial penalties for petty paperwork violations. And the IRS has enforced these penalties under the assumption that everyone with an overseas account is a crook.
Tony Nitti, Have You Heard The One About The Tax Credit That You Pay To The IRS? It’s the premium tax credit under ACA that many taxpayers will have to repay with their tax returns in April.
Jeremy Scott, Slashed Budget Shows IRS’s Failure to Build Political Support (Tax Analysts Blog, my emphasis):
Republicans made it clear that the cuts to the IRS were in response to the agency’s recent actions. The GOP has a long laundry list of complaints: the payment of IRS bonuses, the failure to accurately and timely answer questions about the exempt organization scandal, old training videos, and the cost of Obamacare implementation. With the exception of the last item, the Service has been tone-deaf in its response to Republicans. In fact, one might even call some of its vague and misleading answers outright defiance of the House majority. That’s an odd strategy for an agency crying out for more resources to take.
Regular readers know that this is my view also. I agree with this too:
Those who criticize the GOP’s handling of the various IRS scandals have a point. But lost in their reflexive defense of the Service are valid Republican complaints about the IRS’s lack of transparency and responsiveness. For whatever reason, the Service decided that it wouldn’t cooperate with Republicans over the scandal. Maybe it thought the GOP wouldn’t be reasonable. Maybe it thought giving clear answers and admitting obvious wrongdoing would be more damaging to its prospects than being opaque and evasive. Well, it was wrong — both in hindsight, given the budget passed over the weekend, and at the time, given the agency’s duty to be nonpartisan.
Read Mr. Scott’s whole piece. The result will be bad for taxpayers, but the IRS leadership can look in the mirror for someone to blame.
Howard Gleckman, The War on the IRS. As Jeremy Scott notes, the IRS is its own worst enemy in this war.
TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 587. Featuring a contrarian take on the scandal from Peter Reilly.
News from the Profession. Going Concern Presents: The Worst of Auditing 2014 (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)