Anderson ZurMuehlen Blog

Tax Fraud Awareness: How to Protect Your Identity and Assets

 

The IRS, taxpayers and tax preparers share a common enemy: identity thieves. We all have a part to play in the fight against tax-related identity theft. Your role starts by learning the mechanics and warning signs. From there, taxpayers can take proactive steps to protect their data online and at home.

Understand How Tax Fraud Happens

Dishonest individuals may steal taxpayers’ personal and financial information from sources outside the IRS, such as social media accounts where people tend to share too many details or bogus phishing emails that appear to come from the IRS or a bank. Once they obtain an unsuspecting taxpayer’s data, thieves may use it to file fraudulent federal and state income tax returns, claiming significant refunds.

Paperless e-filing facilitates these scams: Thieves submit returns electronically, based on falsified earnings, and receive refunds via mail or direct deposit. Sure, the IRS maintains records of wages and other types of taxable income reported by employers, but they don’t usually match these records to the information submitted electronically before issuing refund checks. By the time the IRS notifies a victim that it’s received another tax return in his or her name, the thief is long gone and has already cashed the refund check.

In addition to refund fraud, thieves may use stolen personal information to access existing bank accounts and withdraw funds — or open new ones without the taxpayer’s knowledge. Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and their ploys more complex, making identity theft harder to detect.

Recognize the Warning Signs

Taxpayers are the first line of defense against these scams. The IRS lists the following warning signs of tax-related identity theft:

Your electronic tax return is rejected. When the IRS rejects your tax return, it could mean that someone else has filed a fraudulent return using your Social Security number. Before jumping to conclusions, first check that the information entered on the tax return is correct. Were any numbers transposed? Did your college-age dependent claim a personal exemption on his or her tax return?

You’re asked to verify information on your tax return. The IRS holds suspicious tax returns and then sends letters to those taxpayers, asking them to verify certain information. This is especially likely to happen if you claim the Earned Income tax credit or the Additional Child tax credit, both of which have been targeted in refund frauds in previous tax years. If you didn’t file the tax return in question, it could mean that someone else has filed a fraudulent return using your Social Security number.

You receive tax forms from an unknown employer. Watch out if you receive income information, such as a W-2 or 1099 form, from a company that you didn’t do work for in 2016. Someone else may be using the phony forms to claim a fraudulent refund.

You receive a tax refund or transcript that you didn’t ask for. Identity thieves may test the validity of stolen personal information by sending paper refunds to your address, direct depositing refunds to your bank or requesting a transcript from the IRS. If these tests work, they may file a fraudulent return with your stolen data in the future.

You receive a mysterious prepaid debit card. Identity thieves sometimes use your name and address to create an account for a reloadable prepaid debit card that they later use to collect a fraudulent electronic refund.

If you suspect foul play, contact your tax preparer immediately. He or she can help determine whether you’re a victim of tax-related identity theft and identify steps to remedy the situation.

Take Preventive Measures

You may wonder how many taxpayers file electronic vs. paper returns. “There are 150 million households that file federal and state tax returns involving trillions of dollars…. More than 90% of these tax returns are prepared on a laptop, desktop or even a smartphone — whether they’re done by an individual or a tax preparer. This is a massive amount of sensitive data that identity thieves would love to get access to.… With 150 million households, someone right now is clicking on an email link they shouldn’t, or skipping an important computer security update, leaving them vulnerable to hackers,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a recent statement about the Security Summit Group. (See “IRS Creates Security Summit Group” above.)

How can you actively safeguard your personal data online and at home? Here are four simple ways to thwart tax-related identity theft:

1. Keep your computer secure. Simple, cost-effective security measures add up. For example, use updated security software that offers firewalls, virus and malware protection and file encryption. Be stingy with personal information, giving it out only over encrypted websites with “https” in the web address. Also back up computer files regularly and use strong passwords (with a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols).

2. Avoid phishing and malware scams. Be leery of emails you receive from unknown sources. Never open attachments unless you trust the sender and know what’s being sent. Don’t install software from unfamiliar websites or disable pop-up blockers.

3. Protect personal information. Treat personal information like cash. Don’t carry around your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Be careful what you share on social media — identity thieves can exploit information about new car or home purchases, past addresses, vacations and even your children and grandchildren. Keep old tax returns in a safe location and shred them before trashing.

4. Watch out for scammers who impersonate IRS agents. IRS impersonators typically demand payment and threaten to arrest victims who fail to ante up. The Federal Trade Commission recently issued an alert about police raids on illegal telemarketing operations in India that led to the indictment of dozens of IRS impersonators. Remember: The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, nor will they call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill.

Another simple way to prevent someone from filing a fraudulent return is simply to file your return as soon as possible. The IRS begins processing tax returns on January 23. If you file a tax return before would-be fraudsters do, their refund claims are more likely to be rejected for filing under a duplicate Social Security number.

Join the Fight

The deadline for filing your 2016 return is fast approaching. The IRS expects more than 70% of taxpayers to receive a refund for 2016, and it’s on high alert for refund fraud and other tax-related identity theft schemes. You can help the IRS in its efforts to fight tax fraud by watching for these warning signs and safeguarding your personal and financial information.

© 2017

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Help Prevent Tax Identity Theft by Filing Early

If you’re like many Americans, you might not start thinking about filing your tax return until close to this year’s April 18 deadline. You might even want to file for an extension so you don’t have to send your return to the IRS until October 16.

But there’s another date you should keep in mind: January 23. That’s the date the IRS will begin accepting 2016 returns, and filing as close to that date as possible could protect you from tax identity theft.

Why early filing helps

In an increasingly common scam, thieves use victims’ personal information to file fraudulent tax returns electronically and claim bogus refunds. This is usually done early in the tax filing season. When the real taxpayers file, they’re notified that they’re attempting to file duplicate returns.

A victim typically discovers the fraud after he or she files a tax return and is informed by the IRS that the return has been rejected because one with the same Social Security number has already been filed for the same tax year. The IRS then must determine who the legitimate taxpayer is.

Tax identity theft can cause major headaches to straighten out and significantly delay legitimate refunds. But if you file first, it will be the tax return filed by a potential thief that will be rejected — not yours.

Another important date

Of course, in order to file your tax return, you’ll need to have your W-2s and 1099s. So another key date to be aware of is January 31 — the deadline for employers to issue 2016 W-2s to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue 1099s to recipients of any 2016 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments.

Delays for some refunds

The IRS reminded taxpayers claiming the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit to expect a longer wait for their refunds. A law passed in 2015 requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming these credits until at least February 15.

An additional benefit

Let us know if you have questions about tax identity theft or would like help filing your 2016 return early. If you’ll be getting a refund, an added bonus of filing early is that you’ll be able to enjoy your refund sooner.

© 2017

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2017 Q1 Tax calendar: Key Deadlines for Businesses and Other Employers

 

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the first quarter of 2017. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

January 31

  • File 2016 Forms W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” with the Social Security Administration and provide copies to your employees.
  • File 2016 Forms 1099-MISC, “Miscellaneous Income,” reporting nonemployee compensation payments in Box 7 with the IRS, and provide copies to recipients.
  • File Form 941, “Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return,” to report Medicare, Social Security and income taxes withheld in the fourth quarter of 2016. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return. Employers that have an estimated annual employment tax liability of $1,000 or less may be eligible to file Form 944,“Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return.”
  • File Form 940, “Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return,” for 2016. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it’s more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.
  • File Form 945, “Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax,” for 2016 to report income tax withheld on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on accounts such as pensions, annuities and IRAs. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 28

File 2016 Forms 1099-MISC with the IRS and provide copies to recipients. (Note that Forms 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation in Box 7 must be filed by January 31, beginning with 2016 forms filed in 2017.)

March 15

If a calendar-year partnership or S corporation, file or extend your 2016 tax return. If the return isn’t extended, this is also the last day to make 2016 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans.

Contact us for more information.

© 2016

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Few Changes to Retirement Plan Contribution Limits for 2017

Retirement plan contribution limits are indexed for inflation, but with inflation remaining low, most of the limits remain unchanged for 2017. The only limit that has increased from the 2016 level is for contributions to defined contribution plans, which has gone up by $1,000.

Type of limit
2017 limit
Elective deferrals to 401(k), 403(b), 457(b)(2) and 457(c)(1) plans
$18,000
Contributions to defined contribution plans
$54,000
Contributions to SIMPLEs
$12,500
Contributions to IRAs
$5,500
Catch-up contributions to 401(k), 403(b), 457(b)(2) and 457(c)(1) plans
$6,000
Catch-up contributions to SIMPLEs
$3,000
Catch-up contributions to IRAs
$1,000

Nevertheless, if you’re not already maxing out your contributions, you still have an opportunity to save more in 2017. And if you turn age 50 in 2017, you can begin to take advantage of catch-up contributions.

However, keep in mind that additional factors may affect how much you’re allowed to contribute (or how much your employer can contribute on your behalf). For example, income-based limits may reduce or eliminate your ability to make Roth IRA contributions or to make deductible traditional IRA contributions. If you have questions about how much you can contribute to tax-advantaged retirement plans in 2017, check with us.

 

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Employee, Partner or Both? Recent Developments Help You Decide

Are you an employee, a partner, a partner who doesn’t know it — or a combination of these classifications? The answer can have serious tax implications. If you participate in a business that’s operated as a partnership or a limited liability company, here are some recent developments that you need to know.

IRS Position on Dual Status

Longstanding IRS guidance in Revenue Ruling 69-184 states that a partner can’t also be an employee of the same partnership. taxrulescourtwpHowever, this policy has recently come into question. Some tax experts have been prodding the IRS to allow dual employee/partner status in certain circumstances.

For example, it can be argued that dual status is appropriate when an employee of a partnership receives a small interest in the partnership as equity-oriented compensation. Continued status as an employee would allow the individual to continue to participate in tax-favored employee benefit programs sponsored by the partnership.

In a recently issued temporary regulation, the IRS stated that, until further notice, there’s no exception to the Revenue Ruling 69-184 stipulation that a partner in a partnership can’t also be an employee of the same partnership. So, for now, once an employee of a partnership receives an ownership interest in the partnership, that individual is treated as a partner — regardless of how small the partnership interest may be.

However, the IRS says it might consider changing this stance if it can be shown that allowing dual employee/partner status in certain cases is desirable and wouldn’t lead to abuse of tax rules.

Important note: These considerations apply equally to multimember LLCs that are treated as partnerships for tax purposes and their employees and members.

IRS Position on Partners in Partnerships that Own Disregarded SMLLCs

In a recently issued temporary regulation, the IRS clarified the federal employment tax treatment of partners in a partnership that also owns a disregarded single-member (one-owner) LLC (SMLLC). A disregarded SMLLC is generally ignored for federal tax purposes. So, a disregarded SMLLC that’s owned by a partnership is simply treated as an unincorporated branch or division of the partnership, and all of the SMLLC’s tax items are included in the partnership’s tax return.

The new temporary regulation says that partners in the parent partnership can’t also be treated as employees of the disregarded SMLLC. Therefore, these individuals may be subject to self-employment tax on income passed through from the disregarded entity and they’re prohibited from participating in certain tax-favored employee benefit programs sponsored by the disregarded SMLLC. The new temporary regulation is effective as of the later of:

  • August 1, 2016, or
  • The first day of the latest-starting plan year following May 4, 2016, of an affected employee benefit plan.

An affected plan would include any employee benefit plan sponsored by the disregarded SMLLC that was adopted before and in effect as of May 4, 2016.

Important note: These considerations apply equally when a disregarded SMLLC is owned by a multimember LLC that is treated as a partnership for tax purposes.

Appeals Court Ruling on Oil and Gas Working Interest Income

The self employment (SE) tax is the government’s way of collecting Social Security and Medicare taxes on net income from self employment. What you may not know is that profits from passive investments in oil and gas working interests are subject to SE tax, according to a Tax Court decision that was recently affirmed by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. (Methvin v. Commissioner, 117 AFTR 2d 2016-2231, June 24, 2016.)

The taxpayer in this case owned small percentage working interests in several oil and gas properties. Owning a working interest entitles you to a percentage share of the net profits, if any, from an oil and gas property. The taxpayer had an agreement with the operator of the properties that allocated the taxpayer a share of the revenue and expenses from the properties. He had no right to be involved in the management or operation of the properties, and he had no expertise in oil and gas drilling or extraction. (His background was as a computer company executive.)

The taxpayer’s working interests represented no more than about a 2% to 3% interest in any single property, and they weren’t part of any formal business organization — such as a partnership, limited partnership, LLC or corporation — that was registered under applicable state law. Instead, the working interests were governed by a purchase and operation agreement entered into by the taxpayer, other working interest owners and the operator/manager of the properties.

Despite these informal arrangements, the oil and gas ventures that the taxpayer was involved in constituted partnerships for federal income tax purposes. However, the parties involved in the ventures exercised their right to be excluded from the partnership tax rules found in the section of the Internal Revenue Code that applies specifically to partnerships.

Consequently, there wasn’t a requirement to file annual partnership returns for the ventures. Instead, the operator provided the taxpayer with annual accounting summaries that showed the revenues and expenses allocated to the taxpayer’s working interests. The operator also issued an annual Form 1099-MISC to the taxpayer that showed his share of the net revenues from his working interests.

While the taxpayer reported the net revenue on his federal income tax returns, he didn’t pay any SE tax on the net revenue. After auditing his 2011 return, the IRS claimed that the taxpayer’s net profits from the oil and gas working interests were subject to SE tax because they constituted income from a business carried on by a partnership.

The taxpayer contended that he wasn’t engaged in the oil and gas business and wasn’t a partner in any oil and gas partnership. He argued that his minority working interests were merely investments in which he had no active involvement. Therefore, the taxpayer believed he didn’t owe SE tax on his working interest income, and he took his case to the U.S. Tax Court.

Court Decisions

The Tax Court noted that taxpayers who aren’t personally active in the management or operation of a business may nevertheless be liable for SE tax on their share of net SE income from the business if the business is carried on by a partnership in which the taxpayer is a member. In this case, the taxpayer and other parties involved in the oil and gas ventures elected out of the partnership federal income tax provisions. However, the election out applied only to tax provisions that are included in Subchapter K of the Internal Revenue Code (such as the requirement to file an annual partnership return on Form 1065). The SE tax provisions are not found in Subchapter K.

Therefore, the Tax Court ruled that the oil and gas ventures were still considered partnerships for SE tax purposes and that the taxpayer owed SE tax on his net income from his working interests.

On appeal, the 10th Circuit agreed, affirming that those working interests should be treated as partnership interests and that the profits from the investments were subject to SE tax.

Bottom Line

Business arrangements, including employment and compensation arrangements, can have surprising (and sometimes costly) tax consequences. For that reason, seeking advice from a tax professional before entering into arrangements is a smart idea. That way, there won’t be unpleasant surprises, and better tax results can often be achieved with some advance planning.

Contact us for advice.

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FBI Case Exposes Massive Telefraud Scheme

 

Do you dread getting phone calls from unfamiliar sources? It seems that callers are more likely to be aggressive solicitors, pushy telemarketers or even devious con artists than legitimate business people. Criminals typically target the elderly, disabled people or immigrants, threatening them with fines, penalties or deportation if they don’t make payments to the callers. In some cases, unsuspecting victims lose their entire life savings.blogpostpic

The FBI recently exposed a telephone scam involving dozens of individuals and entities that were indicted by a grand jury in
Texas. The defendants were allegedly involved in a transactional organization that victimized tens of thousands of U.S. residents through frauds that caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

Fraud by Phone

Unfortunately, telefraud remains a common and persistent problem in this country. Victims are often reluctant to report such fraud, due to embarrassment and/or fear. So, any statistics are likely to underestimate its true prevalence.

Elderly people represent an estimated 80% of the victims of such scams — a disproportionate amount of the population, according to recent research by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They’re attractive to scammers who assume that they’re trusting, too polite to hang up or easily duped. What’s more, senior citizens may be sitting on a sizable retirement nest egg.

Several branches of the federal government — including the IRS, the FBI and the FTC — have established websites that provide information about fraud detection and reporting scams. Ultimately, however, it’s important to use common sense and handle unknown callers with a healthy dose of skepticism. (See “How to Handle Suspect Calls” at right.)

Case Facts

The FBI recently unsealed its indictment against 61 individuals and entities that were charged in connection with the massive telefraud scheme. Currently, 20 individuals have been arrested, while 32 individuals and five call centers in India have been charged. An additional U.S.-based defendant is in the custody of immigration authorities.

The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit identity theft, impersonation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud and money laundering. One defendant has been separately charged with passport fraud.

“The indictment we unsealed and the arrests we made today demonstrate the Justice Department’s commitment to identifying and prosecuting the individuals behind these impersonation and telefraud schemes, who seek to profit by exploiting some of the most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell in a press release. “This is a transnational problem, and demonstrates that modern criminals target Americans both from inside our borders and from abroad. Only by working tirelessly to gather evidence, build cases and working closely with foreign law enforcement partners to ensure there are no safe havens can we effectively address these threats.”

According to the press release, the defendants perpetrated a sophisticated scheme organized by conspirators in India, including a network of call centers in Ahmedabad. Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, the call center operators allegedly called potential victims while impersonating IRS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agents. These call center operators would threaten arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if the victims didn’t pay the requested taxes or penalties.

The Mechanics

When someone agreed to make payment, the call center would then immediately turn to a network of U.S.-based co-conspirators to liquidate and launder the extorted funds as quickly as possible, using prepaid debit cards or wire transfers. Prepaid debit cards were often registered through misappropriated information of identity theft victims. Wire transfers were handled by associates using fake names and fraudulent IDs.

To direct funds into accounts of U.S.-based individuals, the co-conspirators allegedly used “hawalas.” With these, money is transferred internationally outside of the formal banking system. According to the indictment, the co-conspirators kept a percentage of the proceeds for themselves, but they weren’t aware of the illicit nature of the operation.

The Victims

According to the indictment, one of the call centers reportedly extorted $12,300 from an 85-year-old victim in San Diego by threatening her with arrest if she didn’t pay fictitious tax violations. On the same day that she was scammed, one of the U.S defendants used a reloadable debit card loaded with her funds to purchase money orders in Texas.

In another instance, the defendants extorted $136,000 from a victim in Hayward, Calif. The scammers called this person multiple times over a period of 20 days, fraudulently representing to be IRS agents and demanding payment for alleged tax violations. The victim was instructed to purchase 276 stored-value cards, which the defendants then transferred to reloadable debit cards. Part of the victim’s money ended up on cards, which were activated by using stolen personal information.

At times, the call center operators would offer small short-term loans or advise targets that they were eligible for grants. Then the conspirators would request a “good faith deposit” to demonstrate the ability to pay back the loan, or payment of a fee for processing the grant. Victims never received any money after making the requested payment.

The Department of Justice has established a website to provide information about the case to victims, as well as the general public. Anyone who believes they have been scammed, or is a victim of fraud or identity theft relating to another telefraud, may contact the FTC at this website.

Protect Your Assets

Telefraud is ongoing and prevalent. Every year, scammers seem to get craftier and bolder with telephone fraud schemes. Regardless of your station in life, you can’t be too careful when you’re answering the phone. If you receive a call from an unfamiliar number, evaluate the caller with skepticism and common sense.

© 2016

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Ensure Your Year-End Donations Will be Deductible on your 2016 Return

Donations to qualified charities are generally fully deductible, and they may be the easiest deductible expense to time to your tax advantage. After all, you control exactly when and how much you give. To ensure your donations will be deductible on your 2016 return, you must make them by year end to qualified charities.

When’s the delivery date?

To be deductible on your 2016 return, a charitable donation must be made by Dec. 31, 2016. According to the IRS, a donation generally is “made” at the time of its “unconditional delivery.” But what does this mean? Is it the date you, for example, write a check or make an online gift via your credit card? Or is it the date the charity actually receives the funds — or perhaps the date of the charity’s acknowledgment of your gift?

The delivery date depends in part on what you donate and how you donate it. Here are a few examples for common donations:

Check. The date you mail it.

Credit card. The date you make the charge.

Pay-by-phone account. The date the financial institution pays the amount.

Stock certificate. The date you mail the properly endorsed stock certificate to the charity.

Is the organization “qualified”?

To be deductible, a donation also must be made to a “qualified charity” — one that’s eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.

The IRS’s online search tool, Exempt Organizations (EO) Select Check, can help you more easily find out whether an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. You can access EO Select Check at http://apps.irs.gov/app/eos. Information about organizations eligible to receive deductible contributions is updated monthly.

Many additional rules apply to the charitable donation deduction, so please contact us if you have questions about the deductibility of a gift you’ve made or are considering making. But act soon — you don’t have much time left to make donations that will reduce your 2016 tax bill.

 

© 2016

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Go Green, Save Green. 2016 Incentives

There’s Still Time to Set Up a Retirement Plan for 2016

Saving for retirement can be tough if you’re putting most of your money and time into operating a small business. However, many retirement plans aren’t difficult to set up and it’s important to start saving so you can enjoy a comfortable future.

So if you haven’t already set up a tax-advantaged plan, consider doing so this year.

Note: If you have employees, they generally must be allowed to participate in the plan, provided they meet the qualification requirements.

Here are three options:

  1. Profit-sharing plan. This is a defined contribution plan that allows discretionary employer contributions and flexibility in plan design. You can make deductible 2016 contributions as late as the due date of your 2016 tax return, including extensions — provided your plan exists on Dec. 31, 2016. For 2016, the maximum contribution is $53,000, or $59,000 if you are age 50 or older.
  2. Simplified Employee Pension (SEP). This is also a defined contribution plan that provides benefits similar to those of a profit-sharing plan. But you can establish a SEP in 2017 and still make deductible 2016 contributions as late as the due date of your 2016 income tax return, including extensions. In addition, a SEP is easy to administer. For 2016, the maximum SEP contribution is $53,000.
  3. Defined benefit plan. This plan sets a future pension benefit and then actuarially calculates the contributions needed to attain that benefit. The maximum annual benefit for 2016 is generally $210,000 or 100% of average earned income for the highest three consecutive years, if less. Because it’s actuarially driven, the contribution needed to attain the projected future annual benefit may exceed the maximum contributions allowed by other plans, depending on your age and the desired benefit. You can make deductible 2016 defined benefit plan contributions until your return due date, provided your plan exists on Dec. 31, 2016.

Contact us if you want more information about setting up the best retirement plan in your situation.

 

© 2016

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It’s Critical to be Aware of the Tax Rules Surrounding Your NQDC Plan

Nonqualified deferred compensation (NQDC) plans pay executives at some time in the future for services to be currently performed. They differ from qualified plans, such as 401(k)s, in that:

  • NQDC plans can favor certain highly compensated employees,
  • Although the executive’s tax liability on the deferred income also may be deferred, the employer can’t deduct the NQDC until the executive recognizes it as income, and
  • Any NQDC plan funding isn’t protected from the employer’s creditors.

They also differ in terms of some of the rules that apply to them, and it’s critical to be aware of those rules.

What you need to know

Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 409A and related IRS guidance have tightened and clarified the rules for NQDC plans. Some of the most important rules to be aware of affect:

Timing of initial deferral elections. Executives must make the initial deferral election before the year in which they perform the services for which the compensation is earned. So, for instance, if you wish to defer part of your 2017 compensation to 2018 or beyond, you generally must make the election by the end of 2016.

Timing of distributions. Benefits must be paid on a specified date, according to a fixed payment schedule or after the occurrence of a specified event — such as death, disability, separation from service, change in ownership or control of the employer, or an unforeseeable emergency.

Elections to change timing or form. The timing of benefits can be delayed but not accelerated. Elections to change the timing or form of a payment must be made at least 12 months in advance. Also, new payment dates must be at least five years after the date the payment would otherwise have been made.

Employment tax issues

Another important NQDC tax issue is that employment taxes are generally due when services are performed or when there’s no longer a substantial risk of forfeiture, whichever is later. This is true even though the compensation isn’t actually paid or recognized for income tax purposes until later years. So your employer may:

  • Withhold your portion of the tax from your salary,
  • Ask you to write a check for the liability, or
  • Pay your portion, in which case you’ll have additional taxable income.

Consequences of noncompliance

The penalties for noncompliance can be severe: Plan participants (that is, you, the executive) will be taxed on plan benefits at the time of vesting, and a 20% penalty and potential interest charges also will apply. So if you’re receiving NQDC, you should check with your employer to make sure it’s addressing any compliance issues. And we can help incorporate your NQDC or other executive compensation into your year-end tax planning and a comprehensive tax planning strategy for 2016 and beyond.

© 2016

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