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IRS is attacking 419 plans, 419, 412i, 412(e)(3), Section 79, Captive Insurance, many other benefit plans, and plans having life insurance.


Abusive Insurance, Welfare Benefit, and Retirement

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Abusive Insurance, Welfare Benefit, and Retirement Plans

Published in Tax Practice: Tax Notes

 By Lance Wallach

The IRS has various task forces auditing all section 419, section 412(i), and other plans that tend to be abusive. These plans are sold by most insurance agents. The IRS is looking to raise money and is not looking to correct plans or help taxpayers. The fines for being in a listed, abusive, or similar transaction are up to $200,000 per year (section 6707A), unless you report on yourself. The IRS calls accountants, attorneys, and insurance agents “material advisors” and also fines them the same amount, again unless the client’s participation in the transaction is reported. An accountant is a material advisor if he signs the return or gives advice and gets paid. More details can be found on www.irs.gov.

Bruce Hink, who has given me written permission to use his name and circumstances, is a perfect example of what the IRS is doing to unsuspecting business owners. What follows is a story about how the IRS fines him $200,000 a year for being in what they called a listed transaction. Listed transactions can be found at www.irs.gov. Also involved are what the IRS calls abusive plans or what it refers to as substantially similar. Substantially similar to is very difficult to understand, but the IRS seems to be saying, “If it looks like some other listed transaction, the fines apply.” Also, I believe that the accountant who signed the tax return and the insurance agent who sold the retirement plan will each be fined $200,000 as material advisors. We have received many calls for help from accountants, attorneys, business owners, and insurance agents in similar situations. Don’t think this will happen to you? It is happening to a lot of accountants and business owners, because most of theses so-called listed, abusive, or substantially similar plans are being sold by insurance agents.

Recently I came across the case of Hink, a small business owner who is facing $400,000 in IRS penalties for 2004 and 2005 because of his participation in a section 412(i) plan. (The penalties were assessed under section 6707A.)

In 2002 an insurance agent representing a 100-year-old, well established insurance company suggested the owner start a pension plan. The owner was given a portfolio of information from the insurance company, which was given to the company’s outside CPA to review and give an opinion on. The CPA gave the plan the green light and the plan was started.

Contributions were made in 2003. The plan administrator came out with amendments to the plan, based on new IRS guidelines, in October 2004.

The business owner’s insurance agent disappeared in May 2005, before implementing the new guidelines from the administrator with the insurance company. The business owner was left with a refund check from the insurance company, a deduction claim on his 2004 tax return that had not been applied, and no agent.

It took six months of making calls to the insurance company to get a new insurance agent assigned. By then, the IRS had started an examination of the pension plan. Asking advice from the CPA and a local attorney (who had no previous experience in these cases) made matters worse, with a “big name” law firm being recommended and over $30,000 in additional legal fees being billed in three months.

To make a long story short, the audit stretched on for over 2 ½ years to examine a 2-year-old pension with four participants and the $178,000 in contributions. During the audit, no funds went to the insurance company, which was awaiting formal IRS approval on restructuring the plan as a traditional defined benefit plan, which the administrator had suggested and the IRS had indicated would be acceptable. The $90,000 in 2005 contributions was put into the company’s retirement bank account along with the 2004 contributions.

In March 2008 the business owner received a private e-mail apology from the IRS agent who headed the examination, saying that her hands were tied and that she used to believe she was correcting problems and helping taxpayers and not hurting people.

The IRS denied any appeal and ruled in October 2008 the $400,000 penalty would stand. The IRS fine for being in a listed, abusive, or similar transaction is $200,000 per year for corporations or $100,000 per year for unincorporated entities. The material advisor fine is $200,000 if you are incorporated or $100,000 if you are not.

Could you or one of your clients be next?

To this point, I have focused, generally, on the horrors of running afoul of the IRS by participating in a listed transaction, which includes various types of transactions and the various fines that can be imposed on business owners and their advisors who participate in, sell, or advice on these transactions. I happened to use, as an example, someone in a section 412(i) plan, which was deemed to be a listed transaction, pointing out the truly doleful consequences the person has suffered. Others who fall into this trap, even unwittingly, can suffer the same fate.

Now let’s go into more detail about section 412(i) plans. This is important because these defined benefit plans are popular and because few people think of retirement plans as tax shelters or listed transactions. People therefore may get into serious trouble in this area unwittingly, out of ignorance of the law, and, for the same reason, many fail to take necessary and appropriate precautions.

The IRS has warned against the section 412(i) defined benefit pension plans, named for the former code section governing them. It warned against trust arrangements it deems abusive, some of which may be regarded as listed transactions. Falling into that category can result in taxpayers having to disclose the participation under pain of penalties, potentially reaching $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for other taxpayers. Targets also include some retirement plans.

One reason for the harsh treatment of some 412(i) plans is their discrimination in favor of owners and key, highly compensated employees. Also, the IRS does not consider the promised tax relief proportionate to the economic realities of the transactions. In general, IRS auditors divide audited plan into those they consider noncompliant and other they consider abusive. While the alternatives available to the sponsor of noncompliant plan are problematic, it is frequently an option to keep the plan alive in some form while simultaneously hoping to minimize the financial fallout from penalties.

The sponsor of an abusive plan can expect to be treated more harshly than participants. Although in some situation something can be salvaged, the possibility is definitely on the table of having to treat the plan as if it never existed, which of course triggers the full extent of back taxes, penalties, and interest on all contributions that were made – not to mention leaving behind no retirement plan whatsoever.

Another plan the IRS is auditing is the section 419 plan. A few listed transactions concern relatively common employee benefit plans the IRS has deemed tax avoidance schemes or otherwise abusive. Perhaps some of the most likely to crop up, especially in small-business returns, are the arrangements purporting to allow the deductibility of premiums paid for life insurance under a welfare benefit plan or section 419 plan. These plans have been sold by most insurance agents and insurance companies.

Some of theses abusive employee benefit plans are represented as satisfying section 419, which sets limits on purposed and balances of “qualified asset accounts” for the benefits, although the plans purport to offer the deductibility of contributions without any corresponding income. Others attempt to take advantage of the exceptions to qualified asset account limits, such as sham union plans that try to exploit the exception for the separate welfare benefit funds under collective bargaining agreements provided by section 419A(f)(5). Others try to take advantage of exceptions for plans serving 10 or more employers, once popular under section 419A(f)(6). More recently, one may encounter plans relying on section 419(e) and, perhaps, defines benefit sections 412(i) pension plans.

Sections 419 and 419A were added to the code by the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 in an attempt to end employers’ acceleration of deductions for plan contributions. But it wasn’t long before plan promoters found an end run around the new code sections. An industry developed in what came to be known as 10-or-more-employer plans.

The IRS steadily added these abusive plans to its designations of listed transactions. With Revenue Ruling 90-105, it warned against deducting some plan contributions attributable to compensation earned by plan participants after the end of the tax year. Purported exceptions to limits of sections 419 and 419A claimed by 10-or-more-employer benefit funds were likewise prescribed in Notice 95-24 (Doc 95-5046, 95 TNT 98-11). Both positions were designated as listed transactions in 2000.

At that point, where did all those promoters go? Evidence indicates many are now promoting plans purporting to comply with section 419(e). They are calling a life insurance plan a welfare benefit plan (or fund), somewhat as they once did, and promoting the plan as a vehicle to obtain large tax deductions. The only substantial difference is that theses are now single-employer plans. And again, the IRS has tried to rein them in, reminding taxpayers that listed transactions include those substantially similar to any that are specifically described and so designated.

On October 17, 2007, the IRS issues Notices 2007-83 (Doc 2007-23225, 2007 TNT 202-6) and 2007-84 (Doc 2007-23220, 2007 TNT 202-5). In the former, the IRS identified some trust arrangements involving cash value life insurance policies, and substantially similar arrangements, as listed transactions. The latter similarly warned against some postretirement medical and life insurance benefit arrangements, saying they might be subject to “alternative tax treatment.” The IRS at the same time issued related Rev. Rul. 2007-65 (Doc 2007-23226, 2007 TNT 202-7) to address situations in which an arrangement is considered a welfare benefit fund but the employer’s deduction for its contributions to the fund id denied in whole or in part for premiums paid by the trust on cash value life insurance policies. It states that a welfare benefit fund’s qualified direct cost under section 419 does not include premium amounts paid by the fund for cash value life insurance policies if the fund is directly or indirectly a beneficiary under the policy, as determined under sections264(a).

Notice 2007-83 targets promoted arrangements under which the fund trustee purchases cash value insurance policies on the lives of a business’s employee/owners, and sometimes key employees, while purchasing term insurance policies on the lives of other employees covered under the plan.

These plans anticipate being terminated and anticipate that the cash value policies will be distributed to the owners or key employees, with little distributed to other employees. The promoters claim that the insurance premiums are currently deductible by the business and that the distributed insurance policies are virtually tax free to the owners. The ruling makes it clear that, going forward, a business under most circumstances cannot deduct the cost of premiums paid through a welfare benefit plan for cash value life insurance on the lives of its employees.

Should a client approach you with one of these plans, be especially cautious, for both of you. Advise your client to check out the promoter very carefully. Make it clear that the government has the names of all former section 419A(f)(6) promoters and, therefore, will be scrutinizing the promoter carefully if the promoter was once active in that area, as many current section 419(e) (welfare benefit fund or plan) promoters were. This makes an audit of your client more likely and far riskier.

It is worth noting that listed transactions are subject to a regulatory scheme applicable only to them, entirely separate from Circular 230 requirements, regulations, and sanctions. Participation in such a transaction must be disclosed on a tax return, and the penalties for failure to disclose are severe – up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for corporations. The penalties apply to both taxpayers and practitioners. And the problem with disclosure, of course, is that it is apt to trigger an audit, in which case even if the listed transaction was to pass muster, something else may not.

Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters. He writes about 412(i), 419, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education's CPA's Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007, wallachinc@gmail.com or visit www.taxaudit419.com/TaxHelp.html and www.taxlibrary.us

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

 

 

          

        Grist Mill Trust
& Nova
                  

 

      The IRS Raids Plan Promoter Benistar, and What Does All This Mean To You?

 

   Articlebase

      Posted: Dec. 9

 

 

       By Lance Wallach

 

Recently IRS raided Benistar, which is also known as the Grist Mill Trust, the promoter and operator of one of the better known and more heavily scrutinized of the Section 419 life insurance plans. IRS attacked the Benistar 419 plan, and one of its tactics was to demand the names of all the clients Benistar worked with — so they could be audited by the IRS, Benistar refused to give the names and actually appealed the decision to turn over the names. The appeal was unsuccessful, but Benistar officials still refused to give up the names. Recently, the IRS raided the Benistar office and took hundreds of boxes of information, which included information on clients who were in their 419 plan. In documents filed by Benistar itself, they stated that 35 to 50 armed IRS agents descended upon their office to seize documents.

IRS has visited, and is still visiting most of the other plans and obtaining names of participants, selling insurance agents, accountants, etc. They have a whole task force devoted to auditing 419, 412i and other abusive plans.

It’s important to understand what could happen to unsuspecting business owners if they get involved in plans that are not above board. Their names could be turned over to the IRS, where audits could ensue, and where the outcome could be the payment of back taxes and significant penalties. Then they would be fined another time under Section 6707A for not properly reporting on themselves.

Most 419 life insurance and 412i defined benefit pension plans were sold to successful business owners as plans with large tax deductions where money would grow tax free until needed in retirement. I would speak at national accounting and other conventions talking about the problems with most of these plans. I would be attacked by some attendees who where making large insurance commissions selling the plans. I would try to warn insurance company home office executives, but they too had their heads in the sand because of all the money these plans brought in. Then the IRS got tough and started fining the unsuspecting business owners hundreds of thousands a year for not reporting on themselves for being in the plan. The agents and insurance companies advise against filing. “This is a good plan. We have approval.” Not only were the business owners fined under IRS Code 6707A, but the insurance agents were also fined $100,000 for not reporting on themselves. Accountants who signed tax returns are even being fined 100,000 by IRS. Then the business owners sue the accountants, insurance agents, etc. I have been following these scenarios for a long time. In fact, I have been an expert witness in many of these cases, and my side has never lost.

Most promoters of 419 plans told clients that their plans complied with the laws and, therefore, were not listed tax transactions. Unfortunately, the IRS doesn’t care what a promoter of a tax-avoidance plan says; it makes its own determination and punishes those who don’t comply.

 

The McGehee Family Clinic, P.A. was recently hit with back taxes and a penalty under Code Sec. 666A in conjunction with a deduction to the Benistar 419 plan

 Dr. McGehee's clinic took a deduction for a 419 plan (the Benistar plan) back in 2005. Eventually, the McGhee Family Clinic was audited. After the audit, the doctor was told that the deduction would be disallowed and that back taxes were due. Additionally, Dr. McGehee was hit with a 20 percent accuracy-related penalty under Code Sec. 6662A. Finally, the tax court sustained the IRS's determination that McGehee was subject to the increased 30 percent penalty, because its return did not include a disclosure statement indicating its participation in the Benistar Trust. I think that in addition to the aforementioned fines, IRS will now fine him, both on a corporate and personal level, another $200,000 or more, under IRC 6707A, for not properly disclosing his participation in a listed transaction. There was a moratorium on those fines until June 2010, pending new legislation to reduce them. The fines had been 200,000 per year on the corporate level and $100,000 per year on the personal level. You got the fine even if you made no contributions for the year. All you had to do was to be in the plan. So Dr. McGehee's fine would be a total of $300,000 per year for every year that he and his corporation were in the plan.

IRS also says the fine is not appealable. His fine would be in the million-dollar range and it would be in addition to the back taxes, interest, and penalties already discussed earlier in this paragraph.

Legislation just passed slightly reducing those fines, but you still have to properly file to start the Statute of Limitations running to avoid the fines. IRS is fining people who report on themselves, but make a mistake on the forms.  Now that the moratorium on the fines has passed, and so has the new legislation, IRS has aggressively moved to fine unsuspecting business owners hundreds of thousands. This is usually after they get audited, and sometimes reach agreement with IRS. Then another division or department of the IRS imposes a fine under 6707A. I am receiving a lot of phone calls from business owners who this is happening to. Unfortunately, some of these people already had called me. I warned them to properly file under 6707A. Either they did not believe me - it is unbelievable -  or their accountant or tax attorney filed incorrectly. Then they called again after being fined.

If you were involved with one of these abusive plans, there are steps that you can take to minimize IRS problems. With respect to filing under Section 6707A, I know the two best people in the country at filing after the fact, which is what you would be doing at this point, and still somehow avoiding the fine. It is an art that both learned through countless hours of research and numerous conversations with IRS personnel. Both have filed dozens of times for clients, after the fact, without the clients being fined. Either may well still be able to help you.

And the right accountant, one with the proper knowledge, experience, and Service contacts, can help with the other IRS problems as well. I recall a case where a CPA I knew and recommended was able to get $300,000 or so in liabilities reduced to three thousand dollars and change. Do not count on a result like this, but help is available.


It’s not worth it!

Stay away from 419 and similar plans like Section 79 plans. Be very careful with 412i plans. Avoid most captive insurance plans.

It’s getting closer to the end of the year. This is when every scammer known to man/woman comes out of the woodwork to sell some fly-by-night tax-deductible plan to clients. Sometimes they come in the form of an accountant, insurance agent-financial planner, or even an attorney. I see this in all of my expert witness cases and when I speak at conventions. I have seen this since the 1990s. I wanted to remind readers that, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters.  He writes about 412(i), 419, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Pubic Radio's All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education's CPA's Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007, wallachinc@gmail.com or visit www.taxaudit419.com.

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

 

Lance Wallach
68 Keswick Lane
Plainview, NY 11803
Ph.: (516)938-5007
Fax: (516)938-6330
www.vebaplan.com

National Society of Accountants Speaker of The Year



The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

 

 



Should you File, and then Opt Out?

 

Announced February 8, 2011, the IRS 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI) program is a welcome but conditional amnesty allowing taxpayers with foreign accounts to come clean and get into compliance with the IRS.  The program runs through Sept.  9, 2011.

 

There’s been discussion of “opting out” of the program to take your chances in audit, but it’s a topic fraught with danger.  Now, however, there is guidance about opting out of the program that makes much of it transparent. Because of this late date it is recommended that you properly file FBARs and the 90-day request for amnesty extension. This is the first important step. If the forms are not done properly, you will have extensive problems and will not have to think about opting out. If your forms are properly done and filed, then your situation should be discussed with someone who is experienced in these matters.

 

Under the OVDI, taxpayers are subject to a penalty of 25 percent of the highest aggregate account balance on their undisclosed account(s) between 2003 and 2010.  If the value was less than $75,000 at all times during those years, the penalty is only 12.5 percent.

These account balance penalties are in lieu of all other penalties that may apply, including FBAR and offshore-related information return penalties.  Plus, participants are required to pay taxes and interest on any monies (such as interest income on foreign accounts) they previously failed to report.  Finally, they must pay an accuracy-related penalty equal to 20 percent of the underpayment of tax, plus interest.

Opting out of the program can make sense for some, though it involves taking your chances with an IRS examination. Someone should represent you with extensive experience in this. We always suggest they should at least be a CPA with years of experience in international tax. It’s even better if you use one that was with the international tax division of the IRS for a number of years. The IRS has published a separate guide detailing the rules and procedures for opting out. 

Here are some of the rules: 

1.      IRS Summary.  The IRS employee who has been handling your case summarizes it, agreeing or disagreeing with your view of penalties, and listing how extensive an audit he or she recommends.

2.      Program Status Report.  Before you can opt out, the IRS sends a letter reporting on the status of your disclosure and what you still must submit.  If you’ve given enough data, the IRS will calculate what you would owe under the OVDI.  You should provide any missing items within 30 days.

3.      Taxpayer Submission.  Within 20 days, the taxpayer opts out in writing and makes a written case what penalties should apply and why. 

4.      Central Committee.  A Committee of IRS Managers reviews the summary and decides how extensive an audit to conduct.  The IRS says “the taxpayer is not to be punished (or rewarded) for opting out.”   The Committee also decides whether to assign your case for a normal civil audit or to assign it for a criminal exam. 

5.      Written Warning.  The IRS sends another letter explaining that opting out must be in writing and is irrevocable.  You have 20 days thereafter to opt out in writing.

6.      Interview?  Some audits will include taxpayer interviews.

Bottom Line?  The “opt out” procedure is helpful but still a bit daunting.  If you are considering it, make sure you get some solid advice from an experienced person who, in my opinion, should have worked for the IRS and is a CPA about the nature of your case. This is just one of the many options that should be discussed with your advisor. There are many other strategies that you may want to utilize. Your advisor should be aware of all your options, and should explain them. If not, consider engaging someone else. Remember, the penalties can be very large, especially if your advisor is not skilled at this. There is even the potential for criminal prosecution.  See taxadvisorexpert.com for the latest information in this area or to contact one of our professionals today.

 

Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, abusive tax shelters, international tax, and other subjects. He writes about FBAR, OVDI, international taxation, captive insurance plans and other topics. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for more than 50 publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and others. Lance has written numerous books including “Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams,” published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education’s “CPA’s Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation,” as well as the AICPA best-selling books, including “Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps” and “Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots.” He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007, lawallach@aol.com,lanwalla@aol.com or visit www.taxadvisorexpert.com.

 

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

 

 


Breaking News: Don't Become A Material 
Advisor


Accountants, insurance professionals and others need to be careful that they 
don’t become what the IRS calls 
material advisors.  If they sell or give advice, 
or sign tax returns for abusive, listed or similar plans; they risk a minimum 
$100,000 fine. Their client will then probably sue them after having dealt with 
the IRS.  

In 2010, the IRS raided the offices of 
Benistar in Simsbury, Conn., and seized 
the retirement benefit plan administration firm’s files and records. In 
McGehee Family Clinic, the Tax Court ruled that a clinic and shareholder’s 
investment in an employee benefit plan marketed under the name “Benistar” 
was a listed transaction because it was substantially similar to the 
transaction described in Notice 95-34 (1995-1 C.B. 309). This is at least the 
second case in which the court has ruled against the Benistar welfare benefit 
plan, by denominating it a 
listed transaction.

The McGehee Family Clinic enrolled in the Benistar Plan in May 2001 and 
claimed deductions for contributions to it in 2002 and 2005. The returns did 
not include a
 Form 8886, Reportable Transaction Disclosure Statement, or 
similar disclosure. The IRS disallowed the latter deduction and adjusted the 
2004 return of shareholder Robert Prosser and his wife to include the 
$50,000 payment to the plan.  
Click here to read more.

IRS Audits 419, 412i, Captive Insurance Plans With Life Insurance, and Section 79 Scams

 

 

By Lance Wallach

 

The IRS started auditing 419 plans in the ‘90s, and then continued going after 412i and other plans that they considered abusive, listed, or reportable transactions, or substantially similar to such transactions.

 

In a recent Tax Court Case, Curcio v. Commissioner (TC Memo 2010-115), the Tax Court ruled that an investment in an employee welfare benefit plan marketed under the name “Benistar” was a listed transaction in that the transaction in question was substantially similar to the transaction described in IRS Notice 95-34. A subsequent case, McGehee Family Clinic, largely followed Curcio, though it was technically decided on other grounds. The parties stipulated to be bound by Curcio on the issue of whether the amounts paid by McGehee in connection with the Benistar 419 Plan and Trust were deductible. Curcio did not appear to have been decided yet at the time McGehee was argued. The McGehee opinion (Case No. 10-102) (United States Tax Court, September 15, 2010) does contain an exhaustive analysis and discussion of virtually all of the relevant issues.  Click here to read more.


Get Sued

June 2011

The IRS is cracking down on what it considers to be abusive tax shelters. Many of them are being marketed to small business owners by insurance professionals, financial planners and even accountants and attorneys. I speak at numerous conventions, for both business owners and accountants. And after I speak, I am always approached by many people who have questions about tax reduction plans that they have heard about. Below are the most common 419 tax reduction insurance plans. 

These come in various versions, and most of them have or will get the participant audited and the salesman sued. They purportedly allow the business owner to make a large tax-deductible contribution, and some or all of the contribution pays for a life insurance product. The IRS has been disallowing most versions of these plans for years, yet they continue to be sold. After everyone gets into trouble and the insurance agents get sued, the promoters of the abusive versions sometimes change the name of their company and call the plan something else. The insurance companies whose policies are sold are legitimate companies. What usually is not legitimate is the way that most of the plans are operated. There can also be a $200,000 IRS fine facing the insurance agent who sold the plan if Form 8918 has not been properly filed. I've reviewed hundreds of these forms for agents and have yet to see one that was filled out correctly. 

 

When the IRS audits a participant in one of these plans, the tax deductions are lost. There is also the interest and large penalties to consider. The business owner can also be facing a $200,000-a-year fine if he did not properly file Form 8886. Most of these forms have been filled out improperly. In my talks with the IRS, I was told that the IRS considers not filling out Form 8886 properly almost the same as not filing at all. 

412(i) retirement plans 

The IRS has been auditing participants in these types of retirement plans. While there is generally nothing wrong with many of the newer plans, the IRS considered most of the older abusive plans. Forms 8918 and 8886 are also required for abusive 412(i) plans. 

I have been an expert witness in a lot of these 419 and 412(i) lawsuits and I have not lost one of them. If you sold one or more of these plans, get someone who really knows what they are doing to help you immediately. Many advisors will take your money and claim to be able to help you. Make sure they have experience helping agents that have sold these types of plans. Don't let them learn on the job, with your career and money at stake.

 

Do not wait for IRS to come and get you, or for your client to sue you. Time is of the essence. Most insurance professionals need help to correct their improperly completed Form 8918 or to fill it out properly in the first place. If you have not previously filled out the form it is late, and therefore you should immediately seek assistance. There are plenty of legitimate tax reduction insurance plans out there. Just make sure that you know the history of the people with whom you conduct business. 

Remember, if something looks too good to be true, it usually is. Be careful. 


Lance Wallach, the National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year, speaks and writes extensively about retirement plans, Circular 230 problems and tax reduction strategies. He speaks at more than 40 conventions annually, writes for over 50 publications, is quoted regularly in the press, and has written numerous best-selling AICPA books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Business Hot Spots. Contact him at 516.938.5007 or visit www.vebaplan.com.

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any other type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

Business Meals and Entertainment Expenses

 

Excerpt from FCICA Presents Tax, Insurance, and Cost Reduction Strategies for Small Business by Lance Wallach

 

 

The 1993 tax law changed the amount allowable as a deduction for business meals and entertainment expenses incurred after. In addition, some special rules were enacted into the tax law. The limitation for deducting such expenses incurred after December 31, 1993 is 50%. Accordingly, after the general rules and exceptions are applied to meals and entertainment expenses incurred and the total dollar amount is determined, the 50% rule must then be applied. Business people must keep current with such rules or face the wrath of the IRS. The purpose of this chapter is to explain the general rule, the exceptions, and the special rules that are in effect for all business meals and entertainment expenses. Read more here!

Offshore International Today                                          Aug 2011                                                                              

FBAR Offshore Bank Accounts and Foreign Income Attacked by IRS

By: Lance Wallach

 

You may want to think about participation in the IRS’ offshore tax amnesty program (called the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative). Do you want to play audit roulette with the IRS?  Some clients think they are too small to be prosecuted. They are wrong.

To the average businessperson, only the guys with tens of millions secretly stashed in Swiss bank accounts get prosecuted. Don't tell that to Michael Schiavo. He was just prosecuted for hiding money in a Swiss account back in 2003. How much money does the IRS say he hid? A whopping $90,000. That’s it.

But wait, there is more to the story. Schiavo attempted to do a quiet disclosure during the 2009 amnesty but instead of filling out the amnesty paperwork, he simply trusted that by coming forward voluntarily he could avoid criminal prosecution. He was wrong on all counts. Nothing is too small for the IRS, and nothing is too old.

“So, to save a whopping $40,624 in taxes, this guy risked a felony conviction and prison time, not to mention steep penalties that could very easily eat up the entire $90,000, and also his criminal and civil defense costs.

 The smart taxpayers are the ones coming forward and not having to look over their shoulders for the next 10 years.

Time is running out. The tax amnesty runs through August but it takes at least days to jump through all the hoops. We will also fight hard to reduce the penalties down even more. Remember, the IRS can go as low as 5%. Don’t want this to happen to you? Visit www.taxadvisorexpert.com today!

Lance Wallach, the National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year, speaks and writes extensively about retirement plans, Circular 230 problems and tax reduction strategies. He speaks at more than 40 conventions annually, writes for over 50 publications, is quoted regularly in the press, and has written numerous best-selling AICPA books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Business Hot Spots. Contact him at 516.938.5007 or visit www.vebaplan.com.  

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any other type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.


The Team Approach to Tax, Financial and Estate Planning.

 

by Lance Wallach

 

 

CPAs are the best and most qualified professionals when it comes to serving their clients needs, but they need to know when and how to coordinate with other experts.

 

Over the last twenty years we have worked with thousands of practitioners who have decided to add financial services to their practices. They do it for a variety of reasons, but the most common are as follows:

 

 

*They don’t want to refer their client elsewhere when they request financial services.

 

* They want to remain competitive.

 

*They want to diversify and increase their revenue as opposed to depending solely on tax and accounting revenue.

IRS Audits 419, 412i, Captive Insurance Plans With Life Insurance, and Section 79 Scams

By Lance Wallach                                                                                          June 2011

 

 

The IRS started auditing 419 plans in the ‘90s, and then continued going after 412i and other plans that they considered abusive, listed, or reportable transactions, or substantially similar to such transactions.

 

In a recent Tax Court Case, Curcio v. Commissioner (TC Memo 2010-115), the Tax Court ruled that an investment in an employee welfare benefit plan marketed under the name “Benistar” was a listed transaction in that the transaction in question was substantially similar to the transaction described in IRS Notice 95-34. A subsequent case, McGehee Family Clinic, largely followed Curcio, though it was technically decided on other grounds. The parties stipulated to be bound by Curcio on the issue of whether the amounts paid by McGehee in connection with the Benistar 419 Plan and Trust were deductible. Curcio did not appear to have been decided yet at the time McGehee was argued. The McGehee opinion (Case No. 10-102) (United States Tax Court, September 15, 2010) does contain an exhaustive analysis and discussion of virtually all of the relevant issues.

 

Taxpayers and their representatives should be aware that the Service has disallowed deductions for contributions to these arrangements. The IRS is cracking down on small business owners who participate in tax reduction insurance plans and the brokers who sold them. Some of these plans include defined benefit retirement plans, IRAs, or even 401(k) plans with life insurance.

 

In order to fully grasp the severity of the situation, one must have an understanding of Notice 95-34, which was issued in response to trust arrangements sold to companies that were designed to provide deductible benefits such as life insurance, disability and severance pay benefits. The promoters of these arrangements claimed that all employer contributions were tax-deductible when paid, by relying on the 10-or-more-employer exemption from the IRC § 419 limits. It was claimed that permissible tax deductions were unlimited in amount.

 

In general, contributions to a welfare benefit fund are not fully deductible when paid. Sections 419 and 419A impose strict limits on the amount of tax-deductible prefunding permitted for contributions to a welfare benefit fund. Section 419A(F)(6) provides an exemption from Section 419 and Section 419A for certain “10-or-more employers” welfare benefit funds. In general, for this exemption to apply, the fund must have more than one contributing employer, of which no single employer can contribute more than 10% of the total contributions, and the plan must not be experience-rated with respect to individual employers.

 

According to the Notice, these arrangements typically involve an investment in variable life or universal life insurance contracts on the lives of the covered employees. The problem is that the employer contributions are large relative to the cost of the amount of term insurance that would be required to provide the death benefits under the arrangement, and the trust administrator may obtain cash to pay benefits other than death benefits, by such means as cashing in or withdrawing the cash value of the insurance policies. The plans are also often designed so that a particular employer’s contributions or its employees’ benefits may be determined in a way that insulates the employer to a significant extent from the experience of other subscribing employers. In general, the contributions and claimed tax deductions tend to be disproportionate to the economic realities of the arrangements.

 

Benistar advertised that enrollees should expect to obtain the same type of tax benefits as listed in the transaction described in Notice 95-34. The benefits of enrollment listed in its advertising packet included: 

  • Virtually unlimited deductions for the employer;
  • Contributions could vary from year to year;
  • Benefits could be provided to one or more key executives on a selective basis;
  • No need to provide benefits to rank-and-file employees;
  • Contributions to the plan were not limited by qualified plan rules and would not interfere with pension, profit sharing or 401(k) plans;
  • Funds inside the plan would accumulate tax-free;
  • Beneficiaries could receive death proceeds free of both income tax and estate tax;
  • The program could be arranged for tax-free distribution at a later date;
  • Funds in the plan were secure from the hands of creditors.

The Court said that the Benistar Plan was factually similar to the plans described in Notice 95-34 at all relevant times. In rendering its decision the court heavily cited Curcio, in which the court also ruled in favor of the IRS. As noted in Curcio, the insurance policies, overwhelmingly variable or universal life policies, required large contributions relative to the cost of the amount of term insurance that would be required to provide the death benefits under the arrangement. The Benistar Plan owned the insurance contracts.

 

Following Curcio, as the Court has stipulated, the Court held that the contributions to Benistar were not deductible under section 162(a) because participants could receive the value reflected in the underlying insurance policies purchased by Benistar—despite the payment of benefits by Benistar seeming to be contingent upon an unanticipated event (the death of the insured while employed). As long as plan participants were willing to abide by Benistar’s distribution policies, there was no reason ever to forfeit a policy to the plan. In fact, in estimating life insurance rates, the taxpayers’ expert in Curcio assumed that there would be no forfeitures, even though he admitted that an insurance company would generally assume a reasonable rate of policy lapses.

 

The McGehee Family Clinic had enrolled in the Benistar Plan in May 2001 and claimed deductions for contributions to it in 2002 and 2005. The returns did not include a Form 8886,Reportable Transaction Disclosure Statement, or similar disclosure.

 

The IRS disallowed the latter deduction and adjusted the 2004 return of shareholder Robert Prosser and his wife to include the $50,000 payment to the plan. The IRS also assessed tax deficiencies and the enhanced 30% penalty totaling almost $21,000 against the clinic and $21,000 against the Prossers. The court ruled that the Prossers failed to prove a reasonable cause or good faith exception.

 

 

More you should know:

 

  • In recent years, some section 412(i) plans have been funded with life insurance using face amounts in excess of the maximum death benefit a qualified plan is permitted to pay.  Ideally, the plan should limit the proceeds that can be paid as a death benefit in the event of a participant’s death.  Excess amounts would revert to the plan.  Effective February 13, 2004, the purchase of excessive life insurance in any plan is considered a listed transaction if the face amount of the insurance exceeds the amount that can be issued by $100,000 or more and the employer has deducted the premiums for the insurance.
  • A 412(i) plan in and of itself is not a listed transaction; however, the IRS has a task force auditing 412i plans.
  • An employer has not engaged in a listed transaction simply because it is a 412(i) plan.
  • Just because a 412(i) plan was audited and sanctioned for certain items, does not necessarily mean the plan engaged in a listed transaction. Some 412(i) plans have been audited and sanctioned for issues not related to listed transactions.

 

 

Companies should carefully evaluate proposed investments in plans such as the Benistar Plan. The claimed deductions will not be available, and penalties will be assessed for lack of disclosure if the investment is similar to the investments described in Notice 95-34. In addition, under IRC 6707A, IRS fines participants a large amount of money for not properly disclosing their participation in listed, reportable or similar transactions; an issue that was not before the Tax Court in either Curcio or McGehee. The disclosure needs to be made for every year the participant is in a plan. The forms need to be properly filed even for years that no contributions are made. I have received numerous calls from participants who did disclose and still got fined because the forms were not filled in properly. A plan administrator told me that he assisted hundreds of his participants file forms, and they still all received very large IRS fines for not properly filling in the forms.

 

IRS has been attacking all 419 welfare benefit plans, many 412i retirement plans, captive insurance plans with life insurance in them and Section 79 plans.

 

 Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, abusive tax shelters, financial, international tax, and estate planning.  He writes about 412(i), 419, Section79, FBAR, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Pubic Radio’s All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education’s CPA’s Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as the AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007, lawallach@aol.com or visit www.vebaplan.com.

 

Lance Wallach
Ph.: (516)938-5007
Fax: (516)938-6330

www.vebaplan.com


National Society of Accountants Speaker of The Year



The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

 

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