Recent Tax Developments that May Impact Construction Contractors

Blog
July 17, 2014

gavel5Staying abreast of tax changes for your construction business can seem like a moving target, but continuous planning can help you minimize liability. In the second quarter of 2014, we saw a number of important tax developments that should be considered when managing your construction business.

No bankruptcy exemption for inherited IRAs.A unanimous Supreme Court held that inherited IRAs do not qualify for a bankruptcy exemption (i.e., they are not protected from creditors in bankruptcy). Under the Bankruptcy Code, a debtor may exempt amounts that are both (1) retirement funds, and (2) exempt from income tax under one of several Internal Revenue Code provisions, including one that provides a tax exemption for IRAs. The Supreme Court held that this exemption does not extend to inherited IRAs because funds held in them are not retirement funds. For this purpose, the term “inherited IRA” doesn’t include amounts inherited by the spouse of the decedent. This decision should be taken into account when selecting IRA beneficiaries. If a potential beneficiary is under financial distress, the IRA owner should consider naming a trust as beneficiary instead. The individual could be named as beneficiary of the trust without jeopardizing the full IRA funds in the event of a personal bankruptcy.

Purchase of underlying property didn’t prevent deduction for lease termination payment. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has allowed a party that exercised an option to buy property that it was leasing to deduct a portion of the amount tendered in the transaction as a lease termination payment. In so doing, it rejected the IRS’s argument that the full amount tendered had to be capitalized as part of the purchase price. The dispute centered on an obscure tax law, which states that, where property is acquired subject to a lease, no basis is allocated to the leasehold interest. The IRS said that this provision precluded a deduction, but the Sixth Circuit disagreed. Because the lease terminated when the taxpayer acquired the property, the property was not acquired subject to a lease and the law at issue did not apply to bar the deduction. Years earlier, the Tax Court reached the opposite result in a case with similar facts.

Employer health insurance tactic may backfire. The IRS has warned of costly consequences to an employer that doesn’t establish a health insurance plan for its employees, but reimburses them for premiums they pay for health insurance (either through a qualified health plan in the Marketplace or outside the Marketplace). According to the IRS, these arrangements, called employer payment plans, are considered to be group health plans subject to the market reforms of the Affordable Care Act. These reforms include the prohibition on annual limits for essential health benefits and the requirement to provide certain preventive care without cost sharing. Such arrangements cannot be integrated with individual policies to satisfy the market reforms. Consequently, such an arrangement fails to satisfy the market reforms and may be subject to a $100/day excise tax per applicable employee.

More enforcement of responsible person penalty likely.If an employer fails to properly pay over its payroll taxes, the IRS can seek to collect a trust fund recovery penalty equal to 100% of the unpaid taxes from a person who is responsible for collecting and paying over payroll taxes and who willfully fails to do so. A recent report issued by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has found the IRS has often not taken adequate and timely action in assessing and collecting the responsible person penalty. The report also makes recommendations for improvements, which the IRS has agreed to implement, making enforcement more likely.

Taxpayer Bill of Rights. In an effort to help taxpayers better understand their rights, the IRS has adopted a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights,” which dictates that previously disparate clauses are now prominently displayed in one place on the IRS’s website, falling into these 10 broad categories:

    • The right to be informed
    • The right to quality service
    • The right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax
    • The right to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard
    • The right to appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum
    • The right to finality
    • The right to privacy
    • The right to confidentiality
    • The right to retain representation
    • The right to a fair and just tax system.

Next year’s inflation adjustments for health savings accounts.The IRS has provided the annual inflation-adjusted contribution, deductible, and out-of-pocket expense limits for 2015 for health savings accounts (HSAs). Eligible individuals may, subject to statutory limits, make deductible contributions to an HSA. Employers as well as other persons (e.g., family members) also may contribute on behalf of an eligible individual. Employer contributions are generally treated as employer-provided coverage for medical expenses under an accident or health plan and are excludable from income. Typically, a person is an “eligible individual” if he is covered under a high deductible health plan (HDHP) and is not covered under any other health plan that is not a high deductible plan, unless the other coverage is permitted insurance (e.g., for worker’s compensation, a specified disease or illness, or providing a fixed payment for hospitalization).

For calendar year 2015, the limitation on deductions is $3,350 (up from $3,300 for 2014) for an individual with self-only coverage. It’s $6,650 (up from $6,550 for 2014) for an individual with family coverage under a HDHP. Each of these amounts is increased by $1,000 if the eligible individual is age 55 or older. For calendar year 2015, a “high deductible health plan” is a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,300 (up from $1,250 for 2014) for self-only coverage or $2,600 (up from $2,500 for 2014) for family coverage, and with respect to which the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,450 (up from $6,350 for 2014) for self-only coverage or $12,900 for family coverage (up from $12,700 for 2014).

For more information about these changes or other tax issues, please contact an Aronson tax advisor at 301.231.6200 or contact us online.