On December 20, 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) designed to decrease the taxable rate for corporations and individuals, and to limit allowable deductions. Since this change to the Tax Code was one of the largest since the Reagan era, the Internal Revenue Service will need to publish many regulations in the coming months to better clarify provisions of the TCJA. This multi-part series will explore prominent IRS regulations as they relate to the TCJA, and what these regulations mean for both individual and corporate taxpayers.
It is commonly accepted that lowering tax rates increases tax compliance and high tax rates encourage tax evasion. The recent U.S. tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, was enacted partly due to assumptions that lowered tax rates would increase tax compliance and recover lost revenue. Here, I examine the theoretical basis for the claim that lowering income taxes increases compliance, as well as the external evidence regarding the extent of increased compliance due to lowering tax rates.
As the president and the Republican Party inch closer to finalizing their proposed tax overhaul, one major proposed change is the repeal of the estate tax. The estate tax is a tax on an individual’s right to transfer property upon his or her death, usually to the individual’s surviving relatives or heirs. Currently, estates are taxed at a rate of 40% after the first 5.5 million. While the tax itself only impacts the wealthiest 0.2% of Americans, the inclusion or repeal of the tax in the Republican tax bill will affect Americans of all income brackets.
The IRS suspended its Automatic Substitute for Return (ASFR) Program for lack of resources, Tax Analysts and others report. The ASFR program has long provided an avenue for the IRS to assess taxes on delinquent filers after requests to file returns were ignored by having its computer system automatically calculate the tax due based on Forms 1099 and other information reports that had been filed with the IRS. The IRS could then assess the taxes and attempt to collect based on these substitute returns. However, since deductions were ignored, the tax amounts tended to be inflated, sometimes incredibly so, and significant IRS time was required to respond to contested assessments and collection efforts that were sometimes highly unrealistic.
After failing to arrive at a consensus on healthcare reform, the Republican party recently passed a blueprint which marked their shift in focus to something less contentious: the American tax code. If the Republicans are successful, compliance with tax regulation in the United States may soon change. An aspect of the code likely to be reformed is how asset appreciation is taxed.
Captive insurance companies, insurance companies owned by persons related to the insureds, have long served as an important risk management tool for businesses as varied as Sears and The New York Times. In recent years, there has been an explosion of “micro-captive” insurance companies, companies with premiums that do not exceed $1.2 million in a year. Until 2017, $1.2 million was the allowable maximum amount of premiums for an insurance company to elect favorable tax treatment under I.R.C. § 831(b), allowing the small insurance company to be taxed only on its investment income. The IRS believes that these “831(b)” micro-captives are often used as tax-shelters rather than for legitimate business purposes.