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Posts from April 2014.

As the Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute (OTI), I would like to invite you to the 14th Annual Oregon Tax Institute scheduled for June 5 & 6 in Portland, Oregon.  We have grown the OTI from a local tax forum into a preeminent tax institute for both tax attorneys and CPAs.  Our topic coverage and faculty this year are fabulous and each one of our speakers is a nationally recognized expert in tax law.  This year’s OTI will be on par with the best tax institutes in the country.      

I hope you will join us in June and I encourage you to sign up for OTI as soon as possible.  Also, please feel free to share this information with your colleagues.



VaultOn March 18, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service announced that one of its employees had taken home a computer thumb drive containing unencrypted data relating to 20,000 agency workers.  The employee then plugged the thumb drive into an unsecure home computer network.  While the thumb drive did not contain any data relating to persons outside the Internal Revenue Service, it still put 20,000 individuals at risk of theft of identity and/or financial assets.

Commissioner John Koskinen described the data breach as an “isolated event.”  Isolated or not, his statement likely does not give any solace to the 20,000 affected IRS workers.  This data breach may have been narrower in scope than the recent Target Corp. data breach, but it nevertheless illustrates how vulnerable we are to data breaches and potential theft of identity and/or financial assets in this electronic era.

We have to constantly safeguard the personal information we receive from our clients, as well as our own personal information.   Loss of client information could easily lead to liability.

On March 10, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (“Service”) issued Notice 2014?17 (“Notice”).  The Notice focuses on the tax treatment of per capita distributions made to members of Indian tribes from funds previously held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior and which were derived from interests in trust lands, trust resources and/or trust assets.

The Department of Interior (“DOI”) is responsible for holding these trust funds on behalf of federally-recognized tribes and certain individual Indians who have an interest in trust lands, trust resources, or trust assets.  The Office of Special Trustee within the DOI is tasked with the responsibility of managing these funds.

Prior to 1983, the DOI made per capita distributions of the trust funds directly to the members of the tribes.  In 1983, pursuant to the Per Capita Act, however, tribes were given authority to receive the trust funds and hold them in tribal trust accounts for subsequent per capita distributions to members.  So, now the DOI can distribute the trust funds to the tribes who, in turn, make the per capita distributions to members.

The law appears fairly clear in that per capita distributions of these funds from the DOI to tribal members are excluded from gross income.  The issue, following the enactment of the Per Capita Act, is whether per capita distributions received by members from their tribes are likewise excludable from gross income.

A California couple was recently walking their dog when they noticed a rusty tin container protruding from the soil next to a tree in their garden. Upon investigating the matter, they discovered several tin cans buried in the soil. The cans contained 1,400 gold coins. The coins, which are said to be in mint condition, date back to the 19th century. Experts have placed a preliminary value on the coins of more than $10 million. For obvious reasons, the couple is keeping their identity and the location of their home out of the media.

It appears the couple is legally entitled to retain the treasure trove. A law professor from the University of North Carolina, John Orth, recently told TIME Magazine, because the coins were found on the couple’s own property, they will likely be able to retain them.

Like the winner of a lottery, the California couple will be required to declare their new fortune as gross income for income tax purposes. This is not the first time a person has been faced with good fortune and a corresponding tax bill.

In Cesarini v. U.S., 23 AFTR 2d 69-997 (Northern District of Ohio, 1969), a couple purchased a piano in 1957 for $15. In 1964, while cleaning the piano, they discovered almost $4,500 in U.S. currency.

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Larry J. Brant

Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder and the Chair of the Tax & Benefits practice group at Foster Garvey, a law firm based out of the Pacific Northwest, with offices in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; New York, New York, Spokane, Washington; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Beijing, China. Mr. Brant is licensed to practice in Oregon and Washington. His practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and transactions. Mr. Brant is a past Chair of the Oregon State Bar Taxation Section. He was the long-term Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Portland Tax Forum. Mr. Brant has served as an adjunct professor, teaching corporate taxation, at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College. He is an Expert Contributor to Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Catalyst. Mr. Brant is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel. He publishes articles on numerous income tax issues, including Taxation of S Corporations, Reasonable Compensation, Circular 230, Worker Classification, IRC § 1031 Exchanges, Choice of Entity, Entity Tax Classification, and State and Local Taxation. Mr. Brant is a frequent lecturer at local, regional and national tax and business conferences for CPAs and attorneys. He was the 2015 Recipient of the Oregon State Bar Tax Section Award of Merit.

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