More than two decades ago, the Service announced its intention to consider simplifying the entity classification rules in Notice 95-14. It stated:
“The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department are considering simplifying the classification regulations to allow taxpayers to treat domestic unincorporated business organizations as partnerships or as associations on an elective basis. The Service and Treasury also are considering adopting similar rules for foreign business organizations. Comments are requested regarding this and other possible approaches to simplifying the regulations.”
The Service asked for public comments on simplification of entity tax classification. It scheduled a public hearing on the matter for July 20, 1995.
In May 1996, proposed entity classification regulations were issued by Treasury. About seven months later, on December 17, 1996, Treasury finalized the regulations. The regulations are found in Treasury Regulation Section 301.7701.
The regulations were clearly designed to accomplish the IRS’s stated goal – simplifying entity tax classification. The regulations, commonly referred to as the “Check-the-Box” regulations, successfully brought an end to much of the long existing battle between taxpayers and the Service over entity tax classification. The regulations generally became effective on January 1, 1997. In a little over a month from now, they will be 25-years old.
The regulations, despite judicial challenge (e.g., Littriello v. United States, 2005-USTC ¶50,385 (WD Ky. 2005), aff’d, 484 F3d 372 (6th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 128 S. Ct. 1290 2008)), have persevered, making the entity classification landscape free of many tax authority challenges and providing taxpayers with some objectivity and more importantly, much needed certainty. That said, despite the simplification brought into the world of entity tax classification by the Check-the-Box regulations, for which tax practitioners applauded the government, several new hazards were created. Whether these new hazards were intentional or unintentional is subject to debate. Unfortunately, not all of these hazards are obvious to taxpayers and their advisors. If taxpayers and their advisors are not extremely careful in this area, disastrous unintended tax consequences may exist. Accordingly, a good understanding of the regulations and the consequences of making, not making or changing an entity tax classification decision is paramount.
Last month, I presented a White Paper that I authored on the regulations at the NYU 81st Institute on Federal Taxation in New York City, and I will be presenting it again for NYU in San Diego on November 17, 2022. The paper provides exhaustive coverage of the regulations and covers numerous nuances and traps that exist for unwary taxpayers and their advisors. An issue which is often overlooked by practitioners is whether using the regulations to change entity status for income tax purposes is always a good idea. While I discuss the issue in some detail in the paper, the sub-issue of whether a taxpayer should use the regulations to change the tax status of a limited liability company (“LLC”) taxed as a partnership to a corporation taxed under Subchapter S needs discussion. I explore that sub-issue below.
On November 19, 2021, HR 5376, the 2,476-page bill, commonly known as the Build Back Better Act, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 220-213.
The House’s vote on HR 5376 was held after the Congressional Budget Office released its cost estimates for the proposed legislation. It estimates HR 5376 will cost almost $1.7 trillion and add $367 billion to the federal deficit over 10 years.
HR 5376 started out with robust changes to our tax laws, including large increases in the corporate, individual, trust and estate income tax rates, significant increases in the capital gains tax rates, taxation of unrealized gains of the ultra-wealthy, a huge reduction in the unified credit, a tax surcharge on high income individuals, trusts and estates, expansion of the application of the net investment income tax, elimination of gift and death transfer discounts, and additional limitations on the application of the qualified business income deduction.
To the cheer of most U.S. taxpayers, HR 5376, as passed by the House, is a dwarf, in terms of the tax provisions, compared to its original form. As tax legislation, at least in its current state, it is much ado about nothing.
However, U.S. taxpayers should not get too joyful about the legislation in its current form. It will likely be substantially altered by the Senate, regaining many of its original provisions (with or without modification). In fact, Skopos Labs reports that the bill, as passed by the House, has a 10 percent chance of being in enacted into law.
HR 5376, at its heart, provides funding, establishes new programs and otherwise modifies current provisions of the law aimed at enhancing a broad array of programs, including education, childcare, healthcare and the environmental protections.
While it may not be worth spending too much time focusing on HR 5376, as its tax provisions will be drastically altered by the Senate, it is worth briefly noting what is in the bill and what may be missing.
Last fall, the IRS announced, with respect to pass-through entities (LLCs or other entities taxed as partnerships or S corporations), that, if state law allows or requires the entity itself to pay state and local taxes (which normally pass through and are paid by the ultimate owners of the entity), the entity will not be subject to the $10,000 state and local taxes deductibility cap (the “SALT Cap”).
On February 4, 2021, Senate Bill 727 (“SB 727”) was introduced in the Oregon Legislature. SB 727 is Oregon’s response to the IRS announcement (see discussion below).
On June 17, 2021, after some amendments, SB 727 was passed by the Senate and referred to the House. Nine days later, the House passed the legislation without changes. On June 19, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed SB 727 into law, effective September 25, 2021. In general, it applies to tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2022. Interestingly, SB 727 sunsets at the end of 2023.
In relevant part, SB 727 allows pass-through entities to make an annual election to pay Oregon state and local taxes at the entity level. For pass-through entities that make the election, their owners will potentially be able to deduct more than $10,000 of Oregon state and local taxes on the federal income tax return. However, it gets even better—SB 727 includes a refundable credit feature that may result in further tax savings for some owners of pass-through entities.
On April 17, 2019, Treasury issued its second installment of proposed regulations relating to Qualified Opportunity Zones (“QOZs”). The regulations are 169 pages in length, and (as suspected) are fairly complex. Nevertheless, Treasury addresses a significant number of important QOZ issues.
We will dive into the proposed regulations in some detail in subsequent blog posts. In this post, however, we provide a high-level overview of some of the more significant provisions in the proposed regulations.
The NYU 77th Institute on Federal Taxation (IFT) is taking place in New York City on October 21-26, 2018, and in San Diego on November 11-16, 2018. This year, I will be presenting my latest White Paper, Subchapter S After The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. My presentation will include a discussion about the direct changes made by the TCJA to Subchapter S as well as the impact on Subchapter S by other provisions of the TCJA, including creation of a single corporate tax rate under Section 11, creation of the Section 199A deduction, elimination of personal property exchanges under Section 1031, and elimination of the corporate alternative minimum tax. I will also discuss the ongoing benefits of Subchapter S and new traps that exist for the unwary.
The IFT is one of the country's leading tax conferences, geared specifically for CPAs and attorneys who regularly are involved in federal tax matters. The speakers on our panel, Taxation of Closely Held Businesses, include some of the most preeminent tax attorneys in the United States, including Jerry August, Terry Cuff, Wells Hall, Stephen Looney, Ronald Levitt, Stephen Kuntz, Mark Peltz, and Bobby Philpott. I am proud to be a part of IFT.
This will be my eighth year as an IFT presenter, and I am again speaking as part of the Closely Held Business panel on October 25 (NYC) and November 15 (San Diego). As in previous years, the IFT will cover a wide range of fascinating topics, including tax controversy, executive compensation and employee benefits, international taxation, corporate taxation, real estate taxation, partnership taxation, taxation of closely-held businesses, trusts and estates, and ethics. The IFT is especially important this year given the recent passage of the TCJA and the many new tax provisions that were added to the Code, including Section 199A.
I hope you will join us this year for what will be a terrific tax institute. Looking forward to seeing you in either New York or San Diego!
View the complete agenda and register at the NYU 77th IFT website.
As we have been discussing these past several weeks, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) drastically changed the Federal income tax landscape. The TCJA also triggered a sea of change in the income tax laws of states like Oregon that partially base their own income tax regimes on the Federal tax regime. When the Federal tax laws change, some changes are automatically adopted by the states, while other changes may require local legislative action. In either case, state legislatures must decide which parts of the Federal law to adopt (in whole or part) and which parts to reject, all while keeping an eye on their fiscal purse.
C Corporations with Oregon annual revenues greater than $25 million may face a new minimum tax obligation – 2.5 percent of the excess – if Measure 97 passes. If a business falls within this category, there may be ways to mitigate its impact. The time to start planning, however, is now.
Oregon taxes corporations under an excise tax regime. The Oregon corporate excise tax regime was adopted in 1929. The original legislation included what is commonly called a “minimum tax” provision. In accordance with this provision, corporations subject to the Oregon excise tax are required to pay the greater of the tax computed under the regular corporate excise tax provision or the tax computed under the “minimum tax” provision. Accordingly, the “minimum tax” is an “alternative” tax; it is not an “additional” tax as many commentators have recently asserted.
Originally, the Oregon corporate “minimum tax” was a fixed amount – $25. As a result of the lobbying efforts of Oregon businesses, the “minimum tax” was eventually reduced to $10, where it remained for almost 80 years.
In 2010, Oregon voters dramatically changed the corporate “minimum tax” landscape with the passage of Measure 67. The corporate “minimum tax” (beginning with the 2009 tax year), is no longer a fixed amount. Rather, it is now based on Oregon sales (gross revenues). The “minimum tax” is now:
$500,000 to $1 million
$1 million to $2 million
$2 million to $3 million
$3 million to $5 million
$5 million to $7 million
$7 million to $10 million
$10 million to $25 million
$25 million to $50 million
$50 million to $75 million
$75 million to $100 million
$100 million or more
S corporations are exempt from the alternative graduated tax system. Instead, they are still subject to a fixed amount “minimum tax,” which is currently $150.
As an example, under the current corporate “minimum tax” provision, a corporation with Oregon gross sales of $150 million, but which, after allowable deductions, has a net operating loss of $25,000, would be subject to a minimum tax of $100,000. Many corporations operating in Oregon, which traditionally have small profit margins (i.e., high gross sales, but low net income), found themselves (after Measure 67 was passed) with large tax bills and little or no money to pay the taxes. Three possible solutions for these businesses exist:
- Make an S corporation election (if eligible);
- Change the entity to a LLC taxed as a partnership (if the tax cost of conversion is palatable); or
- Move all business operations and sales outside of Oregon to a more tax-friendly jurisdiction.
Several corporations in this predicament have adopted one of these solutions.
Initiative Petition 28/ Measure 97
Measure 97 will be presented to Oregon voters this November. If it receives voter approval, it will amend the “minimum tax” in two major ways:
- The “minimum tax” will remain the same for corporations with Oregon sales of $25 million or less. For corporations with Oregon sales above $25 million, however, the “minimum tax” (rather than being fixed) will be $30,001, PLUS 2.5 percent of the excess over $25 million.
- The petition specifically provides that “legally formed and registered benefit companies” as defined in ORS 60.750 will not be subject to the higher “minimum tax.” Rather, they will continue to be subject to the pre-Measure 97 “minimum tax” regime (as discussed above). Caveat: The exception, as drafted, appears to only apply to Oregon benefit companies; it does not extend to foreign benefit companies authorized to do business in Oregon.
Measure 97 expressly provides that all increased tax revenues attributable to the new law will be used to fund education, healthcare and senior citizen programs. As a result, many commentators believe the initiative has great voter appeal and will likely be approved by voters. If Measure 97 is passed, it is slated to raise over $6 billion in additional tax revenue per biennium.
As reported in my November 2013 blog post, for tax years beginning in 2015 or later, under ORS 316.043, applicable non-passive income attributable to certain partnerships and S corporations may be taxed using reduced tax rates. The reduced tax rates are as follows:
- 7 percent for taxable income of $250,000 or less;
- 7.2 percent for taxable income greater than $250,000 but less than or equal to $500,000;
- 7.6 percent for taxable income greater than $500,000 but less than or equal to $1,000,000;
- 8 percent for taxable income greater than $1,000,000 but less than or equal to $2,500,000;
- 9 percent for taxable income greater than $2,500,000 but less than or equal to $5,000,000; and
- 9.9 percent for taxable income greater than $5,000,000.
The Extender’s Bill impacts Subchapter S in at least two respects. It amends IRC Section 1374(d)(7) and IRC Section 1367(a)(2). Both of these amendments are temporary. Unless extended, they only live until the end of this year. Yes, they only apply to tax years beginning in 2014.
I. IRC Section 1374(d)(7).
In the last five (5) years, we have seen at least three temporary amendments to the built in gains tax recognition period.
I was recently interviewed by Ama Sarfo, a reporter for Law360 (a national legal publication of LexisNexis). I discussed some of the audit risks Subchapter S corporations and their shareholders face these days. Below is an excerpt of the Article.
Audit Risk: It's estimated that the U.S. has a $450 billion gap between taxes that are owed to the government and taxes that are actually paid on time. This staggering number, despite significant budgetary constraints, has put taxpayer compliance back in the forefront for the IRS. In the 1990s, the Service was forced to move its focus from the audit function to information and technology as its systems were terribly out of date. Taxpayers need to be on their game because the IRS is back in the audit business, and noncompliance penalties are stronger than they've ever been before.
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 practices in the Portland office. 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.