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  • 09/08/2020 8:16 AM | Anonymous

    By Paul Bonner
    September 1, 2020

    Hardly anything about 2020 could be considered normal, and the annual tax software survey of AICPA member tax preparers by the JofA and The Tax Adviser is no exception. For perhaps the first time ever, the survey had to couch its questions about tax season in the present tense, for the simple reason that, with the IRS's postponement until July 15 of the April 15 return due date, tax season was not yet over, as it usually is when the survey is deployed. The COVID-19 pandemic and federal disaster declaration that resulted in that postponement and many other legislative and administrative relief measures affected CPA tax preparers' tax season as well (see the sidebar, "Amid a 'Brutal' Tax Season").

    The survey also for a fifth year asked about respondents' experience with clients whose tax-related identities were stolen, indicating that this issue, once in the forefront among those disrupting tax season, has continued to recede.

    PRODUCTS COVERED AND PROFILE OF RESPONDENTS

    The survey invited respondents to select their software from among 13 products and write in others not mentioned; of these, the same seven products as in past years accounted for most of the responses, led by:

    • UltraTax CS with 20.7% of respondents;
    • Lacerte with 16%;
    • Drake Tax with 15.1%;
    • CCH ProSystem fx with 12.4%;
    • ProSeries with 11.4%;
    • CCH Axcess Tax with 7.3%;
    • ATX with 6.4%.

    The remaining 10.7% was divided among Intuit ProConnect Tax Online, TurboTax, GoSystem Tax RS, TaxAct, TaxWise, TaxSlayer Pro, and others. CCH ProSystem fx's representation was three percentage points below that in the 2019 survey, and Lacerte slipped by 1.4 points. ATX and Drake Tax both gained 1.2 points from 2019. However, the ranking order by usage of all seven "major" products was unchanged.

    Some products are favored by smaller firms, others by larger ones, and the sample's overall profile of respondents by firm size can affect relative representation of each product. The 2020 survey sample featured a higher percentage of single-member practices (37.2%) than in 2019 (32.7%), which could account for the greater number of users of ATX and Drake Tax, both associated with smaller firms. Correspondingly, 2020 responses from members in medium to large firms, generally the province of CCH ProSystem fx users, were slightly fewer: 9.4% in firms of 21 or more, compared with 11.4% in 2019.

    Lacerte and ProSeries are Intuit Inc. products, while ATX, CCH Axcess Tax, and CCH ProSystem fx are Wolters Kluwer products. UltraTax CS is a Thomson Reuters product. For more information on correlation of product with number of preparers in a firm, see the table "Favorites by Firm Size." More information on all 13 products is available here.

    Favorites by firm size


    The chart shows that Drake Tax is the leading product among sole practitioners, used by nearly 28% of respondents in single-preparer firms. Nearly the same percentage of respondents in firms of the next tier, two to five preparers, used UltraTax CS, and among those in the next tier, six to 20 preparers, UltraTax CS was used by one-third of respondents. But by far the highest representation of any product in any of the firm-size cohorts was the nearly 73% of respondents in the largest firms, those numbering more than 500 preparers, who used CCH Axcess Tax, which correspondingly predominated in the largest firms as measured by number of clients: 62% of respondents with over 5,000 clients used it.

    Overall, respondents for whom a majority of the returns they prepared were for individuals rather than businesses were nearly 76% of users of the major products, and those for whom business returns were less than half were nearly 90%, ratios that remain relatively consistent over the years. Respondents for whom a majority of returns were for businesses were most likely to have used CCH Axcess Tax (23.4%) or CCH ProSystem fx (17.5%).

    Being personally responsible for choosing the software can affect how an individual perceives and rates it and also correlates to firm size. Some confirmation or sunk-cost bias is probably latent in the survey results, since respondents often report using a particular software mostly because they have done so for a long time and are used to it. Nearly 95% of ATX users made the decision to use it, followed by ProSeries (91.3%) and Drake Tax (89%). Only 30% of CCH Axcess Tax users made the choice, although another 30.5% had input into the decision. Overall, only 10.6% of all respondents reported a lack of any involvement in deciding on their software. But among respondents in firms of 501 or more preparers, that percentage rose to 85%.

    GENERAL PERFORMANCE

    The overall rating users gave their software (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest) averaged 4.4 for all seven major products (see the table "Overall Ratings"). Drake Tax users gave it an average rating of 4.6; the lowest was 4.0 for CCH Axcess Tax, which also rated significantly lower than others on ease of use (3.6, against an average 4.3 for all seven products). CCH Axcess Tax did edge above the average for ease of importing data, however (3.6; average 3.5). UltraTax CS also ranked above average for data importation (3.7), and ATX and Drake Tax below it (3.0 and 3.3, respectively).

    Overall ratings


    The table also provides assessments of ease of updating and installing the software, how well the software handled updates during tax season, transferring data within returns, e-filing, multistate business returns, and integrating with accounting and other software. UltraTax CS stood out in responses to the question of how well the product integrated with other software with 3.7, while ATX lagged with 2.8, against all products' average 3.4. While, as noted above, users of CCH Axcess Tax on average prepared more business returns than others, they were not particularly enamored of its capabilities for preparing multistate business returns, ranking it a 4.0, below the other six major products.

    Asked if they would recommend their software to someone starting a tax practice, Drake Tax users were the most sanguine, with 98% saying "yes." Only 63% of CCH Axcess Tax users, on the other hand, endorsed that product for startup firms.

    LIKES AND DISLIKES

    As in past surveys, this year's survey asked respondents to pick their top three likes and dislikes about their software from among 11 choices, plus "other," with a chance to write in something else. However, this article begins a change in how the results are reported. Previously, we gave the answers for each attribute as a percentage of the total number of responses for that product; this year, we are showing each attribute choice as a percentage of the number of users of that product. With a smaller denominator, these percentages are generally higher than in previous years and can add up to more than 100% for each product. We did this to make it easier and more natural to discuss the results as a percentage of users than as a percentage of those users' total choices. That said, the relative rankings and trends remain consistent with those of previous years, most prominently showing strong attitudes toward the products' prices.

    Nearly 89% of Drake Tax users picked price as one of the three things they liked best about it; the next highest was ATX at 61.5% of users (the average for all seven was 27.3%; see the table "Top Likes"). Drake Tax users also were the most likely to approve of its support (74%, compared with an average of 32%). However, relatively few Drake Tax users liked its number of forms and comprehensiveness (21.6%), as was the case with ProSeries users (38.4%). CCH Axcess Tax users were the most likely to see number of forms and comprehensiveness as a primary merit (78.4%), followed closely by CCH ProSystem fx (74%).

    Top likes


    Asked separately whether their software contained all the forms they needed, however, Drake Tax users said "yes" 89.3% of the time. Leading in answers to this question were UltraTax CS (92.9%) and ATX (90.7%). Users of CCH Axcess Tax and CCH ProSystem fx answered "yes" to having all needed forms at 86.6% and 89.4%, respectively.

    Two other favored traits besides forms/comprehensiveness were the most likely to be chosen for all products on average: accuracy and ease of use. CCH ProSystem fx predominated for accuracy (72%), followed by CCH Axcess Tax (nearly 66%) and UltraTax CS (61.4%). Only 22.4% of Drake Tax users picked accuracy as a top like. For ease of use, ProSeries users were the most likely to pick this as a like (73.4%), followed by Lacerte (70.1%) and ATX (62.4%). Consistent with the numerical rating for ease of use discussed above, CCH Axcess Tax users generally found other things to like than ease of use, with only 25.1% picking that attribute.

    Price headed the top dislikes for more than a majority of users of all seven products combined, as mentioned above, with 78% of Lacerte users disfavoring that product's price tag (see the table "Top Dislikes"). Close behind was CCH ProSystem fx at one-tenth of a point lower. Over three-quarters, 76%, of UltraTax CS users disliked its price, as did nearly 60% of CCH Axcess Tax users.

    Top dislikes


    Only 1.4% of Drake Tax users disliked its price, but 45.2% of them registered disapproval for "tax research included in package" (against an average of 24%), and nearly 37% found its integration with other software wanting. While only a small portion of users of ProSeries picked number of forms/comprehensiveness as a top dislike (21.1%), when asked directly in another question if that software contained all the forms they needed, they were the least likely of users of all the seven products to say "yes" (68.2%).

    While write-in "other" dislikes ran the gamut of reasons, nearly one-tenth of the 330 entries mentioned updates: their frequency, their slowness, their timeliness, updating for state returns, and a lack of information about their reason or what they covered. These complaints were not concentrated on any single product. General performance issues were also frequent complaints.

    TECHNOLOGY, TRAINING, AND SUPPORT

    Some respondents commented favorably in "other" likes about cloud deployment of their tax software, but those using it still are a small minority. This year, when asked where their software resides, 82.1% of major product users said it was on their own hard drive or network — for five of the seven products, the percentage was over 90% — and only 17.9% said it lived on the vendor's server. This ratio was nearly exactly the same last year, with only slightly more cloud computing users than in 2018. CCH Axcess Tax, which Wolters Kluwer characterizes as cloud-based, was the only product for which most users reported accessing it on the vendor's server (84.1%).

    A majority of users of the seven products said they received no formal training in the software from the provider (62.9%). Users of CCH Axcess Tax were the most likely to have received training (57.3%), followed by Drake Tax (44.2%) and UltraTax CS (42.7%). CCH Axcess Tax users, however, did not rate that training particularly highly (3.7 out of 5, with an average rating for all seven products of 4.1). The only major products to rate higher than that average were Drake Tax and ProSeries, at 4.5 and 4.2, respectively.

    As noted above, Drake Tax users were prone to pick support as a top like; they were also the most prone to say they needed technical support during tax season (86.6%), and, consistent with the "Top Likes" table, they rated the tech support highest in quality and ease of obtaining it, 4.6 and 4.8, respectively, compared with an average rating of 4.0 and 3.9 for all seven products (see the table "Technical Support"). ProSeries and ATX users reported needing support less often than most (62.8% and 67.8%, respectively).

    CPAs continued to receive their technical support predominantly by telephone (nearly 92%), followed by live chat or messaging (31.8%) and email (26.7%). Notably, live chat/messaging edged out email for the first time this year. In 2019, email was used by 28.3% and live chat/messaging by 27.1% of major product users.

    Technical support


    IDENTITY THEFT

    For a fifth year, the tax software survey also asked about CPAs' experience during the current tax season of having clients victimized by tax identity theft, and for a fourth year, the reported incidence declined. From a high of 59.3% in 2016, the percentage of respondents saying any clients were victims declined to 17.4% in 2020, down from 20.7% in 2019 (see the graph, "Identity Theft"). Most who did report ID theft said few clients were affected; for nearly 97%, less than 5% of their clients were affected. Correcting the resultant problems remained relatively onerous, however, with a rating of 3.0 out of 5 (with 1 being the most difficult and 5 the easiest), about the same as previously.

    Identity theft


    FIXED EXPECTATIONS

    The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many unforeseen circumstances and unintended side effects, notably, the delay of return due dates until July 15, coupled with taxpayer relief measures that increased the number and types of calculations CPAs were called upon to implement. Despite those uncertainties, CPAs' perceptions about their tax software programs appear to have changed little from the more settled recent past — fortunately for anyone seeking fixed expectations amid a sea of change.

    Results and methodology

    This year's survey was conducted June 1—12 and received 3,210 responses from CPAs who indicated that they prepared tax year 2019 returns for a fee. The survey asked about 13 software products by name; respondents could also provide information about other products. Most of the discussion and data in the tables accompanying this article concern the seven most commonly used software products, for which 2,866 users gave answers. For more information about the responses and company information on basic features and options for the seven major products, click here.

    Amid a 'brutal' tax season

    CPA tax preparers were also polled separately during tax season for their views on the July 15 delayed filing and payment date and whether they thought it should be postponed further. This poll was carried out by the AICPA Tax Executive Committee (TEC) in May, surveying members of the AICPA Tax Section. The questions were: "Based on the current COVID-19 environment and the impact on your tax practice, do you anticipate being able to file returns or extensions for your clients by the July 15 deadline?" and "Do you believe the IRS should automatically extend the July 15 filing and payment deadline?" Edward Karl, CPA, CGMA, the AICPA vice president—Taxation, and Chris Hesse, CPA, the TEC's chair and a tax principal of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP's National Tax Office, related the results in a blog post and a JofA podcast. The upshot was that a majority of members said they could meet the July 15 deadline, but a plurality said they preferred a further postponement to Oct. 15, with others favoring other dates. The IRS soon after made the issue moot by announcing the July 15 date would stand.

    Few respondents mentioned tax software in either case, but many of the nearly 1,000 written reasons they submitted for their answers revealed the stresses they and their clients faced. Many who favored no further postponement sent comments along the lines of this one: "Let's get this brutal tax season over sooner than later!!!" Scores of comments said further delay would only invite more procrastination on the part of clients.

    Some CPAs reflected, though, on the toll the tax season was taking on themselves and their staffs. They lamented the productivity hurdles and extra work of learning and advising on the details of new tax provisions and Paycheck Protection Program loans, loan forgiveness, and tax effects. Plus, in their personal lives, disease prevention and family care while staying at home required more of their time and attention.

    And many worried about their clients who were beset by financial dislocations. One compared the situation to medical triage. "I am already anticipating who will need help with offers in compromise or CNC [currently not collectible] status. I have had to make judgment calls based on who needs my time the most."

    Partly because of the client financial concerns expressed in the survey, the AICPA is advocating for tax administrative and penalty relief with the IRS (see the TEC's comment letter).


  • 09/02/2020 1:02 PM | Anonymous

    September 1, 2020

    Today, the AICPA and CPA.com are launching .cpa, a restricted Internet domain exclusively for the CPA profession.

    Only licensed CPA firms and – starting next year – individual CPAs will be able to sign up for the new top-level domain, a term that refers to the last letters of an email address or website name (most commonly .com).

    The new .cpa domain has several advantages for the profession:

    • It allows better, more focused branding
    • It provides better security and resistance to Internet fraud
    • It promotes greater trust in firms’ online interactions with clients and the public
    • It demonstrates that firms are progressive and professional in the digital sphere

    Restricted or protected domains such as .cpa are part of the next, more secure, generation of the Internet, what I like to think of as “Internet 2.0.” It’s no secret that Internet fraud is on the rise. The latest FBI statistics show that losses from Internet crime rose to $3.5 billion in 2019, an increase of more than 50% from 2016.

    A recent Ponemon Institute survey found that 57% of small businesses reported instances of phishing or social engineering attacks in the past 12 months, many tied to fraudulent look-alike or spoofed domain addresses. For CPAs entrusted with sensitive client data, it goes without saying that a data breach, ransomware demand or other malicious attack could be devastating.

    The rollout of the .cpa domain is part of a global movement aimed at improving security online. You may have noticed the introduction of restricted or protected domains, such as .bank or .pharmacy, in other sectors. Since trust is an essential component of the CPA profession, we’re early movers on this adoption curve. But it will become more and more common in business – and more recognizable to clients.

    “Trust is a crucial commodity in business and on the Internet, and it’s a cornerstone of the CPA profession,” AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, said today in a press release. “The .cpa domain will signal you’re doing business with a licensed CPA firm or individual CPA, so it provides an additional level of trust, security and brand recognition in online interactions.”

    We’re committed to making sure that .cpa domain names are distributed in a systematic way. Here’s how the process works:

    • All firms can begin submitting applications today, Sept 1st,  at domains.cpa, provided they are licensed and agree to actually use any domain names they acquire.
    • The initial application phase runs from today until Oct. 31, with the goal of helping firms obtain domains that are most consistent with their current digital branding.
    • No one gets to jump the queue in this initial phase – domain names will be awarded according to logic-based criteria verified by an independent third-party.
    • Firms in this early phase will be notified of the outcome of their domain name applications no later than early November.
    • Starting Nov. 5,  firms are free to apply for any available .cpa name on a rolling, “first come, first served” basis.
    • Beginning in January 2021, individual licensed CPAs will be able to apply.

    We have a position paper that explains the benefits and background of the restricted .cpa domain in greater detail, as well as an explanatory video. For more information, or to apply for your preferred domain name, please visit domains.cpa.


  • 08/23/2020 5:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    August 21, 2020

    The IRS has suspended the mailing of three notices – the CP501, the CP503 and the CP504 – that go to taxpayers who have a balance due on their taxes. Although the IRS continues to make significant reductions in the backlog of unopened mail that developed while most IRS operations were closed due to COVID-19, this temporary adjustment to processing is intended to lessen any possible confusion that might be associated with delays in processing correspondence received from taxpayers.

    The IRS is taking the step to avoid confusion for taxpayers who previously received a balance due notice (CP14) and mailed a payment to the IRS; however, that payment may still be unopened. The CP501, the CP503 and the CP504 are follow-up notices are typically automatically sent to taxpayers who do not respond to the CP14. These automatic follow-up notices will be temporarily stopped until the backlog of mail is reduced. The IRS will continue to assess the mail inventory to determine the appropriate time to resume the follow-up notices. However, taxpayers who have received but not yet responded to a CP14 balance due notice are encouraged to promptly respond.

    In addition, the IRS has previously announced that these payments in the unopened mail will be posted and credited on the date the IRS received them – rather than the date the agency opened and processed them. The IRS reminds taxpayers in this situation they should not cancel their checks and should ensure funds continue to be available so the IRS can process them to avoid potential penalties and interest. To provide fair and equitable treatment, the IRS is also providing relief from bad check penalties for dishonored checks the agency received between March 1 and July 15 due to delays in this IRS processing.

    As the IRS works to stop these mailings at our processing centers, some taxpayers and tax professionals may still receive these notices during the next few weeks due to delivery of existing mailings.

    Due to high call volumes, the IRS suggests waiting to contact the agency about any unprocessed paper payments still pending. See IRS.gov/payments for options to make payments other than by mail.

  • 08/19/2020 4:47 PM | Anonymous

    IR-2020-185, Aug. 19, 2020

    WASHINGTON – With millions of Americans now receiving taxable unemployment compensation, many of them for the first time, the Internal Revenue Service today reminded people receiving unemployment compensation (beneficiaries) that they can have tax withheld from their benefits now to help avoid owing taxes on this income when they file their federal income tax return next year.

    By law, unemployment compensation is taxable and must be reported on a 2020 federal income tax return. Taxable benefits include any of the special unemployment compensation authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted this spring.

    Withholding is voluntary. Federal law allows any beneficiary to choose to have a flat 10% withheld from their benefits to cover part or all of their tax liability. To do that, fill out  Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request (PDF), and give it to the agency paying the benefits. Don’t send it to the IRS. If the payor has its own withholding request form, use it instead.

    If a beneficiary doesn’t choose withholding, or if withholding is not enough, they can make quarterly estimated tax payments instead. The payment for the first two quarters of 2020 was due on July 15. Third and fourth quarter payments are due on Sept. 15, 2020, and Jan. 15, 2021, respectively. For more information, including some helpful worksheets, see Form 1040-ES and Publication 505, available on IRS.gov.

    Here are some types of payments taxpayers should check their withholding on:     

    • Unemployment compensation includes: Benefits paid by a state or the District of Columbia from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund
    •   Railroad unemployment compensation benefits
    •  Disability benefits paid as a substitute for unemployment compensation
    • Trade readjustment allowances under the Trade Act of 1974
    • Unemployment assistance under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1974, and
    • Unemployment assistance under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 Program

    Beneficiaries who return to work before the end of the year can use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to make sure they are having enough tax taken out of their pay. Available only on IRS.gov, this online tool can help any worker or pension recipient avoid or lessen their year-end tax bill or estimate the refund they want.

    In January 2021, beneficiaries should receive a Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments (PDF) from the agency paying the benefits. The form will show the amount of unemployment compensation they received during 2020 in Box 1, and any federal income tax withheld in Box 4. Taxpayers report this information, along with their W-2 income, on their 2020 federal tax return. For more information on unemployment, see Unemployment Benefits in Publication 525.


  • 08/13/2020 4:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Washington, D.C. (August 13, 2020) – A memorandum issued this week by President Trump mandating the Treasury Department defer the collection and payment of employee payroll taxes has caused confusion and concern among accountants and businesses. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) submitted a letter to Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in response, requesting additional guidance and clarification and providing specific recommendations.

    In the letter, the AICPA requests that Treasury and the IRS provide guidance to address a number of concerns precipitated by the memorandum, including:

    1.    Guidance stating that the deferral is voluntary and that an “eligible employee” is responsible for making an affirmative election to defer the payroll taxes.

    2.    Guidance stating that an “eligible employee” is an employee whose wages are less than $4,000 per bi-weekly pay period.

    3.    Guidance stating that the $4,000 limit should apply separately to each employer of an employee.

    4.    Guidance stating a payment due date(s) for the deferred taxes and a mechanism for employees to pay the deferred taxes.

    A subsequent announcement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated that the payroll tax deferral would not be mandatory for employers to implement. “Since the taxes being discussed are those ‘imposed on the income of each employee,’ a big question we have is whether or not employees will have the option to opt in or out of the program,” said AICPA Vice President of Taxation, Edward Karl, CPA, CGMA. “Employees should make the deferral decision and should also be responsible for repayment, however, there are certain questions that need to be considered that taxpayers and businesses need guidance on. For example, what if an employee works more than one job? What if the company goes out of business? What if the employee changes jobs? Employers still have to figure out how to implement this policy, but right now, there are too many unknowns.”

    https://www.aicpa.org/content/aicpa/press/pressreleases/2020/aicpa-requests-guidance-on-payroll-tax-deferral-memo.html


  • 06/30/2020 10:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Section 2202 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), enacted on March 27, 2020, provides for special distribution options and rollover rules for retirement plans and IRAs and expands permissible loans from certain retirement plans.

    Q1. What are the special rules for retirement plans and IRAs in section 2202 of the CARES Act?

    A1. In general, section 2202 of the CARES Act provides for expanded distribution options and favorable tax treatment for up to $100,000 of coronavirus-related distributions from eligible retirement plans (certain employer retirement plans, such as section 401(k) and 403(b) plans, and IRAs) to qualified individuals, as well as special rollover rules with respect to such distributions. It also increases the limit on the amount a qualified individual may borrow from an eligible retirement plan (not including an IRA) and permits a plan sponsor to provide qualified individuals up to an additional year to repay their plan loans. See the FAQs below for more details.

    Q2. Does the IRS intend to issue guidance on section 2202 of the CARES Act?

    A2. The Treasury Department and the IRS are formulating guidance on section 2202 of the CARES Act and anticipate releasing that guidance in the near future. IRS Notice 2005-92 (PDF), issued on November 30, 2005, provided guidance on the tax-favored treatment of distributions and plan loans under sections 101 and 103 of the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 (KETRA) as those provisions applied to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Treasury Department and the IRS anticipate that the guidance on the CARES Act will apply the principles of Notice 2005-92 to the extent the provisions of section 2202 of the CARES Act are substantially similar to the provisions of KETRA that are addressed in that notice.

    Q3. Am I a qualified individual for purposes of section 2202 of the CARES Act?

    A3. You are a qualified individual if –

    You are diagnosed with the virus SARS-CoV-2 or with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

    Your spouse or dependent is diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 or with COVID-19 by a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

    You experience adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, being furloughed or laid off, or having work hours reduced due to SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19;

    You experience adverse financial consequences as a result of being unable to work due to lack of child care due to SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19; or

    You experience adverse financial consequences as a result of closing or reducing hours of a business that you own or operate due to SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19.

    Under section 2202 of the CARES Act, the Treasury Department and the IRS may issue guidance that expands the list of factors taken into account to determine whether an individual is a qualified individual as a result of experiencing adverse financial consequences. The Treasury Department and the IRS have received and are reviewing comments from the public requesting that the list of factors be expanded.

    Q4. What is a coronavirus-related distribution?

    A4. A coronavirus-related distribution is a distribution that is made from an eligible retirement plan to a qualified individual from January 1, 2020, to December 30, 2020, up to an aggregate limit of $100,000 from all plans and IRAs.

    Q5. Do I have to pay the 10% additional tax on a coronavirus-related distribution from my retirement plan or IRA?

    A5. No, the 10% additional tax on early distributions does not apply to any coronavirus-related distribution.

    Q6. When do I have to pay taxes on coronavirus-related distributions?

    A6. The distributions generally are included in income ratably over a three-year period, starting with the year in which you receive your distribution. For example, if you receive a $9,000 coronavirus-related distribution in 2020, you would report $3,000 in income on your federal income tax return for each of 2020, 2021, and 2022. However, you have the option of including the entire distribution in your income for the year of the distribution.

    Q7. May I repay a coronavirus-related distribution?

    A7. In general, yes, you may repay all or part of the amount of a coronavirus-related distribution to an eligible retirement plan, provided that you complete the repayment within three years after the date that the distribution was received. If you repay a coronavirus-related distribution, the distribution will be treated as though it were repaid in a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer so that you do not owe federal income tax on the distribution.

    If, for example, you receive a coronavirus-related distribution in 2020, you choose to include the distribution amount in income over a 3-year period (2020, 2021, and 2022), and you choose to repay the full amount to an eligible retirement plan in 2022, you may file amended federal income tax returns for 2020 and 2021 to claim a refund of the tax attributable to the amount of the distribution that you included in income for those years, and you will not be required to include any amount in income in 2022. See sections 4.D, 4.E, and 4.F of Notice 2005-92 for additional examples.

    Q8. What plan loan relief is provided under section 2202 of the CARES Act?

    A8. Section 2202 of the CARES Act permits an additional year for repayment of loans from eligible retirement plans (not including IRAs) and relaxes limits on loans.

    Certain loan repayments may be delayed for one year: If a loan is outstanding on or after March 27, 2020, and any repayment on the loan is due from March 27, 2020, to December 31, 2020, that due date may be delayed under the plan for up to one year. Any payments after the suspension period will be adjusted to reflect the delay and any interest accruing during the delay. See section 5.B of Notice 2005-92.

    Loan limit may be increased: The CARES Act also permits employers to increase the maximum loan amount available to qualified individuals. For plan loans made to a qualified individual from March 27, 2020, to September 22, 2020, the limit may be increased up to the lesser of: (1) $100,000 (minus outstanding plan loans of the individual), or (2) the individual’s vested benefit under the plan. See section 5.A of Notice 2005-92.

    Q9. Is it optional for employers to adopt the distribution and loan rules of section 2202 of the CARES Act?

    A9. It is optional for employers to adopt the distribution and loan rules of section 2202 of the CARES Act. An employer is permitted to choose whether, and to what extent, to amend its plan to provide for coronavirus-related distributions and/or loans that satisfy the provisions of section 2202 of the CARES Act. Thus, for example, an employer may choose to provide for coronavirus-related distributions but choose not to change its plan loan provisions or loan repayment schedules. Even if an employer does not treat a distribution as coronavirus-related, a qualified individual may treat a distribution that meets the requirements to be a coronavirus-related distribution as coronavirus-related on the individual’s federal income tax return. See section 4.A of Notice 2005-92.

    Q10. Does section 2202 of the CARES Act provide additional distribution rights to participants or otherwise change the rules applicable to plan distributions?

    A10. Under section 2202 of the CARES Act, a coronavirus-related distribution is treated as meeting the distribution restrictions for a section 401(k) plan, section 403(b) plan, or governmental section 457(b) plan. For example, under section 2202 of the CARES Act, a section 401(k) plan may permit a coronavirus-related distribution, even if it would occur before an otherwise permitted distributable event (such as severance from employment, disability, or attainment of age 59½). However, the CARES Act does not otherwise change the limits on when plan distributions are permitted to be made from employer-sponsored retirement plans. For example, a pension plan (such as a money purchase pension plan) is not permitted to make a distribution before an otherwise permitted distributable event merely because the distribution, if made, would qualify as a coronavirus-related distribution. Further, a pension plan is not permitted to make a distribution under a distribution form that is not a qualified joint and survivor annuity without spousal consent merely because the distribution, if made, could be treated as a coronavirus-related distribution. See section 2.A of Notice 2005-92.

    Q11. May an administrator rely on an individual’s certification that the individual is eligible to receive a coronavirus-related distribution?

    A11. The administrator of an eligible retirement plan may rely on an individual’s certification that the individual satisfies the conditions to be a qualified individual in determining whether a distribution is a coronavirus-related distribution, unless the administrator has actual knowledge to the contrary. Although an administrator may rely on an individual’s certification in making and reporting a distribution, the individual is entitled to treat the distribution as a coronavirus-related distribution for purposes of the individual’s federal income tax return only if the individual actually meets the eligibility requirements.

    Q12. Is an eligible retirement plan required to accept repayment of a participant’s coronavirus-related distribution?

    A12. In general, it is anticipated that eligible retirement plans will accept repayments of coronavirus-related distributions, which are to be treated as rollover contributions. However, eligible retirement plans generally are not required to accept rollover contributions. For example, if a plan does not accept any rollover contributions, the plan is not required to change its terms or procedures to accept repayments.

    Q13. How do qualified individuals report coronavirus-related distributions?

    A13. If you are a qualified individual, you may designate any eligible distribution as a coronavirus-related distribution as long as the total amount that you designate as coronavirus-related distributions is not more than $100,000. As noted earlier, a qualified individual may treat a distribution that meets the requirements to be a coronavirus-related distribution as such a distribution, regardless of whether the eligible retirement plan treats the distribution as a coronavirus-related distribution. A coronavirus-related distribution should be reported on your individual federal income tax return for 2020. You must include the taxable portion of the distribution in income ratably over the 3-year period – 2020, 2021, and 2022 – unless you elect to include the entire amount in income in 2020. Whether or not you are required to file a federal income tax return, you would use Form 8915-E (which is expected to be available before the end of 2020) to report any repayment of a coronavirus-related distribution and to determine the amount of any coronavirus-related distribution includible in income for a year. See generally section 4 of Notice 2005-92.

    Q14. How do plans and IRAs report coronavirus-related distributions?

    A14. The payment of a coronavirus-related distribution to a qualified individual must be reported by the eligible retirement plan on Form 1099-R, Distributions from Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc. This reporting is required even if the qualified individual repays the coronavirus-related distribution in the same year. The IRS expects to provide more information on how to report these distributions later this year. See generally section 3 of Notice 2005-92.

    Source:

    irs.gov/newsroom


  • 06/30/2020 8:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    IRS has easy ways to help taxpayers who need more time or payment options 

    IR-2020-134, June 29, 2020

    WASHINGTON ― The Department of the Treasury and IRS today announced the tax filing and payment deadline of July 15 will not be postponed. Individual taxpayers unable to meet the July 15 due date can request an automatic extension of time to file until Oct. 15.

    Due to COVID-19, the original filing deadline and tax payment due date for 2019 was postponed from April 15 to July 15.

    The IRS reminds taxpayers filing Form 1040 series returns that they must file Form 4868 by July 15 to obtain the automatic extension to Oct. 15. The extension provides additional time to file the tax return – it is not an extension to pay any taxes due.

    The IRS urges people who owe taxes, even if they have a filing extension, to carefully review their situation and pay what they can by July 15 to avoid penalties and interest. For people facing hardships, including those affected by COVID-19, who cannot pay in full, the IRS has several options available to help. To avoid interest and penalties, the IRS encourages them to pay what they can and consider a variety of payment options available for the remaining balance.

    “The IRS understands that those affected by the coronavirus may not be able to pay their balances in full by July 15, but we have many payment options to help taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “These easy-to-use payment options are available on IRS.gov, and most can be done automatically without reaching out to an IRS representative.”

    Automatic Extension of Time to File
    Taxpayers who need more time to prepare and file their federal tax return can apply for an extension of time to file until Oct. 15. To get an extension, taxpayers must estimate their tax liability on the extension form and pay any amount due.

    Individual taxpayers have several easy ways to file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, by the July 15 deadline. Tax software providers have an electronic version available. In addition, all taxpayers, regardless of income, can use IRS Free File to electronically request an automatic tax-filing extension.

    Save a step: Get an extension when you make a payment 
    Taxpayers can also get an extension by paying all or part of their tax due and indicate that the payment is for an extension using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), or a credit or debit card. When getting an extension by making a payment, taxpayers do not have to file a separate extension form and will receive a confirmation number for their records.

    State deadlines may differ
    The IRS also reminds taxpayers to check their state filing and payment deadlines, which may differ from the federal July 15 deadline. A list of state tax division websites is available through the Federation of Tax Administrators.

    Payment options
    Taxpayers who owe taxes can choose from the following payment options:

    The IRS recommends that taxpayers who are unable to pay their taxes in full should act as quickly as possible. Tax bills can quickly accumulate more interest and penalties the longer they sit. 

    Several payment options are available on IRS.gov/payments to help taxpayers who can’t pay in full and some can offer taxpayers smaller penalties. Though interest and late-payment penalties continue to accrue on any unpaid taxes after July 15, the failure to pay tax penalty rate is cut in half while an installment agreement is in effect. The usual penalty rate of 0.5% per month is reduced to 0.25% For the calendar quarter beginning July 1, 2020, the interest rate for underpayment is 3%.

    Most taxpayers who cannot pay in full have the following payment options:

    • Online Payment Agreement — These are available for individuals who owe $50,000 or less in combined income tax, penalties and interest and businesses that owe $25,000 or less in combined payroll tax, penalties and interest and have filed all tax returns. Most taxpayers qualify for this option, and an Online Payment Agreement can usually be set up in a matter of minutes on IRS.gov/OPA. Online Payment Agreements are available Monday – Friday, 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 6 p.m. to midnight. All times are Eastern time. Certain fees may apply.
    • Installment Agreement — Taxpayers who do not qualify to use the online payment agreement option, or choose not to use it, can also apply for a payment plan by phone, or by mail by submitting Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. Installment agreements paid by direct deposit from a bank account or a payroll deduction will help taxpayers avoid default on their agreements. It also reduces the burden of mailing payments and saves postage costs. Certain fees may apply.
    • Temporarily Delaying Collection — You can contact the IRS to request a temporary delay of the collection process. If the IRS determines a taxpayer is unable to pay, it may delay collection until the taxpayer's financial condition improves. Penalties and interest continue to accrue until the full amount is paid.
    • Offer in Compromise — Certain taxpayers qualify to settle their tax bill for less than the amount they owe by submitting an offer in compromise. To help determine eligibility, use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool.

    In addition, taxpayers can consider other options for payment, including getting a loan to pay the amount due. In many cases, loan costs may be lower than the combination of interest and penalties the IRS must charge under federal law.

  • 04/10/2020 8:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We know there is frustration around providing services to your small business clients as they apply for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans being issued through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Many firms want to be recognized as an agent for the client and be compensated for their services under the agent fee section of the PPP guidance, but are concerned they will not receive payment from lenders.

    AICPA guidance released last week supports firms that provide advice, guidance and support outside of loan preparation assistance, as defined under the program. The fees related to this work would be billed to and paid by the client. This is not new – firms have provided small business assistance, advice and guidance for years as clients have applied for loans with the SBA. This was done in the normal course of business for the firm and can still be done today. We encourage you to provide small businesses the guidance they need.

    As with other SBA loans, the PPP also provides opportunities for the CPA to be an agent, including assisting a small business client by preparing the PPP loan application and supporting documentation. The definition of an agent within the SBA materials is essentially the same definition the SBA has had in place for years. What is new is the sliding scale agent fee specifically to be paid out of the lenders fee.

    We support CPAs being the agent when it is the appropriate course of action, but there are areas to be aware of in entering this type of engagement:

    • For assurance clients, being an agent impairs independence. If you wish to keep this assurance relationship, we suggest you do not act as an agent or sign as the authorized representative on a client’s PPP loan application. Make no certifications as to the information the small business is providing with the application. Advising your client, however, is totally appropriate, and we encourage it.
    • The law is clear that agents cannot collect a fee from an applicant but must instead collect a fee from the lender. If you choose to be an agent, we suggest you contact the lender before embarking on the engagement and get a written agreement with them so you get paid. You should have a conflict waiver in the agreement with the lender, just like in your loan assistance engagement letter with the client. Disclose this arrangement with your client as well.
    • Firms generally do not sign their clients’ loan applications. In those instances in which you do sign, you should obtain a hold harmless/indemnification agreement from the client relating to client-provided information, and state that you are not making or joining any of the client’s certifications in the application.
  • 04/08/2020 8:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Washington, D.C. (April 7, 2020) – American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) President and CEO, Barry Melancon, CPA, delivered a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressing concern that, while the Department of the Treasury delayed the April 15th filing deadline, they have failed to grant extensions for all filing and payment deadlines.

    In the letter, Melancon explains, “We believe it is impractical, if not impossible, for taxpayers and their advisors to continue business as usual when IRS’s own operations are minimally operable.”

    The AICPA renewed its request for an immediate expansion of tax-related relief to all types of returns and payments due between March 3rd and July 15th and outlined several outstanding issues, including:

    • Other forms and elections: The due dates of additional forms and elections, such as the election to be taxed as a small business, need additional time.
    • Individual and corporate estimated payments: The first quarter individual and corporate estimates, which are typically due on April 15, were deferred to July 15. However, the IRS has not yet extended the second quarter deadline, which is still set at June 15.
    • E-signatures: It is also important for the IRS to take whatever measures are possible to allow taxpayers and their preparers to utilize technology, such as e-signatures, to keep a safe distance from others during the pandemic.
    • Information and other returns: Other returns due between March 3 and July 15, such as for certain estates, exempt organizations and other businesses, also need relief.
    • International filing situations: US citizens living abroad or non-resident taxpayers who cannot leave may also be challenged to file.
    • Payment, penalty and administrative questions: Treasury and IRS should offer generous and automatic relief for other issues related to administrative actions such as expiring statutes of limitations, the processing of correspondence and other actions not already covered by previous relief but related to COVID-19.

    Over the last month, the AICPA has advocated on behalf of taxpayers and their advisors to provide relief in the midst of uncertainty during these unprecedented and challenging times:

    • March 11 – the AICPA called for the Treasury Department and the IRS to provide relief to all taxpayers in light of the uncertainty and challenges caused by the spread of the coronavirus.
    • March 13 – the AICPA expressed great concern that the Treasury and IRS had not yet announced a tax filing extension given the impending tax return deadline of March 15th for many businesses.
    • March 13 – following a national emergency declaration, the AICPA urged the IRS to announce specific details regarding the extension of impending filing and payment deadlines.
    • March 18 – AICPA President & CEO, Barry Melancon, CPA, released a statement in response to Treasury’s announcement of interest and penalty relief, but not tax filing relief.
    • March 19 – the AICPA expressed support for legislation sponsored by Senator John Thune to grant taxpayers a filing deadline extension until July 15th.
    • March 20 – the AICPA publicly thanked members of Congress and the Treasury Department for April 15th tax filing extension.
    • March 25 – the AICPA called on Treasury and the IRS to provide more extensive relief to taxpayers.
    • March 27 – the AICPA urged Treasury and the IRS to provide broader tax filing and payment relief.
    • April 2 – following the IRS announcement of temporary closures of critical services, the AICPA expressed urgency in providing broader tax filing and payment relief.

    Melancon closed the letter by stating, “While we immediately need broad relief until July 15, we continue to urge Treasury and IRS to develop a contingency plan for the next phase of relief should that be needed. As a country, we should not risk anyone’s life to meet tax filing obligations.”

  • 03/31/2020 3:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Nick Spoltore, Esq.

    March 30, 2020

    The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act, H.R. 748, hereinafter “the Act”) was enacted into law on March 27, 2020. It contains many tax provisions which will impact your practice immediately. This post highlights the major tax law changes contained in the Act.

    QIP Fix

    As you know, Qualified Improvement Property should have been provided a 15-year recovery period under TCJA. The text was inadvertently left out and QIP was ineligible for 100% Bonus Depreciation. The Act fixes the TCJA error and designates QIP as 15-year property for depreciation purposes, a category eligible for 100% Bonus Depreciation. This change is effective for property placed in service after December 31, 2017.

    But remember if you elected out of §163(j), you’re out of luck on the Bonus Depreciation.

    Increase of §163(j) Limit

    The Act increases the limitation in §163(j)from 30% to 50% for tax years beginning in 2019 and 2020. The limitation will not apply to partnership partners in 2019. Special rules apply for the treatment of excess business interest allocated to a partner in any tax year beginning in 2019. In addition, a taxpayer may elect to calculate the interest limitation for the tax year beginning in 2020 utilizing the adjusted taxable income for the last tax year beginning in 2019 as the base. For partnerships, the election must be made by the partnership.

    461(l) Deferral

    The Act suspends the $250k/$500k loss limitation for noncorporate taxpayers. Excess business losses arising in 2018, 2019, and 2020 can be deducted.

    NOLs

    For tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, the Act temporarily removes the 80% of taxable income limitation so that NOLs fully offset income. In addition, NOLs arising in a tax year beginning after December 31, 2018 and before January 1, 2021 may be carried back five years.

    Employer Payroll Taxes

    The Act allows taxpayers to defer paying the employer portion of certain 2020 payroll taxes effective for payments due after the Act’s enactment. Half will be due on December 31, 2021 with the remainder due on December 31, 2022.

    Payroll Tax Credit

    The Act provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by certain employers to certain employees during the COVID-19 crisis. The credit is available to employers whose operations have been fully or partially suspended or whose quarterly receipts declined more than 50% year over year. Other restrictions apply, and the number of full-time employees is relevant. Wages include health benefits and are capped at the first $10,000. This credit applies to wages paid after March 12, 2020 and before January 1, 2021.

    Rebate Checks

    The Act provides a refundable credit for 2020 equal to $1,200 ($2,400 for individuals filing joint returns) plus $500 for each qualifying child of the taxpayer. Phaseout occurs at $75,000 to $99,000 for a Single filer, $150,000 to $198,000 for a joint return with no children, and $112,500 to $146,500 for HOH with one child.

    These direct payments are arguably the most talked about provision in the entire legislation. Our CARE webinar will cover the rebates, including widespread eligibility, in extraordinary detail so you can fluently discuss these with your clients. Receipt of unearned, untaxed money will undoubtedly be a pleasant topic welcomed by your clients and similarly will create goodwill to augment your bottom line.

    No Penalty for Coronavirus-Related Retirement Plan Distributions

    Any 2020 coronavirus-related distribution up to $100,000 from an eligible retirement plan will not incur the §72(t) 10% additional tax and may be included in income over three years. Distributions can also be contributed back to an eligible retirement plan within the three-year period.

    No 2020 RMDs

    IRAs and certain defined contribution plans will have no required minimum distributions for 2020.

    There are other tax related topics in the Act which due to blog brevity I have not detailed herein. Eligible student loan payments, donations of food inventory, limitations on cash contributions, and an above the line $300 charitable contribution are chief among them. In much the same manner, this post was written with a broad brush due to the length and complexity of the Act. But don’t fear since our CARE webinar will comprehensively present the Act’s topics with the full amount of detail they are due. Join our panel of tax experts as they explain the relevant aspects of this new legislation with acumen specifically designed to impart to you exactly the info you’ll need for your clients’ tax consultation, preparation, and planning. Multiple dates of CARE are scheduled for your convenience, and you can sign up HERE.

    Nick Spoltore is VP of Tax & Advisory Content for Surgent CPE. Mr. Spoltore is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and of Delaware Law School. Before joining Surgent, he practiced tax and business law at the firm of Heaney, Kilcoyne in Pennsylvania and also in Delaware.

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