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Tax News: January ’17

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in Small Business Tax

No sugarcoating it. The presidential election wasn’t the only decision for voters in a couple of states in November. Following approval of a soda tax in Philadelphia earlier in 2016, voters in the California cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, as well as Boulder, Colo., passed similar measures, as did Cook County in Illinois. This is becoming a trend as state and local governments try to combat obesity, diabetes and other health issues.

Lower mileage rates. The IRS has announced lower standard mileage rates for 2017 (IRS New Release IR-2016-169, 12/13/16). The rate for business driving drops to 53.5 cents per mile from 54 cents per mile in 2016, while the rate for medical and moving expense driving goes to 17 cents per mile from 19 cents per mile. The standard mileage rate for charitable driving, which is set statutorily, remains at 14 cents per mile.

A flip on FLPs. The election likely spells doom for controversial proposed regulations affecting valuations of certain closely held business interests. Briefly stated, the regs would have curtailed the discounts often claimed for estate tax purposes on transfers to family limited partnerships (FLPs) and similar entities (SBTS, November 2016). It’s now expected that the regulations will be withdrawn or watered down.

IRS extends ACA deadline. The future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is up in the air, but for now employers must still meet the information reporting requirements for 2016. At least the IRS is giving businesses more time to comply with the rules. (IRS Notice 2016-70, 11/18/16) Previously, employers were required to furnish individuals with their Forms 1095-B, Health Coverage, and Forms 1095-C, Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage, for 2016 by Jan. 31, 2017. However, firms now have an extra 30 days—until March 2, 2017—to meet this requirement. Note: The deadlines for filing the forms with the IRS remain the same. Employers have until Feb. 28, 2017, for paper filings and March 31 if filing electronically.

Pilot program gets wings. The IRS is expanding a pilot program protecting the security of Forms W-2 that was started last year. Under the program, which is designed to thwart identity theft, W-2 data are authenticated electronically. Several major payroll service firms added unique 16-digit codes to about 1.5 million W-2s submitted for the 2015 tax year. Individuals then entered these codes when they e-filed their personal tax returns. The early assessment is that the program was a success, so the IRS wants to move it forward. It hopes to add the 16-digit codes to as many as 50 million W-2s for the 2017 tax filing season for 2016 returns. Eventually, the codes could be required across-the-board for electronic filers.

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