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Tax News: August ’17

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in Small Business Tax

Say a prayer. The nation’s top court has reversed several lower-court rulings in lawsuits brought by employees of a church-affiliated hospital network. At the conclusion of the 2016-17 term, the U.S Supreme Court said that the exemption from ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) requirements for “church plans” is available to the network. (Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton, Dkt. No. 16-74, 6/5/17) ERISA offers protections against certain retirement plan losses.

Tax break for vets. According to a new decision, the federal income tax exclusion for damages received as a result of physical injury or illness extends to amounts paid by a military service as a pension or annuity. The taxpayer was injured in an army boot camp back in 1984, and he received disability retirement benefits in 2012. Now the Tax Court sided with the taxpayer. (Keeter, TC Summary Opinion 2017-36, 5/30/17)

Instant IRS access. The IRS is launching a new test program for correspondence audits. Under the program, up to 8,000 taxpayers with tax issues involving itemized deductions will be invited to participate. These individuals, as well as any tax pros representing them, will be able to communicate directly with the IRS online. For instance, they might post and share documents. Of course, strict identification measures will be enforced for taxpayer protection.

More time for FBARs. Did you miss the deadline for filing Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, commonly known as the FBAR? The due date was moved to April 15 to coincide with the deadline for filing federal tax returns. However, you can take advantage of an automatic six-month extension—until Oct. 16, 2017—to file the FBAR for 2016. The FBAR filing requirement kicks in if you have an interest in, or signature or other authority over, foreign financial accounts with an aggregate value exceeding $10,000 at any time during 2016. Also, be aware that the IRS provides some leeway for past transgressions through its Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). The OVDP enables you to settle up.

Your check’s no good. If you want a definitive answer to a perplexing tax matter, you can request a private letter ruling from the IRS. But it doesn’t come cheap. Under new user-fee schedules for this year, the IRS charges up to $10,000 for a ruling concerning a late rollover to a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA re-characterization, while businesses have to pony up as much as $28,000 for various types of rulings. Now the IRS says a check or money order won’t be good anymore. Until Aug. 15, the IRS says you can pay by check or electronically. After Aug. 15, only electronic payment will be accepted through Pay.gov. (IRS Internal News Release IR- IR-2017-102, 6/12/17) This system allows you to pay via credit card, debit card or a direct debit or electronic funds withdrawal from a bank account.

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