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Tax Alerts
April 14, 2021
Tax Briefing(s)

The IRS and the Treasury Department have automatically extended the federal income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year, from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021. Individual taxpayers can also postpone federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year due on April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed.


On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Some of the tax-related provisions include the following:


The IRS needs to issue new rules and guidance to implement the American Rescue Plan, experts said on March 11 as President Joe Biden signed his COVID-19 relief measure.


Strengthening tax breaks to promote manufacturing received strong bipartisan support at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on March 16.


IRS Commissioner Charles "Chuck" Rettig told Congress on February 23 that the backlog of 20 million unopened pieces of mail is gone.


The Tax Court ruled that rewards dollars that a married couple acquired for using their American Express credit cards to purchase debit cards and money orders—but not to purchase gift cards—were included in the taxpayers’ income. The court stated that its holdings were based on the unique circumstances of the case.


The IRS Office of Chief Counsel has embarked on its most far-reaching Settlement Days program by declaring the month of March 2021 as National Settlement Month. This program builds upon the success achieved from last year's many settlement day events while being shifted to virtual format due to the pandemic. Virtual Settlement Day (VSD) events will be conducted across the country and will serve taxpayers in all 50 states and the District of Colombia.


An individual who owned a limited liability company (LLC) with her former spouse was not entitled to relief from joint and several liability under Code Sec. 6015(b). The taxpayer argued that she did not know or have reason to know of the understated tax when she signed and filed the joint return for the tax year at issue. Further, she claimed to be an unsophisticated taxpayer who could not have understood the extent to which receipts, expenses, depreciation, capital items, earnings and profits, deemed or actual dividend distributions, and the proper treatment of the LLC resulted in tax deficiencies. The taxpayer also asserted that she did not meaningfully participate in the functioning of the LLC other than to provide some bookkeeping and office work.


A married couple’s civil fraud penalty was not timely approved by the supervisor of an IRS Revenue Agent (RA) as required under Code Sec. 6751(b)(1). The taxpayers’ joint return was examined by the IRS, after which the RA had sent them a summons requiring their attendance at an in-person closing conference. The RA provided the taxpayers with a completed, signed Form 4549, Income Tax Examination Changes, reflecting a Code Sec. 6663(a) civil fraud penalty. The taxpayers declined to consent to the assessment of the civil fraud penalty or sign Form 872, Consent to Extend the Time to Assess Tax, to extend the limitations period.


Gross income is taxed to the person who earns it by performing services, or who owns the property that generates the income. Under the assignment of income doctrine, a taxpayer cannot avoid tax liability by assigning a right to income to someone else. The doctrine is invoked, for example, for assignments to creditors, family members, charities, and controlled entities. Thus, the income is taxable to the person who earned it, even if the person assigns the income to another and never personally receives the income. The doctrine can apply to both individuals and corporations.


The mortgage interest deduction is widely used by the majority of individuals who itemize their deductions. In fact, the size of the average mortgage interest deduction alone persuades many taxpayers to itemize their deductions. It is not without cause, therefore, that two recent developments impacting the mortgage interest deserve being highlighted. These developments involve new reporting requirements designed to catch false or inflated deductions; and a case that effectively doubles the size of the mortgage interest deduction available to joint homeowners. But first, some basics.


Many federal income taxes are paid from amounts that are withheld from payments to the taxpayer. For instance, amounts roughly equal to an employee's estimated tax liability are generally withheld from the employee's wages and paid over to the government by the employer. In contrast, estimated taxes are taxes that are paid throughout the year on income that is not subject to withholding. Individuals must make estimated tax payments if they are self-employed or their income derives from interest, dividends, investment gains, rents, alimony, or other funds that are not subject to withholding.


A business operated by two or more owners can elect to be taxed as a partnership by filing Form 8832, the Entity Classification Election form. A business is eligible to elect partnership status if it has two or more members and:


The IRS expects to receive more than 150 million individual income tax returns this year and issue billions of dollars in refunds. That huge pool of refunds drives scam artists and criminals to steal taxpayer identities and claim fraudulent refunds. The IRS has many protections in place to discover false returns and refund claims, but taxpayers still need to be proactive.


An employer must withhold income taxes from compensation paid to common-law employees (but not from compensation paid to independent contractors). The amount withheld from an employee's wages is determined in part by the number of withholding exemptions and allowances the employee claims. Note that although the Tax Code and regulations distinguish between withholding exemptions and withholding allowances, the terms are interchangeable. The amount of reduction attributable to one withholding allowance is the same as that attributable to one withholding exemption. Form W-4 and most informal IRS publications refer to both as withholding allowances, probably to avoid confusion with the complete exemption from withholding for employees with no tax liability.