In a case released by the US Tax Court yesterday, January 29, 2015, the Court handed a victory to a taxpayer utilizing the US Virgin Islands Economic Development Credit (EDC).

In Estate of Sanders, v. Commissioner, 144 T.C. No. 5 (2015) the Court found that the taxpayer was a bona fide resident of the USVI, and that when he filed his USVI tax returns for 2002 through 2004 in lieu of federal tax returns he had complied with all his filing requirements. As such the Notice of Deficiency issued in 2010 was too late based on the statute of limitations, notwithstanding the IRS’ argument that the claimed USVI residency was a sham and therefore no valid returns were ever filed and the SOL never began, i.e. filing of the USVI returns was not a substitute for the federal returns.

Mr. Sanders had become a limited partner of a partnership formed specifically to provide consulting services in the US through those who purchase LP interests. The Service basically took the position that this partnership sold LP interests to individuals such as Mr. Sanders who wished only to contrive a patina of a USVI presence solely to access the 90% USVI economic development credit, and that it otherwise had no true economic substance. Since, in the Commissioner’s view, this was a sham, the residence was not bona fide and any filing of USVI returns in lieu of US federal returns was inadequate and without effect.

The Court rejected this argument, reviewing the 11 factors that it looks to in order to ascertain residency and was satisfied that Mr. Sanders had done all he needed to do.

Decedent had the intent to be a bona fide resident because he intended to remain indefinitely or at least for a substantial period. See Vento, 715 F.3d at 470. He had a physical presence in the USVI and was employed by a USVI business and listed as a partner on their Schedules K-1 for tax years 2002-04. He conducted banking in the USVI and had checks with a USVI address. Decedent was married in the USVI and reported his address as the USVI on his marriage license. Decedent identified himself as a resident of the USVI and paid USVI taxes. At 34.

Thus, having complied with his tax filing requirement, the IRS had only until sometime in 2008 to assess a deficiency; 2010 was way too late.

It seems the Service cherry picked the wrong case.

 
 
An irrevocable trust that is designed as an “intentionally defective grantor trust” (“IDGT”) is a key estate and gift planning tool. Often a key component to blunt the impact of irrevocable gifts to the trust (and for other reasons, such as qualifying it as an IDGT) is to permit the settlor of the trust to substitute property in the trust with other property of equal value. This power is sometimes referred to as the “power to reacquire” or the “power to substitute.” For purposes of both federal and New York income tax, transactions between an IDGT and its settlor are disregarded, as they are treated for these purposes as the same person.

In an Advisory Opinion released December 22, 2014 (TSB-A-14(2)R, Dec. 4, 2014) the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance determined that “the conveyance of a New York condominium apartment by [the trust settlor] to the [IDGT in which the settlor retained a power to reacquire] in exchange for cash equal to the value of the apartment is a conveyance, subject to the New York Real Estate Transfer Tax [Tax Law §1402(a) (“RETT”)].” The tax would be based on the cash received from the trust.

Not feeling compelled to view the IDGT and the settlor as separate pockets in the same pair of trousers for purposes of the RETT, the Department held that the transaction was between two separate parties:
Once the apartment is substituted for the cash as an asset of the IDGT, under the terms of the IDGT, [the settlor] would no longer hold any beneficial interest in the real estate. This transfer of the [settlor’s] condominium apartment to the IDGT fits within the statutory definition for RETT purposes of a conveyance of real property or interest therein.

This is consistent with other positions recently taken by the Department. Previously, in January, 2014, the Department issued an advisory opinion (TSB-A-14(6)S, Jan. 29, 2014) that the exercise of this power of substitution by transferring tangible personal property to the trust in exchange for intangible assets of the trust was subject to the New York sales tax (Tax Law §1105(a)) notwithstanding that the trust and the settlor are treated for income tax purposes as the same person. In fact the Department said this would be the case regardless of whether it is a grantor trust or a revocable living trust (citing TSB-A-99(22)S), as a sale for state sales tax purposes occurs if the assets transferred would be subject to sales tax if the parties were unrelated. According to the Department “[i]f there is consideration given in any form in connection with the transfer, a retail sale of tangible personal property occurs and sales tax is imposed. . . .” The Advisory Opinion hints that there may be “other exemptions” to the application of New York sales tax, perhaps referring to situations where there is a substitution of tangible personal property for tangible personal property between the irrevocable trust and its settlor.

The moral? Great estate and gift tax planning often butts up against other taxes. Don’t be caught unaware. Seek advice before taking irreversible actions.

 
 
On Jan. 1, 2014, a new law came into effect in Israel that for the first time taxes foreign trusts (i.e. trusts with non-Israeli settlors, such as trusts created by US persons with at least one Israeli resident beneficiary) and/or their Israeli resident beneficiaries, and subject then to new reporting obligations.  

Basically these “Israeli beneficiary trusts” are classified in one of two ways with each taxed differently:
  • If it is what is being called a “Relatives trust,” meaning a trust under which the settlor is alive and has a specified family relationship to the beneficiary, then the trustee must notify the Israeli tax assessor of the trust’s existence by December 31, 2014 (or within 60 days of creation). At that time the trustee may make an irrevocable election to have the Israeli resident beneficiary taxed at 30% but only upon actual distributions of trust income.  If no election is made in time then the trust will be taxed annually at 25% on all trust income allocated to Israeli beneficiaries as earned by the trust.  In other words, if the trust intends to accumulate income and not distribute all of it annually, the election permits a deferral which, even at the 5% incremental tax, can represent substantial savings.
  • If it is what has been referred to as a “Non-Relatives trust” the portion of trust income allocable to Israeli beneficiaries is taxed annually rates ranging from 25% to 52%. 
Other provisions include a tax credit for foreign (i.e. US) taxes paid on this income.

Time is quickly running out if this applies to you and you have not yet made the appropriate arrangements.

 
 
irs_retirement_plan_contribution_limits_2015.pdf
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David Neufeld today published his latest article in the Leimberg Information Services Inc. Income Tax Newsletter. The article discusses the recent Tax Court decision in Yari v. Commissioner that found that the first filed return is used to calculate the listed transaction penalty even when that return is replaced with a corrected return showing zero tax liability and zero impact from the listed transaction.  Accordingly this taxpayer had a $100,000 penalty in a year when he had zero tax liability.  The article is reproduced below.

Steve Leimberg's Income Tax Planning Email Newsletter - Archive Message #75
Date: 08-Oct-14
From: Steve Leimberg's Income Tax Planning Newsletter
Subject: David Neufeld on Yari v. Commissioner: When a Return is Not the Return for Purposes of Calculating the Section 6707A Penalty

David Neufeld provides members with his analysis of Yari v. Commissioner. David S. Neufeld is a tax and T&E lawyer in Princeton, NJ. He represents clients throughout the world, doing both planning and controversy work (administrative and Tax Court). David is also an expert witness in civil cases around the country arising from 419 plans. Most notably, David represents the government of the Island of Nevis, for which he has drafted several laws, including the Nevis LLC Ordinance and recent proposed amendments to permit series LLCs and cell captive insurance companies. For more, go to www.DavidNeufeldLaw.com

Now, here is David Neufeld’s commentary:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
In Yari v. Commissioner, the Tax Court sided with the Service in upholding a$100,000 penalty under Section 6707A(b)(2)(A) assessed against Yari for failing to report a listed transaction, despite the fact that during the course of the case, Congress passed the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 that retroactively modified how the penalty should be calculated. Yari is significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that is a case of first impression dealing with the proper calculation of penalties under Section 6707A(b).  [TO READ MORE CLICK ON "READ MORE" TO THE RIGHT]

 
 
If you are an individual or business who owes New Jersey taxes and would like to clean the slate potentially at a reduced cost, then the recently announced 2014 Tax Amnesty program is worth considering.

Until November 17, 2014 the New Jersey Division of Taxation is offering businesses and individuals that have unpaid tax liabilities and unfiled returns from tax periods 2005 through 2013 a way to request and enter into a closing agreement with the Division in order to satisfy outstanding tax liabilities with no or reduced penalties.

According to the New Jersey Division of Taxation, most penalties can be reduced to zero. The exception would be an Amnesty Penalty imposed on taxes due on or after 1/1/2002 and before 2/1/2009. This reduction can mean a 5% to 30% decrease in liabilities. Interest will be calculated only on the tax and reduced penalties. Recovery fees may be waived and costs of collection eliminated.  [TO READ MORE, CLICK ON "READ MORE" TO THE RIGHT]

 
 
Earlier this summer I posted an article and flow chart describing the newest version of the IRS compliance program for non-compliant resident and non-resident taxpayers with foreign accounts and assets, giving a virtual amnesty to some.  The IRS has now published forms to be used by those entering this program.
Form 14653--Streamlined Certification-Outside US.pdf
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Form 14654--Streamlined Certification-Inside US.pdf
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LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell®, the company that has long set the standard for lawyer ratings, has published a list of Martindale-Hubbell Top Rated Lawyers who have achieved an AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating, the highest rating in legal ability and ethical standards. To create this list, LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® tapped its comprehensive database of Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ to identify lawyers who have been rated by their peers to be AV® Preeminent™.

 
 
Steve Leimberg's Income Tax Planning Email Newsletter - Archive Message #71

Date:  08-Jul-14

David Neufeld & IRS Amnesty for Certain US Taxpayers with Offshore Income and Assets

On June 18, 2014 the IRS in IR-2014-73 modified its ‘Streamlined’ program for certain US taxpayers who have failed to properly file tax returns or foreign bank account reports, offering the closest thing to a total amnesty practitioners could have predicted.  Those that qualify could find it very beneficial; most significantly the program permits the potential waiver of most or all penalties.  

Ultimately the determination of whether it is available to those otherwise qualified is based on whether the IRS decides a taxpayer’s past non-compliance was willful. Depending on how one guesses the Service will come out on that tells taxpayers what they should do; if they feel they can make a good case for non-willfulness they should embark on this new program, but if not then they might consider either entering the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, opting out or doing a ‘quiet disclosure.’ 

For the right taxpayer the Service has exhibited unusual generosity by waiving most if not all penalties and limiting the liability for past taxes to three years. But a detailed analysis is required to be certain one is the right taxpayer, as a mistake can be terribly costly.” 

David Neufeld provides members with important commentary that reviews the benefits of the modified “Streamlined” Offshore Filing Program that the Service recently announced. David’s commentary includes a handy flow chart that explains the program’s eligibility requirements, and is available exclusively to LISI members. 

David S. Neufeld is a tax and T&E lawyer in Princeton, NJ.  He represents clients throughout the world, doing both planning and controversy work (administrative and Tax Court).  David is also an expert witness in civil cases around the country arising from 419 plans.  Most notably, David represents the government of the Island of Nevis, for which he has drafted several laws, including the Nevis LLC Ordinance and recent proposed amendments to permit series LLCs and cell captive insurance companies.  For more, go to www.DavidNeufeldLaw.com 

Here is his commentary: [click on "Read More" to the right] 


 
 
If it is your business to know about the latest version of the IRS' offshore compliance program for "non-willful non-compliant" taxpayers with foreign accounts and income then this flow chart will make your life a whole lot easier.  It is available for download in the "Article Downloads" page, just request a password and it is yours.