Who Should Engage in Asset Protection?

Asset protection is a legal method of reducing your exposure to various types of risks by placing assets into various protected structures. In addition, these structures are typically organized in a manner to minimize the negative impact of a particular event. For example, did you ever wonder why both Pepsi and Coca-Cola have bottling divisions? It minimizes liability. If there is a problem with the physical product, the bottling division will be the target of litigation. However, the intellectual property is owned by a separate structure keeping out of the defendant’s chair if the bottling division is sued. However, all businesses should consider their actual structure from the perspective of being potential litigation, which is the essence of asset protection.

In general, there are two negative situations asset protection seeks to minimize. The first is bankruptcy. Here, planners work with the bankruptcy code to help clients survive bankruptcy. However, it’s important to realize there is only so much a planner can do in this area. The bankruptcy code exemptions are very clear — and also fairly limited. The second negative event planners work at minimizing is litigation. Here we have far more flexibility (so long as there are no fraudulent transfer issues). By using various structures, it is possible to greatly reduce the negative impact of litigation. Other events that are considered in the plan are divorce (both of the client and the client’s children) death (but this falls more under estate planning) and incapacitation. 

It’s also important to understand what asset protection isn’t. Asset protection cannot create a bullet proof strategy that is unassailable in all situations – and don’t let anyone tell you differently. The most striking example is bankruptcy; as mentioned above, the bankruptcy exemptions are very clear and very narrow; anything that falls outside them is swept up in the bankruptcy estate to pay creditors. In addition, if a person does not maintain the plan, trouble can emerge. For example, a person that forms a corporation that does not keep up with corporate formalities could have the court “pierce the corporate veil,” meaning the person will become personally liable for the claim. 

Who Should Engage in Asset Protection?

All businesses should have an attorney who specializes in asset protection look at the overall business structure at least once every few years to make sure their overall structure provides maximum protection. In addition, all high net worth individuals (people with at least $1 million in net worth) should have a plan in place, as their wealth is a natural litigation target. There are also several professions that naturally benefit from asset protection planning. Doctors lead the pack, followed closely by other licensed professionals (accountants, lawyers and engineers etc..).

Lance Wallach
68 Keswick Lane
Plainview, NY 11803
Ph.: (516)938-5007
Fax: (516)938-6330
 www.vebaplan.com

National Society of Accountants Speaker of The Year

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

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California Society of Enrolled Agents

California Society of Enrolled Agents

The IRS started auditing § 419 plans in the 1990s, and then continued going after § 412(i) and other plans that they considered abusive, listed, or reportable transactions, or substantially similar to such transactions. If an IRS audit disallows the § 419 plan or the § 412(i) plan, not only does the taxpayer lose the deduction and pay interest and penalties, but then the IRS comes back under IRC 6707A and imposes large fines for not properly filing.Insurance agents, financial planners and even accountants sold many of these plans.

The main motivations for buying into one were large tax deductions. The motivation for the sellers of the plans was the very large life insurance premiums generated. These plans, which were vetted by the insurance companies, put lots of insurance on the books. Some of these plans continue to be sold, even after IRS disallowances and lawsuits against insurance agents, plan promoters and insurance companies.In a recent tax court case, Curcio v. Commissioner (TC Memo 2010-115), the tax court ruled that an investment in an employee welfare benefit plan marketed under the name “Benistar” was a listed transaction in that the transaction in question was substantially similar to the transaction described in IRS Notice 95-34. A subsequent case, McGehee Family Clinic, largely followed Curcio, though it was technically decided on other grounds. The parties stipulated to be bound by Curcio on the issue of whether the amounts paid by McGehee in connection with the Benistar 419 Plan and Trust were deductible.

Curcio did not appear to have been decided yet at the time McGehee was argued. The McGehee opinion (Case No. 10-102, United States Tax Court, September 15, 2010) does contain an exhaustive analysis and discussion of virtually all of the relevant issues.Taxpayers and their representatives should be aware that the IRS has disallowed deductions for contributions to these arrangements. The IRS is cracking down on small business owners who participate in tax reduction insurance plans and the brokers who sold them. Some of these plans include defined benefit retirement plans, IRAs, or even 401(k) plans with life insurance.In order to fully grasp the severity of the situation, one must have an understanding of IRS Notice 95-34, which was issued in response to trust arrangements sold to companies that were designed to provide deductible benefits such as life insurance, disability and severance pay benefits. The promoters of these arrangements claimed that all employer contributions were tax-deductible when paid, by relying on the 10-or-more-employer exemption from the IRC § 419 limits. It was claimed that permissible tax deductions were unlimited in amount.  In general, contributions to a welfare benefit fund are not fully deductible when paid. Sections 419 and 419A impose strict limits on the amount of tax-deductible prefunding permitted for contributions to a welfare benefit fund. Section 419A(F)(6) provides an exemption from § 419 and § 419A for certain “10-or-more employers” welfare benefit funds. In general, for this exemption to apply, the fund must have more than one contributing employer, of which no single employer can contribute more than 10 percent of the total contributions, and the plan must not be experience-rated with respect to individual employers.According to the Notice, these arrangements typically involve an investment in variable life or universal life insurance contracts on the lives of the covered employees. The problem is that the employer contributions are large relative to the cost of the amount of term insurance that would be required to provide the death benefits under the arrangement, and the trust administrator may obtain cash to pay benefits other than death benefits, by such means as cashing in or withdrawing the cash value of the insurance policies.

The plans are also often designed so that a particular employer’s contributions or its employees’ benefits may be determined in a way that insulates the employer to a significant extent from the experience of other subscribing employers. In general, the contributions and claimed tax deductions tend to be disproportionate to the economic realities of the arrangements.Benistar advertised that enrollees should expect to obtain the same type of tax benefits as listed in the transaction described in Notice 95-34. The benefits of enrollment listed in its advertising packet included:Virtually unlimited deductions for the employer;Contributions could vary from year to year;Benefits could be provided to one or more key executives on a selective basis;No need to provide benefits to rank-and-file employees;Contributions to the plan were not limited by qualified plan rules and would not interfere with pension, profit sharing or 401(k) plans;Funds inside the plan would accumulate tax-free;Beneficiaries could receive death proceeds free of both income tax and estate tax;The program could be arranged for tax-free distribution at a later date;Funds in the plan were secure from the hands of creditors.The Court said that the Benistar Plan was factually similar to the plans described in Notice 95-34 at all relevant times.In rendering its decision the court heavily cited Curcio, in which the court also ruled in favor of the IRS. As noted in Curcio, the insurance policies, overwhelmingly variable or universal life policies, required large contributions relative to the cost of the amount of term insurance that would be required to provide the death benefits under the arrangement. The Benistar Plan owned the insurance contracts.Following Curcio, as the Court has stipulated, the Court held that the contributions to Benistar were not deductible under § 162(a) because participants could receive the value reflected in the underlying insurance policies purchased by Benistar—despite the payment of benefits by Benistar seeming to be contingent upon an unanticipated event (the death of the insured while employed). As long as plan participants were willing to abide by Benistar’s distribution policies, there was no reason ever to forfeit a policy to the plan. In fact, in estimating life insurance rates, the taxpayers’ expert in Curcio assumed that there would be no forfeitures, even though he admitted that an insurance company would generally assume a reasonable rate of policy lapses.The McGehee Family Clinic had enrolled in the Benistar Plan in May 2001 and claimed deductions for contributions to it in 2002 and 2005. The returns did not include a Form 8886, Reportable Transaction Disclosure Statement, or similar disclosure.The IRS disallowed the latter deduction and adjusted the 2004 return of shareholder Robert Prosser and his wife to include the $50,000 payment to the plan. The IRS also assessed tax deficiencies and the enhanced 30 percent penalty totaling almost $21,000 against the clinic and $21,000 against the Prossers. The court ruled that the Prossers failed to prove a reasonable cause or good faith exception.

Other important facts:

In recent years, some § 412(i) plans have been funded with life insurance using face amounts in excess of the maximum death benefit a qualified plan is permitted to pay.  Ideally, the plan should limit the proceeds that can be paid as a death benefit in the event of a participant’s death.  Excess amounts would revert to the plan.  Effective February 13, 2004, the purchase of excessive life insurance in any plan is considered a listed transaction if the face amount of the insurance exceeds the amount that can be issued by $100,000 or more and the employer has deducted the premiums for the insuranceA 412(i) plan in and of itself is not a listed transaction; however, the IRS has a task force auditing 412(i) plans.An employer has not engaged in a listed transaction simply because it is a 412(i) plan.Just because a 412(i) plan was audited and sanctioned for certain items, does not necessarily mean the plan engaged in a listed transaction. Some 412(i) plans have been audited and sanctioned for issues not related to listed transactions.Companies should carefully evaluate proposed investments in plans such as the Benistar Plan. The claimed deductions will not be available, and penalties will be assessed for lack of disclosure if the investment is similar to the investments described in Notice 95-34. In addition, under IRC 6707A, IRS fines participants a large amount of money for not properly disclosing their participation in listed, reportable or similar transactions; an issue that was not before the tax court in either Curcio or McGehee. The disclosure needs to be made for every year the participant is in a plan. The forms need to be properly filed even for years that no contributions are made. I have received numerous calls from participants who did disclose and still got fined because the forms were not filled in properly. A plan administrator told me that he assisted hundreds of his participants with filing forms, and they still all received very large IRS fines for not properly filling in the forms.IRS has targeted all 419 welfare benefit plans, many 412(i) retirement plans, captive insurance plans with life insurance in them and Section 79 plans.Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the American Institute of CPAs faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters.  He speaks at more than ten conventions annually and writes for over fifty publications. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education’s CPA’s Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots.

He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Mr. Wallach may be reached at 516/938.5007, wallachinc@gmail.com, or at http://www.taxaudit419.com or http://www.lancewallach.com.

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

Small Business Retirement Plans Fuel Litigation Maryland Trial Lawyer Dolan Media Newswires

Small Business Retirement Plans Fuel Litigation

Maryland Trial Lawyer- Dolan Media Newswires

Small businesses facing audits and potentially huge tax penalties over certain types of retirement plans are filing lawsuits against those who marketed, designed and sold the plans.

The 412(i) and 419(e) plans were marketed in the past several years as a way for small business owners to set up retirement or welfare benefits plans while leveraging huge tax savings, but the IRS put them on a list of abusive tax shelters and has more recently focused audits on them.The penalties for such transactions are extremely high and can pile up quickly.There are business owners who owe taxes but have been assessed 2 million in penalties. The existing cases involve many types of businesses, including doctors’ offices, dental practices, grocery store owners, mortgage companies and restaurant owners. Some are trying to negotiate with the IRS. Others are not waiting. A class action has been filed and cases in several states are ongoing. The business owners claim that they were targeted by insurance companies; and their agents to purchase the plans without any disclosure that the IRS viewed the plans as abusive tax shelters. Other defendants include financial advisors who recommended the plans, accountants who failed to fill out required tax forms and law firms that drafted opinion letters legitimizing the plans, which were used as marketing tools.A 412(i) plan is a form of defined benefit pension plan. A 419(e) plan is a similar type of health and benefits plan. Typically, these were sold to small, privately held businesses with fewer than 20 employees and several million dollars in gross revenues. What distinguished a legitimate plan from the plans at issue were the life insurance policies used to fund them. The employer would make large cash contributions in the form of insurance premiums, deducting the entire amounts. The insurance policy was designed to have a “springing cash value,” meaning that for the first 5-7 years it would have a near-zero cash value, and then spring up in value.Just before it sprung, the owner would purchase the policy from the trust at the low cash value, thus making a tax-free transaction. After the cash value shot up, the owner could take tax-free loans against it. Meanwhile, the insurance agents collected exorbitant commissions on the premiums – 80 to 110 percent of the first year’s premium, which could exceed million.Technically, the IRS’s problems with the plans were that the “springing cash” structure disqualified them from being 412(i) plans and that the premiums, which dwarfed any payout to a beneficiary, violated incidental death benefit rules.Under §6707A of the Internal Revenue Code, once the IRS flags something as an abusive tax shelter, or “listed transaction,” penalties are imposed per year for each failure to disclose it. Another allegation is that businesses weren’t told that they had to file Form 8886, which discloses a listed transaction.According to Lance Wallach of Plainview, N.Y. (516-938-5007), who testifies as an expert in cases involving the plans, the vast majority of accountants either did not file the forms for their clients or did not fill them out correctly.Because the IRS did not begin to focus audits on these types of plans until some years after they became listed transactions, the penalties have already stacked up by the time of the audits.Another reason plaintiffs are going to court is that there are few alternatives – the penalties are not appeasable and must be paid before filing an administrative claim for a refund.The suits allege misrepresentation, fraud and other consumer claims. “In street language, they lied,” said Peter Losavio, a plaintiffs’ attorney in Baton Rouge, La., who is investigating several cases. So far they have had mixed results. Losavio said that the strength of an individual case would depend on the disclosures made and what the sellers knew or should have known about the risks.In 2004, the IRS issued notices and revenue rulings indicating that the plans were listed transactions. But plaintiffs’ lawyers allege that there were earlier signs that the plans ran afoul of the tax laws, evidenced by the fact that the IRS is auditing plans that existed before 2004.“Insurance companies were aware this was dancing a tightrope,” said William Noll, a tax attorney in Malvern, Pa. “These plans were being scrutinized by the IRS at the same time they were being promoted, but there wasn’t any disclosure of the scrutiny to unwitting customers.”A defense attorney, who represents benefits professionals in pending lawsuits, said the main defense is that the plans complied with the regulations at the time and that “nobody can predict the future.”An employee benefits attorney who has settled several cases against insurance companies, said that although the lost tax benefit is not recoverable, other damages include the hefty commissions – which in one of his cases amounted to 400,000 the first year – as well as the costs of handling the audit and filing amended tax returns.Defying the individualized approach an attorney filed a class action in federal court against four insurance companies claiming that they were aware that since the 1980s the IRS had been calling the policies potentially abusive and that in 2002 the IRS gave lectures calling the plans not just abusive but “criminal.” A judge dismissed the case against one of the insurers that sold 412(i) plans.The court said that the plaintiffs failed to show the statements made by the insurance companies were fraudulent at the time they were made, because IRS statements prior to the revenue rulings indicated that the agency may or may not take the position that the plans were abusive. The attorney, whose suit also names law firm for its opinion letters approving the plans, will appeal the dismissal to the 5th Circuit.In a case that survived a similar motion to dismiss, a small business owner is suing Hartford Insurance to recover a “seven-figure” sum in penalties and fees paid to the IRS. A trial is expected in August.But tax experts say the audits and penalties continue. “There’s a bit of a disconnect between what members of Congress thought they meant by suspending collection and what is happening in practice. Clients are still getting bills and threats of liens,” Wallach said. “Thousands of business owners are being hit with million-dollar-plus fines. … The audits are continuing and escalating. I just got four calls today,” he said. A bill has been introduced in Congress to make the penalties less draconian, but nobody is expecting a magic bullet.“From what we know, Congress is looking to make the penalties more proportionate to the tax benefit received instead of a fixed amount.”Lance Wallach can be reached at: WallachInc@gmail.comFor more information, please visit http://www.taxadvisorexperts.org Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, abusive tax shelters, financial, international tax, and estate planning.  He writes about 412(i), 419, Section79, FBAR, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Pubic Radio’s All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education’s CPA’s Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as the AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case.

Contact him at 516.938.5007, wallachinc@gmail.com or visit http://www.taxadvisorexperts.com.

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

PROGNOSTICATIONS ON CAPTIVES

GROUNDS FOR IRS CHALLENGES

LANCE WALLACH
Given the substantial tax benefits associated with a captive insurance company, it is not
Surprising that the IRS has challenged certain aspects of Captives over the years. The primary
arguments for those challenges are:
(1) The Captive is not writing “insurance” in the usual sense, due to a lack of risk shifting
and risk distribution.

To Read More Click Link Below:

http://beattheirs3.blogspot.com/2013/02/kick-tires-before-you-buy.html

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Lance Wallach’s Radio Interview – March 28, 2011

On March 28, 2011,  radio station KMJ out of Fresno California asked Lance Wallach to comment on offshore tax shelters and how the resultant tax deductions are handled by the IRS. Lance took the opportunity to advise the audience how the IRS misses the mark when it seeks out people to audit.

KMJ’s Ray Appleton was inspired to explore this subject as a result of viewing the previous Sunday’s CBS 60 minutes segment which addressed offshore tax havens.  Smart man, he called upon the nation’s foremost expert on abusive tax shelters, Lance Wallach.

To hear what Lance had to say, click here.

Tax Shelter Penalty Cases Hurt Thousands of Small Business Owners

Gerson Lehrman Group

March, 2011

  • Analysis by: GLG Expert Contributor Lance Wallach

Summary

Insurance agents and others sell 412i, 419, captive insurance and section 79 plans to unsuspecting business owners. Since the IRS is calling these plans abusive tax shelters, many small business owners are getting audited and getting penalties under IRC 6707A. They have even fined material advisors and accountants for their participation, and small business owners need to know how to protect themselves from the long reach of the IRS.

Analysis

Insurance agents and others sell 412i, 419, captive insurance and section 79 scams to unsuspecting business owners. The IRS considers many of these plans abusive tax shelters, listed transactions, reportable transactions, or what it calls “similar to,” which allows them to target the plan. The unsuspecting business owners then get audited by the IRS, lose their deductions, and pay interest and penalties. Then comes the bad news. The IRS comes back and fines the business owners a large amount of money for not properly filing under IRC 6707A. They have even fined hundreds of business owners who have filed. The IRS says that they prepared the forms incorrectly or filed improperly, or lied to the IRS.

Taxpayers must report certain transactions to the IRS under Section 6707A of the Tax Code, which was enacted in 2004 to help detect, deter, and shut down abusive tax shelter activities. For example, reportable transactions may include being in a 419,412i, or other insurance plan sold by insurance agents for tax deduction purposes. Other abusive transactions could include captive insurance and section 79 plans, which are usually sold by insurance agents for tax deductions. Taxpayers must disclose their participation in these and other transactions by filing a Reportable Transactions Disclosure Statement (Form 8886) with their income tax returns. People that sell these plans are called material advisors and must also file 8918 forms properly. Failure to report the transactions could result in very large penalties. Accountants who sign tax returns that have these deductions can also be called material advisors and should also file forms 8918 properly.

The IRS has fined hundreds of taxpayers who did file under 6707A. They said that they did not fill out the forms properly, or did not file correctly. The plan administrator or a 412i advised over 200 of his clients how to file. They were then all fined by the IRS for filling out the forms wrong. The fines averaged about $500,000 per taxpayer.

A report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that the procedures for documenting and assessing the Section 6707A penalty were not sufficient or formalized, and cases often are not fully developed.

TIGTA evaluated the IRS’s effectiveness in identifying, developing, and applying the Section 6707A penalty. Based on its review of 114 assessed Section 6707A penalties, TIGTA determined that many of these files were incomplete or did not contain sufficient audit evidence. TIGTA also found a need for better coordination between the IRS’s Office of Tax Shelter Analysis and other functions.

“As penalties are meant to encourage voluntary taxpayer compliance, it is important that IRS procedures for documenting and assessing them be well developed and fully documented,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement. “Any failure to do so raises the risk that taxpayers will not receive consistent and fair treatment under the law, and could further reduce their willingness to comply voluntarily.”

The Section 6707A penalty is a stand-alone penalty and does not require an associated income tax examination; therefore, it applies regardless of whether the reportable transaction results in an understatement of tax. TIGTA determined that, in most cases, the Section 6707A penalty was substantially higher than additional tax assessments taxpayers received from the audit of underlying tax returns. I have had phone calls from taxpayers that contributed less than $100,000 to a listed transaction and were fined over $500,000. I have had phone calls from taxpayers that went into 419, or 412i plans but made no contributions and were fined a large amount of money for being in a listed transaction and not properly filing forms under IRC section 6707A. The IRS claims that the fines are non appealable.

On July 7, 2009, at the request of Congress, the IRS agreed to suspend collection enforcement actions. However, this did not preclude the issuance of notices of assessment that are required by law and adjustment notices that inform the taxpayer of any account activity. In addition, taxpayers continued to receive balance due and final notices of intent to levy, and demands to pay Section 6707A penalties.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS fully develop, document, and properly process Section 6707A penalties. The IRS agreed with TIGTA’s recommendation and plans to take appropriate corrective actions. I think as a result of this many taxpayers who have not yet been fined will shortly receive the fines. Unless a taxpayer files properly there is no statute of limitations. The IRS has, and will continue to go back many years and fine people that are in listed, reportable or substantially similar to transactions.

If you are, or were in a 412i, 419, captive insurance or section 79 plan you should immediately file under 6707A protectively. If you have already filed you should find someone who knows what he is doing to review the forms. I only know of two people who know how to properly file. The IRS instructions are vague. If a taxpayer files wrong, or fills out the forms wrong he still gets the fine. I have had hundreds of phone calls from people in that situation.


Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters.  He writes about 412(i), 419, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for more than 20 publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Pubic Radio’s All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education’s CPA’s Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and his side has never lost a case. Visit www.taxaudit419.com for more on this subject.

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.