Listed Transactions-Excerpt from Protecting Clients From Fraud, Incompetence, and Scams

Protecting Clients From Fraud, Incompetence, and Scams

By: Lance Wallach

Published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

Excerpts have been taken from this book about:

Bruce Hink, who has given me permission to utilize his name and circumstances, is a perfect example of what the IRS is doing to unsuspecting business owners.  What follows is a story about Bruce Hink and how the IRS fined him $200,000 a year for being in what they called a “listed transaction”.  In addition, I believe that the accountant who signed the tax return and the insurance agent who sold the retirement plan will each be fined $200,000 as material advisors.  We have received a large number of calls for help from accountants, business owners, and insurance agents in similar situations.  Don’t think this will happen to you?  It is happening to a lot of accountants and business owners, because most of these so-called listed, abusive plans, or plans substantially similar to the so-called listed, are currently being sold by most insurance agents.

Bruce was a small business owner facing $400,000 in IRS penalties for 2004 and 2005 for his 412(i) plan (IRC6707A).  Here is how the story developed.

In 2002 an insurance agent representing a 100-year-old well-established insurance company suggested he start a pension plan.  Bruce was given a portfolio of information from the insurance company, which was given to the company’s outside CPA to review and to offer an opinion.  The CPA gave the plan the green light and the plan was started for tax year 2002.

Contributions were made in 2003.  Then the administrator came out with amendments to the plan, based on new IRS guidelines, in October 2004.

The business owner’s agent disappeared in May 2005 before implementing the new guidelines from the administrator with the insurance company.  The business owner was left with a refund check from the insurance company, a deduction claim on his 2004 tax return that had not been applied, and without an agent.

I took six months of making calls to the insurance company to get a new insurance agent assigned.  By then, the IRS had started an examination of the pension plan.  Bruce asked for advice from the CPA and the local attorney (who had no previous experience in such cases), which made matters worse, with a “big name” law firm being recommended and more than $30,000 in additional legal fees being billed in three months.

To make a long story short, the audit stretched on for more than two years to examine a two-year old pension with four participants and $178,000 in contributions.

During the audit, no funds went to the insurance company.  The company was awaiting IRS approval and restructuring the plan as a traditional defined benefit plan, which the administrator had suggested and which the IRS had indicated would be acceptable.  The $90,000 2005 contribution was put into the company’s retirement bank account along with the 2004 contribution.

In March 2008, the business owner received an apology from the IRS agent who headed the examination.  Even this sympathetic IRS agent thinks there is a problem with the IRS enforcement of these Draconian penalties.  Below is one of her emails to the business owner who was fined $400,000.

From:  XXXXXXXX XXXXX <XXXXXXXX.XXXXX@irs.gov>

Date: Tue, Mar 4, 2008 at 7:12 AM

Subject: RE: Urgent

To: Bruce Hink  <brucehink@XXXXXXX.com>

Thanks Bruce – yes – please just overnight then to the Grand Rapids address.  Once again, I’m sorry about this.  Basically, our Counsel told us that we needed language specific to the IRC 6707A penalty in order for that statute to be extended.  I will ask the Reviewer to hold off an extra day.

I’m also very sorry that this is getting you down.  Deeply sorry.  It’s very difficult for me as well – before I started working on this project (412(i)) I was doing audits of 401(k) and profit sharing plans.  If there was an error on the plan, the employer would just fix it and the audit was over.  There wasn’t anything controversial about it – and I felt like I was helping people – employers and plan participants.  I really liked my job.  In two years time, that has completely changed.  I know it’s not very “professional” to make such confessions – so forgive me.  But I guess I just wanted you to know that I really sympathize with your situation – and have been doing whatever I can to help.  I know that having this hanging over your head can’t be fun – but as this project goes forward – I think that the IRS is going to have to soften their position somewhat – so these delays may be to your benefit.

Also, I’m not really supposed to be sending emails to you – but when I went through the file I couldn’t find a good phone number for you.  Could you just send me a note or an email with a current phone number?

Looking to receive the signed 872s on Thursday.  If you have any questions at any time – please call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX. I’m usually in the office in the mornings.

The IRS subsequently denied any appeal and ruled in October 2008 that the $400,000 penalty would stand.

Could You or One of Your Clients Be Next?

Some of the areas SB/SE will be examining include pass-though entities, high-income filers, and abusive transactions.  S corporations are likely to receive particular scrutiny.  Further review would not be limited to S corporations, but would extend to pass-through entities like partnerships, which can expect to receive a “significant amount of attention” because SB/SE has found an area of abuse and would like to curb what is called a growing trend of abusive high-income filers, typically classified as those with an adjusted gross income of more than $200,000.

The IRS has been cracking down on what it considers to be abusive tax shelters.  Many of them are being marketed to small business owners by insurance professionals, financial planners, and even accountants and attorneys.  I speak at numerous conventions, for both business owners and accountants.  And after I speak, I am always approached by many people who have questions about tax reduction plans that they have heard about.

I have been an expert witness in many of these 419 and 412(i) lawsuits and I have not lost one of them.  If you sold one or more of these plans, get someone who really knows what they are doing to help you immediately.  Many advisors will take your money and claim to be able to help you.  Make sure they have experience helping accountants who signed the tax returns.  IRS calls them material advisors and fines them $200,000 if they are incorporated or $100,000 if they are not.  Do not let them learn on the job, with your career and money at stake.

Lance Wallach, a member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals and an AICPA course developer, is a frequent and popular speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, reducing health insurance costs, and tax-oriented strategies at accounting and financial planning conventions. He has authored numerous books including The Team Approach to Tax, Financial and Estate Planning, Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots, and Sid Kess’ Alternatives to Commonly Misused Tax Strategies: Ensuring Your Client’s Future, all published by the AICPA, and Wealth Preservation Planning by the National Society of Accountants. His newest books CPAs’ Guide to Life Insurance and CPAs’ Guide to Federal and Estate Gift Taxation by Bisk CPEasy, and Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence, and Scams, published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Mr. Wallach, CLU, CHFC, is a leading speaker on accounting and taxation topics and the author of numerous AICPA CPA exam publications.  In addition to developing CPE courses, he is also a member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Bloomberg Financial News, NBC, National Pubic Radio’s All Things Considered, and other radio talk shows.  Mr. Wallach is listed in Who’s Who in Finance and Business.

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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How to Find the Right Experts to Guide You Through These Times

The Commercial Flooring Report

By Lance Wallach

January 2009

 

These days, business owners have a lot on their plates. Not only do they have businesses to run, but they need to have the resources to operate, manage, and flourish those businesses in order to stay afloat. Without serious knowledge of things like finances, taxes, tax audits, and retirement plans, it’s hard to keep a shop open for business and to ensure that your future is in good hands. Especially now, as the economy begins to change, it is smart to look into different ways to secure your future and money. Recent well-documented events have made it increasingly important to educate yourself on how to handle such endeavors correctly.

Thousands of businesses have closed as a result of bankruptcy, corrupt policies, lowered sales, and other factors, often because issues that seemingly, in hindsight, should have been obvious were overlooked. In this environment, more than ever, you simply cannot afford mistakes or omissions with respect to your finances. Such mistakes can result in audits and other problems that could eventually lead to the closing of your establishment. Being aware of the amount of debt that you are carrying, when your sales tend to plummet, and your number of employees are three trivial yet important aspects of watching your money. Websites such as IRS.gov, financeExperts.org, and taxlibrary.us are resources that can help make sure that there are often neglected, things ZERO unpleasant surprises in your numbers. Additionally, keeping accurate records and constantly double-checking your numbers are two obvious, yet that you should do. So the question stands: how knowledgeable are you about your own finances?

 

Many of you have received information about the current state of your investments in the past few months.  Sticker shock would be an understatement. Thousands have been lost as a direct result of the fiascoes constantly occurring as of this writing. Savings that would not only brighten your futures, but in many cases investments that you planned to use for your children’s educations, are gone. The downward spiral will continue, as the shrapnel from these events moves throughout our failing economy. It won’t stop in the foreseeable future, and it will entail more than just monetary losses. The watchdog agencies that will now have to redeem themselves for failing to perform their regulatory functions, leading at least in part to all of these failures, will respond with increased scrutiny of American citizens and businesses in every manner imaginable. Trust me, no stone will be left unturned, including that of increased IRS audits for the express purpose of raising money, which in fact has already started.
All of which is why treading water in the tide of an ebbing economy is not a solution.
It would appear that the seemingly indestructible giants of Wall Street have begun to crumble. Lehman Brothers is no more, Merrill Lynch has been taken down a peg or two, and now, disaster is apparently looming over Morgan Stanley. To say nothing of the looming threat to the consumer banking industry. As industry insiders, we’ve seen the writing on the wall for quite some time. Now, everybody else can see it, too.
In this day, the veil has been pulled back on the stock market’s heavy hitters. Consumers now know there is indeed no “wizard” behind the curtain, just a few individuals in designer suits pulling down astronomical sums of money for the advice they send down from on high. Who can forget the images of the Lehman Brothers employees in New York City, emptying their offices into boxes and carrying them down Seventh Avenue? As sad as it was to see, it was a day we all had the feeling was coming, right? But now that it’s here, why don’t we feel any better?
The hopes of many investors in the stock market have been shaken to the core, but we cannot forget about the morose consumers and business owners. A number of individuals are suffering the potentially substantial loss (or potential loss) of their hard-earned money in a volatile market. Consumers need advisors who can guide them toward a safe harbor. As previously mentioned, financeexperts.org can give you the help you need in this failing economy. The leading authorities are members, and will most likely give helpful feedback. Consumers are fearful, and if they say they aren’t, it’s probable that they aren’t being honest. For most Americans today, a stress free retirement is looking more and more impossible, and the difficulties looming between ourselves and that goal seem insurmountable.  But things do not have to look and seem so bleak.
In a sense of the word, we feel compassion. Too many scoundrels plague Wall Street but, to some degree, we all feel the brunt. Be it for the out of work traders and brokers, or the investors who are wondering what is going to happen to their futures, we all feel some concern. But when it comes to who will receive most of our compassion, my money is on the investors. We hate to have an “I told you so” attitude, but at times it is hard to avoid. However, rather than dwell on this compassion, why not capitalize on it? Often unforeseen opportunities arise from the ashes of situations such as these. In fact, many such opportunities are available as I write this. They will be taken advantage of by those with the imagination and talent to position themselves to do so.

 

By reading this, you may be off to a good start. There are many ideas you will get from our leading finance experts to better run your business, reduce taxes and insurance costs, and much more. You will learn how to avoid audits, which are already up fifty (50) percent and are expected to increase further still, and turn your accountant into your protector instead of a tax collector. You will learn from Lance Wallach, who, as an American Institute of CPAs instructor and course developer, teaches CPAs. Lance also draws upon the knowledge and expertise of his associates, who are the leading finance experts in the United States. None of them work for any of the firms that were affected by the recent and ongoing financial fiascoes. Many of them perceived the arrival of these problems, and only their clients benefited because most other business people were too busy buying products from stockbrokers, insurance agents, and so-called financial planners who did not know what was going on. In Lance’s spare time, between speaking at conventions, writing and helping a select few business owners, Lance appears as an expert witness. In fact, for two days in Sept 2008, Lance Wallach testified as an expert witness in Federal Court for a business owner that was sold a faulty financial product by a combination of his accountant and a so-called retirement plan expert. After Lance completed his testimony, the judge call the retirement plan salesman a “crook” and said that he should settle with the plaintiff. He did not, and the jury awarded the business owner TWICE what he had sued for. As a side note, Lance had advised the lawyer that this was a so called “ERISA case” and instead of the $400,000 that the business owner was suing for, $800,000 (double damages, as is possible in “ERISA” cases), could be awarded if the jury felt that was appropriate.
The point is that, under no circumstances, should you be forced to lay down and take the abuse and malpractice that most salespeople pin on you. Get your financial and business affairs in order, and, if necessary, take some action! Take some serious action!

 

 

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 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 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 www.taxaudit419.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.

 

 

 

 

Get a $200,000 IRS Fine and Have Your Client Sue You

By Lance Wallach

Over the past decade, business owners have been overwhelmed by a plethora of arrangements designed to reduce the cost of providing employee benefits and taxes while simultaneously increasing their own retirement savings. The solutions ranged from traditional pension and profit sharing plans to more advanced strategies.

Some strategies, such as IRS Section 419 and 412(i) plans, used life insurance as vehicles to bring about benefits. Unfortunately, almost all the plans were noncompliant, even though insurance companies vetted them and encouraged their agents to sell them. This fostered an environment that led to numerous IRS crackdowns, disallowing tax deductions, and spurned clients to sue their insurance agents and others.

The result has been thousands of audits and an IRS task force seeking out tax-shelter promotions. In addition, the IRS has been auditing most 412(i) defined benefit retirement plans and all 419 welfare benefit plans — plans offered by many insurance agents. For unknowing clients, the tax consequences are enormous. Yet for their professional insurance advisors, the liability may be equally extreme. If an insurance professional sells one of these plans, and the client takes a tax deduction on that plan the IRS now considers as abusive, to be a listed transaction or substantially similar to such a transaction, the insurance agent may be called a “material advisor.” The fine for being found a material advisor is $200,000 if incorporated, or $100,000 if unincorporated.

Most insurance agents think that they can avoid the fine by filing Form 8918 with the IRS and informing on their clients. But, all of the Form 8918s we have seen have been filled out improperly. In our discussions with the IRS officials who wrote the regulations, the impression that we received was that if the form is filled out improperly, you are lying to the government. That is almost as bad as not filing the form. This has also been a problem with all the forms that we have reviewed for accountants and insurance agents. We have reviewed hundreds of forms, and not a single one has been filled out properly. One of the reasons for this may be that the promoter of the abusive plan sends the form with instructions to the accountant and insurance agent. These instructions tend to protect the promoter, but do not necessarily protect the insurance agent or accountant. So please be careful with this entire situation. We have received hundreds of phone calls from accountants and insurance professionals recently who are in this predicament. But, it is very difficult to help them after the fact.

Recently, there has been an explosion in the marketing of a financial product called “captive insurance.” These so-called “captives” are typically small insurance companies designed to insure the risks of an individual business under IRS Code Section 831(b). When properly designed, a business can make tax-deductible premium payments to a related party insurance company. Depending on circumstances, underwriting profits, if any, can be paid out to the owners as dividends, and profits from liquidation of the company may be taxed as capital gains.

While captives can be a great cost-saving tool, they also are expensive to build and manage. Also, captives are allowed to garner tax benefits because they operate as real insurance companies. Advisors and business owners who misuse captives or market them as estate planning tools, asset protection vehicles, for tax deferral purposes or to obtain other benefits not related to the true business purpose of an insurance company face grave regulatory and tax consequences.

A recent concern is the integration of small captives with life insurance policies. Small captives, under Section 831(b), have no statutory authority to deduct life premiums. Also, if a small captive uses life insurance as an investment, the cash value of the life policy can be taxable at corporate rates, and then will be taxable again when distributed. The consequence of this double taxation is to devastate the effectiveness of the life insurance, and it extends serious liability to any accountant who recommends the plan or even signs the tax return of the business that pays premiums to the captive.

The IRS is aware that several large insurance companies are promoting their life insurance policies as investments with small captives. The outcome looks eerily like that of the 419 and 412(i) plans mentioned above.

Remember, if something looks too good to be true, it usually is. There are safe and conservative ways to use captive insurance structures to lower costs and obtain benefits for businesses. And, some types of captive insurance products do have statutory protection for deducting life insurance premiums (although not 831(b) captives). Learning what works and is safe is the first step an accountant should take in helping his or her clients use these powerful, but highly technical insurance tools.

*Source: This article was first published in the January 2009 issue of California Broker magazine.

Lance Wallach, a member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals and an AICPA course developer, is a frequent and popular speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, reducing health insurance costs and tax-oriented strategies at accounting and financial planning conventions. He does frequent expert witness work and assists insurance professionals, accountants and others in reviewing 8918 forms so they can avoid the IRS $200,000 penalty that applies to material advisors.

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 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 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 www.taxaudit419.com and www.taxlibrary.us

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.