Don’t Waste Time Shopping Around For an Expert. We are right here!

The “Tax Resolution” Offices of “Lance Wallach”
5 1 6 – 9 3 8 – 5 0 0 7    Nationwide Assistance

WallachInc@gmail.com

Expert Witness Services” Can Benefit You
In Many Ways

ATO leads global battle against multinational tax cheats

  • SIMON BENSON
  • THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
  • MARCH 02, 2015 12:00AM

LANCE WALLACH EXPERT WITNESS CLICK HERE NOW!

When you hire someone so qualified that he has been an expert witness you can be confident you are getting the BEST.

Click HERE to listen to  expert “Lance Wallach” speak about listed transactions,  419 plan issues,  welfare benefit plans and annuities, and how new IRS regulations can affect you if you participated in one of these types of benefit plans. Then make sure YOU obtain his services before your adversary does.

Remember, you could still be penalized for failure to file Form “8886” and those IRS penalties can be severe.

Abusive Insurance, Welfare Benefit, and Retirement Plans

The A2Z Directory                       March 2011

Lance Wallach                                                                                 

The IRS has various task forces auditing all section 419, section 412(i), and other plans that tend to be abusive.  Most insurance agents sell these plans.  The IRS is looking to raise money and is not looking to correct plans or help taxpayers. The IRS calls accountants, attorneys, and insurance agents “material advisors” and also fines them the same amount, again unless the client’s participation in the transaction is reported.  An accountant is a material advisor if he signs the return or gives advice and gets paid.  More details can be found onwww.irs.gov and vebaplan.org.

Bruce Hink, who has given me written permission to use his name and circumstances, is a perfect example of what the IRS is doing to unsuspecting business owners.  What follows is a story about how the IRS fines him each year for being in what they called a listed transaction.  Listed transactions can be found at www.irs.gov.  Also involved are what the IRS calls abusive plans or what it refers to as substantially similar.  Substantially similar to is very difficult to understand, but the IRS seems to be saying, “If it looks like some other listed transaction, the fines apply.”  Also, I believe that the accountant who signed the tax return and the insurance agent who sold the retirement plan will each be fined as material advisors.  We have received many calls for help from accountants,attorneys, 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 theses so-called listed, abusive, or insurance agents are selling substantially similar plans. Recently I came across the case of Hink, a small business owner who is facing thousands in IRS penalties for 2004 and 2005 because of his participation in a section 412(i) plan.  (The penalties were assessed under section 6707A.)

In 2002 an insurance agent representing a 100-year-old, well-established insurance company suggested the owner start a pension plan.  The owner was given a portfolio of information from the insurance company, which was given to the company’s outside CPA to review and give an opinion on.  The CPA gave the plan the green light and the plan was started. Contributions were made in 2003.  The plan administrator came out with amendments to the plan, based on new IRS guidelines, in October 2004. The business owner’s insurance 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 no agent.

It 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.  Asking advice from the CPA and a local attorney (who had no previous experience in these cases) made matters worse, with a “big name” law firm being recommended and over ,000 in additional legal fees being billed in three months. To make a long story short, the audit stretched on for over 2 ½ years to examine a 2-year-old pension with four participants and the 8,000 in contributions. During the audit, no funds went to the insurance company, which was awaiting formal IRS approval on restructuring the plan as a traditional defined benefit plan, which the administrator had suggested and the IRS had indicated would be acceptable.In March 2008 the business owner received a private e-mail apology from the IRS agent who headed the examination, saying that her hands were tied and that she used to believe she was correcting problems and helping taxpayers and not hurting people.

Could you or one of your clients be next?

To this point, I have focused, generally, on the horrors of running afoul of the IRS by participating in a listed transaction, which includes various types of transactions and the various fines that can be imposed on business owners and their advisors who participate in, sell, or advice on these transactions.  I happened to use, as an example, someone in a section 412(i) plan, which was deemed to be a listed transaction, pointing out the truly doleful consequences the person has suffered.  Others who fall into this trap, even unwittingly, can suffer the same fate.

Now let’s go into more detail about section 412(i) plans.  This is important because these defined benefit plans are popular and because few people think of retirement plans as tax shelters or listed transactions.  People therefore may get into serious trouble in this area unwittingly, out of ignorance of the law, and, for the same reason, many fail to take necessary and appropriate precautions. The IRS has warned against the section 412(i) defined benefit pension plans, named for the former code section governing them.  It warned against trust arrangements it deems abusive, some of which may be regarded as listed transactions.  Falling into that category can result in taxpayers having to disclose the participation under pain of penalties. Targets also include some retirement plans.

One reason for the harsh treatment of some 412(i) plans is their discrimination in favor of owners and key, highly compensated employees.  Also, the IRS does not consider the promised tax relief proportionate to the economic realities of the transactions.  In general, IRS auditors divide audited plan into those they consider noncompliant and other they consider abusive.  While the alternatives available to the sponsor of noncompliant plan are problematic, it is frequently an option to keep the plan alive in some form while simultaneously hoping to minimize the financial fallout from penalties.

The sponsor of an abusive plan can expect to be treated more harshly than participants.  Although in some situation something can be salvaged, the possibility is definitely on the table of having to treat the plan as if it never existed, which of course triggers the full extent of back taxes, penalties, and interest on all contributions that were made – not to mention leaving behind no retirement plan whatsoever. Another plan the IRS is auditing is the section 419 plan.  A few listed transactions concern relatively common employee benefit plans the IRS has deemed tax avoidance schemes or otherwise abusive.  Perhaps some of the most likely to crop up, especially in small-business returns, are the arrangements purporting to allow the deductibility of premiums paid for life insurance under a welfare benefit plan or section 419 plan.  These plans have been sold by most insurance agents and insurance companies.

How do insurance agents and companies handle untruths on behalf of their clients? 

The incontestability clause was originally designed to manage situations wherein an applicant fails to mention something that is relevant to a life insurance policy and how it is approved and issued.  In the case of these omissions, the clause can be used to contest payout of the policy if the applicant dies within two or three years of the issuance.

If a smoker, for example, dies outside of the contestability period and is denied a death claim for misrepresenting his smoker status – generally the insurance company cannot void the contract after the contestability period ends.

Our forum members discussed this issue, and noted that if caught within two years of the policy issue, a revocation of the policy might occur.  After two years, the death benefit would be paid in full, unless the state courts had allowed another way to rescind the policy.  But whether the insurance company includes a fraud provision or not, the state does not provide an escape clause in the case of fraud against an insurance company.
Breaking News: Don’t Become A Material
Advisor

Accountants, insurance professionals and others need to be careful that they
don’t become what the IRS calls material advisors.  If they sell or give advice,
or sign tax returns for abusive, listed or similar plans; they risk a minimum
$100,000 fine. Their client will then probably sue them after having dealt with
the IRS.

In 2010, the IRS raided the offices of  and seized
the retirement benefit plan administration firm’s files and records. In
McGehee Family Clinic, the Tax Court ruled that a clinic and shareholder’s
investment in an employee benefit plan marketed under the name
was a listed transaction because it was substantially similar to the
transaction described in Notice 95-34 (1995-1 C.B. 309). This is at least the
second case in which the court has ruled against the welfare benefit
plan, by denominating it a listed transaction.

The McGehee Family Clinic 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.  Click here to read more.

California Broker, June 2011
Employee Retirement Plans

By Lance Wallach

412i, 419, Captive Insurance and Section 79 Plans; Buyer Beware

The IRS has been attacking all 419 welfare benefit plans, many 412i retirement plans, captive insurance plans with life insurance in them, and Section 79 plans.  IRS is aggressively auditing various plans and calling them “listed transactions,” “abusive tax shelters,” or “reportable transactions,” participation in any of which must be disclosed to the Service.  The result has been IRS audits, disallowances, and huge fines for not properly reporting under IRC 6707A.

In a recent tax court case, Curico 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.  It was substantially similar to the transaction described in IRS Notice 95-34.  A subsequent case, McGehee Family Clinic, largely followed Curico, though it was technically decided on other grounds.  The parties stipulated to be bound by Curico regarding whether the amounts paid by McGehee in connection with the Benistar 419 Plan and Trust were deductible.  Curico 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 Service 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. Click here to read full article.

Section 79, Captive Insurance, 419,412i Plans

Don’t go to Arbitration Sue

  Lance Wallach


Thomas, Francis, Edward, and Dolores Ehlen1(“the Ehlens”) are employees of Ehlen Floor Covering, Inc. (“Ehlen Floor”). In 2002, Ehlen Floor created a 412(I) employee benefit pension plan, the Ehlen Floor Coverings Retirement Plan (“the Plan”), with the help of advisors and administrators. IPS, a corporation specializing in pension plan design and administration for small businesses, took over as the Plan administrator at the start of 2003. As part of the commencement of IPS’s services, Edward Ehlen, in his capacity as president of Ehlen Floor, signed an Arbitration Addendum (“AA”) attached to an Administrative Services Agreement (“the Agreement”) between IPS and Ehlen Floor. The AA called for arbitration of “any claim arising out of the rendition or lack of rendition of services under [the] [A]greement.” The Agreement provided a list of available services that IPS could provide, such as performing annual reviews of the Plan, making amendments, and preparing annual report forms. The Agreement also stated that Ehlen Floor would indicate in Section VI of the Agreement which of the available services it desired for IPS to actually perform. There is no Section VI in the Agreement, nor is there any testimony or evidence that plaintiffs ever viewed a Section VI of the Agreement.

Shortly after IPS stepped in as administrator of the Plan, it became aware that the Plan was not in compliance with several Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) rules and regulations. IPS contends that it drafted an amendment to correct these flaws, but the amendment was never officially adopted. In 2004, the IRS promulgated new rules explaining that it would consider 412(i) plans with beneficiary payout limitations to be listed transactions2, possibly subject to serious penalties. The rule required any plans that could be considered listed transactions to file Form 8886 to avoid potential penalties. IPS drafted another amendment to the Plan after determining that the Plan would likely be classified as a listed transaction under the new rules. Ehlen Floor was not informed about the pre-rule tax problems, the existence of the new rule, the additional filing requirements that the new rule imposed, or the drafting of the new amendment. The IRS instigated an audit on March 6, 2006, found the Plan to be non-compliant, and ultimately assessed significant penalties against Ehlen Floor.

In August 2007, plaintiffs filed a complaint in state court against a number of parties involved with the creation and initial administration of the Plan, asserting claims of negligence, fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation, negligent supervision, breaches of fiduciary duties, and unfair and deceptive trade practices. The case was removed to federal court on the basis of preemption under ERISA. In May 2009, as requested by the court, plaintiffs recast their complaints as federal matters in their Second Amended Complaint, but plaintiffs contested the removal and argued against federal jurisdiction. IPS was added as a defendant in the Second Amended Complaint. IPS then moved to compel arbitration of the dispute, claiming that the terms of the AA govern the matter. The district court denied the motion. IPS appeals; plaintiffs cross-appeal to challenge the existence of federal jurisdiction.

  1. STANDARD

Innovative Pension Strategies, Inc. (“IPS”) appeals the district court’s denial of its motion to compel arbitration and stay plaintiffs’ claims against it. Plaintiffs cross-appeal, disputing the preemption of their claims under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) and alleging a lack of federal jurisdiction. We find that jurisdiction is proper and affirm the district court’s denial of IPS’s motion to compel arbitration.

We therefore affirm the district court’s denial of IPS’s motion to compel arbitration and to stay plaintiffs’ claims against it.

Lance Wallach can be reached at: WallachInc@gmail.com

For more information, please visit 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 visitwww.taxadvisorexperts.com.

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.

“Retirement Plans”     Alert!
Due to recent changes in “IRS regulations”, most “419 plans” and “412i plans” are now in violation of the tax laws, and could subject both participants and their “material advisors” to large “IRS tax penalties”! The IRS is auditing many of these “benefit plans” right now.Let “Lance Wallach” review yours BEFORE you get the “letter from the IRS”notifying you of a “pension audit” or that you may be facing “IRS penalties and interest”.

Contact us at
516 – 938 5007
for preventive advice today before it’s too late!

Nationwide Assistance!

Click on the links below to view some of Lance’s many helpful articles.

Get Sued!

Small Business Retirement Plans Fuel Litigation

When you have “IRS problems”, you need a proven winner to stand up to them and help you avoid “IRS audits”and IRS penalties and interest. If you are suffering from IRS tax penalties regarding “419 plans” and 412i plans, captive insurance or Section 79 plans,you need “Lance Wallach” because with him as an expert witness,

his side has
NEVER LOST A CASE!

Kenny Hartstein, Dennis Cunning, Steve Toth, Larry Bell, Scott Ridge, Randall Smith, Greg Roper, Tracy Sunderlage, Joseph Donnelly, Norm Bevan, Michael Sonnenberg, Judy Carsrud, Dan Carpenter, Michael Carroll, Anthony Fakouri,Steve Burgess

Content copyright 2015. TaxAdvis

Advertisements

Abusive Insurance, Welfare Benefit, and Retirement Plans

Abusive Insurance, Welfare Benefit, and Retirement Plans

The A2Z Directory

The IRS has various task forces auditing all section 419, section 412(i), and other plans that tend to be abusive. Most insurance agents sell these plans. The IRS is looking to raise money and is not looking to correct plans or help taxpayers. The IRS calls accountants, attorneys, and insurance agents “material advisors” and also fines them the same amount, again unless the client’s participation in the transaction is reported. An accountant is a material advisor if he signs the return or gives advice and gets paid. More details can be found on vebaplan.org.

Bruce Hink, who has given me written permission to use his name and circumstances, is a perfect example of what the IRS is doing to unsuspecting business owners. What follows is a story about how the IRS fines him each year for being in what they called a listed transaction.

Also involved are what the IRS calls abusive plans or what it refers to as substantially similar. Substantially similar to is very difficult to understand, but the IRS seems to be saying, “If it looks like some other listed transaction, the fines apply.” Also, I believe that the accountant who signed the tax return and the insurance agent who sold the retirement plan will each be fined as material advisors. We have received many calls for help from accountants, attorneys, 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 theses so-called listed, abusive, or insurance agents are selling substantially similar plans.

Recently I came across the case of Hink, a small business owner who is facing thousands in IRS penalties for 2004 and 2005 because of his participation in a section 412(i) plan.(The penalties were assessed under section 6707A.)In 2002 an insurance agent representing a 100-year-old, well-established insurance company suggested the owner start a pension plan.The owner was given a portfolio of information from the insurance company, which was given to the company’s outside CPA to review and give an opinion on. The CPA gave the plan the green light and the plan was started. Contributions were made in 2003. The plan administrator came out with amendments to the plan, based on new IRS guidelines, in October 2004.

The business owner’s insurance 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 no agent.It 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. Asking advice from the CPA and a local attorney (who had no previous experience in these cases) made matters worse, with a “big name” law firm being recommended and additional legal fees being billed in three months. To make a long story short, the audit stretched on for over 2 ½ years to examine a 2-year-old pension with four participants and the 8,000 in contributions. During the audit, no funds went to the insurance company, which was awaiting formal IRS approval on restructuring the plan as a traditional defined benefit plan, which the administrator had suggested and the IRS had indicated would be acceptable.In March 2008 the business owner received a private e-mail apology from the IRS agent who headed the examination, saying that her hands were tied and that she used to believe she was correcting problems and helping taxpayers and not hurting people.

Could you or one of your clients be next?To this point, I have focused, generally, on the horrors of running afoul of the IRS by participating in a listed transaction, which includes various types of transactions and the various fines that can be imposed on business owners and their advisors who participate in, sell, or advice on these transactions. I happened to use, as an example, someone in a section 412(i) plan, which was deemed to be a listed transaction, pointing out the truly doleful consequences the person has suffered. Others who fall into this trap, even unwittingly, can suffer the same fate.Now let’s go into more detail about section 412(i) plans. This is important because these defined benefit plans are popular and because few people think of retirement plans as tax shelters or listed transactions. People therefore may get into serious trouble in this area unwittingly, out of ignorance of the law, and, for the same reason, many fail to take necessary and appropriate precautions. The IRS has warned against the section 412(i) defined benefit pension plans, named for the former code section governing them. It warned against trust arrangements it deems abusive, some of which may be regarded as listed transactions. Falling into that category can result in taxpayers having to disclose the participation under pain of penalties. Targets also include some retirement plans.One reason for the harsh treatment of some 412(i) plans is their discrimination in favor of owners and key, highly compensated employees. Also, the IRS does not consider the promised tax relief proportionate to the economic realities of the transactions. In general, IRS auditors divide audited plan into those they consider noncompliant and other they consider abusive. While the alternatives available to the sponsor of noncompliant plan are problematic, it is frequently an option to keep the plan alive in some form while simultaneously hoping to minimize the financial fallout from penalties.The sponsor of an abusive plan can expect to be treated more harshly than participants. Although in some situation something can be salvaged, the possibility is definitely on the table of having to treat the plan as if it never existed, which of course triggers the full extent of back taxes, penalties, and interest on all contributions that were made – not to mention leaving behind no retirement plan whatsoever.

Another plan the IRS is auditing is the section 419 plan. A few listed transactions concern relatively common employee benefit plans the IRS has deemed tax avoidance schemes or otherwise abusive. Perhaps some of the most likely to crop up, especially in small-business returns, are the arrangements purporting to allow the deductibility of premiums paid for life insurance under a welfare benefit plan or section 419 plan. These plans have been sold by most insurance agents and insurance companies.

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

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.

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.

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.

Small Business Retirement Plans Fuel Litigation

Dolan Media Newswires 01/22/2010


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 – $100,000 per individual and $200,000 per entity per tax year for each failure to disclose the transaction – often exceeding the disallowed taxes.

There are business owners who owe $6,000 in taxes but have been assessed $1.2 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 $1 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 appealable 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 $860,000 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.

Last July, in response to a letter from members of Congress, the IRS put a moratorium on collection of §6707A penalties, but only in cases where the tax benefits were less than $100,000 per year for individuals and $200,000 for entities. That moratorium was recently extended until March 1, 2010.

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, 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.