The Team Approach to Tax, Financial and Estate Planning

by Lance Wallach

CPAs are the best and most qualified professionals when it comes to serving their clients needs, but they need to know when and how to coordinate with other experts.

Over the last twenty years we have worked with thousands of practitioners who have decided to add financial services to their practices. They do it for a variety of reasons, but the most common are as follows:

*They don’t want to refer their client elsewhere when they request financial services.

* They want to remain competitive.

*They want to diversify and increase their revenue as opposed to depending solely on tax and accounting revenue.

While helping these professionals add planning and investment services to their core offerings, we have found that they achieve four main benefits after doing so:

1. They are more satisfied with their work.

2. Their clients are more satisfied because they can work with someone they trust to meet financial goals.

3. Their clients give them more referrals.

4. Their incomes increase.

We believe that CPAs are the most appropriate–and perhaps the only–professionals who can provide comprehensive financial services to clients because they understand their clients’ tax and financial situations. Their clients trust these practitioners to provide professional advice that is in their best interest. In fact, we believe that tax professionals have an obligation and responsibility to advise their clients, and clients expect their professionals to advise them in these important areas.

With a combination of never-ending tax reform, the Tax Code’s significant and complex changes, and the market volatility we’ve experienced over the past few years, clients need guidance more than ever. Practitioners who provide financial planning and investment advisory services are in a position to advise and assist their clients with these issues.

Practitioners just starting out in this arena may not possess the myriad skill sets and substantive knowledge required to embark on new business ventures.

CPAs who don’t have all of the necessary talent in-house may find it easier to associate themselves with strategic “partners” who can provide the proper skill sets, training, technology, support and turnkey solutions in their specialized disciplines and niches, to help identify and meet their clients’ financial goals.

Adapted from “The Team Approach to Tax, Financial & Estate Planning,” edited by Lance Wallach, with chapters by Katharine Gratwick Baker, Fredda Herz Brown, Dr. Stanly J. Feldman, Ira Kaplan, Joseph W. Maczuga, Roger E. Nauheimer, Roger C. Ochs, Matthew J. O’Connor, Richard Preston, Steve Riley, Carl Lloyd Sheeler, Peter Spero, Paul J. Williams, and Roger M. Winsby. Product 017235.

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Seven Tax Deductions You Might Not Know

You are not a better American if you pay extra taxes. Most people do pay a lot more than they have to. While this article will not share proprietary tax deductions, these reminders might help you keep more in your pocket.

Here are eight tax breaks often overlooked by taxpayers, which could save you money. Some are for those who itemize only, others any filer can claim.

1. Many medical costs

It is often difficult for taxpayers to reach the 10 percent of adjusted gross income threshold(7.5 percent for seniors 65 or older) required before you can claim any medical expenses. But adding in miscellaneous medical costs might make it easier. Some miscellaneous costs include travel expenses to and from medical treatments, insurance premiums you pay for from already-taxed income, and even alcohol or drug-abuse treatment programs. Read the list of deductible medical expenses.

2. Charitable Giving

You can’t deduct the value of your time spent volunteering, but if you buy supplies for a group, the cost of that material is deductible. Similarly, if you wear a uniform in doing your good deeds, for example as a hospital volunteer or youth group leader, the costs of that apparel and any cleaning bills also can be counted as charitable donations.

Also deductible is use of your vehicle for charitable purposes, such as delivering meals to the homebound in your community or taking the Scout troop on an outing. The IRS will let you deduct that travel at 14 cents per mile.

3. Job hunting costs

While college students can’t deduct the costs of hunting for that new job across the country, already-employed workers can. Costs associated with looking for a new job in your present occupation, including fees for resume preparation and employment of outplacement agencies, are deductible as long as you itemize. The one downside here is that these costs, along with other miscellaneous itemized expenses, must exceed two percent of your adjusted gross income before they produce any tax savings. But the phone calls, employment agency fees and resume printing costs might be enough to get you over that income threshold.


  1. Child, and more, care credit

Millions of parents claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit each year to help cover the costs of after-school day care. However, you shouldn’t overlook claiming the tax credit for childcare costs during the summer. This tax break also applies to summer day camp costs. The key here is that the camp is a day-only getaway that supervises the child while the parents work. You cannot claim overnight camp costs.

If you have an adult dependent who needs care so that you can work, those expenses can be claimed under this tax credit.

5. Moving expenses

Most taxpayers know they can write off many moving expenses when they relocate to take another job. But what about your first job? Yes, the IRS allows this write-off then, too. A recent college graduate who gets a first job at a distance from where he or she has been living is eligible for this tax break.

6.  Mortgage refinancing points

When you buy a house, you are entitled to deduct the points paid on the loan on your tax return for the year of purchase. But if you refinance your home loan, you might be able to deduct points incurred when you refinance your home too, as long as you use refinanced mortgage proceeds to improve your principal residence.

7. Educational expenses

The Internal Revenue Code offers many tax-saving options for individuals who want to further their educations. The tuition and fees deduction can help you take up to $4,000 off your taxable income and is available without having to itemize.

The Lifetime Learning Credit could provide some students (or their parents) up to a $2,000 credit.

Don’t forget the American Opportunity tax credit, which offers a dollar-for-dollar tax break of up to $2,500. This new education tax break was created as part of the 2009 stimulus package as a short-term replacement for the Hope tax credit and subsequently was extended through tax year 2012.

Some of these tax breaks can save some filers a nice chunk of tax money. With others, the savings might be relatively small. But when it comes to taxes, every bit of savings helps. So make sure you don’t overlook any of these possible tax breaks as you finish up your 2015 return.

Literature by Lance Wallach

Lance Wallach
National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, Wallach is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters.
He is also a featured writer and has been interviewed on television and financial talk shows including NBC, National Pubic Radio’s All Things Considered and others,Lance authored 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 Trap.

Testimonials…

“Mr. Wallach, thanks so much for taking the
time to talk to me ..today about VEBAs.
Any information you can send me would be
helpful. Hopefully, we can work together in
the future as interest in VEBAs increase.”

Corman G. Franklin
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy
U.S. Department of Labor

 

 

 

Protect your clients – and yourself – from all kinds of financial chicanery and stupidity with this vital new book

It doesn’t matter if a financial error was made because of malice or ignorance – the end result is that you lose money. Luckily, you don’t have to sit idly and take it. If you have Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams, you can identify and avoid the dysfunctional sectors of the financial industry, steer clear of the fallout from the Madoff Era, and guide your clients to real, healthy, sustainable returns. This powerful book

  • Pinpoints dysfunctional sectors within the financial industry and offers advice against frauds and scammers
  • Shows how a team approach to asset management can ward off financial predators
  • Offers practical strategies and tools to combat client risk for Risk and Asset Management

Offering insightful information to protect your clients from all sorts of frauds and incompetence, this essential guide equips you with tips and techniques to spot the red flags of fraud and prevent it before it starts.

 

 

 

IRS Secrets You Should Know

Including

Tax, Insurance, and Cost Reduction Strategies for Small Business

Just one of these ideas from the book will save you thousands:

IRS red flags and how to audit proof your tax return
Why your retirement plan is an audit target: how to upgrade it
The only way to deduct estate and business succession plan costs
Turn your life insurance into a tax deduction
Reduce health insurance, workers’ comp and other insurance costs
Discover the only deductible benefit plan where money comes out tax free, even before retirement
Protect assets from creditors while obtaining a tax deduction
Why the IRS has turned your accountant into a tax collector, and what to do about this
Seven best new tax reduction ideas
Use a captive insurance company to reduce taxes and costs

And much more!!!

 

Books can be purchased here 

Amazon.com: Lance Wallach: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Free Forum for Finance

Anyone may use this free forum provided by http://www.financeexperts.org
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Nobody Likes Paying Taxes

March 8, 2010

In a speech last May, President Obama said, “Nobody likes paying taxes . . . . And yet, even as most American citizens and businesses meet these responsibilities, there are others who are shirking theirs.” He was referring to offshore tax havens and other loopholes that wealthy Americans often exploit to reduce their tax burden. But it doesn’t take moving money to Switzerland to avoid paying taxes. If history is any guide, 2010 will be a year in which many Americans use a few simple methods to reduce their tax liability, which could potentially cost the government billions of dollars.

This year is the last before the expiration of tax cuts originally put in place by the Bush administration. If Congress allows these tax cuts to expire, as the president supports, in 2011 the top marginal tax rates will increase from 28, 33, and 35 percent to 31, 36, and 39.6 percent.

Although it is not certain that tax rates will go up, many wealthy Americans are looking at 2010 as the end of the party. “Everybody thinks taxes are going up and tax breaks are being eliminated. Everybody’s thinking this, and they’re planning for it,” says Lance Wallach, a New York author, lecturer, and financial consultant who advises high net-worth clients, including entertainers and athletes. His phone is ringing off the hook with questions from clients about how they can take advantage of this year’s rates relative to 2011’s.

One of the most popular strategies is moving income from 2011 to this year. Usually, accountants encourage clients to postpone income so there is less income taxed in one year. But in 2010, the incentives have flipped. “This is the exact opposite. Accelerating your income makes 100 percent sense,” says Wallach.

Creative maneuvering. This would not be the first year taxpayers have pursued this strategy. In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president with promises to raise taxes on wealthy Americans, which Congress did in 1993, boosting the top marginal rate from 31 to 39.6 percent. In late 1992, many taxpayers, expecting rates to be higher the next year because of Clinton’s victory, moved more income onto 1992’s tax return to avoid paying more with the higher rate. Robert Carroll, an economist at a Washington research organization called the Tax Foundation, estimates that about $20 billion was shifted and paid at the 31 percent rate rather than the 39.6 percent—meaning there was about $1.5 billion that the federal government did not collect in revenue.

Something similar could happen this year. “Anyone who has flexibility with income is going to try to shift their income,” says Carroll. An example of flexibility would be a business owner who gives himself or herself a bonus in December 2010 rather than January 2011.

There’s also an incentive to delay tax deductions. For example, state property and income taxes can be deducted from federal income tax returns. Wallach says he is recommending that clients hold off on paying those taxes until next year, so that the deductions can be cashed in at the higher rate.

Some may choose to delay charitable gifts for the same reason—charitable giving is tax deductible, so some taxpayers may decide to hold off on a gift they would make in 2010 and instead give a larger amount in 2011. “What we know from history, if the taxes go up, people will delay their giving,” says Nancy Raybin, chair of the Giving Institute, an association of nonprofit consultants. But Raybin says such delays usually are not significantly damaging to charities because people will often just push a gift forward a few months—from December to January, for example. “If there’s a 12-month delay, it could be a problem. But if a donor is just delaying one month, it’s not a big problem,” she says.

These tax-avoidance strategies will probably be a one-time deal for those who pursue them. A study by economist Austan Goolsbee, currently a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, found that the 1993 drop-off in reported income was temporary. Income bounced back in following years. If tax rates appear to be steady after 2011, accelerating one’s income or delaying deductions is no longer advantageous. But taxpayers will continue to look for ways to reduce their liability—they just need the time and money to find the loopholes.

Wallach says most of his clients will adjust to higher tax rates with his help. “For the very sophisticated people, there will always be loopholes,” he says, such as deducting travel and entertainment expenses. “None of my clients pay more in taxes than a schoolteacher.” For issues like these Wallach has various websites including www.taxlibrary.us .

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.

Abusive Insurance, Welfare Benefit, and Retirement Plans

 

Tax Practice: Tax Notes

March 2, 2009

 

By Lance Wallach

 

The IRS has various task forces auditing all section 419, section 412(i), and other plans that tend to be abusive.  These plans are sold by most insurance agents.  The IRS is looking to raise money and is not looking to correct plans or help taxpayers.  The fines for being in a listed, abusive, or similar transaction are up to $200,000 per year (section 6707A), unless you report on yourself.  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 http://www.irs.gov and http://www.vebaplan.com.

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 $200,000 a year for being in what they called a listed transaction. Listed transactions can be found at http://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 $200,000 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 substantially similar plans are being sold by insurance agents.

Recently I came across the case of Hink, a small business owner who is facing $400,000 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 $30,000 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 $178,000 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.  The $90,000 in 2005 contributions was put into the company’s retirement bank account along with the 2004 contributions.

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.

The IRS denied any appeal and ruled in October 2008 the $400,000 penalty would stand.  The IRS fine for being in a listed, abusive, or similar transaction is $200,000 per year for corporations or $100,000 per year for unincorporated entities.  The material advisor fine is $200,000 if you are incorporated or $100,000 if you are not.

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, potentially reaching $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for other taxpayers.  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.

Some of theses abusive employee benefit plans are represented as satisfying section 419, which sets limits on purposed and balances of “qualified asset accounts” for the benefits, although the plans purport to offer the deductibility of contributions without any corresponding income.  Others attempt to take advantage of the exceptions to qualified asset account limits, such as sham union plans that try to exploit the exception for the separate welfare benefit funds under collective bargaining agreements provided by section 419A(f)(5).  Others try to take advantage of exceptions for plans serving 10 or more employers, once popular under section 419A(f)(6).  More recently, one may encounter plans relying on section 419(e) and, perhaps, defines benefit sections 412(i) pension plans.

Sections 419 and 419A were added to the code by the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 in an attempt to end employers’ acceleration of deductions for plan contributions.  But it wasn’t long before plan promoters found an end run around the new code sections.  An industry developed in what came to be known as 10-or-more-employer plans.

The IRS steadily added these abusive plans to its designations of listed transactions.  With Revenue Ruling 90-105, it warned against deducting some plan contributions attributable to compensation earned by plan participants after the end of the tax year.  Purported exceptions to limits of sections 419 and 419A claimed by 10-or-more-employer benefit funds were likewise prescribed in Notice 95-24 (Doc 95-5046, 95 TNT 98-11).  Both positions were designated as listed transactions in 2000.

At that point, where did all those promoters go?  Evidence indicates many are now promoting plans purporting to comply with section 419(e).  They are calling a life insurance plan a welfare benefit plan (or fund), somewhat as they once did, and promoting the plan as a vehicle to obtain large tax deductions.  The only substantial difference is that theses are now single-employer plans.  And again, the IRS has tried to rein them in, reminding taxpayers that listed transactions include those substantially similar to any that are specifically described and so designated.

On October 17, 2007, the IRS issues Notices 2007-83 (Doc 2007-23225, 2007 TNT 202-6) and 2007-84 (Doc 2007-23220, 2007 TNT 202-5).  In the former, the IRS identified some trust arrangements involving cash value life insurance policies, and substantially similar arrangements, as listed transactions. The latter similarly warned against some postretirement medical and life insurance benefit arrangements, saying they might be subject to “alternative tax treatment.”  The IRS at the same time issued related Rev. Rul. 2007-65 (Doc 2007-23226, 2007 TNT 202-7) to address situations in which an arrangement is considered a welfare benefit fund but the employer’s deduction for its contributions to the fund id denied in whole or in part for premiums paid by the trust on cash value life insurance policies.  It states that a welfare benefit fund’s qualified direct cost under section 419 does not include premium amounts paid by the fund for cash value life insurance policies if the fund is directly or indirectly a beneficiary under the policy, as determined under sections264(a).

Notice 2007-83 targets promoted arrangements under which the fund trustee                                                         purchases cash value insurance policies on the lives of a business’s employee/owners, and sometimes key employees, while purchasing term insurance policies on the lives of other employees covered under the plan.

These plans anticipate being terminated and anticipate that the cash value policies will be distributed to the owners or key employees, with little distributed to other employees.  The promoters claim that the insurance premiums are currently deductible by the business and that the distributed insurance policies are virtually tax free to the owners.  The ruling makes it clear that, going forward, a business under most circumstances cannot deduct the cost of premiums paid through a welfare benefit plan for cash value life insurance on the lives of its employees.

Should a client approach you with one of these plans, be especially cautious, for both of you.  Advise your client to check out the promoter very carefully.  Make it clear that the government has the names of all former section 419A(f)(6) promoters and, therefore, will be scrutinizing the promoter carefully if the promoter was once active in that area, as many current section 419(e) (welfare benefit fund or plan) promoters were.  This makes an audit of your client more likely and far riskier.

It is worth noting that listed transactions are subject to a regulatory scheme applicable only to them, entirely separate from Circular 230 requirements, regulations, and sanctions.  Participation in such a transaction must be disclosed on a tax return, and the penalties for failure to disclose are severe – up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for corporations.  The penalties apply to both taxpayers and practitioners.  And the problem with disclosure, of course, is that it is apt to trigger an audit, in which case even if the listed transaction was to pass muster, something else may not.

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/TaxHelp.html 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.