Every year, the IRS rolls out new initiatives to make sure everybody is complying with the tax laws. While certain things, such as frivolous tax arguments, are always enforced, the IRS shuffles personnel around to enforce compliance with certain parts of the tax code based on the trends they identify. Five of those trends are discussed here.
1. Foreign accounts and assets. If you have money or assets overseas, the IRS wants to know about it. If you have more than $10,000 in a foreign bank account, you’re required to file an annual disclosure statement with the Treasury Department. In addition, the IRS is now requiring foreign banks to enter into information sharing agreements, or else have 30% of payments transferred to them from the U.S. withheld to pay potential tax bills. The failure to disclose your overseas assets can result in significant penalties, and potentially criminal prosecution.
2. Payroll taxes. The single biggest emphasis of enforcement within the employment tax arena has to do with taxpayers that pyramid their employment tax liabilities, meaning that they owe money, and continue to accrue new liabilities each quarter. The IRS is also heavily targeting the owners of S-corporations that don’t pay corporate officers a fair wage (and thus payroll taxes), but rather take nothing but distributions, which are not subject to payroll taxes.
3. Gift tax audits. Many people don’t realize that giving cash gifts to their friends and family can have tax consequences. Every person has a lifetime cumulative exemption from gift taxes, and there are also annual limits. The IRS has started to electronically examine property transfers based on public records in order to ferret out people that may owe gift taxes.
4. Automated Substitute for Return Program. Section 6020(b) of the Internal Revenue Code allows the IRS to file a tax return for you if you fail to do so. They prepare this Substitute for Return (SFR) based on information they have on file, such as W-2 and 1099 information sent to the IRS by your employer. A computerized system now prepares these returns, and the IRS has asked Congress for the past several sessions to make it a felony when you fail to file a tax return for three out of five straight years and the tax exceeds $50,000. Fortunately, this has never been passed into law, but it is a law that the IRS will likely continue asking for.
5. Schedule C … Continue reading