Major IRS Settlement Changes Announced

The IRS has announced a major change that will affect most people with unpaid tax debt who would like to resolve that debt with the government but can not pay in full. The settlement program used by the IRS to adjust tax debts is called Offer in Compromise. It is the basis for late night advertising that promises “pennies on the dollar” discounts for delinquent tax obligations. The idea of cheap resolution for outstanding tax debts has long been more promise than reality. This recent change could result in many more successful settlements.

On May 21, 2012, the Internal Revenue Service sent a memorandum to its settlement offer specialists with guidelines that authorize much more liberal procedures for analysis of offers. While many of the changes are applicable to only limited cases, there are several big changes that will impact most individual taxpayers. The change with the broadest impact will likely be the method the IRS uses to calculate future income.

Provided there is no misconduct involved, the IRS uses a tabulation method to evaluate a settlement offer. The IRS will generally accept a settlement of tax debt when offered the net liquidation value of the taxpayer’s assets and the net present value of the taxpayer’s future disposable income. Of course, as with most everything involving the government, the devil is in the details. The IRS has just changed those devilish details and made them much more favorable to the taxpayer.

To come up with the amount of future income that must be paid as part of a tax settlement the taxpayer’s disposable income must first be determined. Disposable income has long been calculated by deducting standard living expenses from net income received by the taxpayer. The IRS uses data from a federal data compilation agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to establish standard living expenses for American families.

In the past, some major potential expenses were not allowed. For example, only the repayment of student loans used to fund post-graduate education was allowed as a deduction against income. In a significant change, the IRS will now allow the deduction of payments for all government guaranteed student loans used to pay for any education after high school. Guidelines prohibited the allowance of payments required on past due state and local tax. The payment of delinquent state and local tax will now be prorated with federal liability and proportionately allowed in most circumstances. These changes will impact many taxpayers with unpaid federal tax liabilities.

However, the single largest change in the way in which the government calculates net future income involves the multiplier used to convert monthly disposable income into a settlement payment to the IRS. The IRS will accept payment of an accepted settlement in two different ways, lump sum or short term payments considered the same as cash, and deferred payment over a period of 24 months. Before the recent change, the IRS multiplied monthly disposable income by 48 to determine its net present value if the payment was to be made within six or fewer months from acceptance. If a 24 month payment period was chosen, the disposable income was multiplied by 60 to determine its net present value.

The future income net present value multiplier has been reduced by 36 months in each category. If a settlement is to be paid in cash or within six months, disposable income is multiplied by 12. If a settlement is to be paid over a period of 24 months, disposable income is multiplied by 24. For taxpayers with no home equity and few other assets, this will cut the amount of an acceptable settlement offer to as little as ¼ the amount that would have previously been required.

There are other changes that apply to the way in which the net value of the taxpayer’s assets is calculated that will be helpful to many average American families. For example, the IRS will now disregard the first $3,450 of equity in up to two vehicles in calculating asset liquidation value. Taxpayers can now keep one month’s worth of allowed living expenses in their bank account plus $1,000 without adding to the liquidation value calculation. Again, this will lower the settlement threshold for many taxpayers.

These welcome changes in the Offer in Compromise program standards should prompt a flood of new offers. In addition, many pending settlements that would not have been accepted will now be allowed. This is none too soon for many struggling Americans with unpaid tax debt. Now IRS collection officers can focus their time on cases that deserve their attention and direct besieged homeowners and wage income taxpayers to the Offer in Compromise program for relief from collection.

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By |May 30, 2012|Categories: Tax Law|Tags: , , |

Medical Marijuana Is Not Tax Deductible

Congress enacted the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Tax Act of 1982 and amended the federal tax code to prohibit deduction of ordinary and necessary expenses related to the illegal sale of controlled substances.  A recent Tax Court decision highlights this law as another challenge to the feasibility of marijuana growing operations.  Californians Helping to Alleviate Medical Problems, Inc. v. Commissioner, 128 T.C. No. 4 (5/15/07), demonstrated how the Federal tax code is being used to inhibit the medical marijuana industry.  In the California case IRC 280E was held to disallow the deduction of expenses attributed to the provision of medical marijuana because it was considered “trafficking” in a controlled substance.

The IRS has been unambiguous in its position on the issue of medical marijuana as a prohibited controlled substance.  Citing the 2007 Tax Court opinion and a 2001 US Supreme Court case, U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Co-op., 532 U.S. 483 (2001).  IRS Chief Counsel Letter (2011-0005) makes it clear that absent a change in the tax code, medical marijuana will be treated as a controlled substance under 280E.  This could saddle any growing operation with a substantial federal income tax burden.  If growing marijuana is considered “trafficking”, federal income tax will be calculated on gross revenue without a deduction for expenses associated with its production.

By |Oct 16, 2011|Categories: Tax Law|Tags: , |

Credit Card Payment of Tax May Not Be A Good Idea

Credit cards are becoming more common for use in payment of taxes.  With the rapid increase in electronic filing of tax returns, online credit card payments have increased as well.  Nearly 70% of 2010 personal income tax returns were filed electronically.  By 2012, the federal government hopes to increase online filing to 80% for all tax returns.  When the electronic filing has been done and there is tax to pay, it is convenient and even encouraged to pay by credit card.

Convenience of credit card tax payment comes at some cost.  The government uses third party companies to process payment in most cases and a “convenience fee” is charged to the taxpayer for the service.  The IRS has a webpage entitled “Pay Taxes by Credit or Debit Card” with information on how to do just that.  The IRS website suggests that fees for the card payment range from a low of 1.9% to a high of 2.35%.   The additional fee is included in the transaction at the taxpayer’s expense.  Most state and local governments will accept payment through such a company.

By |Sep 16, 2011|Categories: Bankruptcy, Tax Law|Tags: |

Who Qualifies as an Oregon Resident for Income Tax Purposes?

Oregon imposes a personal income tax on all residents of the state under the authority of ORS § 316.037(1)(a) (2010).  By statute, an individual is a resident of Oregon under two scenarios.

A.  An individual who is domiciled in Oregon, unless he a) does not have a permanent place of abode in Oregon; b) maintains a permanent place of abode in a place other than Oregon, and c) spends less than 31 days of a taxable year in Oregon. ORS § 316.027(A)(i)-(iii).

MERS Defeated Again in Oregon


Foreclosure Fiascos Contiune...

We recently wrote a post describing a MERS defeat in Oregon Bankruptcy Court, and MERS (an acronym for Mortgage Electronic Services, Inc., an electronic registry) is in the news once again. This has not only been a hot topic in Oregon, but people around the nation have been attacking MERS as foreclosures mount and banks turn defaulting homeowners out into the streets.

By |Jun 16, 2011|Categories: Bankruptcy|Tags: , , , , |

Notify State Of IRS Audit Or Jeopardize Tax Dischargeability

Many states have their own personal income tax.  Generally these states also have laws that require a taxpayer to submit a copy of the IRS audit report if the federal liability is adjusted due to a reallocation of income or deductions on a previously filed return.   The failure to do so may cause bankruptcy discharge problems .  Changes to federal law contained in the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 may render any undisclosed increase in liability a non-dischargeable debt for bankruptcy purposes.

By |May 29, 2011|Categories: Bankruptcy, Tax Law|Tags: , , , , |