R&D Tax Credits May be Part of the Next Tax Relief Bill

As the economic impact of COVID-19 lingers and an impending second wave is on everyone’s mind, Congress is already thinking of new legislation to stimulate the economy. One of the ideas on the top of the list is an expansion of the Research and Development (R&D) tax credit as part of the next COVID-19 relief bill.

Proposals for the R&D Tax Credit

There are numerous proposals for changing the R&D tax credits. It is seen as an investment in the U.S. economy, with some believing the credit is an effective tool to combat offshoring. Some of the main proposals for changes to the R&D tax credit include:

  • Doubling the current credit
  • Giving businesses the ability to immediately use the credit instead of having carryforward credits
  • Expanding the credit for domestic manufacturing
  • Increasing the refundable amount for startups

Will My Business Qualify?

The best candidates for R&D tax credit are companies that operate in the following spaces: manufacturing, architecture, engineering, construction, software, life sciences and medical devices. The key determinate is whether your company makes or improves something; this will give you the best chance to qualify.

Contractors

There is a misconception that if your business is hired or contracted to perform work for other organizations that you cannot qualify for the R&D tax credit. This is not necessarily true; contractors (especially government contractors) can qualify if they have both economic risk and retain substantial rights as contractors.

Startups

The R&D tax credit is refundable in part (against employer payroll tax) for startups. The idea is to expand the refundability so that the credit can be offset against more than just payroll taxes and even perhaps to make it refundable (to some degree) in general. The idea here is that startups won’t be forced to carryforward credits for years and can then reinvest the cashflow to accelerate growth and jobs creation.

Internal Use Software

Internal use software is software that companies develop themselves. It can be stand-alone software or modifications to existing systems through substantial improvements, the development of add-ons or modules – the idea is to expand the space of what qualifies for the credit for internal use software. This would allow companies that traditionally wouldn’t have qualified (such as finance institutions, banks and retail stores) to now potentially be eligible.

Conclusion

This next relief package is likely to be considered prior to the summer congressional recess. Many analysts believe the bill will focus on provisions that help businesses hire back laid-off workers, retain current employees and grow over the long-term. It’s likely the R&D tax credit will play a key role in the latter objective.

Posted in Blog, Tax and Financial News |

R&D Tax Credits May be Part of the Next Tax Relief Bill

As the economic impact of COVID-19 lingers and an impending second wave is on everyone’s mind, Congress is already thinking of new legislation to stimulate the economy. One of the ideas on the top of the list is an expansion of the Research and Development (R&D) tax credit as part of the next COVID-19 relief bill.

Proposals for the R&D Tax Credit

There are numerous proposals for changing the R&D tax credits. It is seen as an investment in the U.S. economy, with some believing the credit is an effective tool to combat offshoring. Some of the main proposals for changes to the R&D tax credit include:

  • Doubling the current credit
  • Giving businesses the ability to immediately use the credit instead of having carryforward credits
  • Expanding the credit for domestic manufacturing
  • Increasing the refundable amount for startups

Will My Business Qualify?

The best candidates for R&D tax credit are companies that operate in the following spaces: manufacturing, architecture, engineering, construction, software, life sciences and medical devices. The key determinate is whether your company makes or improves something; this will give you the best chance to qualify.

Contractors

There is a misconception that if your business is hired or contracted to perform work for other organizations that you cannot qualify for the R&D tax credit. This is not necessarily true; contractors (especially government contractors) can qualify if they have both economic risk and retain substantial rights as contractors.

Startups

The R&D tax credit is refundable in part (against employer payroll tax) for startups. The idea is to expand the refundability so that the credit can be offset against more than just payroll taxes and even perhaps to make it refundable (to some degree) in general. The idea here is that startups won’t be forced to carryforward credits for years and can then reinvest the cashflow to accelerate growth and jobs creation.

Internal Use Software

Internal use software is software that companies develop themselves. It can be stand-alone software or modifications to existing systems through substantial improvements, the development of add-ons or modules – the idea is to expand the space of what qualifies for the credit for internal use software. This would allow companies that traditionally wouldn’t have qualified (such as finance institutions, banks and retail stores) to now potentially be eligible.

Conclusion

This next relief package is likely to be considered prior to the summer congressional recess. Many analysts believe the bill will focus on provisions that help businesses hire back laid-off workers, retain current employees and grow over the long-term. It’s likely the R&D tax credit will play a key role in the latter objective.

Posted in Blog, Tax and Financial News |

How to Develop an Employee Leave Policy During COVID-19

According to the United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act addresses how select businesses must give their workers paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under permitted circumstances in light of COVID-19.

Effective starting April 1, 2020, the following will be in effect through Dec. 31, 2020.

1. If the worker cannot perform his duties because he is relegated to a quarantine, as mandated by a medical professional or a local, state or federal government, or if he is symptomatic with COVID-19 and seeking a diagnosis to confirm it, he is entitled to as many as 80 hours of paid sick leave at his normal rate of compensation.

OR

2. The worker may be due no less than 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds of the worker’s normal compensation if the individual can’t perform her work duties because of a justifiable reason to look after another person required to quarantine – be it because of a doctor’s diagnosis or by a local, state or federal government order. It can also apply to an employee if she needs to care for a minor child (younger than 18 years old), if her school or daycare center is shuttered or otherwise unable to permit the minor child to attend due to the coronavirus.

The Act also includes as many as 10 additional weeks for expanded family and medical leave, paid at two-thirds the worker’s normal wages. This can occur where the worker, who has been an employee of the business for no less than 30 calendar days, cannot work because of a justifiable reason to look after a child due to closure of a school or daycare center.

Employees of both select public employers and private businesses that have fewer than 500 employees may be eligible for the expanded family and medical leave and paid sick leave from the FFCRA. However, this may not apply to select businesses with 50 or fewer workers. For example, small businesses with less than 50 workers may be exempt from the requirement to give leave for school or child care unavailability if fulfilling the leave requirements would put the business’ ability to survive at risk.

When it comes to federal employees, it’s important to note how the FFCRA changed their situation. For federal employees subject to Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act, they are eligible for the aforementioned provision referring to paid sick leave. However, the COVID-19 amended family and medical leave provisions in the FFCRA are not the same for federal employees.

All workers of covered employers are eligible for two weeks of paid sick time for applicable grounds due to the coronavirus. Workers on the payroll for a minimum of 30 days may have up to 10 weeks of compensated family leave to look after minor dependents, based on the individual situation caused by the coronavirus.  

When Leave May Be Permitted

Workers are qualified to receive paid sick time, according to the FFCRA, if they can’t perform their duties, including remotely, due to any of the following circumstances.

  1. Under a local, state or federal quarantine or isolation mandate due to the coronavirus.
  2. A medical professional has recommended a patient quarantine himself because of COVID-19.
  3. An individual is symptomatic consistent with COVID-19 and seeking a medical opinion.
  4. The worker is caring for another person in either category 1 or 2.
  5. The employee is caring for a child whose school or daycare facility is shuttered or otherwise inaccessible due to the coronavirus.
  6. A worker is facing an almost identical condition detailed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

Workers, also in the FFCRA, are eligible for expanded family leave if they are looking after a child whose learning center or daycare is shuttered or otherwise inaccessible because of COVID-19.

When it comes to categories 1, 4 or 6, full-time workers are qualified to have 80 hours of leave. Part-time workers are eligible for calculated leave based upon an average of a 14-day time-frame.

For category 5, full-time workers are eligible for as many as 12 weeks of leave. This consists of two weeks of paid sick leave and an additional 10 weeks that are paid expanded family and medical leave – all 12 weeks at 40 hours per week.

When it comes to paid sick time under the FFCRA, it doesn’t carry over to the following year. Also, workers may not be compensated for untaken leave if they retire, leave voluntarily or involuntarily or otherwise are no longer with their employer.

For the first three categories, workers on leave qualify for compensation at their normal rate or the prevailing minimum wage over a 14-day period, whichever rate is more.

For categories 4 and 6, workers on leave qualify for two-thirds of their normal compensation or the prevailing minimum wage, whichever rate is more (no more than $200 a day or $2,000 per two-week period).

For the fifth category, workers taking leave similarly qualify for two-thirds of their normal compensation or the prevailing minimum wage, whichever rate is more (no more than $200 per day or $2,000 over two weeks).

While each organization must do its due diligence to see how the law applies to its employees, this law gives businesses and workers more flexibility to balance work and family responsibilities.

Posted in Blog, General Business News |

How Will the Market Price in Q2 Earnings?

The New York Fed Staff Nowcast predicts a negative 14.3 percent (-14.3 percent) growth of real GDP for Q2 of 2020 and a positive 13.2 percent growth of real GDP for Q3 of 2020. Clearly, the Fed is expecting a rebound in the second half of 2020.

This forecast, presented in the July 17, 2020: New York Fed Staff Nowcast, attributes better than expected results for industrial production, capacity utilization and retail sales data categories, resulting in the upward revision.

For June 2020, the forecast for the Industrial Production Index was 2.48, but the actual figure was 5.41. As the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System defines it, this index gauges the real output in the U.S. economy’s industrial sector on a month-over-month basis as a percentage change.

For June 2020, its Capacity Utilization measure was 3.54, versus the original forecast of 1.84. Coming from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, this measures the percentage of resources consumed by businesses to create goods for all domestic production.

Also for June 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a figure of 7.50, compared to the forecast of 2.17, for the month’s retail sales data, on a month-over-month basis as a percentage change. It looks at the sales from more than 12,000 retailers with paid workers, including food.

While there’s no definitive way to determine how each community, state or region will be affected, the Brookings Institution did an analysis that provided interesting insight into how and why certain areas may be more impacted economically than others. It looked at sectors more prone to interruption by COVID-19, resulting in less business, more closures and layoffs. It found that areas reliant on energy and in the southern part of the country were more likely to be negatively impacted.

Brookings found that by looking at 2019 employment figures for these industries, there are approximately 24.2 million jobs that are ripe to be disrupted. Looking to Moody’s, Mark Zandi found that the following five industries are most vulnerable: mining/oil and gas, transportation, employment services, travel arrangements, and leisure and hospitality.

Conversely, Brookings found that more mature manufacturing locales, agricultural centers and already economically challenged areas are less prone to negative impacts. However, it’s noteworthy that because of the proliferation of technology, which has seen in an uptick in computer sales and IT/cybersecurity due to increased remote working and learning, the potential for a rebound will be easier.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has the world in its grip, it’s noteworthy to discuss how past pandemics and infectious disease outbreaks have impacted markets. Over the past 40 years of global epidemics, according to FactSet and Charles Schwab, there have been mixed results when it comes to the impact of disease outbreaks on market performance, using the MSCI World Index as a reference.

In June of 1981 during the HIV/AIDS outbreak, the index fell 0.46 percent during the first month; falling 4.64 percent over the three months after the start of the outbreak; and down 3.25 percent six months after the initial outbreak.

As for the 2006 avian flu outbreak, the index dropped 0.18 percent one month after the start; then the index was up 2.77 percent three months after the outbreak; and up 10.05 percent six months after the outbreak. 

Looking at these figures, it shows that more often than not, these types of events are short to medium term pullbacks, presenting investors with buying opportunities.  

According to Zacks & Nasdaq, Q2 earnings’ projections for the S&P 500 is a negative 43.7 percent, with a drop of 11 percent in revenue. While Q2 is expected to be the worse, Q3 and Q4 are expected to experience smaller, but still noticeable drops in earnings due to the coronavirus. The transportation sector is expected to decline by 152.4 percent; autos is expected to decline by 224.2 percent; and energy is projected to drop by 138.4 percent, on a year-over-year basis.

While these were some serious declines for Q2, the one bright spot was technology. The technology sector declined by only 13.2 percent year-over-year, with a drop of 1.2 percent in revenues. However, it’s noteworthy that, much like technology has seen shallow losses along with the medical sector, it’s projected that in 2021 the technology sector will earn 8.8 percent more while the medical sector is expected to grow its earnings by 12.8 percent in 2021.

The coronavirus is unique in that there’s been mass stay-at-home orders and closures. However, based on past disease outbreaks, the economy and markets generally seem to find a way to balance themselves out.

Posted in Blog, Stock Market News |

Borrowing From Your Retirement Plan: New CARES Act Rules

It’s been nearly half a year since Americans first became widely aware of the coronavirus contagion within the United States. While for a brief month it looked as if we had the virus in hand, since then it has spread wildly out of control in many areas.

People who did not suffer dramatic financial consequences in the early stages of the pandemic could see some hard days ahead. For this reason, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the new relaxed rules associated with withdrawals from tax-advantaged retirement plans.

In late March, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). This bill offered provisions related to distributions from retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401(k). One of the key goals was to enable workers to make penalty-free withdrawals from a retirement plan to help sustain them while out of work due to the coronavirus.

To be eligible to make penalty-free withdrawals, plan participants must meet one of the following criteria:

  • The account owner, spouse or a dependent is diagnosed with COVID-19
  • The account owner experiences one of the following financial consequences due to the virus:
    • Furloughed
    • Laid-off
    • Work hours reduced or place of business closed (including for self-employed)
    • No access to childcare
    • Quarantined

The Act stipulates that workers can self-certify that they meet at least one of the criteria. Be aware, however, that if it is later discovered that the account owner did not meet the criteria for a coronavirus-related distribution, he might be required to pay the early withdrawal penalty.

Also note that while this penalty is waived for qualified workers, they must still pay income taxes on the amount withdrawn. However, there are a few ways to mitigate the income tax burden on those withdrawals. The first is to through a regular distribution. These are the parameters:

  •  You have up until Dec. 30, 2020, to make a distribution
  • The total aggregate limit is $100,000 from all plans and IRAs
  • The distribution waives the 20 percent income tax withholding requirement
  • Income taxes will be due when filing a 2020 tax return
  • Retirement account owners who no longer work for an employer are free to take a distribution
  • Current employees may take a distribution only if the employer plan allows for a hardship or in-service distribution (note that the CARES Act permits employers to amend plan documents to allow coronavirus-related distributions)

While a retirement plan distribution does trigger income taxes for the tax year withdrawn, you can spread the tax burden out over three years. For example, let’s say you withdraw $18,000 this year. You may report the full amount as income on your 2020 tax return; or you can claim $6,000 a year on your 2020, 2021 and 2022 returns. This strategy reduces the chances of bumping your income into a higher tax bracket.

The second way to is to pay the distributed amount back into your retirement plan. Initially, you will have to pay income taxes on the amount withdrawn. However, if you pay it back within three years, you can file to get the taxes you paid refunded. One caveat with this plan is that eligible retirement plans will treat repayment of this type of distribution as a rollover event for tax purposes. Be aware that if the retirement plan does not accept rollover contributions, it is not required to change its terms for this purpose.

Your third option is to withdraw money as a loan if your employer permits loans from the retirement plan. This is another scenario in which you must repay that money within a specified time period. You do not have to pay income taxes on the loan, but you do have to pay interest on the amount borrowed. The good news is that the interest you pay also goes into your account.

Under normal circumstances, retirement account loans are limited to $50,000 or 50 percent of the account balance, whichever is less. But for a coronavirus loan, you may borrow up to 100 percent of your vested balance or $100,000, whichever is less. You will need to repay that loan within the plan’s stated repayment period, although the CARES Act gives 2020 borrowers an additional year to repay this type of loan from an eligible retirement plan. Be aware though that you’ll owe both income taxes on the outstanding balance and the penalty for withdrawals made before age 59½ if you do not repay that loan in time.

Note that these CARES Act provisions are available only for the first 180 days after the Act was passed, which was on March 27, 2020. As Congress debates new legislation to aid struggling Americans suffering from the pandemic, this provision could be extended.

Posted in Blog, Financial Planning |

Help for People Struggling to Pay Bills

The impact of COVID-19 has caused many Americans to suffer hardships, one of which is struggling to make ends meet. But take heart; there are solutions. Here are a few areas in which creditors are working with people to alleviate some of the stress.

Mortgages

Fortunately, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, allows for mortgage forbearance, which if you’re financially compromised because of COVID-19, you can temporarily suspend payments. Also, the Federal Housing Finance Agency is allowing mortgage servicers to permit homeowners to delay payments if the notes are backed federally or by a Government Sponsored Enterprise, which includes Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, FHA, VA or USDA. If you don’t know who services your loan, you can check Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems. If your mortgage isn’t federally backed, ask your lender about your options. If you need more help, contact a Housing and Urban Development approved housing counselor or local legal aid organizations.

Rent

The good news here! The CARES Act also includes a 120-day moratorium on evictions if you rent from a landlord who has a federally backed mortgage. If your landlord doesn’t fall into this category, contact them immediately. If you have any assets to sell, that’s an option. Hop on eBay or Craig’s List. If you have a 401(k), the IRS allows you to make an early hardship withdrawal. When all else fails, contact Just Shelter, an organization that advocates for affordable housing.

Student Loans

More good news! The Department of Education is granting students a payment waiver for at least 60 days with zero percent interest. But you have to do some legwork; it’s not automatic. Call your loan servicers to make sure your loan is eligible. This exception doesn’t apply to private student loans. However, Sallie Mae, one large private lender, said it’s offering suspension of payment for up to three months. Get in touch as soon as possible with whoever holds your loan to start the conversation.

Utility Bills

Some utility providers are refraining from cutting off services for nonpayment, which is a relief. Also, quite a few Internet companies like AT&T and Charter Communications have agreed not to end service for residential or small-business customers who can’t pay their bills. To find out the details and policies from your providers, check their website or call.

Credit Cards

Major credit card issuers are offering relief to customers who’ve been affected by COVID-19. American Express, for example, is providing assistance through its financial hardship program. But beware of scammers who send out fake emails from said creditors about the virus; they’re trying to steal your personal and financial information and/or infect your computer with malware. If you have doubts about any communication you receive from your financial institution, email, or call. Don’t take any chances.

Right now, life might feel overwhelming. But know this: we’re all in this together. And the upside is that many companies are stepping up to lend a hand.

Sources

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/16/success/cant-pay-rent-bills-help-coronavirus/index.html

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/coronavirus-tips-advice.html#money

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/mortgage-and-housing-assistance/mortgage-relief/

Posted in Blog, Tip of the Month |

Robotics Carves Out Niche in Various Businesses

Away from the movies, robots are becoming a reality in everyday life.

Robots have played a major role in manufacturing industries to perform basic tasks that are either dangerous or laborious for humans. As technology becomes relatively cheaper – through the availability of components such as processors, sensors, batteries and cameras – robots are now making an entrance in industries apart from manufacturing, such as in marketing, inventory, telecommunications and entertainment.

Why Robotics in Business?

To avoid confusion, it’s important to mention at this point that robotics often refers to software configured to carry out tasks done by humans, so it’s not always about physical robots.

Businesses are under endless pressure to be more efficient and reduce costs. As a result, many are turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to take up repetitive and routine tasks that don’t require frequent updates. RPA has been useful to take care of things such as call center operations, help desks, customer service chatbots, expense management, data entry, onboarding employees and scheduling systems, among other tasks that are repetitive, rule-based and structured.

This is important for businesses as it frees employees from mundane tasks so they can focus on high-value work.

The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic cannot be ignored as an accelerator for robotics in the business environment. Consider businesses such as restaurants, retail stores and all others seeking alternatives that will withstand disruptions and at the same time are durable and adhere to hygienic operations.

An Exciting Yet Worrying Phenomena to Some

Many people accept the use of intelligent systems and small robots such as robotic vacuum cleaners. But when it comes to the workplace, employees often don’t accept such systems as they are considered threats to their jobs. However, there is little difference between the robot used for household aid and the intelligent production system.

Financial institutions have been on the frontline in implementing robotic process automation. This has enabled them to automate and build platforms for front office, back office and support functions. For a business, this means reduced costs while achieving efficiency and accuracy.

Another interesting concept is: robot as a service (RaaS). This is aimed at enabling small- and medium-sized businesses to enjoy the benefits of robotic process automation when they lease the services of a robot rather than incur the cost of purchasing one and handling maintenance for the system. It also helps businesses experiment with different robotic solutions.

With such innovations, businesses have no option but to adapt to the technological advances. As a matter of fact, the possibility of robots taking up full process tasks is feasible with big names such as Bill Gates voicing support for a robot tax (a levy on work done by robots in a bid to replace tax that collected from work done by humans).

Be Prepared

So how do businesses handle this trend? Both employees and employers have no option but to be prepared. For an employer considering robotics, this should be done gradually with clear guidelines that the systems are only to assist and not replace the employees. At the same time, employees should be involved in the early stages of developing the new systems so they get accustomed to the format and avoid later resistance.

As businesses seek to improve their processes, employees should be ready to learn new skills as some duties are replaced by robots. It also goes way back to the education system, where students should be encouraged to take up subjects that will help enhance their digital competence. It will also prepare them for new job structures.

A Word of Caution

RPA has enabled business processes to evolve. Its results provide better accuracy, lower cost, efficiency and high productivity. However, entrepreneurs should not rush to implement the robotic process automation without proper research. Although it is praised to reduce labor costs and other benefits already mentioned, the implementation – if not well done – will fail.

A big mistake would be to assume that the installation of robotic systems is easy. This is especially true when a business concentrates on ROI rather than solving actual problems.

Robotics for businesses involves time, cost and complexity. It is not about moving processes into RPA as they are; only with lean techniques can this be successful.

Posted in Blog, What's New in Technology |

How to Develop a Sanitation Plan for Employee and Customer Safety

As part of a comprehensive strategy to cope with COVID-19 and reduce the risk of spreading it, developing a sanitation plan is a necessary tool that businesses can implement during the reopening process.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a thorough approach for cleaning and disinfecting. The first thing to do to reduce the amount of COVID-19 virus on exterior surfaces and items handled by individuals is to wash them with soap and water.

When it comes to items handled by many individuals, using appropriate disinfectants approved by the Environmental Protect Agency that contains active ingredients such as ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite, and sodium chlorite is another way to lower the chances of people being exposed to the virus.

The CDC lists a few examples of items that exist in offices and/or retail outlets that need to be disinfected – not just cleaned. Examples include touch screens, phones, handles, light switches, tables, doorknobs, toilets, shopping carts, and anything that’s likely to be touched by multiple people throughout the day. Keeping doors open can reduce the need for employees or customers to constantly touch the door.

When it comes to soft or spongy items, such as rugs or seating, the CDC recommends to first remove any unnecessary items. For things that must remain such as carpeting, they should be washed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, using hot water and letting them dry fully.

Another way to increase workplace and retail hygiene is to improve air quality. Other recommendations include running air filtration and exchanges 24/7. It also includes maintaining fresh filters and ensuring they’re installed properly and increasing the level of air filtration to maintain clean and healthy airflow.

Encouraging employees to wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60 percent alcohol is also recommended. Reminding employees verbally or through written means (including signage posted throughout the building) to wash their hands throughout the day, including before and after work, when they use the restroom, and after touching their workspace or work materials is also recommended.   

While every office and retail space is different, taking steps to reduce the chance of COVID-19 infection is a great way to stay safe and create goodwill with employees and customers.

Sources

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/pdf/Reopening_America_Guidance.pdf

https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/clean-disinfect/index.html

Posted in Blog, Guest Writer of the Month |

IRS Gears Up for Aggressive Enforcement

Recently, the IRS Commissioner testified before the Senate Finance Committee, sending the message that the IRS is committed to catching intentional tax evaders. There was no ambiguity in the message of his testimony to Congress; he noted that under his watch, the IRS will aggressively pursue those purposely evading their tax obligations with civil and criminal enforcements. The commissioner made sure to mention that those who were not defrauding the system intentionally had nothing to worry about; they are not the target of stepped-up enforcement.

The IRS will be targeting five major enforcement initiatives:

  1. Technology – The IRS will put a new focus on their use of technology as an enforcement tool; specifically, advanced data and analytical strategies. With this data-driven approach, the IRS believes it will be able to catch tax fraud impossible to spot even just a few years ago.
  2. Offshore Tax Evasion – Offshore tax reporting enforcement is a long-standing priority of the IRS, but the current commissioner reiterated focus on this area, so don’t expect to see any easing here.
  3. Tax Shelters – The IRS believes many taxpayers are abusing two tax shelters, syndicated conservation easements and micro-captive insurance arrangements. They plan on stepped-up enforcement on both those who arrange these shelters and taxpayers who participate in them.
  4. Cryptocurrency – The IRS believes there is mass non-compliance in the world of cryptocurrencies through either underreporting or nonreporting of taxable transactions.
  5. Wealthy Taxpayers – Enforcement actions take time and are resource intensive, so it should be no surprise that the IRS is going after noncompliant taxpayers with the biggest ROI. The IRS is considering anyone with an income level over $100,000 to be high-income. 

Expect to see increased tax enforcement efforts ahead, with a focus on those who are intentionally evading the system. If you haven’t purposely defrauded the system, you have little to worry about.

Posted in Blog, Guest Writer of the Month |

Relief and Funding for Human Rights, Emergency Aid, Cash-Flow Assistance and New Infrastructure Projects

Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act (S 2746) – This bill authorizes the establishment of a new Law Enforcement Officers Suicide Data Collection Program to be administered by the FBI. The program will gather data related to suicides and attempted suicides of current and former officers, as well as the wrongful detainment of U.S. nationals abroad. The purpose of the Act is to help understand and prevent law enforcement suicides. The bill was introduced by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) on Oct. 30, 2019. It was passed by the House and the Senate in May and was signed into law on June 16.

Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (S 2744) – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced this legislation on May 14 as a means to condemn human rights violations of ethnic Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. The bill calls for an end to the arbitrary detention, torture and harassment of these communities inside and outside of China. The Act was passed by both the Senate and the House in May and was signed into law by the president on June 17.

Hong Kong Autonomy Act (HR 7440) – Introduced by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) on July 1, this legislation authorizes the president to sanction foreign individuals, entities and financial institutions that materially contribute to China’s failure to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy in response to a written report to be submitted by the State Department each year. While the bill also gives the president the authority to waive or terminate sanctions, it permits Congress to override such an action by passing a joint resolution of disapproval. The Act was unanimously passed in Congress and signed into law by the president on July 14.

Emergency Aid for Returning Americans Affected by Coronavirus Act (S 4091) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to amend section 1113 of the Social Security Act. The Act authorizes funding for fiscal year 2020 in order to increase payments for temporary assistance to U.S. citizens and their dependents who return from foreign countries due to the COVID-19 crisis and are without available resources. The legislation enables the Department of Health and Human Services to provide monetary payments and medical care on a temporary basis. The Act was introduced and passed in both the House and Senate on June 29 and signed into law on July 13.

Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act of 2020 (S 4209) – This bill is designed to improve emergency unemployment relief for governmental entities and nonprofit organizations by amending Title IX of the Social Security Act. The bill was introduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) on July 2. It was passed in the House and in the Senate on July 9, and is currently awaiting signature by the president.

Moving Forward Act (HR 2) – On June 11, this Act was introduced by Rep. Peter Defazio (D-OR). This bill would authorize funding for federal highways, highway safety programs and transit programs. It also addresses climate change strategies to reduce weather impacts on surface transportation by conducting a vulnerability assessment and recommending ways to enhance resilience for highways, mass transit and rail. The bill would allocate a grant program to help improve the safety, state of good repair and connectivity of transportation infrastructure in rural communities. It also directs the Department of Transportation to establish a pilot program for a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee to restore and maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund to uphold a state of good repair for the future. The bill passed in the House on July 1 and is currently in the Senate, where it enjoys considerable bipartisan support for infrastructure projects.

Posted in Blog, Congress at Work |