Author Archives: Robert Green

Will The IRS Deny Tax Benefits To Traders Due To Covid?

September 14, 2020 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

So far, 2020 has been a highly volatile year in the financial markets due to significant uncertainty over Covid-19, a shock to the economy, and job losses. As the virus spread in the U.S, millions of displaced Americans turned to trading in financial markets as a means of making a new living. Some became active enough to qualify for trader tax status (TTS) benefits, which requires regular, frequent, and continuous trading. However, will the IRS deny TTS to Covid-19 traders if they only carry on a trading business during the pandemic for a short time?

I’m not as worried about existing traders from 2019 who incurred massive trading losses in Q1 2020 during the Covid correction and stopped trading at that time. Hopefully, they made a Section 475 ordinary loss election due by the July 15, 2020 deadline, which is conditional on eligibility for TTS. These pre-Covid traders were in business for more than 15 months, so their TTS/475 ordinary loss deduction should be safe.

I am more concerned with the millions of newcomer traders who opened online trading accounts offering free or low commissions in 2020. Many rookies have significant trading gains year-to-date, even after the recent sell-off. In the trading business, gains can turn into losses with a substantial correction. When that happens, TTS traders count on Section 475 for tax-loss or fire-loss insurance: The trading house burns down, and you can file for a refund with the IRS. The CARES Act permits five-year net operating loss (NOL) carryback refund claims for 2020, 2019, and 2018 tax returns.

Some rookie traders start off meeting the IRS requirements for TTS. Those rules are vague, so see GreenTraderTax’s golden rules for TTS. I wonder how IRS agents will consider the Covid pandemic when assessing TTS. Consider a furloughed worker who started trading at home full time in mid-2020. Was the trader’s intention to create a new business for the long-term, or to buy time and make some extra money before returning to his or her career after the pandemic subsides? TTS requires the intention to run a business from catching daily market movements, not from making investments for appreciation.

If a new trader started trading on June 1, 2020, but stops or significantly slows down trading when returning to work in November 2020, will the IRS deny TTS because he only traded actively for five months? The IRS agent might cite the landmark tax court case Chen vs. Commissioner, where TTS was denied. Chen only carried on TTS for three months.

I analyzed the Chen case in my trader tax guide; here’s an excerpt. 

Chen vs. Commissioner

Comments from a senior IRS official about the Chen tax court case point out the IRS doesn’t respect individual traders who are brand new to trading activity and who enter and exit it too quickly. Chen only traded for three months before losing his trading money, thereby leaving his trading activity. Chen kept his software engineering job during his three months of trading.

The Chen case indicates the IRS wants to see a more extended time to establish TTS. Some IRS agents like to intimidate taxpayers with a full year requirement, but the law does not require that. Hundreds of thousands of businesses start and fail within three months, and the IRS doesn’t challenge them on business status. The IRS is rightfully more skeptical of traders vs. investors, perhaps even more so during the pandemic. The longer a trader can continue his business trading activity, the better his chances are with the IRS. We often ask clients about their trading activities in the prior and subsequent years as we prepare their tax returns for the year that just ended. Vigorous subsequent-year trading activities and gains add credibility to the tax return being filed. We mention these points in tax return footnotes, too. Traders can start their trading business in Q4 and continue it into the subsequent year.

Chen messed up many things in this case. First and foremost, he lied to the IRS about electing Section 475 MTM ordinary loss treatment on time and then used 475 MTM when he wasn’t eligible. Chen should have been subject to a $3,000 capital loss limitation rather than deducting a massive 475 ordinary loss triggering a huge tax refund. Second, he brought a losing case to tax court and made the mistake of representing himself. Once Chen was busted on the phony MTM election, he caved in on all points, including TTS. Chen did not have many TTS business expenses, so he figured it wasn’t worth continuing to fight.

Even though he only traded for three months while keeping his full-time job, it doesn’t mean he didn’t start a new business — intending to change careers to business trading — and make a substantial investment of time, money, and activity. Tax code or case law doesn’t state that a business must be carried on for a full year or as the primary means of making a living. Countless companies startup and fail in a few short months, and many times the entrepreneur hasn’t left his or her job while experimenting as a businessperson. Chen may have won TTS had he been upfront with the IRS and engaged a tax attorney or trader tax expert to represent him in court.

TTS tax benefits

  1. TTS traders deduct business expenses, startup costs, and home office expenses. Without TTS, investors may only deduct margin interest expense to the extent they have investment income as an itemized deduction. Many use the standard deduction instead.
  2. TTS traders are entitled to elect the robust Section 475 mark-to-market accounting, which converts capital gains and losses into ordinary gains and losses. Short-term capital gains on securities are ordinary income; whereas, 475 ordinary business losses generate tax refunds much faster than a $3,000 capital loss limitation. Section 475 also exempts securities trades from onerous wash sale loss rules, a headache for active traders, which causes phantom income and potentially excess tax liability. The 20% qualified business income (QBI) deduction applies to 475 net income if the taxpayer is under a taxable income threshold. QBI excludes capital gains. Individuals had to elect 475 for 2020 by the postponed deadline of July 15, 2020. A new LLC partnership or S-Corp can select 475 within 75 days of inception.
  3. With a TTS S-Corp, traders can deduct health insurance and retirement plan contributions.

I consult new traders on TTS. It’s incredible how many of these traders, from all walks of life, ages and careers, have made small fortunes since April. Others incurred substantial losses. During my tax consultations, many clients tell me they don’t want to return to their jobs if and when called back, and that TTS trading is their new career, which they cherish.

In The Tax Moves Day Traders Need to Make Now, Laura Saunders and Mischa Frankl-Duval report on this very issue (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 11, 2020), warning taxpayers to be careful when thinking about claiming TTS.

Our own Darren Neuschwander, CPA, was interviewed for the piece, stating he has seen a rise in inquiries about trader tax status this year. “The requirements for this break haven’t been clarified by the IRS, but they are stiff. Among other things, traders often need to trade for at least four hours a day, for an average of four days a week, and make at least 720 trades a year,” Neuschwander said.

Also, see my interview in theWall Street Journal’s July 5, 2020 article, The Benefits of Calling Yourself a ‘Trader’ for Tax Purposes by Nick Ravo.

How To Be Eligible For Substantial Tax Savings As A Trader

August 27, 2020 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

There are tax advantages for traders who are eligible for trader tax status (TTS).

  • Learn how to qualify for TTS; no election is required.
  • Automated trading systems can qualify for TTS, providing the trader is significantly involved with the creation. Trade copying software might not be eligible.
  • Learn how to deduct TTS business expenses, startup costs, and home office expenses.
  • Consider a Section 475 election for exemption from wash sales and the $3,000 capital loss limitation and be eligible for a 20% qualified business income deduction on 475 net income if under the QBI income threshold.
  • A TTS S-Corp unlocks health insurance and retirement plan deductions.
  • A TTS LLC/partnership segregates TTS/475 trading from investments made on the individual level.

How to qualify for TTS

Let’s start by taking a deep dive into GreenTraderTax.com golden rules for TTS qualification. Statutory tax law is lacking on TTS, so we analyze tax court cases for traders, and rely on decades-long experience performing tax compliance services for traders.

  1. Volume of trades

The 2015 tax court case Poppe vs. Commission is a useful reference. Poppe made 720 total trades per year/60 per month. We recommend an average of four transactions per day, four days per week, 16 trades per week, 60 trades a month, and 720 per year on an annualized basis. Count each open and closing trade separately, not round trips. Some traders scale into and out of trades, and you can count each of those trades separately.

As an example, the securities markets are open approximately 250 days, but let’s account for some personal days or holidays, and figure you’re available to trade 240 days per year. A 75% frequency of 240 days equals 180 days per year, so 720 total trades divided by 180 trading days equals four trades per day.

What counts? If you initiate a trade order and the broker breaks down the lot sizes without your involvement, it’s wise not to include the extra volume of trades in this case.

Options traders have multi-legged positions on “complex trades.” I believe you may count each trade confirmation of a complex options trade if you enter the trades separately, although the tax court has not addressed that issue yet. Most traders enter a complex options trade, and the broker breaks down the legs, so you cannot count the legs separately. Trade executions count, not unexecuted trades.

  1. Frequency of trades

Execute trades on close to four days per week, around a 75% frequency rate. The tax courts require “regular, frequent, and continuous” qualification for TTS. If you enter or exit a trading business during the year, then maintain the frequency rate during the TTS period. Time off from the execution of trades should be for a reasonable amount of vacations and other non-working days. Think of TTS like it’s a job, only the markets are your boss.

In the following trader tax court cases, the IRS denied TTS to options traders, including Holsinger, Assaderaghi, Endicott, and Nelson. They only traded on two to three days per week; hence, I suggest executing trades on close to four days per week.

  1. Holding period

The IRS stated that the average holding period is the most crucial TTS factor. In the Endicott court, the IRS said the average holding period must be 31 days or less. That’s a bright-line test.

If your average holding period is more than 31 days, it’s disqualifying for TTS, even if all your other TTS factors are favorable.

It’s more natural for day traders and swing traders to meet the holding period requirement. In the holding period analysis, don’t count segregated investment accounts and retirement accounts; only count TTS positions.

Monthly options traders face challenges in holding periods. They may have average holding periods of over one month if they trade monthly and longer expirations and keep them over a month. Holsinger was a monthly options trader, and his holding periods averaged one to two months. More often now, TTS traders are focused on trading weekly options expirations, and many of them are eligible for TTS.

Consider the following example of a trader in equities and equity options. If he holds 80% of his trades for one day and the other 20% for 35 days, then the average holding period is well under 31 days. It’s not evident if the IRS might apply weighted averages to the average holding period.

  1. Trades full time or part-time

Full-time options traders actively trading significant portfolios may not qualify because they don’t have enough volume and frequency, and their average holding period is over 31 days. On the other hand, a part-time trader with a full-time job may qualify as a day and swing trader in securities, meeting all our golden rules.

Part-time and money-losing traders face more IRS scrutiny, and individuals face more scrutiny than entity traders.

  1. Time spent

A TTS trader should spend more than four hours per day, almost every market day working on his trading business. All-time counts, including the execution of trade orders, research, administration, accounting, education, travel, meetings, and more. Most active business traders spend more than 40 hours per week in their trading business. Part-time traders usually spend more than four hours per day.

In one tax exam our firm handled, the IRS agent brought up the “material participation” standard in the passive loss activity rules (Section 469), which require 500 hours of work per year (as a general rule). Most business traders easily surpass 500 hours of work. However, Section 469 doesn’t apply to trading businesses, under its “trading rule” exemption. Without this exemption, taxpayers could generate passive-activity income by investing in hedge funds, and the IRS did not want that.

  1. Avoid sporadic lapses

A trader should have few to no sporadic lapses in the trading business during the year. The IRS has successfully denied TTS in a few tax court cases by arguing the trader had too many periodic lapses in trading, such as taking several months off during the year. Traders can take vacations, sick time, and personal time off just like everyone else. Some traders take a break from active trading to recover from recent losses and learn new trading methods and markets.

Carefully explain breaks in trading to the IRS in tax-return footnotes. Retooling and education during a setback in trade executions still may count for the continuous business activity (CBA) standard, although the IRS has not given credence to CBA for traders in tax court to date. I recommend traders keep proper records of their time spent as support.

Comments from an IRS official about the Chen tax court case point out the IRS doesn’t respect individual traders who are new to trading activity and who enter and exit it too quickly. Chen only traded for three months, while maintaining his fulltime job as a software engineer. He claimed an enormous NOL tax refund based on a massive TTS/475 ordinary loss. The IRS caught him lying about making a timely 475 election, and Chen conceded TTS and the entire case. It’s better to carry on a trading business for a more extended time than Chen did.

Some traders must temporarily stop for several months for health reasons. It’s not clear if the IRS will respect that as a valid interruption of a trading business activity. That seems unfair, but it may be the reality.

Many traders are home from their day jobs with Covid-19 and can carry on a trading business now. But will that active trading continue for the rest of 2020 and into 2021? I’ve noticed a proliferation of “Covid-19 traders,” who started active trading after the Covid correction in March 2020. Many have done well. Employers furloughed or laid-off them off from day jobs, or they have flexible job hours at home. They were attracted to volatility, accessible trading apps, and zero or low commissions.

  1. Intention to run a business

Traders must have the intention to run a trading business — trading his or her own money — but it doesn’t have to be one’s exclusive or primary means of making a living. The keyword is “a” living, which means it can be a supplemental living.

Many traders enter an active trading business while still working a full-time job. Advances in technology and flexible job schedules make it possible to carry on both activities simultaneously.

It’s not a good idea to try to achieve TTS within a business entity, already principally conducting a different type of business activity. It’s better to form a new trading entity. Trading an existing business’s available working capital seems like a treasury function and sideline, which can deny trader tax breaks if the IRS takes a look.

Filing as a sole proprietor on a Schedule C is allowed and used by many, but it’s not the best tax filing strategy for a part-time trader. An individual tax return shows a taxpayer’s job and other business activities or retirement, which may undermine TTS in the eyes of the IRS. The IRS tends to think trading is a secondary activity, and it may seek to deny TTS. It’s best to form a new, separate entity dedicated to trading only.

Several years ago, we spoke with one IRS agent who argued the trader did not make a living since he had perennial trading losses. That’s okay because the rule looks to intention, not the actual results. The hobby-loss limitations don’t apply to TTS traders because trading is not recreational or personal. Part-time traders often tell me they operate a business to make a supplemental living and intend to leave their job to trade full-time when they become profitable enough.

  1. Operations

A TTS trader has significant business equipment, education, business services, and a home office. Most business traders have multiple monitors, computers, mobile devices, cloud services, trading services, and subscriptions, education expenses, high-speed broadband, wireless, and a home office and/or outside office. Some have staff.

The IRS needs to see that a taxpayer claiming TTS has a realistic trading business operation.

How can one run a business without a dedicated space? Casual investors rarely have as busy an office set up as business traders do. Why would a long-term investor need multiple monitors?

If a trader uses a home-office space exclusively for business rather than personal use, the tax return should reflect this because it is not only a valid home-office deduction, but it also further supports the fact there is a legitimate business activity being conducted. The home-office deduction is no longer a red flag with the IRS, and it is not a complicated calculation. Most of the home-office deduction requires income, in this case, TTS trading gains. Some TTS traders just use a laptop, and that’s okay.

  1. Account size

Securities traders need to have $25,000 on deposit with a U.S.-based broker to achieve “pattern day trader” (PDT) status. With this status, he or she can day trade using up to 4:1 margin rather than 2:1. Without PDT status, securities traders, which include equities and equity options, will have a more challenging time qualifying for TTS. I like to see more than $15,000 account size for trading futures, forex, or cryptocurrency.

Adequate account size also depends on one’s overall net worth and cash flow. Millionaires may need larger account sizes, whereas some unemployed traders without much cash flow or very young traders may get by with smaller account sizes. A trader may also be able to factor in capital invested in equipment and startup costs.

What doesn’t qualify for TTS

Don’t count these four types of trading activity for TTS qualification:

  • Automated trading systems (ATS) without much involvement by the trader (but a trader creating an ATS qualifies);
  • A trade copying software or service;
  • Engaging a professional outside investment manager;
  • And trading in retirement funds.

Do not include these trades in the golden rule calculations.

  1. Outside-developed automated trading systems

These programs are becoming more popular. An entirely canned ATS with little to no involvement by the trader doesn’t qualify for TTS. The IRS may view an outside-developed ATS the same as a trader who uses a broker to make most buy/sell decisions and executions.

If the trader can show he’s very involved with the design and building of the ATS, then the IRS may count the ATS-generated trades in the TTS analysis. That includes but is not limited to writing the code or algorithms and setting the entry and exit signals. Self-creation of the ATS needs to be significant to count for TTS. Just making a few choices among options offered in an outside-developed ATS building-block service does not qualify for TTS.

Some traders don’t have programming experience, but they have financial and trading experience. They design the ATS to do what they do manually as a trader and hire an outside programmer to translate their specifications into a computer language.

It’s helpful if the trader can show he spends more than four hours per day working in his trading business, including time for ATS maintenance, back-testing, and modifications. I have not yet seen the IRS challenge ATS for TTS in exams or court cases, but I feel it may react this way when it comes up.

If traders spend a lot of money on an ATS that doesn’t qualify as part of their trading business, then those expenses are suspended investment expenses under TCJA. Traders need to know the IRS may connect the dots and realize they are using an ATS. A full-scale exam can uncover these facts. Consider the analogy of an airplane pilot using manual and automated systems. A trader needs to be a pilot in the cockpit, not in the cabin as a passenger.

  1. Trade copying software or service

Some traders use trade copying software or service (TCS). Trade copying is similar to using a canned ATS or outside adviser, where the copycat trader might not qualify for TTS on those trades. As an example, a trade coaching and education company offers a TCS that suggests several trades each day, with exact entry and exit points and stop-loss orders. The trader decides which trades to make and executes them manually.

If the trader follows the TCS tightly and does not significantly depart from its suggestions, then an IRS agent might feel that he or she does not qualify for TTS. On the other hand, if the trader cherry-picks a minor percentage of the suggested trades, sets different stop-loss orders, and waits longer on entry and exit executions, then he or she might qualify for TTS. The TCS vendor might state they are not providing investment management services, but that does not mean their customer achieves TTS using the TCS.

  1. Engaging a money manager

Hiring a registered investment adviser (RIA) or commodity trading adviser (CTA) — whether they are duly registered or exempt from registration — to trade one’s account doesn’t count toward TTS qualification. However, hiring an employee or independent contractor under the trader’s supervision to help trade should qualify, providing the taxpayer is a competent trader. There are decades-old tax court cases that show using outside brokers and investment advisers to make trading decisions undermines TTS.

There are differences between hiring an independent investment manager vs. a supervised assistant trader. If the engaged trader is a registered investment adviser, he’s clearly in the business of being an external manager, and TTS is not achievable. But if the person only assists a retail trader under the account holder’s direction and supervision, it may be possible to achieve TTS. It’s okay to have a co-pilot in the TTS cockpit.

With married couples, if spouse A has an individual brokerage account in his or her name only and gives power of attorney to spouse B to trade it, the IRS won’t grant TTS even if spouse B meets all the golden rules for TTS. Spouse B is not an owner of the account, so that the IRS will treat spouse A as an investor and spouse B as an investment manager. Married couples can solve this problem by using a joint individual account or trading in a spousal-owned entity.

  1. Trading retirement funds

You can achieve TTS through taxable trading accounts only. Trading activity in non-taxable retirement accounts doesn’t count for purposes of TTS qualification. Trading in retirement plans can be an excellent way to build tax-free compounded returns, especially if the taxpayer doesn’t qualify for TTS in their taxable accounts.

It is possible to trade retirement accounts and, at the same time, qualify for TTS in taxable accounts.

Caution: it’s dangerous to trade substantially identical positions between an individual taxable account and IRA accounts since this can trigger a permanent wash-sale (WS) loss in a taxable account that moves into the IRA. Avoid permanent WS losses in IRAs with a Section 475 election on the taxable account or use a Do Not Trade List to avoid overlap in the IRAs.

Sole proprietorship with TTS

An individual TTS trader deducts business expenses, startup costs, and home office deductions on a Schedule C (Profit or Loss From Business – Sole Proprietorship) 1040 filing. Traders don’t have revenue on Schedule C; report trading gains and losses on other tax forms. Schedule C expenses are an above-the-line deduction from gross income. TTS Schedule C expenses reduce self-employment income (SEI). Although, trading income is not SEI, and traders don’t owe SE tax in connection with trading income. There isn’t a tax election for claiming TTS. — it’s determined based on facts and circumstances assessed at year-end. You can claim TTS after-the-fact; you don’t have to formalize it in advance.

Business expenses include home-office, education, startup expenses, organization expenses, margin interest, tangible property expense, Section 179 (100%) or 100% bonus depreciation, amortization on software, self-created automated trading systems, chat rooms, mentors, seminars, market data, charting services, stock borrow fees, and much more.

Section 475 tax benefits

TTS traders are entitled to make a Section 475 election, but investors may not. The 475 election exempts securities trades from wash-sale loss (WS) adjustments, which can defer tax losses to the subsequent year, and the $3,000 capital loss limitation. Ordinary loss treatment is better; it can generate tax refunds faster than capital loss carryovers. There are also benefits on 475 income: a 20% QBI deduction if under the taxable income threshold for a service business.

The deadline for an individual to elect Section 475 for 2020 has passed; it was July 15, 2020, the postponed deadline. A partnership or S-Corp formed during the tax year is considered a “new taxpayer,” which can elect Section 475 internally within 75 days of inception. A new entity comes in handy for electing 475 after July 15, 2020. It’s too late to select 475 for 2019; that election deadline was April 15, 2019.

I usually recommend 475 on securities only to retain lower 60/40 capital gains rates on Section 1256 contracts. Section 475 does not apply to segregated investment positions. Avoid overlap of substantially identical positions in what you trade versus what you invest in taxable accounts, as that allows the IRS to recharacterize trades vs. investments. You can fix this potential problem by ring-fencing TTS/475 in a new entity and leaving investment positions on the individual level.

The qualified business income deduction

TCJA introduced a tax benefit for pass-through businesses, which includes a TTS trader with Section 475 income, whether doing business as a sole proprietor, partnership, or S-Corp. Section 199A provides a 20% QBI deduction on a “specified service trade or business” (SSTB), and TTS trading is an SSTB. SSTBs are subject to a taxable income threshold, phase-out range, and an income cap. The phase-out has wage and property limitations, too.

LLC taxed as an S-Corp

Organize a single-member or spousal-member LLC and elect S-Corp status with the IRS within 75 days of inception. Alternatively, in a subsequent year, the LLC can submit an S-Corp election by March 15. Owners must be U.S. residents. The S-Corp can elect Section 475 internally within 75 days of inception.

TTS traders with significant health insurance (HI) premiums should consider an S-Corp to arrange a tax deduction through officer compensation. Otherwise, the trader or spouse might have another source of self-employment income to deduct HI. A spouse might have HI coverage for the family in their job. Cobra is not deductible HI since its employer provided. A TTS sole proprietor or partnership cannot deduct HI based on trading income.

Traders need earned income to make and deduct HI and retirement plan contributions; however, trading income is unearned. TTS sole proprietors and partnerships cannot create earned income, whereas S-Corps can pay officer compensation, generating earned income.

Payroll taxes apply on officer compensation (wages), except for the HI component of salary: 12.4% FICA capped on wages up to $137,700 for 2020, and the 2.9% Medicare is unlimited.

TTS traders should fund retirement plan contributions from net income, not losses. It’s best to wait on the execution of an annual paycheck until early December when there is transparency for the year.

If you have sufficient trading profits for the year, consider establishing a Solo 401(k) retirement plan before year-end. Start with the 100% deductible elective deferral (ED; $19,500 for 2020) and pay it through payroll since on the annual W-2. Taxpayers 50 years and older have a “catch up provision” of $6,500, raising the 2020 ED limit to $26,000 per year. Contribute the elective deferral to a Solo 401(k) Roth or traditional account.

If you have significant trading gains, consider increasing payroll to unlock a Solo 401(k) profit-sharing plan (PSP) contribution. You don’t have to pay into the retirement plan until the due date of the S-Corp tax return (including extensions by September 15). The maximum PSP amount is $37,500 on wages of $150,000 ($37,500 divided by 25% equals $150,000). The total limit for a Solo 401(k) is $63,500 ($19,500 ED, $6,500 catch-up ED, and $37,500 PSP).

LLC taxed as a partnership

A TTS trader can organize a spousal-member LLC and file as a partnership. LLC/partnerships file a Form 1065 partnership tax return and issue Schedule K-1s to owners. LLC/partnerships must qualify for TTS; otherwise, they are investment companies.

A partnership is useful for ring-fencing TTS/475 trading from individual taxable, and IRA accounts for avoiding wash sale losses and the IRS reclassifying investment positions as TTS/475 positions.

Active trading gained popularity in 2020, and many people are eligible for trader tax status benefits.

This article references to content in Green’s 2020 Trader Tax Guide.

Watch our related recording: How To Be Eligible For Substantial Tax Savings As A Trader

How Covid-19 Tax Relief & Aid Legislation Impacts Traders (Updates)

May 31, 2020 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Tax tips for the July 15 deadline, extensions, 475 elections, NOL carrybacks, CARES relief, and more.

Update June 29: “IRS today announced the tax filing and payment deadline of July 15 will not be postponed. Individual taxpayers unable to meet the July 15 due date can request an automatic extension of time to file until Oct. 15 – it is not an extension to pay any taxes due. For people facing hardships, including those affected by COVID-19, who cannot pay in full, the IRS has several options available to help.” (See Taxpayers should file by July 15 tax deadline; automatic extension to Oct. 15 available.)

Watch our Webinar or recording Last-Minute Tax Tips & Extensions For Traders.

Original post

Congress postponed the tax filing and payment deadline from April 15 to July 15, 2020, for 2019 individual tax returns, extensions, and 2020 elections (i.e., Section 475). That’s good news for sole proprietor traders.

The July 15 deadline also applies to calendar-year 2019 C-Corps, U.S. residents abroad, estates, trusts, gift tax returns, information returns, IRA, and HSA contributions originally due April 1, or later.

Partnerships and S-Corps
Calendar-year 2019 partnership and S-Corp tax returns and 2020 Section 475 elections for partnerships and S-Corps were due March 16, 2020. These pass-through tax returns and entity 475 elections are not eligible for the July 15 postponement deadline because the March 16 deadline was before April 1. IRS virus relief guidance mentions pass-through entities, but that’s for a fiscal-year partnership or S-Corp tax return due on or after April 1, 2020.

Traders have calendar-year partnerships and S-Corps, so their entities are not eligible for the July 15 postponement relief. Some asked our firm if their existing partnership or S-Corp could take advantage of the postponed deadline for making a 2020 Section 475 MTM election. The answer is no.

Extensions for individual taxpayers
If you need more time to file your 2019 individual income tax return, file an automatic extension (Form 4868) for three additional months until October 15, 2020.

If you cannot pay the taxes you owe for 2019, then it’s essential to file the one-page extension to avoid IRS late-filing penalties of 5% per month for up to five months. The IRS charges this penalty based on the tax balance due. On Form 4868, enter your estimate of total tax liability for 2019, total 2019 payments, including overpayment credits, balance due, and the amount you’re paying. “If your return is more than 60 days late, the minimum penalty is $330 (adjusted for inflation) or the balance of the tax due on your return, whichever is smaller.” Even if you cannot pay any amount due, filing the extension on time avoids the late-filing penalty.

The IRS also charges late-payment penalties if the taxpayer does not pay at least 90% of their 2019 tax liability by the postponed deadline of July 15, 2020. The late-payment penalty is 0.5% per month, for up to five months, for a maximum of 2.5%. It’s ten times less than the late-filing penalty. For example, if the taxpayer owes $50,000 by July 15 but doesn’t pay it until October 15, 2020, the total penalty is $750 (three months of 0.5% equals 1.5% times $50,000).

The IRS allows the taxpayer to request abatement of late-payment and late-filing penalties based on a “reasonable cause.” Contracting coronavirus in your family or being negatively impacted by the virus might constitute a reasonable cause. “Attach a statement to your return, fully explaining the reason. Don’t attach the statement to Form 4868.”

The IRS calculates penalties and interest based on the tax payment paid after July 15.

The current interest rate on late payments is 4.5%, and the IRS does not forgive interest charges.

2020 estimated taxes
Treasury also postponed Q1 and Q2 quarterly estimated tax payments for 2020 until July 15, 2020. The original due dates were April 15 for Q1 and June 15 for Q2. Third and fourth quarters keep their original due dates of September 15, 2020, and January 15, 2021, respectively.

Mark your payment memo “2020 Form 1040-ES,” so the IRS does not confuse it with 2019 tax payments. Consider overpaying the 2019 extension, planning for an overpayment credit to apply to 2020 estimated taxes.

States also postponed the deadline
All states with a personal income tax have extended their April 15 due dates. See AICPA state filing conformity chart that they update.

Check if your state is decoupling from CARES, such as for NOL carrybacks. That’s happened in prior stimulus legislation.

Consider a section 475 election by July 15
If you have 2020 YTD trading losses and are eligible for trader tax status (TTS) as a sole proprietor, consider a 475 election on securities and or commodities due by July 15, 2020, the postponed tax deadline. Many traders have massive trading losses in 2020, and they desperately need a 475 election for ordinary loss treatment to unlock NOL carryback refunds.

Section 475 ordinary losses offset all types of income, which navigates around the $3,000 capital loss limitation. Section 475 securities trades are also exempt from wash-sale loss adjustments, which can create phantom income and capital gains taxes. I call Section 475, “tax loss insurance.” I generally recommend 475 for securities only to retain lower 60/40 capital gains rates on commodities (Section 1256 contracts). Section 475 does not apply to segregated investment positions so that you can enjoy deferral and long-term capital gains treatment, too.

There’s also a 20% QBI deduction on 475 income, net of TTS expenses. QBI excludes capital gains and portfolio income. Trading is a “specified service activity,” so you must be under the taxable income threshold of $326,600/$163,300 (married/other taxpayers) for 2020 to be eligible for the QBI tax deduction on TTS/475 income.

Be careful to follow the election rules properly. Attach a 2020 Section 475 election statement to your 2019 individual income tax return or extension filed by July 15, 2020.

E-filing an extension is convenient, but taxpayers cannot attach an election statement to an e-filed extension. Print the extension, attach the election, and mail or fax them together to the IRS.

If you are ready to file your tax return by July 15, there might be a problem: Most tax preparation software programs for consumers don’t include 475 elections. Either mail the 2019 tax return with 2020 Section 475 election statement attached, or e-file the tax return and send the election to the IRS separately by July 15. (See an example election statement and information about Form 3115 in Green’s 2020 Trader Tax Guide, chapter 2.)

CARES allows five-year NOL carrybacks
Starting with the 2018 tax year, TCJA repealed two-year NOL carrybacks and only allowed NOL carryforwards limited to 80% of the subsequent year’s taxable income. TCJA introduced the “excess business loss” (EBL) limitation, where aggregate business losses over an EBL threshold ($500,000 for married and $250,000 for other taxpayers for 2018) were considered an NOL carryforward. TCJA deferred losses into the future.

CARES suspended TCJA’s EBL limitation for 2018, 2019, and 2020. It also allows five-year NOL carrybacks for 2018, 2019, and 2020 and/or 100% application of NOL carryforwards.

Business owners should consider amending 2018 and 2019 tax returns to remove EBL limitations and consider five-year NOL carryback refund claims. It’s too late to elect 475 ordinary loss treatment for 2018 and 2019; a 2019 Section 475 election was due April 15, 2019. 2020 NOL carrybacks must wait until 2021 unless Congress speeds up that process with more virus legislation.

Businesses have until June 30, 2020, to file a 2018 Form 1045 (quickie refund) for a 2018 NOL carryback. They should get moving on these NOL carrybacks ASAP. Otherwise, they need Form 1040-X, which allows the IRS more time to process the refund.

TTS traders with Section 475 ordinary losses and those without 475 but who have significant NOLs from expenses (i.e., borrow fees on short-selling) should consider NOL carrybacks. If Congress changes the rules again (see below), your refund claim should be respected by the IRS as you filed based on current law in effect at the time.

The House passed new virus legislation
The House recently passed new virus legislation, backtracking on CARES business loss relief. However, the Senate rejected taking up this new House legislation. The House law restricts taxpayers to carry back NOLs from 2019 and 2020 only to tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2018.

The House legislation retains EBL limitations for 2018, 2019, and 2020 and it lifts the SALT limitation for 2020 and 2021. Proponents of the House bill argued that CARES business loss relief mostly benefits the wealthy. Proponents of CARES claim small businesses, plenty of which are not wealthy, need NOL carryback refunds to replenish their capital to remain in business — a goal for virus relief. Opponents of the House bill say lifting SALT helps mostly upper-income taxpayers. Pundits expect Congress to enact more virus legislation, so stay tuned.

CARES tax relief and economic aid
CARES offered tax relief and economic aid to employees, independent contractors, sole proprietors, and other types of small businesses. However, traders don’t fit into usual categories, so there are issues in applying for some CARES tax relief and aid.

Traders generate “unearned income,” and the CARES Act focuses on “earned income” (jobs). Traders eligible for trader tax status (TTS) operating in an S-Corp might be able to receive state and federal unemployment benefits if they close their trading business due to the negative impact of the pandemic.

TTS traders don’t qualify for a loan under the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), or any other SBA loan because trading is considered a “speculative business,” which the SBA bars from its lending programs.

TTS traders might be eligible for NOL carrybacks, relaxed retirement plan distributions, and recovery rebates.

Taxpayers negatively impacted by Covid-19 can take a withdrawal from an IRA or qualified retirement plan of up to a maximum of $100,000 in 2020 and be exempt from the 10% excise tax on “early withdrawals.” The taxpayer has the option of returning (rolling over) the funds within three years or paying income taxes on the 2020 distribution over three years. CARES also suspended required minimum distributions for 2020.

Here’s an example
My client, Josh, was recently laid off due to Covid-19. He is collecting state unemployment insurance plus federal pandemic relief of $600 per week. Josh is eligible for the $100,000 early withdrawal from his employer 401(k), and he can pay taxes or roll it over during the following three years, depending on how things work out. Josh plans to use a 401(k) early withdrawal of $50,000 to finance a new TTS sole proprietorship.

Josh’s TTS Schedule C does not conflict with his unemployment insurance benefits because he is buying and selling capital assets and not collecting a salary. Josh plans to submit a Section 475 election on securities only for 2020, due by July 15, 2020. He wants tax loss insurance and to be eligible for a 20% QBI deduction.

Next year, after Josh’s unemployment insurance ends, he might form a TTS S-Corp to have a salary in December to unlock health-insurance and retirement-plan deductions. S-Corp salary would conflict with unemployment insurance. (It’s always best to check with your state.) The financial markets are highly volatile in 2020, so there’s an opportunity for traders, especially with zero commissions. Josh operates his trading business from home, where he is safer from the pandemic. Brokers have reported strong growth in new trading accounts.

See blog posts:
April 15 Tax Deadline Moved To July 15 (Live Updates)
Massive Market Losses? Elect 475 For Enormous Tax Savings
How Traders Should Mine the CARES Act For Tax Relief & Aid
Tax Extensions: 12 Tips To Save You Money
IRS Coronavirus Tax Relief

Darren Neuschwander CPA contributed to this blog post.

 

Traders Elect 475 For Enormous Tax Savings (Live Updates)

May 20, 2020 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Updates

May 20: 2019 calendar-year partnership and S-Corp tax returns, and 2020 Section 475 elections for partnerships and S-Corps, were due March 16, 2020. These pass-through tax returns and entity 475 elections are not eligible for virus tax relief with the July 15, 2020 postponement deadline. Postponement relief is limited to 2019 tax returns due April 1, 2020, or after, and the March 16 deadline was before April 1. However, fiscal-year partnership or S-Corp tax returns due on April 1, 2020, or later are eligible for the July 15 deadline.

Traders have calendar-year partnerships and S-Corps, so these entities are not eligible for the July 15 postponement date. Most traders filed 2019 partnership or S-Corp extensions by March 16, some along with 2020 Section 475 elections for the entity. Some of these traders asked our firm if their entity could take advantage of the postponed deadline for making a Section 475 MTM election. The answer is no. Individual traders (sole proprietors) are eligible for July 15 relief for filing 2019 individual tax returns, extensions, and 2020 individual Section 475 elections.

April 9: IRS Notice 2020-23, dated April 9, states on page 7: “Finally, elections that are made or required to be made on a timely filed Specified Form (or attachment to a Specified Form) shall be timely made if filed on such Specified Form or attachment, as appropriate, on or before July 15, 2020.”

Good news: TTS traders as sole proprietor individuals now have to July 15, 2020, to elect Section 475(f) for 2020, as the 475 MTM election is an attachment to a specified form, either F1040 or F4868. Previously, we recommended TTS traders elect 475 by April 15, 2020, to play it safe.

March 28: On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This bill includes significant economic aid and tax relief provisions. Some tax relief applies retroactively to 2018, 2019, and 2020. See how TTS traders carryback NOLs five tax years for 2018, 2019 and 2020 in our blog post CARES Act Allows 5-Year NOL Carrybacks For Immediate Tax Refunds. If you have massive trading losses in 2020, a timely-filed 475 election is essential for TTS traders this year!

March 25: Our Darren Neuschwander, CPA, communicated with the IRS Chief Counsel’s office for Section 475(f) MTM elections. Mr. Neuschwander asked whether the tax deadline for submitting a 2020 Section 475 election is April 15 or July 15, considering that the IRS delayed the tax-filing deadline to July 15. In our email to the IRS, we gave our rationale for why it should be July 15 (see March 24 update below).

The IRS official told us to watch for an IRS FAQ, which they might add to answer our question, although she gave us no assurances or a timeline.

In the meantime, she highly recommends that those who want to elect 475 MTM for 2020 to file the election statement by attachment to a 2019 tax extension (Form 4868) mailed to the IRS by April 15. That’s what Rev Proc 99-17 requires. The IRS tracks 475 elections with extensions or tax return filings, but not if the taxpayer sends a separate letter with the election. It’s okay if the taxpayer files another extension Form 4868 on July 15 to pay 2019 taxes owed. She reminded us that the IRS does not grant tax relief for late-filed 475 elections.

Therefore, we have been advising clients to make 2020 Section 475 MTM elections on securities and/or commodities by April 15. You can prepare the 2019 tax extension with the 2020 election statement attachment, but wait to file it until the April 15 deadline. Meanwhile, monitor the IRS FAQs and our blog to see if the IRS postpones that deadline as well.

What’s the fuss?
A Section 475 election could be a savior this year with extreme volatility and massive trading losses. Instead of having a capital loss limitation of $3,000, you’ll have unlimited ordinary losses and perhaps a net operating loss (NOL) carryback refund.

Pending stimulus legislation suspends the TCJA business loss limitations, including reauthorizing NOL five-year carrybacks for 2018, 2019, and 2020, and repealing the excess business loss (EBL) restriction. TTS traders with 475 elections would get immediate tax relief. That can replenish your trading account and keep you in business!

March 24: The IRS published FAQs to support Notice 2020-18 for the April 15 tax-deadline postponement to July 15: Filing and Payment Deadlines Questions and Answers. CPA industry groups will likely ask for another round of FAQs to address unanswered questions. It’s important to note that FAQs are not yet “substantial authority,” as tax notices are, and the IRS often changes FAQs at a future date like it recently did with cryptocurrency.

  • Elections: The FAQs don’t mention the word “elections,” including the Section 475 election for TTS traders. The Section 475 MTM election wording comes directly from Rev Proc 99-17, which states:

    “The (election) statement must be filed not later than the due date (without regard to extensions) of the original federal income tax return for the taxable year immediately preceding the election year and must be attached either to that  return or, if applicable, to a request for an extension of time to file that return.”

    In the Notice 2020-18, the IRS moved the due date for 2019 individual tax returns to July 15. The above Q12 allows an automatic extension request on July 15 for more time to file. It seems logical to conclude that a 2020 Section 475 election is due July 15. If the IRS does not explicitly address this question, then a TTS trader with a massive 2020 YTD trading loss might want to file a protective extension request with a 475 election statement attachment by April 15 to play it safe.

March 20: It’s not yet certain if the IRS will accept a 2020 Section 475 election submitted by July 15 in conformity with the postponed tax filing deadline. It would afford traders 90 days of additional hindsight. The IRS promised FAQs soon, which might address “elections.” The original CARES Act bill included moving election deadlines, too. (Update March 23: However, the latest version of the CARES Act bill removed that entire section, perhaps because Treasury already moved the tax deadline to July 15.) If you have a significant Q1 2020 trading loss as a trader eligible for trader tax status (TTS), and you are counting on 475 ordinary loss treatment, then it’s currently safer to file an extension by April 15 and attach a 2020 Section 475 election statement. Stay tuned to our blog posts about the election issue. (See April 15 Tax Deadline Moved To July 15.)

Original blog post, dated Feb. 29, 2020:

With heightened market volatility in Q1 2020, many traders incurred massive losses. TTS traders should consider a 2020 Section 475 election to turn capital losses into ordinary losses. Don’t get stuck with a $3,000 capital loss limitation for 2020 and a considerable capital loss carryover to 2021; unlock immediate tax savings with ordinary-loss deductions against wages and other income this year.

Election procedures: Existing TTS partnerships and S-Corps should attach a 475 election statement to their 2019 entity tax return or extension due March 16, 2020. TTS sole proprietors (individuals) should attach a 475 election statement to their 2019 income tax return or extension due April 15, 2020. The second step is to file a 2020 Form 3115 (Application for Change in Accounting Method) with your 2020 tax return. There are other benefits: 475 trades are exempt from dreaded wash sale loss adjustments, and profitable 475/TTS traders are eligible for the 20% QBI deduction if they are under the QBI taxable income thresholds.

Example 1: A TTS securities trader incurred a capital loss of $103,000 in Q1 2020. He elects Section 475 on securities only by April 15, converting the Q1 capital loss into an ordinary loss on Form 4797 Part II. He also plans to deduct $12,000 of trading business expenses on a Schedule C. He intends to offset the entire trading business loss of $115,000 against a wage income of $175,000 for a gross income of $60,000. Without a 475 election, this trader would have a $3,000 capital loss limitation on Schedule D, a $12,000 ordinary loss on Schedule C, and a gross income of $160,000. He would also have a capital loss carryover to 2021 of $100,000. By deducting the entire $100,000 in 2020 with a 475 election, the trader generates a considerable tax refund.

More about 475
Traders eligible for TTS have the option to make a timely election for the Section 475 accounting method on securities and/or commodities. Section 475 is mark-to-market (MTM) accounting with ordinary gain or loss treatment. MTM imputes sales of open positions at the year-end at market prices. Without MTM, securities traders use the realization (cash) method with capital gains and loss treatment, including wash sale loss adjustments and the annual $3,000 capital loss limitation.

Caution: Sole proprietor (individual) TTS traders who missed the Section 475 MTM election date (April 15, 2019, for 2019) can’t use ordinary-loss treatment for 2019 and are stuck with capital gains and losses and perhaps capital-loss carryovers to 2020. Carefully consider a 475 election for 2020, as you need capital gains to use up capital loss carryovers, and 475 is ordinary income.

A new entity set up after April 15 could deliver Section 475 MTM for the rest of 2020 on trading losses generated in the entity account if it filed an internal Section 475 MTM election within 75 days of inception.

Ordinary losses offset all types of income (wages, portfolio income, and capital gains) on a joint or single filing, whereas capital losses only offset capital gains. Plus, business expenses and ordinary trading losses comprise a net operating loss (NOL) carry forward.

By making a 475 election on securities only, TTS traders retain lower 60/40 capital gains rates on Section 1256 contracts (futures), and they can segregate investment positions for long-term capital gains.

TCJA introduced an excess business loss (EBL) limitation starting in 2018. For 2019, the inflation-adjusted EBL limitation is $510,000/married and $255,000/other taxpayers. The EBL applies to Section 475 ordinary losses and trading expenses. Add an EBL to an NOL carryforward. For example, a single taxpayer with a $300,000 ordinary loss from 475 and trading costs, and no other wage or business income, might have an EBL of $45,000.

TCJA offers a 20% qualified business income (QBI) tax deduction for pass-through businesses, including sole proprietors. TTS trading is a specified service activity. QBI includes 475 ordinary income but excludes capital gains/losses, portfolio income, and forex. TTS expenses are negative QBI. A profitable TTS/475 trader is eligible for the QBI deduction providing their taxable income is not over the QBI thresholds.

Don’t miss the 475 election deadline
Applying for 9100 relief within six months of the 475 election due date by private letter ruling is an expensive process, and it’s likely to fail. Only one trader won this type of relief — Mr. Vines displayed no hindsight and good faith, and he had a perfect set of factors. In PLR 202009013 dated Nov. 15, 2019, the IRS ruled, “Taxpayers are not entitled to § 301.9100 relief to make a late § 475(f)(1) election because Taxpayers did not act reasonably and in good faith and granting relief would prejudice the interests of the Government.”

For more information and a sample 475 election statement, see Green’s 2020 Trader Tax Guide, Chapter 2, on Section 475 MTM.

Darren Neuschwander, CPA, contributed to this blog post.

April 15 Tax Deadline Moved To July 15 (Live Updates)

| By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Updates

May 20: 2019 calendar-year partnership and S-Corp tax returns, and 2020 Section 475 elections for partnerships and S-Corps, were due March 16, 2020. These pass-through tax returns and entity 475 elections are not eligible for virus tax relief with the July 15, 2020 postponement deadline. Postponement relief is limited to 2019 tax returns due April 1, 2020, or after, and the March 16 deadline was before April 1. However, fiscal-year partnership or S-Corp tax returns due on April 1, 2020, or later are eligible for the July 15 deadline.

Traders have calendar-year partnerships and S-Corps, so these entities are not eligible for the July 15 postponement date. Most traders filed 2019 partnership or S-Corp extensions by March 16, some along with 2020 Section 475 elections for the entity. Some of these traders asked our firm if their entity could take advantage of the postponed deadline for making a Section 475 MTM election. The answer is no. Individual traders (sole proprietors) are eligible for July 15 relief for filing 2019 individual tax returns, extensions, and 2020 individual Section 475 elections.

April 10: All states with a personal income tax have extended their April 15 due dates. (See AICPA state filing conformity chart that they update.)

April 9: IRS Notice 2020-23, dated April 9, states on page 7: “Finally, elections that are made or required to be made on a timely filed Specified Form (or attachment to a Specified Form) shall be timely made if filed on such Specified Form or attachment, as appropriate, on or before July 15, 2020.”

Good news: TTS traders as sole proprietor individuals now have to July 15, 2020, to elect Section 475(f) for 2020, as the 475 MTM election is an attachment to a specified form, either F1040 or F4868. Previously, we recommended TTS traders elect 475 by April 15, 2020, to play it safe.

The June 15, 2020 deadlines for U.S. residents abroad and also Q2 2020 estimated tax vouchers are also moved to July 15, 2020. (See IR-2020-66, April 9, 2020). The July 15 deadline now also applies to trusts and estates: “Today’s notice expands this relief to additional returns, tax payments and other actions. As a result, the extensions generally now apply to all taxpayers that have a filing or payment deadline falling on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020. Individuals, trusts, estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers qualify for the extra time. This means that anyone, including Americans who live and work abroad, can now wait until July 15 to file their 2019 federal income tax return and pay any tax due.”

March 25: 

475 elections: Our Darren Neuschwander CPA communicated with the IRS Chief Counsel’s office for making Section 475(f) MTM elections about whether to file a Section 475 MTM election by April 15 or July 15. (See the full update on our separate blog post Massive Market Losses? Elect 475 For Enormous Tax Savings.)

State taxes: AICPA State Tax Filing Relief Chart for Coronavirus: The AICPA has compiled this chart with the latest developments on state tax filings related to coronavirus, including states that conformed to the IRS postponement of the April 15 deadline to July 15. Not all states have conformed; for example, New Jersey had not as of March 25. 

AICPA Calls on Treasury, IRS to Provide Extensive Relief to Taxpayers. IRS Notice 2020-18 and related FAQs are helpful, but I agree with the AICPA that taxpayers need broader relief from Treasury. See the IRS Coronavirus Tax Relief page.

March 24: The IRS published FAQs to support Notice 2020-18 for the tax deadline postponement to July 15: Filing and Payment Deadlines Questions and Answers. CPA industry groups will likely ask for another round of FAQs to address unanswered questions. It’s important to note that FAQs are not yet “substantial authority,” as tax notices are, and the IRS often changes FAQs at a future date like it recently did with cryptocurrency.

Here’s what we know:

  • The IRS moved the IRA and HSA contribution deadlines from April 15 to July 15 (Q17 and Q21).
  • July 15 extensions: FAQ A12. “If you are an individual, you can request an automatic extension to file your Federal income tax return if you can’t file by the July 15 deadline. The easiest and fastest way to request a filing extension is to electronically file Form 4868 through your tax professional, tax software, or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Businesses, including trusts, must file Form 7004. You must request the automatic extension by July 15, 2020. If you properly estimate your 2019 tax liability using the information available to you and file an extension form by July 15, 2020, your tax return will be due on Oct. 15, 2020. To avoid interest and penalties when filing your tax return after July 15, 2020, pay the tax you estimate as due with your extension request.”
  • Elections: The FAQs don’t mention the word “elections,” including the Section 475 election for TTS traders. The Section 475 MTM election wording comes directly from Rev Proc 99-17, which states:

    “The (election) statement must be filed not later than the due date (without regard to extensions) of the original federal income tax return for the taxable year immediately preceding the election year and must be attached either to that  return or, if applicable, to a request for an extension of time to file that return.”

    It seems logical to conclude that a 2020 Section 475 election is due July 15, but this has not been confirmed yet. If the IRS does not explicitly address this question, then a TTS trader with a massive 2020 YTD trading loss might want to file a protective extension request with 475 election statement attachment by April 15 to play it safe.

March 23: After Treasury moved the tax deadline to July 15, a newer version of the CARES Act bill removed the section about shifting the tax deadline “and elections” to July 15. The IRS has not yet addressed moving elections and IRA and HSA deadlines to July 15. The open question is: Can TTS traders submit a 475 election by July 15, 2020? The regular due date for a 475 election is April 15. Treasury and the IRS promised FAQs about the deadline postponement soon, and hopefully, it will answer open questions about elections, IRAs, and HSAs.

March 20: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced President Trump’s directive to move the April 15 tax deadline to July 15, 2020, thereby postponing tax filings and tax payments for all taxpayers. The new rules in Notice 2020-18 remove the $1M cap on individuals included in the superseded Notice 2020-17, so all tax payments are penalty and interest-free until July 15. Mnuchin said the extension would give “all taxpayers and business this additional time” to file returns and make tax payments “without interest or penalties.” The Treasury Department promised FAQs soon. Hopefully, all states will follow suit with this federal change, so taxpayers don’t face conflicting rules.

Congress should proceed with new legislation like the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to provide additional tax relief, beyond the Treasury Department moving tax deadline to July 15. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s CARES Act bill temporarily suspends the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act business loss limitations, including reauthorizing NOL five-year carrybacks, repealing the excess business loss (EBL) limitation, and loosening the business interest expense limitation. That’s fantastic news, as businesses need tax relief for losses ASAP. Here are the related CARES Act provisions:

  • 2203: Section 172(b)(1) – “Net Operating loss carrybacks and carryovers” – Special Rule for losses arising in 2018, 2019 and 2020, such loss shall be a net operating loss carryback to each of the five taxable years preceding the taxable year of such loss.
  • 2203: Temporary repeal of 80% income limitation to deduct a 2018 and forward NOL for year beginning before 2021.
  • 2204: Repeal of 461(l) for 2018, 2019, and 2020 – excess business losses
  • 2206: 163(j) special rules for 2019 and 2020, increasing ATI percentage from 30% to 50% for limitation on business interest

CPA industry groups are also asking Congress to raise the $3,000 capital loss limitation, which they never indexed for inflation. Stay tuned.

March 19: Senator John Thune introduced a two-page bill Tax Filing Relief for America Act “To extend the due date for the return and payment of Federal income taxes to July 15, 2020, for taxable year 2019.” Treasury and the IRS recently issued guidance to delay certain tax payments for 90 days until July 15. Still, Treasury did not postpone the April 15 tax filing deadline, putting an undue burden on taxpayers and accountants. Thune’s legislation syncs tax filings with tax payments in a simple manner, whereas Treasury’s guidance is causing tremendous confusion. Leader McConnell just introduced the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which incorporates Thune’s bill. Thanks to the AICPA for pushing Congress and Treasury hard to get this critical April 15 tax relief. See the AICPA Coronavirus Resource Center. Stay tuned.

March 18: Treasury issued guidance in Notice 2020-17. It’s now official: As usual, individuals must file extensions on Form 4868 by April 15. Submitting this form with little tax information avoids excessive late-filing penalties, which are 5% per month up to 25% maximum on balance-due payments. The coronavirus relief only allows individuals to defer income tax payments up to $1M until July 15, without application of interest and “penalties,” and I think they mean late-payment penalties of 0.5% per month up to 5% maximum. Taxpayers can file a one-page extension Form 4868 without making tax payments until July 15. That should make quick work of the extension, which is essential as many taxpayers and accountants are overwhelmed with the impact of coronavirus. This Treasury guidance includes deferral for Q1 2020 estimated tax payments due by April 15, but not Q2 on June 15. (See IRS Notice 2020-17 with highlights.)

March 17: Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said if you owe a tax payment to the IRS, you can defer up to $1M as an individual and $10M as a C-corp. Tax payments will be interest and penalty-free if you file within 90 days of the April 15 deadline. “All you have to do is file your taxes,” he said. “You’ll automatically not get charged interest and penalties.” We need to see the fine print; there are many open questions. Mnuchin’s statement indicates taxpayers should still file an automatic extension on Form 4868 by April 15 to extend the tax return filing deadline six-months until Oct. 15. If a taxpayer cannot file an extension by April 15 due to the impact of coronavirus, then the IRS would be hard-pressed to deny reasonable cause for abatement of late-filing penalties.

— Per Bloomberg Tax, “Updates to make clear that taxpayers still must file by April 15 or seek an extension.” And, “The administration is also considering delaying the estimated quarterly tax payments that self-employed workers and businesses pay the IRS throughout the year, according to two people familiar with the matter. The first payment is typically due April 15.”

— Traders should file Section 475 elections by the April 15, 2020 deadline, since Treasury didn’t change the April 15 deadline; it is providing a 90-day extension for tax payments. I doubt Treasury wants to give traders 90 more days of hindsight on making 475 elections.

March 15: AICPA News: “Based upon our conversations, we anticipate that Treasury and the IRS will announce this week an extension of the April 15 deadline by as much as 90 days, and a waiver of penalties and interest for most taxpayers. Additionally, Treasury and the IRS are aware of the major deadline for businesses tomorrow, March 16, and the challenges facing taxpayers and tax preparers in meeting that deadline. They have indicated that they would be generous in determining reasonable cause abatement of any penalties for taxpayers and tax preparers unable to file in a timely manner.”

March 13 at 3 pm ET: Per Tax Talks, “President Trump declared a national emergency under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act in response to the coronavirus. This declaration allows the Treasury Department and the IRS to extend the deadline for certain taxpayers and small businesses to pay taxes until December 31, 2020 as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested earlier this week.”

Per Bloomberg Law News (with this declaration), “The IRS can choose from a range of powers: abating penalties for failing to file or pay taxes, or postponing federal tax filing and payment deadlines without interest or penalties accruing, according to the agency’s Internal Revenue Manual posted on its website.”

March 13 at 1 pm ET: The president will probably use federal emergency powers today to direct the Treasury Department to provide tax filing and late payment relief. I hope the Treasury Department considers the AICPA proposals. (See the AICPA coronavirus resource center and the AICPA state filing conformity chart that they will update.)

The original blog post, dated March 12, 2020:

The Administration and Congressional leaders are negotiating stimulus measures to provide relief for the coronavirus pandemic, which might include loosening rules for the April 15 tax deadline.

In his Oval Office speech on March 11, the president proposed tax-payment relief for “certain individuals and businesses.” That might be too narrow, and hopefully, this relief will apply to all taxpayers since the virus is spreading fast around the county and causing wide-spread economic harm. It would be challenging to identify “federally declared disaster areas” eligible for tax relief. Blanket across the board tax relief is warranted. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said the delay would cover “virtually all Americans other than the super-rich.”

Under current law, individual taxpayers must file 2019 income tax returns or an automatic extension form 4868 by April 15, 2020. An extension filing delays this for six months (Oct. 15). However, the IRS and states want taxpayers to make 2019 tax payments on time by April 15, 2020. The IRS uses a complicated regime of penalties and interest charges to incentivize taxpayers to make tax payments by April 15.

If a taxpayer misses the April 15 deadline, the IRS charges them a “late-filing penalty” of 5% per month, up to a maximum of five months for a total penalty of 25%. It would be unconscionable for the IRS to charge a coronavirus victim such a hefty penalty because they couldn’t file a one-page extension on time. I expect that IRS relief should make this automatic extension genuinely “automatic” by doing away with a requirement to submit a form 4868.

The IRS “late-payment penalty” addresses when a taxpayer should make tax payments that are due. IRS coronavirus relief should loosen the late-penalty rules, too. Under current law, the IRS would charge a late-payment penalty if the taxpayer did not pay at least 90% of their tax liability by April 15. The late-payment penalty is 0.5% per month, up to five months for a maximum of 2.5%. The IRS allows the taxpayer to request abatement of late-payment and late-filing penalties based on a “reasonable cause.” Contracting coronavirus sounds like a reasonable cause. The IRS calculates penalties and interest based on the tax payment paid after April 15. The current interest rate on late payments is 4.5%.

Hopefully, states follow suit with the IRS and enact coordinated tax relief over the April 15 deadline. States might use a different payment percentage to avoid late-payment penalties.

Accounting industry group weighs in
The AICPA issued a press release AICPA Calls for Indiv. & Business Tax Relief Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, dated March 11, 2020. My partner Darren Neuschwander CPA serves on the AICPA Individual & Self-Employed Tax Technical Resource Panel and helped draft this AICPA letter. (Darren will be serving as the vice-chair of the panel effective May 21, 2020, for the 2020-2021 year.)

The AICPA letter recommended an automatic extension for all taxpayers, without having to submit form 4868. The AICPA also suggested reducing the 90% payment rule to 70%, figuring the IRS might then provide the relief to all taxpayers. The AICPA letter further recommends: “Waive interest through October 15, 2020; and waive underpayment penalties for 2020 estimated tax payments if paid by September 15, 2020.” See the letter for their other recommendations.

On CNBC this morning, Jim Cramer called for tax payment relief across the board for all taxpayers and businesses. It seems the public and media’s first impression of this story is that no tax payments will be due April 15 with an automatic extension and 100% relief for interest and all types of penalties. The fine print of the penalty regime has always been confusing to many. Let’s wait to see the final tax law changes if any.

Special issues for traders
A 2020 Section 475 election is due by April 15 for individual traders eligible for trader tax status (TTS). (It’s March 16 for existing partnerships and S-Corps.) The election procedure requires a taxpayer to attach a 2020 Section 475 election statement to their 2019 tax return or extension filing made by the April 15, 2020 deadline. The IRS might allow an automatic extension, or it could extend the filing date altogether. However, I don’t expect the IRS to address 475 elections specifically. Therefore, it’s safer to mail the IRS a Form 4868 automatic extension and staple the election statement to it by April 15, 2020, according to current law. Alternatively, file a complete 2019 tax return and include the 475 election by April 15. This year traders are counting on a 475 election to convert year-to-date capital losses into ordinary losses due to massive volatility in Q1 2020. (See Massive Market Losses? Elect 475 For Enormous Tax Savings.)

It’s worth noting that the late-payment penalty is small and sort of like a margin loan; a maximum amount of 2.5% isn’t that bad for six months’ use of money.

If you do choose to postpone tax payments, be careful not to risk your tax funds owed the IRS in the financial markets as that might compound your cash flow problems.

This tax relief is like interest forbearance where banks allow a delay in mortgage payments, which many financial institutions offered to do in this crisis. It’s time for the U.S. Treasury to provide tax-payment forbearance, too.

See our blog post on extensions from last year Tax Extensions: 12 Tips To Save You Money.

Please share this blog post with Administration and Congressional leaders.

Darren Neuschwander, CPA, contributed to this blog post.

 

How Traders Should Mine the CARES Act For Tax Relief & Aid

April 10, 2020 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

The CARES Act provides tax relief and economic aid to employees, independent contractors, sole proprietors, and other types of small businesses. However, traders don’t fit into usual small-business categories, so there are issues in applying for some CARES aid.

Traders eligible for trader tax status (TTS) operating in an S-Corp might be able to receive state and federal unemployment benefits. TTS S-Corps might not qualify for a forgivable loan under the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program because trading is a “speculative business.” TTS traders structured as sole proprietors, partnerships, or S-Corps might be eligible for five-year NOL carrybacks, relaxed retirement plan distributions, and recovery rebates.

A trader’s capital gains and Section 475 ordinary income are different from wages, earned income, and self-employment income (SEI) required for many of the business-related benefits under CARES. TTS sole proprietors report business expenses on Schedule C, but trading gains and losses go on other tax forms, including Schedule D (capital gains and losses) or Form 4797 (Section 475 ordinary gain or loss). In the eyes of government agencies, trading generates investment income derived from the sale of capital assets; it’s not a usual small business with revenue.

State and federal unemployment benefits
CARES provides Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). The Department of Labor says, “states will administer an additional $600 weekly payment to certain eligible individuals who are receiving other benefits.” CARES also gives states the option of extending unemployment compensation to independent contractors and other workers who are ordinarily ineligible for unemployment benefits. (See Unemployment Insurance Relief During COVID-19 Outbreak, which lists contact information for state unemployment insurance offices.)

TTS S-Corps pay officer compensation to the owner/trader to arrange deductions for owner health insurance premiums and/or a high-deductible retirement plan contribution. Few TTS S-Corps hire outside employees, although some employ a spouse or an adult child.

Many of these TTS S-Corps paid state unemployment insurance (SUI) on officer wages, and if terminated or furloughed, these employees might be eligible to collect SUI and FPUC. SUI premiums are a minor cost in most states. In New York state, the 2020 wage base per employee is limited to $11,600. The NYSUI premium for a new business is 3.2%, which is $371 on the wage base amount. Employers can claim exemption from paying SUI on officer/owner compensation in most states.

TTS sole proprietor and partnership traders will likely face challenges applying for SUI and FPUC because they didn’t pay for SUI premiums. They also don’t have self-employment income as sole proprietors and partners. Most TTS traders worked from a home office and continued to trade throughout the coronavirus crisis. An employer or client has not terminated or furloughed them during the crisis. If you think you might be eligible for SUI and FPUC, apply at your state unemployment office.

SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
According to the AICPA’s SBA issues details for Paycheck Protection Program loans, “The CARES Act established the PPP as a new 7(a) loan option overseen by the Treasury Department and backed by the SBA [Small Business Administration], which is authorized to provide a 100% guarantee to lenders on loans issued under the program. The full principal amount of the loans may qualify for loan forgiveness if the borrower maintains or rehires staff and maintains compensation levels. However, not more than 25% of the loan forgiveness amount may be attributable to nonpayroll costs. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply for PPP loans beginning April 10. Under the PPP, the maximum loan amount is the lesser of $10 million or an amount calculated using a payroll-based formula specified in the CARES Act. Note: You can access free loan calculators on the AICPA’s PPP resource page.” (See the SBA Paycheck Protection Program.)

Most payroll service providers can provide the payroll documentation needed for this program. (For example, Paychex emailed its clients several COVID-19 resources and tools.)

You may only include payroll to employees in the monthly payroll tax base; the SBA does not allow independent contractors in the calculation. (See https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/PPP–Fact-Sheet.pdf and https://taxfoundation.org/sba-paycheck-protection-program-cares-act/)

Most TTS sole proprietors and TTS partnerships don’t hire outside employees. The IRS doesn’t permit sole proprietors or partnerships to pay salaries to owners. Therefore, most TTS sole proprietors and partnerships don’t have a monthly payroll cost required for an SBA PPP loan application. TTS S-Corps might pay officer compensation to the owner, usually in Q4, when there is the transparency of trading profits for the year.

However, the SBA likely considers a TTS trading business to be a “speculative business,” which is not eligible for an SBA loan. The list of speculative businesses includes “dealing in stocks, bonds, commodity futures, and other financial instruments.” (See SBA SOP 50 10 5(B).)

Recovery rebates
Taxpayers under a threshold for adjusted gross income (AGI) are eligible for an advance tax refund of a 2020 tax credit. There’s a reduction of the payment in a phase-out range above the threshold. So the IRS can pay the direct deposit to a taxpayer’s bank account or mail a check faster, it looks to the taxpayer’s 2018 or 2019 tax return filing. (For social security recipients who don’t file a tax return, the IRS looks at their SSA Form 1099.) Treasury promised to provide a Website to enter direct deposit information if the prior-year tax return did not provide that information.

Retirement plan distributions
Taxpayers negatively impacted by COVID-19 can take a withdrawal from an IRA or qualified retirement plan of up to a maximum of $100,000 in 2020 and be exempt from the 10% excise tax on “early withdrawals.” The taxpayer has the option of returning (rolling over) the funds within three years or paying income taxes on the 2020 distribution over three years. CARES also suspended required minimum distributions for 2020. (Update May 4, 2020: IRS Website Coronavirus-related relief for retirement plans and IRAs questions and answers.)

Net operating losses
The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repealed NOL carrybacks and applied NOL carryforwards up to 80% of the following year’s taxable income, but CARES temporarily suspended this. It allows five-year carrybacks for NOLs in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and/or 100% application of NOL carryforwards against subsequent year’s taxable income.

Traders should consider getting started on 2018 and 2019 NOL carrybacks for quick tax refunds right away.

Section 475 traders generate ordinary losses, which comprises NOLs, whereas capital losses do not contribute to NOLs. CARES does not allow taxpayers to file a retroactive 475 election for 2018 and 2019. On April 9, 2020, the IRS postponed the 2020 Section 475 election deadline for individuals from April 15 to July 15, 2020. (See live updates on CARES Act Allows 5-Year NOL Carrybacks For Immediate Tax Refunds and Massive Market Losses? Elect 475 For Enormous Tax Savings.)

Excess business losses
CARES suspended TCJA’s excess business loss (EBL) limitation for 2018, 2019, and 2020. That change might lead to a reduction of tax liability in those years and also increase NOL carrybacks. The EBL threshold for 2018 was $500,000 for married and $250,000 for other taxpayers. Amounts over the EBL limitation were NOL carryforwards under TCJA.

CARES is new legislation, and tax professionals have many questions that the Treasury Department and the IRS will likely answer soon. Stay tuned to our blog post to see how CARES and related virus legislation impacts TTS traders. Also, see CARES Act tax provisions aim to stabilize pandemic-ravaged economy.

If you need our help with CARES tax relief, contact us soon. For CARES payroll-related aid, contact your payroll service provider. For unemployment insurance benefits, contact your state unemployment insurance office.

CPAs Darren Neuschwander and Adam Manning contributed to this blog post.

CARES Act Allows 5-Year NOL Carrybacks For Immediate Tax Refunds

April 9, 2020 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Live Updates:

April 13: IRS Provides NOL Guidance and Deadline Extension:  Rev. Proc. 2020-24 issues guidance on IRC Sec. 172(b)(1), amended by Sec. 2303 of the CARES Act, which requires taxpayers to carry back NOLs arising in tax years beginning in 2018, 2019, and 2020 to the five preceding tax years, unless the taxpayer elects to waive or reduce the carryback period.” (Checkpoint.)

April 9: 
IRS provides guidance under the CARES Act to taxpayers with net operating losses. IR-2020-67, April 9, 2020 — “The Internal Revenue Service today issued guidance providing tax relief under the CARES Act for taxpayers with net operating losses. Recently the IRS issued tax relief for partnerships filing amended returns.”

The six-month extension of time for filing NOL forms: In Notice 2020-26 (PDF), “the IRS grants a six-month extension of time to file Form 1045 or Form 1139, as applicable, with respect to the carryback of a net operating loss that arose in any taxable year that began during the calendar year 2018 and that ended on or before June 30, 2019.  Individuals, trusts, and estates would file Form 1045 (PDF), and corporations would file Form 1139 (PDF).” (The IRS is temporarily allowing taxpayers to fax in these forms.)

Good news: TTS traders have until June 30, 2020, to file a 2018 Form 1045 for a 2018 NOL. They should get moving on these NOL carrybacks ASAP. Otherwise, they need Form 1040X which takes longer to process by the IRS.

March 28: On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This bill includes significant economic aid and tax relief provisions. Some tax relief applies retroactively to 2018, 2019, and 2020. Today, I focus on NOL carrybacks.

If you have a net operating loss (NOL) from business activities in 2018, 2019, and 2020, you should consider filing NOL carryback claims going back five years. 

Active traders who are eligible for trader tax status (TTS) are considered businesses with NOLs. A TTS trader might have significant trading expenses or Section 475 ordinary losses comprising an NOL. 

CARES temporarily suspends tax-loss limitations from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) for 2018, 2019, and 2020. TCJA had repealed two-year NOL carrybacks, only allowing NOL carryforwards limited to 80% of the subsequent year’s taxable income. As you may remember, TCJA introduced the excess business loss (EBL) limitation, where aggregate business losses over an EBL threshold ($500,000 for married and $250,000 for other taxpayers for 2018) were considered an NOL carryforward. 

CARES lifts these TCJA limitations and allows taxpayers to recalculate 2018 and 2019 NOLs and file refund claims going back five years for immediate tax relief. Taxpayers will be able to carryback 2020 NOLs five years, too, but not until they file 2020 tax returns in 2021. 

TTS traders with Section 475 ordinary losses and those without 475 but who have significant NOLs from expenses (i.e., borrow fees on short-selling) should consider NOL carrybacks, too. 

Here’s an example

Joe Smith, a TTS trader with Section 475, filed a 2018 income tax return showing a $400,000 NOL. Joe’s NOL came from trading expenses ($50,000) and Section 475 trading losses ($350,000); he had no other income or loss.

Under TCJA, Joe’s only option is an NOL carryforward; therefore, his draft 2019 tax return has a low income, utilizing a small portion of his NOL. Joe has more trading losses and expenses YTD for 2020, so he is holding a deferred tax asset. Joe is thrilled that CARES opens the door to NOL carrybacks because he had substantial taxable income from other activities in years previous to 2018. 

We await IRS and state guidance on CARES to indicate precisely how Joe and his tax preparer should proceed with NOL recalculation and carryback returns. We have questions:

  1. Must taxpayers with EBL limitations amend 2018 tax returns to remove EBL and recalculate NOLs? Is CARES retroactive application to 2018 and 2019 an optional or mandatory requirement? Some taxpayers might prefer to leave things the way they are under TCJA.
  2. CARES allows taxpayers to carryback NOLs from 2018, 2019, and 2020 five years. Usually, tax years close after three years, so how will this work for 2018 NOL five-year carrybacks? For example, 2016 income tax returns filed by April 15, 2017, might close three years after by April 15, 2020. Is that postponed to July 15, 2020, with the IRS relief? Can a taxpayer go back five years before 2018? 
  3. The usual tax deadline for filing a 2018 Form 1045 (Application for Tentative Refund) for NOL carrybacks was Dec. 31, 2019. Will this deadline be extended? (We prefer using this form since the IRS must address the form within 90 days.) Alternatively, taxpayers may use Form 1040X (Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) for each NOL carryback year, which often takes the IRS six months or more to address and pay the refunds. Will the form be expedited during this unprecedented time? There are other procedural questions beyond the scope of this blog post.
  4. Which states will conform with CARES on these tax changes, especially NOL carryback refund claims? During the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, stimulus tax legislation allowed generous NOL carrybacks. However, some states decoupled from federal law on those changes. For example, California did not allow NOL carrybacks at all, and it restricted NOL carryforwards in several ways. 

Stay tuned to our blog post as we seek answers to these questions. I plan to cover other CARES tax changes that affect TTS traders, too. 

March 27: Congress and President Trump enacted into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This “virus bill” includes significant economic aide and tax provisions to help all taxpayers. The House did not make any changes to the Senate version.

March 25: Senate Passes Updated Economic Relief Plan (CARES Act) for Individuals and Businesses (Tax Foundation). The final version of the law includes the tax-loss provisions covered in the March 20 update below. Here are the code sections from Thomson Reuters CheckPoint:

  • “NOLs arising in a tax year beginning after December 31, 2018 and before January 1, 2021 can be carried back to each of the five tax years preceding the tax year of such loss. (Code Sec. 172(b)(1) as amended by Act Sec. 2303(b)(1))
  • temporarily removes the taxable income limitation to allow an NOL to fully offset income. (Code Sec. 172(a), as amended by Act Sec. 2303(a)(1))
  • temporarily modifies the loss limitation for noncorporate taxpayers so they can deduct excess business losses arising in 2018, 2019, and 2020. (Code Sec. 461(l)(1), as amended by Act Sec. 2304(a))
  • temporarily and retroactively increases the limitation on the deductibility of interest expense under Code Sec. 163(j)(1) from 30% to 50% for tax years beginning in 2019 and 2020. (Code Sec. 163(j)(10)(A)(i) as amended by Act Sec. 2306(a)).” (See special rules for partnerships.)

March 20: Congress should proceed with new legislation like the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, to provide additional tax relief, beyond the Treasury Department moving the April 15 tax deadline to July 15, 2020.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s CARES Act bill temporarily suspends the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) business loss limitations, including reauthorizing NOL five-year carrybacks, repealing the excess business loss (EBL) limitation, and loosening the business interest expense limitation. That’s fantastic news, as businesses need tax relief for losses ASAP. Here are the related CARES Act provisions:

  • 2203: Section 172(b)(1) – “Net operating loss carrybacks and carryovers” – Special Rule for losses arising in 2018, 2019, and 2020, such loss shall be a net operating loss carryback to each of the five taxable years preceding the taxable year of such loss.
  • 2203: Temporary repeal of 80% income limitation to deduct a 2018 and forward NOL for year beginning before 2021.
  • 2204: Repeal of 461(l) for 2018, 2019 and 2020 – excess business losses.
  • 2206: 163(j) special rules for 2019 and 2020, increasing ATI percentage from 30% to 50% for limitation on business interest.

CPA industry groups are also asking Congress to raise the $3,000 capital loss limitation, which was never indexed for inflation.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced President Trump’s directive to move the April 15 tax deadline to July 15, 2020, thereby postponing tax filings and tax payments for all taxpayers. Mnuchin said the extension would give “all taxpayers and business this additional time” to file returns and make tax payments “without interest or penalties.” I expect Treasury and the IRS will issue specific guidance soon. Hopefully, all states will follow suit with this federal change, so taxpayers don’t face conflicting rules.

Traders and 475 elections: Although it’s not guaranteed, I think the IRS might accept a 2020 Section 475 election submitted by July 15, 2020, since that is the new tax filing date. It would afford traders 90 days of additional hindsight. IRS FAQs might not address elections, although the CARES Act includes moving of election deadlines, too. If you have a massive Q1 2020 trading loss as a TTS trader, and you are counting on an NOL carryforward, or carryback if allowed, then it might be wise to file an extension by April 15, 2020, and attach a 2020 Section 475 election statement. I think you should be able to revise the election by July 15, 2020, if warranted. (See Massive Market Losses? Elect 475 For Enormous Tax Savings.)

March 19: Senator John Thune introduced a two-page bill Tax Filing Relief for America Act “To extend the due date for the return and payment of Federal income taxes to July 15, 2020, for taxable year 2019.” Treasury and the IRS recently issued guidance to delay certain tax payments for 90 days until July 15, 2020. Still, Treasury did not postpone the April 15 tax filing deadline, putting an undue burden on taxpayers and accountants. Thune’s legislation syncs tax filings with tax payments in a simple manner, whereas Treasury’s guidance is causing tremendous confusion. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which incorporates Thune’s bill. Thanks to the AICPA for pushing Congress and Treasury hard to get this critical April 15 tax relief. Why rush an April 15 tax filing, exposing clients and accountants to coronavirus, if Treasury already postponed tax payments? See the AICPA Coronavirus Resource Center.

For prior updates, see Updated: April 15 Tax Deadline Moved To July 15.

March 16 Is Tax Deadline For S-Corp And Partnership Extensions And Elections (Live Updates)

February 27, 2020 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Updates

May 20: 2019 calendar-year partnership and S-Corp tax returns, and 2020 Section 475 elections for partnerships and S-Corps, were due March 16, 2020. These pass-through tax returns and entity 475 elections are not eligible for virus tax relief with the July 15, 2020 postponement deadline. Postponement relief is limited to 2019 tax returns due April 1, 2020, or after, and the March 16 deadline was before April 1. However, fiscal-year partnership or S-Corp tax returns due on April 1, 2020, or later are eligible for the July 15 deadline.

Traders have calendar-year partnerships and S-Corps, so these entities are not eligible for the July 15 postponement date. Most traders filed 2019 partnership or S-Corp extensions by March 16, some along with 2020 Section 475 elections for the entity. Some of these traders asked our firm if their entity could take advantage of the postponed deadline for making a Section 475 MTM election. The answer is no. Individual traders (sole proprietors) are eligible for July 15 relief for filing 2019 individual tax returns, extensions, and 2020 individual Section 475 elections.

March 24: The IRS published FAQs to support Notice 2020-18 for the April 15 tax-deadline postponement to July 15: Filing and Payment Deadlines Questions and Answers. Unfortunately, 2019 partnership and S-Corp tax returns or extensions that were due March 16, 2020, are not eligible for this IRS relief. 

March 13: The president declared a national emergency (Stafford Act), allowing the IRS to postpone tax filings/payments and to remove penalties and interest. Partnership and S-Corps are due March 16, so I hope the IRS acts fast! (See April 15 Tax Deadline.Might Get Coronavirus Relief)

Original blog post, dated Feb. 27, 2020

March 16 is the deadline for filing 2019 S-Corp and partnership tax returns, or extensions, 2020 S-Corp elections for existing entities, and 2020 Section 475 elections for a pass-through entity. Don’t miss any of these tax filings or elections; it could cost you.

2019 S-Corp and partnership tax extensions
Extensions are easy to prepare and file for S-Corps and partnerships since they pass-through income and loss to the owner, usually an individual. Generally, pass-through entities are tax-filers, but not taxpayers.

S-Corps and partnerships use Form 7004 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, and Other Returns). Extensions give six additional months to file a federal tax return — by Sept. 15, 2020.

Some states require a state extension filing, whereas others accept the federal extension. Some states have S-Corp franchise taxes, excise taxes, or minimum taxes, and payments are usually due with the extensions by March 16. LLCs filing as partnerships may have minimum taxes or annual reports due to the extension by March 16. States assess penalties and interest, often based on payments due.

See S-Corp 2019 Form 1120-S instructions, “Interest and Penalties” on page 4:

“Late filing of return. A penalty may be assessed if the return is filed after the due date (including extensions) or the return doesn’t show all the information required, unless each failure is due to reasonable cause. See Caution, earlier. For returns on which no tax is due, the penalty is $205 for each month or part of a month (up to 12 months) the return is late or doesn’t include the required information, multiplied by the total number of persons who were shareholders in the corporation during any part of the corporation’s tax year for which the return is due. If tax is due, the penalty is the amount stated above plus 5% of the unpaid tax for each month or part of a month the return is late, up to a maximum of 25% of the unpaid tax. The minimum penalty for a return that is more than 60 days late is the smaller of the tax due or $435.

Failure to furnish information timely. For each failure to furnish Schedule K-1 to a shareholder when due and each failure to include on Schedule K-1 all the information required to be shown (or the inclusion of incorrect information), a $270 penalty may be imposed. If the requirement to report correct information is intentionally disregarded, each $270 penalty is increased to $550 or, if greater, 10% of the aggregate amount of items required to be reported. The penalty won’t be imposed if the corporation can show that not furnishing information timely was due to reasonable cause. See Caution, earlier.

If the corporation receives a notice about penalties after it files its return, send the IRS an explanation and we will determine if the corporation meets reasonable-cause criteria. Don’t attach an explanation when the corporation’s return is filed.”

See partnership 2019 Form 1065 instructions, “Penalties” on page 6:

“Late Filing of Return. A penalty is assessed against the partnership if it is required to file a partnership return and it (a) fails to file the return by the due date, including extensions, or (b) files a return that fails to show all the information required, unless such failure is due to reasonable cause. The penalty is $205 for each month or part of a month (for a maximum of 12 months) the failure continues, multiplied by the total number of persons who were partners in the partnership during any part of the partnership’s tax year for which the return is due. If the partnership receives a notice about a penalty after it files the return, the partnership may send the IRS an explanation and the Service will determine if the explanation meets reasonable-cause criteria. Do not attach an explanation when filing the return.

Failure To Furnish Information Timely. For each failure to furnish Schedule K-1 to a partner when due and each failure to include on Schedule K-1 all the information required to be shown (or the inclusion of incorrect information), a $270 penalty may be imposed for each Schedule K-1 for which a failure occurs. The maximum penalty is $3,339,000 for all such failures during a calendar year. If the requirement to report correct information is intentionally disregarded, each $270 penalty is increased to $550 or, if greater, 10% of the aggregate amount of items required to be reported. There is no limit to the amount of the penalty in the case of intentional disregard.”

2020 S-Corp elections

Traders qualifying for trader tax status (TTS) and interested in employee benefit plan deductions, including health insurance and retirement plan deductions, probably need an S-Corp. They should consider a 2020 S-Corp election on Form 2553 for an existing trading entity, due by March 16, 2020, or form a new company and file an S-Corp election within 75 days of inception. Most states accept the federal S-Corp election, but a few states do not; they require a separate S-Corp election filing by March 16. If you overlooked filing a 2019 S-Corp election by March 15, 2019 and intended to elect S-Corp tax treatment as of that date, you may qualify for IRS relief. (See Late Election Relief.) (Sole proprietor traders do not have self-employment income, which means they cannot have self-employed health insurance and retirement plan deductions. TTS partnerships face significant obstacles in achieving self-employment income.)

2020 Section 475 MTM elections for S-Corps and partnerships

TTS traders should consider attaching a 2020 Section 475 election statement to their 2019 tax return or extension due by March 16 for partnerships and S-Corps or by April 15 for individuals. Section 475 turns 2020 capital gains and losses into ordinary gains and losses, thereby avoiding the capital loss limitation and wash sale loss adjustments (tax loss insurance). Section 475 income, net of TTS expenses, is eligible for the “qualified business income” (QBI) deduction subject to taxable income limitations.

If a TTS partnership or S-Corp wants to revoke a prior-year Section 475 election, a revocation election statement is due by March 16, 2020.

If you need help, consider a consultation.

How To Qualify For Substantial Tax Savings As A Trader

February 5, 2020 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Trader tax status (TTS) constitutes business expense treatment and unlocks an assortment of meaningful tax benefits for those who qualify. The first step is to determine eligibility. If you do qualify for TTS, you can claim some tax breaks such as business expense treatment after the fact and elect and set up other breaks — like Section 475 MTM and employee-benefit plans — on a timely basis.

Business expenses include home-office, education, startup expenses, organization expenses, margin interest, tangible property expense, Section 179 (100%) or 100% bonus depreciation, amortization on software, self-created automated trading systems, seminars, market data, stock borrow fees, and much more. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act suspended “certain miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor,” including investment fees and expenses, commencing in 2018.

Securities traders with TTS should consider electing Section 475 ordinary gain or loss treatment by April 15 (individuals) and March 16, 2020 (existing partnerships or S-Corps). I call it tax-loss insurance: It exempts securities trades from wash sale loss adjustments and the $3,000 capital loss limitation. Profitable 475 traders are eligible for the 20% qualified business income (QBI) deduction. QBI excludes capital gains and losses.

A TTS S-Corp unlocks deductions for health insurance premiums and high-deductible retirement plan contributions.

Traders who do not qualify for TTS aren’t eligible for any of these tax benefits.

How to qualify
It’s not easy to be eligible for TTS. Currently, there’s no statutory law with objective tests for eligibility. Subjective case law applies a two-part test:

  1. Taxpayers’ trading activity must be substantial, regular, frequent, and continuous.
  2. A taxpayer must seek to catch swings in daily market movements and profit from these short-term changes rather than profiting from long-term holding of investments.

Golden rules
Volume, frequency, and average holding period are the “big three” because they are more accessible for the IRS to verify.

Volume: The 2015 tax court case Poppe vs. Commission is a useful reference. Poppe made 720 total trades per year/60 per month. We recommend an average of four trades per day, four days per week, 16 trades per week, 60 a month, and 720 per year on an annualized basis. Count each open and closing trade separately, not round trip. Scaling in and out counts, too.

Frequency: Executes trades on close to four days per week, around a 75% frequency rate.

Holding period: In the Endicott court, the IRS said the average holding period must be 31 days or less. That’s a bright-line test.

Trades full time or part-time, for a good portion of the day, almost every day the markets are open. Part-time and money-losing traders face more IRS scrutiny, and individuals face more scrutiny than entity traders.

Hours: Spends more than four hours per day, almost every market day working on the trading business — all time counts.

Avoid sporadic lapses: Has few to no intermittent lapses in the trading business during the year.

Intention: Has the intention to run a business and make a living. It doesn’t have to be a primary living.

Operations: Has significant business equipment, education, business services, and a home office.

Account size: Has a material account size. Securities traders need to have $25,000 on deposit with a U.S.-based broker to achieve pattern day trader (PDT) status. For the minimum account size, we like to see more than $15,000.

What doesn’t qualify?
These four types of trading activity do not count for TTS qualification.

  1. Outside-developed automated trading systems (ATS). A computerized trading service with little to no human involvement doesn’t qualify for TTS. On the other hand, if the trader can show he’s very involved with the creation of the ATS — perhaps by writing the code or algorithms, setting the entry and exit signals, and turning over only execution to the program — the IRS may count those trades.
  2. Trade copying service. Some traders use trade copying software. Trade copying is similar to using a canned ATS or outside adviser, where the copycat trader might not qualify for TTS on those trades.
  3. Engaging a money manager. Hiring a registered investment adviser or commodity trading adviser — whether they are duly registered or exempt from registration — to trade one’s account doesn’t count toward TTS qualification.
  4. Trading retirement funds. Achieve TTS through trading in taxable accounts. Trading activity in non-taxable retirement accounts doesn’t count for purposes of TTS qualification.

For more in-depth information on TTS, see Green’s 2020 Trader Tax Guide Chapter 1 “Trader Tax Status.”

 

Highlights From Green’s 2020 Trader Tax Guide

January 7, 2020 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

 

Use Green’s 2020 Trader Tax Guide to receive every trader tax break you’re entitled to on your 2019 tax returns. Our 2020 guide covers the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s impact on investors, traders, and investment managers. Learn various smart moves to make in 2020.

Whether you prepare your 2019 tax returns as a trader or investor, this guide can help. Even though it may be too late for some tax breaks on 2019 tax returns, you can still use this guide to execute these tax strategies and elections for tax-year 2020.

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was enacted on Dec. 22, 2017, and the law changes took effect in the 2018 tax year.

Like many small business owners, traders eligible for trader tax status (TTS) restructured their business for 2019 and 2020 to take advantage of TCJA. Two tax changes caught their eye: The 20% deduction on qualified business income (QBI) in pass-through entities, and suspended investment fees and expenses, which makes TTS even more crucial. (TCJA continues to allow itemized deductions for investment-interest expenses and stock borrow fees.)

TCJA didn’t change trader tax matters, including business expense treatment, Section 475 MTM ordinary gain or loss treatment, and wash-sale loss adjustments on securities; it didn’t change TTS S-Corps’, Solo 401(k) retirement contributions and health insurance deductions, either. TCJA also retains the lower Section 1256 60/40 capital gains tax rates; the Section 1256 loss carryback election; Section 988 forex ordinary gain or loss; and tax treatment on financial products including options, ETFs, ETNs, swaps, precious metals, and more.

2018 and 2019 tax forms

TCJA required significant revisions to the 2018 income tax forms. Some of those changes confused taxpayers, so the IRS revised the 2019 tax forms. The redesigned two-page 2018 Form 1040 resembled a postcard because the IRS moved many sections to six new 2018 Schedules (Form 1040). It was a block-building approach with the elimination of Form 1040-EZ and 1040-A.

The 2019 Form 1040 has three schedules, not six. The IRS moved some items back onto the Form 1040.

The IRS significantly changed Schedule A (Itemized Deductions). TCJA suspended “certain miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor.” These deductions were included in “Job Expenses and Certain Miscellaneous Deductions” on the 2017 Schedule A, lines 21 through 24. The revised 2018 Schedule A deleted these deductions, including job expenses, investment fees and expenses, and tax compliance fees and expenses.

The 2017 Schedule A also had “Other Miscellaneous Deductions,” not subject to the 2% floor, on line 28. That’s where investors reported stock-borrow fees, which are not investment fees and expenses. The 2018 Schedule A changed the name to “Other Itemized Deductions” on line 16.

TCJA introduced a new 20% deduction on qualified business income for 2018, but the IRS did not draft a tax form for it. Taxpayers used a worksheet for the calculation and reported a “qualified business income deduction” on the 2018 Form 1040, page 2, line 9. For 2019, the IRS introduced Form 8995 (Qualified Business Income Deduction Simplified Computation) and Form 8995-A (Qualified Business Income Deduction).

Business traders fare better

By default, the IRS lumps all traders into “investor tax status,” and investors get penalized in the tax code — more so with TCJA. Investors have restricted investment interest expense deductions, and investment fees and expenses are suspended. Investors have capital-loss limitations against ordinary income ($3,000 per year), and wash-sale loss deferrals; they do not have the Section 475 MTM election option or health insurance and retirement plan deduction strategies. Investors benefit from lower long-term capital gains rates (0%, 15%, and 20%) on positions held 12 months or more before sale. If active traders have segregated long-term investment positions, this is available to them as well.

Business traders eligible for TTS are entitled to many tax breaks. A sole proprietor (individual) TTS trader deducts business expenses and is entitled to elect Section 475 MTM ordinary gain or loss treatment. However, to deduct health insurance and retirement plan contributions, a TTS trader needs an S-Corp to create earned income with officer compensation.

Don’t confuse TTS with the related tax-treatment election of Section 475 MTM accounting. The 475 election converts new capital gains and losses into business ordinary gains and losses, avoiding the $3,000 capital loss limitation. Only qualified business traders may use Section 475 MTM; investors may not. Section 475 trades are also exempt from wash-sale loss adjustments. The 20% deduction on qualified business income includes Section 475 ordinary income but excludes capital gains, interest, and dividend income.

A business trader can assess and claim TTS after year-end and even going back three open tax years. But business traders may only use Section 475 MTM if they filed an election on time, either by April 15 of the current year (i.e., April 15, 2019 for 2019) or within 75 days of inception of a new taxpayer (i.e., a new entity). For more on TTS, see Chapter 1.

Can traders deduct trading losses?

Deducting trading losses depends on the instrument traded, the trader’s tax status, and various elections.

Many traders bought this guide hoping to find a way to deduct their 2019 trading losses. Maybe they qualify for TTS, but that only gives them the right to deduct trading business expenses.

Securities, Section 1256 contracts, ETNs, and cryptocurrency trading receive capital gain/loss treatment by default. If a TTS trader did not file a Section 475 election on securities and/or commodities on time (i.e., by April 15, 2019), or have Section 475 from a prior year, he is stuck with capital loss treatment on securities and Section 1256 contracts. Section 475 does not apply to ETN prepaid forward contracts, which are not securities, or cryptocurrencies, which are intangible property.

Capital losses offset capital gains without limitation, whether short-term or long-term, but a net capital loss on Schedule D is limited to $3,000 per year against other income. Excess capital losses are carried over to the subsequent tax year(s).

Once taxpayers get in the capital loss carryover trap, a problem they often face is how to use up the carryover in the following year(s). If a taxpayer elects Section 475 by April 15, 2020, the 2020 business trading gains will be ordinary rather than capital. Remember, only capital gains can offset capital loss carryovers. That creates a predicament addressed in Chapter 2on Section 475 MTM. Once a trader has a capital loss carryover hole, she needs a capital gains ladder to climb out of it and a Section 475 election to prevent digging an even bigger one. The IRS allows revocation of Section 475 elections if a Section 475 trader later decides he or she wants capital gain/loss treatment again.

Traders with capital losses from Section 1256 contracts (such as futures) may be in luck if they had gains in Section 1256 contracts in the prior three tax years. On the top of Form 6781, traders can file a Section 1256 loss carryback election. This allows taxpayers to offset their current-year losses against prior-year 1256 gains to receive a refund of taxes paid in prior years. Business traders may elect Section 475 MTM on Section 1256 contracts, but most elect it on securities only so they can retain the lower 60/40 capital gains tax rates on Section 1256 gains, where 60% is considered a long-term capital gain, even on day trades.

Taxpayers with losses trading forex contracts in the off-exchange Interbank market may be in luck. By default, Section 988 for forex transactions receives ordinary gain or loss treatment, which means the capital-loss limitation doesn’t apply. However, without TTS, the forex loss isn’t a business loss and therefore can’t be included in a net operating loss (NOL) calculation — potentially making it a wasted loss since it also can’t be added to the capital loss carryover. If taxpayer has another source of taxable income, the forex ordinary loss offsets it; the concern is when there is negative taxable income. Forex traders can file a contemporaneous “capital gains and losses” election in their books and records to opt out of Section 988, which is wise when capital loss carryovers exist. Contemporaneous means in advance — not after the fact using hindsight. In some cases, this election qualifies for Section 1256(g) lower 60/40 capital gains tax rates on major pairs, not minors.

A TTS trader using Section 475 on securities has ordinary loss treatment, which avoids wash-sale loss adjustments and the $3,000 capital loss limitation. Section 475 ordinary losses offset income of any kind, and a net operating loss carries forward to subsequent tax year(s). TCJA’s “excess business loss” (EBL) limitation for 2019 is $510,000 married and $255,000 other taxpayers applies to Section 475 ordinary losses and trading expenses. Add an EBL to an NOL carryforward. See TCJA changes in Chapter 17.

Tax treatment on financial products

There are complexities in sorting through different tax-treatment rules and tax rates. It’s often hard to tell what falls into each category. To help our readers with this, we cover the many trading instruments and their tax treatment in Chapter 3.

Securities have realized gain and loss treatment and are subject to wash-sale rules and the $3,000 per year capital loss limitation on individual tax returns.

Section 1256 contracts — including regulated futures contracts on U.S. commodities exchanges — are marked to market by default, so there are no wash-sale adjustments, and they receive lower 60/40 capital gains tax rates.

Options have a wide range of tax treatment. An option is a derivative of an underlying financial instrument and the tax treatment is generally the same. Equity options are taxed the same as equities, which are securities. Index options are derivatives of indexes, and broad-based indexes are Section 1256 contracts. Simple and complex equity option trades have special tax rules on holding period, adjustments, and more.

Forex receives ordinary gain or loss treatment on realized trades (including rollovers), unless a contemporaneous capital gains election is filed. In some cases, lower 60/40 capital gains tax rates on majors may apply.

Physical precious metals are collectibles; if these capital assets are held over one year, sales are subject to the collectibles capital gains rate capped at 28%.

Cryptocurrencies are intangible property taxed like securities on Form 8949, but wash-sale loss and Section 475 rules do not apply because they are not securities.

Foreign futures are taxed like securities unless the IRS issues a revenue ruling allowing Section 1256 tax benefits.

Several brokerage firms classify options on volatility exchange-traded notes (ETNs) and options on volatility exchange-traded funds (ETFs) structured as publicly traded partnerships as “equity options” taxed as securities. There is substantial authority to treat these CBOE-listed options as “non-equity options” eligible for Section 1256 contract treatment. Volatility ETNs have special tax treatment: ETNs structured as prepaid forward contracts are not securities, whereas, ETNs structured as debt instruments are.

Don’t solely rely on broker 1099-Bs: There are opportunities to switch to lower 60/40 tax capital gains rates in Section 1256, use Section 475 ordinary loss treatment if elected on time, and report wash-sale losses differently. Vital 2020 tax elections need to be made on time. See Chapter 3.

Entities for traders

Entities can solidify TTS, unlock health insurance and retirement plan deductions, gain flexibility with a Section 475 election or revocation, prevent wash-sale losses with individual and IRA accounts, and enhance a QBI deduction on Section 475 income less trading expenses. An entity return consolidates trading activity on a pass-through tax return, making life easier for traders, accountants, and the IRS. Trading in an entity allows individually held investments to be separate from business trading. It operates as a separate taxpayer yet is inexpensive and straightforward to set up and manage.

An LLC with S-Corp election is generally the best choice for a single or married couple seeking health insurance and retirement plan deductions. See Chapter 7.

Retirement plans for traders

Annual tax-deductible contributions up to $62,000 for 2019 and $63,500 for 2020 to a TTS S-Corp Solo 401(k) retirement plan generally saves traders significantly more in income taxes than it costs in payroll taxes (FICA and Medicare). Trading gains aren’t earned income, so traders use an S-Corp to pay officer compensation.

There’s also an option for a Solo 401(k) Roth: If you are willing to forgo the tax deduction, you’ll enjoy permanent tax-free status on contributions and growth within the plan. See Chapter 8.

20% deduction on qualified business income

TCJA introduced a new tax deduction for pass-through businesses, including sole proprietors, partnerships and S-Corps. Subject to haircuts and limitations, a pass-through business could be eligible for a 20% deduction on qualified business income (QBI).

Traders eligible for TTS are a “specified service activity,” which means if their taxable income is above an income cap, they won’t receive a QBI deduction. The taxable income (TI) cap is $421,400/$210,700 (married/other taxpayers) for 2019, and $426,600/$213,300 (married/other taxpayers) for 2020. The phase-out range below the cap is $100,000/$50,000 (married/other taxpayers), in which the QBI deduction phases out for specified service activities. The W-2 wage and property basis limitations also apply within the phase-out range. Investment managers are specified service activities, too.

QBI for traders includes Section 475 ordinary income and loss and trading business expenses. QBI excludes capital gains and losses, Section 988 forex and swap ordinary income or loss, dividends, and interest income.

TCJA favors non-service businesses, which are not subject to an income cap. The W-2 wage and property basis limitations apply above the TI threshold of $321,400/$160,700 (married/other taxpayers) for 2019, and $326,600/$163,300 (married/other taxpayers) for 2020. The IRS adjusts the annual TI income threshold for inflation each year. For more information, see Chapter 17.

Affordable Care Act

TCJA did not change the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) 3.8% Medicare tax on unearned income. The net investment tax (NIT) applies on net investment income (NII) for individual taxpayers with modified AGI over $250,000 (married) and $200,000 (single). The threshold is not indexed for inflation. Traders can reduce NIT by deducting TTS trading expenses, including salaries paid to them and their spouses. Traders may also reduce NII with investment expenses that are allowed on Schedule A, such as investment-interest expense and stock borrow fees. Investment fees and other investment expenses suspended from Schedule A also are not deductible for NII.

ACA’s individual health insurance mandate and shared responsibility fee for non-compliance, exchange subsidies, and premium tax credits continue to apply for 2019 and 2020. However, TCJA reduced the shared responsibility fee to $0 starting in 2019.

For more information, see Chapter 9 and Chapter 15.

Investment management carried interest

TCJA modified the carried interest tax break for investment managers in investment partnerships, lengthening their holding period on profit allocation of long-term capital gains (LTCG) from one year to three years. If the manager also invests capital in the partnership, he or she has LTCG after one year on that interest. The three-year rule only applies to the investment manager’s profit allocation — carried interest. Investors still have LTCG based on one year.

Investment partnerships include hedge funds, commodity pools, private equity funds, and real estate partnerships. Many hedge funds don’t hold securities for more than three years, whereas, private equity, real estate partnerships, and venture capital funds do.

Investors also benefit from carried interest in investment partnerships. TCJA suspended “certain miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor,” which includes investment fees and expenses. Separately managed account investors are out of luck, but hedge fund investors can limit the negative impact by using carried-interest tax breaks. Carried interest reduces a hedge fund investor’s capital gains instead of having a suspended incentive fee deduction.

International tax matters

When it comes to global tax matters, we focus on the following types of traders: U.S. residents living abroad, U.S. residents with international investments, U.S. residents moving to U.S. territories like Puerto Rico (with substantial tax breaks), U.S. residents surrendering citizenship or green cards, and nonresident aliens investing in the U.S. with individual U.S. brokerage accounts or through an entity. See Chapter 14.