Category: Tax Changes & Planning

Unlock State & Local Tax Deductions With A SALT Cap Workaround

June 22, 2021 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Updates: As states progress on SALT cap workaround legislation, I will update that news at the bottom of this post. 

Since 2018, taxpayers living in high-tax states have been unable to take an itemized deduction of state and local taxes over a limitation (known as the “SALT” cap) of $10,000 per year. This limitation came from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and is effective for tax years 2018 through 2025. But the good news is that some states have a workaround, which I cover in this post.

On Nov. 9, 2020, Treasury and the IRS issued Notice 2020-75, which says they “intend to issue proposed regulations to clarify that State and local income taxes imposed on and paid by a partnership or an S corporation on its income are allowed as a deduction by the partnership or S corporation in computing its non-separately stated taxable income or loss for the taxable year of payment.”

The Workaround
To date, state laws for SALT cap workarounds vary, but the general idea is that a pass-through entity (PTE) assesses a tax at the state’s rate on individuals. The state then grants the respective owners of the PTE a tax credit on their state personal income tax return. The SALT cap only applies to individual taxes, not PTE entity-level taxes. Other states subject the PTE to an entity-level tax and then exclude that respective PTE income from the owner’s state tax return.

Check the latest news in your state to see if your state has enacted a SALT cap workaround when the tax law is effective (i.e., 2021 or 2022) and how it works. For example, Connecticut made the PTE tax mandatory for the SALT cap workaround strategy. Most of the other states make it elective, giving the taxpayer more choices; however, don’t miss the election deadline. Consult your tax advisor to see how this strategy might save you money and whether you should consider forming a pass-through entity soon in 2021.

Traders seem to qualify for the SALT cap workaround
Many traders eligible for trader tax status (TTS) already use a PTE like a spousal-member LLC/partnership or single-member LLC/S-Corp. TTS traders need an S-Corp to pay officer compensation to unlock health insurance and retirement plan deductions, which otherwise are not allowed on trading gains that are unearned income.

A TTS trader in securities, commodities, and other financial products, has business expense treatment. A TTS trader actively buys and sells capital assets with capital gains and losses, or Section 475 ordinary gains and losses, if elected on a timely basis.

Here’s an example: In 2021, Joe Trader pays $35,000 of state income taxes on the S-Corp level using a SALT cap workaround. His S-Corp net income is $500,000, subject to a state tax rate of 7%. Joe reaches his SALT cap of $10,000 with real estate taxes of $11,000, so he loses a $1,000 deduction. Joe deducts $35,000 of the S-Corp state taxes from his gross income saving $12,950 in federal taxes ($35,000 state tax deduction x 37% top marginal federal tax rate). Without a SALT cap workaround, Joe would have $36,000 of non-deductible SALT.

Next steps
Many accountants had taken a wait-and-see approach on SALT cap workaround strategies since IRS approval was uncertain before the November 2020 IRS notice mentioned above. In addition, the IRS and Treasury previously rejected recharacterizing SALT payments as charitable contributions, which a few states attempted.

This PTE tax approach is not foreign; some southeastern states use PTE composite returns to assess tax on non-resident owners. 

Some tax pundits expected the Biden administration to repeal the SALT cap. However, President Biden’s FY 2022 budget and recent infrastructure bills do not include the reversal of the SALT cap. Congressional Republicans are resistant to undermine TCJA. Some Congressional Democrats stated they might not support Biden’s infrastructure bills unless they fix the SALT cap. Stay tuned!

The PTE tax might be a better solution than pre-TCJA law when SALT was an itemized deduction and a preference for alternative minimum tax (AMT).

Updated news by state below

IRS Signals Approval of Entity-Level SALT Cap Workaround, But States Should Still Think Twice (Tax Foundation Nov. 11, 2020)
“Treasury and IRS signaled their intention to bless one type of state workaround for the $10,000 State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction cap: entity-level taxes that allow owners of pass-through businesses to pay an additional state tax at the business level, with an offsetting credit against their individual income tax liability. Since the SALT deduction cap does not apply to business taxes, this functionally allows these owners to avoid the cap, since the entity-level tax substitutes for their income tax payment, which would have been subject to a capped deduction.”

“Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin have all adopted entity-level taxes which offer credits against the owners’ personal tax liability. In Connecticut, the entity-level tax is mandatory. In the other six states, it is elective; business owners can choose to pay it and claim the credit, or may decline if it is not in their best interest to go that route.”

New Jersey enacts SALT deduction cap workaround (Grant Thorton Feb. 14, 2020)

California Lawmakers, Governor Float SALT Cap Workaround Plans (Bloomberg Tax Jan. 14, 2021)
“A new California Senate bill (SB 104) would give pass-throughs—partnerships, limited liability companies, and S corporations—the option to pay an entity-level income tax that would be fully deductible. The bill doesn’t specify a tax rate yet. Individuals who are members of those businesses would exclude the amount the entity pays from their gross income.” (Governor) Newsom’s proposal is narrower, applying only to S corporations. It would give those businesses the option to pay a 13.3% income tax rather than the 1.5% that California currently imposes on S corporations. Shareholders would get a tax credit equal to 13.3% of their passed-through income. Under current California law, an S corporation’s income is also taxable at the shareholder level.”
Calif. Gov. Updates Budget With Tax Rebates, SALT Workaround (Law360 May 14, 2021)
California budget deal reached: More stimulus payments and tax relief (Spidell News June 28, 2021)
“The Governor and legislative leaders announced that they have reached a budget deal. Major tax-related items contained in the deal include an elective passthrough entity tax, which provides a work-around to the $10,000 SALT deduction limitation for owners of passthrough entities…These provisions are contained in draft legislation that has not yet been enacted, although it is anticipated that these bills will be passed within the next week or two.” https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/
SALT Cap Workaround, Tax Credit Boosts Go To California Governor (Bloomberg Tax July 1, 2021)
“A California workaround to the $10,000 federal cap on state and local tax deductions, expanded tax credits, and new grants for businesses are included in bills lawmakers sent Thursday to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Tax policy changes in a bill lawmakers passed Thursday (A.B. 150) include a workaround for the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions for S corporations and their shareholders. The corporations could pay 9.3% income tax rather than the 1.5% rate California currently imposes. Shareholders would get a tax credit equal to 9.3% of their passed-through income. The workaround would be in effect for taxable years 2021 through 2025 and taxpayers would have to use the option on original, timely filed tax returns.
Calif. Joins States With SALT Cap Workaround (Law360 July 16, 2021)
“Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed A.B. 150… he reiterated his position that the cap on the SALT deduction should be lifted but said California would provide “a partial fix” for S corporations and other pass-throughs. California’s SALT workaround for pass-through entities will be an elective tax that the entity pays on behalf of partners. The partners can then receive a credit. The tax rate will be 9.3% and will fall on the distributive shares of income of the partners. Individual partners can choose not to consent, but the entity can still elect to pay the tax. Those partners who do consent will get a nonrefundable credit that equals the amount of tax paid by the entity on the partners’ behalf. The pass-through workaround will begin for tax year 2021 and sunset after tax year 2025, according to the analysis.”
SALT workaround elective passthrough entity tax (Spidell’s California Minute July 18, 2021)

New York Includes SALT Cap Workaround in Budget Deal (Bloomberg April 6, 2021)
“The deal between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Democratic legislative leaders, announced Tuesday, would allow pass-through businesses to pay taxes at the entity level. The entity-level tax would be offset by a corresponding individual income tax credit.”
New York Governor Signs Bill That Could Provide Pass-Through Entities a SALT Deduction Cap Workaround (NYSSCPA April 10, 2021)
New York State Budget Provides A Work Around To The Federal SALT Cap For Certain Business Entities (Forbes May 27, 2021)

Alabama Lawmakers Advance Changes to SALT Cap Workaround (Tax Notes April 15, 2021)

La. Senate Approves SALT Cap Workaround For Pass-Throughs (Law360 May 23, 2021)

SALT Workarounds Spread to More States as Democrats Seek Repeal (Bloomberg Tax April 27, 2021)
“Seven states, including California and Illinois, are poised to join nearly a dozen others like New York and New Jersey that have skirted around the federal cap on state and local tax deductions as the prospect of a federal fix remains elusive. New York and Idaho both recently passed legislation to work around the controversial 2017 tax law feature known as the SALT cap. Georgia and Arizona are awaiting their governors’ approvals of similar SALT cap workarounds, and lawmakers in California, Massachusetts, Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina are debating bills of the same nature.” (See the state map of states included in the workaround.)

Massachusetts Lawmakers Push SALT Cap Workaround in Budget (Bloomberg Tax May 11, 2021)
Mass. Senate OKs Budget With Child Credit, SALT Workaround (Law360 June 2, 2021)
“The pass-through provision is similar to other entity-level taxes that states have either enacted or are considering as a workaround to the $10,000 state and local tax deduction cap. The pass-through entity-level tax provisions would take effect for taxable years beginning on and after Jan. 1, 2021.”
Mass. Legislators Pass Budget With SALT Workaround, Credits (Law360 July 9, 2021)
“The Massachusetts Legislature unanimously passed a fiscal year 2022 budget Friday that would establish an entity-level tax for pass-through businesses…would allow an entity-level tax on pass-throughs and provide a credit against a member’s share of that tax.”
Mass. Gov.’s Budget Creates Tax Credits, Vetoes Deduction Delay (Law360 July 19, 2021)
“Republican Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday signed the budget bill while returning to the Legislature a provision that would allow an entity-level tax on pass-throughs and provide a credit against a member’s share of that tax, asking it to increase the credit portion. Baker returned the pass-through provision to the state Legislature with proposed amendments that would increase a member’s credit from 90% of their share in the entity’s tax to 100% of their tax share, saying that taxpayers should collect the full benefit as struggling businesses emerge from the pandemic. The pass-through entity-level tax provisions will take effect for taxable years beginning on and after Jan. 1, 2021.”

SC Offers SALT Cap Workaround Through Entity-Level Tax (Law360 May 19, 2021)
“Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed S.B. 627 on Monday, allowing partnerships and S corporations to make an annual election to pay a 3% tax at the entity level while offering a corresponding income exclusion for owners and partners. The bill will take effect starting in tax year 2021.”

Illinois Assembly Approves SALT Workarounds for Partnerships (Bloomberg Tax May 31, 2021)

SALT Workaround for Pass-Throughs Advances to Michigan Governor (Bloomberg Tax June 23, 2021)
“The SALT cap workaround bill (H.B. 4288) could provide roughly $190 million in federal tax relief for Michigan businesses without costing the state a dime, according to a legislative fiscal statement. The measure would let pass-through businesses pay state and local taxes at the entity level starting in tax year 2021, allowing the full deduction of these taxes on federal returns instead of limiting the deduction amount the entity owners can currently claim on their flow-through income.”
Mich. Gov. Vetoes SALT Deduction Cap Workaround Bill (Law360, July 14, 2021).
Michigan’s governor vetoed a bill seeking to create an entity-level tax for pass-through businesses to sidestep the federal cap on state and local tax deductions, saying the bill’s $5 million cost to implement should be part of broader budget negotiations.

Democrats consider ‘SALT’ relief for state and local tax deductions (NBC News June 24, 2021)

Georgia Enacts Salt Cap Workaround For Tax Years Starting In 2022 (Windham Brannon)
House Bill 149, which was signed into law, creates a SALT cap workaround for Georgia partnerships and subchapter S corporations.”

Maryland’s SALT Workaround: Impacts and Planning Opportunities (March 12, 2021)

Rhode Island Budgets For Salt Workaround (Aug. 2019)

Wisconsin enacts SALT deduction workaround with pass-through tax (Dec. 17, 2018)

IRS Provides Clarity Regarding Oklahoma’s Salt Cap Workaround (March 3, 2021)

North Carolina Republicans Introduce SALT Cap Workaround (Tax Notes April 8, 2021)

Ore. Senate OKs Trimming Biz Tax Break, SALT Workaround (Law360, June 17, 2021)
“Under S.B. 727, the state would create an elective entity-level tax on qualifying pass-through entities. The tax rate would be 9% for the first $250,000 of income and 9.9% for income above $250,000. If an entity elects to pay the tax, the owners would be allowed an offsetting tax credit to claim on their personal income tax returns.”

Colo. Limits Tax Breaks, OKs SALT Workaround In Tax Overhaul (Law360, June 24, 2021)
Gov. signed “H.B. 1327 provides for the entity-level tax to circumvent the $10,000 SALT cap.”
Colo. Lawmakers OK Entity-Level Taxation To Skirt SALT Cap (Law360, June 9, 2021)
“Under the bill, the state would allow pass-through entities to elect to pay an entity-level tax for income tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2022. The entity-level tax rate would be 4.55%, the same as the state’s flat income tax rate.”

Pa. Bill Seeks Entity-Level Tax To Bypass SALT Deduction Cap (Law360 June 29, 2021)
“H.B. 1709, introduced Monday by Rep. Martina A. White, R-Philadelphia, would allow partnerships and S corporations to elect to be taxed at the entity level while providing an offsetting credit to owners and shareholders.”

Arizona House Panel OKs Entity-Level Tax To Skirt SALT Cap (Law360 Feb. 18, 2021)
Ariz. Adopts High-Earner Tax Bypass, SALT Cap Workaround  (Law360 July 12, 2021)
“Arizona will create an alternative business income tax and an entity-level tax, bypassing both a state income tax surcharge on high earners and the federal cap on state and local tax deductions under two bills signed by the governor. H.B. 2838 will allow partnerships and S corporations to elect to pay a 4.5% tax at the entity level and offer a credit to the entity’s partners, members or shareholders for their pro rata share of the tax, according to a bill analysis. The entity-level tax election will be available only if all of an entity’s members, partners or shareholders are Arizona residents. The bill will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, and the credit is allowed to be carried forward for up to five consecutive years.”

A Closer Look at Minnesota’s Proposed SALT Cap Workaround (Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence)
Minn. To Offer SALT Cap Workaround, PPP Loan Tax Relief (Law360 July 1, 2021)
“Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed into law H.B. 9. The law creates an entity-level tax for pass-through entities with a refundable credit for entity members, allowing them to bypass the $10,000 state and local tax cap.”

Ark. Bill Floats SALT Cap Workaround With Pass-Through Tax (Law360 Jan. 20, 2021)

Darren L. Neuschwander, CPA, contributed to this blog post. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Impacts Traders

June 21, 2021 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA

On March 11, 2021, Congress and President Biden enacted “The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021” (ARP). In this post, I focus on the provisions that could impact traders, including recovery rebates for individuals, EBL extension, child tax credit, loan forgiveness, and more. The quotations included under each topic are from the “American Rescue Plan Act Roadmap” published by Bloomberg Tax & Accounting.

Many of the ARP tax benefits are subject to income thresholds. Traders have widely fluctuating income and losses from year to year, and they might qualify for some of these tax benefits. ARP includes business and health care benefits, but most don’t apply to solo TTS traders.

2021 Recovery Rebates to Individuals

“Provides a $1,400 refundable tax credit to individuals ($2,800 for joint filers) with up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income (or $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly). Provides $1,400 for dependents (both child and non-child). The credit will be phased out entirely for those with incomes above $80,000 (or $120,000 for heads of household and $160,000 for married couples filing jointly). The credit is reduced between $75,000 and $80,000 (or $112,500 and $120,000 for heads of household and $150,000 and $160,000 for married couples filing jointly).”

Extension of Limitation on Excess Business Losses (EBL)

A trader eligible for trader tax status (TTS) using a Section 475 election for ordinary loss treatment might exceed the EBL threshold. The excess is a net operating loss (NOL) carry forward. The original 2018 EBL threshold was $500,000/$250,000 married/other taxpayers, and it’s adjusted for inflation.

“Extends for an additional year (through 2026) the denial of a current-year deduction for business losses of a noncorporate taxpayer to the extent they exceed business income plus a threshold amount.”

Suspension of Income Tax on Portion of Unemployment Compensation

Many traders collected unemployment compensation in 2020, as they lost their jobs during the Covid pandemic. Some commenced a TTS trading activity after the Covid crash in March 2020; it’s important to note trading gains do not conflict with unemployment insurance benefits. A TTS S-Corp with officer compensation, however, does conflict with unemployment benefits.

“For 2020, excludes from gross income up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation received for individuals with adjusted gross income of less than $150,000.”

Child Tax Credit

“Increases the child tax credit amount for 2021 only, to $3,600 for children under 6, and to $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17; expands definition of ‘qualifying child’ to include 17-year-olds.”

Credits for Paid Sick and Family Leave for Certain Self-Employed Individuals

“Extends the refundable paid sick time and paid family leave credits established by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act through September 30, 2021. For purposes of the family leave credit, between April 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021, eligible wages are increased to $12,000 from $10,000. Extends eligibility to additional self-employed workers.”

Student Loan Forgiveness

“For eligible student loans discharged in 2021-2025, the discharged amounts are excluded from income. The exclusion from income does not apply to the discharge of a loan made by certain lenders if the discharge is on account of services performed for the lender.”

Links

FACT SHEET: The American Rescue Plan Will Deliver Immediate Economic Relief to Families (U.S. Department of the Treasury, March 18, 2021)

The American Rescue Plan (Whitehouse.Gov). Consumer-friendly approach. 

Tax provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act (Journal of Accountancy, Feb. 27, 2021)

 

How Traders Improve Tax Savings With Year-End Strategies

November 11, 2020 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Tax Planning

Year-end tax planning for traders varies based on eligibility for trader tax status (TTS) in 2020 and 2021. There are different strategies to consider for investors, TTS traders using the capital gains method, and TTS traders using Section 475 MTM ordinary gain and loss treatment.

In this blog post, I examine all three groups and touch on the topics of new traders, S-Corps for employee benefits, Roth IRA conversions, and navigating the SALT cap.

Investors
The 2017 Tax Cuts And Jobs Act (TCJA) suspended investment fees and expenses for investors, and the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act did not change that. After TCJA, the only itemized deductions for investors are margin interest expense limited to investment income and stock-borrow fees. TCJA roughly doubled the standard deduction: with an inflation adjustment for 2020, it’s $24,800 married, $12,400 single, and $18,650 head of household. TCJA’s $10,000 cap on state and local taxes (SALT) leads many taxpayers to use the standard deduction.

TTS traders are better off; they deduct trading business expenses, startup costs, and home office expenses from gross income (Schedule C for sole proprietors). Brokerage commissions are transaction costs deducted from trading gains or losses; they are not separate expenses.

In 2020 with Covid-19 stay-at-home orders and remote work, many new traders entered the markets. Some achieved TTS for a partial year in 2020, whereas others won’t qualify until 2021. If your TTS commences in January 2021, you can capitalize on some hardware, software, and other intangible costs incurred in 2020 for depreciation and amortization expense with TTS’s commencement in early 2021. For example, computers, monitors, and home office furniture contribute to these costs at fair market value for TTS expensing in 2021. Some expenses like subscriptions, education, and software can be capitalized as Section 195 startup costs. Section 195 allows expensing up to $5,000 in 2021, with the rest deducted straight-line over 15 years. We allow TTS traders to go back six months before TTS inception for Section 195 costs and even further back for hardware costs.

Investors and TTS traders using the default realization method (not Section 475 MTM) should consider “tax-loss selling” before year-end to reduce capital gains income and the related tax liability. However, be careful to avoid wash-sale loss adjustments on securities at year-end 2020, which defer the tax loss to 2021. For example, suppose you realize a capital loss on Dec. 15, 2020, in Exxon and repurchase a substantially identical position (Exxon stock or option) 30 days before or after that date. In that case, it’s a wash-sale (WS) loss adjustment. The WS loss defers to 2021 when it is added to the replacement position’s cost basis. The rules are different for brokers vs. taxpayers, so avoid permanent WS between taxable and IRA accounts. Section 1256 contracts have MTM by default, so WS is a moot point on futures. (See more on WS on our website.)

If you expect a net capital loss for 2020 over the $3,000 capital loss limitation against other income, then you’ll have a capital loss carryover (CLCO) to 2021 and subsequent years. You can use up a CLCO with capital gains in the following years. For example, if your CLCO is $25,000 going into 2021, and you have 2021 capital gains of $30,000, then you’ll have $5,000 of net capital gains for 2021.

If you incur a significant capital loss in Section 1256 contracts, consider a 1256 loss carryback election made on Form 6781 filed with your 2020 tax return. That allows you to amend the prior three-year tax returns to apply the 1256 loss against 1256 gains only.

If your 2020 taxable income is considerably under the capital gains tax bracket of $80,000 for married and $40,000 for unmarried individuals, then your long-term capital gains (LTCG) tax rate is 0%. For example, assume your taxable married-filing-joint income is $50,000 as of late December 2020. You can sell investments held over 12 months with up to $30,000 of capital gains at a 0% tax rate. Don’t cut it too close, though: If your taxable income is $80,500, it will trigger the 15% rate on all LTCG. The 0% rate applies to Section 1256 contracts: 60% uses the LTCG rate, and 40% the short-term rate, which is the ordinary rate.

There is also the Affordable Care Act (ACA) 3.8% net investment tax (NIT) on net investment income (NII) for upper-income taxpayers with modified AGI above $250,000 married and $200,000 single. Tax-loss selling and other deductions lower AGI and NII, which can help avoid or reduce NIT.

President-elect Joe Biden’s Tax Plan proposed raising the top LTCG rate of 20% to a maximum ordinary rate of 39.6% (up from 37%), applying only to taxpayers with income over $1 million. Passing Biden’s tax plan will be difficult if the Senate remains under Republican control.

There may be further Covid-19 aid and tax relief bills enacted during the lame-duck session, impacting year-end tax planning. (See How Covid-19 Tax Relief & Aid Legislation Impacts Traders.)

Traders who have massive trading gains in 2020 should focus on 2020 Q4 estimated taxes due Jan. 15, 2021. Using the safe-harbor exception to cover 2019 tax liabilities, some traders can defer much of their tax payments to April 15, 2021. Just don’t lose the tax money in the markets in Q1 2021; consider setting it aside. (See Traders Should Focus On Q4 Estimated Taxes Due January 15.)

Traders eligible for TTS
If a trader qualifies for TTS in 2020, he or she can deduct trading business expenses, startup costs, and home-office expenses. The trader did not have to elect TTS or create an entity. (Section 475 requires a timely election.) It’s okay to commence TTS during the year, although we prefer not later than Sept. 30; otherwise, the IRS could challenge TTS for Q4 or less. (See How To Be Eligible For Substantial Tax Savings As A Trader.)

TTS traders planning to upgrade computers and other expenses should consider accelerating business expenses before year-end. New equipment and furniture need be purchased and put to use before year-end. TCJA mostly provides full expensing with tangible property expense up to $2,500 per item, Section 179 (100%) depreciation, or bonus depreciation.

TTS traders with Section 475 MTM
TTS traders using section 475 mark-to-market (MTM) accounting report ordinary gains or losses on Form 4797. Section 475 trades are not subject to WS or a capital-loss limitation so that an ordinary loss can offset income of any kind. MTM reports unrealized gains and losses at year-end, so the taxpayer doesn’t have to do tax-loss selling on TTS trading positions.

Many TTS traders also have segregated investment positions, so they should consider WS and tax-loss selling on investment positions. Investments are not subject to Section 475, meaning you can defer capital gains and achieve the LTCG rate on investment positions if held 12 months. If you trade in substantially identical positions that you also invest in, the IRS can attempt to recharacterize TTS trades vs. investments. Avoid that issue by considering a TTS LLC/partnership or TTS LLC/S-Corp for 2021 to ring-fence trading positions.

If you have significant Section 475 ordinary losses for 2020, the CARES Act provides substantial relief. The CARES Act allows a five-year net operating loss (NOL) carryback applied against income of any kind. CARES also temporarily reversed TCJA’s “excess business loss” (EBL) limitation of $500,000 married and $250,000 for other taxpayers (2018 limits and adjusted each year for inflation). Under TCJA, you have to add EBL amounts to NOL carryforwards.

For example, a TTS/475 trader filing single with a $300,000 ordinary loss and $25,000 TTS expenses would have a 2020 NOL of approximately $325,000. The $250,000 EBL limitation does not apply. This trader can carry back the 2020 NOL five years and use it against any type of income. Alternatively, if preferred, the taxpayer can elect to carry it forward instead. TCJA NOL rules apply again in 2021, limiting NOLs to 80% of taxable income with the remainder carried over to subsequent years. Under its latest Covid-19 relief bills, the House proposed revising the NOL and EBL rules, reapplying EBL to all years, and limiting the number of NOL carryback years. Many taxpayers already filed NOL carryback returns under CARES, so it’s hard to reverse those rules now.

If a TTS trader has significant TTS/475 income, they might be eligible for a 20% “qualified business income” (QBI) deduction. Sole proprietors only get this QBI deduction if they are under the QBI taxable income threshold of $326,600 married and $163,300 for other taxpayers (2020 threshold adjusted for inflation). Determine the QBI deduction on the lower of taxable income or QBI. Suppose you have a TTS S-Corp with officer compensation. In that case, there is also a phase-out/phase-in range based on wages and qualified property for an additional $100,000 married and $50,000 other taxpayers.

New traders
No matter when you started trading, you can claim TTS eligibility and add a Schedule C for the TTS expense deductions for all or part of the year. (See Will The IRS Deny Tax Benefits To Traders Due To Covid?)

It’s now too late in 2020 to form a new entity that can qualify for TTS, as we like to see entity trading for at least all of Q4. Instead, consider a Section 475 election for 2021, due by April 15, 2021, for individuals and March 15, 2021, for existing partnerships and S-Corps. (See Traders Elect 475 For Enormous Tax Savings.)

S-Corps for employee benefits
A TTS S-Corp can unlock officer health insurance (HI) and retirement plan deductions using officer payroll. The insurance premium can be added to officer payroll on the W-2. That opens an AGI deduction for HI on the officer’s tax return. The officer HI compensation is not subject to payroll tax (social security and Medicare).

If profitable as of early December 2020, the S-Corp can pay additional compensation up to a maximum of $150,000 to maximize a Solo 401(k) retirement plan contribution. For 2020, it combines a 100% deductible “elective deferral” (ED) contribution of $19,500 with a 25% deductible profit-sharing plan contribution (PSP) up to a maximum of $37,500. There is also an ED “catch-up provision” of $6,500 for 2020 for taxpayers age 50 and over. Together, the maximum 2020 tax-deductible contribution is $57,000, and when including the catch-up provision, it’s $63,500. The ED portion can be a Roth, so there would be no tax deduction but permanent tax-free status. The PSP must be traditional, though.

Payroll tax includes 12.4% social security taxes but not exceeding the social security base amount of $137,700 for 2020. Medicare tax of 2.9% is unlimited without a base. The employer and employee each pay half the payroll taxes, and the employer deducts its 50% share.

Joe Biden’s tax Plan proposes to subject earned income over $400,000 to payroll taxes. Social security taxes (FICA) only apply to the SSA base amount of $137,700 for 2020 and $142,800 for 2021. Biden’s plan creates a donut hole, but it should not affect traders since they only need $150,000 of wages to maximize a Solo 401(k) retirement plan. A TTS S Corp is not subject to IRS “reasonable compensation” rules as its underlying income is unearned.

An S-Corp accountable reimbursement plan can be used to pay the officer shareholder for home-office and other employee expenses. The IRS requires reimbursement before the year-end 2020.

Partners in LLCs taxed as partnerships can deduct “unreimbursed partnership expenses” (UPE). That is how they usually deduct home office expenses. UPE is more convenient than using an S-Corp accountable plan because the partner can arrange the UPE after year-end.

Roth IRA conversions
You may wish to convert a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA before the year-end. The conversion income is taxable in 2020. Avoid the 10% excise tax on early withdrawals before age 59 1⁄2 by paying the Roth conversion taxes outside the Roth plan. TCJA repealed the recharacterization option, so you can no longer reverse the conversion if the plan assets decline. Roth IRA conversions have no income limit, unlike regular Roth IRA contributions.

Navigating around the SALT cap
According to Bloomberg Law’s SALT Cap Workarounds May Catch On in More States After IRS OK (Nov. 10, 2020):

“More states are expected to pass laws letting businesses avoid the limit on personal tax deductions for state and local taxes, following IRS guidance approving the workaround. Already, states including New Jersey and Connecticut softened the blow of the $10,000 SALT cap with provisions for pass-through businesses like partnerships and S corporations, which are taxed normally at the owner level. The IRS said Monday in a notice that forthcoming proposed rules will allow the states’ workaround, which involves an entity-level tax that is offset by a corresponding individual income tax credit.

“The agency in 2019 killed off (T.D. 9864) a different workaround some states tried, which would have allowed state tax credits for donations made to charitable funds.”

More states might enact this workaround before the year-end 2020. Before you pay Q4 2020 estimated taxes due by Jan. 15, 2021, see if your state allows or requires your partnership or S-Corp to pay taxes for your benefit. Connecticut’s workaround law is mandatory.

For more year-end tax planning strategies, see Green’s 2020 Trader Tax Guide and stay tuned for blog updates.

Consider our 2020 tax compliance service, which includes year-end tax planning and 2020 tax return preparation. We accept new clients for our tax compliance service, providing you are a retail trader, a proprietary trader, or an investment manager. Most of our trader clients are eligible for trader tax status (TTS) benefits. We are pleased to invite traders who fall short of TTS in 2020 to use our 2020 tax compliance service. Perhaps, you will qualify for TTS in 2021 and need a 475 election then, too. By email, please request a new client evaluation (NCE).

Darren Neuschwander, CPA contributed to this blog post.


Traders Should Focus On Q4 Estimated Taxes Due Jan. 15

September 25, 2020 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Many traders have substantial trading gains for 2020 YTD, and they might owe 2020 estimated taxes paid to the IRS quarterly. Unlike wages, taxes aren’t withheld from trading gains. Others can wait on tax payments until April 15, 2021, when they file their 2020 tax return or extension.

The first two-quarters of estimated tax payments were due July 15, 2020 (the postponed date due to Covid), Q3 was due on Sept. 15, 2020, and Q4 is due on Jan. 15, 2021. Many new traders didn’t submit estimated payments for the first three quarters, waiting to see what Q4 brings. With full transparency at year-end, traders can make Q4 payments with more clarity. Some traders view estimated taxes similar to a margin loan with interest rates of 5% for Q1 and Q2, and 3% for Q3.

The safe-harbor rule for paying estimated taxes says there’s no penalty for underpayment if the payment equals 90% of the current-year tax bill or 100% of the previous year’s amount (whichever is lower). If your prior-year adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeded $150,000 or $75,000 if married filing separately, then the safe-harbor rate rises to 110%. 

Suppose your 2019 tax liability was $40,000, and AGI was over $150,000. Assume 2020 taxes will be approximately $100,000, and you haven’t paid estimates going into Q4. Using the safe-harbor rule, you can spread out the payment, submitting $44,000 (110% of $40,000) with a Q4 voucher on Jan. 15, 2021, and paying the balance of $56,000 by April 15, 2021. This is an excellent option to consider instead of sending $90,000 in Q4 (90% of $100,000). Consider setting aside that tax money due April 15 rather than risking it in the financial markets in Q1 2021. I’ve seen some traders lose their tax money owed and get into trouble with the IRS. 

In the above example, the trader should calculate the underpayment of estimated tax penalties for Q1, Q2, and Q3 on the 2020 Form 2210. Consider using Form 2210’s Annualized Income Installment Method (page 4) if the trader generated most of his trading income later in the year. The default method on 2210 allocates the annual income to each quarter, respectively.

If your 2019 income tax liability is significantly higher than your 2020 tax liability, consider covering 90% of the current year’s taxes with estimated taxes. Check your state’s estimated tax rules, too.

Learn more about estimated taxes at https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/estimated-taxes.

Employees have another way to avoid underpayment of estimated tax penalties on non-wage income. They can ask employers to increase their wage tax withholding in November and December, which the IRS treats as equally made throughout the year.

Darren Neuschwander CPA contributed to this blog post.


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.

 


April 15 Tax Deadline Moved To July 15 (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 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.


Execute S-Corp Officer Compensation With Employee Deductions Before Year-End

December 10, 2019 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA

TTS traders need an S-Corp trading company to arrange health insurance and retirement plan deductions. These deductions require earned income or self-employment income. Unlike trading gains, S-Corp salary is considered earned income.

The S-Corp must execute officer compensation, in conjunction with employee benefit deductions, through formal payroll tax compliance before the year-end 2019. Otherwise, traders miss the boat. TTS is an absolute must since an S-Corp investment company cannot have tax-deductible wages, health insurance, and retirement plan contributions. This S-Corp is not required to have “reasonable compensation” as other types of businesses are, so a TTS trader may determine officer compensation based on how much to reimburse for health insurance, and how much they want to contribute to a retirement plan. If you are in the QBI phase-out range, you might wish to have higher wages to increase a QBI deduction. For payroll tax compliance services, I recommend paychex.com; it has a dedicated team for our TTS S-Corp clients. Sole proprietor and partnership TTS traders cannot pay salaries to 2% or more owners.

TTS S-Corps may only deduct health insurance for the months the S-Corp was operational and qualified for TTS. Employer-provided health insurance, including Cobra, is not deductible. It doesn’t need to be profitable for the health insurance deduction.

A taxpayer can deduct a contribution to a health savings account (HSA) without TTS or earned income. HSA contribution limits for 2019 are $3,500 individual and $7,100 for family coverage. There’s an additional $1,000 for age 55 or older. Some employers offer a flexible spending account (FSA) for covering health care copayments, deductibles, some drugs, and other health care costs. Both HSAs and FSAs must be fully funded and utilized before the year-end.

TTS S-Corps formed later in the year can unlock a retirement plan deduction by paying sufficient officer compensation in December when results for the year are evident. Traders should only fund a retirement plan from trading income, not losses.

You must open a Solo 401(k) retirement plan for a TTS S-Corp with a financial intermediary before the year-end 2019. Plan to pay the 2019 100%-deductible elective deferral amount up to a maximum of $19,000 (or $25,000 if age 50 or older) with December payroll. That elective deferral is due by the end of January 2020. You can fund the 25% profit-sharing plan (PSP) portion of the S-Corp Solo 401(k) up to a maximum of $37,000 by the due date of the 2019 S-Corp tax return, including extensions, which means Sept. 15, 2020. The maximum PSP contribution requires wages of $148,000 ($37,000 divided by 25% defined contribution rate). Tax planning calculations will show the projected outcome of income tax savings vs. payroll tax costs for the various options.

Consider a Solo 401(k) Roth, where the contribution is not deductible, but the contribution and growth within the Roth are permanently tax-free. Traditional plans have a tax deduction upfront, and all distributions are subject to ordinary income taxes in retirement. Traditional retirement plans have required minimum distributions (RMD) by age 70½, whereas Roth plans don’t have RMD.

Setting up a TTS S-Corp for 2020
If you missed out on employee benefits in 2019, then consider an LLC with S-Corp election for 2020. You can form a single-member LLC by mid-December 2019, obtain the employee identification number (EIN), and open the LLC brokerage account before year-end to begin trading in it on Jan. 1, 2020. The single-member LLC is a disregarded entity for 2019, which avoids an entity tax return filing for the 2019 partial year. A spouse can be added as a member of the LLC on Jan. 1, 2020, which means the LLC will file a partnership return for 2020. If you want health insurance and retirement plan deductions, then your single-member or spousal-member LLC should submit a 2020 S-Corp election within 75-days of Jan. 1, 2020. The S-Corp should also consider making a Section 475 MTM election on securities only for 2020 within 75 days of Jan. 1, 2020.

Clients of our firm GNM should sign up for S-Corp Tax Compliance (Traders) and work with their assigned CPA before the year-end.

If you want to set up an LLC in December with S-Corp election for 2020, start with a 45-minute paid consultation with Robert A. Green, CPA. You can purchase our entity formation service afterward.


Tax Planning At Year-End Generates The Most Savings

October 26, 2019 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

The best way to reduce income taxes is with year-end tax planning. Don’t wait until February when you begin preparation of 2019 tax returns; that’s too late for many tax savings strategies.

If you have an S-Corp that is eligible for trader tax status (TTS), don’t miss that section further down below, which includes essential year-end transactions, including formal payroll tax compliance for officer compensation. That unlocks the health insurance and or retirement plan deductions.

Defer income and accelerate tax deductions
Consider the time-honored strategy of deferring income and accelerating tax deductions if you don’t expect your taxable income to decline in 2020. We expect tax rates to be the same for 2020, although the IRS will adjust the tax brackets for inflation. Enjoy the time-value of money with income deferral.

Year-end tax planning is a challenge for traders because they have wide fluctuations in trading results, making it difficult to forecast their income. Those expecting to be in a lower tax bracket in 2020 should consider income deferral strategies. Conversely, a 2019 TTS trader with ordinary losses, waiting to be in a higher tax bracket in 2020, might want to consider income acceleration strategies.

Taxpayers with trader tax status in 2019 should consider accelerating trading business expenses, such as purchasing business equipment with full expensing.

Don’t assume that accelerating itemized deductions is also a smart move; there may be two problems. TCJA suspended and curtailed various itemized deductions after 2017, so there is no sense in expediting a non-deductible item. Even with the acceleration of deductible expenses, many taxpayers will be better off using the 2019 standard deduction of $24,400 married or $12,200 single. If itemized deductions are below the standard deduction, consider a strategy to “bunch” them into one year and take the standard deduction in other years.

Accelerate income and defer certain deductions
A TTS trader with substantial ordinary losses (Section 475) under the “excess business loss limitation” (EBL, see below) should consider accelerating income to soak up the allowable business loss, instead of having an NOL carryover. Try to advance enough income to use the standard deduction and take advantage of lower tax brackets. Be sure to stay below the thresholds for unlocking various types of AGI-dependent deductions and credits.

Roth IRA conversion: Convert a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA before year-end to accelerate income. The conversion income is taxable in 2019, but the 10% excise tax on early withdrawals before age 59½ is avoided providing you pay the conversion taxes from outside the Roth plan. One concern is that TCJA repealed the recharacterization option; you can no longer reverse it if the plan assets decline after conversion. There isn’t an income limit for making Roth IRA conversions, whereas there is for making regular Roth IRA contributions. For example, a taxpayer filing single has a $405,000 TTS/475 ordinary loss. However, the excess business loss limitation is $255,000, and $150,000 is an NOL carryover. Consider a Roth conversion to soak up most of the $255,000 allowed business loss, and leave enough income to use the standard deduction and lower tax brackets.

Sell winning positions: Another way a trader can accelerate income is to sell open winning positions to realize capital gains.

Consider selling long-term capital gain positions. The 2019 long-term capital gains rates are 0% for taxable income under $39,375 single, and $78,750 married filing jointly. The 15% capital gains rate applies to taxable income up to $434,550 for filing single and $488,850 married filing jointly. The top bracket rate of 20% applies above those amounts.

Net investment tax: Investment fees and expenses are not deductible for calculating net investment income (NII) for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) 3.8% net investment tax (NIT) on unearned income. NIT only applies to individuals with NII and modified adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeding $200,000 single, $250,000 married filing jointly, or $125,000 married filing separately. The IRS does not index these ACA thresholds for inflation. NII includes capital gains and Section 475 ordinary income.

Business expenses and itemized deduction vs. standard deduction

Business expenses: TTS traders are entitled to deduct business expenses and home-office deductions from gross income. The home office deduction requires income, except for the mortgage interest and real property tax portion. The SALT cap on state and local taxes does not apply to the home office deduction. TCJA expanded full expensing of business property; traders can deduct 100% of these costs in the year of acquisition, providing they place the item into service before year-end. If you have TTS in 2019, considering going on a shopping spree before January 1. There is no sense deferring TTS expenses because you cannot be sure you will qualify for TTS in 2020.

Employee business expenses: Ask your employer if they have an “accountable plan” for reimbursing employee-business costs. You must “use it or lose it” before the year-end. TCJA suspended unreimbursed employee business expenses. A TTS S-Corp should use an accountable plan to reimburse employee business expenses since the trader/owner is an employee of the S-Corp.

Unreimbursed partnership expenses: Partners in LLCs taxed as partnerships can deduct unreimbursed partnership expenses (UPE). That is how they usually deduct home office expenses. UPE is more convenient than using an S-Corp accountable plan because the partner can arrange the UPE after the year-end. The IRS doesn’t want S-Corps to use UPE.

SALT cap: TCJA’s most contentious provision was capping state and local income, sales, and property taxes (SALT) at $10,000 per year ($5,000 for married filing separately) – and not indexing it for inflation. Many high-tax states continue to contest the SALT cap, but they haven’t prevailed in court. The IRS reinforced the new law by blocking various states’ attempts to recast SALT payments as charitable contributions, or payroll tax as a business expense. Stay tuned to news updates about SALT.

Investment fees and expenses: TCJA suspended all miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor, which includes investment fees and expenses. TCJA left just two itemized deductions for investors: Investment-interest expenses limited to investment income, with the excess as a carryover, and stock borrow fees for short-sellers.

Standard deduction: TCJA roughly doubled the 2018 standard deduction and suspended and curtailed several itemized deductions. The 2019 standard deduction is $12,200 single, $24,400 married, and $18,350 head of household. There is an additional standard deduction of $1,300 for the aged or the blind. Many more taxpayers will use the standard deduction, which might simplify their tax compliance work. For convenience sake, some taxpayers may feel inclined to stop tracking itemized deductions because they figure they will use the standard deduction. Don’t overlook the impact of these deductions on state tax filings where you might get some tax relief for itemizing deductions.

Estimated income taxes and AMT

Estimated income taxes: If you already reached the SALT cap, you don’t need to prepay 2019 state estimated income taxes by December 31, 2019. Pay federal and state estimated taxes owed when due by January 15, 2020, with the balance of your tax liabilities payable by April 15, 2020. You can gain six months of additional time by filing an automatic extension on time, but late-payment penalties and interest will apply on any tax balance due. (See Tax Extensions: 12 Tips To Save You Money.)

Many traders skip making quarterly estimated tax payments during the year, figuring they might incur trading losses later in the year. Catch up with the Q4 estimate due by January 15. Some rely on the safe harbor exception to cover their prior year taxes. TTS S-Corp traders should consider withholding additional taxes on year-end paychecks in connection with retirement plan contributions, which helps avoid underestimated tax penalties since the IRS treats wage withholding as being made throughout the year.

AMT: In prior years, taxpayers had to figure out how much they could prepay their state without triggering alternative minimum tax (AMT) since state taxes are not deductible for AMT taxable income. It’s easier in 2019 with SALT capped at $10,000 and because TCJA raised the 2019 AMT exemptions to $510,300 single and $1,020,600 married filing jointly. Taxpayers subject to AMT should not accelerate AMT preference items.

Avoid wash sale loss adjustments

Wash sales: Taxpayers must report wash sale (WS) loss adjustments on securities based on substantially identical positions across all accounts, including IRAs. Conversely, brokers assess WS only on identical positions per the one account. Active securities traders should use a trade accounting program or service to identify potential WS loss problems, especially going into year-end.

In taxable accounts, a trader can break the chain by selling the position before year-end and not repurchasing a substantially identical position 30 days before or after in any of his taxable or IRA accounts. Avoid WS between taxable and IRA accounts throughout the year, as that is otherwise a permanent WS loss. (Starting a new entity effective January 1, 2020, can break the chain on individual account WS at year-end 2019 provided you don’t purposely avoid WS with the related party entity.)

WS losses might be preferable to capital loss carryovers at year-end 2019 for TTS traders. A Section 475 election in 2020 converts year-end 2019 WS losses on TTS positions (not investment positions) into ordinary losses in 2020. That’s better than a capital loss carryover into 2020, which might give you pause to making a Section 475 election. You want a clean slate with no remaining capital losses before electing Section 475 ordinary income and loss. (See How To Avoid Taxes On Wash Sale Losses.)

Trader tax status and Section 475

Trader tax status: If you qualify for TTS (business expense treatment — no election needed) in 2019, accelerate trading expenses into that qualification period as a sole proprietor or entity. If you don’t qualify until 2020, try to defer trading expenses until then. You may also capitalize and amortize (expense) Section 195 startup costs and Section 248 organization costs in the new TTS business, going back six months before commencement. TTS is a prerequisite for electing and using Section 475 MTM. (See How Traders Get Enormous Tax Deductions, And Investors Do Not.)

Section 475 MTM: TTS traders choose Section 475 on securities for exemption from wash-sale loss rules and the $3,000 capital loss limitation — and to be eligible for the 20% QBI deduction. To make a 2019 Section 475 election, existing individual taxpayers had to file an election statement with the IRS by April 15, 2019 (March 15 for existing S-Corps and partnerships). If they filed that election statement on time, they need to complete the election process by submitting a 2019 Form 3115 with their 2019 tax return. Those who missed the 2019 election deadline may want to consider the election for 2020. Capital loss carryovers are a concern; use them up against capital gains but not Section 475 ordinary income. Once you make a 475 election, it remains in effect; you don’t have to elect it every year. You are entitled to revoke a 475 election, in the same manner, you elect it. If you stop qualifying for TTS, then 475 treatment is suspended until you requalify.

If you make a Section 475 election by April 15, 2020, it takes effect on January 1, 2020. In converting from the realization (cash) method to the mark-to-market (MTM) method, you need to make a Section 481(a) adjustment on January 1, 2020. It’s unrealized capital gains, and losses on open TTS securities positions held on December 31, 2019. Do not apply Section 475 to investment positions. If you are not a TTS trader as of year-end 2019, then you won’t have a Section 481(a) adjustment. (See Section 481(a) Positive Adjustment Spread Period Changes.)

A “new taxpayer” entity can elect Section 475 within 75 days of inception. That would come in handy if you missed the individual sole proprietor deadline (April 15, 2019) for choosing Section 475. Forming a new entity on November 1, 2019, or later, is too late for establishing TTS for the 2019 short calendar year. Consider waiting until January 1, 2020, for starting a new entity with TTS and electing Section 475.

20% deduction on qualified business income
In August 2018, the IRS issued proposed reliance regulations (Proposed §1.199A) for the TCJA’s 20% deduction on qualified business income (QBI) in pass-through entities. On January 18, 2019, the IRS issued the final 199A regs. The proposed and final regulations confirm that 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 2019 taxable income (TI) cap is $421,400/$210,700 (married/other taxpayers). 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 includes Section 475 ordinary income and loss, and trading business expenses. QBI excluded capital gains and losses, Section 988 forex and swap ordinary income or loss, dividends, and interest income. Our firm took a favorable position on QBI for traders. (See A Rationale For Using QBI Tax Treatment For Traders.)

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

Taxpayers might be able to increase the QBI deduction with smart year-end planning. If taxable income falls within the phase-out range for a specified service activity, or even above for a non-service business, you might need higher wages, including officer compensation, to avoid a W-2 wage limitation on the QBI deduction. Deferring income can also help get under various QBI restrictions and thresholds.

Net operating losses and the Section 1256 loss carryback election

Net operating losses: Section 475 ordinary losses and TTS business expenses contribute to net operating loss (NOL) carryforwards, which are limited to 80% of taxable income in the subsequent year(s). Get immediate use of some or all of NOLs with a Roth IRA conversion before year-end and other income acceleration strategies. TCJA repealed NOL carrybacks after 2017 with one exception; farmers may carry back an NOL two tax years. TCJA made NOL carryforwards unlimited, changing the carryforward period from 20 years. Repealing NOL carrybacks negatively impacts TTS traders using 475 ordinary loss treatment. We helped traders obtain significant NOL refunds before 2018, which helped them remain in business. An “excess business loss” (EBL) over the limitation is an NOL carryforward, and accelerating non-business income won’t avoid EBL. (See EBL below.)

Section 1256 loss carryback election: The only remaining carryback for traders is a Section 1256 loss carryback to the prior three tax years, offset against 1256 gains, not other types of income. Any loss remaining is carried forward. Consider making a Section 1256 loss carryback election on a 2019 Form 6781 timely filed with a 2019 tax return.

There are other tax advantages to trading Section 1256 contracts. They have lower 60/40 capital gains tax rates, meaning 60% (including day trades) use the lower long-term capital gains rate, and 40% use the short-term rate, which is the ordinary tax rate. At the maximum tax brackets for 2019, the top Section 1256 contract tax rate is 26.8% —10.2% lower than the highest ordinary rate of 37%. Section 1256 tax rates are 4.2% to 12% lower vs. ordinary rates depending on which tax bracket applies. Section 1256 contracts are marked-to-market (MTM), so you don’t have to do tax-loss selling at year-end. (See Trading Futures & Other Section 1256 Contracts Has Tax Advantages.)

Limitations on excess business losses and business interest expense

Excess business loss limitation: TCJA included an “excess business loss” (EBL) limitation of $500,000/$250,000 (married/other taxpayers) for 2018. (The 2019 inflation-adjusted limit is $510,000/$255,000 (married/other taxpayers). Aggregate EBL from all pass-through businesses: A profitable company can offset another business with losses to remain under the limit. Include wage income in aggregate EBL. Other types of income and non-business losses do not affect the EBL calculation (i.e., capital gains and losses). EBL over the limit is an NOL carryforward.

Example of EBL limitation: TTS/475 trader filing single has an ordinary loss of $500,000 for 2019. It’s considered a business loss. He has income from wages of $100,000, so his net EBL is $400,000. The 2019 EBL limitation is $255,000 and the 2019 NOL carryover to 2020 is $145,000 ($400,000 minus $255,000).

Business interest expense: TCJA introduced a limitation on deducting business interest expense in Section 163(j). The 30% limitation should not impact most TTS traders because the $25 million three-year average “gross receipts” threshold applies to net trading gains, not proceeds. That’s good news because if gross receipts used total sales proceeds on trades, then a TTS trader with trading losses might have a business interest expense limitation. With net trading gains being the standard, only more substantial hedge funds might be impacted.

S-Corp officer compensation, health insurance, and retirement plan deductions
TTS traders need an S-Corp trading company to arrange health insurance and retirement plan deductions. These deductions require earned income or self-employment income, and trading gains are not that. S-Corp salary is considered earned income.

2019 S-Corp: The S-Corp must execute officer compensation, in conjunction with employee benefit deductions, through formal payroll tax compliance before the year-end 2019. Otherwise, traders miss the boat. TTS is an absolute must since an S-Corp investment company cannot have tax-deductible wages, health insurance, and retirement plan contributions. This S-Corp is not required to have “reasonable compensation” as other types of businesses are, so a TTS trader may determine officer compensation based on how much to reimburse for health insurance, and how much they want to contribute to a retirement plan. Keep an eye out for the QBI deduction; if you are in the QBI phase-out range, you might wish to have higher wages to increase a QBI deduction. For payroll tax compliance services, I recommend paychex.com; they have a dedicated team for our TTS S-Corp clients. Sole proprietor and partnership TTS traders cannot pay salaries to 2% or more owners.

Health insurance deduction: A TTS S-Corp may only deduct health insurance for the months the S-Corp was operational and qualified for TTS. Employer-provided health insurance, including Cobra, is not deductible. A TTS S-Corp doesn’t need to be profitable for the health insurance deduction.

Health Savings Account: A taxpayer can deduct a contribution to a health savings account (HSA) without needing TTS eligibility or earned income. HSA contribution limits for 2019 are $3,500 individual and $7,100 for family coverage. There’s an additional $1,000 for age 55 or older. Fully fund and utilize the HSA before year-end.

Flexible Spending Account: Some employers offer a flexible spending account (FSA) for covering health care copayments, deductibles, some drugs, and other health care costs. Fully fund and utilize the FSA before year-end.

Solo 401(k) retirement plan: A TTS S-Corp formed later in the year can unlock a retirement plan deduction for an entire year by paying sufficient officer compensation in December when results for the year are evident. Traders should only fund a retirement plan from trading income, not losses.

You must establish (open) a Solo 401(k) retirement plan for a TTS S-Corp with a financial intermediary before the year-end 2019. Plan to pay the 2019 100%-deductible elective deferral amount up to a maximum of $19,000 (or $25,000 if age 50 or older) with December payroll. That elective deferral is due by the end of January 2020. You can fund the 25% profit-sharing plan (PSP) portion of the S-Corp Solo 401(k) up to a maximum of $37,000 by the due date of the 2019 S-Corp tax return, including extensions, which means September 15, 2020. The maximum PSP contribution requires wages of $148,000 ($37,000 divided by 25% defined contribution rate). Do tax planning calculations to see the projected outcome of income tax savings vs. payroll tax costs for the various options.

Consider a Solo 401(k) Roth, where the contribution is not deductible, but the contribution and growth within the Roth are permanently tax-free. Traditional plans have a tax deduction upfront, and all distributions are subject to ordinary income taxes in retirement. Traditional retirement plans have required minimum distributions (RMD) by age 70 ½, whereas Roth plans don’t have RMD.

Setting up a TTS S-Corp for 2020
If you missed out on employee benefits in 2019, then consider an LLC with S-Corp election for 2020. If you wait to start your entity formation process on January 1, 2020, you won’t be ready to trade in an entity account on January 1, 2020. Instead, you can form a single-member LLC by mid-December 2019, obtain the employee identification number (EIN), and open the LLC brokerage account before year-end. The single-member LLC is a disregarded entity for 2019, which avoids an entity tax return filing for the 2019 partial year. If desired, add your spouse as a member of the LLC on January 1, 2020, which means the LLC will file a partnership return. If you want health insurance and retirement plan deductions, then your single-member or spousal-member LLC should submit a 2020 S-Corp election by March 15, 2020. The S-Corp should also consider making a Section 475 MTM election on securities only for 2020 by March 15.

Tax-loss selling of financial instruments
If you own an investment or trading portfolio, you have the opportunity to reduce capital gains taxes via “tax-loss selling.” If you realized significant short-term capital gains year-to-date in 2019 and have open positions with substantial unrealized capital losses, you should consider selling (realizing) some of those losses to reduce 2019 capital gains taxes. Don’t repurchase the losing position 30 days before or after, as that would negate the tax loss with wash-sale loss rules.

The IRS has rules to prevent the deferral of income and acceleration of losses in offsetting positions that lack sufficient economic risk. These rules include straddles, the constructive sale rule, and shorting against the box. Also, be aware of “constructive receipt of income” — you cannot receive payment for services, turn your back on that income, and defer it to the next tax year.

Tax-loss selling is inefficient for short-term positions that reduce long-term capital gains. It’s also a moot point with Section 1256 and Section 475 positions since they are mark-to-market positions reporting realized and unrealized gains and losses.

Married couples should compare filing joint vs. separate
Each year, married couples choose between “married filing jointly” (MFJ) vs. “married filing separately” (MFS). TCJA fixed several inequities in filing status, including the tax brackets by making single, MFJ and MFS equivalent, except for divergence at the top rate of 37% for single filers, retaining some of the marriage penalty. There are other issues to consider, too.

Married couples may be able to improve QBI deductions, AGI, and other income-threshold dependent deductions, and credits with MFS in 2019. It’s wise to enter each spouse’s income, gain, loss, and expense separately and have the tax planning and preparation software compare MFJ vs. MFS. In a community property state, there are special rules for allocating income between spouses.

Filing MFS might unlock a QBI deduction, where one spouse might price the other spouse out of a QBI deduction based on exceeding the income cap for a specified service activity.

Miscellaneous considerations for individuals
Sell off passive-loss activities to utilize suspended passive-activity losses.

Maximize contributions to retirement plans. That lowers AGI and other income thresholds, which can unlock more of a QBI deduction, reduce net investment tax, and unlock credits and other tax benefits. Consider non-deductible IRA contributions.

The IRS has many obstacles to deferring income, including passive-activity loss rules, a requirement that certain taxpayers use the accrual method of accounting and limitations on charitable contributions. TCJA allows more businesses to use the cash method.

Consider a charitable remainder trust to bunch philanthropic contributions for itemizing deductions. (Ask Fidelity or Schwab about it.)

Donate appreciated securities to charity: You get a charitable deduction at the FMV and avoid capital gains taxes. (This is a favorite strategy by billionaires, and you can use it, too.)

Retirees must take required minimum distributions (RMD) by age 70½ unless it’s a Roth IRA. Per TCJA, consider directing your traditional retirement plan to make “qualified charitable distributions” (QCD). That satisfies the RMD rule with the equivalent of an offsetting charitable deduction, allowing you to take the standard deduction rather than itemize charitable contributions.

TCJA improves family tax planning: Section 529 qualified tuition plans now can be used to pay for tuition at an elementary or secondary public, private or religious school, up to $10,000 per year (check with your state). The 2019 annual gift exclusion is $15,000, and its $155,000 to noncitizen spouses; the 2019 unified credit for federal estate tax is $11.40 million per person, and “step-up in basis” rules still avoid capital gains taxes on inherited appreciated property. TTS traders should also consider hiring adult children as employees. (See How To Save Taxes With Children.)

TCJA created Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZ) “to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities throughout the country and U.S. possessions by providing tax benefits to investors who invest eligible capital into these communities. Taxpayers may defer tax on eligible capital gains by making an appropriate investment in a Qualified Opportunity Fund and meeting other requirements,” per Opportunity Zones Frequently Asked Questions.)

Adam Manning CPA contributed to this blog post. 

This blog post is an updated version of chapter 9 on tax planning in Green’s 2019 Trader Tax GuideFree upgrade: If you purchase Green’s 2019 Trader Tax Guide after October 15, 2019, we will email you online access to Green’s 2020 Trader Tax Guide around the middle of January 2020.

Our CPAs are standing by in November and December to help clients with 2019 year-end tax planning. Our tax compliance service includes tax planning and preparation, and we look forward to helping you execute the above tax strategies. Please contact us soon.

Consider a 45-minute consultation with Robert A. Green, CPA to discuss eligibility for TTS and if an entity if helpful to you. Upgrade to our entity formation service after, if warranted.

Join my upcoming Webinar on November 13, 2019, or watch the recording after to learn more about this content: Tax Planning At Year-End Generates The Most Savings