Small Business Retirement Plans Fuel Litigation



Small businesses facing audits and potentially huge tax penalties over certain types of retirement plans are filing lawsuits against those who marketed, designed and sold the plans. The 412(i) and 419(e) plans were marketed in the past several years as a way for small business owners to set up retirement or welfare benefits plans while leveraging huge tax savings,but the IRS put them on a list of abusive tax shelters and has more recently focused audits on them.The penalties for such transactions are extremely high and can pile up quickly - $100,000 per individual and $200,000 per entity per tax year for each failure to disclose the transaction - often exceeding the disallowed taxes.There are business owners who owe $6,000 in taxes but have been assessed $1.2 million in penalties.The existing cases involve many types of businesses, including doctors' offices,dental practices, grocery store owners, mortgage companies and restaurant owners.Some are trying to negotiate with the IRS. Others are not waiting. A class action has been filed and cases in several states are ongoing. The business owners claim that they were targeted by insurance companies; and their agents to purchase the plans without any disclosure that the IRS viewed the plans as abusive tax shelters. Other defendants include financial advisors who recommended the plans, accountants who failed to fill out required tax forms and law firms that drafted opinion letters legitimizing the plans, which were sed as marketing tools.A 412(i) plan is a form of defined benefit pension plan. A 419(e) plan is a 
similar type of health and benefits plan. Typically, these were sold to small, privately held businesses with fewer than 20 employees and several million
dollars in gross revenues. What distinguished a legitimate plan from the plans at issue were the life insurance policies used to fund them. The employer would make large 
cash contributions in the form of insurance premiums, deducting the entire amounts. The insurance policy was designed to have a "springing cash value," meaning that for the first 5-7 years it would have a near-zero cash value, and then spring up in value. Just before it sprung, the owner would purchase the policy from the trust at the low cash value, thus making a tax-free transaction. After the cash value shot up, the owner could take tax-free loans against it.
Meanwhile, the insurance agents collected exorbitant commissions on the premiums - 80 to 110 percent of the first year's premium, which could exceed $1 million.Technically, the IRS's problems with the plans were that the "springing cash" structure disqualified them from being 412(i) plans and that the premiums, which dwarfed any payout to a beneficiary, violated incidental death benefit rules.Under §6707A of the Internal Revenue Code, once the IRS flags something as an abusive tax shelter, or "listed transaction," penalties are imposed per year for each failure to disclose it. Another allegation is that businesses weren't told that they had to file Form 8886, which discloses a listed transaction.

According to Lance Wallach of Plainview, New York who testifies as an expert in cases involving the plans,
the vast majority of accountants either did not file the forms for their clients or did not fill them out correctly.Because the IRS did not begin to focus audits on these types of plans until some years after they became listed transactions, the penalties have already stacked up by the time of the audits.Another reason plaintiffs are going to court is that there are few alternatives the penalties are not appealable and must be paid before filing anadministrative claim for a refund.


 

6707A Penalties & 419 Plans Litigation: A warning for 419, 412i, Sec.79 and captive insura...

6707A Penalties & 419 Plans Litigation: A warning for 419, 412i, Sec.79 and captive insura...: Web CPA The dangers of being "listed" Accounting Today: October 25, 2010 By: Lance Wallach Taxpayers who previously adopted 419 pl...

IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program Report

Offshore International Today                                        

IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program Reopens




Today, the Internal Revenue Service reopened the offshore voluntary disclosure program to help people hiding offshore accounts get current with their taxes.  Additionally, the IRS revealed the collection of more than $4.4 billion so far from the two previous international programs.

The Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) was reopened following continued strong interest from taxpayers and tax practitioners after the closure of the 2011 and 2009 programs. The third offshore program comes as the IRS continues working on a wide range of international tax issues and follows ongoing efforts with the Justice Department to pursue criminal prosecution of international tax evasion.  This program will remain open indefinitely until otherwise announced.

Lance Wallach and his associates have received thousands of phone calls from concerned clients with questions about the prior programs. Some of Lance’s associates are still very busy helping people with the last program. Not a single person has been audited and most are pleased with the results and are now able to sleep easily without worrying about the IRS.  According to Lance, it requires years of experience to obtain a good result from the program.
He suggests using a CPA-certified, ex-IRS agent with lots of international tax experience. While this is not a requirement to file under the program, Lance has heard many horror stories from people who have tried to file by themselves or who have used inexperienced accountants.

“Our focus on offshore tax evasion continues to produce strong, substantial results for the nation’s taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We have billions of dollars in hand from our previous efforts, and we have more people wanting to come in and get right with the government. This new program makes good sense for taxpayers still hiding assets overseas and for the nation’s tax system.”

The new program is similar to the 2011 program in many ways, but it has a few key differences. Unlike last year, there is no set deadline for people to apply.  However, the terms of the program could change at any time going forward.  For example, the IRS may increase penalties in the program for all or some taxpayers or defined classes of taxpayers – or decide to end the program entirely at any point.

“As we've said all along, people need to come in and get right with us before we find you,” Shulman said. “We are following more leads and the risk for people who do not come in continues to increase.”

The third offshore effort accompanies another announcement that Shulman made today, that the IRS has collected $3.4 billion so far from people who participated in the 2009 offshore program.  That figure reflects closures of about 95 percent of the cases from the 2009 program. On top of that, the IRS has collected an additional $1 billion from up front payments required under the 2011 program.  That number will grow as the IRS processes the 2011 cases.

In all, the IRS has seen 33,000 voluntary disclosures from the 2009 and 2011 offshore initiatives. Since the 2011 program closed last September, hundreds of taxpayers have come forward to make voluntary disclosures.  Those who come in after the closing of the 2011 program will be able to be treated under the provisions of the new OVDP program.

The overall penalty structure for the new program is the same for 2011, except for taxpayers in the highest penalty category.

The new program’s penalty framework requires individuals to pay a penalty of 27.5 percent of the highest aggregate balance in foreign bank accounts/entities or the value of foreign assets during the eight full tax years prior to the disclosure. That is up from 25 percent in the 2011 program. Some taxpayers will be eligible for 5 or 12.5 percent penalties; these remain the same in the new program as in 2011.

Participants must file all original and amended tax returns and include payment for back-taxes and interest for up to eight years as well as paying accuracy-related and/or delinquency penalties.

Participants face a 27.5 percent penalty, but taxpayers in limited situations can qualify for a 5 percent penalty. Smaller offshore accounts will face a 12.5 percent penalty. People whose offshore accounts or assets did not surpass $75,000 in any calendar year covered by the new OVDP will qualify for this lower rate. As under the prior programs, taxpayers who feel that the penalty is disproportionate may opt instead to be examined.

The IRS recognizes that its success in offshore enforcement and in the disclosure programs has raised awareness related to tax filing obligations.  This includes awareness by dual citizens and others who may be delinquent in filing, but owe no U.S. tax. 


Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, abusive tax shelters, financial, international tax, and estate planning.  He writes about 412(i), 419, Section79, FBAR, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education’s CPA’s Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as the AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007, wallachinc@gmail.com or visit www.taxadvisorexpert.com.




The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any other type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

Will Your Municipal Bond or Your Life Insurance Company Still Have Value Next Year?


Investor protection with municipal bonds is so spotty that there is potential for much mischief.

Disclosure, that bedrock of fair securities markets, is the heart of the problem facing municipal investors. Municipal issuers often don’t file the most basic reports outlining their operating results or material changes in their financial conditions.

Even though hospitals, cities and states that borrow money are required by their bond covenants to make such filings, nondisclosure among the nearly 60,000 issuers is common.

With the S.E.C. largely on the sidelines, disclosure enforcement in the municipal market is left to participants. Do you think they really want to police themselves very closely? That leaves individuals who trade the securities, the investors, and the dealers, to monitor the disclosure information. There is almost no penalty for not complying with those requirements. This is another disaster waiting to happen. If you own municipal bonds, you had better be careful. You may want to investigate www.financeexperts.org and select someone that knows what they are doing to assist you.

Do you have a life insurance or annuity policy? If so, you may be in trouble. The plummeting financial markets are dragging down the life insurance industry, which is an important component of the U.S. economy. Continuously escalating losses weaken the companies’ capital and eat away at investor confidence.

More than a dozen life insurers have been awaiting action on applications for aid from the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, and the industry is expecting an answer to its request for a bank-style bailout in the upcoming weeks. So far, the government hasn’t stated whether or not insurers qualify for the program.
Life insurers have undoubtedly been taking a beating in recent weeks. The Dow Jones Wilshire U.S. Life Insurance Index has fallen 82% since its May 2007 all time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost 21% this year to date.

Several of the hardest-hit companies are century-old names that insure the lives of millions of Americans. Shares of Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. are down 93% as of the close on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 from their 2008 high. MetLife Inc. and Prudential Financial Inc. are both suffering as the value of their vast investment portfolios declines.

As the economy weakens, analysts say many insurers face losses can eat away at the capital cushions regulators require them to maintain. In addition, experts say the industry is going through its most chaotic period in recent history and it’s a pretty scary situation right now.
The consequences of a weakened life-insurance industry for the overall economy are significant because life insurers are among the biggest holders of the nation’s corporate debt. For example, if life insurers stop buying bonds, the capital markets may not fully recover. Their buying activity has already declined.

Wall Street analysts say another problem for some life insurers is obligations for variable annuities, a retirement-income product that often guarantees minimum withdrawals or investment returns. As stock markets plunge to new lows, life insurers need to set aside additional funds to show regulators they can meet their obligations, further crimping sparse capital.

Life insurers’ woes have come largely from investment grade corporate bonds, commercial real estate and mortgages, regulatory filings show. Many insurers ended 2008 with high levels of losses that, due to accounting rules, they haven’t had to record on their bottom lines.
Hartford Financial had $14.6 billion in unrealized losses at year’s end. In addition, Hartford Insurance, through its agents, sold life insurance policies that were part of a welfare benefit plan popularly known as Niche Marketing, which has long been under IRS attack and is almost certainly regarded by the Service as an abusive tax shelter and/or listed transaction. Prudential, the second-largest insurer by assets, had nearly $11.3 billion in unrealized losses, up $5.4 billion in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter.

Lance Wallach, the National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year, speaks and writes extensively about retirement plans, Circular 230 problems and tax reduction strategies. He speaks at more than 40 conventions annually, writes for over 50 publications, is quoted regularly in the press, and has written numerous best-selling AICPA books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Business Hot Spots. He does extensive expert witness work and has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007 or visit www.taxadvisorexperts.org.
The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any other type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

Tax Shelter Penalty Cases Hurt Thousands of Small Business Owners

Lance wallach
Mar 08

Insurance agents and others sell 412i, 419, captive insurance and section 79 scams to unsuspecting business owners. The IRS considers many of these plans abusive tax shelters, listed transactions, reportable transactions, or what it calls "similar to," which allows them to target the plan. The unsuspecting business owners then get audited by the IRS, lose their deductions, and pay interest and penalties. Then comes the bad news. The IRS comes back and fines the business owners a large amount of money for not properly filing under IRC 6707A. They have even fined hundreds of business owners who have filed. The IRS says that they prepared the forms incorrectly or filed improperly, or lied to the IRS.
Taxpayers must report certain transactions to the IRS under Section 6707A of the Tax Code, which was enacted in 2004 to help detect, deter, and shut down abusive tax shelter activities. For example, reportable transactions may include being in a 419,412i, or other insurance plan sold by insurance agents for tax deduction purposes. Other abusive transactions could include captive insurance and section 79 plans, which are usually sold by insurance agents for tax deductions. Taxpayers must disclose their participation in these and other transactions by filing a Reportable Transactions Disclosure Statement (Form 8886) with their income tax returns. People that sell these plans are called material advisors and must also file 8918 forms properly. Failure to report the transactions could result in very large penalties. Accountants who sign tax returns that have these deductions can also be called material advisors and should also file forms 8918 properly.
The IRS has fined hundreds of taxpayers who did file under 6707A. They said that they did not fill out the forms properly, or did not file correctly. The plan administrator or a 412i advised over 200 of his clients how to file. They were then all fined by the IRS for filling out the forms wrong. The fines averaged about $500,000 per taxpayer.
A report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that the procedures for documenting and assessing the Section 6707A penalty were not sufficient or formalized, and cases often are not fully developed.
TIGTA evaluated the IRS's effectiveness in identifying, developing, and applying the Section 6707A penalty. Based on its review of 114 assessed Section 6707A penalties, TIGTA determined that many of these files were incomplete or did not contain sufficient audit evidence. TIGTA also found a need for better coordination between the IRS's Office of Tax Shelter Analysis and other functions.
"As penalties are meant to encourage voluntary taxpayer compliance, it is important that IRS procedures for documenting and assessing them be well developed and fully documented," said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement. "Any failure to do so raises the risk that taxpayers will not receive consistent and fair treatment under the law, and could further reduce their willingness to comply voluntarily."
The Section 6707A penalty is a stand-alone penalty and does not require an associated income tax examination; therefore, it applies regardless of whether the reportable transaction results in an understatement of tax. TIGTA determined that, in most cases, the Section 6707A penalty was substantially higher than additional tax assessments taxpayers received from the audit of underlying tax returns. I have had phone calls from taxpayers that contributed less than $100,000 to a listed transaction and were fined over $500,000. I have had phone calls from taxpayers that went into 419, or 412i plans but made no contributions and were fined a large amount of money for being in a listed transaction and not properly filing forms under IRC section 6707A. The IRS claims that the fines are non appealable.
On July 7, 2009, at the request of Congress, the IRS agreed to suspend collection enforcement actions. However, this did not preclude the issuance of notices of assessment that are required by law and adjustment notices that inform the taxpayer of any account activity. In addition, taxpayers continued to receive balance due and final notices of intent to levy, and demands to pay Section 6707A penalties.
TIGTA recommended that the IRS fully develop, document, and properly process Section 6707A penalties. The IRS agreed with TIGTA's recommendation and plans to take appropriate corrective actions. I think as a result of this many taxpayers who have not yet been fined will shortly receive the fines. Unless a taxpayer files properly there is no statute of limitations. The IRS has, and will continue to go back many years and fine people that are in listed, reportable or substantially similar to transactions.
If you are, or were in a 412i, 419, captive insurance or section 79 plan you should immediately file under 6707A protectively. If you have already filed you should find someone who knows what he is doing to review the forms. I only know of two people who know how to properly file. The IRS instructions are vague. If a taxpayer files wrong, or fills out the forms wrong he still gets the fine. I have had hundreds of phone calls from people in that situation.

Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters.  He writes about 412(i), 419, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for more than 20  publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Pubic Radio's All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education's CPA's Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and his side has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007, wallachinc@gmail.com, or visit www.taxaudit419.com or www.taxlibrary.us.
The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

Welfare Benefit Plans - Big Risks for Accountants

Brian


Tens of thousands of welfare benefit plans are in existence. Some are legitimate but many are not. Unfortunately for taxpayers and their financial advisers, the IRS views all such plans with suspicion. These plans carry big risks for both the participants and the promoters. New enforcement actions by the IRS and civil claims by participants reveal the dangers for accountants as well.

Every year, many accountants sign returns in which their client claims a deduction for a welfare benefit plan. The IRS often considers these plans, created by section 419 of the Internal Revenue Code, to be listed transactions. In addition to the normal tax return disclosures, listed transactions must also be reported on Form 8886. Failure to properly file can lead to penalties of $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for entities. Those penalties are per year!

Accountants must be certain they fully understand what transactions the IRS considers abusive. These transactions include certain 401(k) accelerated deductions, collectively bargained welfare benefit funds (sec. 419a(f)(5)), certain trust arrangements under section 419 and deductions for certain defined benefit plans (sec. 4129i)). It is important to remember that the IRS defines listed transactions to include any transaction that is substantially similar to one of the above.

Accountants can also get caught up in the penalty web if they were a material advisor. If you sign a return taking a deduction for one of these listed plans or if you sold the plan, you could find yourself facing significant penalties of $200,000 or more. (Material advisors must file IRS form 8918.)

Unscrupulous promoters often package their plans with legal opinion letters suggesting that their particular plan is not an abusive tax shelter and that the taxpayer need not comply with the Form 8886 filing requirement. Don't rely on those opinions. A third party opinion is no substitute for proper due diligence and review.

A second trap for unwary accountants is the civil liability they face. Financial planners and promoters market many of these plans. Often they are marketed through seminars. Some promoters offer commissions to lawyers and accountants who refer their clients. Earn a commission or opine on the tax deductibility of the plan and you may find yourself as a defendant in a lawsuit.

Many of these plans not only fail to deliver the promised tax benefits, they are complete scams or are constructed in such a way that taxpayers can't get their money back if circumstances change. When that happens, these same taxpayers will seek any deep pocket they can find. Often that is the accountant.

If a client has already made a contribution and purchased a plan, think long and hard as to whether you should sign the return without a thorough review and all required disclosures. It may be worthwhile to suggest the taxpayer find tax counsel. There is a risk of losing the client, of course, but is the risk worth the potential civil liability and penalties if the plan does not pass IRS muster?

Lance Wallach take on this article. I do not think it is all up to date. For more on 419 scams Google me or try www.taxaudit419.com for lots of articles. We have been helping people for years with these problems.

 Lance Wallach, CLU, ChFC, CIMC, speaks and writes extensively about financial planning, retirement plans, and tax reduction strategies.  He is an American Institute of CPA’s course developer and instructor and has authored numerous best selling books about abusive tax shelters, IRS crackdowns and attacks and other tax matters. He speaks at more than 20 national conventions annually and writes for more than 50 national publications.  For more information and additional articles on these subjects, visit www.vebaplan.com, www.taxlibrary.us, lawyer4audits.com or call 516-938-5007

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.

IRS Auditing 412i, 419e


Plan Administrator Frustrated With IRS Attacks on 412i, 412e Plans

IRS Auditing 412(i) Plans


419 and 412 Plan Fraud


You think you know what you are getting when you buy an insurance plan, but what do you do when you find out that your plan does not work they way you thought? If you have been misled by your insurance broker, you may have been the victim of fraud. We protect the rights of the victims of 419 and 412 plan fraud.
  • Have you purchased an IRC 419 Employee Welfare Benefit Plan after being told the contributions were fully deductible from federal and state income taxes, only to find out that this was not the case?
  • Did you purchase a trust you may not have needed, funded with substantial amounts of life insurance because you were told you could build up cash value tax-free and then have use of the funds tax-free?
If you have been misled about information regarding your employee welfare benefits, you may have been the victim of 419 and 412 plan fraud.
When consumers are misled and given false information by insurance brokers, they have the right to sue the fraudulent agents and insurance company that sold the plan.


 LanceWallach, CLU, ChFC, CIMC, speaks and writes extensively about financial planning, retirement plans, and tax reduction strategies.  He is an American Institute of CPA’s course developer and instructor and has authored numerous best selling books about abusive tax shelters, IRS crackdowns and attacks and other tax matters. He speaks at more than 20 national conventions annually and writes for more than 50 national publications.  For more information and additional articles on these subjects, visit www.vebaplan.com, www.taxlibrary.us, lawyer4audits.com or call 516-938-5007.

The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any other type of advice for any specific individual or other entity.  You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advice.