Archive for the ‘Reporting’ category

Quality Stores Day Of Reckoning Draws Near – What Should Employers Be Thinking About?

January 16, 2014

By Phil Karter

The Quality Stores employment tax refund case was argued before the Supreme Court on January 14, 2014.  An explanation about the issue at stake can be found in prior Taxblawg.net postings.  Although the outcome of the case remains in doubt, the possibility of a taxpayer victory means that employers should start thinking about the need to satisfy an important prerequisite to qualify their claims for refund.

Employment (FICA) taxes have both an employer and an employee component. A taxpayer victory in Quality Stores will enable both employers and terminated employees to recover their respective shares of FICA taxes withheld from the employees’ severance pay.  The obvious question that is likely to arise from an employer’s standpoint is “what incentive do I have to file on behalf of former employees?”

The answer can be found in Treasury Regulation § 31.6402(a)-2(a)(1)(ii), which stipulates that the employer will not be allowed a refund or credit for the employer’s share of withheld taxes “unless the employer has first repaid or reimbursed its employee or has secured the employee’s consent to the allowance of the claim for refund and includes a claim for the refund of such employee tax.”  In other words, merely notifying ex-employees of their rights to claim refunds themselves is inadequate to perfect the employer’s claim to recover its own share of withheld employment taxes. The employer must take affirmative steps on behalf of the terminated employee.

Thankfully, despite the above language about securing consents, the regulation elaborates that the requirement “does not apply to the extent that the taxes were not withheld from the employee or, after the employer makes reasonable efforts to repay or reimburse the employee or secure the employee’s consent, the employer cannot locate the employee or the employee will not provide consent.  Therefore, it is the attempt to secure consents that counts rather than the actual ability to secure such consents. (This same consent procedure also applies to employment tax refund claims arising from the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, wherein the court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.  Prior to that decision, employers were required to withhold and pay over employment taxes for benefits provided to same-sex spouses of employees.)

Up to this point, a majority of employers that have filed protective refund claims have likely not undertaken the effort to obtain employee consents. There are at least two practical reasons for this.  First, the Sixth Circuit’s 2012 favorable decision in Quality Stores came out only about six months before the expiration of the 2009 statute of limitations (assuming the employer’s return was filed without extension). Thus, for employers eligible for refunds of FICA withholding paid over in that year, there wasn’t a good deal of time to accomplish this task.  Without a full solicitation of consents and tabulation of the refunds owed to employees who had responded affirmatively, there would have been no way to calculate the aggregate employee refund and include it on a refund claim.

Additionally, with the final outcome of Quality Stores, and the consequent entitlement to FICA refunds in doubt, it would have been hard for employers to justify the expense of undertaking the consent process when it wasn’t clear the exercise would be worthwhile when all was said and done.

Assuming the Supreme Court affirms Quality Stores, the simple solution for employers that filed protective claims covering only their share of FICA withholding is to file amended claims to add the aggregate employees’ share for those employees who provide their consents.  The procedure for this is set forth right in the instructions for Form 941-X on which the refund claim is made.  The instructions provide, in pertinent part, as follows:

5b.     . . . In certain situations, you may not have repaid or reimbursed your employees or obtained their consents prior to filing a claim, such as in cases where the period of limitations on credit or refund is about to expire. In those situations, file Form 941-X, but do not check a box on line 5. Tell us on line 25 that you have not repaid or reimbursed employees or obtained consents. However, you must certify that you have repaid or reimbursed your employees or obtained consents before the IRS can grant the claim.

 5c.     Check the box on line 5c to certify that your overreported tax is only for the employer share of social security and Medicare taxes. Affected employees did not give you consent to file a claim for refund for the employee share of social security and Medicare taxes, they could not be found, or would not (or could not) give you a statement described on line 5b.

 5d.     Check the box on line 5d to certify that your overreported amount is only for federal income tax, social security tax, Medicare tax, or Additional Medicare Tax that you did not withhold from your employees.

The Form 941-X instructions also provide a sample consent that can be used as a template by employers:

Employee name ____________________

Employer name  ____________________

I give my consent to have my employer (named above) file a claim on my behalf with the IRS requesting $_________ in overcollected social security and Medicare taxes for 20___. I have not claimed a refund of or credit for the overcollected taxes from the IRS, or if I did, that claim has been rejected; and I will not claim a refund or a credit of the amount.

 Employee signature _____________________

Date _________________

The consents are not sent to the IRS but retained by the employer. However, employers should be mindful not only to retain such consents, but also to adequately document their efforts to obtain consents for all qualifying employees, whether or not they are returned.

On a going-forward basis until Quality Stores is decided, employers can ease the burden of having to track down former employees and send out consent forms to qualify their own refund claims by incorporating a consent form along the lines of the template shown above into the paperwork typically involved in the termination process.  Of course, if Quality Stores is decided favorably, employers from that point forward will no longer be obliged to withhold, obviating the need to continue this practice.

Are Quiet Disclosures of Offshore Accounts Becoming Even Riskier?

October 18, 2013

By Phil Karter

Is the IRS getting closer to ferreting out “quiet disclosures” by taxpayers who chose that route to address the problem of previously unreported offshore accounts rather than by participating in the Service’s offshore voluntary disclosure program (OVDP)?  That’s the conclusion of an increasing number of tax professionals and if taxpayers in this predicament weren’t already worried, they should be.

A quiet disclosure involves the filing of new or amended tax returns that report offshore income, and FBARs (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) that provide other account information regarding the taxpayer’s interest in foreign accounts.  It is a discreet disclosure intended to make a taxpayer compliant with his or her tax reporting responsibilities while avoiding penalties imposed under the IRS’s official voluntary disclosure program.

The IRS has made no secret of its distain for those who choose the quite disclosure route over participation in its voluntary disclosure program.  In its frequently asked questions and answers applicable to the most recent iteration of the OVDP, the Service has cautioned taxpayers that those who have already made quiet disclosures should “be aware of the risk of being examined and potentially criminally prosecuted for all applicable years.”  The IRS has encouraged such taxpayers to “take advantage” of the program before discovery.  The FAQs also note that detection of a quit disclosure also eliminates the possibility of reduced penalty exposure offered under the OVDP. (See FAQs 15 & 16.)

To some, the calculus about whether to participate in the OVDP, follow the quiet disclosure path, or do nothing has been viewed as another form of the audit lottery, albeit one with very high stakes in terms of potential monetary penalties and possibly criminal prosecution.  As virtually everyone should know at this point, offshore account holders can no longer rely on bank secrecy to protect them, so the issue of detecting unreported accounts has become more a question of when, not if. Although a quiet disclosure addresses the unreported account problem, either currently or retroactively, that is not necessarily the end of the story . . . or the risk.

Earlier this year, the Government Accounting Office issued a report in which it noted a dramatic increase in the number of taxpayers reporting offshore accounts, concluding that the trend may reflect attempts to minimize or circumvent taxes, penalties and interest that would be owed if not corrected before detection or even upon participation in the OVDP.  Among other things, the GAO recommended that the IRS explore methodologies to detect and pursue quiet disclosures.  Apparently, the IRS has taken the GAO’s recommendation to heart by working on new ways to identify them.  The effort, according to former Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, was to include “analysis of Forms 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, to identify specific characteristics of the filing population and to assess filing behaviors indicating potential compliance issues.”

In predicting the effectiveness of this undertaking, it is worth noting that the IRS has a wealth of experience in implementing computer algorithms on a much larger scale to ferret out trends warranting closer scrutiny.  One need look no further than the Services’ Discriminant Function System (DIF), which is used to flag tax returns for possible audit, among the hundreds of millions filed, to appreciate that improved detection of quiet disclosures is well within the IRS’s capabilities.  Therefore, taxpayers who rely on a limited IRS resources justification to ignore the directional trend regarding quiet disclosures are likely to wish they had examined the issue relative to their own personal circumstances a lot more closely. At the very least, given the prevailing wind on this issue, it would be prudent for those who have made quiet disclosures or are contemplating one to revisit the issue with their tax adviser.

Squib Note: The Opera Isn’t Over Yet on FICA Tax Refunds Until The Supreme Court Sings

April 3, 2013

By Phil Karter and John Hackney

In a blog posting earlier this year, we talked about the Sixth Circuit’s decision in United States v. Quality Stores (Civil No. 10-1563, 6th Cir. 2012) affirming a lower court’s decision that supplemental unemployment compensation benefit (SUB) payments are not taxable as wages and are consequently exempt from FICA taxes. The Sixth Circuit’s decision in Quality Stores directly conflicts with the Federal Circuit’s prior decision in CSX Corp. v. United States, 518 F.3d 1328 (Fed. Cir. 2008), which held that such payments were subject to FICA.  For many employers who have filed protective refund claims, the favorable resolution of this conflict could result in meaningful refunds.

Those speculating on whether Quality Stores will be appealed to the Supreme Court, and whether the Supreme Court will grant certiorari, will have to wait a little longer to find out.  The original deadline for filing a petition for certiorari has been extended from April 4th to May 3, 2013.

Although the deadline for the government’s petition has been extended, the April 15, 2013 deadline to file protective refund claims for 2009 (the oldest eligible year) has not.  For employers that haven’t already done so, particularly those located within the Sixth Circuit (Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee), there is still a small amount of time left.

A final word of caution about deadlines:  If a protective FICA tax refund claim is denied, employers have two years from the date of denial to file a tax refund suit or obtain an extension of the two-year period by filing a Form 907.   Given the uncertainty over the final outcome of this issue, it is unclear whether the IRS will summarily deny protective refund claims or wait until the dust settles.  Nonetheless, employers whose refund claims are denied are well advised to keep track of the two-year deadline.  If the Supreme Court accepts certiorari, it may take that long before the final word on the subject is written.

Squib Note: Clarifying the 2013 Capital Gains Rates

January 2, 2013

It has been universally reported that under the newly passed American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, net capital gain tax rates have risen to 20% for taxpayers with taxable income greater than $400,000 for single filers and $450,000 for joint filers.  To clarify this broad statement, under section 102 of the new law, the higher capital gains rate applies only to the gain that, when added to other taxable income, exceeds the threshold amounts.  Taxpayers below the 39.6% taxable income threshold before capital gains are taken into account will have their capital gains taxed at 15% up to the taxable income threshold and 20% on the excess.  The following two examples illustrate how the net capital gain tax rate is calculated:

In Example 1, joint taxpayers earn $400,000 of ordinary income and another $200,000 in net capital gains.  Under the new law, the first $50,000 of net capital gains is taxed at the lower rate, with the remaining $150,000 taxed at the higher rate.  The effective rate of 18.75% reflects the blending of the 15% and 20% rates.

2013 Capital Gain Rate Example 1

In Example 2, joint taxpayers now earn $200,000 of ordinary income and another $400,000 in net capital gains.  Because a greater portion of the taxpayers’ taxable income has shifted from ordinary income to net capital gain, the effective net capital gain rate is lower than the previous example because a greater portion of the taxpayer’s below-the-threshold income is taxed at the 15% rate, leaving a smaller remainder subject to the 20% tax.

2013 Capital Gain Rate Example 2

The above examples do not take into account the new 3.8 % medicare surtax on capital gains (and other net investment income) imposed by section 1411 of the Internal Revenue Code. Because the income threshold under that section is lower than the 39.6% tax rate threshold ($200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for joint filers), the surtax would apply to the entire net capital gain amounts in both examples, resulting in an effective rate of 22.55% and 20.68% respectively.

Could The New Economic Substance Statute Apply To End-Of-Year Stock Sales And Repurchases?

December 28, 2012

By Phil Karter

With the looming increase in tax rates on investment income and capital gains in particular, a large number of stock market investors have been selling long-term positions to lock in the 2012 rate, which currently tops out at 15%.  Come January 1,2013, gain on the same sale could be taxed at a rate as high as 23.8%, consisting of a long-term capital gains tax rate of 20% plus a Medicare surtax of 3.8% imposed on joint filers with AGI greater than $250,000 and single filers with AGI greater than $200,000.  (See Internal Revenue Code § 1411).

A question attracting attention as the year draws to a close and the pace of this activity has accelerated has been whether a stock sale undertaken solely to take advantage of the lower 2012 capital gains tax rates might fall within the scope of Code § 7701(o), the relatively new economic substance statute codified as part of the landmark Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Pub. L. 111-152, 124 Stat. 1029).  Concerns about coming within the scope of this statute are that it might subject the investor to a 20% penalty enacted as part of the new law.  See Code § 6662(b)(6).  The penalty, if applicable, is a “strict liability” one, which means that taxpayers cannot avoid it on grounds of reasonable cause, such as reliance on a tax advisor. (The penalty for a transaction determined to lack economic substance is also increased to a whopping 40% if the transaction is undisclosed.  See Code § 6662(i).  However, as long as a taxpayer reports the transaction on his or her tax return, the 40% penalty should not apply.)

Thankfully, the eleventh hour concerns expressed about this issue should be put to rest for stock investment gain-recognition transactions in 2012.  Even assuming the economic substance statute is conceptually broad enough to ensnare stock sale transactions undertaken to lock in lower capital gains tax rates, the penalty is only applicable to “underpayments.”  Because a long-term capital gain recognized in 2012 does not reduce a taxpayer’s taxable income but rather increases it (unless the gain is offset by otherwise unused capital losses), there is no underpayment against which to apply a penalty.

Now let’s vary the circumstances by introducing a simultaneous buyback of the stock at the time of sale to reestablish the same position.  Does that change anything vis a vis a potential penalty risk?  We still have a gain recognition transaction in 2012, so there is no tax underpayment against which a penalty could apply for this year.  As for the repurchased stock, its cost basis is at the repurchase price, which means that a subsequent sale in a future year will either produce a smaller taxable gain or larger taxable loss than would have occurred had the original share lots with their lower cost basis simply been maintained.  Some have speculated that this could produce a tax underpayment against which the strict liability economic substance penalty might apply in the year of sale.  After all, in defining a transaction that has economic substance, § 7701(o) requires (1) that the transaction change in a “meaningful way” the taxpayer’s economic position apart from federal tax benefits, and (2) that the taxpayer have a non-tax purpose for entering into the transaction.

In theory, a sale and instantaneous repurchase might fail to satisfy both of these tests.  On the other hand, a repurchase transaction that occurs sometime after the sale introduces an element of market risk from stock price fluctuation that should mitigate any penalty risk.  Similarly, a repurchase in a different type of account (e.g., in a tax-deferred account where the original sale was in a taxable account or vice versa) should also put the taxpayer on firmer ground.

So what are the real risks that the IRS might choose some unfortunate taxpayers to assert a strict liability penalty?  It has, after all, been less than forthcoming in providing guidance on what types of plain vanilla transactions, if any, may be viewed as falling within the scope of the new economic substance statute.  Perhaps the best indicator one can draw upon is the title of § 7701(o), “Clarification of Economic Substance Doctrine.”  The codified doctrine has been portrayed as merely a clarification of the economic substance law in effect for transactions entered into before March 30, 2010. Under the pre-codification doctrine, which is derived solely from the common law, there do not appear to be any reported economic substance cases involving a taxpayer’s sale and repurchase transaction that results in accelerated gain recognition. Couple this with the fact that no court has been asked to interpret the breadth of the new economic substance statute since it was passed in 2010, and it is reasonable to believe that the IRS would prefer to choose a different, and presumably more compelling battleground to make its first stand defending the application of Section 7701(o) and the strict liability penalty.

Finally, in the case of a 2012 gain-recognition stock sale and simultaneous repurchase, it cannot be entirely certain that the transaction will even produce a tax savings when all is said and done.  This is because of the difference between the tax rates for long and short term capital gains (which are taxed at ordinary income rates).  Because a new holding period is established for the repurchased stock, it remains possible that the stock, when sold, will produce a short-term capital gain subject to a larger tax burden than might have occurred if if the original long-term position was held into 2013 or beyond.  In the end, the lack of certainty about the ultimate tax effect until the second sale occurs may be taxpayers’ best argument that the sale and repurchase transaction had economic substance after all.

Employment Tax: Yet Another Opportunity to Come Clean -

December 17, 2012

Employment Tax: Yet Another Opportunity to Come Clean -

Whether a worker is performing services as an employee or as an independent contractor depends on the facts and circumstances.  This determination may be difficult for many companies and may lead to significant exposure.  In order to facilitate voluntary resolution of  potential worker classification issues and achieve the benefits of increased tax compliance and certainty for all parties, taxpayers, workers and the government, the IRS established the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (“(VCSP”) on September 11, 2011.  The program was created to allow for voluntary reclassification of workers as employees outside the administrative context.

In light of feedback received, today the IRS has announced changes to the VCSP. (Announcement 2012-45; 2012-51 IRB 724).  The VCSP has been modified to: 1) permit a taxpayer under IRS audit, other than an employment tax audit, to be eligible to participate in the VCSP; 2) clarify the current eligibility requirement that a taxpayer that is a member of an affiliated group within the meaning of section 1504(a) is not eligible to participate in the VCP if any member of the affiliated group is under employment tax audit; 3) clarify that a taxpayer is not eligible to participate in the VCSP if the taxpayer is contesting in court the classification of the class or classes of workers from a previous audit by the IRS or the Department of Labor; and 4) eliminate the requirement that a taxpayer agree to extend the period of limitations on assessment of employment taxes as part of the VCSP closing agreement with the IRS.

In addition, today the IRS announced a temporary expansion of eligibility for the VCSP through June 30, 2013.  The temporary eligibility expansion makes a modified VCSP available to taxpayers who would otherwise be eligible for the current VCSP but have not filed all required Forms 1099 for the previous three years with respect to the workers to be reclassified.  Eligible taxpayers that take advantage of this limited, temporary eligibility expansion agree to prospectively treat workers as employees and will receive partial relief from federal employment taxes. (Announcement 2012-46; 2012-51 IRB 725)

This program can be used as a tax planning tool with the advice of your tax counsel.

What is Form 8938 and How is it Different From an FBAR?

July 26, 2012

By Sebastien Chain and Tamara Woods

For tax year 2011, individual taxpayers with certain specified foreign financial assets found themselves subject to a new reporting requirement, Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets. Form 8938 is required if a taxpayer has a specified foreign financial asset in excess of various thresholds.  See Form 8938 – Foreign Reporting Trap for the Unwary.  Unlike Form T.D. 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank Account and Financial Accounts which is due by June 30th of every year, Form 8938 is attached to a taxpayer’s Form 1040.

Although many aspects of the Form 8938 and FBAR appear duplicative, the distinctions between the two are such that many taxpayers may find that only Form 8938 is required and not an FBAR or vice-versa.

On March 26, 2012, the IRS published a chart comparing the reporting requirements between Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets and T.D. 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank Account and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”).  A copy of this chart is found at this link.  This chart contains a basic overview of the fundamental similarities and differences between an FBAR and Form 8938.

The new Form 8938 has raised questions for taxpayers and tax practitioners alike.  As a result, the IRS published 14 questions and answers to anticipate the issues most likely to arise.  On June 7, 2012, the IRS added Q&A 15-23 on their website for Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets.

The guidance, as posted on the IRS website, is set forth below.  See http://www.irs.gov/businesses/corporations/article/0,,id=255061,00.html.

1. What are the specified foreign financial assets that I need to report on Form 8938? If you are required to file Form 8938, you must report your financial accounts maintained by a foreign financial institution. Examples of financial accounts include: Savings, deposit, checking, and brokerage accounts held with a bank or broker-dealer.

And, to the extent held for investment and not held in a financial account, you must report stock or securities issued by someone who is not a U.S. person, any other interest in a foreign entity, and any financial instrument or contract held for investment with an issuer or counterparty that is not a U.S. person. Examples of these assets that must be reported if not held in an account include: stock or securities issued by a foreign corporation; a note, bond or debenture issued by a foreign person; an interest rate swap, currency swap, basis swap, interest rate cap, interest rate floor, commodity swap, equity swap, equity index swap, credit default swap or similar agreement with a foreign counterparty; an option or other derivative instrument with respect to any of these examples or with respect to any currency or commodity that is entered into with a foreign counterparty or issuer; a partnership interest in a foreign partnership; an interest in a foreign retirement plan or deferred compensation plan; an interest in a foreign estate; any interest in a foreign-issued insurance contract or annuity with a cash-surrender value.  The examples listed above do not comprise an exclusive list of assets required to be reported.

2. I am a U.S. taxpayer but am not required to file an income tax return. Do I need to file Form 8938? Taxpayers who are not required to file an income tax return are not required to file Form 8938.

3. Does foreign real estate need to be reported on Form 8938? Foreign real estate is not a specified foreign financial asset required to be reported on Form 8938. For example, a personal residence or a rental property does not have to be reported.

If the real estate is held through a foreign entity, such as a corporation, partnership, trust or estate, then the interest in the entity is a specified foreign financial asset that is reported on Form 8938, if the total value of all your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you. The value of the real estate held by the entity is taken into account in determining the value of the interest in the entity to be reported on Form 8938, but the real estate itself is not separately reported on Form 8938.

4. I directly hold foreign currency (that is, the currency isn’t in a financial account). Do I need to report this on Form 8938? Foreign currency is not a specified foreign financial asset and is not reportable on Form 8938.

5. I am a beneficiary of a foreign estate. Do I need to report my interest in a foreign estate on Form 8938? Generally, an interest in a foreign estate is a specified foreign financial asset that is reportable on Form 8938 if the total value of all of your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you.

6. I acquired or inherited foreign stock or securities, such as bonds. Do I need to report these on Form 8938? Foreign stock or securities, if you hold them outside of a financial account, must be reported on Form 8938, provided the value of your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you. If you hold foreign stock or securities inside of a financial account, you do not report the stock or securities on Form 8938. For more information regarding the reporting of the holdings of financial accounts, see FAQs 8 and 9.

7. I directly hold shares of a U.S. mutual fund that owns foreign stocks and securities. Do I need to report the shares of the U.S. mutual fund or the stocks and securities held by the mutual fund on Form 8938? If you directly hold shares of a U.S. mutual fund you do not need to report the mutual fund or the holdings of the mutual fund.

8. I have a financial account maintained by a U.S. financial institution that holds foreign stocks and securities. Do I need to report the financial account or its holdings? You do not need to report a financial account maintained by a U.S. financial institution or its holdings. Examples of financial accounts maintained by U.S. financial institutions include: U.S. Mutual fund accounts; IRAs (traditional or Roth); 401 (k) retirement plans; qualified U.S. retirement plans; and brokerage accounts maintained by U.S. financial institutions.

9. I have a financial account maintained by a foreign financial institution that holds investment assets. Do I need to report the financial account if all or any of the investment assets in the account are stock, securities, or mutual funds issued by a U.S. person? If you have a financial account maintained by a foreign financial institution and the value of your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you, you need to report the account on Form 8938. A foreign account is a specified foreign financial asset even if its contents include, in whole or in part, investment assets issued by a U.S. person. You do not need to separately report the assets of a financial account on Form 8938, whether or not the assets are issued by a U.S. person or non-U.S. person.

10. I have a financial account with a U.S. branch of a foreign financial institution. Do I need to report this account on Form 8938? A financial account, such as a depository, custodial or retirement account, at a U.S. branch of a foreign financial institution is an exception to the general rule that a financial account maintained by a foreign financial institution is specified foreign financial asset. A financial account maintained by a U.S. branch or U.S. affiliate of a foreign financial institution does not have to be reported on Form 8938 and any specified foreign financial assets in that account also do not have to be reported.

11. I own foreign stocks and securities through a foreign branch of a U.S.-based financial institution. Do I need to report these on Form 8938? If a financial account, such as a depository, custodial or retirement account, is held through a foreign branch or foreign affiliate of a U.S.-based financial institution, the foreign account is not a specified foreign financial asset and is not required to be reported on Form 8938

12. I have an interest in a foreign pension or deferred compensation plan. Do I need to report it on Form 8938? If you have an interest in a foreign pension or deferred compensation plan, you have to report this interest on Form 8938 if the value of your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you.

13. How do I value my interest in a foreign pension or deferred compensation plan for purposes of reporting this on Form 8938? In general, the value of your interest in the foreign pension plan or deferred compensation plan is the fair market value of your beneficial interest in the plan on the last day of the year. However, if you do not know or have reason to know based on readily accessible information the fair market value of your beneficial interest in the pension or deferred compensation plan on the last day of the year, the maximum value is the value of the cash and/or other property distributed to you during the year. This same value is used in determining whether you have met your reporting threshold.

If you do not know or have reason to know based on readily accessible information the fair market value of your beneficial interest in the pension plan or deferred compensation plan on the last day of the year and you did not receive any distributions from the plan, the value of your interest in the plan is zero. In this circumstance, you should also use a value of zero for the plan in determining whether you have met your reporting threshold. If you have met the reporting threshold and are required to file Form 8938, you should report the plan and indicate that its maximum is zero.

14. I am a U.S. taxpayer and have earned a right to foreign social security. Do I need to report this on Form 8938? Payments or the rights to receive the foreign equivalent of social security, social insurance benefits or another similar program of a foreign government are not specified foreign financial assets and are not reportable.

15. If I have to file Form 8938, am I required to report all of my specified foreign financial assets regardless of whether the assets have a de miminis maximum value during the tax year? If you meet the applicable reporting threshold, you must report all of your specified foreign financial assets, including the specified foreign financial assets that have a de minimis maximum value during the tax year. For exceptions to reporting, see Exceptions to Reporting on page 6 of the instructions for Form 8938.

16. I filed my income tax return but now realize that I should have filed Form 8938 with my return, what should I do? If you omitted Form 8938 when you filed your income tax return, you should file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, with your Form 8938 attached.

17. Do I have to file both Form 8938 and Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)? The filing of Form 8938 does not relieve you of the separate requirement to file the FBAR if you are otherwise required to do so, and vice-versa. Depending on your situation, you may be required to file Form 8938 or the FBAR or both forms, and certain foreign accounts may be required to be reported on both forms.

18. I have numerous specified foreign financial assets to report on Form 8938. Is there a continuation sheet for the Form 8938? If you have more than one account or asset to report in Part I or Part II of Form 8938, or more than one issuer or counterparty to report in Part II of Form 8938, copy as many blank Parts I and/or II as you need to complete, and attach them to Form 8938. Check the “If you have attached additional sheets, check here” box at the top of Form 8938.

19. I directly hold tangible assets for investment, such as art, antiques, jewelry, cars and other collectibles, in a foreign country. Do I need to report these assets on Form 8938? No. Directly held tangible assets, such as art, antiques, jewelry, cars and other collectibles, are not specified foreign financial assets.

20. I directly hold precious metals for investment, such as gold, in a foreign country. Do I need to report these assets on Form 8938? No. Directly held precious metals, such as gold, are not specified foreign financial assets. Note, however, that gold certificates issued by a foreign person may be a specified foreign financial asset that you would have to report on Form 8938, if the total value of all your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you.

21. This tax year I sold precious metals that I held for investment to a foreign person. Do I have to report the sales contract on Form 8938? The contract with the foreign person to sell assets held for investment is a specified foreign financial asset investment asset that you have to report on Form 8938, if the total value of all your specified foreign financial assets is greater than the reporting threshold that applies to you.

22. I have a safe deposit box at a foreign financial institution. Is the safe deposit box itself considered to a financial account? No, a safe deposit box is not a financial account.

23. Am I required to hire a certified appraiser or actuary to determine the fair market value of a specified foreign financial asset? For example, if I have a foreign defined benefit plan, am I required to obtain the services of an actuary? You may determine the fair market value of a foreign financial account for the purpose of reporting its maximum value based on periodic account statements unless you have reason to know that the statements do not reflect a reasonable estimate of the maximum value of the account during the tax year. For a specified foreign financial asset not held in a financial account, you may determine the fair market value of the asset for the purpose of reporting its maximum value based on information publicly available from reliable financial information sources or from other verifiable sources. Even if there is no information from a reliable financial information source or other verifiable source, you do not need to obtain an appraisal by a third party in order to reasonably estimate the asset’s maximum value during the tax year.

Overall, tax practitioners and taxpayers alike will continue to have questions as Form 8938 evolves, but the direction provided by the IRS is responsive to many of the general issues associated with the new filing requirement.


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