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IRS Chief Outlines Tax Reform Implementation

The IRS is already working on implementing tax reform, according to IRS Acting Commissioner David Kautter. Speaking at a Tax Executives Institute event in Washington, D.C., Kautter discussed current IRS efforts toward implementing tax law changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) ( P.L. 115-97).

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act represents the most sweeping change to U.S. tax law since 1986,” Kautter said according to his prepared remarks, which were provided to Wolters Kluwer by the IRS. He added that the new law will “involve creating or changing a large number of forms and publications, updating scores of tax processing systems, retraining our workforce and educating the taxpaying public about the changes.”

TRIO
The IRS in January created the Tax Reform Implementation Office (TRIO). The TRIO is responsible for establishing and monitoring implementation action plans and ensuring communication with external and internal stakeholders, among other things, according to Kautter. “The TRIO is our tax reform linchpin,” he said.

IRS Funding
The IRS was provided $320 million specifically for the implementation of tax reform in the omnibus government spending package that President Trump signed on March 23 ( P.L. 115-141). According to Kautter, more than 70 percent of the IRS funding for tax reform will go toward reprogramming IRS IT systems. Additionally, new forms will need to be developed at a cost of approximately $75,000 per form, and the IRS estimates about 450 products (including forms, instructions and publications) need to be revised. Most of these products need to be updated by the 2019 filing season, which is a “tall order,” Kautter said. Additionally, over 1,000 new employees will need to be hired for taxpayer services and for tax reform implementation across the Service, including within the Office of Chief Counsel.

Outreach
The IRS cannot wait for taxpayers to call about the new tax law’s requirements, according to Kautter. “The IRS also needs to be proactive, and provide education and outreach to help taxpayers, tax professionals and other industry partners understand how the law applies to them, and prepare them for the 2019 tax filing season,” Kautter said.

The IRS’s Communications and Liaison operation is preparing to start education outreach to increase public awareness of the new tax law’s provisions.
The IRS will be conducting events across the country for both taxpayers and tax professionals, according to Kautter. “This summer, the IRS will again be conducting its Nationwide Tax Forums for tax professionals in five cities around the country, where the new tax law will take center stage,” he said.

Section 199A
Formal published guidance such as regulations and notices, as well as “soft guidance”including press releases and frequently asked questions, will need to be issued to explain various tax provisions under the new law, according to Kautter. A particular area in “critical”need for guidance is the Code Sec. 199A deduction for qualified business income of pass-through entities, Kautter said, calling it a “challenging” area. While Kautter could not provide a specific time frame for when to expect the guidance, he said the IRS is working to develop the guidance as “quickly and expeditiously as possible.”

AICPA Renews Call for 199A Guidance

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has renewed its call for immediate guidance on new Code Sec. 199A. The AICPA highlighted questions about qualified business income (QBI) of pass-through income under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ( P.L. 115-97). “Taxpayers and practitioners need clarity regarding QBI in order to comply with their 2018 tax obligations,” the AICPA said in a February 21 letter to the Service.

New Deduction
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created Code Sec. 199A. The deduction is temporary and begins this year.

Generally, qualified taxpayers may deduct up to 20 percent of domestic QBI from a partnership, S corporation or sole proprietorship. Congress put in place a limitation based on wages paid, or on wages paid plus a capital element, among other requirements. Certain service trades or businesses generally may not take advantage of the deduction but there are exceptions.

Almost immediately after passage of the new tax law, the AICPA and other tax professional groups urged on the IRS to move quickly on guidance. Recently, the National Society of Accountants (NSA) reported that the IRS would issue guidance on Code Sec. 199A this summer.

Immediate Concern
The AICPA identified several areas of immediate concern. They are:

  • Definition of Code Sec. 199A qualified business income.
  • Aggregation method for calculation of QBI of pass-through businesses.
  • Deductible amount of QBI for a pass-through entity with business in net loss.
  • Qualification of wages paid by an employee leasing company.
  • Application of Code Sec. 199A to an owner of a fiscal year pass-through entity ending in 2018.
  • Availability of deduction for Electing Small Business Trusts (ESBTs).


Services

The AICPA asked the IRS to describe what activities are included in the definition of a services trade or business. “The guidance should clarify that the definition of the term ‘accounting services’ includes any services associated with the determination of tax liabilities including preparation, tax planning, cost segregation services, services rendered with respect to tax credits and deductions, and similar consultative services,”the AICPA told the Service.

House Lawmakers Examine Tax Extenders

The House Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee held a March 14 hearing in which lawmakers and stakeholders examined the future of various temporary tax extenders post-tax reform. Over 30 tax breaks, which included energy and fuel credits, among others, were retroactively extended for the 2017 tax year in the Bipartisan Budget Act (P.L. 115-123) enacted in February.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have varying views on specific temporary tax provisions, but in general, seem to have largely been in agreement that year-end tax extenders are not good policy. New to the discussion, however, is whether such provisions are worthwhile now that business tax rates have been lowered along with full and immediate expensing under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) (P.L. 115-97).

New Path Forward
The Ways and Means Committee is “charting a new path forward on temporary tax provisions,” Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Tex., said in his opening statement. “Temporary measures are rarely good tax policy.”

According to Brady, numerous tax extenders only exist because of the previously outdated tax code and high tax rates. But now that tax reform has been enacted, these temporary tax breaks may serve less of a purpose. “Starting now, we’re going to apply a rigorous test to these temporary provisions,” Brady said.

To that end, Tax Policy Subcommittee Chairman Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., said that any temporary tax provision determined as no longer necessary post-tax reform should be eliminated. And, as for those that continue to serve an important role and enhance tax reform, permanence should be considered.

Tax Policy Subcommittee ranking member Lloyd Doggett, D-Tex., also weighing in on the issue, said that any temporary tax provisions that remain will need to be paid for moving forward. Additionally, Doggett criticized Republicans for not holding enough hearings on the TCJA, as well as the specific tax extenders currently under review. Doing so, he added, would enable needed discussion on relevancy.

Panels
Witnesses at the hearing were grouped into four panels, three of which consisted of several representatives from various industries including fuel, energy, and real estate. The other included witnesses from several think tanks and research organizations.

Generally, industry stakeholders argued that many of these temporary tax breaks remain important, even after tax reform. Buchanan, however, repeatedly asked witnesses why additional incentives were needed after tax cuts and full expensing were provided through tax reform under the TCJA. Several Republican lawmakers, including Buchanan, stated that temporary tax provisions only add to the uncertainty of the tax system.

Several industry witnesses argued, in essence, that not all tax extenders are created equal and, thus, should be evaluated individually. Barry Grooms, testifying on behalf of the National Association of Realtors, told lawmakers that the tax exclusion for forgiven mortgage debt is unique and should be made a permanent part of our tax law. “Since it was first added to the Internal Revenue Code in 2007, this provision has provided much-needed financial relief for millions of distressed households,” Grooms testified. This exclusion makes the tax system fairer, Grooms added, stating that it provides assistance to families experiencing hardships.

Policy
Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told lawmakers that tax extenders are generally poor policy and that most should be allowed to sunset. According to MacGuineas, not only do tax extenders add to the federal deficit, the temporary nature of tax extenders makes it difficult for businesses and individuals to plan and invest. “To be sure, there are sometimes legitimate reasons for temporary tax policy – to respond to a natural disaster or economic downturn, to test effectiveness, or to provide transition relief – but most of the tax extenders are temporary simply to hide their budgetary cost, ” MacGuineas testified.

Likewise, David Burton, senior fellow in economic policy at The Heritage Foundation, spoke to the costliness of tax extenders. Burton testified that 13 energy tax extenders are unwarranted. “At roughly $53 billion over ten years, the revenue lost from these provisions is substantial,” Burton included in his written testimony. Additionally, Burton told lawmakers that tax extenders make the tax system less fair.

Seth Hanlon, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, criticized Congress for not addressing tax extenders in the TCJA. Furthermore, Hanlon told lawmakers that tax extenders not only make the tax code more unstable and add to the federal deficit but also complicate the IRS’s job during filing season.

“Congress should have ended the gimmicky routine on tax extenders long ago, and certainly should have done so in legislation that was billed as a once-in-a-generation tax reform,” Hanlon testified. “But, better late than never.”