IRS Lawyers

IRS Announces Retirement Plan Contribution Limits for 2015

On October 23, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced the tax-year 2015 cost of living adjustments (COLAs) affecting the dollar limitations for pension plan contributions and plan contributions for other retirement-related plans. While many pension plan limitations will change for 2015 because the COLAs met the statutory thresholds triggering their adjustment, not all limitations met the necessary threshold, and will thus remain unchanged.

This article will briefly explain some of the notable items that are changed and unchanged for tax year 2015; the article is not intended to convey tax or legal advice.

401(k), 403(b), 403(b), Most 457 Plans, and the Federal Government’s Thrift Savings Plan

The annual elective plan contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan will increased from $17,500 in 2014 to $18,000 in 2015.

The 401(k) Catch-Up Plan Contribution Limit

For employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan, the catch-up contribution limit will increase to $6,000 in 2015, up from $5,500 in 2014.

Contribution Limitations to an Individual Retirement Arrangement

The annual contribution limitation to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) will remain unchanged at $5,500. Furthermore, the additional catch-up contribution limit for those individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to annual COLAs, and will also remain unchanged, at $1,000.

Roth IRA Phase-Outs

For taxpayers making contributions to Roth IRA’s, the AGI phase-out range will increase to $183,000 to $193,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $181,000 to $191,000 in 2014. For single individuals and heads of household, the income phase-out range will be $116,000 to $131,000 in 2015, up from $114,000 to $129,000. For a married individual filing a separate return, the phase-out range is not subject to annual COLAs, and the range will remain from $0 to $10,000.

Deductible IRA Phase-Outs

For taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA, the 2015 deduction phases out for singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have modified AGI between $61,000 and $71,000, up from $60,000 and $70,000 in 2014. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range will increase to $98,000 to $118,000 for 2015, up from $96,000 to $116,000.

For IRA contributors not covered by workplace retirement plans, and who are married to someone who is covered, the deduction will phase out between $183,000 and $193,000 (for the couple’s income), up from $181,000 and $191,000 in 2014. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to annual COLAs; this range will remain changed at $0 to $10,000.

The Saver’s Credit

The Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contribution credit) for low- and moderate-income workers will be $61,000 for married couples filing jointly for 2015, up from $60,000 in 2014; $45,750 for heads of household, up from $45,000; and $30,500 for married individuals filing separately and for single individuals, up from $30,000.

Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Plans

The contribution limit for defined benefit plans (under Internal Revenue Code Section 415(b)(1)(A)) will remain unchanged at $210,000 for 2015. The annual limitation for defined contribution plans (under IRC Section 415(c)(1)(A)) will increase to $53,000 in 2015, up from $52,000 in 2014.

Student Loan Interest Deduction and 2014 Phase-outs

With the costs of higher education increasing each year, the deductibility of interest paid on student loans is an important tax topic for many younger individuals. However, taxpayers are sometimes surprised to learn that there is a phase-out for various applicable income levels for this deduction, and above certain income levels, the deduction is completely eliminated.

This article will briefly explain the basics of the deduction for interest paid on student loans, as well as the deduction phase-outs. This explanation is not intended to convey tax or legal advice.

Student Loan Interest

Under IRS tax rules, interest paid for personal loans is typically not deductible for taxpayers; however, there is an exception to this general rule for interest paid on higher-education student loans (also referred to as education loans). Because this deduction is taken as an adjustment to income, qualifying taxpayers may claim this deduction even though that may not itemize their deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A.

In order to qualify, a student loan is required to have been taken out solely to pay qualified education expenses, and the loan must not be from a related person or made under a qualified employer plan. Also, students claiming the deduction must either be the taxpayers themselves, their spouses, or their dependents, and students must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree program (see applicable IRS publications for more specific definitions).

For 2013, qualifying taxpayers may reduce the amount of their income subject to taxation by the lesser of $2,500 or the amount of interest actually paid with this deduction. Taxpayers may claim the deduction if all of the following requirements are met: (1) they file under any status except married filing separately, (2) the exemption for the taxpayer is not being claimed by somebody else, (3) the taxpayer is under a legal obligation to pay interest on a qualified student loan, and (4) interest was actually paid on a qualifying student loan.

Student Loan Interest Deduction Phase-outs

The amount that a taxpayer may deduct for student loan interest paid is subject to phase-outs based upon their filing status and their Modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). For most taxpayers, MAGI will be their adjusted gross income (AGI) as determined on Form 1040 before the deduction for student loan interest is subtracted.

For taxpayers filing as single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er), and making not more than $60,000 MAGI, there is no reduction of the deduction. For taxpayers in those categories making more than $60,000 MAGI but less than $75,000, the phase-out will apply, and for taxpayers making more than $75,000 MAGI, the deduction will be completely eliminated.

For taxpayers filing as married filing jointly, and making not more than $125,000 MAGI, there is no reduction of the deduction. For taxpayers in those categories making more than $125,000 MAGI but less than $155,000, the phase-out will apply, and for taxpayers making more than $155,000 MAGI, the deduction will be completely eliminated.

The phase-out itself is usually determined by the following calculation: a taxpayer’s interest deduction (before the phase-out) is multiplied by a fraction. The numerator is the taxpayer’s MAGI minus $60,000 (or $125,000 for married filing jointly), and the denominator is $15,000 ($30,000 for married filing jointly). The result is then subtracted from the original interest deduction (before the phase-out), and this amount is what the taxpayer may actually deduct.

Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer News: US v. Victor Lipukhin

On March 20, 2014, the politics and FBAR criminal enforcement met again in a new case, U.S. v. Victor Lipukhin – a case of continuous interest for a Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer. While the timing is most likely driven by politics, this case also resulted from the fallout of the UBS 2009 settlement; under the settlement, the UBS paid a fine and disclosed a large number of the secret Swiss bank accounts held by U.S. persons.

In U.S. v. Victor Lipukhin, Mr. Lipukhin was charged with an attempt to interfere with the administration of the internal revenue laws and filing false tax returns. Specifically, obstruction charges under IRC Section 7212(a) and filing of false tax returns charges under Section 7206(1) were mentioned. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the IRS, the “charges relate to Lipukhin hiding millions of dollars in several Swiss bank accounts held at UBS AG.” While it is not expressly spelled-out by the DOJ, it appears that there are multiple counts of violations under both IRC sections.

Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer News: Facts of the Case

According to the indictment, Mr. Lipukhin kept between $4,000,000 and $7,500,000 in assets in two bank accounts with UBS in Switzerland from at least 2002 through 2007. The first account was opened in 2002 under the name of a Bahamian entity, “Old Orchard”. The account was initially funded with over $47,000,000 transferred into the account from a previously maintained UBS account in the Bahamas. The second account was maintained at UBS in Switzerland in the name of another Bahamian entity, “Lone Star”.

DOJ alleges that Mr. Lipukhin directed virtually all transactions in the accounts, typically through a Bahamian national who served as the nominee director of the Old Orchard and Lone Star entities. The DOJ also alleges that, “in order to further conceal his ownership of the undisclosed UBS accounts, Lipukhin utilized fictitious mortgages through an entity called Dapaul Management, controlled by a Canadian attorney, to conceal his purchase of real estate in the United States with funds from the UBS accounts.” The assets include a purchase of a historic building for $900,000 in the name of Charlestal LLC, a domestic entity controlled by Lipukhin. He also transferred funds from his UBS accounts to the Canadian attorney for the ultimate transfer to a domestic Charlestal bank account in order to conceal the source of the funds. Mr. Lipukhin then used the funds in the Charlestal account to pay for various personal expenses and to withdraw cash for personal use.

The final charge in the indictment is a curious one: “Lipukhin impeded the administration of Internal Revenue laws by attempting to prevent an automobile dealer from filing a Form 8300 – which is required for certain cash transactions over $10,000 – with the IRS in order to report Lipukhin’s cash payment to purchase an automobile.”

According to DOJ, Mr. Lipukhin failed to report his ownership of these accounts (on Schedule B and the FBARs) and failed to report any income earned in these accounts on his tax returns.

Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer News: Potential Penalties

According to the indictment, Mr. Lipukhin is charged with committing a crime. He faces a potential maximum sentence of three years of imprisonment on each count.

Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer News: Peculiar Facts

Some of the facts of the case here are of a very high interest to a Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer and U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed Swiss accounts.

The first important feature of the case is the fact that Mr. Lipukhin was never a U.S. citizen. He is a citizen of the Russian Federation and a former lawful permanent U.S. resident. While it may be true that the current political context had a lot to do with the timing of the charges being filed by the DOJ, this is another example that negates the false myth that is being propagated by some tax preparers (especially in the ethnic communities – particularly Indian and Chinese) that IRS would not criminally charge a non-citizen permanent resident. Nothing in my practice suggests that the citizenship of a U.S. taxpayer has any serious impact on the IRS enforcement of FBAR criminal penalties.

The second important feature to notice are the years involved in the indictment: 2002 through 2007. This case is bound to have an interesting development with respect to the Statute of Limitations (although, it will be difficult to get around IRC Section 6501(c) except by negating the charge of the “false tax return”) and it partially explains why there were no FBAR charges filed against Mr. Lipukhin (see below).

Third, notice the use of third parties and the various offshore entities to conceal the ownership of UBS Swiss accounts. As any experienced Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer would confirm, this is a highly negative set of facts and has tremendously contributed to the filing of criminal charges against Mr. Lipukhin. U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed Swiss accounts owned by sham offshore entities should be aware of the criminal implications of such an action. On the other hand, if they were advised incorrectly to do so for purely asset protection purposes, this fact should be analyzed by their Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer.

Fourth, it is important to consider the circle of transactions that led the money back to the United States with the purchase of U.S. real estate. There are very important implications of these moves in the voluntary disclosure context, but, here, I just want to mention that this case is another example of the falsehood of another myth – that, as long as the money is back in the United States, the IRS will not conduct a criminal investigation of the formerly non-compliant U.S. taxpayers. I am not sure where this myth originated, but I have seen some foreign-born U.S. taxpayers being trapped in this mis-conception.

Finally, the last charge of impeding the filing of Form 8300 for cash purchase of a car is highly unusual for a Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer to see in this context. It also appears that Mr. Lipukhin’s attempt to prevent the filing of Form 8300 was not successful and Form 8300 was actually filed. If this is the case, it seems that this charge is probably more politically motivated; though, it could have been used to buttress the case for criminal non-compliance further. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that an interference with a third-party tax compliance is a federal crime and may be prosecuted by the DOJ.

Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer News: Why FBAR Charges Were Not Included

For a Swiss Accounts IRS Tax Lawyer, U.S. v. Lipukhin is also an interesting case from another perspective – the statute of limitations with respect to filing an FBAR. The statute of limitations can be found in IRC 5321(b)(1). Generally, it is six years from the date of transaction (i.e. the IRS has six years from the date of transaction to assess FBAR penalties). For the purposes of the FBAR filing violations, the date of the transaction is the due date for filing the FBAR (i.e. June 30 of the calendar year following the year to be reported).

This explains why the FBAR charges were not filed by the IRS for the years 2002-2006; the assessment period has expired for these years. However, it should be noted that 2007 statute of limitations is still open until June 30, 2014; it is unclear why the IRS chose not to pursue the FBAR criminal penalties with respect to 2007 (perhaps, the accounts were already closed or had an insignificant balance by that time).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With Respect to Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts

If you have undisclosed Swiss bank accounts; if you are facing civil FBAR penalties; or if you are facing other IRS penalties; contact Sherayzen Law Office experienced international tax law firm for professional help.

IRS Announces 2014 Retirement Plan Limitations

On October 31, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service announced cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2014. Some pension limitations such as those governing 401(k) plans and IRAs will remain unchanged because the increase in the Consumer Price Index did not meet the statutory thresholds for their adjustment. However, other pension plan limitations will increase for 2014.

Below is the description of the changes (or lack thereof) for some of the most common plans.

401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans

The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $17,500.

The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $5,500.

IRA Annual Contribution Limitations

The limit on annual contributions to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) remains unchanged at $5,500. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.

The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $60,000 and $70,000, up from $59,000 and $69,000 in 2013. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $96,000 to $116,000, up from $95,000 to $115,000. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $181,000 and $191,000, up from $178,000 and $188,000. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

Roth IRA Contribution Limitations

The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $181,000 to $191,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $178,000 to $188,000 in 2013. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $114,000 to $129,000, up from $112,000 to $127,000. For a married individual filing a separate return, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

Retirement Savings Contribution Credit

The AGI limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contribution credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $60,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $59,000 in 2013; $45,000 for heads of household, up from $44,250; and $30,000 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $29,500.

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for married taxpayers filing a joint return is increased from $35,500 to $36,000; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $38,500 to $39,000; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D) is increased from $59,000 to $60,000.

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for taxpayers filing as head of household is increased from $26,625 to $27,000; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $28,875 to $29,250; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D) is increased from $44,250 to $45,000.

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for all other taxpayers is increased from $17,750 to $18,000; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $19,250 to $19,500; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D) is increased from $29,500 to $30,000.

Qualified Retirement and Pension Plans

Section 415 of the Internal Revenue Code provides for dollar limitations on benefits and contributions under qualified retirement plans. Section 415(d) requires that the Secretary of the Treasury annually adjust these limits for cost of living increases. Other limitations applicable to deferred compensation plans are also affected by these adjustments under Section 415. Under Section 415(d), the adjustments are to be made pursuant to adjustment procedures which are similar to those used to adjust benefit amounts under Section 215(i)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act.

Effective January 1, 2014, the limitation on the annual benefit under a defined benefit plan under Section 415(b)(1)(A) is increased from $205,000 to $210,000. For a participant who separated from service before January 1, 2014, the limitation for defined benefit plans under Section 415(b)(1)(B) is computed by multiplying the participant’s compensation limitation, as adjusted through 2013, by 1.0155.

The limitation for defined contribution plans under Section 415(c)(1)(A) is increased in 2014 from $51,000 to $52,000.

The Code provides that various other dollar amounts are to be adjusted at the same time and in the same manner as the dollar limitation of Section 415(b)(1)(A). After taking into account the applicable rounding rules, the amounts for 2014 are as follows:

The limitation under Section 402(g)(1) on the exclusion for elective deferrals described in Section 402(g)(3) remains unchanged at $17,500.

The annual compensation limit under Sections 401(a)(17), 404(l), 408(k)(3)(C), and 408(k)(6)(D)(ii) is increased from $255,000 to $260,000.

The dollar limitation under Section 416(i)(1)(A)(i) concerning the definition of key employee in a top-heavy plan is increased from $165,000 to $170,000.

The dollar amount under Section 409(o)(1)(C)(ii) for determining the maximum account balance in an employee stock ownership plan subject to a 5 year distribution period is increased from $1,035,000 to $1,050,000, while the dollar amount used to determine the lengthening of the 5 year distribution period is increased from $205,000 to $210,000.

The limitation used in the definition of highly compensated employee under Section 414(q)(1)(B) remains unchanged at $115,000.

The dollar limitation under Section 414(v)(2)(B)(i) for catch-up contributions to an applicable employer plan other than a plan described in Section 401(k)(11) or Section 408(p) for individuals aged 50 or over remains unchanged at $5,500. The dollar limitation under Section 414(v)(2)(B)(ii) for catch-up contributions to an applicable employer plan described in Section 401(k)(11) or Section 408(p) for individuals aged 50 or over remains unchanged at $2,500.

The annual compensation limitation under Section 401(a)(17) for eligible participants in certain governmental plans that, under the plan as in effect on July 1, 1993, allowed cost of living adjustments to the compensation limitation under the plan under Section 401(a)(17) to be taken into account, is increased from $380,000 to $385,000.

The compensation amount under Section 408(k)(2)(C) regarding simplified employee pensions (SEPs) remains unchanged at $550.

The limitation under Section 408(p)(2)(E) regarding SIMPLE retirement accounts remains unchanged at $12,000.

The limitation on deferrals under Section 457(e)(15) concerning deferred compensation plans of state and local governments and tax-exempt organizations remains unchanged at $17,500.

The compensation amount under Section 1.61 21(f)(5)(i) of the Income Tax Regulations concerning the definition of “control employee” for fringe benefit valuation purposes is increased from $100,000 to $105,000. The compensation amount under Section 1.61 21(f)(5)(iii) is increased from $205,000 to $210,000.

 Various Income Limitations

The Code also provides that several pension-related amounts are to be adjusted using the cost-of-living adjustment under Section 1(f)(3). After taking the applicable rounding rules into account, the amounts for 2014 are as follows:

The deductible amount under Section 219(b)(5)(A) for an individual making qualified retirement contributions remains unchanged at $5,500.

The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(3)(B)(i) for determining the deductible amount of an IRA contribution for taxpayers who are active participants filing a joint return or as a qualifying widow(er) is increased from $95,000 to $96,000. The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(3)(B)(ii) for all other taxpayers (other than married taxpayers filing separate returns) is increased from $59,000 to $60,000. The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(3)(B)(iii) for a married individual filing a separate return is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0. The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(7)(A) for a taxpayer who is not an active participant but whose spouse is an active participant is increased from $178,000 to $181,000.

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 408A(c)(3)(B)(ii)(I) for determining the maximum Roth IRA contribution for married taxpayers filing a joint return or for taxpayers filing as a qualifying widow(er) is increased from $178,000 to $181,000. The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 408A(c)(3)(B)(ii)(II) for all other taxpayers (other than married taxpayers filing separate returns) is increased from $112,000 to $114,000. The applicable dollar amount under Section 408A(c)(3)(B)(ii)(III) for a married individual filing a separate return is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0.

The dollar amount under Section 430(c)(7)(D)(i)(II) used to determine excess employee compensation with respect to a single-employer defined benefit pension plan for which the special election under Section 430(c)(2)(D) has been made is increased from $1,066,000 to $1,084,000.

Search Warrants and IRS Summons Powers in Tax Crimes Cases

In a previous article, we explained the basics of criminal tax investigations. In this article, we will examine further two investigatory methods available to the IRS.

Search Warrants

IRS Special Agents may request for a search warrant in certain cases. In order for a search warrant to be granted, IRS Counsel generally must first approve of the warrant request. The agent must also demonstrate to a federal judge or magistrate that evidence of a tax crime will be found on the premises of the taxpayer during the search, and the warrant must describe with specificity the place that will be searched, and any documents or items that will be seized. An agent must also show that probable cause exists that a taxpayer has committed a tax crime for the search warrant to be valid under the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Search Warrants are generally limited to significant criminal tax cases, such as cases involving large sums of taxes owed, and substantial fraud.

Summons Powers

IRS agents also have broad summons powers, available in both criminal and civil cases, under Internal Revenue Code Section 7602. IRS agents, however, may not conduct unnecessary investigations (IRC Section 7605). When important documents in a tax crime case are held by third parties, IRS agents may also summon third parties in order to obtain testimony about such documents, but taxpayers are usually supposed to receive notice of the summons (IRC Section 7609).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help With IRS Investigations

If you are facing a criminal investigation by the IRS, contact Sherayzen Law Office for legal help. Attorney Eugene Sherayzen will review the facts of the case, outline an aggressive ethical defense strategy, and rigorously represent your interests during the IRS investigation.