Employee Retention Credit | US Tax Lawyers & Attorneys

On March 31, 2020, the IRS launched the Employee Retention Credit. This new tax credit is designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll. Let’s discuss the Employee Retention Credit in more detail.

Employee Retention Credit: Eligibility Criteria

Two categories of employers are not eligible to apply for the Employee Retention Credit: (a) state and local governments and their instrumentalities; and (b) small businesses who take certain small business loans.

The rest of the employers (including tax-exempt organizations) regardless of size can apply as long as they fall within one of the following two categories.

The first category includes all businesses which were fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during the calendar quarter. It appears that this category applies to the state “shelter-in-place” orders.

The second category includes businesses with gross receipts below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019. Once the employer’s gross receipts go above 80% of a comparable quarter in 2019, they no longer qualify after the end of that quarter.

Employee Retention Credit: Credit Calculation

The amount of the credit is 50% of qualifying wages paid up to $10,000 in total. Wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021, are eligible for the credit. The definition of wages includes not only cash payments, but also a portion of the cost of employer-provided health care insurance.

Employee Retention Credit: Qualified Wages

Qualifying wages are based on the average number of employees in 2019. There is an important difference, however, in the calculation of qualified wages based on the size of an employer.

With respect to employers with less than 100 employees: the credit is based on wages paid to all employees, regardless if they worked or not. If the employees worked full time and were paid for full time work, the employer still receives the credit.

With respect to employers with more than 100 employees: if the employer had more than 100 employees on average in 2019, then the credit is allowed only for wages paid to employees who did not work during the calendar quarter.

Employee Retention Credit: Application Process

Employers can be immediately reimbursed for the credit by reducing their required deposits of payroll taxes that have been withheld from employees’ wages by the amount of the credit.

Eligible employers will report their total qualified wages and the related health insurance costs for each quarter on their quarterly employment tax returns or Form 941 beginning with the second quarter of 2020. If the employer’s employment tax deposits are not sufficient to cover the credit, the employer may receive an advance payment from the IRS by submitting Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19. Eligible employers can also request an advance of the Employee Retention Credit by submitting Form 7200.

Sherayzen Law Office will continue to follow closely the tax developments concerning the COVID-19 tax relief.

IRS 2017 Standard Mileage Rates for Business, Medical and Moving

The IRS recently issued the optional IRS 2017 standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

According to the IRS Rev. Proc. 2010-51, a taxpayer may use the business standard mileage rate to substantiate a deduction equal to either the business standard mileage rate times the number of business miles traveled. If he does use the IRS 2017 standard mileage rates, then he cannot deduct the actual costs items. Even if the IRS 2017 standard mileage rates are used, however, the taxpayer can still deduct as separate items the parking fees and tolls attributable to the use of a vehicle for business purposes.

It is important to note that a taxpayer does not have to use the IRS 2017 standard mileage rates. He always has the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates. In such a case, all of the actual expenses associated with the business use of the vehicle can be used: lease payments, maintenance and repairs, tires, gasoline (including all taxes), oil, insurance, et cetera.

The IRS 2017 standard mileage rates shall be as follows:

  • 53.5 cents per mile for business miles driven (down from 54 cents for 2016);
  • 17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes (down from 19 cents for 2016)
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The IRS 2017 standard mileage rates are generally lower than last year’s mostly due to the lower price for gasoline. The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

On the other hand, in some circumstances, a taxpayer cannot use the IRS 2017 standard mileage rates. For example, a taxpayer cannot use the IRS business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any MACRS depreciation method or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. Additionally, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used during the same period of time. More information about the limitations on the usage of the IRS 2017 standard mileage rates can be found in the IRS Rev. Proc. 2010-51.

IRS AI Software to Analyze Tax Data | IRS Tax Lawyer Minneapolis

On November 18, 2016, Mr. Benjamin Herndon, the current IRS director for research and analytics, confirmed the recent rumors that the IRS AI Software is being tested to help IRS agents find patterns of tax noncompliance.

The idea is to supplement human analysis of data with the IRS AI software that would analyze any piece of data not only by itself, but also in conjunction with the other data available to the IRS. This way, the IRS AI Software is expected to analyze a very large amount of various data to identify tax noncompliance patterns.

This means that the IRS currently plans to use artificial intelligence for pattern recognition and visualization of data that would help IRS revenue agents uncover tax noncompliance. It is possible that the IRS AI software will even analyze a particular taxpayer’s characteristics in the context of a taxpayer’s behavior to uncover any discrepancies and potential tax noncompliance.

I believe that this is just the first step that the conservative agency is making. In the near future, one can foresee that the IRS AI software will start taking on more and more tasks such as conducting correspondence audits, certain automatized communications with taxpayers, analysis of data during a field audit (the IRS AI Software can be used most effectively during the audits of large corporations which have huge amounts of data), IRS customer support, international tax compliance (particularly analysis of data collected through FATCA and FBARs) and other vital IRS functions. Most likely, the decisions associated with penalty imposition and the negotiation of offer in compromise will rest with human IRS agents for now.

Finally, the biggest immediate impact of the IRS AI software is likely to be felt in the ability of the IRS to more effectively implement US tax laws and conduct more audits due to the fact that the IRS revenue agents will now be able to devote less time to audit analysis and more time to enforcement of tax laws.

In sum, the US taxpayers should be ready for the impending improved ability of the IRS to identify tax noncompliance and conduct more audits due to increased efficiency which will be introduced by the IRS AI Software.

EU Automatic Exchange of Banking and Beneficial Ownership Data Approved

On November 22, 2016, the European Parliament approved the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership data across the European Union. The directive received an overwhelming support from the Parliament: 590 members voted “yes”, 32 – “no”, and 64 did not vote.

Since the original proposal was already approved by the EU Council on November 8, 2016, the only issue left before the directive will come into force will be the final adoption of the directive by EU Council. Once the directive on the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership data is adopted by the Council, the member states will have until December 31, 2017, to implement it.

The directive represents a major undertaking with respect to the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership data. Once it is adopted, the directive will allow tax authorities of every EU member state to automatically share the banking information such as account balances, interest income and dividends. Moreover, the directive also requires the EU member states to create registers recording the beneficial ownership of companies and trusts. This means that the tax authorities of all EU member states will finally acquire access to the information regarding the true beneficiaries of foreign trusts and opaque corporate structures.

The idea behind the new legislation on the automatic exchanges of banking and beneficial ownership data is to provide the EU member states with tools to fight cross-border fraud and tax evasion, preserving the integrity of their domestic tax systems.

However, it appears that there are still serious implementation issues with respect to the new directive. The most serious problem is that the directive merely allows the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership date in the EU, but it does not obligate the member states to do so. Furthermore, the banking industry’s role in the facilitation of tax evasion is not addressed at all by the legislature.

After the directive on the automatic exchange of banking and beneficial ownership date is adopted, the European Parliament is going to take up the legislation to provide for a cross-border method for accessing the shared information.

An interesting question for US taxpayers is whether any of the information acquired through the EU sharing mechanism will be shared with the IRS through FATCA. The likelihood of this scenario is fairly strong and may further expose noncompliant US taxpayers to IRS detection.

IRS Tax Attorney Perspective on the Top 3 International Tax Enforcement Trends in 2014

As an IRS tax attorney, I foresee that 2014 is likely to be a continuation of the global tax enforcement trends that started in the earlier years. Specifically, I believe the following three moves by the IRS will form the core of the US international tax enforcement efforts in 2014.

IRS Tax Attorney Top Trend #1: FATCA IGAs

I believe we will see a continuous efforts by the U.S. government to expand the enforcement scope of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act by increasing the number of Intergovernmental Agreements (“IGAs”). Through the IGAs, the IRS hopes to increase FATCA compliance to the most important tax jurisdictions in the world.

Of course, expanding FATCA compliance to such countries as China, Russia and even India, will continue to present a formidable challenge to the IRS. If IGAs are actually enforced in these countries, it would be a major victory for U.S. enforcement efforts given the sheer number of non-compliant U.S. taxpayers from these countries and their stubborn belief (less so in India than in other countries) that the IRS will not be able to expand FATCA to these countries.

IRS Tax Attorney Top Trend #2: US DOJ Program for Swiss Banks

Undoubtedly, the latest initiative by the US government in the form of the Department of Justice Program for Non-Prosecution Agreements or Non-Target Letters for Swiss Banks (the “Program”) will occupy the central stage if the attention of any IRS tax attorney who practices in the area of international tax compliance. The Program is a unique, unprecedented effort to apply the lessons from the individual IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP” now closed) that has been running in the United States since 2012 in its current form (and since 2003 in other variations) to foreign banks located in foreign jurisdictions.

As I predicted earlier, it is likely that the Program, if successful, will become the template for similar programs throughout the world. Potentially, it could become a permanent feature in the current arsenal of tax enforcement tools.

IRS Tax Attorney Top Trend #3: OVDP for Non-Compliant US Taxpayers

The latest version of the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program was launched in 2012 on the heels of the success of 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative. I anticipate that this trend will continue into 2014. In combination with the Program, it is likely that an ever increasing number of non-compliant U.S. taxpayers will join the OVDP, especially since they are urged to do so by the Swiss banks without the benefit of analyzing their voluntary disclosure options (something that should be done by an IRS tax attorney who specializes in international tax compliance such as at Sherayzen Law Office).

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Help with International Tax Compliance

So far, I provided just the top three trends that every IRS tax attorney who practices in the area of international tax law should know. However, even this simplistic overview makes it abundantly clear that international tax compliance is real and you should be worried about it if you have undisclosed foreign assets or income.

Given the complexity of the international tax law and the draconian penalties in case of non-compliance or incorrect compliance, it is very important to choose the right firm to represent your interests. This is why you should contact the IRS tax practice of Sherayzen Law Office who has built a wide range of expertise in the area of international tax compliance.

We offer specialized services for international tax matters to individuals and businesses with foreign income and/or assets. If you are currently in violation of US tax laws, we can help you bring your tax affairs into full compliance in a responsible manner.