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  • October 15, 2019

CHARITABLE GIVING FALLING DUE TO NEW TAX LAW

In 2017, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act gave charities great concern that donations would be falling.  This is because the standard deduction was doubled (to $24,000 for married couples filing jointly) and other deductions (such as State taxes and mortgage interest) were capped.  Fewer people would itemize deductions on their 2018 tax returns, and without a tax benefit to their charitable contribution, they would give less.  New data shows that those fears were well-founded. In 2018, a year of record employment and sustained economic growth, the number of taxpayers who itemized dropped from 46 million to 19 million.  Individual…

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  • March 4, 2019

The Form 990 as Public Relations

Form 990 is the Internal Revenue Service filing required annually for most nonprofits. Since 2009, it has included questions that have little to do with the tax rules, but rather concern the organization’s purpose, activities, and governance.  This makes the 990 Return not simply an accounting function.  Instead, the 990 can be a strong public relations statement, or it can be full of damaging disclosures for anyone to read. Unlike almost all other tax returns, Form 990 is a public disclosure document. It is a substantial form, requiring several schedules.  All Form 990s are available for public inspection, and available…

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  • April 3, 2018

Donor Advised Funds Top Planning Tools Under New Tax Law

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) went into effect on January 1, 2018. Economists argue over the winners and the losers, but one obvious loser was charitable donations and the charities that depend on them. The new tax law nearly doubles the standard deduction in 2018 — to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for joint filers younger than age 65 — while capping or eliminating other deductions. This means it will no longer make sense for as many taxpayers to itemize deductions. In 2017, 30% of taxpayers itemized; under the new tax law that is expected to drop to…

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  • November 30, 2016

Employee Benefit Plans and the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program

The Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (“VFCP”), sponsored by the Employee Benefits Security Administration of the Department of Labor, provides relief from civil liability and an exemption from excise taxes under the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”). VFCP is designed to encourage self-correction of certain violations and fiduciary breaches of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. VFCP covers many different transactions. One of the most commonly violated transactions that it covers is delinquent contributions. Plan sponsors have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that participant contributions are deposited in a plan’s trust on a timely basis. Participant contributions are defined as…

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  • November 16, 2015

Correcting Retirement Plan Errors: 2015 IRS Guidance Favors Employers

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has modified the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS), which is the IRS correction program for retirement plans. In general, EPCRS allows retirement plan sponsors to correct plan mistakes and continue to provide retirement benefits on a tax-favored basis. It includes self-correction without IRS involvement, voluntary correction with IRS approval, and correction during audit under a closing agreement. The recent modifications to EPCRS are found in Revenue Procedure 2015-27 and Revenue Procedure 2015-8. They are a welcomed relief to employers who have discovered and need to correct past errors. Revenue Procedure 2015-27: Rev. Proc 2015-27…

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  • June 10, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Declares Maryland Income Tax Provision Unconstitutional

On May 18, 2015, the United States Supreme Court declared a provision of Maryland’s State Income Tax unconstitutional as discriminatory against interstate commerce, and thereby in violation of Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. The case is Comptroller v. Wynne. The specific and technical issue is that Maryland’s personal income tax has (as all Maryland taxpayers know) both a State and a County tax. Maryland taxes the personal income of its residents, regardless of whether that income is earned in Maryland or in other states. The Maryland tax code then grants a credit for taxes paid to other states,…

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  • January 16, 2015

An IRS Tax Audit of Your Business – The Basics

A tax audit is an accounting procedure where the IRS examines your business financial records to make sure you filed your tax return accurately.  If you receive an IRS audit notice, here are the basic steps you can take to assist in resolving the situation. 1. Determine Why Your Return Was Selected For An Audit. It is the IRS’s obligation to inform you as to why your return was selected.  However, you must be diligent in making the inquiry.  Taxes may be audited for several reasons, including: Specific activity on your return, such as cash wages, 1099 and W-2 forms that…

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  • November 18, 2014

Minister’s Housing Allowance Survives Challenge

In a big win for churches and other religious organizations, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has reversed a District Court decision which had declared the Minister’s Housing Allowance to be unconstitutional. The decision (issued on November 13, 2014) preserves the annual $700 million tax break given to religious organizations and their ministers. The case is Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Lew, which arose on appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. At issue is Section 107(2) of the Internal Revenue Code, which states that for a “minister of…

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  • October 21, 2014

Charitable Contributions to Individual Missionaries

In general, a contribution is deductible only if it is made “to or for the use of” a charitable organization, not a designated individual.  IRC §170(a).  Direct contributions to missionaries, or any other individual, are not tax deductible, even if they are used for religious or charitable purposes.  However, contributions to designated individuals in the context of mission work may be deductible where it is shown that the contributions were to a charitable organization and for the use of the organization, not just the individual missionary designated. Contributions to a missions agency or church for the benefit of a particular…

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  • July 29, 2014

Charitable Contributions to Foreign Organizations and/or Designated to Foreign Organizations

In general, the United States does not permit individuals to claim an income tax deduction for direct contributions to foreign charities.  IRC Section 170(c)(2)(a) specifically limits the tax deduction to corporations, funds or foundations created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States.  To that end, the IRS will disallow a tax deduction for contributions to domestic charities if the domestic charity is a mere conduit of funds to a foreign organization.  To determine whether the domestic charity is a “mere conduit” of funds, the IRS will look to the whether the domestic organization…

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