Hurricane Harvey Client Alert: Tax Filing and Payment Deadlines Extended for Victims

Victims of Hurricane Harvey in some designated areas now have until January 31, 2018 to file certain federal tax returns and make payments.

On August 28, 2017, the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced in a news release that it would postpone various individual and business federal tax return filing and payment deadlines that were to occur on or after August 23, 2017 until January 31, 2018 for certain persons affected by Hurricane Harvey. Specifically, this extension applies to taxpayers located in areas designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as qualifying for individual assistance.[1] Any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located within these designated areas will automatically receive the extension. Taxpayers in areas that are later added as qualifying for individual assistance by FEMA will automatically receive the extension as well. Additionally, taxpayers who are outside of the designated area but have necessary records needed to meet deadlines located in a designated area may qualify for the extension, but must contact the IRS to determine eligibility for relief.

As noted above, the specific relief announced by the IRS extends federal tax return filing and payment deadlines for individuals and businesses with original deadlines that would have occurred starting on August 23, 2017 to January 31, 2018. In other words, individuals and businesses will have until January 31, 2018 to file federal tax returns and make federal tax payments that have either an original or extended due date during this period. For individuals, the extension covers 2016 income tax returns that received “automatic” filing extensions until October 16, 2017; however, tax payments associated with these returns are not eligible for the extension because the payments were originally due on April 18, 2017. Additionally, the extension applies to the September 15, 2017 and January 16, 2018 deadlines for making quarterly estimated tax payments. For businesses, the extension covers the October 31, 2017 deadline for quarterly payroll and excise tax returns. Notably, the IRS announcement also states that the IRS will waive late-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits that are normally due on or after August 23, 2017 and prior to September 7, 2017, as long as the deposits are made by September 7, 2017.


[1] When the IRS news release was originally issued on August 28, there were 18 counties in areas designated by FEMA as qualifying for individual assistance. By August 30 (and as of August 31), FEMA had designated another 11 counties, bringing the total counties eligible for this relief up to 29.

This post was written by Donald-Bruce Abrams, Casey S. AugustJennifer Breen and William P. Zimmerman of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review 

The Malta Pension Plan – A Supercharged, Cross-Border Roth IRA

Relevant US Tax Principles

In the cross border setting, two of the principal goals in international tax planning are (i) deferral of income earned offshore and (ii) the tax efficient repatriation of foreign profits at low or zero tax rates in the United States. For U.S. taxpayers investing through foreign corporations, planning around the controlled foreign corporation (CFC) rules typically achieves the first goal of deferral, and utilizing holding companies resident in treaty jurisdictions generally accomplishes the second goal of minimizing U.S. federal income tax on the eventual repatriation of profits (for U.S. corporate taxpayers, the use of foreign tax credits may be used to achieve this latter goal).

In a purely domestic setting, limited opportunities exist to defer paying U.S. federal income tax on income or gain realized through any type of entity, and fewer opportunities, if any, exist for the beneficial owners of such entities to receive tax-free distributions of the accumulated profits earned by these entities. A Roth IRA may be the best vehicle available to achieve these goals.

Roth IRA (hereafter, “Roth”) is a type of tax-favored retirement account, under which contributions to the Roth are not tax deductible (like contributions to a traditional IRA would be), but all earnings of the Roth accumulate free of U.S. tax. In addition, qualified distributions from a Roth are not subject to U.S. federal income tax. In other words, once after-tax funds are placed in a Roth, those funds generally are not taxed again. As with traditional IRAs, however, the tax benefits of Roth IRAs are restricted to certain taxpayers who fall below certain modified adjusted gross income thresholds, and even then, such persons are limited in the amounts that can be contributed each year. Additionally, those who are eligible to contribute to such Roth accounts are limited to a maximum contribution of $5,500 per year ($6,500 for taxpayers age 50+). Any “excess contributions” beyond the stated limitations trigger an annual 6 percent excise tax until the excess contributions are eliminated. Finally, because of the “prohibited transaction” provisions, it is not possible for U.S. taxpayers to transfer property (whether appreciated or not) to a Roth without triggering certain taxes (i.e., excise tax as well as income tax on any built-in gain). Therefore, while the benefits of Roths are significant, they are not widely available, particularly to high-income taxpayers.

Relevant Maltese Principles Relating to Malta Pensions

Since 2002, Maltese legislation has been in existence which allows for the creation of cross-border pension funds (although these pension funds have become more relevant to U.S. taxpayers since the effective date of the U.S.-Malta income tax treaty (the “Treaty”) in November of 2010). In contrast to the stringent limitations imposed on contributions to Roths under U.S. law, unlimited contributions may be made to a Malta pension plan. This is true also for U.S. citizens and tax residents, regardless of whether such persons are resident in or have any connection at all to Malta (though no U.S. deduction is permitted for contributions to such Maltese plans). A Maltese pension plan generally is classified as a foreign grantor trust from a U.S. federal income tax perspective because of the retained interest of the grantor/member in the pension fund. Thus, contributions to such a pension fund (including contributions of appreciated property) generally are ignored from the U.S. income tax perspective and should not trigger any adverse U.S. tax consequences.[1]

There also appears to be almost no limitation on what types of assets can be contributed tax-free to a Malta pension, including, for example, stock in private or publicly-traded companies (including PFICs), partnership and LLC interests (including so-called “carried interests”), and interests in U.S. or non-U.S. real estate. While the specific terms of each pension plan vary, Malta law generally permits distributions to be made from such plans beginning at age 50.

The relevant Maltese pension rules allow an initial lump sum payment of up to 30% of the value of the member’s pension fund to be made free of Maltese tax. This initial payment must be made within the first year of the retirement date chosen by that member. Additional periodic payments generally must then be made from the pension at least annually thereafter, and while such payments may be taxable to the recipient, they are usually significantly limited in amount (generally being tied to applicable minimum wage standards in the recipient’s home jurisdiction). Beyond those minimum wage amounts, excess lump sum distributions of up to 50 percent of the balance of the plan generally can be made free of Malta tax.

U.S.-Malta Income Tax Treaty Provisions

As noted above, when the Treaty became effective in late 2010, Maltese pension plans became more attractive to U.S. taxpayers. The Treaty contains very favorable provisions that can result in significant tax benefits to U.S. members of a Maltese pension. In order for such U.S. members to take advantage of these benefits, the pension must qualify as a resident of Malta under the Treaty and also satisfy the limitation on benefits (LOB) article of the Treaty.

Article 4, paragraph 2 of the Treaty provides that a pension fund established in either the United States or Malta is a “resident” for purposes of the Treaty, despite that all or part of the income or gains of such a pension may be exempt from tax under the domestic laws of the relevant country. Under Article 22(2)(e) of the Treaty, a pension plan that is resident in one of the treaty countries satisfies the LOB provision as long as more than 75% of the beneficiaries, members, or participants of the pension fund are individuals who are residents of either the Unites States or Malta.[2]

Thus, as long as a Maltese pension is formed pursuant to relevant Maltese law and more than 75% of its members are U.S. and/or Maltese residents, the pension plan should be eligible for Treaty benefits.

Pursuant to Article 18 of the Treaty, income earned by a Maltese pension fund cannot be taxed by the United States until a distribution is made from that fund to a U.S. resident. This article of the Treaty contains no restrictions on the types of income that are covered, and thus is generally believed to apply broadly to all income (including, for example, income arising in connection with interests in U.S. real estate, PFIC stock, and assets connected to a U.S. trade or business).[3]

Article 17(1)(b) of the Treaty further provides that distributions from a pension arising in one country, and which would be exempt from tax in that country if paid to a resident of that country, must also be exempt from tax in the other country when paid to a  resident of the latter country.  The U.S. Treasury’s Technical Explanation to the Treaty further clarifies that, for example, “a distribution from a U.S. Roth IRA to a resident of Malta would be exempt from tax in Malta to the same extent the distribution would be exempt from tax in the United States if it were distributed to a U.S. resident.”[4]

As mentioned above, pursuant to Maltese law, the initial lump sum payment from a Maltese pension (up to 30% of the value of the relevant pension fund) generally is not taxable in Malta. Thus, based on Article 17(1)(b) of the Treaty, such amounts likewise must not be taxed in the United States when made to a U.S. resident beneficiary. Additionally, this same Maltese exemption generally applies to further lump sum payments received by Maltese resident beneficiaries in certain subsequent years (generally, such distributions may be made tax-free beginning three years after the initial lump sum distribution is received). Notably, any required annual (or more frequent) periodic payments would be taxable in Malta if made to a Maltese resident, and therefore also are taxable in the United States under Section 72 when received by a U.S. resident member of the pension fund.[5]

Finally, while under the so-called “savings clause” the United States generally reserves the right under its income tax treaties to tax its citizens and “residents” as though the treaty did not exist, this savings clause contains certain exceptions. Under the Treaty, Article 1(5) provides that Articles 17(1)(b) and 18 are excepted from the savings clause (found at Article 1(4)). Consequently, the savings clause of the Treaty should not prevent a U.S. citizen or resident member of a Maltese pension from qualifying for Treaty benefits under relevant provisions of Articles 17 and 18.

Example

Assume a U.S. resident individual 49-years of age owns both highly-appreciated U.S. real estate and founders’ shares of a technology start-up that is about to go public. In combination, the interests are worth approximately $100 million, and the aggregate tax basis of the assets is $10 million. As part of her retirement planning, this U.S. individual decides to contribute these assets to a Maltese pension fund.[6] During this same tax year, the real estate is sold for fair market value and the technology company goes public, though she is required to hold the shares for at least six months before disposing of them.  During the following tax year, after her lockup period expires, she sells her shares for fair market value, leaving her portion of the pension plan holding proceeds of $100 million. Since at this time she is at least 50 years of age, assuming the terms of the pension plan permit her to begin withdrawing assets at age 50, the U.S. individual can cause the pension plan to distribute to her during that tax year $30 million of the pension plan funds without the imposition of any tax, either in Malta or the United States.

At this point, the pensioner would need to wait until year 4 to be able to extract additional profits tax-free (pursuant to Maltese law, three years must pass after the initial lump sum distribution before additional lump sum distributions could be made to a resident of Malta tax-free). Thus, in year 4, additional assets can be distributed to the member without triggering tax liability. To calculate how much can be distributed free of tax, it is necessary to first determine the pension holds “sufficient retirement income.” This amount in turn is based, pursuant to Maltese law, on the “annual national minimum wage” in the jurisdiction where the member is resident. To the extent the pension plan balance exceeds the member’s “sufficient retirement income” (on a lifetime basis), 50% of the excess can be withdrawn tax-free each year. Assuming the $70 million remaining assets (after accounting for the initial lump sum distribution) had increased in value to $85 million by year 4, and further assuming it was determined that the individual needed $1 million as her sufficient retirement income, 50% of the $84 million excess, or $42 million, could be distributed to her that year free of tax. Such calculations could likewise be performed in each succeeding tax year, with 50% of the excess being available for tax-free receipt by the beneficiary each year. Consequently, while it is not possible to distribute 100% of the proceeds of such a pension tax-free, a substantial portion of any income generated in the pension (including gains realized with respect to appreciation accrued prior to contribution of assets to the pension fund) may be distributed without any Maltese or U.S. tax liability.

Conclusion

Some commentators have suggested that the purported benefits of Maltese pensions in this context were not intended by Treasury in negotiating the Treaty and that therefore the use of such pensions in this manner is “too good to be true.” The underlying legal principles, however, are not so different from those that apply to Roths in the United States. Like participants in Roths, participants in Maltese pensions can contribute after-tax dollars to the plan and never pay future tax on profits realized with respect to assets held in the plan. Admittedly, the biggest differences relate to the unlimited amounts that may be contributed to Maltese pensions and the fact that prior appreciation in assets that are contributed to the plan also may avoid being subjected to any U.S. tax. Regardless, these distinctions result from features of domestic Maltese law (not U.S. law), and make the use of such pension plans by U.S. residents so potentially attractive.

[1] Note, however, that U.S. information filing obligations may be triggered to the U.S. transferor member pursuant to Section 6048. Unless otherwise noted, all Section references are to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”), and the Treasury regulations promulgated under the Code.

[2] For this purpose, the term resident includes a U.S. citizen.  Article 4(1) of the Treaty.

[3] It should be noted that the FIRPTA provisions of Section 897 and Section 1445 should not be applicable because the pension plan is treated as a foreign grantor trust for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

[4] Treasury Technical Explanation of the U.S.-Malta Income Tax Treaty, signed 8/8/2008, Article 17, paragraph 1.

[5] Under Section 72, a portion of each payment represents tax-free return of basis.

[6] Note that, as discussed above, there should be no U.S. tax implications on contribution of the assets (for example, under Section 684), as the pension plan should be classified as a grantor trust for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

This post was written by  Jeffrey L. Rubinger and Summer Ayers LePree of  Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP.
Read more on the National Law Review.

Better Care Reconciliation Act – Key Takeaways for Employers and Plan Sponsors

On June 22, 2017, the Senate released its much anticipated health care reform legislation – the Better Care Reconciliation Act (“BCRA”) (linked to amended version released June 26, 2017). In many respects the BCRA is similar to the House of Representatives’ American Health Care Act (which was described in our March 9, 2017 and May 4, 2017 blog entries). However, the BCRA differs from the AHCA in several important respects.

As of the date of this blog entry, the BCRA does not have sufficient support to pass a vote in the Senate and House GOP members have indicated that they would reject the bill. Therefore, Senate leadership has delayed a vote on the BCRA until after the July 4th holiday recess.  Nevertheless, as we provided for the AHCA, below are key takeaways for employers and plan sponsors and a few comparisons between the AHCA and BCRA.  A more detailed comparison between key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), the AHCA, and the BCRA is provided at the end of this blog.

1. Individual and Employer Mandates. Like the AHCA, the BCRA would essentially repeal the ACA’s individual and employer mandates effective after December 31, 2015. Both bills do this by “zeroing-out” the penalties for not having minimum essential coverage (individual mandate) or for not offering adequate minimum essential coverage to full-time employees (employer mandate). Outside of the effective repeal of the employer mandate, the AHCA’s and BCRA’s impact on group health plans appears to be minimal. However, if either the AHCA’s 30% surcharge or the BCRA’s 6-month waiting period becomes law, it is likely that plan sponsors will be required to provide notices similar to the certificates of creditable coverage required in the pre-ACA era

In the absence of an individual mandate, the AHCA and BCRA have different methods of incentivizing individuals to maintain continuous health coverage. Under the AHCA method, insurance carriers would be required to charge a 30% premium surcharge to those who fail to have continuous coverage (i.e., a break in coverage of 63 days or more would trigger the surcharge). The BCRA would require insurance carriers to apply a 6-month blanket coverage waiting period to any individual with a 63-day or more break in continuous coverage during the prior 12 months.

Outside of the effective repeal of the employer mandate, the AHCA’s and BCRA’s impact on group health plans appears to be minimal. However, if either the AHCA’s 30% surcharge or the BCRA’s 6-month waiting period becomes law, it is likely that plan sponsors will be required to provide notices similar to the certificates of creditable coverage required in the pre-ACA era.

2. BCRA Retains ACA’s Subsidy and Tax Credit Program. The Senate appears to have rejected AHCA’s elimination of cost-sharing subsidies and premium tax credits available only for coverage purchased on the Marketplace. The AHCA would have replaced the ACA’s program with an advance tax credit program available to individuals purchasing individual market insurance (not just Marketplace coverage) or enrolled in unsubsidized COBRA coverage. Under the AHCA, the amount of the tax credit would be based on age and would be available only to individuals with income less than $75,000 (individual) or $150,000 (jointly with a spouse).

The BCRA, however, maintains the ACA’s cost-sharing subsidies and premium tax credit program, albeit with some modifications. Under the BCRA, cost-sharing subsidies and premium assistance would be determined based on age, with younger individuals getting more assistance than older individuals, and income. Household income in excess of 350% of the federal poverty line would disqualify an individual from cost-sharing subsidies and premium assistance, in contrast to the ACA’s 400% threshold. Additionally, under the BCRA, the premium tax credit would be based on a benchmark plan that pays 58% of the cost of covered services (in contrast to the ACA’s use of the second-lowest cost silver (70%) plan). This lower value of coverage effectively reduces the amount of premium assistance an individual can get.

3. Employer Reporting Obligations to Continue. Although the individual and employer mandates would be repealed, it is likely that the ACA reporting obligations (Forms 1094-B/C and 1095-B/C) would remain in place, at least in some forms. As noted above, the BCRA retains the ACA’s cost-sharing subsidies and premium assistance, the availability of which is conditioned on an individual not being enrolled in employer-sponsored coverage. Therefore, the IRS would likely still need to obtain coverage information from employers.

4. Cadillac Tax Repealed Subject to Reinstatement. Like the AHCA, the BCRA effectively delays the so-called Cadillac Tax until 2025. The Cadillac Tax was originally slated to be effective in 2018, but it was delayed until 2020 in prior budget legislation.

5. Most ACA-Related Taxes Repealed. The BCRA would also repeal most of the tax reforms established under the ACA. Most relevant to employers and plan sponsors would be the elimination of the contribution limit on health flexible spending accounts (HFSAs), the ability reimburse over-the-counter costs under HFSAs and health savings accounts (HSAs), the increase in HSA contribution limits, and elimination of the Medicare surcharge applied to high-earners.

6. Popular ACA Reforms Remain. As was the case under the AHCA, the BCRA would keep many popular ACA market reforms and patient protections in place. These include:

• The requirement to cover dependent children until age 26;

• The prohibition on waiting periods in excess of 90 days;

• The requirement for individual and small group plans to cover essential health benefits;

• The prohibition against lifetime or annual dollar limits on essential health benefits;

• The annual cap on out-of-pocket expenditures on essential health benefits;

• Uniform coverage of emergency room services for in-network and out-of-network visits;

• Required first-dollar coverage of preventive health services;

• The prohibition of preexisting condition exclusions;

• Enhanced claims and appeals provisions; and

• Provider nondiscrimination.

7. ERISA Preemption for “Small Business Health Plans.” The BCRA would add a new Part 8 to ERISA for “small business health plans.” Currently, some states have enacted insurance laws that prohibit small employers from risk-pooling their employees in a single, large group insurance plan. New Part 8 of ERISA would preempt these state laws and allow the formation of “small business health plans,” which, generally, are plans sponsored by an association on behalf of its employer members. Small business health plans must meet certain organizational and financial control requirements and apply to the Department of Labor for certification.

8. Employee Tax Exclusion Remains Intact. Like the AHCA, the BCRA does not currently include a limitation on the employee tax exclusion that would result in imputed taxes to employees if the value of health coverage exceeds a certain amount. This absence, however, does not necessarily mean that such a limit will not eventually be imposed. It is possible that Congress will consider limiting tax incentives for both retirement and health and welfare plans when broader tax reform is considered.

9. HFSA/HSA Expansion. As mentioned above, the BCRA includes the same modifications to the HFSA and HSA rules as the AHCA. The BCRA would remove the annual contribution cap on HFSAs. Additionally, HFSAs and HSAs would now be able to reimburse on a non-taxable basis over-the-counter medication without a prescription. The annual contribution limit to HSAs would be equal to the out-of-pocket statutory maximum for high-deductible health plans. Spouses would both be able to make catch-up contributions to the same HSA.

It is still too early to tell whether the BCRA will fare better than the AHCA. In any event, we will continue to monitor legislative efforts and will provide updates as substantive developments occur.

Health Care Reform Legislation Comparison

Shared Responsibility ACA AHCA

BCRA

Employer Mandate Applicable large employers (those with 50 or more full-time employees and equivalents) face penalties if minimum essential coverage not offered to 95% of full-time employees (and dependents) or if coverage is not minimum value or affordable. No penalties for failing to provide adequate coverage. No penalties for failing to provide adequate coverage.
Individual Mandate Individuals subject to tax if not enrolled in minimum essential coverage unless exception applies. No tax for failing to enroll in minimum essential coverage. However, effective for plan years beginning in 2019, a 30% premium surcharge would be charged by insurance carriers to an individual who purchases insurance coverage following a lapse in coverage of 63 days or more. No tax for failing to enroll in minimum essential coverage. However, individuals who have a lapse in coverage of 63 or more days in the prior 12-month period will be subject to a 6-month coverage waiting period.
Reporting IRC §§ 6055 and 6056 require reporting from issuers of minimum essential coverage and applicable large employers. No change to ACA reporting requirements under IRC §§ 6055 and 6056. Additional Form W-2 reporting required. No change to ACA reporting requirements under IRC §§ 6055 and 6056.

Market Reforms

ACA AHCA

BCRA

Dependent Coverage If dependent children covered, coverage must continue until age 26. No change. No change.
Essential Health Benefits Small group and individual market plans must cover 10 essential health benefit categories, as defined by benchmark plan established by state. No change, but states can apply for waiver to establish separate definition of essential health benefit. No change, subject to relaxed waiver rights under ACA § 1332 (State Innovation Waivers).
Annual/Lifetime Dollar Limits No annual or lifetime dollar limits can be applied to essential health benefits. No change, but states can apply for waiver to establish separate definition of essential health benefit. No change, subject to relaxed waiver rights under ACA § 1332 (State Innovation Waivers).
Out-of-Pocket Maximums Out-of-pocket maximum applied to essential health benefits. No change, but states can apply for waiver to establish separate definition of essential health benefit. No change, subject to relaxed waiver rights under ACA § 1332 (State Innovation Waivers).
Preexisting Condition Exclusions Preexisting condition exclusions prohibited. No change, but insurance providers must apply a 30% premium surcharge if individual has a gap in coverage of 63 days or more. No change, but 6-month waiting period applied if individual has a gap in coverage of 63 days or more.
Preventive Care Preventive care covered without cost-sharing. No change. No change.
Emergency Coverage Emergency room visit at an out-of-network hospital must be covered at in-network rate. No change. No change.
Rescissions Coverage cannot be retroactively terminated except in cases of fraud or misrepresentation or for premium nonpayment. No change. No change.
Summaries of Benefits and Coverage Short (8-page) disclosure of plan terms and glossary distributed on an annual basis. No change. No change.
Enhanced Claims Procedures Claims procedures now require additional claims procedures and voluntary external review. No change. No change.
Provider Nondiscrimination Cannot discriminate against a health care provider acting pursuant to state license. No change. No change.
Section 105(h) Nondiscrimination Fully-insured employer-sponsored health plans cannot discriminate in favor of highly compensated individuals (not yet effective). No change. No change.
Medical Loss Ratio Individual and small group plans must spend 80% of premium income on claims and quality improvement. Large group insurance plans must spend 85% of premium income on claims and quality improvement. No change. Applicable ratio determined by the state (effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2019).

Tax Reforms

ACA AHCA

BCRA

Cadillac Tax 40% excise tax applied to cost of group health coverage exceeding threshold (effective January 1, 2020). Delayed until January 1, 2025. Repealed effective December 31, 2019, but to be reinstated effective January 1, 2025,
Small Business Tax Credit Tax credit for premiums paid toward group health coverage available to small businesses. Not available for plans that cover abortion for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2017; repealed for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2020. Same as AHCA.
Health FSA Limit Maximum contribution to health FSA set at $2,500 (subject to annual increases for inflation). Repealed effective January 1, 2017. Repealed effective January 1, 2018.
HSA Distribution Penalty Penalty for HSA distributions used for non-qualifying medical expenses increased to 20%. Repealed effective January 1, 2017. Penalty would go back to 10% for HSAs and 15% for Archer MSAs. Same as AHCA.
HSA Contribution Limits No change. Increased to match statutory out-of-pocket maximum for high-deductible health plans (effective January 1, 2018). Same as AHCA.
FSA/HSA Over-the-Counter Health FSAs and HSAs cannot reimburse over-the-counter products without a prescription (excluding purchase of insulin). Repealed effective January 1, 2017. Same as AHCA.
Medical Expense Deduction Itemized deduction under IRC § 223 available for medical expenses in excess of 10% of adjusted gross income. Repealed effective January 1, 2017. Threshold would return to 7.5% adjusted gross income. Same as AHCA.
Medicare Surcharge Additional 0.9% hospital insurance (Medicare) tax applied to high-earners. Repealed effective January 1, 2023. Same as AHCA.
Medicare Investment Income Tax Medicare tax of 3.8% applied to unearned income. Repealed effective January 1, 2017. Same as AHCA.
Health Insurance Tax Tax applied to insurance carriers based on premiums collected. Repealed effective January 1, 2017. Repealed effective January 1, 2018.
Health Insurer Compensation Deduction No compensation deduction available to certain health insurance providers for compensation in excess of $500,000 paid to applicable individuals. Repealed effective January 1, 2017. Same as AHCA.
Medical Device Tax Excise tax of 2.3% imposed on manufacturer, producers and importers of medical devices. Repealed effective January 1, 2017. Repealed effective January 1, 2018.
Branded Prescription Drug Fee Manufacturers and importers of branded prescription drugs are subject to an annual fee. Repealed effective January 1, 2017. Repealed effective January 1, 2018.
Retiree Drug Subsidy Amount received under Retiree Drug Subsidy must be taken into consideration when determining prescription drug cost business deduction. Repealed effective January 1, 2017. Same as AHCA.

Marketplace

ACA AHCA

BCRA

Marketplace Structure

Individuals can purchase insurance coverage on risk-pooled Marketplace established by Federal or state government.   Individuals purchasing coverage on the Marketplace may be eligible for cost-sharing subsidies and premium assistance.  Plans available on Marketplace (“qualified health plans”) must meet certain cost-sharing and actuarial value levels (i.e., gold, silver, bronze plans).  Qualified health plans must cover essential health benefits.

Effective January 1, 2020, cost-sharing subsidies and premium assistance are repealed. Additionally, Marketplace plans are no longer required to meet cost-sharing and actuarial value requirements.  Limited-scope, or catastrophic plans would be available.

No structural changes from ACA.   Marketplaces, including cost-sharing subsidies and premium assistance, remain intact with modifications.

Cost-Sharing Subsidies and Premium Assistance Available to individuals with household income between 100% and 400% of federal poverty line. Age is not a factor in amount of subsidies or assistance available.

For plan years beginning in 2018 and 2019, basic structure remains the same except that age and income are factors in the amount of cost-sharing subsidies and premium assistance that is available.  No subsidies or assistance is available for qualified health plans that cover abortion.

Cost-sharing subsidies and premium assistance repealed for plan years beginning in 2020. Instead, advance tax credit available based solely on age.

Available to individuals with household income between 100% and 350% of federal poverty line. Age is a factor in amount of subsidies or assistance available.
Premium Rate Setting Small group and individual insurance markets may vary rates based only on certain factors, including individual or family coverage, community rating, age (3:1 ratio) and tobacco use.

Age ratio increases to 5:1 beginning January 1, 2018. States may apply to waive ACA requirements and base premiums on health factors.

Age ratio increases to 5:1 beginning January 1, 2018. State Innovation Waiver Program (ACA § 1332) requirements relaxed, giving states ability to waive many of the ACA’s market reforms.

This post was written by Damian A. Meyers and Steven D. Weinstein of Proskauer Rose LLP.

2016 Tax Court Opinions – A Year In Review

tax court opinionsSeveral notable tax court opinions were issued 2016 dealing with a variety of substantive and procedural matters. In our previous post –  Year in Review: Court Procedure and Privilege – we discussed some of these matters. This post addresses some additional cases decided by the court during the year and highlights some other cases still in the pipeline.

Transfer Pricing

Transfer pricing remains a hot topic in litigation. As discussed here, here and here the Tax Court accepted and rejected taxpayer arguments in several high-profile cases.

We have also written frequently on the 3M case, which involves whether the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) blocked income regulations are valid. That case has been submitted fully stipulated to the Tax Court and all briefs have been filed. For prior coverage, see here, here, and here.

Point: Transfer pricing is a point of emphasis with the IRS. Given that slight changes to a taxpayer’s transfer pricing methodologies can produce substantial adjustments, taxpayers need to continue to monitor judicial developments in the area. This includes not only how courts view the arm’s length standard, but also taxpayer challenges to the IRS’s rulemaking authority.

The Administrative Procedures Act and Deference to IRS Interpretations

Following the Supreme Court’s 2011 Mayo opinion, taxpayers have increasingly turned to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) to challenge IRS actions. In addition to the posts linked above regarding APA challenges in transfer pricing cases, we have written about the QinitiQ and Ax cases dealing with whether an explanation provided in a notice of deficiency is insufficient under the APA. See here and here]. Additionally, the Supreme Court provided guidance in a non-tax case regarding the proper application of the APA in the analysis of the validity of agency regulations.

Another area we have frequently posted on is the level of deference afforded to IRS interpretations. Discussions of general deference principles and cases decided in 2016 can be found here, here, here, here, and here]. Additionally, as we noted here, the Supreme Court recently granted certiorari to decide the limits of Auer deference.

Practice point: Whether the IRS’s position in published or unpublished guidance is afforded deference, and, if so, the appropriate level of deference, is important to taxpayers both in planning their transactions and defending them before the IRS and the courts. This area continues to evolve, particularly in the area of Auer deference, and taxpayers need to be aware of new developments.

Information Reporting Requirements

The IRS’s Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program remains a tool for noncompliant taxpayers to come to the IRS to resolve outstanding tax reporting matters. For an update on this subject, see here. The release of the Panama Paper in April 2016, which we wrote about here received considerable attention. A recent opinion out of a district court in California also provided more guidance on the willful standard for failure to file foreign information reporting forms. See here.

Practice point: OVDP remains open, but it could be closed by the IRS at any time. Noncompliant taxpayers need to consider all options in this area, and should consider which option might be best depending on their specific situation.

Penalties

The IRS has been increasingly asserting penalties in cases. We recently discussed here some of the penalty procedural rules at issue in the Graev case. We also discussed the substantial authority defense, as applied by the Fifth Circuit in Chemtech Royalty Associates. See here.

Point: Taxpayers who are facing penalty determinations and assessments should consider whether they may have any procedural challenges to the IRS’s method of approval and assessment of penalties, in addition to considering the more standard, substantive defenses like reasonable cause and substantial authority. It is important to adequately document your position prior to taking a tax return position to avoid any initial assertion of penalties by the IRS.

US Supreme Court Denies Certiorari in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl

Supreme Court Direct Marketing AssociationThis morning, the US Supreme Court announced that it denied certiorari in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl, which was on appeal from the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The denied petitions were filed this fall by both the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Colorado, with the Colorado cross-petition explicitly asking the Court to broadly reconsider Quill. In light of this, many viewed this case a potential vehicle to judicially overturn the Quill physical presence standard.

Practice Note: Going forward, the Tenth Circuit decision upholding the constitutionality of Colorado’s notice and reporting law stands, and is binding in the Tenth Circuit (which includes Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma as well). While this development puts an end to this particular kill-Quill movement, there are a number of other challenges in the pipeline that continue to move forward.

In particular, the Ohio Supreme Court recently decided that the Ohio Commercial Activity Tax, a gross-receipts tax, is not subject to the Quill physical presence standard. A cert petition is expected in this case, and could provide another opportunity for the US Supreme Court to speak on the remote sales tax issue. In addition, litigation is pending in South Dakota and Alabama over economic nexus laws implemented earlier this year. A motion hearing took place before the US District Court for the District of South Dakota last week on whether the Wayfair case should be remanded back to state court. If so, the litigation would be subject to the expedited appeal procedures implemented by SB 106 (2016), and would be fast tracked for US Supreme Court review. Tennessee also recently adopted a regulation implementing an economic nexus standard for sales and use tax purposes that directly conflicts with Quill that is expected to be implemented (and challenged) in 2017. While Governor Bill Haslam has praised the effort, state legislators have been outspoken against the attempt to circumvent the legislature and impose a new tax. Notably, the Joint Committee on Government Operations still needs to approve the regulation for it to take effect, with the economic nexus regulation included in the rule packet scheduled for review by the committee this Thursday, December 15, 2016.

All this action comes at a time when states are gearing up to begin their 2017 legislative sessions, with many rumored to be preparing South Dakota-style economic nexus legislation for introduction. While DMA is dead as an option, the movement to overturn Quill continues and the next few months are expected to be extremely active in this area.

© 2016 McDermott Will & Emery

Base Erosion Profit Shifting Multilateral Agreement

Base Erosion Profit ShiftingThe most recent element of the ongoing global dispute resolution process is the late November 2016 release of the so-called multilateral instrument (MLI), a cornerstone of the base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) project. It is an ambitious effort of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to impose its will on as many countries as possible. The explanation comprises 85 single-spaced pages and 359 paragraphs. The MLI draft itself is 48 similar pages. The purpose of the MLI is to facilitate implementation of the BEPS Action items without having to go through the tedious process of amending approximately two thousand treaties.

In essence, the MLI implements the BEPS Action items in treaty language. While consistency is obviously an intended result, the MLI recognizes the reality that many countries will not agree to all of the provisions. Accordingly, countries are allowed to sign the agreement, but then opt out of specific provisions or make appropriate reservations with respect to specific treaties. This process is to be undertaken via notification of the “depository” (the OECD). Accordingly, countries will be able to make individual decisions on whether to update a particular treaty using the MLI.

There are a variety of initial questions to be addressed by each country, including:

  • Does it intend to sign the MLI?

  • Which of its treaties will be covered?

  • Will treaty partners agree?

  • What provisions will be included or opted out of? If there is an opt out, the country is supposed to advise the depository of how this impacts each of its treaties. This will be a time-consuming process.

  • How will it negotiate with specific treaty partners with respect to the various technical provisions of the MLI?

The arbitration provisions are intended to implement the BEPS Action 14 recommendations, focused on mandatory binding arbitration. These provisions would apply to a bilateral treaty only if both parties agree. The arbitration articles provide an outline of arbitration procedures, allowing the competent authorities to vary the procedures by mutual agreement. The form of the proceeding provides a default for “last best offer” (or “baseball style”). The parties may also agree to a “reasoned decision” process, which is stated to have no precedential value. If the parties do not agree on either of these forms of proceeding, the competent authorities should endeavor to reach agreement on a form. If there is no agreement, then the arbitration provisions are inapplicable.

Whether the US or other countries will sign the MLI, it seems apparent that the net result will be a period of chaos in treaty relationships, as there will inevitably be: (1) signers and non-signers; (2) reservations; (3) opt outs; etc.

In a world in which the list of countries zealously seeking to protect their tax bases and making proposals to increase domestic tax revenues (following BEPS and related guidance), continually expands, it seems apparent that dispute resolution processes will need to evolve to resolve the tsunami of disputes that are expected to materialize. If this is not the case, then countries and MNEs alike will incur prejudice to their respective interests.

Accordingly, these dispute resolution issues should be on the agenda for consideration as effective tax rate strategies are revisited in the post-BEPS world.

Cost of Living Adjustments for 2017 from Internal Revenue Service

The Internal Revenue Service has announced the 2017 cost of living adjustments to various limits. The adjusted amounts generally apply for plan years beginning in 2017. Some of the adjusted amounts, however, apply to calendar year 2017.

Employee Benefit Plans

Plan Year 2017 2016
401(k), 403(b), 457 deferral limit $18,000 $18,000
Catch-up contribution limit (age 50 or older by end of 2016) $6,000 $6,000
Annual compensation limit $270,000 $265,000
Annual benefits payable under defined benefit plans $215,000 $210,000
Annual allocations to accounts in defined contribution plans $54,000

(but not more than 100% of compensation)

$53,000

(but not more than 100% of compensation)

Highly compensated employee Compensation more than $120,000 in 2016 plan year Compensation more than $120,000 in 2015 plan year

 

Health Savings Accounts

Calendar Year 2017 2016
Maximum contribution

  • Family
  • Self
  • $6,750
  • $3,400
  • $6,750
    $3,350
Catch-up contribution (participants who are 55 by end of year)
  • $1,000
  • $1,000
Minimum deductible

  • Family
  • Self
  • $2,600
  • $1,300
  • $2,600
  • $1,300
Maximum out-of-pocket

  • Family
  • Self
  • $13,100
  • $6,550
  • $13,100
    $6,550

 

Social Security

Calendar Year 2017 2016
Taxable wage base $127,200 $118,500
Maximum earnings without loss of benefit  

 

 
  • Under full retirement age
  • $1,410/mo. ($16,920/yr.)
  • $1,310/mo. ($15,720/yr.)
  • Year you reach full retirement age
  • $3,740/mo. up to mo. of full retirement age ($44,880/yr.)
  • $3,490/mo. up to mo. of full retirement age ($41,880/yr.)

 

Social Security Retirement Age

Year of Birth Retirement Age
Prior to 1938 Age 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943 – 1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and later 67

© 2016 Varnum LLP