IRS Announces Program For U.S. Expats To Come Into Compliance With Their U.S. Tax And Filing Obligations

IRS Announces Program For U.S. Expats To Come Into Compliance With Their U.S. Tax And Filing Obligations

On September 6, 2019 the IRS announced procedures for certain persons who have relinquished, or intend to relinquish, their United States citizenship and who wish to come into compliance with their U.S. income tax and reporting obligations and avoid being taxed as a “covered expatriate” under Code Sec. 877A.

The Relief Procedures for Certain Former Citizens apply only to individuals who have not filed U.S. tax returns as U.S. citizens or residents, owe a limited amount of back taxes to the United States and have net assets of less than $2 million. Only taxpayers whose past compliance failures were non-willful can take advantage of these new procedures. For those expat-individuals who missed the opportunity to come forward in the IRS’ Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”), this is a huge opportunity. Many in this group may have lived outside the United States most of their lives and may have not been aware that they had U.S. tax obligations.

U.S. Taxation Of Worldwide Income

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” are citizens of the United States.  With very limited exceptions for individuals born in the United States with diplomatic agent level immunity, all persons born in the United States acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. A person born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents acquires U.S. citizenship at birth if the parent or parents meet conditions specified in the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (Section 301 and following sections).

Some U.S. citizens, born in the United States to foreign parents or born outside the United States to U.S. citizen parents, may be unaware of their status as U.S. citizens or the consequences of such status.  By law, U.S. citizens, regardless of whether they live in the United States or abroad, are required to report and pay to the IRS all applicable taxes on their worldwide income, including on their income from foreign financial assets.

With the passage of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) on March 18, 2010, foreign financial institutions are generally required to determine whether their customers are U.S. citizens and, if so, report certain information about the customer’s account. Depending on when the account is opened, the customer may be identified by the financial institution as a U.S. citizen based on certain indicia, such as a place of birth in the United States. A customer who is identified as a U.S. citizen based on U.S. indicia must provide to the financial institution either his or her Social Security Number (“SSN”), or if the customer is no longer a U.S. citizen, documentation to rebut the determination, such as proof of loss of U.S. citizenship. A customer opening a new account with a foreign financial institution is generally required to provide a self-certification upon account opening, which includes the customer’s name, address, and SSN.

New Relief Procedures For Expats

Eligible individuals wishing to use these relief procedures are required to file outstanding U.S. tax returns, including all required schedules and information returns, for the five years preceding and their year of expatriation. Provided that the taxpayer’s tax liability does not exceed a total of $25,000 for the six years in question, the taxpayer is relieved from paying U.S. taxes and they will not be assessed penalties and interest.  

The IRS is offering these procedures without a specific termination date. The IRS will announce a closing date prior to ending the procedures. Individuals who relinquished their U.S. citizenship any time after March 18, 2010, are eligible so long as they satisfy the other criteria of the procedures.

These procedures are only available to individuals. Estates, trusts, corporations, partnerships and other entities may not use these procedures.

These procedures may only be used by taxpayers whose failure to file required tax returns (including income tax returns, applicable gift tax returns, information returns (including Form 8938, Statement of Foreign Financial Assets), and Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FinCEN Form 114, formerly Form TD F 90-22.1)) and pay taxes and penalties for the years at issue was due to non-willful conduct. Non-willful conduct is conduct that is due to negligence, inadvertence, or mistake or conduct that is the result of a good faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.

U.S. Penalties for Non-Compliance.

Federal tax law requires U.S. taxpayers to pay taxes on all income earned worldwide. U.S. taxpayers must also report foreign financial accounts if the total value of the accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. Willful failure to report a foreign account can result in a fine of up to 50% of the amount in the account at the time of the violation and may even result in the IRS filing criminal charges.

Civil Fraud – If your failure to file is due to fraud, the penalty is 15% for each month or part of a month that your return is late, up to a maximum of 75%.

Criminal Fraud – Any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

Additionally, the penalties for FBAR noncompliance are stiffer than the civil tax penalties ordinarily imposed for delinquent taxes. For non-willful violations, it is $10,000 per account per year going back as far as six years. For willful violations, the penalties for noncompliance which the government may impose include a fine of not more than $500,000 and imprisonment of not more than five years, for failure to file a report, supply information, and for filing a false or fraudulent report.

Lastly, failing to file Form 8938 when required could result in a $10,000 penalty, with an additional penalty up to $50,000 for continued failure to file after IRS notification. A 40% penalty on any understatement of tax attributable to non-disclosed assets can also be imposed.

What Should You Do?

For those expat-individuals who missed the opportunity to come forward in the IRS’ Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”), this is a huge opportunity. Relinquishing U.S. citizenship and the tax consequences that follow are serious matters that involve irrevocable decisions. Taxpayers who relinquish citizenship without complying with their U.S. tax obligations are subject to the significant tax consequences of the U.S. expatriation tax regime. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California help ensure that you are in compliance with federal tax laws. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out how our cannabis tax attorneys can help you.

IRS Agrees To Hold Off Denying Passport Privileges For Certain Taxpayers

IRS Agrees To Hold Off Denying Passport Privileges For Certain Taxpayers

Taxpayers who are seriously behind on their taxes to the IRS are putting their passports in jeopardy!

Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act

Under section 32101 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (“FAST Act”), signed into law in December 2015, the IRS is required to notify the State Department of taxpayers the IRS has certified as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt (currently more than $52,000 and meeting certain other requirements under Internal Revenue Code § 7345(b)). Also see Notice 2018-1. The FAST Act also requires the State Department to deny their passport application or deny renewal of their passport. In some cases, the State Department may revoke their passport.

Which Taxpayers Are Impacted By The FAST Act?

Taxpayers affected by this law are those with a “seriously delinquent tax debt”.  A taxpayer with a “seriously delinquent tax debt” is generally someone who owes the IRS more than $52,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest for which the IRS has filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien and the period to challenge it has expired or the IRS has issued a levy.

The IRS already began certifying certain taxpayers in phases and will continue certifying all seriously delinquent individual taxpayer accounts. The IRS will send a Notice CP 508C to your last known address at the time it certifies your seriously delinquent tax debt to the State Department.

How Can Taxpayers Avoid Notification To The State Department?

There are several ways taxpayers can avoid having the IRS notify the State Department of their seriously delinquent tax debt. They include the following:

  • Paying the tax debt in full
  • Paying the tax debt timely under an approved installment agreement,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under an accepted offer in compromise,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under the terms of a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice,
  • Having requested or have a pending collection due process appeal with a levy, or
  • Having collection suspended because a taxpayer has made an innocent spouse election or requested innocent spouse relief.

Taxpayers Not At Risk For Loosing Passport Privileges.

A passport will not be at risk under this program for any taxpayer: 

  • Who is in bankruptcy,
  • Who is identified by the IRS as a victim of tax-related identity theft,
  • Whose account the IRS has determined is currently not collectible due to hardship,
  • Who is located within a federally declared disaster area,
  • Who has a request pending with the IRS for an installment agreement,
  • Who has a pending offer in compromise with the IRS, or
  • Who has an IRS accepted adjustment that will satisfy the debt in full.

Also for taxpayers serving in a combat zone who owe a seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS postpones notifying the State Department and the individual’s passport is not subject to denial during this time.

Additionally, as reported on September 3, 2019 in a blog put out by the National Office Of The Taxpayer Advocate (“TA”), the IRS recently agreed to temporarily exclude taxpayers with cases with the TA from passport certification and to reverse certifications for TA taxpayers who were certified before coming to the TA.

Timeframe And Process To Get IRS Clearance For Passport Renewal Or Application

When a taxpayer applies for a passport (either original issuance or renewal), the State Department, in general, will provide the applicant with 90 days to resolve their tax delinquency with the IRS before denying the application. If a taxpayer needs their passport to travel within those 90 days, the taxpayer must contact the IRS and resolve the matter within 45 days from the date of application so that the IRS has adequate time to notify the State Department.

The remedy for a taxpayer who believes that a certification to the State Department of a tax delinquency is erroneous or that the IRS incorrectly failed to reverse a certification because the tax debt is either fully satisfied or ceases to be a “seriously delinquent tax debt”, is to file an action in Federal District Court. However, taxpayers in this situation may be able to reach resolution within the IRS with the assistance of qualified tax counsel and thus avoid the delay and expense of bringing an action in Federal District Court.

What Should You Do?

If you have outstanding liabilities with the IRS or any State Tax Agency, protect yourself and preserve your right to travel by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent you at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. Additionally, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

Under Pressure By California, Weedmaps Boots Unlicensed Cannabis Businesses

According to reports from the Sacramento Bee and Marijuana Business Daily, Lori Ajax, chief of the California Bureau Of Cannabis Control, issued on February 16, 2018 a cease and desist order to Weedmaps.com, an internet company based in Irvine that maps marijuana dispensaries, to immediately stop promoting cannabis businesses that do not have state licenses. It is Ms. Ajax’s position that the business of Weedmaps allegedly is aiding and abetting in violation of state cannabis law (the California Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act) by advertising canna-businesses without proper state license numbers and if the company doesn’t immediately drop advertisements for unlicensed businesses, Weedmaps could face criminal and civil penalties, including civil fines for each illegal ad.

While Weedmaps does not sell cannabis but merely serves that industry by providing an advertising service, such action by the State to go after third parties providing ancillary services to the cannabis industry is very chilling. Despite California legalizing medical use and recreational use marijuana, cannabis businesses must still be licensed by the State. This license requirement started January 1, 2018. The California Bureau Of Cannabis Control has identified at least 900 cannabis businesses operating without the proper licenses and many of these businesses are listed on Weedmaps.

Under this pressure by California, Weedmaps finally agreed to pull all unlicensed businesses before the end of 2019. Weedmaps announced that U.S. retailers will be required to provide a state-issued license number on their listing, and Weedmaps is restricting the use of its point of sale, online orders, delivery logistics, and wholesale exchange software-as-a-service platforms exclusively to licensed operators.

Cannabis Is Illegal Under Federal Law.

It is enough that a cannabis businesses have to face the fact that under 21 U.S.C. § 812 (known as the Federal Controlled Substances Act), the Federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

The federal penalties for possession of any amount of marijuana are as follows:

  • First Offense – Misdemeanor involving up to one year of incarceration and $1,000 in fines
  • Second Offense – Misdemeanor punishable by 15 days to 2 years behind bars and $2,500 in fines
  • Third and subsequent offenses – Misdemeanor or felony punishable by 90 days to 3 years of incarceration and fines of up to $5,000.

The penalties for the sale of marijuana depend on the amount of marijuana you have been accused of selling or attempting to sell:

  • Less than 50 kilograms – Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines
  • 50 to 99 kilograms – Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or fines of up to $1,000,000
  • 100 to 999 kilograms – Felony involving 5 to 40 years incarceration and/or fines of up to $2,000,000
  • 1000 kg and up – Felony carrying a sentence of 10 years to life in prison and/or up to $4,000,000 in fines

As for the cultivation of marijuana, the federal authorities punish it on the basis of the number of plants you were caught growing:

  • Less than 50 plants – Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines
  • 50 to 99 plants – Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or up to $1,000,000 in fines
  • 100 to 999 plants – Felony carrying a 5 to 40-year prison sentence and/or fines of up to $5,000,000
  • 1,000 plants or more – Felony involving 10 years to life in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000,000

With aggravating factors such as a trafficking activity that results in an injury or death, a sale within 1,000 feet of a school, or a case involving five grams sold to a minor, the above penalties may increase dramatically but the fact that a cannabis business is properly licensed by the State can be a mitigating factor decreasing these penalties.

Risk To Being Shut Down And Assets Seized By Your Local Federal District Attorney

On January 4, 2018 Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded what was known as the “Cole Memo”.

The Cole Memo which came out of the Department Of Justice (“DOJ”) under the Obama administration in 2013, directed U.S. Attorneys to use discretion to prioritize certain types of violations in prosecuting cannabis operators, but, strictly speaking, it did not make operations in cannabis legal.

The Cole Memo included eight factors for prosecutors to look at in deciding whether to charge a medical marijuana business with violating the Federal law:

  • Does the business allow minors to gain access to marijuana?
  • Is revenue from the business funding criminal activities or gangs?
  • Is the marijuana being diverted to other states?
  • Is the legitimate medical marijuana business being used as a cover or pretext for the traffic of other drugs or other criminal enterprises?
  • Are violence or firearms being used in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana?
  • Does the business contribute to drugged driving or other adverse public health issues?
  • Is marijuana being grown on public lands or in a way that jeopardizes the environment or public safety?
  • Is marijuana being used on federal property?

But now that the Cole Memo has be rescinded, federal prosecutors in cannabis legal states will now be free to decide how aggressively they wish to enforce federal marijuana laws. While State law and public acceptance of marijuana usage may temper federal prosecutors’ aggressiveness, this risk of seizure and shutdown is still real and for those cannabis businesses that are not licensed by the State, not only will they rise to the top of the Federal District Attorney’s list but also by State authorities. Criminal prosecution is also possible at both the Federal and State levels so it is important to have qualified legal counsel lined-up and available to intervene.

What Should You Do?

Considering the risks of cannabis you need to protect yourself and your investment, especially if you are not holding a valid license with the State. Level the playing field and gain the upper hand by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations. We can come up with solutions and strategies to these risks and protect you and your business to maximize your net profits.

Can Cannabis Help People As A Mid-level Analgesic Medication For Pain Treatment?

Researchers at The University Of New Mexico (“UNM”) recently announced that the cannabis flower is an effective mid-level analgesic medication for pain treatment. The report acknowledges that chronic pain afflicts more than 20% of adults and is the most financially burdensome health condition that the U.S faces; exceeding, for example, the combined costs of treating heart disease and cancer.

Using the largest database of real-time recordings of the effects of common and commercially available cannabis products in the U.S., researchers at UNM found strong evidence that cannabis can significantly alleviate pain, with the average user experiencing a three-point drop in pain suffering on a 0-10 point scale immediately following cannabis consumption.

With a mounting opioid epidemic at full force and relatively few alternative pain medications available to the general public, scientists found conclusive support that cannabis is very effective at reducing pain caused by different types of health conditions, with relatively minimal negative side effects. 

Researchers stated “When compared to the negative health risks associated with opioid use, which currently takes the lives of over 115 Americans a day, cannabis may be an obvious value to patients. Chronic opioid use is associated with poorer quality of life, social isolation, lower immune functioning and early morbidity. In contrast, my own ongoing research increasingly suggests that cannabis use is associated with a reversal of each of these potential outcomes.”

Developments like this contradict the basis of classification of cannabis under Federal law which makes cannabis illegal.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Although you can still face federal criminal charges for using, growing, or selling weed in a manner that is completely lawful under California law, the federal authorities in the past have pulled back from targeting individuals and businesses engaged in medical marijuana activities. This pull back came from Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Safe Harbor Guidelines issued in 2013 under what is known as the “Cole Memo”.

The Cole Memo included eight factors for prosecutors to look at in deciding whether to charge a medical marijuana business with violating the Federal law:

  • Does the business allow minors to gain access to marijuana?
  • Is revenue from the business funding criminal activities or gangs?
  • Is the marijuana being diverted to other states?
  • Is the legitimate medical marijuana business being used as a cover or pretext for the traffic of other drugs or other criminal enterprises?
  • Are violence or firearms being used in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana?
  • Does the business contribute to drugged driving or other adverse public health issues?
  • Is marijuana being grown on public lands or in a way that jeopardizes the environment or public safety?
  • Is marijuana being used on federal property?

Since 2013, these guidelines provided a level of certainty to the marijuana industry as to what point could you be crossing the line with the Federal government.  But on January 4, 2018, then-acting Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo.  Now U.S. Attorneys in the local offices throughout the country retain broad prosecutorial discretion as to whether to prosecute cannabis businesses under federal law even though the state that these businesses operate in have legalized some form of marijuana.

Joyce-Blumenauer Amendment (previously referred to as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment)

Medical marijuana is now legal in 31 states plus the District Of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Islands and recreational marijuana is legal in 9 states plus the District Of Columbia and Northern Mariana Islands. Building on the DOJ’s issuance of the Cole Memo, in 2014 the House passed an amendment to the yearly federal appropriations bill that effectively shields medical marijuana businesses from federal prosecution. Proposed by Representatives Rohrabacher and Farr, the amendment forbids federal agencies to spend money on investigating and prosecuting medical marijuana-related activities in states where such activities are legal.

The amendment states that:

None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

This action by the House is not impacted by Sessions’ recent change of position with the DOJ. However, unless this amendment gets included in each succeeding federal appropriations bill, the protection from Federal prosecution of medical marijuana businesses will no longer be in place.

Fortunately for medical marijuana businesses in the last budget extension approved by Congress, this amendment was included. This means that the DOJ is precluded from spending funds to circumvent any of the foregoing states from implementing their medical cannabis laws.

Clearly, to avail yourself of the protections of the amendment, you must be on the medical cannabis side and you must be in complete compliance with your State’s medical cannabis laws and regulations. You may not be covered under the amendment if you are involved in the recreational cannabis side even if legal in the State you are operating.

What Should You Do?

Given the illegal status of cannabis under Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  Although cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you. Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.

cannabis-cafe

West Hollywood To Open Its First Cannabis Cafe.

In an article published August 15, 2019 in the Washington Post, it is reported that the first cannabis restaurant is coming to West Hollywood, California. Lowell Farms cannabis cafe, a 220-seat establishment as a place for locals and tourists to have a high-quality meal and smoke a joint in public, is expected to open soon.

The article goes on to state that running a cannabis restaurant is nothing like running a typical restaurant in West Hollywood. Cannabis businesses cannot serve alcohol, so drinks are zero-proof. Also, the state does not permit cannabis businesses to operate after 10:00PM, so Lowell Farms cannabis cafe must have last call for cannabis before then. Also, the food that is being served cannot be infused with cannabis because under state law, all cannabis products have to be prepackaged and tested, making it logistically impossible for a restaurant kitchen that wants to serve fresh food.

With entrepreneurs taking advantage of state legalization of cannabis, we are seeing more innovative approaches to adding cannabis consumption into entertainment and dining venues. But despite these innovations, cannabis still remains illegal under Federal law.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Although you can still face federal criminal charges for using, growing, or selling weed in a manner that is completely lawful under California law and other states that have legalized cannabis, the federal authorities in the past have pulled back from targeting individuals and businesses engaged in medical marijuana activities. This pull back though has no impact on the IRS which will likely start in 2019 to more aggressively target cannabis businesses with audits.

Risks Of Running A Cannabis Business

Higher Taxes Still Remain

It still remains to be seen when favorable changes will be made to the Internal Revenue Code which treats businesses in the marijuana industry differently resulting in such business paying at least 3-times as much in taxes as ordinary businesses.

Generally, businesses can deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses under I.R.C. §162. This includes wages, rent, supplies, etc. However, in 1982 Congress added I.R.C. §280E. Under I.R.C. §280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. Marijuana, including medical marijuana, is a controlled substance. What this means is that dispensaries and other businesses trafficking in marijuana have to report all of their income and cannot deduct rent, wages, and other expenses, making their marginal tax rate substantially higher than most other businesses.

Reporting Of Cash Payments Still Remain

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (“BSA”) requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, and file reports of cash purchases of these negotiable instruments of more than $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities. The BSA requires any business receiving one or more related cash payments totaling more than $10,000 to file IRS Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business.

The minimum penalty for failing to file EACH Form 8300 is $25,000 if the failure is due to an intentional or willful disregard of the cash reporting requirements. Penalties may also be imposed for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to fail to file a required report; for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to file a required report containing a material omission or misstatement of fact; or for structuring, or attempting to structure, transactions to avoid the reporting requirements. These violations may also be subject to criminal prosecution which, upon conviction, may result in imprisonment of up to 5 years or fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations or both.

Marijuana-related businesses operate in an environment of cash transactions as many banks remain reluctant to do business with many in the marijuana industry. Like any cash-based business the IRS scrutinizes the amount of gross receipts to report and it is harder to prove to the IRS expenses paid in cash. So it is of most importance that the proper facilities and procedures be set up to maintain an adequate system of books and records.

How Do You Know Which Cannabis Tax Attorney Is Best For You?

Given that cannabis is still illegal under existing Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  While cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you.  It’s coming down that the biggest risk is TAXES.  Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Metropolitan Los Angeles and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.

What You Need To Know If You Received IRS Notice LT16 To Prevent An IRS Levy.

What You Need To Know If You Received IRS Notice LT16 To Prevent An IRS Levy.

Getting a notice in the mail from IRS usually causes much anxiety. After all the IRS has the power on its own to implement enforcement action which can include seizing your assets or wages. Enforcement action could also include the filing of a notice of federal tax lien, which could affect your credit score and ability to borrow.

What Is So Special About IRS Notice LT16?

Look for the code or letter type in the upper right corner on the first page of your IRS Notice. If it shows that this a Notice LT16, keep in mind that there is not an IRS agent likely assigned to your case. It actually is a notice generated automatically by the IRS computers. Any immediate levy action is determined by the success of the IRS computer in trying to find information about your income from any W2 and 1099 information that has been reported by third parties.  Alternatively, your case could be assigned to a Revenue Officer who could promptly commence with enforcement action. Revenue Officers are the highest level IRS collection agents, work in your locale, and often start a collection case investigation by making a visit to your home or office.

What you need to do to avoid enforcement action:

  • Read your notice carefully: Following the instructions on your notice may stop enforcement action.
  • File missing tax returns (if any): If your notice indicates you have missing tax returns, file the missing returns as soon as possible.
  • If you can pay the unpaid balance in full, make payment: Interest and applicable penalties will stop being added as soon as you pay your balance in full.
  • If you cannot pay the full amount due: Pay as much as you can now and set up an installment agreement for the remaining balance. You must be current on your filings in order to apply for an installment agreement.

If you already have an approved installment agreement, then continue making payments per that agreement. Payments on your balance can take up to 21 days to post on your account so if you paid your balance in full within the last 21 days, you should be able to disregard the LT16 you received.

If You Cannot Pay in Full Now

Paying what you can now will reduce the amount of interest and applicable penalties added to the remaining balance in the future; however, it will not stop the IRS from taking enforcement action unless a formal plan is put in place. It would be in your best interest to first meet with a tax attorney to determine whether there are any further benefits to pay selected IRS liabilities and/or making a down payment that will bring the total balance owed to a level that qualifies for any one of the special programs offered by the IRS.

If You Are Experiencing A Financial Hardship

In some circumstances you may qualify for a status with IRS of marking your account as “currently not collectible” thus temporarily delaying collection action until your financial condition improves. Putting your account in currently not collectible status does not stop penalties and interest from being charged and it does not mean the debt goes away; it means the IRS has determined you cannot afford to pay any of the debt at this time. Because at some point in the future the IRS could resurrect collection action, many taxpayers prefer to seek permanent relief. An Offer In Compromise allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount you owe. This may be a legitimate option if you cannot pay your full tax liability, or doing so creates a financial hardship. It would be in your best interest to meet with a tax attorney to determine whether you qualify as the IRS makes it very difficult for taxpayers to successfully get approval of an Offer In Compromise.

Penalties And Interest

The IRS charges penalties on your account when you do not pay your tax in full by the return due date (usually April 15), or if you’ve not made sufficient estimated tax payments (if required). Interest on the total amount you owe generally begins being charged daily from the return due date. If you do not pay in full (even if you have a pending or approved installment agreement) by the payment due date specified in any notice issued to you, additional interest and applicable penalties will continue to be added until you pay your balance in full. You may qualify for relief from penalties if you made an effort to comply with the requirements of the law, but were unable to meet your tax obligations, due to circumstances beyond your control. The IRS refers to this as having “reasonable cause”. It would be in your best interest to meet with a tax attorney to determine whether you qualify as the IRS makes it very difficult for taxpayers to successfully get abatement of penalties.

Your Appeal Rights

If the tax balance is in doubt, you dispute the amount of the tax, or cannot resolve a disagreement with the IRS, generally you are entitled to a hearing with the Office of Appeals. It is important that you take advantage of this option as your situation can then be evaluated by a Settlement Officer who is independent of IRS Collections. Knowing how to best present such cases in appeal, we have much success in reaching resolution with this Office. Since there is a short window to file an appeal (usually 30 days from the date of the Notice LT16), it would be in your best interest to meet with a tax attorney as soon as possible.

What Should You Do?

You should think of the IRS Notice LT16 as a heads-up that the IRS is getting ready to start collection enforcement and that during this period before that action starts you get proactive to come up with plan so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Diego County (Carlsbad) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. And if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

affected by hurricane damage IRS Relief

Are You Effected By The June 2019 Texas Severe Storms And Flooding? IRS Is Providing You With Tax Relief And Extending Upcoming Tax Deadlines.

Are You Effected By The June 2019 Texas Severe Storms And Flooding? IRS Is Providing You With Tax Relief And Extending Upcoming Tax Deadlines.

The IRS announced on July 18, 2019 that victims of the severe storms and flooding that took place on June 24 to 25, 2019 in Texas may qualify for tax relief. Individuals who reside or have a business in Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy Counties have until April 30, 2019, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments.

IRS Tax Relief Details

The IRS is offering this relief to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as qualifying for individual assistance. The current list of eligible localities is always available on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.

The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after June 24, 2019 and before October 31, 2019, are granted additional time to file through October 31, 2019. This includes 2018 individual income tax returns that have a valid extension through October 15, 2019, and the employment and excise tax returns due on July 31, 2019. It also includes the quarterly estimated individual income tax payment due on September 16, 2019.

In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after June 24, 2019, and before July 9, 2019, will be abated as long as the deposits were made by July 9, 2019.

Importance To Preserve Records

Keep in mind that the IRS has up to three years to select a tax return for audit. The FTB has up to four years to select a tax return for audit. In some cases this period is extended to six years. When a taxpayer is selected for audit, the taxpayer has the burden of proof to show that expenses claimed are properly deductible. Having the evidence handy and organized makes meeting this burden of proof much easier.

Essential Records to Have for a Tax Audit

If you are getting ready for a tax audit, one of the most important things to do is gather and organize your tax records and receipts. There’s a good chance that you have a large amount of documents and receipts in your possession. No matter how organized you are, it can be a daunting task to collect the right pieces and make sure that you have them organized and handy for the audit conference.

We have seen many tax audits that hinge on whether or not the taxpayer can provide proper documentation for their previous tax filings. A tax lawyer in Orange County or elsewhere can make sure that the documentation is complete and proper.  By submitting this to your tax attorney in advance of the audit, your tax attorney can review your documentation and determine if there are any gaps that need to be addressed before starting the dialogue with the IRS agent.

So what are the most essential tax records to have ahead of your audit? Here are a few must-have items:

  • Any W-2 forms from the previous year. This can include documents from full-time and part-time work, large casino and lottery winnings and more.
  • Form 1098 records from your bank or lender on mortgage interest paid from the previous year.
  • Records of any miscellaneous money you earned and reported to the IRS including work done as an independent contractor or freelancer, interest from savings accounts and stock dividends.
  • Written letters from charities confirming your monetary donations from the previous year.
  • Receipts for business expenses you claimed.
  • Mileage Logs for business use of vehicle.
  • Entertainment and Travel Logs for business activities.

Develop And Implement Your Backup Plan

Do not wait for the next disaster to come for then it may be too late to retrieve your important records for a tax audit or for that matter any legal or business matter. And if you do get selected for audit and do not have all the records to support what was claimed on your tax returns, you should contact an experienced tax attorney who can argue the application of your facts and circumstances to pursue the least possible changes in an audit.

The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Diego County (Carlsbad) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. And if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorneys can do for you.

Important Tax Tips To Know If You Receive Income From Uber, Lyft, Airbnb Or Other Online Platform

Important Tax Tips To Know If You Receive Income From Uber, Lyft, Airbnb Or Other Online Platform

During my last ride on Lyft, I was thinking about how the IRS is responding to the growing usage of many online platforms like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb in what is commonly referred to as the “sharing economy”.

Here are four important tips you should know about how the sharing economy might affect your taxes and to keep you out of trouble with the IRS:

1. The activity is taxable.

If you receive income from a sharing economy activity, it’s generally taxable even if you don’t receive a Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, Form 1099-K, Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions, Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or some other income statement. This is true even if you do it as a side job or just as a part time business and even if you are paid in cash and to minimize how much you need to pay in taxes, it is imperative that you keep track of your business expenses.

2. Some expenses are deductible. The tax code allows you to deduct certain costs of doing business from gross income. For example, a taxpayer who uses their car for business may qualify to claim the standard mileage rate, which is 58 cents per mile for 2019. Generally, you cannot deduct personal, living or family expenses. You can deduct the business part only, such as supplies, cell phones, auto expenses, food and drinks for passengers, car washes, parking fees, tolls, roadside assistance plans, taxes, and incentives associated with certain electric and hybrid vehicles.

Example: You used your car only for personal purposes during the first 6 months of the year. During the last 6 months of the year, you drove the car a total of 15,000 miles of which 12,000 miles were driven to provide transportation services through a company that provides such services through requests to its app. This gives you a business use percentage of 80% (12,000 ÷ 15,000) for that period. Your business use for the year is 40% (80% × 6/12). 

Example: You use your car both for personal purposes and to provide transportation arranged through a company that provides transportation service through its app. You must divide your personal and business expenses based on actual mileage. You can deduct the business part of these actual car expenses, which include depreciation (or lease payments), gas and oil, tires, repairs, tune-ups, insurance, and registration fees. Or, instead of figuring the business part of these actual expenses, you may be able to use the standard mileage rate to figure your deduction. Depending on the facts and circumstances, you may be providing the services either in a self-employed capacity or as an employee. If you are self-employed, you can also deduct the business part of interest on your car loan, state and local personal property tax on the car, parking fees, and tolls, whether or not you claim the standard mileage rate

3. You Could Be Subject To Self Employment Tax

The net income from your service-related activity with the sharing economy facilitator is subject to Self-Employment taxes, (Social Security and Medicare), at a 15.3% rate.  Now you will get to deduct one-half of these Self Employment taxes on your Form 1040 but if you consider that you still have income taxes to pay as well, the effective tax rate can easily exceed 30% and you will also have your state’s income tax on top of that.

So whether you are using your personal car for business or part of your residence as a home office, you will need to have good personal records of your expenses. In a situation where you are using your personal car for business you typically can deduct either “actual” costs for the percentage of business use, (though cell phone and food probably are not pertinent) or you can deduct mileage at a standard rate for business use. If you go the “simple” route and deduct mileage instead of “actual” expenses your Schedule C would consist of exactly 2 lines so it’s not very hard – but you will loose out on a lot of deductions and pay a lot more in taxes.

4. Beware Of Requirement To Make Estimated Tax Payments.

Remember you are not an “employee” of the sharing economy facilitators; you are an “independent contractor”.  As such, there is no withholding of any taxes from your checks; you are responsible for all taxes – Self Employment taxes and income taxes – on your net earnings.  The U.S. tax system is pay-as-you-go. This means that taxpayers involved in the sharing economy often need to make estimated tax payments during the year. These payments are due on April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15 (of the next year). Taxpayers use Form 1040-ES to figure these payments.

Why The IRS Likes The Sharing Economy.

Unlike traditional transactions where two parties directly deal with each other and nothing is reported to the IRS, sharing economy facilitators who connect the two parties, collect the money from the paying party and transmit the revenue to the service provider will report the sale to IRS using Form 1099. The IRS now has a tool by which they can match up the amount of income you report on your tax return and if the Form 1099 amount is greater, you can be sure that the IRS will catch this and send you a tax bill.

What Should You Do?

As the sharing economy continues to grow, so do the associated tax problems. The IRS obviously is interested in folks who earn money using their autos as on-call car services or rent their homes to out-of-towners and being that it is summer the IRS knows this activity is even more prevalent. It’s important to keep good records. Choose a recordkeeping system suited to your business that clearly shows your income and expenses. The business you’re in affects the type of records you need to keep for federal tax purposes. Your recordkeeping system should include a summary of your business transactions. Your records must also show your gross income, as well as your deductions and credits. Federal law sets statutes of limitations that can affect how long you need to keep tax records.

Don’t Take The Chance And Lose Everything You Have Worked For.

Protect yourself. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including Walnut Creek and San Jose) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. And if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

If You Have Cryptocurrency, Pay Attention To What The IRS Has In Store For You

If You Have Cryptocurrency, Pay Attention To What The IRS Has In Store For You

After years of analyzing data from third parties involved in the cryptocurrency exchanges, the IRS announced in a press release on July 26, 2019 that it has started sending letters to cryptocurrency owners advising them to report their cryptocurrency transactions and pay their taxes. More than 10,000 taxpayers have been identified by IRS as being involved in cryptocurrency transactions but who the IRS believes may not have been compliant in reporting these transactions on their tax returns.

Taxpayers who do not properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions are, when appropriate, liable for tax, penalties and interest. In some cases, taxpayers could be subject to criminal prosecution.

Notices Being Sent To Taxpayers Are The First Step In IRS Enforcement Action

The IRS is using three types of notices to send to more than 10,000 taxpayers by the end of August 2019 – notices 6173, 6174 or 6174-A. All three notices indicate the IRS has information that the taxpayer receiving the notice currently has or has had virtual currency. However, it is Letter 6173 that is most serious as it requires a signature from the recipient under perjury that they are compliant with the U.S. tax code or requiring taxpayers to respond to the IRS and either file delinquent returns for tax years 2013 through 2017 or amend previously filed returns and include the applicable forms or schedules reporting cryptocurrency transactions. If you receive a Letter 6173, it should be a virtual certainty that you will be selected for examination.

If you receive Letter 6173, you should consult with a tax attorney as the submission of a statement signed under penalties of perjury that is false can result in serious consequences including criminal prosecution.

Virtual Currency Is An Ongoing Focus Area For IRS Criminal Investigation.

Last year the IRS announced a Virtual Currency Compliance Campaign to address tax noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through outreach and examinations of taxpayers. The IRS will remain actively engaged in addressing non-compliance related to virtual currency transactions through a variety of efforts, ranging from taxpayer education to audits to criminal investigations.

Taxation Of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency transactions are apparently wildly taxable – far more so than investors may think. Although the IRS has not issued much formal guidance, the position of IRS is that any transaction involving virtual currency can trigger a taxable event including air drops and fork transaction as well as conversions or trades from one virtual currency to another virtual currency.

The IRS in 2014 issued Notice 2014-21 stating that it treats crypto currency as property for tax purposes. Therefore, selling, spending and even exchanging crypto for other tokens all likely have capital gain implications. Likewise, receiving it as compensation or by other means will be ordinary income.

Some would think that if bitcoin is property, trades should be tax deferred under the like-kind changes rues of I.R.C. §1031. Under that theory someone who owned Bitcoin could diversify their holdings into Ethereum or Litecoin, and plausibly tell the IRS it created no tax obligations. Unfortunately, the new Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 does away with that loophole making it clear that “like kind exchanges” which lets people swap an asset for a similar one without triggering a tax obligation are not available for non-real estate assets.

While Bitcoin receives most of the attention these days, it is only one of hundreds of crypto currencies. Everything discussed with regard to bitcoin taxation applies to all crypto currencies.

Here are the basic tax rules followed by IRS on specific crypto currency transactions:

  • Trading crypto currencies produces capital gains or losses, with the latter being able to offset gains and reduce tax.
  • Exchanging one crypto currency for another — for example, using Ethereum to purchase an altcoin — creates a taxable event. The token is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains or losses.
  • Receiving payments in crypto currency in exchange for products or services or as salary is treated as ordinary income at the fair market value of the coin at the time of receipt.
  • Spending crypto currency is a tax event and may generate capital gains or losses, which can be short-term or long-term. For example, say you bought one coin for $500. If that coin was then worth $700 and you bought a $700 gift card, there is a $200 taxable gain. Depending on the holding period, it could be a short- or long-term capital gain subject to different rates.
  • Converting a crypto currency to U.S. dollars or another currency at a gain is a taxable event, as it is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains.
  • Air drops are considered ordinary income on the day of the air drop. That value will become the basis of the coin. When it’s sold, exchanged, etc., there will be a capital gain.
  • Mining crypto currency is considered ordinary income equal to the fair market value of the coin the day it was successfully mined.
  • Initial coin offerings including certain forks do not fall under the IRS’s tax-free treatment for raising capital. Thus, they produce ordinary income to individuals and businesses alike.

Given the limited guidance by IRS, there are still tax positions that can be advocated or structured so that taxpayers dealing with crypto currency can defer gains and minimize taxes. That is why it is essential you seek qualified tax counsel.

Penalties For Filing A False Income Tax Return Or Under-reporting Income

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!

What Should You Do?

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their gains and income from Bitcoin and other virtual currencies but under the existing Voluntary Disclosure Program, non-compliant taxpayers can come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and negotiate lower penalties.

With only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year since Bitcoin’s launch, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns. 

And now that likeexchange treatment is prohibited on non-real estate transactions that occur after 2017, now is the ideal time to be proactive and come forward with voluntary disclosure to lock in your deferred gains through 2017, eliminate your risk for criminal prosecution, and minimize your civil penalties.  Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even if it is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and offices elsewhere in California get you qualified into a voluntary disclosure program to avoid criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability. Additionally, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

cryptocurrency-bitcoin-reporting-tax-law

10,000 Cryptocurrency Owners Will Receive Warning Letters From The IRS

10,000 Cryptocurrency Owners Will Receive Warning Letters From The IRS

After years of analyzing data from third parties involved in the cryptocurrency exchanges, the IRS announced in a press release on July 26, 2019 that it has started sending letters to cryptocurrency owners advising them to report their cryptocurrency transactions and pay their taxes. More than 10,000 taxpayers have been identified by IRS as being involved in cryptocurrency transactions but who the IRS believes may not have been compliant in reporting these transactions on their tax returns.

Taxpayers who do not properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions are, when appropriate, liable for tax, penalties and interest. In some cases, taxpayers could be subject to criminal prosecution.

Notices Being Sent To Taxpayers Are The First Step In IRS Enforcement Action

The IRS is using three types of notices to send to more than 10,000 taxpayers by the end of August 2019 – notices 6173, 6174 or 6174-A. Of all the notices, Letter 6173 requires a signature from the recipient under perjury that they are compliant with the U.S. tax code.

If you receive Letter 6173, you should consult with a tax attorney as the submission of a statement signed under penalties of perjury that is false can result in serious consequences including criminal prosecution.

Virtual currency is an ongoing focus area for IRS Criminal Investigation.

Last year the IRS announced a Virtual Currency Compliance Campaign to address tax noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through outreach and examinations of taxpayers. The IRS will remain actively engaged in addressing non-compliance related to virtual currency transactions through a variety of efforts, ranging from taxpayer education to audits to criminal investigations.

Taxation Of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency transactions are apparently wildly taxable – far more so than investors may think. Although the IRS has not issued much formal guidance, the position of IRS is that any transaction involving virtual currency can trigger a taxable event including air drops and fork transaction as well as conversions or trades from one virtual currency to another virtual currency.

The IRS in 2014 issued Notice 2014-21 stating that it treats crypto currency as property for tax purposes. Therefore, selling, spending and even exchanging crypto for other tokens all likely have capital gain implications. Likewise, receiving it as compensation or by other means will be ordinary income.

Some would think that if bitcoin is property, trades should be tax deferred under the like-kind changes rues of I.R.C. §1031. Under that theory someone who owned Bitcoin could diversify their holdings into Ethereum or Litecoin, and plausibly tell the IRS it created no tax obligations. Unfortunately, the new Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 does away with that loophole making it clear that “like kind exchanges” which lets people swap an asset for a similar one without triggering a tax obligation are not available for non-real estate assets.

While Bitcoin receives most of the attention these days, it is only one of hundreds of crypto currencies. Everything discussed with regard to bitcoin taxation applies to all crypto currencies.

Here are the basic tax rules followed by IRS on specific crypto currency transactions:

  • Trading crypto currencies produces capital gains or losses, with the latter being able to offset gains and reduce tax.
  • Exchanging one crypto currency for another — for example, using Ethereum to purchase an altcoin — creates a taxable event. The token is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains or losses.
  • Receiving payments in crypto currency in exchange for products or services or as salary is treated as ordinary income at the fair market value of the coin at the time of receipt.
  • Spending crypto currency is a tax event and may generate capital gains or losses, which can be short-term or long-term. For example, say you bought one coin for $500. If that coin was then worth $700 and you bought a $700 gift card, there is a $200 taxable gain. Depending on the holding period, it could be a short- or long-term capital gain subject to different rates.
  • Converting a crypto currency to U.S. dollars or another currency at a gain is a taxable event, as it is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains.
  • Air drops are considered ordinary income on the day of the air drop. That value will become the basis of the coin. When it’s sold, exchanged, etc., there will be a capital gain.
  • Mining crypto currency is considered ordinary income equal to the fair market value of the coin the day it was successfully mined.
  • Initial coin offerings including certain forks do not fall under the IRS’s tax-free treatment for raising capital. Thus, they produce ordinary income to individuals and businesses alike.

Given the limited guidance by IRS, there are still tax positions that can be advocated or structured so that taxpayers dealing with crypto currency can defer gains and minimize taxes. That is why it is essential you seek qualified tax counsel.

Penalties For Filing A False Income Tax Return Or Under-reporting Income

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!

What Should You Do?

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their gains and income from Bitcoin and other virtual currencies but under the existing Voluntary Disclosure Program, non-compliant taxpayers can come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and negotiate lower penalties.

With only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year since Bitcoin’s launch, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns. 

And now that likeexchange treatment is prohibited on non-real estate transactions that occur after 2017, now is the ideal time to be proactive and come forward with voluntary disclosure to lock in your deferred gains through 2017, eliminate your risk for criminal prosecution, and minimize your civil penalties.  Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even if it is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and offices elsewhere in California get you qualified into a voluntary disclosure program to avoid criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability. Additionally, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.