The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) publishes an annual “Dirty Dozen” list to warn taxpayers to take heed and not fall prey to common abusive schemes that may be encountered through nefarious emails, calls, or enticing advertisement scams. “A key job of the IRS is to identify emerging threats to compliance and inform the public so taxpayers are not victimized, and tax practitioners can provide their clients the best advice possible,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said.
The first four potential scam categories on its 2022 “Dirty Dozen” list follow:
Use of Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust (CRAT) to Eliminate Taxable Gain. In this transaction, appreciated property is transferred to a CRAT. Taxpayers improperly claim the transfer of the appreciated assets to the CRAT, giving those assets a step-up in basis to fair market value as if they had been sold to the trust. The CRAT then sells the property but does not recognize gain due to the claimed step-up in basis. The CRAT then uses the proceeds to purchase a single premium immediate annuity (SPIA). The beneficiary reports, as income, only a small portion of the annuity received from the SPIA. Through a misapplication of the law relating to CRATs, the beneficiary treats the remaining payment as an excluded portion representing a return of investment for which no tax is due. Taxpayers seek to achieve this inaccurate result by misapplying the rules under sections 72 and 664.
Maltese (or Other Foreign) Pension Arrangements Misusing Treaty. In these transactions, U.S. citizens or U.S. residents attempt to avoid U.S. tax by making contributions to certain foreign individual retirement arrangements in Malta (or possibly other foreign countries). In these transactions, the individual typically lacks a local connection, and local law allows contributions in a form other than cash or does not limit the amount of contributions by reference to income earned from employment or self-employment activities. By improperly asserting the foreign arrangement is a “pension fund” for U.S. tax treaty purposes, the U.S. taxpayer misconstrues the relevant treaty to improperly claim an exemption from U.S. income tax on earnings in, and distributions from, the foreign arrangement.
Puerto Rican and Other Foreign Captive Insurance. In these transactions, U.S owners of closely held entities participate in a purported insurance arrangement with a Puerto Rican or other foreign corporation with cell arrangements or segregated asset plans in which the U.S. owner has a financial interest. The U.S.-based individual, or entity claims deductions for the cost of “insurance coverage” provided by a fronting carrier, which reinsures the “coverage” with the foreign corporation. The characteristics of the purported insurance arrangements typically will include one or more of the following: implausible risks covered, non-arm’s-length pricing, and lack of business purpose for entering into the arrangement.
Monetized Installment Sales. These transactions involve the inappropriate use of the installment sale rules under section 453 by a seller who, in the year of a sale of property, effectively receives the sales proceeds through purported loans. In a typical transaction, the seller enters into a contract to sell appreciated property to a buyer for cash and then purports to sell the same property to an intermediary in return for an installment note. The intermediary then purports to sell the property to the buyer and receives the cash purchase price. Through a series of related steps, the seller receives an amount equivalent to the sales price, less various transactional fees, in the form of a purported loan that is non-recourse and unsecured.
“Taxpayers should stop and think twice before including these questionable arrangements on their tax returns,” said Rettig. “Taxpayers are legally responsible for what’s on their return, not a promoter making promises and charging high fees. Taxpayers can help stop these arrangements by relying on reputable tax professionals they know they can trust.”
A break-down of each of the remaining eight categories will be shared in future blog articles.
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