Sunday, February 18, 2018

An Engineer Draws A Tax Penalty

We have spoken in the past about clients I would not accept: one with an earned income credit, for example. The tax Code requires me to go all social worker, obtaining and reviewing documents to have reasonable confidence that there is a child and said child lives in given household. There are penalties if I do not.

Not happening.

Did you know that I can be penalized for not signing a tax return as a paid professional? Yep, it is in Section 6694 for the home gamers.

I saw a penalty recently under Section 6701. That one is a rare bird.

The 6701 penalty can reach someone who is not a preparer but who “aids,” “assists” or “advises” with respect to information, knowing that it will be used in a material tax situation.

Here is an example: you gift majority control of your (previously) wholly-owned business to your kids. This would require a valuation, which in turn requires a valuation expert. That expert is probably not preparing the gift tax return, but the preparer of the gift tax return is relying – and heavily – on his/her work.

The penalty is $1,000 for each incident. Pray that you are not advising a corporation, as then it goes to $10,000 per incident.

The IRS recently trotted out Section 6701 in Chief Counsel Advice (CCA) 201805001. Think of a CCA as an IRS attorney advising an IRS employee on what to do.

The situation here involved a “tax-consultant engineer” who analyzed a taxpayer’s assets to determine the classification of property for depreciation purposes.

In the trade, we call this type of work “cost segregation.”

If you have enough money tied-up in certain types of depreciable assets, a “cost seg” may be a very good idea.

What drives the cost seg is an abnormally-long tax life for commercial property: usually 39 years.  It is a tax fiction, divorced from any economic analysis to build or not build or from a bank decision to lend or not lend.

The grail is to “carve out” some of that 39-year property into something that can be depreciated faster. There is room. The parking lot and landscaping, for example, can be depreciated over 15 years. Upgraded wiring to run equipment can be depreciated with the equipment. The additional plumbing at a dentist’s office? Yep, that gets faster depreciation.

But it probably requires a cost seg. Realistically, an accountant can do only so much. A cost seg really needs an engineer.

The engineer in this CCA must have left the plot, as the IRS was nearly out-of-its-mind over his classification into five-year property. The word they used was “egregious.”

Unfortunately, we are not told what he “egregiously” misclassified.

We are however told that he is getting the Section 6701 chop.

What is the math on this penalty?

Well, his misclassification affected five years of individual returns. The penalty would be 5 times $1,000 or $5,000 for each individual client. Hopefully this was a one-off, as $5 grand should be enough to get his attention.

Can you imagine if it had been a corporation? 

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