IRS Releases Proposed Regulations on the Mechanics of Income Tax Withholding

Today, the IRS published proposed regulations addressing changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the “TCJA”) to how an employee instructs an employer to withhold income taxes on his or her Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Certificate). The Form W-4 was redesigned for 2020 to reflect the TCJA changes to how income tax withholding from wages must be calculated.

The proposed regulations update existing regulations under section 3402 to reflect TCJA’s shift from relying on “withholding exemptions” to determine an employee’s income tax withholdings to the more complicated “withholding allowance” methodology that is putatively designed to neutralize the impact of other changes, such as the elimination of certain Schedule A adjustments to gross income for employees. Before settling on a final Form W-4 implementing these changes, the IRS received feedback on multiple draft form revisions that criticized the form as being complex and confusing. In addition, concerns were raised about the amount of personal information regarding an employee’s other jobs and earnings required to complete early drafts of the form. The 2020 Form W-4 addressed some of these criticisms, but still remains more complicated than the earlier form. Time will tell whether employees are able to easily adapt to the new form, or if errors in completing the form could result in employee underwithholding.

Select portions of the proposed regulations are discussed below. We will continue to update our readers on significant developments as the regulations are finalized. We discuss other effects of the TCJA elsewhere on our blog. Continue Reading

Justice Department Continues Criminal Prosecutions in Employment Tax Cases

Over the last few years, the Justice Department has worked with the IRS to more aggressively prosecute cases involving employment tax noncompliance and the failure to remit trust fund taxes to the U.S. Treasury.  Trust fund taxes are taxes withheld from the wages of employees such as federal income tax withholding and FICA tax withholding.  Owners, corporate officers, and employees who are responsible for remitting such taxes may also be found to be personally liable for the failure to pay over trust fund taxes and, as the following described cases indicate, they may face criminal prosecution for such failures.  Continue Reading

IRS Launches New Tax Withholding Estimator

Earlier this year, the IRS issued IR-2020-09, in which it announced the launch of a new and improved Tax Withholding Estimator. The Tax Withholding Estimator (the “Estimator”) is designed to help employees adjust their federal income tax withholdings by performing a “Paycheck Checkup.”  The process also helps employees  target the refund they want by adjusting the amount of federal income tax taken out of their pay. The Estimator incorporates changes from the redesigned Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate that employees can complete and give to their employers this year. To adjust for the amount of refund desired, the Estimator features a customized refund slider that the employee can use to select a refund from a range of amounts available. Based on the refund amount selected, the Estimator will give the employee instructions on how to fill out their Form W-4 or allow the employee to download a pre-filled Form W-4 based on the Estimator’s recommendations.

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IRS Issues Interim Guidance on Income Tax Withholding from Deferred Income Distributions

The IRS recently released Notice 2020-3, which provides interim guidance on default federal income tax withholding rates applicable to certain periodic payments of deferred income.  The Notice also provides clarity as to how the IRS will accommodate a change that affects the form used to elect federal income tax withholding from wages, but not the form used to make those elections for deferred income distributions. Continue Reading

Treasury Finalizes Section 871(m) Regulations and Further Extends Transitory Relief

On December 16, 2019, the Treasury and the IRS released final regulations under section 871(m) of the Internal Revenue Code.  The regulations finalize the 2017 temporary and proposed section 871(m) regulations without any substantive change.  On the same day, the Treasury and the IRS released Notice 2020-2 to extend through 2022 the relief provided in Notice 2018-72. Continue Reading

Proposed 162(m) Regulations are a “Lump of Coal”

To corporations hoping for a holiday reprieve from the IRS’s narrow interpretation of the grandfathering rules included in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) amendment of section 162(m), the IRS has said “Bah… Humbug!”  To those foreign private issuers, publicly traded partnerships, and issuers of public debt hoping for relief from the expanded definition of publicly held corporation, the IRS has said the same.  On December 16, the IRS released proposed regulations addressing the changes made to section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code as part of TCJA, which are certain to disappoint many taxpayers.  The regulations also address the definitions of covered employee and “predecessor of a publicly held corporation,” as well as, the treatment of amounts paid by a partnership in which a publicly held corporation is a partner and director compensation. The regulations are generally proposed to apply to compensation that is otherwise deductible for taxable years beginning on or after December 20, 2019, the date of expected publication in the Federal Register. 

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Notice 2019-63 Delivers Relief for Providers of Minimum Essential Coverage

Holding true to its holiday tradition, the IRS yet again decided to extend the deadline by which providers of minimum essential coverage (including certain applicable large employers (“ALEs”)) must furnish information statements to individuals regarding their 2019 insurance coverage. However, due to the effective elimination of the ACA’s individual mandate penalty through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), the IRS went one step further than in past years by allowing certain providers to forgo the individual furnishing requirement, if certain notice requirements are met instead. Continue Reading

The IRS Introduces More Informative Backup Withholding Notices for Payers

On November 14, 2019, the IRS announced that it has redesigned Notices CP2100 and CP2100A with the goal of providing more information to affected payers. These Notices are used to alert payers that the IRS received Forms 1099 containing incorrect or missing Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs) for payees and that the payer may need to contact payees regarding their name and TIN information and/or backup withhold at a rate of 24% as a result. Payments potentially subject to backup withholding are reportable payments, such as interest (including tax-exempt interest), dividends, broker and barter exchange transactions, rents, royalties, nonemployee compensation, payments made in settlement of payment card and third party network transactions, and certain payments from fishing boat operators. Continue Reading

Significant TCJA Guidance Due Before End of Year, Kautter Says

Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy David Kautter attended the AICPA National Tax Conference on November 13, 2019, and commented that significant TCJA-related guidance should be expected to be released before the end of 2019.  Such guidance is likely to include proposed regulations addressing (1) federal income tax withholding under section 3402, (2) the executive compensation deduction limitation under section 162(m), and (3) computation of unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) under section 512.  Continue Reading

November 15 Deadline Approaching for 2019 Qualified Intermediary Applications

On November 6, the IRS issued its final reminder alert that the deadline for all Qualified Intermediary (“QI”) (including Qualified Derivatives Dealer (“QDD”)), Withholding Foreign Partnership (“WP”) and Withholding Foreign Trust (“WT”) applications for the 2019 year is November 15, 2019. Continue Reading

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