Michael R. Repoli, CPA,EA
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President Trump on February 9 signed the Bipartisan Budget Act into law after a brief government shutdown occurred overnight. The legislation contains tax provisions in addition to a continuing resolution to fund the government and federal agencies through March 23. The House approved this new law in the early morning hours of February 9, by a 240-to-186 vote. The Senate approved the bipartisan measure a few hours earlier, by a 71-to-28 vote.

The Treasury Department has proposed repealing 298 regulations. According to the Treasury, the targeted rules are unnecessary, duplicative or obsolete. In addition, the Treasury proposed to amend another 79 regulations to reflect the repeal.

The Trump administration on February 12 released its much-anticipated fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request, "Efficient, Effective, Accountable An American Budget." The administration’s proposal calls for IRS funding that focuses additional resources on enforcement and cybersecurity. Coming off passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, this year’s budget recommendations contain only a handful of additional tax proposals when compared to some prior-year budget requests.

The Treasury and IRS have released their second quarter update to the 2017-2018 Priority Guidance Plan. The updated 2017-2018 Priority Guidance Plan now reflects 29 additional projects, including 18 projects that have become near term priorities as a result of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.

New proposed regulations under the centralized partnership audit regime address how and when partnerships and their partners adjust tax attributes to take into account partnerships’ payment adjustments. They also provide, among other additions and clarifications to earlier proposed regs, rules to adjust basis and capital accounts if the partnership adjustment is a change to an item of gain, loss, amortization or depreciation.

The IRS has issued guidance for certain specified foreign corporations owned by U.S. shareholders subject to the Code Sec. 965 transition tax that are requesting a change in accounting period. The IRS will not approve a request to change the annual accounting period under either the existing automatic or general change of accounting period procedures if the change could result in the avoidance, reduction, or delay of the transition tax. This guidance applies to any request to change an annual accounting period that ends on December 31, 2017, regardless of when such request was filed.

The IRS has posted best practices for return preparers addressing the Affordable Care Act’s individual shared responsibility requirement, also known as the individual mandate. The Service reminded preparers that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did not eliminate the individual shared responsibility requirement for 2017.

Eleventh-hour votes in Congress in December renewed a package of tax extenders for 2014, created new savings accounts for individuals with disabilities, cut the IRS’ budget, and more. At the same time, the votes helped to set the stage for the 114th Congress that convenes this month. Republicans have majorities in the House and Senate and have indicated that taxes are one of the top items on their agenda for 2015.

The IRS is expected to shortly open the 2015 filing season and both the agency and taxpayers are preparing for some turbulence. The IRS is going into the filing season with a reduced budget, which could translate into fewer audits. Legislation passed by Congress in late 2014 could delay the start of the filing season, although to date, the IRS has not announced a delay. Taxpayers and the IRS are on alert for identity theft, a pervasive problem during filing season. Additionally, new requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act kick-in.

Beginning January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required individuals to carry minimum essential health coverage or make a shared responsibility payment, unless exempt. Individuals will report on their 2014 federal income tax return if they had minimum essential health coverage for all or part of the year. Individuals who file Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, will indicate on Line 61 if they were covered by minimum essential health coverage for 2014, if they are exempt from the requirement to carry minimum essential health coverage or if they are making an individual shared responsibility payment.

The IRS has announced an increase in the optional business standard mileage reimbursement rate for 2015. The business standard mileage rate increased by one and a half cents, to 57.5 cents (up from 56 cents for 2014). The 2015 standard mileage rate for medical and moving expenses decreased slightly to 23 cents (down from 23.5 cents for 2014). The charitable mileage rate, however, is set by statute at a flat 14 cents per mile without inflation adjustment each year. The revised rates apply to deductible transportation expenses paid or incurred for business or medical/moving expenditures, or qualified charitable miles driven, on or after January 1, 2015.

The upcoming filing season is expected to be challenging for taxpayers and the IRS as new requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act kick-in. Taxpayers, for the first time, must make a shared responsibility payment if they fail to carry minimum essential health care coverage or qualify for an exemption. At the same time, there is growing uncertainty over one of the key elements of the Affordable Care Act: the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit as litigation makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under Code Sec. 6020, the IRS has the authority to prepare and file a substitute tax return for a taxpayer who fails to file a timely return. If a taxpayer does not file a return or cooperate with the IRS on a substitute return, the IRS can prepare and sign a substitute return based on the information it has.

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