Tax

Hamilton County to Consider Tax Relief Program for Seniors

Facing a tax hike for Hamilton County residents, Commissioner David Sharpe plans to propose an initiative to soften the blow to seniors on a fixed income, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The program will supplement the state’s existing Property Tax Relief Program of 2018 that aids elderly homeowners, disabled homeowners, disabled veteran homeowners and widows of disabled veteran homeowners. Early estimates show that the program will cost the county about $360,000 annually.

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Study Credits Tennessee Tax Policies for Economic Growth

A new study by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative think tank comprised of legislators and business leaders, puts Tennessee in its top ten list of states with a positive economic outlook, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Between 2007 and 2017, Tennessee’s GDP rose 43.1 percent, with the state growing payroll employment by 8 percent. The study credits Tennessee’s relatively low tax rates, lack of personal income tax and plans to phase out inheritance and unearned income taxes, among other reasons, for the state’s economic standing.

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IKEA in Memphis will Opt Out of PILOT Tax Breaks

Swedish furniture retailer IKEA will opt out of its 11-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) break because the company failed to meet program requirements, the Daily Memphian reports. IKEA initially agreed to hire 175 employees with an average wage of $41, 011, however, currently employs 147 people with an average wage of $36,944. The company may get another year of incentives if it follows through on environmental projects such as water conservation efforts and installing a solar powered roof.

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Health Care Giant Receives $1.7 Billion Refund Despite Paying no Federal Tax in 2018

Health Care Service Corp. — the parent company for Blue Cross Blue Shield health plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas — received a $1.7 billion tax refund despite paying no federal taxes in 2018, Axios reports. The company showed $4.1 billion profit on $35.9 billion of revenue in 2018 vs. $1.3 billion net profit on $32.6 billion of revenue in 2017, for which it paid about $467 million in federal taxes. The company credited the surplus to the repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax as part of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.

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New York Considers Tax on Second Homes

Lawmakers in New York are considering a singular solution to funding future NYC projects — a tax hike on multi-million-dollar second homes, The New York Times reports. The so-called “pied-à-terre tax” would institute an annual tariff on homes worth $5 million or more that do not serve as the buyer’s primary residence. The proposed hike would feature a sliding scale, with properties valued between $5 million and $6 million subject to a 0.5 percent surcharge on any valuation over $5 million, incrementally topping out at four percent for homes valued at over $25 million. Though unclear how much money the tax would raise, the New York City Comptroller's office estimated the tax would bring in a minimum of $650 million annually if enacted today and could raise $9 billion in state bonds based on expected revenue.

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U.S. Senate Democrats Support Increase, Changes to Child Tax Credits

U.S. Senate Democrats are rallying around a bill that intends to make strides in tackling child poverty, Vox.com reports. Initially introduced in 2017, the American Family Act would expand the child tax credit to $3,000 per year for income-qualifying families with a child ages six to 16, and $3,600 per year for families with a child aged from zero to five. The benefits would be distributed monthly, in advance, to help the families with budgeting concerns.

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IRS Faces Huge Backlog After Government Shutdown

The IRS is facing a considerable backlog after the shutdown, as employees returned to an estimated 5 million unanswered pieces of mail after the 35-day hiatus, Forbes reports. This is a wrench in the cog of an already hectic tax season, with the agency stretched because of changes in code from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and a revised 1040 form that has at least six additional schedules. The recent furlough, compounded with customer service questions on these changes, is expected to delay the agency considerably this tax season. While it’s currently back to business for the IRS, there is no guarantee of continued funding with another shutdown looming, as the government was only guaranteed budgeting for three weeks. 

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Senate Republicans Move to Kill 'Death Tax'

Three Republican Senators on Monday proposed a plan to repeal the federal estate tax, The Washington Post reports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced the bill that aims to kill the already weakened “death tax,” of which the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel estimates only 5,000 taxpayers are expected to claim. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 currently allows married couples to gift up to $22,360,000 exempt from federal estate and gift taxes. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the estate tax is projected to account for about 0.6 percent of the federal budget in 2018, down from more than 1 percent in the 2000s. 

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State Lawmakers to Consider Transparency Measures for Business Tax Incentives

State lawmakers are reconsidering state laws that keep information on business tax credits confidential, the Tennessean reports. Proponents of transparency will introduce a bill that would require companies seeking incentives to release tax information along with business grant details, an approach that advocates contend is essential for formulating good economic development policy. Gov. Bill Lee after a budget hearing last Friday for the Department of Economic and Community Development, referring to the release of tax information for these companies, said: "Under the right circumstances things would be made public, but until it's the right timing … If it may not allow a job creating deal to come to Tennessee, then we certainly would be smart about that so that we bring jobs here." Details of the legislation will be made public by the bill filing deadline on Feb. 7.

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Tax Changes to be Aware of in 2019

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has made sweeping changes to U.S. tax code, affecting estate planning, retirement contributions and insurance penalties. In addition, the IRS will be updating its tax brackets for 2019 to adjust them for inflation. This brief summary from CNBC puts these changes in a nutshell, offering a synopsis of issues relevant to your practice and allowing you to stay on top of these recent developments.

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