Tax

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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Tullahoma Tax Dispute Headed to Supreme Court

An ongoing lawsuit between the City of Tullahoma and the Coffee County Board of Education (CCBOE) is headed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Tullahoma News reports. The suit stems from the county’s interpretation of two different state statutes regarding collection and distribution of liquor-by-the-drink taxes. The city won the case in the Coffee County Chancery Court but lost when CCBOE appealed the decision. The case is scheduled to be heard by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Oct. 4.

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East Tennessee Meatpacking Plant Owner Admits Tax Evasion

The owner of the East Tennessee Southeastern Provision meatpacking plant, James Brantley, agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of tax evasion, wire fraud and employing unauthorized immigrants, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. In April, I.C.E. agents and I.R.S. investigators conducted the nation’s largest single immigration crackdown in more than 10 years at the plant; they rounded up 97 people on illegal entry charges. This action sparked statewide protests and unsuccessful attempts to toughen punishments for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. Brantley’s hiring of undocumented workers allowed him to pocket millions of dollars by ignoring safety regulations, violating federal wage and hour laws and avoiding unemployment and workers’ comp premiums. He will enter a formal plea in court on Sept. 12.

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Legal Practice Tip: Who May Redeem from a Tax Sale

On April 26, the Court of Appeals for the Western Section announced their decision in the case of MADISON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, ET AL. v. DELINQUENT TAXPAYERS FOR 2012, ET AL., maintaining that one attempting to redeem from a tax sale pursuant to TCA § 67-5-2701(a)(3)(C) needs to have their interest in the property both on the date the tax sale occurs as well as on the date the motion to redeem is filed. The statute reads:
 
“Person entitled to redeem” means, with respect to a parcel, any interested person, as defined in this chapter, as of the date of the sale and the date the motion to redeem is filed[.]
 
This position is contra to the position taken by the Eastern Section of the court in CITY OF CHATTANOOGA, ET AL. v. TAX YEAR 2011 CITY DELINQUENT REAL ESTATE TAXPAYERS where the court allowed a redemption from someone who purchased the redemptive right after the tax sale. The most recent case attempts to reconcile the divergent rulings based upon their opinion that the Chattanooga case was based upon a prior version of the cited statute (see footnote 3 in the Madison County case).

Joseph "Joe" Kirkland is an attorney and Senior Escrow Officer at the East Memphis office of CloseTrak, Closing & Title Services. Kirkland is active in the Tennessee Land Title Association (Chair of the standing Legislative Committee 2017-19, Director – Board of Directors 2018-19) and the Immediate Past Chair of the Tennessee Bar Association's Real Estate Law Section.

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D.C. Lawmakers Move to Undo Estate-tax Break

The recent overhaul of the federal tax code that doubled the exemption from the estate tax, erasing the tax liability for individuals with estates worth less than roughly $11 million is being challenged by Democratic on the Washington, D.C., council, The Washington Post reports. Their proposal, supported by a majority of D.C. council members, would cut in half the estate-tax exemption in the nation’s capital, to $5.6 million. 
 
The District had loosened its estate-tax exemption as part of wide-ranging tax cuts enacted in 2014. The cuts, funded by excess revenue, were intended to make the District more economically competitive with Maryland and Virginia. Under the new proposal, about $2.5 million of the resulting revenue would go to housing for victims of domestic violence, $1.5 million would be spent on housing vouchers and $1.25 million on education. An additional $500,000 would go to a program that helps poor families buy produce at farmers markets.
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Tennessee Department of Revenue Reaches Agreement with Airbnb

Airbnb recently struck a deal with the Tennessee Department of Revenue to collect and remit state and local taxes on behalf of its 7,700 hosts, according to the Nashville Business Journal. This arrangement has been used in other markets to address concerns regarding tax revenue from their short-term rentals not being on par with that of their hotel competitors. Tennessee joins neighboring states of Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas as areas with similar agreements. 
 
This news comes as Metro Council was scheduled to vote on BL-937, an ordinance amending Title 6 and sections 17.04.060, 17.08.030, 17.16.250 and 17.16.070 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws to add a new Chapter 6.83 pertaining to a short-term rental properties advisory committee and to establish regulations regarding short-term rental properties and distinct land uses for "Short-term rental property - Owner-Occupied" and "Short-term rental property - Not Owner-Occupied." The vote, however, was commuted to Jan. 23 because of inclement weather.
 
The company has long been a source of controversy in the area because of various concerns of taxation, noise complaints, even sparking First Amendment debates regarding anatomically correct sex dolls. In fact, problems with Airbnb rentals have become so numerous, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry established a devoted hotline tasked with aggregating and addressing these concerns.
 
The new statewide tax agreement, which will take effect March 1, is the second such deal Airbnb has struck in Tennessee, following an earlier agreement with Memphis. Airbnb has touted the agreements as a revenue generator and a reason for governments to work with — not against — the company.
 
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