The Democratic and Republican nominating conventions triggered an early recess for Congress. Lawmakers left Capitol Hill in mid-July and are not scheduled to return until September. Before recessing, the House voted to undo part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and approved a reduced budget for the IRS. Leading tax writers in the Senate addressed tax-related identity theft and home buying incentives. ACA Before passage of the ACA, taxpayers could use health flexible spending arrangement (health FSA) dollars to pay for over-the-counter medications. The ACA abolished this treatment, leaving health FSA funds for the purchase prescribed medications with some exceptions. Regularly, bills have been introduced in Congress to go back to the pre-ACA rules for health FSAs but the bills have failed to pass. This year was different. The House approved in July the Restoring Access to Medication and Improving Health Savings Bill of 2016 (HR 1270). The bill would repeal the prohibition on using health FSA dollars to pay for over-the-counter medication. Repeal would apply to qualified expenditures incurred after December 31, 2016. The Senate did not take up the bill before recessing. Tax-related identity theft Tax-related identity theft continues to plague the IRS. The agency has spent significant sums on identifying false returns before fraudulent refunds are paid. In July, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chair of the Senate Finance Committee (SFC), introduced the Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Prevention Bill (Sen 3157). The bill would provide guidelines for the IRS in handling stolen identity refund fraud cases and would increase the criminal penalty for tax-related identity theft. “Protecting taxpayers from bad actors looking to use their identities for fraudulent purposes and enhancing overall taxpayer protections is a priority of the committee,” Hatch said. Homebuyers Hatch’s colleague on the SFC, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, has introduced a bill to create a first-time homebuyer tax credit bill. Several years ago, Congress passed a similar bill to encourage home sales. Wyden’s bill would reward qualified first-time homebuyers with a refundable credit. “The credit would equal 2.5 percent of the home purchase with the maximum credit reached at homes selling for $400,000, Wyden said. The credit would phase-out for higher income taxpayers. IRS budget The IRS’s operating budget continues to be a source of friction in Congress. President Obama and Congressional Democrats have called for increased funding for the agency for FY 2017. Congressional Republicans have proposed budget cuts, to bring about, they argue, greater efficiency at the agency. The House approved in July a $10.9 billion IRS budget for FY 2017, more than $1 billion below President Obama’s proposal. The Senate, however, did not take up the IRS’s budget before recessing, although members of the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed keeping the agency’s FY 2017 budget at current levels. In recent years, lawmakers have waited till year-end to approve a budget for the IRS and they may do the same this year, possibly in a year-end tax bill. Olympic winners America’s Olympic and Paralympic winners may benefit from a special tax break, if enacted into law. Before recessing, the Senate approved the Olympians and Paralympians Bill (Sen 2650). The bill provides that the value of any medals awarded in, or any prize money received from, competition in the Olympic or Paralympic Games would be exempt from income tax, beginning with the 2016 games. Similar legislation (the Tax Exemption for American Medalists (TEAM) Bill (HR 2628)) has been introduced in the House but no vote has been scheduled. If you have any questions about these bills or other tax legislation, please contact our office.

Employers, payroll providers prepare for accelerated filing deadlines

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) accelerated the due date for filing Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement and Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, and any returns or statements required by the IRS to report nonemployee compensation to January 31. The change is scheduled to take effect for returns and statements required to be filed in 2017. At this time, many employers and payroll providers are reprogramming their systems for the accelerated due date.

Crowdfunding: a new resource with developing tax rules

IRS Chief Counsel recently examined the tax treatment of crowdfunding activities in a new information letter (Information Letter 2016-36). Crowdfunding is a relatively recent phenomenon, used by an individual or entity to raise funds through small individual contributions from a large number of people. The guidance notes that the income tax consequences to a taxpayer of a crowdfunding effort depend on all the facts and circumstances surrounding that effort.

FAQ: What is a CPEO?
A professional employer organization (PEO) is an organization that enters into an agreement with a client to perform, among other tasks, the federal employment tax withholding, reporting, and payment functions related to workers performing services for the client. Effective for wages for services performed on or after January 1, 2016, a certified professional employer organization (CPEO) may be treated, for purposes of employment tax liability, as the sole employer of a worksite employee performing services for a customer of the CPEO for remuneration the CPEO paid to the employee. To become a CPEO, a person must apply with the IRS for CPEO treatment and be certified by the IRS as meeting certain requirements. The IRS began accepting applications for CPEO certification in July 2016.
How do I? Substantiate meal expenses using the per-diem rate method?

An employee or self-employed individual is allowed a deduction for the costs of meals and incidental expenses while traveling away from home for business purposes. The deduction of these costs usually requires the substantiation of the costs. However, there is an optional method provided for these taxpayers that avoids keeping receipts.

August 2016 tax compliance calendar
As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines. This calendar summarizes important federal tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of August 2016.