The IRS Announces New “Compliance Campaigns:” Unreported Virtual Currency, S-Corporation Compliance, and International Tax Enforcement Are Top Priorities

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The IRS Announces New “Compliance Campaigns:” Unreported Virtual Currency, S-Corporation Compliance, and International Tax Enforcement Are Top Priorities

The IRS recently announced five new “compliance campaigns”—areas where it intends to focus additional resources and enforcement efforts.  It comes as no surprise that unreported virtual currency, S-corporation dividends, and international tax are at the core of its focus.  The five compliance campaigns are:

 

  • S-corporation Distributions
  • Virtual Currency
  • Restoration of AMT Credit Carryforwards
  • Repatriation through Foreign Triangular Reorganizations
  • Section 965 Transition Tax

The IRS’s Large Business and International division (LB&I) announced its new focus on these areas as a warning to taxpayers, stating that the “campaigns were identified through LB&I data analysis and suggestions from IRS employees. LB&I’s goal is to improve return selection, identify issues representing a risk of non-compliance, and make the greatest use of limited resources.”

Below is a summary of the issues related to each campaign:

Virtual Currency

U.S. persons are subject to tax on worldwide income from all sources including transactions involving virtual currency. IRS Notice 2014-21 states that virtual currency is property for federal tax purposes and provides information on the U.S. federal tax implications of convertible virtual currency transactions. The Virtual Currency Compliance campaign will address noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through multiple treatment streams including outreach and examinations. The compliance activities will follow the general tax principles applicable to all transactions in property, as outlined in Notice 2014-21. The IRS will continue to consider and solicit taxpayer and practitioner feedback in education efforts, future guidance, and development of Practice Units. Taxpayers with unreported virtual currency transactions are urged to correct their returns as soon as practical. The IRS is not contemplating a voluntary disclosure program specifically to address tax non-compliance involving virtual currency.

S Corporation Distributions

S Corporations and their shareholders are required to properly report the tax consequences of distributions. The IRS has identified three issues that are part of this campaign. The first issue occurs when an S Corporation fails to report gain upon the distribution of appreciated property to a shareholder. The second issue occurs when an S Corporation fails to determine that a distribution, whether in cash or property, is properly taxable as a dividend. The third issue occurs when a shareholder fails to report non-dividend distributions in excess of their stock basis that are subject to taxation. The treatment streams for this campaign include issue-based examinations, tax form change suggestions, and stakeholder outreach.

Restoration of Sequestered AMT Credit Carryforward

LB&I is initiating a campaign for taxpayers improperly restoring the sequestered Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) credit to the subsequent tax year. Refunds issued or applied to a subsequent year’s tax, pursuant to IRC Section 168(k)(4), are subject to sequestration and are a permanent loss of refundable credits. Taxpayers may not restore the sequestered amounts to their AMT credit carryforward. Soft letters will be mailed to taxpayers who are identified as making improper restorations of sequestered amounts. Taxpayers will be monitored for subsequent compliance. The goal of this campaign is to educate taxpayers on the proper treatment of sequestered AMT credits and request that taxpayers self-correct.

Repatriation via Foreign Triangular Reorganizations

In December 2016, the IRS issued Notice 2016-73 (“the Notice”), which curtails the claimed “tax-free” repatriation of basis and untaxed CFC earnings following the use of certain foreign triangular reorganization transactions. The goal of the campaign is to identify and challenge these transactions by educating and assisting examination teams in audits of these repatriations.

Section 965 Transition Tax

Section 965 requires United States shareholders to pay a transition tax on the untaxed foreign earnings of certain specified foreign corporations as if those earnings had been repatriated to the United States. Taxpayers may elect to pay the transition tax in installments over an eight-year period. For some taxpayers, some or all of the tax will be due on their 2017 income tax return. The tax is payable as of the due date of the return (without extensions).

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