Loopholes Archives - Page 4 of 4 - Think Outside the Tax Box

Loopholes

By Annette Nellen, CPA, CGMA, Esq.

Warning! Avoid the Latest “Dirty Dozen” Scams Identified By the IRS

Since at least 2001, the IRS has issued annual news releases warning taxpayers of scams they should be aware of and stay clear of. The release in 2001 included just eight scams but starting in 2002, the IRS expanded the list and dubbed these scams with the catchy moniker: the “Dirty Dozen.” In describing these lists, the IRS often warns taxpayers to “remain vigilant” against the scams, to not “fall prey” to them, and to “be on the lookout for” these dangerous activities.

While the warnings seem to be directed to individual taxpayers, the lists sometimes include warnings of scams directed at return preparers and employers. Tax practitioners certainly need to be aware of these scams to exercise appropriate due diligence to know if any client is involved in a scam such as an abusive tax shelter, and to help educate clients about the numerous and growing number of scams many of which are designed to steal their personal and financial data and resources.

This article covers the 2022 “Dirty Dozen” list. It also includes suggestions on how practitioners might use this information in tax compliance and planning and to help clients protect their identities and assets and avoid tax problems. Additional resources for dealing with the items on the list are provided.

A chart listing the “Dirty Dozen” items from the start in 2001 through 2022 is included to show trends and the reality that some scams such as identity theft, phishing, return preparer fraud and frivolous tax arguments have made the list almost every year.

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Conservation Easements – Is This Winning?

Looking for lucrative deductions to reduce your taxable income? Many people are turning to Conservation Land Easements (CE), and the tax authorities are doing their best to deny these deductions. When a property meets the IRS criteria for a conservation easement, the owner may qualify to deduct thousands of dollars simply by acquiring the right kind of land an LLC holds. Often, these deductions are worth much more than the actual cost of getting the LLC interest. Sounds appealing doesn’t it? Under a conservation easement, a property’s owner gives up the right to make certain changes to that property to preserve it for future generations. Such an easement usually limits the usefulness of the property and lowers its value. But the tax deduction is not based just on the property’s reduction in value. The magnitude of the deduction comes into play when the deduction’s value is calculated by taking the difference between the appraised “highest and best use” of the property and its new reduced value. These best use appraisals often make assumptions about the property’s potential creating massive tax deductions, which, of course, leave taxpayers lining up to claim. But be careful! The IRS is cracking down on what it calls an “abusive tax deduction”; even going so far as to list the strategy on its Dirty Dozen list of tax scams. Yet even after spending billions of dollars, the service is not having much success. In fact, it’s losing key arguments on the strategy. Continue reading to learn how to participate safely.

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How to Do a Backdoor Roth IRA (Safely) and Avoid the IRA Aggregation Rule and Step Transaction Doctrine

The basic concept of the “backdoor Roth IRA contribution” is relatively straightforward. Contributing directly to a Roth IRA is restricted for higher-income individuals; once a married couple has an AGI in excess of $193,000 (or $131,000 for an individual), the maximum contribution limit to a Roth IRA reduces to zero. However, anyone with earned income can contribute to an IRA, regardless of how high their income is; at worst, higher income levels may limit the deductibility of that IRA contribution (for those who are an active participant in an employer retirement plan), but not the ability to make the IRA contribution. In addition, under the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 (TIPRA), there have been no income limits on Roth conversions of traditional IRAs since 2010. As a result, anyone who has funds in a traditional IRA, whether originally deductible or not, is eligible to do a Roth conversion. In other words, while income limits remain on Roth contributions, there are no income limits for a Roth conversion.

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Avoiding Passive Loss Limitations Through Short-term and Alternative Rentals

Short-term rentals like AirBnb are becoming increasingly popular with taxpayers who invest in real estate. For many taxpayers, the appeal of these properties is the flexibility and cash flow potential. However, there may be an overlooked third tax benefit. In many situations these short-term rentals may not qualify as a rental activity to the IRS, and that may offer a big tax break. While many rental activities generate losses, this can leave taxpayers facing the frustrations of not always getting to deduct those losses right away due to the passive activity limitations.

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