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BACKGROUND/PRIOR LAW

PartnershipUnder IRC § 708(a), a partnership is considered as a continuing entity for income tax purposes unless it is terminated. Given the proliferation of state law entities taxed as partnerships today (e.g., limited liability companies and limited liability partnerships), a good understanding of the rules surrounding termination is ever important.

Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), IRC § 708(b)(1) provided that a partnership [1] was considered terminated if:  

1.  No part of any business, financial operation, or venture of the partnership continues to be carried on by any of the partners of the partnership; or

2.  Within any 12-month period, there is a sale of exchange of 50% or more of the total interests of the partnership’s capital and profits.

BACKGROUND

haircutOn February 21, 2014, then House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan) issued a discussion draft of the “Tax Reform Act of 2014.” The proposed legislation spanned almost 1,000 pages and contained some interesting provisions, including repealing IRC § 1031, thereby prohibiting tax deferral from like-kind exchanges. Not only would taxpayers have been impacted by this proposal, but it would have turned the real estate industry upside down. Qualified intermediaries would have been put out of business. Likewise, title and escrow companies, as well as real estate advisors specializing in exchanges, would have been adversely affected by the proposal.

Hollywood signAs indicated at the end of 2017, I intend to provide our readers with an in-depth review of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”). With the help of two of my colleagues, Steven Nofziger and Miriam Korngold, we will do this in a series of bite-size blog posts. Our goal is to not only review the technical elements of the new law, but to offer practical insights that will be helpful to tax practitioners and their clients.

Many of the provisions of the TCJA have already received significant attention by the media. Rather than start our multi-part series with any of those provisions, we decided to commence the journey with a discussion about a rather obscure provision of the new law. This provision, while it may not have received any media attention, could be a huge trap for the unwary. It also highlights several aspects of the new law that have received little discussion.

2018It is hard to believe it, but 2017 is close to an end.  We have had a truly interesting year in the world of tax law.  Attempts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in late December are highlights of this past year.  In early January, I plan to provide readers with a multi-part series on the new tax law.

During the past 12 months, we have explored several topics, including:

soda bottleIn November 2016, the Board of Commissioners of Cook County, Illinois, passed (by a slim margin of one vote) the Sweetened Beverage Tax Ordinance (“Soda Tax”).  It imposed a tax at the rate of one-cent-per-ounce for all sweetened beverages sold at the retail level in the county.

The Soda Tax was expected to generate $200 million a year for Cook County. If you assume a population of 5.2 million in Cook County (home to the city of Chicago), the annual tax collections equate each citizen consuming over 10 ounces of sweetened beverages per day.  That is an alarming figure. Factoring in visitors to the county, the number is likely a bit less than that figure, but nevertheless the number, or shall I say, “consumption assumption,” is definitely larger than one would expect.

New York and San FranciscoThe NYU 76th Institute on Federal Taxation (IFT) is taking place in New York City on October 22-27, 2017, and in San Francisco on November 12-17, 2017.  This year, I will be presenting my latest White Paper, The Built-in Gains Tax Revisited.  My presentation will include a discussion about the history of the tax; application and impact of the tax; ways to avoid or potentially minimize the tax; the complexities of Code Section 1374 and the regulations promulgated thereunder; valuation issues; planning opportunities; traps that exist for the unwary; relevant cases and rulings; and practical tax practitioner guidance.

The IFT is one of the country's leading tax conferences, geared specifically for CPAs and attorneys who regularly are involved in federal tax matters.  The speakers on our panel include some of the most preeminent tax attorneys in the United States, including Jerry August, Terry Cuff, Wells Hall, Karen Hawkins, Stephen Looney, Stephen Kuntz, Mark Peltz and Bobby Philpott.  I am proud to be a part of IFT.

This will be my fifth year as an IFT presenter, and I am speaking as part of the Closely Held Business panel on October 26 (NYC) and November 16 (San Francisco).  As in previous years, the IFT will cover a wide range of fascinating topics, including tax controversy, executive compensation and employee benefits, international taxation, corporate taxation, real estate taxation, partnership taxation, taxation of closely-held businesses, trusts and estates, and ethics.

I hope you will join us this year for what will be a terrific tax institute.  Looking forward to seeing you in either New York or San Francisco!

View the complete agenda and register at the NYU 76th IFT website.

Bartell DrugsAs reported on March 8, 2017, the U.S. Tax Court issued a taxpayer-friendly decision in Estate of George H. Bartell, et. al. v. Commissioner, 147 TC 5 (June 10, 2016).  The ruling seemed too good to be true. I advised readers to proceed with caution!

Many taxpayers, exchange accommodators, and real estate professionals have been touting the ruling as a clear green light for reverse parking exchanges exceeding the 180-day period pronounced in Revenue Procedure 2000-37 despite the facts that:

  • Judge Gale of the U.S. Tax Court clearly said in the opinion that the court was not giving any opinion with respect to reverse exchanges that exceed the 180-day safe harbor; and
  • The Bartell case involved transactions that pre-dated the effective date of Revenue Procedure 2000-37 and Treasury’s issuance of the deferred exchange regulations.

In 2015, the U.S. Tax Court issued its ruling in the case of David W. Laudon v. Commissioner, TC Summary Option 2015-54 (2015).[1] The case may not raise or even resolve any novel tax issues, but it reminds us of what is hopefully the obvious relative to the deductibility of business expenses. The Court’s opinion and its recitation of the underlying facts, however, make for an extremely interesting and entertaining read.

Judge Ruwe ruled in Jeremy M. Jacobs and Margaret J. Jacobs v. Commissioner, 148 T.C. 24 (June 26, 2017), that a free lunch may exist today under Federal tax law. In this case, the taxpayers, owners of the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League, paid for pre-game meals provided by hotels for the players and team personnel while traveling away from Boston for games.

Pursuant to the union collective bargaining agreement governing the Bruins, the team is required to travel to away games a day before the game when the flight is 150 minutes or longer. Before the away games, the Bruins provides the players and staff with a pre-game meal and snack. The meal and snack menus are designed to meet the players’ nutritional guidelines and maximize game performance.

During the tax years at issue, the taxpayers deducted the full cost of the meals and snacks. Upon audit, the IRS contended the cost of the meals and snacks were subject to the 50% limitation under Code Section 274(n)(1) which provides in part:

Explosion - Oregon gross receipts taxFor more than a year, I have been discussing the potential that Oregon lawmakers will pass a corporate gross receipts tax. On May 26, 2017, we discussed recent events that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the dream of a corporate gross receipts tax was definitely alive and well in Oregon. In fact, the passage of it certainly appeared to be gaining steam in the legislature. Maybe that is not the case – at least for now.

Late yesterday, Oregon Democrats announced that they are abandoning any efforts to enact a corporate gross receipts tax this year as they have been unable to garner adequate legislative support to pass such a measure. Article IV, Section 25 of the Oregon Constitution requires a three-fifths majority of all members elected to each house of the legislative assembly to pass bills for raising revenue and that the presiding officer of each respective house sign the bill or resolution. So, it appears a three-fifths vote in favor of a corporate receipts tax in each the house and the senate is not currently attainable.

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Larry Brant
Editor

Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder in Garvey Schubert Barer, a law firm based out of the Pacific Northwest, with offices in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; New York, New York; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing, China. Mr. Brant practices in the Portland office. His practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and transactions. Mr. Brant is a past Chair of the Oregon State Bar Taxation Section. He was the long term Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Portland Tax Forum. Mr. Brant has served as an adjunct professor, teaching corporate taxation, at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College. He is an Expert Contributor to Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Catalyst. Mr. Brant is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel. He publishes articles on numerous income tax issues, including Taxation of S Corporations, Reasonable Compensation, Circular 230, Worker Classification, IRC § 1031 Exchanges, Choice of Entity, Entity Tax Classification, and State and Local Taxation. Mr. Brant is a frequent lecturer at local, regional and national tax and business conferences for CPAs and attorneys. He was the 2015 Recipient of the Oregon State Bar Tax Section Award of Merit.

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