U.S.TAX COURT LITIGATOR

J. Frank Best a U.S. Tax Court Litigator with locations in North Myrtle Beach & Myrtle Beach, SC and Wilmington & Raleigh, NC and licensed in all States is rated in the Top 5 Tax Controversy CPA Profiles/Linkedin and as a U.S.Tax Court Litigator works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

Telephone 800.230.7090   Email: bestcpa@bestirscpa.com  Web: bestirscpa.com

Tax Controversy CPA

J. Frank Best a Tax Controversy CPA with locations in North Myrtle Beach & Myrtle Beach, SC and Wilmington & Raleigh, NC is rated in the Top 5 Tax Controversy CPA Profiles/Linkedin and as a United States Tax Court Litigator licensed in all States works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

Telephone 800.230.7090   Email: bestcpa@bestirscpa.com  Web: bestirscpa.com

North Myrtle Beach, SC Tax Controversy CPA

J. Frank Best a North Myrtle Beach, SC Tax Controversy CPA  with locations in North Myrtle Beach & Myrtle Beach, SC and Wilmington & Raleigh, NC is rated in the Top 5 Tax Controversy CPA Profiles/Linkedin and as a United States Tax Court Litigator licensed in all States works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

Telephone 800.230.7090   Email: bestcpa@bestirscpa.com  Web: bestirscpa.com

No Tax Court Jurisdiction Over Employment Tax Liability

A recent Tax Court decision was reported dealing with Tax Court Jurisdiction. J. Frank Best, Tax Controversy CPA/U. S. Tax Court Litigator with locations in Raleigh and Wilmington, NC  & North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, SC works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for clients

No jurisdiction was determined by the Eighth Circuit and the Eight Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an S corporation’s Tax Court petition challenging an IRS determination that the compensation paid to the sole owner and officer of the S corporation was unreasonable. The Eighth Circuit found that there was no actual controversy under Code Sec. 7436 as to the determination of the S corporation shareholder’s employment status for Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) tax purposes and thus Code Sec. 7436 did not come into play. Azarian v. Comm’r, 2018 PTC 229 (8th Cir. 2018).

Under Code Sec. 7436(a)(1), the Tax Court has jurisdiction over a petition if there is an actual controversy involving a determination that an individual performing services is an employee for FICA tax purposes. Thus, the issue was whether there was an actual controversy involving a determination that Azarian was an employee for FICA tax purposes.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed the Tax Court’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. The Eighth Circuit found that even if there was an actual controversy, it did not involve a determination that Azarian was an employee for FICA tax purposes as required under Code Sec. 7436(a)(1). The court determined that by reporting wages to Azarian each year, the S corporation claimed Azarian was an employee, so the IRS did not make a determination on that issue. Instead, the IRS relied on the S corporation’s classification.

Improvements to Rental Home/Contact Best Tax Controversy CPA/U.S. Tax Court Litigator

A recent Tax Court decision was reported dealing with Improvement to Rental Home.   J. Frank Best, Tax Controversy CPA/U. S. Tax Court Litigator with locations in Raleigh and Wilmington, NC  & North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, SC works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for clients

Couple Can’t Deduct Cost of Improvements to Home Allegedly Rented to Relatives: In Perry v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2018-90, the Tax Court held that a couple did not establish that they rented their second home to relatives and that, even if the court were to find that the couple did in fact rent the house to their relatives, the couple failed to carry their burden of establishing improvements to rental that they rented such home at fair rental value. Thus, the court denied the couple’s deduction for improvements made to that home.

Restitution Payment- J. Frank Best, Tax Controversy CPA/U.S. Tax Court Litigator

Restitution Payments

A recent Tax Court decision was reported dealing with Restitution Payments as Part of a Criminal Sentence.  J.  Frank Best, Tax Controversy CPA/U. S. Tax Court Litigator in Raleigh and Wilmington, NC  & North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, SC works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

The Tax Court held that a taxpayer was not entitled to a miscellaneous itemized deduction for a $400,000 restitution payment made in 2014. The court concluded that (1) the taxpayer did not show that the restitution payment promoted or protected his trade or business of being an employee; (2) the taxpayer did not present any evidence that the primary purpose or motive for the payment was other than that he was required to make the payment as part of a criminal sentence; and (3) the taxpayer did not enter into the restitution transaction with the intention of making a profit. Washburn v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2018-110.

Conclusion

The Tax Court held that Washburn could not deduct the restitution payments as a miscellaneous itemized deduction in 2014. The court began by noting that the restitution payments would be deductible as a miscellaneous itemized deduction if they constituted expenses attributable to the performance of services as an employee under Code Sec. 162(a), losses related to the performance of services as an employee under Code Sec. 165(c)(1), or losses incurred in a transaction entered into for profit under Code Sec. 165(c)(2).

Innocent Spouse Relief/J. Frank Best, Tax Controversy CPA/U. S. Tax Court Litigator

A recent Tax Court decision was reported dealing with Innocent Spouse Relief.  J.  Frank Best, Tax Controversy CPA/U. S. Tax Court Litigator in Raleigh and Wilmington, NC  & North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, SC works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.  

No Innocent Spouse Relief for Widow Who Failed to Report Insurance Proceeds on Form 8857

The Tax Court held that a widow was not entitled to innocent spouse relief from tax liabilities that arose over several years in which she and her husband filed joint returns but did not pay taxes owed. The court cited the fact that, after her husband’s death, the widow invested the proceeds of life insurance policies purchased by her husband without her knowledge in several savings accounts opened in her parents’ names and did not report the proceeds to the IRS when she requested relief. Hale v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2018-93.

Analysis

Spouses filing joint tax returns are generally jointly and severally liable for any taxes owed. However, Code Sec. 6015(f) allows a spouse to be relived from liability if it would be inequitable to hold the spouse liable.

Rev. Proc. 2013-34 lists seven factors to consider if certain threshold conditions do not apply. The factors are: (1) whether the couple is still married, (2) whether economic hardship would arise if relief is not granted, (3) whether the requesting spouse had reason to know that the taxes would not be paid, (4) whether either spouse had a legal obligation to pay the taxes, (5) whether the requesting spouse significantly benefitted from the unpaid taxes, (6) whether the requesting spouse made a good faith effort to comply with the income tax laws in subsequent years, and (7) whether the requesting spouse was in poor health at the time the returns were filed.

The Tax Court held that it would not be inequitable to deny relief to Mrs. Hale. The court explained that a simple toting up of the seven factors would support granting relief, because Mrs. Hale’s lack of knowledge and mental health weighed in her favor and strictly applied, no factor weighed against relief. However, the court noted that the factors are nonexclusive, the degree of importance of each factor varies depending on the facts and circumstances, and that the court was not bound by the IRS’s published guidelines.

 

Tax Controversy CPA/U.S. Tax Court Litigator

IRS Collection and Tax Litigation-Tax Controversy CPA/U.S. Tax Court Litigator: Raleigh and Wilmington, NC/North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, SC

TRADE OR BUSINESS, BUT FAILED TO SUBSTANTIATE EXPENSES-J. FRANK BEST, TAX CONTROVERSY CPA/U.S. TAX COURT LITIGATOR

Entertainment Company Was a Trade or Business, but Failed to Substantiate Expenses

The Tax Court held that an entertainment company that signed artists and produced, promoted and distributed their work was engaged in a trade or business for profit because, although the company never earned a profit during the years at issue, the owner had prior business successes in the music industry, ran the company in a businesslike manner, and devoted significant capital to make it a profitable business. However, the owner’s losses from the business were denied because the court found that the company’s bank statements, which were the only evidence of the expenses produced by the owner, were insufficient to establish the amounts and business purpose of the expenses. Barker v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo 2018-67.

Cecile Barker is an experienced aerospace engineer with a background in music. In the mid-1960s he formed the group Peaches & Herb, which achieved considerable commercial success, and in 1973 he co-produced a song by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Barker left the music business and formed an aerospace engineering company in the 1970s. In 2001, he sold that company and decided to reenter the music business.

Barker formed SoBe Entertainment International LLC in 2002. He contributed all of SoBe’s capital and owned 95 percent of its profits and losses. His son, Yannique, and daughter, Angelique, split the other five percent. SoBe is an independent entertainment company that signs artists and celebrities, produces music and videos, and promotes its artists and distributes their work. As SoBe’s chief executive officer (CEO) and managing member, Barker devoted 40 to 60 hours per week to the business. He consulted music industry professionals before forming SoBe, and hired several high profile producers to bolster SoBe’s chances of success. SoBe employed a marketing professional and, at one time, chief financial officer (CFO). In total, SoBe had eight employees and regularly hired independent contractors.

Yannique Barker was one of SoBe’s signed artists. SoBe had several artist contracts and renewed at least one. SoBe also contracted with producers and writers to work with its artists. SoBe also entered into a distribution agreement with Universal Music to distribute music digitally. SoBe advertised online and through its websites in addition to placing ads in print magazines. SoBe was also a member of the trade organization Record Industry Association of America.

Barker saw stars like Adele and Taylor Swift as examples of how one artist could make his company profitable. Although none of his artists had achieved such a level of success, they had each contributed to the catalog of songs that SoBe owned. SoBe’s catalog had value in March 2016 and it placed a song in a TV show on ABC.

SoBe was founded at a time of major change to the music industry, as online platforms made it possible to buy or sell music at low cost or share it for free. SoBe cut costs as a result of the effects of these platforms, reducing its employees from 17 to 8, and moving its recording studio to a less expensive location. SoBe had never earned a profit and its cumulative losses increased from year to year.

SoBe employed John McQuagge as its CFO and controller from 2006 through 2010. McQuagge used Quickbooks software to produce SoBe’s general ledger and journals. SoBe had two separate bank accounts, one used as a primary operating account and the other used for payroll. McQuagge balanced the accounts against monthly bank statements. While SoBe kept records of the checks it used to pay its expenses from 2006-2010, other expenses recorded in SoBe’s general ledger were paid by credit card or cash, for which no documentation existed other than bank statements.

SoBe had two outside accounting firms prepare its tax returns for 2003-2011. SoBe provided its accountants with all of its Quickbooks records. Accountant Stanley Foodman prepared SoBe’s returns for 2006-2009. Foodman also prepared Barker’s personal income tax returns for 2005-2011. Foodman calculated Barker’s net operating losses (NOLs) and total capital contributions to SoBe for 2002-2011 and listed each of his individual capital contributions to SoBe in 2006-2009. Foodman determined that Barker made over $45 million in capital contributions to SoBe from 2002-2011. This calculation was based on the Schedules K-1, Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc. from SoBe, supplemented by SoBe’s general ledger and bank statements.

Barker reported income from sources other than SoBe, mostly capital gains, interest and dividends. His 2011 income came mostly from Mistral, a defense contractor Barker helped found. Foodman calculated Barker’s income or loss after taking into account Barker’s interest and dividend income, net capital gains and losses, and share of gain or loss reported on the Schedules K-1 from SoBe and other businesses in which he held an interest.

Barker was the victim of identity theft when someone filed a tax return for 2011 using his social security number. Barker eventually filed his 2011 Form 1040 in August 2016. His return showed a loss from SoBe of over $800,000 and an NOL carryover of $19.6 million for 2011. The IRS issued a notice of deficiency in June 2014, determining various adjustments to Barker’s income and deductions. The notice showed that Barker owed approximately $1.2 million in tax for 2011 and that a 25 percent addition to tax applied for Barker’s failure to file his return on time. Barker challenged the notice in the Tax Court.

The IRS asserted that SoBe did not incur any operating losses (and thus, no losses flowed through to Barker) because SoBe was a hobby rather than a trade or business. In the IRS’s view, Barker lacked the actual and honest objective of making a profit. The IRS also argued that Barker could not substantiate the expenses giving rise to SoBe’s operating losses. Barkley contended that SoBe was run as a business from its formation and that making a profit was always its primary objective. He also challenged the addition to tax by arguing that his late filing was due to the identity theft.

The Tax Court held that, under the facts and circumstances, Barker operated SoBe as a trade or business with the actual and honest objective of making a profit. The Tax Court found that Barker had prior business successes in the music industry and had run successful defense contracting businesses, having helped to turn one of them around after several years without a profit. In the court’s view, Barker leveraged his experience and contacts in the music industry as he prepared for SoBe’s formation. He also ran SoBe in a businesslike manner, working there full time and devoting significant capital to it.

Although SoBe had never been profitable, the court found that it had positioned itself to make a profit by amassing a catalog of songs that it had been able to monetize. The court also took into account the turmoil in the music industry and the difficulties faced by artists and producers during the years at issue. The fact that Barker’s son, Yannique, was a SoBe artist did not mean that SoBe was merely a vehicle to fund Yannique’s musical aspirations, according to the Tax Court, because SoBe had other artists and did not devote most of its resources to Yannique. Nor did the fact that Barker enjoyed the creative aspects of the music industry, and had income from other sources. prevent SoBe from being engaged in a trade or business, given the other factors indicating a profit motive.

Although SoBe was engaged in a trade or business for profit, the Tax Court found that Barker failed to provide evidence on which the Tax Court could determine or even estimate the amount of SoBe’s business expenses for all prior years of its operation. The court found that the only documentation to support SoBe’s business expense deductions for previous years were SoBe’s bank statements. Those statements, in the court’s view, did not document the amounts of SoBe’s expenses paid by cash or credit card, nor did they describe the business purpose of the expenditures. The court found that Barker had produced SoBe’s general ledger only for 2005-2009 and that his testimony was insufficient to fill in the gaps. The Tax Court reasoned that Barker had access to additional documentation, including SoBe’s general ledger for all years of its existence, but failed to produce it; therefore the court presumed that such documentation would be unfavorable to Barker.

The Tax Court also held that Barker failed to provide enough evidence for it to determine his NOL deduction for 2011. Barker failed to substantiate SoBe’s income and business expenses for all prior years and, in turn, the amount of losses for which he claimed a deduction for 2011. If the court could not estimate the amount of SoBe’s operating losses, it could not know how much flowed through to Barker. Moreover, even if Barker had substantiated SoBe’s expenses, the court could not determine how much of those losses were absorbed by Barker’s other income in the years before 2011, because Barker did not produce his returns for 2002-2004 and those that he produced for later years were missing crucial information.

The Tax Court also upheld the penalty assessment after rejecting Barker’s argument that his identity theft issue excused his failure to file his 2011 return on time. The court reasoned that Barker was a sophisticated businessman who should have known that he was required to file his return, and that his accountants and return preparers could have made inquiries.

United States Tax Court Decision for the Week-Legal Fees for Alimony Payments

A recent Tax Court decision was reported dealing with tax litigation and legal fees for alimony payments. J. Frank Best, Certified Public Accountant and United States Tax Court Litigator works to stay current on all IRS decisions concerning tax litigation to ensure we are fully informed and prepared for our clients.

Legal Fees to Recoup Alimony Payments Were Nondeductible Personal Expenses

The Tax Court held that a taxpayer could not deduct legal fees incurred in an action to recover alimony payments that he alleged were made in excess of the amount provided for under a separation agreement with his ex-wife. The Tax Court found that the legal fees were nondeductible personal expenses because the underlying claim did not originate from any profit seeking activity. Barry v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2017-237.

William and Beth Barry were divorced in 2002. The judgment of dissolution ordered Mr. Barry to pay alimony of $2,400 per month. In 2011, Mr. Barry sued Ms. Barry for breach of contract. He alleged that under a separation agreement they had previously signed, Ms. Barry was entitled to total alimony of approximately $45,000 and that he had paid that amount in full. He said that Ms. Barry was in default of the separation agreement when she filed for divorce in 2000 and demanded alimony. Mr. Barry sought a judgment of approximately $201,000 – an amount equal to the excess of the total alimony he paid over the amount he claimed Ms. Barry was entitled to under the separation agreement. Mr. Barry’s lawsuit was dismissed in 2011 as time barred.

On his 2013 tax return, Mr. Barry claimed a deduction of over $34,000 for the legal fees he paid with respect to the action against Ms. Barry. The IRS determined a deficiency of approximately $5,000 and an accuracy-related penalty of $1,000. Mr. Barry petitioned the Tax Court for redetermination of the deficiency.

Personal and family expenses are generally not deductible. However, a deduction is allowed under Code Sec. 212 for ordinary and necessary expenses for (1) the production or collection of income, or (2) the maintenance or conservation of property held for the production of income. In U.S. v. Gilmore, 372 U. S 39 (1963), the Supreme Court held that legal fees incurred by a taxpayer in resisting his wife’s property claims in a divorce were not deductible because the claims that gave rise to the fees stemmed from the marital relationship rather than from any profit seeking activity. The Supreme Court stated that the origin of the claim with respect to which an expense was incurred, rather than its potential consequences, is the controlling test of whether an expense is deductible.

Barry argued that Gilmore was decided based on the language of Code Sec. 212(2), which applies to expenses incurred in the conservation of property held for the production of income, but that his his claim was based on Code Sec. 212(1), which allows a deduction for expenses paid for the production of income. Barry said that the origin of the claim test therefore did not apply. Barry also cited Wild v. Comm’r, 42  T.C. 706 (1964), where the Tax Court held that legal fees paid by a wife in obtaining alimony includible in gross income were deductible under Code Sec. 212(1). Barry argued that his legal expenses should also be deductible because they were incurred for the purpose of collecting money that would be included in his income under the tax benefit rule.

The Tax Court held that Barry’s legal fees were not deductible under Code Sec 212(1). First, it found that, contrary to Barry’s argument, the Gilmore origin of the claim test applied to both paragraphs (1) and (2) of Code Sec.212. According to the Tax Court, Gilmore interpreted the predecessor statute to Code Sec.212, which contained in one paragraph the provisions now codified in Code Sec. 212(1) and Code Sec.212(2). The Tax Court also cited language from the Gilmore opinion stating that the only kind of expenses deductible under the predecessor to Code Sec. 212 were those that related to a profit seeking purpose and did not include personal, living, or family expenses.

Next, the Tax Court cited several of its previous decisions applying the origin of the claim test to deductions for legal fees under Code Sec. 212(1). The Tax Court noted that in Sunderland v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 1977-116, it applied the Gilmore test to disallow a deduction claimed under Code Sec.212(1) for legal expenses the taxpayer incurred in a legal action which resulted in a reduction of the alimony paid to his former wife. The Tax Court also cited Favrot v. U.S., 550 F.Supp. 809 (E.D. La. 1982), where a district court applied Gilmore in disallowing a claimed deduction for legal expenses incurred in an attempt to recoup alimony payments. The Tax Court rejected Barry’s assertion that his legal fees should be deductible because any recovered alimony payments would have been includible in his income. In the Tax Court’s view, Barry improperly focused on the potential consequences of his lawsuit rather than on the origin and character of his claim.

The Tax Court also disagreed with Barry’s reading of its decision in Wild, finding that it turned on an exception to the Gilmore rule in the regulations under Code Sec. 262 specifically providing for the deductibility of legal fees of a wife incurred for the collection of alimony and similar amounts received by a wife in connection with a marital relationship. The Tax Court concluded by citing the general rule as stated in the regulations under Code Sec. 262, which is that attorney’s fees and other costs paid in connection with a divorce, separation, or decree for support are not deductible by either the husband or the wife.

Finally, the Tax Court reasoned that if Barry had filed suit in the same year as his divorce to challenge the alimony obligations, his legal expenses would have been nondeductible personal expenses. In seeking to deduct legal expenses incurred in an action to recoup the alimony payments, Barry was seeking to do indirectly what could not have been done directly, according to the Tax Court.