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With about a month to go before Tax Day (don’t shoot the messenger), the most recent tax data suggests that taxpayers still aren’t rushing to file.

The IRS has received 54,030,000 individual income tax returns as of March 1, 2024, a 1.7% decline from the previous year. And while the IRS points to the current tax season beginning about a week later than it did in 2023, the due date is earlier in 2024—April 15 in 2024 compared to April 18 in 2023. A more compressed season (78 days in 2024, compared to 86 days in 2023) should mean taxpayers would be motivated to file early, since there are far fewer days to procrastinate. That is clearly not the case in 2024. (☆)

More likely? Taxpayers are waiting to file until the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act becomes law. The legislation, which would, among other things, expand the child tax credit retroactively to the 2023 tax year, was announced in mid-January and passed the House at the end of the month. However, the bill has stalled in the Senate—as of now, no vote has been scheduled. Yes, still. (☆)

President Joe Biden took the opportunity during his State of the Union address to call on Congress to restore the expanded child tax credit. But Mark W. Everson, vice chairman of alliantgroup, and IRS commissioner from 2003-2007, noted a glaring omission: no mention of the research and development (R&D) credit. Restoring the R&D credit has broad bipartisan support—and is particularly popular with corporations who might not be excited about other parts of Biden’s plan. The corporate-friendly provision made some of the more family-friendly parts of the bill more appealing for some members of Congress. Not mentioning it in the speech was, Everson says, “A missed opportunity.” (☆)

Biden also took the opportunity to tout parts of his economic plan. The President claimed that 1,000 American billionaires pay an average tax rate of 8.2%. He wants to boost that to a minimum tax rate of 25% while reiterating a promise that under his Administration, “nobody earning less than $400,000 a year will pay an additional penny in federal taxes—nobody—not one penny.” That’s consistent with the messaging we’ve been hearing from the U.S. Treasury and the IRS.

The White House also wants to eliminate tax loopholes, such as those associated with carried interest, estate and gift taxes, and life insurance. There are no clear winners or losers yet, but the ongoing debate highlights the complex and multi-faceted nature of tax policy discussions in the U.S.

Maybe the most controversial aspect of Biden’s plan is to boost the corporate tax rate to at least 21% and end tax breaks for “Big Pharma, Big Oil, private jets, massive executive pay.” He reminded the country that he had previously represented corporate-friendly Delaware for 36 years, adding, “I’m not anti-corporation.”

If you have interest, you can read the entire Green Book. The Green Book outlines the revenue proposals included in the President’s budget, including tax proposals. Settle in—at 248 pages, it’s not a quick read.

Speaking of corporations, the Department of Justice and Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network have formally notified the U.S. District Court of Northern Alabama that they will appeal the ruling in favor of the National Small Business Association (NSBA), striking down the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA). U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke of the Northern District of Alabama, Northeastern Division, found the CTA unconstitutional “because it exceeds the Constitution’s limits on Congress’ power.” (☆)

On March 11, 2024, the government formally filed a Notice of Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over federal cases in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. In civil cases like this one, an appeal doesn’t typically put a stop to the original judgment—that means that the enjoinder barring Treasury from enforcing the CTA against the NSBA remains in place while the matter is pending. After the filing, Treasury confirmed it was their position that only members of the NSBA as of March 1, 2024, are included in the ruling. (☆)

Companies are also making news for hiring—the unemployment rate has been below 4% for two years running, the best record since the 1960s. Wages are also edging up—but is it sustainable? Employers are thinking about strategies for attracting and retaining workers without dipping into their cash, and they’re reaching back into their late 1990s/(very) early 2000s bag of compensation tricks. In some sectors, equity compensation awards are all the rage again—and no wonder, since it’s a chance to offer employees a stake in the company without writing a check. Equity compensation is typically tied to periods of time or employee performance—the company’s goal is to keep you employed and vested in the health and growth of the company. While these plans can be lucrative, they can also be tricky. From stock options to RSUs to phantom stock, here’s a quick look at some of the most common types of equity compensation. (☆)

Also tricky? Cryptocurrency. A question about cryptocurrency can be found on Forms 1040, 1040-SR, 1040-NR, 1041, 1065, 1120, 1120, and 1120S. Taxpayers must check a box answering either “Yes” or “No” to a question about crypto ownership. Does the question really matter? A simple yes or no can turn out to be important—the question feels similar to the offshore assets question (now found on Schedule B) that ensnared a number of taxpayers who were not reporting those assets.

Understanding the tax consequences of crypto and digital currency transactions is crucial. Beyond the immediate issues, like recognition of income and capital gains, it’s also important to recognize that tax obligations can vary significantly depending on where you live (fortunately, some countries have agreements in place to prevent double taxation on the same income).

Looking for more tax information related to the filing season? Our Forbes tax guide can help point you in the right direction, from whether you have to file at all to answering the age-old (okay, maybe just decades old) question of whether to file your tax return by paper or electronically.

(There are just 31 days remaining until Tax Day!)

Thanks for reading!

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—Kelly Phillips Erb (Senior Writer, Tax)

Articles marked with (☆) are premium content and require you to log-in with your Forbes membership credentials. Not a subscriber yet? Click here to sign up.

Questions

A record 1.2 million U.S. vehicle buyers opted to go fully electric last year, according to estimates from Kelley Blue Book. That represents 7.6% of the total U.S. vehicle market, up from 5.9% in 2022.

Congress hopes tax incentives for electric vehicles (EVs) further boost those numbers. It may be working: A new studysuggests that owning an electric vehicle is cheaper than owning a comparably sized and equipped gas-powered one. (☆) The rules are far from settled—they changed again in 2024 to allow for money in hand at the dealer—causing confusion.

So, it’s not surprising that this week’s question focuses on EVs. Specifically, a reader asks:

Buying my son an EV for graduation (he will make small payments on a loan I will have to co-sign for). Can he get the Federal incentive (his income will be about $30k for partial year 2024 salary) if I co-sign the loan and gift a down payment.First of all, what a great dad!

Second, the rules for the EV credit revolve around ownership and use—the source of the funds is not part of the qualification (although income level may be, see below).

Assuming the car qualifies—more on that here—these are the requirements for the owner:

  • You are the owner of the vehicle. If the vehicle is leased, only the lessor and not the lessee is entitled to the credit.
  • You placed the vehicle in service during the tax year.
  • The original use of the vehicle began with you, is for your use (or to lease to others), and not for resale.
  • You use the vehicle primarily in the U.S.
  • Your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2023 or 2024 is not more than $150,000 for single filers ($300,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, and $225,000 for heads of household)—those numbers are different for used EVs.

It’s worth noting that the credit is nonrefundable, so you can’t get back more credit than you owe in taxes, and you can’t apply any excess credit to future tax years.

Keep in mind that your lender’s financing requirements may be different from the tax rules, just as with a mortgage.

And from one college parent to another, happy graduation to you both!

Do you have a tax question or matter that you think we should cover in the next newsletter? We’d love to help if we can. Check out our guidelines and submit a question here.

FEDERAL TAX DOLLARS

ZIP Code data tables for the 2021 tax year are now available on the IRS website. The data offers selected income and tax return items for approximately 43,000 ZIP Codes across the U.S.

Here’s a look at how that translates to total tax liability by county. For a more in-depth look, click on the individual counties on the map below (it’s addictive—you’ve been warned).

Of course, tax liability doesn’t paint a complete picture. Wallet Hub put together a comparison based on three metrics: the return on taxes paid to the federal government, the share of federal jobs, and federal funding as a share of state revenue.

The most federally dependent states, using that metric, are:

  1. Alaska
  2. New Mexico
  3. Kentucky
  4. West Virginia
  5. Mississippi
  6. North Dakota
  7. Louisiana
  8. Montana
  9. South Carolina
  10. Arizona

The least federally dependent states are:

  1. New Jersey
  2. California
  3. Kansas
  4. Utah
  5. Illinois
  6. Washington
  7. Iowa
  8. Massachusetts
  9. Nevada
  10. Colorado

A DEEPER DIVE

We still don’t have guidance for implementing the energy tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act, but some practitioners are already looking ahead to next year when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provisions will expire. That confluence of events will likely raise a host of questions. Should Congress let the TCJA expire? Extend? Cancel the IRA energy tax credit? Or do something new altogether, like tacking on a carbon tax? Policy-making—especially on the tax front—has focused on the tax code more and more. Much of that was evidenced by the IRA, which “turbocharged” tax benefits, turning the IRS into the agency primarily responsible for implementing climate policy. That’s likely to continue into next year—and it’s worth watching for taxpayers and tax professionals alike.

The state of New York is also focusing on energy policy through the tax code. New York State Senate Bill S3596B, if passed, would expand the existing state solar energy system equipment credit from 25% of qualified system installation costs with a cap of $5,000, to a cap of $10,000. The bill is expensive (credits usually are), but supporters argue that the benefit outweighs the cost. And, there’s a social policy twist: the credit would be refundable for low to moderate-income taxpayers or those residing in a disadvantaged community—taxpayers traditionally priced out of alternative energy solutions. The bill is currently winding its way through committee and must still pass the House and Senate. There’s no doubt that other states will be watching.

IMPORTANT DATES

📅 March 16, 2024. Special Saturday openings at Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs), from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

📅 March 22, 2024. Last day to apply for the Employee Retention Credit Voluntary Disclosure Program—the program lets employers who received ERCs but are ineligible pay back the credits at a discounted rate.

📅 March 26, 2024. Keep More of What You Earn: Savvy Tax Tips To Maximize Your Investment Income. Forbes webinar featuring Kelly Phillips Erb and Amber Gray-Fenner, 2 p.m. ET. Free registration here.

📅 April 15, 2024. Individual federal income tax returns are due (or file for an extension) for most taxpayers.*

📅 April 17, 2024. Individual federal income tax returns are due (or file for an extension) for taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts.

* The IRS has announced tax relief for individuals and businesses in parts of California affected by severe storms and flooding that began on January 21. They now have until June 17 to file various federal individual and business tax returns and make tax payments.

AWARENESS

In the movie Brokedown Palace (another flashback to the 1990s), two friends—played by Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale—find themselves surrounded by police at the airport after heroin was found in their luggage. The film—said to be based on a true story—offered a glimpse of the danger of operating as a “drug mule.” The term typically refers to someone who personally transports illegal drugs on behalf of another person, even if they do so without knowing they’re committing a crime. The same principle is used in other crimes—people who move illicit funds between bank accounts, currencies, and blockchains to avoid detection on behalf of a criminal enterprise are also mules. According to IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), these individuals are called money mules. (☆)

This month, IRS-CI partnered with other federal agencies in an effort deemed The Money Mule Initiative. Now in its sixth year, the initiative aims to identify and prosecute facilitators of money mule schemes.

NOTEWORTHY

The IRS has announced that Guy Ficco will become the new IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) chief as of April 1, 2024. Ficco will succeed Chief Jim Lee, who announced his retirement from federal service in February. Before the move, Ficco served as Deputy Chief. He was named to that post in 2022, taking over from Jim Robnett, who retired after 36 years of IRS service. Before being appointed Deputy Chief, Ficco was the executive director of Global Operations Policy and Support at CI. Ficco first joined the IRS in July 1995. (☆)

A recent KPMG LLP report revealed that a majority of chief tax officers (CTOs) use generative AI (gen AI) in their tax departments or are exploring its potential. The survey found that 29% are currently using gen AI, while an additional 26% are taking action to explore its capabilities. A significant percentage of respondents (30%) also expressed their intention to increase technology investments over the next 12 months. The survey was based on insights from 300 CTOs at large public and private U.S. companies.

If you have career or industry news, submit it for consideration here.

TRIVIA

In 2006, Professor Erik Lie testified before Congress about his research into stock options. What percentage of firms that granted options to top executives between the years 1996 and 2005 manipulated one or more option grants in some fashion?

A. 0%

B. 9%

C. 19%

D. 29%

Find the answer at the bottom of this newsletter.

OUR TEAM

I hope you’ll get to know some of our staff and contributors. Since it feels like everything old is new again, I asked: Which pop culture trend would you want to see return?

Kelly Phillips Erb (Senior Writer, Tax): I’m a fan of Cyndi Lauper-esque skirts and bracelets—I wouldn’t mind seeing them come back into fashion.

Andrew Leahey (Contributor, Tax): Pogs! In the mid- to late-1990s kids in my area (the Jersey Shore) were all about them. Regular pogs, slammers (which were hefty little metal versions), and bombers … I think they were called … which were these little hunks of metal. I think there was a game to be played with pogs, but no one I know bothered to do anything more than collect the little things.

Amber Gray-Fenner (Contributor, Tax): The knitting craze (well, for us knitters it amounted to a craze) in the early aughts.

Brandon Kochkodin (Writer, Money Team): Rock music. I can’t remember the last time I heard guitars on the radio and not just autotuned music.

KEY FIGURES

That’s the number of eligible taxpayers in the 12 states which are a part of the IRS Direct File program who can now use the system. The IRS announced the full-scale launch of the pilot on March 12, 2024.

TRIVIA ANSWER

The answer is (D) 29%.

Professor Lie’s research indicated that a whopping 29% of firms that granted options to top executives between 1996 and 2005 manipulated one or more option grants in some fashion. Often, the grant dates were retroactively changed so the executives could benefit from a lower exercise price.

FEEDBACK

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