Insurance companies, agents, financial planners, and others have pushed abusive 419 and 412i plans for years. They claimed business owners could obtain large tax deductions. Insurance companies, agents and others earned very large life insurance commissions in the process.
When trying to understand how a product becomes the focus of IRS scrutiny it helps to know its history.
In the case of plans that fall under Internal Revenue Code Section 79, that history is complex.
Eventually, the IRS cracked down on the unsuspecting business owners. Not only did they lose the tax deductions, but they were also fined, in addition to being charged penalties and interest. A skilled CPA with extensive IRS experience could usually eliminate the penalties and reduce the fines. Most accountants, tax attorneys and others, however, have been unsuccessful in accomplishing this.
After the business owner was assessed the fines and lost his tax deduction, he had another huge, unforeseen problem. The IRS then came back and fined him a huge amount of money for not telling on himself under IRC 6707A. If you participate in a listed or reportable transaction, you must alert the IRS or face a large fine.In essence, you must alert the IRS if you were in a transaction that has the possibility of tax avoidance or evasion. Not only must you file Form 8886 telling on yourself, but the form needs to be filed properly, and done every year that you are in the plan in any way at all, even if you are no longer making contributions.According to IRC 6707A Expert Lance Wallach, "I have received hundreds of phone calls from business owners who filed Form 8886, usually with the help of their accountants or the plan promoter. They got the fine for either improperly filing, or for making mistakes on the form."
Form 8886 is required to be filed by any taxpayer who is participating, or in some cases has participated, in a listed or reportable transaction.
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CPA’s Guide to Life Insurance Author/Moderator:
Lance Wallach, CLU, CHFC, CIMC
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What attracted the most attention with respect to it, until very recently, were the penalties for failure to file, which were $100,000 annually for individuals and $200,000 annually for corporations. Recent legislation has reduced those penalties in most cases. However, there is still a minimum penalty of $5,000 annually for an individual and $10,000 annually for a corporation for failure to file. And those are the MINIMUM penalties. If the minimum penalties do not apply, the annual penalty becomes 75 percent of whatever tax benefit was derived from participation in the listed transaction, and the penalty is applied both to the business and to the individual business owners. Since the form must be filed for every year of participation in the transaction, the penalties can be cumulative; i.e., applied in more than one year. For example, a corporation that participated in five consecutive years could find itself, depending on the amount of claimed tax deductions, looking at several hundred thousand dollars in fines, even under the recently enacted legislation, before even thinking about back taxes, penalties, interest, etc., that could result from an audit. Even the minimum fine would be $15,000 per year, again in addition to all other applicable taxes and penalties, etc. So even the minimum fines could mount up fast.
The penalties can also be imposed for incomplete, inaccurate, and/or misleading filings. And the Service itself has not provided totally clear, unequivocal guidance to those hoping to avoid errors and penalties. To illustrate this point, Lance Wallach, a leading authority in this area who has received hundreds of calls and whose associates have literally aided dozens of taxpayers in completing these forms, reports that his associates, on numerous occasions, have sought the opinions and assistance of Service personnel, usually from the Office of Chief Counsel, with respect to questions arising while assisting taxpayers in completing and filing the form. The answers are often somewhat vague, and tend to be accompanied by a disclaimer advising not to rely on them.
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Lance Wallach, Expert Witness