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The House has approved two tax bills that are part of Republicans’ three-pronged "Tax Reform 2.0" package. The two measures, approved by the House on September 27, focus on retirement savings and business innovation.


The House has approved a tax bill that would make permanent tax reform’s individual and small business tax cuts enacted last December. The controversial bill is part of Republican’s three-bill "Tax Reform 2.0" package, two of which cleared the House on September 27 (see the previous story in this Issue).


Stakeholders are urging the IRS to clarify its guidance on tax reform’s new passthrough deduction. The IRS held an October 16 public hearing on proposed rules for the new Code Sec. 199Apassthrough deduction at its headquarters in Washington D.C. The IRS released the proposed regulations, REG-107892-18, on August 8.


Top Senate tax writers have introduced a bipartisan bill to prevent duplicative taxation on digital goods and services. The bill aims to establish a framework across multiple jurisdictions for taxation of digital goods and services, including electronic music, literature, and mobile apps, among other things.


The IRS has released Draft Instructions for the 2018 Form 1040. Additionally, the IRS has cautioned taxpayers that the draft instructions are subject to change. The IRS released a draft of the 2018 Form 1040 and six accompanying schedules last June.


The IRS’s new Commissioner was officially sworn in on October 1 by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. IRS Commissioner Charles "Chuck" P. Rettig will lead the implementation of tax reform enacted last December under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) ( P.L. 115-97).


The Senate Small Business Committee held an October 3 hearing on expanding opportunities for small businesses through the tax code. Senate lawmakers examined tax reform’s effect on small businesses and discussed witnesses’ proposals to address ambiguity in the new tax code.


The 2016 filing season has closed with renewed emphasis on cybersecurity, tax-related identity theft and customer service. Despite nearly constant attack by cybercriminals, the IRS reported that taxpayer information remains secure. The agency also continued to intercept thousands of bogus returns and prevent the issuance of fraudulent refunds.


Individual taxpayers may claim a nonrefundable personal tax credit for qualified residential alternative energy expenditures. The residential alternative energy credit generally is equal to 30 percent of the cost of eligible solar water heaters, solar electricity equipment, fuel cell plants, small wind energy property, and geothermal heat pump property. After 2016, the credit is available only for qualified solar electric property and qualified solar water heating property placed in service before 2022.


Tax reform continues to be highly touted in Congress as lawmakers from both parties call for simplification of countless complex rules, overhaul of tax rates, and more. At times this year, President Obama and Congressional Republicans seem far apart on a way forward, but at similar times in the past, agreements have quickly and often surprisingly emerged, most recently in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act). As the November elections approach more closely every passing day, lawmakers from both parties and the President have a short window to agree on tax legislation. The weeks leading up to Congress’ summer recess may be decisive.


Six years ago, Congress passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which set in motion a wave of new reporting and disclosure requirements by individuals, foreign financial institutions, and others. In response, the IRS created a host of new rules and regulations; and new forms for these reporting requirements. One key FATCA form – Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets – has seen usage steadily increase since passage of FATCA, the IRS recently reported. At the same time, more individuals are filing a related form – FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (known as the FBAR), which reached a record high in 2015.


Legislation enacted in 2015 provides new rules for IRS partnership audits. The new rules are a drastic departure from current rules and the IRS is hopeful that the rules will simplify the audit process and allow the IRS to conduct more partnership audits.


Under Code Sec. 1031, a taxpayer can make a tax-free exchange of property held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment. The exchange must be made for other property that the taxpayer will continue to use in a trade or business or for investment. Ordinarily, the exchange is made directly with another taxpayer who holds like-kind property. For example, an investor in real estate may exchange a building with another person who also owns real estate for use in a trade or business or for investment.


Individuals may contribute up to $5,500 to a traditional and a Roth IRA for 2016. This is the same limit as 2015. An individual age 50 and older can make a catch-up contribution of an additional $1,000 for the year. The contribution is limited to the taxpayer’s taxable compensation for the year, minus contributions to all non-Roth IRAs.


The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) made permanent many popular but previously temporary tax breaks for individuals and businesses. The PATH Act also enhanced many incentives. These enhancements should not be overlooked in tax planning both for 2016 and future years. Some of the enhancements are discussed here. If you have any questions about these or other tax breaks in the PATH Act, please contact our office. 


Tweaks to enhanced Code Sec. 179 expensing and the high-dollar health care excise tax are two proposals in President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget that could become law before the end of his term. President Obama released his FY 2017 budget proposals in February. Other proposals that could be passed by Congress include enhancements to small business tax incentives, expanded opportunities for retirement saving, revisions to the net investment income (NII) tax, and more.