Daily Tax Update - February 2, 2010

GEITHNER TESTIFIES ON BUDGET ISSUES: Today, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testified before the Senate Finance Committee on the President’s FY 2011 budget proposal. The Treasury Secretary will testify before the House Ways and Means Committee tomorrow. Geithner said, “The President's Budget proposes a series of actions that would begin to put us back to a responsible, sustainable fiscal path. Let me highlight those changes: The Budget will freeze all non-security discretionary funding for three years (2011-2013) at 2010 nominal levels, with funding after the three years increasing only at about the rate of inflation. The freeze will reduce deficits by $250 billion through the end of the decade.” Geithner continued, “In addition, we need to restore the basic set of disciplines that helped make sure that if Congress proposes new policies or tax cuts, these are paid for with offsetting cuts or changes in policy. In the 1990s, Washington started to live by the budget rule and the basic common sense principle that if the President and Congress wanted to pass an expensive tax cut or entitlement increase—however worthy—they had to find offsetting measure to ensure it did not increase the deficit or debt. This common sense rule—called PAYGO—helped Washington move from large deficits to surpluses. If Washington had lived up to this principle during the last decade it would have served as a bulwark against the unpaid for tax cuts and entitlement increases that make up the heart of the current deficit and debt. Reinstating PAYGO will help return the government to fiscal sustainability.” On the issue of the tax gap, Geithner said, “The Budget will include proposals to close the 'tax gap' by collecting more of the taxes that are owed, but are not paid. This is critically important. Tax evasion not only reduces tax revenue, thereby resulting in an implicit tax increase on those Americans who pay their taxes, it also reduces the faith Americans have in the tax system, starting a vicious cycle that can result in even more evasion. I appreciate this Committee's longstanding interest in, and leadership on, efforts to reduce the tax gap. I look forward to working with the Committee to address this important issue. The Budget will provide nearly $250 million in new enforcement initiatives to improve compliance, which will build on the foundation established in the FY 2010 budget to hire nearly 2,000 new employees dedicated to addressing international tax evasion by businesses and affluent individuals, improving information reporting, and broadening collection activities.”

  • Regarding international issues, Geithner said, “Since President Obama took office, the United States has aggressively pursued international tax agreements to further cross-border tax information exchange. In the past year alone, the United States has signed agreements improving tax information exchange with Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, Monaco, and Chile. The United States also is working multilaterally to make sure that countries meet international standards on tax transparency and information exchange. The Administration is committed to preventing the facilitation of offshore tax evasion. Finally, the Internal Revenue Service has vigorously pursued enforcement actions against those hiding money offshore. All these efforts are being undertaken to address a fundamental concern: Again, tax evasion, especially through the use of offshore entities and accounts, undermines confidence in our tax system and results in an implicit tax increase on those who pay the taxes they owe.” Geithner continued, “Our Budget will include a number of proposals to increase information reporting and withholding. The most significant proposal involves addressing the use of offshore entities and accounts to evade US taxes. This initiative will result in billions more in revenue over the budget window and just as importantly send the message that if you hide income and assets offshore to evade tax, we will find you and you will pay. I applaud the leadership this Committee has shown on the issue. We are also proposing substantive changes to our tax laws to address rules that yield unfair and economically inefficient results. For example, our proposals to reform our international tax rules, to address those aspects that disadvantage investment in the United States and encourage companies to ship jobs overseas. Of course, we recognize that this is an area where our tax law must strike a balance. We are concerned about the competitiveness of US companies abroad and recognize that the growth of US companies globally can benefit the United States. But we recognize that allowing a company that moves jobs or investments overseas to gain a competitive advantage through our tax code against a competitor that chooses to expand investment and job growth in the United States is unfair and is bad policy. This Budget seeks to strike that balance by limiting our proposal regarding the deferral of expenses only to interest. In addition, we drop a previous proposal to limit the ability of taxpayers to elect the tax status of business entities under the so-called 'check-the-box' rules. We remain concerned about the misuse of those rules to inappropriately avoid US taxes, and thus are proposing tighter rules regarding the use of foreign tax credits, as well as a new provision to backstop our transfer pricing rules that will subject to immediate US tax excessive returns on intangibles transferred to low-tax foreign affiliates. Our goal in these proposals is to limit the role taxes play in business investment decisions by reducing implicit tax incentives to move investment and jobs overseas. We are, of course, open to discussing how best to achieve that goal.”
  • Geithner said, “Our proposals to allow some of the Bush Administration's individual tax cuts to expire as scheduled and to limit the value of certain tax benefits are restricted to those with the highest incomes. Moreover, we again propose that the income earned on a so-called ‘carried interest’ be taxed as ordinary income and not at preferential capital gains rates, so that private equity and hedge fund managers pay tax on their compensation under the same rate structure as average Americans.”
  • The Treasury Secretary also said that the Administration supports the creation of a bipartisan Fiscal Commission. Geithner added, “The Commission will be charged with identifying policies that could win the necessary political support to complete the job of achieving fiscal sustainability. Specifically, it would be asked to propose how to balance the budget exclusive of interest payments on the debt by 2015.”

MISCELLANEOUS GUIDANCE RELEASED TODAY:
Notice 2010-19 applies to taxpayers making gifts in trust during 2010. Under section 2511(c), a transfer of property to a non-wholly-owned grantor trust is a transfer by gift of the entire interest in the property. To determine whether a transfer to a wholly-owned grantor trust constitutes a gift, the gift tax provisions in effect prior to 2010 apply.

  • Notice 2010-19 will be in IRB 2010-7, dated February 16, 2010.

TAX BILL INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 1ST:
S.2973 A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a temporary payroll increase tax credit for certain employers.
Sponsor: Sen Casey, Robert P., Jr. [PA] (introduced 2/1/2010)      Cosponsors (3)

INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE - CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE:
As provided for in Treasury regulations, advice (if any) relating to federal taxes that is contained in this communication (including attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any plan or arrangement addressed herein.

STEPTOE & JOHNSON LLP - TAX PRACTICE
Steptoe & Johnson LLP has one of the largest and most diverse law firm tax practices in the country. The practice covers the entire spectrum of federal taxation, including representation of businesses before the Congress, Treasury and the national office of the IRS; transactional planning for domestic and multinational corporations; complex audit and controversy work for corporations and other business interests contesting IRS adjustments; litigation before the Tax Court, Court of Federal Claims, district courts, courts of appeals and the Supreme Court. The firm's tax practice also encompasses all aspects of employee benefits (ERISA), executive compensation, tax-exempt organizations and charitable giving. Steptoe has an extensive state and local tax practice, representing an array of business clients on complex sales and use tax, corporate income tax and property tax matters, both advising those clients and handling audits, administrative appeals, and litigation for them. Read more information on Steptoe's tax practice.