IRS Issues Tax and Reporting Relief for Proposed Fiduciary Standard Consistent with Department of Labor Regulations

By Monte Schatz

There have been a significant series of regulatory announcements and rulings related to the fiduciary duty and its application to employee benefit plans.  The final fiduciary duty rule became effective on June 7, 2016, and has an applicability date of April 10, 2017. The President by Memorandum to the Secretary of Labor directed the Labor Department to examine the impact of the fiduciary duty rule.  On March 2nd the DOL published 82 FR 12319 seeking public comments about questions raised in the Presidential Memorandum.  The March 2nd notice also provided that a 60-day delay in implementation would be effective on the date of publication of a final rule

The Principal Transactions Exemptions and the accompanying Best Interest Contract provisions, included as part of the fiduciary duty rule, also have an applicability date of April 10, 2017, with a phased implementation period ending on January 1, 2018. The BIC Exemption effectively states that the fiduciary advisor must sign a “Best Interests Contract” (BIC) with the client, stipulating that the advisor will provide advice that is in the Best Interests of the client.   The Principal Transactions Exemption allows compensation for certain transactions by certain broker-dealers, insurance agents, and others that will act as investment advice fiduciaries that would otherwise violate prohibited transaction rules that trigger excise taxes and civil liability.

Most investment industry groups’ concerns regarding any non-compliance during a “gap period” of the financial fiduciary rule focused on Department of Labor and its potential civil liability enforcement provisions as outlined under ERISA.  Additional concerns were raised concerning Internal Revenue Service enforcement provisions found in Internal Revenue Code §4975 prohibited transaction rules that provides for the imposition of excise taxes for violations of that rule.

As a result of delays of the Fiduciary Standard rules, the Department of Labor published Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2017-01.  FAB 2017-01 provides that, to the extent circumstances surrounding its decision on the proposed delay of the April 10 applicability date give rise to the need for other temporary relief, including retroactive prohibited transaction relief, the DOL will consider taking such additional steps as necessary with respect to the arrangements and transactions covered by the DOL temporary enforcement policy and any subsequent related DOL enforcement guidance.

In Announcement 2017–4 the IRS stated, Because the Code and ERISA contemplate consistency in the enforcement of the prohibited transaction rules by the IRS and the DOL, the Treasury Department and the IRS have determined that it is appropriate to adopt a temporary excise tax non-applicability policy that conforms with the DOL’s temporary enforcement policy described in FAB 2017-01. Accordingly, the IRS will not apply § 4975 and related reporting obligations with respect to any transaction or agreement to which the DOL’s temporary enforcement policy, or other subsequent related enforcement guidance, would apply.

SOURCES:

http://www.asppa.org/News/Article/ArticleID/8480

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/a-17-04.pdf

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Department of Labor Delays Implementation of the Fiduciary Rule

Last year, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued a final rule, expanding the definition of a fiduciary, making many broker-dealers and insurance agents fiduciaries. This rule, issued April 2016, was set to become effective June 2016, but was then delayed until April 10, 2017, with certain provisions delayed until January of 2018. However, President Trump ordered a review of the new rule and the DOL issued another delay, of 60 days, to complete the review. With the delay, the expanded fiduciary definition will become effective June 9, 2017.

Under the rule, a person or firm that is deemed a fiduciary is required to act in the best interests of their clients. This includes an obligation to avoid conflicts of interests, or otherwise receive compensation that creates a conflict between the interests of the fiduciary and the client. The new rule poses several issues for certain professionals that will be deemed a fiduciary under the new rule. For example, sales commissions would be deemed a conflict of interest, creating an especially problematic situation for broker-dealers that engage in principal transactions with clients. However, the DOL recognized the issue and created several principal transaction exemptions, but the exemptions require additional burdensome steps. This issue, among others, are central to the review causing the rule to be delayed.

Despite this delay, and the DOL admitting the review will not be complete by June 9, 2017, the expanded definition of fiduciary will be implemented at the end of the 60-day delay. Therefore, broker-dealers, insurance agents, and others that will now be deemed a fiduciary, should be prepared for the additional requirements on June 9, 2017.

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IRS Warns Taxpayers About Recent Phone Scam

The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) recently warned taxpayers that an aggressive phone scam that targets taxpayers, often senior citizens, is making rounds throughout the country and costing taxpayers millions of dollars and their personal information. The callers are con artists who claim to be IRS employees. The caller tells the victim taxpayer that the taxpayer owes money to the IRS and threatens the taxpayer with legal action if he or she refuses to pay. The caller often demands immediate payment with a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.

The callers often alter caller IDs to make it look like the IRS is the true caller, know information about their victims, use fake names and IRS identification badge numbers, and leave urgent callback requests. Similarly, callers may tell taxpayers they have a refund due, in an attempt to trick taxpayers into sharing private information.

The IRS reminded taxpayers the IRS will never do any of the following:

• call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method,
• threaten to immediately bring legal action against a taxpayer who refuses to pay,
• demand that a taxpayer pay taxes without providing the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount the IRS claims the taxpayer owes,
• ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

he IRS also reminded taxpayers it will work with private collection agencies for the collection of certain tax debts this year. However, the IRS reported that if a private agency calls, there will not be any threats or immediate payment demands and the call will typically occur only after the agency has mailed the taxpayer a notification about the debt.
The IRS urges taxpayers to protect their personal information at all times and to report scam calls to the IRS, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

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Supreme Court Issues Ruling on Insider Trading Case

In its first insider trading decision in nearly two decades, the United States Supreme Court upheld the insider trading conviction of Bassam Salman and reaffirmed the three-decade-old personal benefit standard applied to insider trading violations under federal securities laws. Salman was convicted of securities fraud, after making over $1 million by trading on a tip from his brother-in-law, who was an investment banker with Citigroup at the time.

To prevail in an insider trading case, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) must establish that the person who gave the tip, the “tipper”, received a personal benefit in exchange for giving non-public information to the tippee. The Supreme Court ruled that the personal benefit test is satisfied if the tipper gifts the confidential non-public information to a relative or friend. This result is different from the Second Circuit case, United States v. Newman, which stated that the personal benefit test requires an insider to receive something of a pecuniary and valuable nature in exchange for the information. The Supreme Court noted in Salman v. United States that the Newman outcome is inconsistent with the requirements of the personal benefit test and clarified the test is satisfied even in the absence of a tipper’s receipt of a pecuniary benefit.

Notably, the Supreme Court did not address several pressing issues with insider trading. While the Supreme Court stated the personal benefit test is not necessarily satisfied when a tipper discloses information to anyone, it did not specify how close a relationship is required between a tipper and tippee, outside the context of relatives or friends. Similarly, the Supreme Court did not address the constitutionality of aggressive enforcement tactics, including the SEC’s use of the “rocket docket”. The “rocket docket” requires cases to be decided within 300 days of filing, and consequently leaves little time to prepare for a hearing. It is unclear whether the Supreme Court intends to address these concerns in the near future.

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Changes in Local Sales and Use Tax Rates – Nebraska

Effective January 1, 2017, certain Nebraska cities and villages will increase sales and use tax rates. The village of Meadow Grove enacted a new local sales and use tax rate of 1.5%. Elmwood, Weeping Water, and Wilber will increase sales and use tax rates to 1.5% and the city of Papillion will increase its local sales and use tax rate to 2%.

Consumers should be aware that there will be additional sales tax on purchases in these areas. Retailers should be ensure that they are prepared to appropriately collect and remit the increased sales tax beginning January 1, 2017.

For more information regarding the sales and use tax rate increases, sales and use tax compliance, and related information, visit the Nebraska Department of Revenue’s website, available at http://www.revenue.nebraska.gov/salestax.html.

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Tax Related Identity Theft Awareness

The holiday season is underway and while this is a time for family events and holiday parties, this is also the time that many identity theft scams occur. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) started the process of alerting taxpayers about potential tax-related identity theft and to provide advice on how to prevent threats to your identity.

For prevention, the initial steps include ensuring use of security software on devices, use of secure wireless networks, and never providing sensitive data when replying to emails, texts, or pop-up ads. For individuals that are hit with tax-related identity theft, it may not become apparent until attempting to file taxes or receiving a notice from the IRS and finding out that a tax return has been filed on your behalf. When this occurs, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://www.identitytheft.gov/, file a report with the credit agencies, and contact the IRS. Importantly, regardless of the situation, ensure that your taxes are filed and paid, even if it requires filing in paper form.

Taking steps now to add layers of security for your social security number and other sensitive data can help prevent tax-identity theft in the future. If you have questions, please contact the attorneys at Vandenack Weaver LLC.

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NEW OVERTIME RULES TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED

For employers preparing to comply with the new salary exemption regulations, designated to start on December 1, 2016, the new rules have been temporarily suspended. The new regulation would have increased the minimum salary required to qualify for the executive, professional, and administrative exemptions, increasing the minimum salary from $23,660 to $47,892 annually. These exemptions are often referred to as the “white collar” exemption and if an employer failed to meet the minimum salary requirement, the employer would have to pay the employee overtime for time worked past 40 hours in a week.

The temporary injunction means the rule is suspended and will not affect employers until further hearings are held. However, due to the current political climate, it is unclear whether further hearings will occur. Thus, employers do not have to comply with the new exemption rules, but should remain prepared to implement procedures to pay overtime to employees that would not meet the new white collar exemption rules.

For employers that have already implemented policies and procedures to comply with the pending white collar exemption regulations, or those that have communicated pending changes with employees, please contact Vandenack Weaver, LLC, to discuss your options.

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