IRS offers a withdrawal option to businesses that claimed ERTCs | accounting firm in baltimore county md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

IRS offers a withdrawal option to businesses that claimed ERTCs

Recent IRS warnings and announcements regarding the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) have raised some businesses’ concerns about the validity of their claims for this valuable, but complex, pandemic-related credit — and the potential consequences of an invalid claim. In response, the IRS has rolled out a new process that certain employers can use to withdraw their claims.

Fraudsters jump on the ERTC

The ERTC is a refundable tax credit intended for businesses that 1) continued paying employees while they were shut down due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, or 2) suffered significant declines in gross receipts from March 13, 2020, to December 31, 2021. Eligible employers can file claims until April 15, 2025 (on amended returns), and receive credits worth up to $26,000 per retained employee.

With such potentially large payouts, fraudulent promoters and marketers were quick to rush in with offers to help businesses file claims in exchange for fees in the thousands of dollars or for a percentage of any refunds received. The requirements for the credit are strict, though, and the IRS has found that many of these claims fall short of meeting them.

Invalid claims put taxpayers at risk of liability for credit repayment, penalties and interest, in addition to the promoter’s fees. And promoters may leave out key details, which could lead to what the IRS describes as a “domino effect of tax problems” for unsuspecting employers.

The IRS responds

The wave of fraudulent claims has produced escalating action from the IRS. In July 2023, the agency announced that it was shifting its ERTC review focus to compliance concerns, with intensified audits and criminal investigations of both promoters and businesses filing suspect claims. Two months later, it imposed a moratorium on the processing of new ERTC claims.

The moratorium, prompted by “a flood of ineligible claims,” will last until at least the end of 2023. The processing of legitimate claims filed before September 14 will continue during the moratorium period but at a much slower pace. The IRS has extended the standard processing goal of 90 days to 180 days and potentially far longer for claims flagged for further review or audit.

According to the IRS, though, the moratorium isn’t deterring the scammers. It reports they’ve already revised their pitches, pushing employers that submit ERTC claims to take out costly upfront loans in anticipation of delayed refunds.

Now, the IRS has unveiled a new withdrawal option for eligible employers that filed claims but haven’t yet received, cashed or deposited refunds. Withdrawn claims will be treated as if they were never filed, so taxpayers need not fear repayment, penalties or interest. (The IRS also is developing assistance for employers that were misled into claiming the ERTC and have already received payment.)

The withdrawal option is available if you:

  • Claimed the credit on an adjusted employment return (for example, Form 941-X),
  • Filed the adjusted return solely to claim the credit, and
  • Requested to withdraw your entire ERTC claim.

The exact steps vary depending on your circumstances, including whether you filed your claim yourself or through a payroll provider, have been notified that you’re under audit, or have received a refund check that you haven’t cashed or deposited. Regardless of the applicable procedure, your withdrawal isn’t effective until you receive an acceptance letter from the IRS.

Taxpayers that aren’t eligible for the withdrawal process can reduce or eliminate their ERTC claim by filing an amended return. But you may need to amend your income tax return even if your claim is withdrawn.

Seek help

Throughout its warnings about potential ERTC pitfalls, the IRS has continued to urge taxpayers to consult “trusted tax professionals.” If you’re having second thoughts about your ERTC claim, we can help you review your claim and, if appropriate, properly withdraw it.

© 2023

Plan now for year-end gifts with the gift tax annual exclusion | cpa in cecil county md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Plan now for year-end gifts with the gift tax annual exclusion

Now that Labor Day has passed, the holidays are just around the corner. Many people may want to make gifts of cash or stock to their loved ones. By properly using the annual exclusion, gifts to family members and loved ones can reduce the size of your taxable estate, within generous limits, without triggering any estate or gift tax. The exclusion amount for 2023 is $17,000.

The exclusion covers gifts you make to each recipient each year. Therefore, a taxpayer with three children can transfer $51,000 to the children this year free of federal gift taxes. If the only gifts made during a year are excluded in this fashion, there’s no need to file a federal gift tax return. If annual gifts exceed $17,000, the exclusion covers the first $17,000 per recipient, and only the excess is taxable. In addition, even taxable gifts may result in no gift tax liability thanks to the unified credit (discussed below).

Note: This discussion isn’t relevant to gifts made to a spouse because these gifts are free of gift tax under separate marital deduction rules.

Married taxpayers can split gifts

If you’re married, a gift made during a year can be treated as split between you and your spouse, even if the cash or gift property is actually given by only one of you. Thus, by gift-splitting, up to $34,000 a year can be transferred to each recipient by a married couple because of their two annual exclusions. For example, a married couple with three married children can transfer a total of $204,000 each year to their children and to the children’s spouses ($34,000 for each of six recipients).

If gift-splitting is involved, both spouses must consent to it. Consent should be indicated on the gift tax return (or returns) that the spouses file. The IRS prefers that both spouses indicate their consent on each return filed. Because more than $17,000 is being transferred by a spouse, a gift tax return (or returns) will have to be filed, even if the $34,000 exclusion covers total gifts. We can prepare a gift tax return (or returns) for you, if more than $17,000 is being given to a single individual in any year.

“Unified” credit for taxable gifts

Even gifts that aren’t covered by the exclusion, and are thus taxable, may not result in a tax liability. This is because a tax credit wipes out the federal gift tax liability on the first taxable gifts that you make in your lifetime, up to $12.92 million for 2023. However, to the extent you use this credit against a gift tax liability, it reduces (or eliminates) the credit available for use against the federal estate tax at your death.

Be aware that gifts made directly to a financial institution to pay for tuition or to a health care provider to pay for medical expenses on behalf of someone else don’t count towards the exclusion. For example, you can pay $20,000 to your grandson’s college for his tuition this year, plus still give him up to $17,000 as a gift.

Annual gifts help reduce the taxable value of your estate. The estate and gift tax exemption amount is scheduled to be cut drastically in 2026 to the 2017 level when the related Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provisions expire (unless Congress acts to extend them). Making large tax-free gifts may be one way to recognize and address this potential threat. They could help insulate you against any later reduction in the unified federal estate and gift tax exemption.

© 2023


Investment swings: What’s the tax impact? | accounting firm in cecil county md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Investment swings: What’s the tax impact?

If your investments have fluctuated wildly this year, you may have already recognized some significant gains and losses. But nothing is decided tax-wise until year end when the final results of your trades will reveal your 2023 tax situation. Here’s what you need to know to avoid tax surprises.

Tax-favored retirement accounts and taxable accounts

If you’ve had wild swings in the value of investments held in a tax-favored 401(k), traditional IRA, Roth IRA or self-employed SEP account, there’s no current tax impact. While these changes affect your account value, they have no tax consequences until you finally start taking withdrawals. At that point, the size of your balance(s) will affect your tax bills. If you have investments in a Roth IRA, qualified withdrawals taken after age 59½ can be federal-income-tax-free.

With taxable accounts, your cumulative gains and losses from executed trades during the year are what matter. Unrealized gains and losses don’t affect your tax bill.

Overall loss for 2023

If your losses for the year exceed your gains, you have a net capital loss. To determine and apply the loss:

  1. Divide your gains and losses into short-term gains and losses from investments held for one year or less and long-term gains and losses from investments held for more than one year.
    • If your short-term losses exceed your short- and long-term gains, you have a net short-term capital loss for the year.
    • If your long-term losses exceed the total of your long- and short-term gains, you have a net long-term capital loss for the year.
  2. Claim your allowable net capital loss deduction of up $3,000 ($1,500 if you use married filing separate status).
  3. Carry over any remaining net short-term or long-term capital loss after Step 2 to next year where it can be used to offset capital gains in 2024 and beyond.

Overall gain for 2023

If your gains for the year exceed your losses, you have a net capital gain. To figure out the gain:

  • Divide your gains and losses into short-term gains and losses from investments held for one year or less and long-term gains and losses from investments held for more than one year.
    • If your short-term gains exceed the total of your short- and long-term losses, you have a net short-term capital gain for the year.
    • If your long-term gains exceed the total of your long- and short-term losses, you have a net long-term capital gain for the year.

Net short-term and long-term gain

A net short-term capital gain is taxed at your regular federal income tax rate, which can be up to 37%. You may also owe the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT) (see below) and state income tax, too.

A net long-term capital gain (LTCG) is taxed at the lower federal capital gain tax rates of 0%, 15%, and 20%. Most individuals pay 15%. High-income folks will owe the maximum 20% rate on the lesser of: 1) net LTCG or 2) the excess of taxable income, including any net LTCG, over the applicable threshold. For 2023, the thresholds are $553,850 for married joint-filers, $492,300 for singles and $523,050 for heads of households. You may also owe the NIIT and state income tax, too.

Watch out for the NIIT

The 3.8% NIIT hits the lesser of your net investment income, including capital gains, or the amount by which your modified adjusted gross income exceeds the applicable threshold. The thresholds are:

  • $250,000 for married joint-filers,
  • $200,000 for singles and heads of households, and
  • $125,000 for married individuals filing separate.

Year end is still months away

As explained earlier, your tax results for 2023 are up in the air until all the gains and losses from trades executed during the year are tallied up. If you have questions or want more information, consult with us.

© 2023


Join Us for a Webinar on 10/25/23 at 1 p.m. – Simplify Your Accounts Payable Process

Are you looking to simplify your accounts payable process?  Are you tired of having to sign batches of checks each month?  Are you tired of file cabinets and file boxes full of prior year A/P backup documentation?  Do you get calls from vendors wanting to know the status of payments when they are already enroute?  Looking to simplify your monthly bank rec?   There is a fantastic and easy to implement solution to A/P headaches like these.

Simplify Your Financial Operations

We’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered with BILL to help you simplify your financial operations—and cut the time you spend on accounts payable in half*.

Here are just some of the ways BILL can help your business:

  • More control and visibility. Gain visibility into cash flow while gaining control over financial processes with automated approval workflows, custom user roles, accurate audit trails, and more.
  • Flexible payments. Pay however you (and your vendors) want—with fast, easy, and secure payments including via ACH, credit card, virtual card, check, and international wire.
  • Accounting software sync. No need to duplicate manual data entry because BILL integrates with your accounting software, with direct 2-way sync with QuickBooks and several mid-market ERP systems as well as export/import data integration with any other accounting software.

Want to learn more? Join us on October 25 at 1 p.m. for a webinar where we’ll show you how BILL can help you save time and money. PLUS: WCS clients who attend will get a $50 DoorDash gift card.

*BILL users on average save 50% of time on AP, according to a 2021 survey of over 2,000 BILL customers. 


4 ways to reduce volunteer risk | cpa in cecil county md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

4 ways to reduce volunteer risk

Most not-for-profits regard their volunteers as invaluable assets. After all, if it weren’t for your volunteers’ dedication and commitment, your organization might have stalled out a long time ago. It certainly wouldn’t have accomplished as many successes!

However, like your paid staffers, volunteers represent some liability risk. For example, an allegation of volunteer negligence or intentional misconduct could motivate litigation against your nonprofit. A volunteer who’s injured while volunteering could sue your organization. And in certain situations, you could be held liable even if a volunteer acted outside the scope of prescribed duties or accepted procedures. Act now to reduce the possibility that a volunteer could threaten your nonprofit’s future.

Adopt certain policies

Operating without unpaid help is probably out of the question. But you can use volunteers with greater confidence by adopting these four best practices:

1. Establish a formal volunteer recruitment process. Although the process doesn’t have to be as structured as the one you follow when hiring staffers, document procedures that can be followed consistently. For instance, develop volunteer job descriptions for open positions that outline the nature of the work to be performed, any required skills or experience, and any possible risks the job presents.

2. Screen prospects based on your mission, programs and likely activities. Some positions will pose few risks and your screening process can be relatively basic: Ask candidates to fill out an application and submit to an interview, and then check their work and character references. Positions that carry greater risks — such as work involving children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations, or that provide direct access to cash donations — require a more rigorous process.

3. Provide training, supervision and, if necessary, discipline. Once volunteers are on board, provide an orientation session to explain your nonprofit’s mission, policies and rules of conduct. After volunteers have begun working for you, actively supervise them. This means that staff members should remain in close physical proximity to volunteers or that volunteers can easily contact staff in the event of a problem. If a volunteer acts in a manner that puts your nonprofit at risk, terminate the volunteer relationship.

4. Maintain adequate insurance coverage. In addition to general liability coverage, your nonprofit may want to consider purchasing supplemental policies that address specific types of exposure such as medical malpractice or sexual misconduct.

Get advice

When establishing volunteer policies, be sure to ask an attorney to review them before you put them in place. Contact us to discuss insurance coverage and other risk mitigation strategies.

© 2023


Private foundations: “Disqualified persons” must color within the lines | tax accountants in cecil county | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Private foundations: “Disqualified persons” must color within the lines

Although conflict-of-interest policies are essential for all not-for-profits, private foundations must be particularly careful about adhering to them. In general, stricter rules apply to foundations. For example, you might assume that transactions with insiders are acceptable so long as they benefit your foundation. Not true. Although such transactions might be permissible for 501(3)(c) nonprofits, they definitely aren’t for foundations. Specifically, transactions between private foundations and “disqualified persons,” such as certain insiders, are prohibited.

A wide net

The IRS casts a wide net when defining “disqualified persons.” Its definition includes substantial contributors, managers, officers, directors, trustees and people with large ownership interests in corporations or partnerships that make substantial contributions to the foundation. Their family members are disqualified, too. In addition, when a disqualified person owns more than 35% of a corporation or partnership, that business is considered disqualified.

Prohibited transactions can be hard to identify because there are many exceptions. But, in general, you should ensure that disqualified persons don’t engage in these activities with your foundation:

  • Selling, exchanging or leasing property,
  • Making or receiving loans,
  • Extending credit,
  • Providing or receiving goods, services or facilities, and
  • Receiving compensation or reimbursed expenses.

Disqualified persons also shouldn’t agree to pay money or give property to government officials on your behalf.

Possible penalties

What happens if you violate the rules? The disqualified person may be subject to an initial excise tax of 10% of the amount involved and, if the transaction isn’t corrected quickly, an additional tax of up to 200% of the amount. What’s more, an excise tax of 5% of the amount involved is imposed on a foundation manager who knowingly participates in an act of self-dealing, unless participation wasn’t willful and was due to reasonable cause. An additional tax of 50% is imposed if the manager refuses to agree to part or all of the correction of the self-dealing act.

Although liability is limited for foundation managers ($40,000 for any one act), self-dealing individuals enjoy no such limits. In some cases, private foundations that engage in self-dealing lose their tax-exempt status.

Go the extra mile

If you lead a private foundation, you must go the extra mile to avoid anything that might be perceived as self-dealing. Transactions between foundations and disqualified persons are firmly prohibited, and violating this rule can be costly. But it’s easy to get tripped up by IRS rules. So contact us to help ensure you’re coloring well within the lines.

© 2023


IRS issues guidance on new retirement catch-up contribution rules | tax accountant in harford county md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

IRS issues guidance on new retirement catch-up contribution rules

In December 2022, President Biden signed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) 2.0 Act. Among other things, the sweeping new law made some significant changes to so-called catch-up contributions, with implications for both employers and employees.

With the new catch-up provisions scheduled to kick in after 2023, many retirement plan sponsors have been struggling to institute the necessary processes and procedures to comply. In recognition of taxpayer concerns, the IRS recently provided some relief in Notice 2023-62. In addition to extending the deadline, the new guidance corrects a technical error in SECURE 2.0 that had left taxpayers and their advisors confused about the continued availability of catch-up contributions for employees.

The new requirements

Tax law allows taxpayers age 50 or older to make catch-up contributions to their 401(k) plans and similar retirement accounts. The permissible amount is adjusted annually for inflation. For 2023, you can contribute an additional $7,500 over the current $22,500 annual 401(k) contribution limit. The contributions are allowed regardless of a taxpayer’s income level.

Under the existing rules, all eligible taxpayers can choose whether to make their contributions on a pre-tax basis or a Roth after-tax basis (assuming the employer allows the Roth option). Section 603 of SECURE 2.0, however, mandates that any catch-up contributions made by higher-income participants in 401(k), 403(b) or 457(b) retirement plans must be designated as after-tax Roth contributions.

Higher-income participants are those whose prior-year Social Security wages exceeded $145,000 (the threshold will be adjusted for inflation going forward). In addition, a plan that allows higher-income participants to make such catch-up contributions also must allow other participants age 50 or older to make their catch-up contributions on an after-tax Roth basis. The law provides that these requirements are effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2023.

The imminent effective date had plan sponsors and payroll providers worried, due to multiple administrative hurdles. For example, sponsors must develop processes to identify higher-income plan participants — they generally haven’t had the need to calculate employees’ Social Security wages previously — and provide that information to their plan administrators. Sponsors also must institute procedures to restrict catch-up contributions to Roth contributions and communicate the changes to their employees.

The challenges are even greater for employers that don’t already have Roth contribution features in their traditional retirement plans. They have to choose between amending their plans to allow such contributions, which can take months to process and implement, or eliminating the ability to make catch-up contributions for all employees.

The IRS guidance

In Notice 2023-62, the IRS acknowledges the concerns related to the original effective date for the new requirements. In response, it has created an “administrative transition period,” extending the effective date to January 1, 2026. In other words, employers can allow catch-up contributions that aren’t designated as Roth contributions after December 31, 2023, and until January 1, 2026, without violating SECURE 2.0. And plans without Roth features may allow catch-up contributions during this period.

The guidance also addresses a drafting error in SECURE 2.0 that led to some questions about whether the law eliminated the ability of taxpayers to make catch-up contributions after 2023. The IRS made clear that plan participants age 50 or older can continue to make catch-up contributions in 2024 and beyond.

After-tax vs. pre-tax

Unlike pre-tax contributions, after-tax contributions don’t reduce your current-year taxable income, but they grow tax-free. This is a significant advantage if you expect to be subject to a higher income tax rate in retirement than you are at the time of your contributions.

You generally can withdraw “qualified distributions” without paying tax as long as you’ve held the account for at least five years. Qualified distributions are those made:

  • On account of disability,
  • On or after death, or
  • After you reach age 59½.

You may be able to reap other savings from after-tax contributions, as well. For example, lower taxable income in retirement can reduce the amount you must pay for Medicare premiums and the tax rate on your Social Security benefits.

But you could have reasons to reduce your current taxable income with pre-tax contributions. For example, doing so could increase the amount of your Child Tax Credit, which phases out at certain income thresholds, as well as the amount of financial aid your children can obtain for higher education.

Note: Roth 401(k) contributions are currently subject to annual required minimum distributions (RMDs), like traditional 401(k)s. Beginning in 2024, though, designated Roth 401(k) contributions won’t be subject to RMDs until the death of the owner.

Potential future guidance

The IRS also used Notice 2023-62 to preview some additional guidance regarding Section 603 that’s “under consideration.” After taking into account any comments received, the IRS stated it is considering releasing future guidance concerning multi-employer plans and other out-of-the-ordinary situations.

Don’t delay

The IRS’s extension of the effective date for the Section 603 requirements is good news for employers and employees alike. As noted, though, the requisite changes to achieve compliance will take some time and effort to put into place. Plan sponsors would be wise to start sooner rather than later.

© 2023

The tax consequences of employer-provided life insurance | quickbooks consulting in alexandria va | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

The tax consequences of employer-provided life insurance

If your employer provides life insurance, you probably find it to be a desirable fringe benefit. However, if group term life insurance is part of your benefits package, and the coverage is higher than $50,000, there may be undesirable income tax implications.

You’re taxed on income you didn’t receive

The first $50,000 of group term life insurance coverage that your employer provides is excluded from taxable income and doesn’t add anything to your income tax bill. But the employer-paid cost of group term coverage in excess of $50,000 is taxable income to you. It’s included in the taxable wages reported on your Form W-2 — even though you never actually receive it. In other words, it’s “phantom income.”

What’s worse, the cost of group term insurance must be determined under a table prepared by the IRS even if the employer’s actual cost is less than the cost figured under the table. With these determinations, the amount of taxable phantom income attributed to an older employee is often higher than the premium the employee would pay for comparable coverage under an individual term policy. This tax trap gets worse as an employee gets older and as the amount of his or her compensation increases.

Look at your W-2

What should you do if you think the tax cost of employer-provided group term life insurance is higher than you’d like? First, you should establish if this is actually the case. If a specific dollar amount appears in Box 12 of your Form W-2 (with code “C”), that dollar amount represents your employer’s cost of providing you with group term life insurance coverage in excess of $50,000, less any amount you paid for the coverage. You’re responsible for federal, state and local taxes on the amount that appears in Box 12, and for the associated Social Security and Medicare taxes as well.

But keep in mind that the amount in Box 12 is already included as part of your total “Wages, tips and other compensation” in Box 1 of the W-2, and it’s the Box 1 amount that’s reported on your tax return.

What to do

If you decide that the tax cost is too high for the benefit you’re getting in return, find out whether your employer has a “carve-out” plan (a plan that carves out selected employees from group term coverage) or, if not, whether it would be willing to create one. There are different types of carve-out plans that employers can offer to their employees.

For example, the employer can continue to provide $50,000 of group term insurance (since there’s no tax cost for the first $50,000 of coverage). Then, the employer can provide the employee with an individual policy for the balance of the coverage. Alternatively, the employer can give the employee the amount the employer would have spent for the excess coverage as a cash bonus that the employee can use to pay the premiums on an individual policy.

If you have questions about group term coverage and how it affects your tax bill, contact us.

© 2023


Selling your home for a big profit? Here are the tax rules | cpa in bel air md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

Selling your home for a big profit? Here are the tax rules

Many homeowners across the country have seen their home values increase in recent years. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of existing homes sold in July of 2023 rose 1.9% over July of 2022 after a couple years of much higher increases. The median home price was $467,500 in the Northeast, $304,600 in the Midwest, $366,200 in the South and $610,500 in the West.

Be aware of the tax implications if you’re selling your home or you sold one in 2023. You may owe capital gains tax and net investment income tax (NIIT).

You can exclude a large chunk

If you’re selling your principal residence, and meet certain requirements, you can exclude from tax up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of gain.

To qualify for the exclusion, you must meet these tests:

  1. You must have owned the property for at least two years during the five-year period ending on the sale date.
  2. You must have used the property as a principal residence for at least two years during the five-year period. (Periods of ownership and use don’t need to overlap.)

In addition, you can’t use the exclusion more than once every two years.

The gain above the exclusion amount

What if you have more than $250,000/$500,000 of profit? Any gain that doesn’t qualify for the exclusion generally will be taxed at your long-term capital gains rate, provided you owned the home for at least a year. If you didn’t, the gain will be considered short term and subject to your ordinary-income rate, which could be more than double your long-term rate.

If you’re selling a second home (such as a vacation home), it isn’t eligible for the gain exclusion. But if it qualifies as a rental property, it can be considered a business asset, and you may be able to defer tax on any gains through an installment sale or a Section 1031 like-kind exchange. In addition, you may be able to deduct a loss, which you can’t do on a principal residence.

The NIIT may be due for some taxpayers

How does the 3.8% NIIT apply to home sales? If you sell your main home, and you qualify to exclude up to $250,000/$500,000 of gain, the excluded gain isn’t subject to the NIIT.

However, gain that exceeds the exclusion limit is subject to the tax if your adjusted gross income is over a certain amount. Gain from the sale of a vacation home or other second residence, which doesn’t qualify for the exclusion, is also subject to the NIIT.

The NIIT applies only if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeds: $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly and surviving spouses; $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separately; and $200,000 for unmarried taxpayers and heads of household.

Two other tax considerations

  • Keep track of your basis. To support an accurate tax basis, be sure to maintain complete records, including information about your original cost and subsequent improvements, reduced by any casualty losses and depreciation claimed for business use.
  • You can’t deduct a loss. If you sell your principal residence at a loss, it generally isn’t deductible. But if a portion of your home is rented out or used exclusively for business, the loss attributable to that part may be deductible.

As you can see, depending on your home sale profit and your income, some or all of the gain may be tax-free. But for higher-income people with pricey homes, there may be a tax bill. We can help you plan ahead to minimize taxes and answer any questions you have about home sales.

© 2023


A tax-smart way to develop and sell appreciated land | tax accountant in cecil county md | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra

A tax-smart way to develop and sell appreciated land

Let’s say you own highly appreciated land that’s now ripe for development. If you subdivide it, develop the resulting parcels and sell them off for a hefty profit, it could trigger a large tax bill.

In this scenario, the tax rules generally treat you as a real estate dealer. That means your entire profit — including the portion from pre-development appreciation in the value of the land — will be treated as high-taxed ordinary income subject to a federal rate of up to 37%. You may also owe the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT) for a combined federal rate of up to 40.8%. And you may owe state income tax too.

It would be better if you could arrange to pay lower long-term capital gain (LTCG) tax rates on at least part of the profit. The current maximum federal income tax rate on LTCGs is 20% or 23.8% if you owe the NIIT.

Potential tax-saving solution

Thankfully, there’s a strategy that allows favorable LTCG tax treatment for all pre-development appreciation in the land value. You must have held the land for more than one year for investment (as opposed to holding it as a real estate dealer).

The portion of your profit attributable to subsequent subdividing, development and marketing activities will still be considered high-taxed ordinary income, because you’ll be considered a real estate dealer for that part of the process.

But if you can manage to pay a 20% or 23.8% federal income tax rate on a big chunk of your profit (the pre-development appreciation part), that’s something to celebrate.

Three-step strategy

Here’s the three-step strategy that could result in paying a smaller tax bill on your real estate development profits.

1. Establish an S corporation

If you individually own the appreciated land, you can establish an S corporation owned solely by you to function as the developer. If you own the land via a partnership, or via an LLC treated as a partnership for federal tax purposes, you and the other partners (LLC members) can form the S corp and receive corporate stock in proportion to your percentage partnership (LLC) interests.

2. Sell the land to the S corp

Sell the appreciated land to the S corp for a price equal to the land’s pre-development fair market value. If necessary, you can arrange a sale that involves only a little cash and a big installment note the S corp owes you. The business will pay off the note with cash generated by selling off parcels after development. The sale to the S corp will trigger a LTCG eligible for the 20% or 23.8% rate as long as you held the land for investment and owned it for over one year.

3. Develop the property and sell it off

The S corp will subdivide and develop the property, market it and sell it off. The profit from these activities will be higher-taxed ordinary income passed through to you as an S corp shareholder. If the profit is big, you’ll probably pay the maximum 37% federal rate (or 40.8% percent with the NIIT. However, the average tax rate on your total profit will be much lower, because a big part will be lower-taxed LTCG from pre-development appreciation.

Favorable treatment

Thanks to the tax treatment created by this S corp developer strategy, you can lock in favorable treatment for the land’s pre-development appreciation. That’s a huge tax-saving advantage if the land has gone up in value. Consult with us if you have questions or want more information.

© 2023