New Tax Provisions for 2012

With the ringing in of the new year, several new tax provisions took effect. While the list of new items does not compare with the number of tax provisions that expired at the end of 2011 (see “Many Tax Provisions Set to Expire at Year End”), practitioners should be aware of what has changed.

Inflation Adjustments

The applicable amounts for many tax items increased on Jan. 1, due to annual inflation adjustments. Revised tax tables are in effect, as well as an increased personal exemption amount (now $3,800) and standard deduction amounts. Various credits and other items also were adjusted (see Rev. Proc. 2011-52).  Contribution limits and other amounts for pension plans retirement accounts were also changed for 2012 (see IR-2011-103). The Social Security wage base for 2012 is $110,100.

The standard mileage rate for business use of an automobile remains at 55½ cents per mile for 2012; for medical and moving expenses it decreases to 23 cents per mile (Notice 2012-1), down a half-cent from the second half of 2011.

Capital Gain and Loss Reporting

Taxpayers will have to report new information on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses, and file a new form, Form 8949, Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets, to report gains and losses of certain capital assets. The information on Form 8949 will correspond to the new information being reported on 2011 Forms 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions.

Under Sec. 6045, as amended in 2008, brokers are required to report to the IRS and their customers the customers’ adjusted basis in securities sold and to classify the customers’ gain as long term or short term. This basis reporting applies to covered securities acquired in 2011 and later (certain corporate stock in 2011 and other securities starting in later years; see Sec. 6045(g)(3)(C)).

Individuals will be required to report both short-term and long-term gains and losses of capital assets in the following three situations:

1. When basis was reported in box 3 of Form 1099-B;
2. When basis was not reported on Form 1099-B; or
3. When no Form 1099-B was received.

The information from Form 8949 must then be transferred to Part I of Schedule D, which has been redesigned for 2011.

Veterans Work Opportunity Credits

The Three Percent Withholding Repeal and Job Creation Act, P.L. 112-56, extended the work opportunity tax credit (now called the returning heroes and wounded warriors work opportunity tax credits) for businesses that hire certain military veterans. Employers will be eligible for a credit of up to $9,600 for each qualified veteran that they hire after the law’s enactment date (November 21, 2011) and before January 1, 2013.

Under the returning heroes tax credit, an employer may be eligible for a credit of up to $2,400 for hiring a veteran who has been unemployed for at least four weeks and up to $5,600 for hiring a veteran who has been unemployed for more than six months. Under the wounded warriors tax credit, an employer may be eligible for a credit of up to $9,600 for hiring a veteran with a service-connected disability who has been unemployed for more than six months and up to $4,800 for hiring a veteran with a service-connected disability (who does not meet the returning hero credit requirements) or who qualifies as a food stamp recipient.

Foreign Asset Reporting

Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, individuals are required to report interests in specified foreign financial assets when filing their federal income tax returns (Sec. 6038D). This requirement was suspended until the Form 8938,  Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, was released (Notice 2011-55). The IRS posted the final version of the form and its instructions in December; taxpayers subject to the reporting requirement must file the form in 2012 for 2011 tax years. In addition, taxpayers who would have been required (except for the suspension of the requirement) to file Form 8938 in 2011 for a tax year that began after March 18, 2010, must file it for the prior year with their return for the current tax year.

Bonus Depreciation

The 100% first-year bonus depreciation provision expired on December 31, but 50% bonus depreciation is available for property placed in service in 2012. (100% bonus depreciation does still apply in the case of certain longer-lived and transportation property placed in service before 2013.)

Estate Tax

Estates of decedents who died in 2010 have until January 17, 2012, to elect not to have the estate tax apply and to have heirs’ bases in assets they inherit determined under the modified carryover basis rules in Sec. 1022. This election is made by filing Form 8939, Allocation of Increase in Basis for Property Acquired from a Decedent. (For more on the Form 8939 requirements, see Cantrell, “Preparing and Filing Form 8939,” The Tax Adviser, November 2011.)

The estate and gift tax lifetime exclusion increases to $5.12 million for 2012.

EITC Due Diligence

The penalty for failing to meet the Sec. 6695(g) earned income tax credit (EITC) due diligence requirements increased from $100 to $500, effective for returns required to be filed after December 31, 2011.

Voluntary Classification Settlement Program

A new voluntary classification settlement program (VCSP) introduced in September (Announcement 2011-64) allows eligible taxpayers to voluntarily reclassify their workers as employees for federal employment tax purposes for future tax periods while receiving relief for part of the tax liability relating to the past treatment of the workers as nonemployees. Taxpayers are eligible if they have consistently treated the workers as nonemployees, filed all required Forms 1099 for the previous three years, are not currently under IRS audit, are not currently under audit by the U.S. Department of Labor or a state agency, and complied with the audit results if the taxpayers were previously audited by the IRS or the Department of Labor.

The VCSP limits the tax liability to 10% of the employment tax liability that would have been due on the compensation paid to the workers in the most recent tax year, as calculated under the reduced rates of Sec. 3509. Interest and penalties are not charged on the liability.

The classification of these workers for prior years is not subject to an employment tax audit, but the statute of limitation on assessment of employment taxes is extended from three to six years for the first, second and third calendar years beginning after the date the taxpayers begin treating the workers as employees under the VCSP closing agreement.

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