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Physician’s Update on Flexible Spending Accounts [FSAs]

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A Proposed $500 Bonus

[By Children’s Home Society of Florida Foundation]

House Ways and Means Committee Chair, Dave Camp, recently proposed an amendment on May 30 2012 that would permit new pliability for flexible health spending accounts. His amendment to the Health Flexible Spending Arrangements Improvement Act of 2012 permits employees who have a balance of up to $500 at the end of a year to receive a taxable payment of that amount.

Current Rules

Under current rules, employees are permitted to use salary reductions to allocate funds to a healthcare flexible spending account. The funds in the account may then be used for payment of qualified healthcare expenses.

However, the funds allocated to the account are forfeited back to the employer at the end of the year. Therefore, the accounts are frequently described as a “use it or lose it” plan.

Oversight Committee

Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chair, Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-LA), proposed that the unspent money could be distributed to the employee as taxable income at the end of the year. Chairman Camp would permit the distribution, but only up to a maximum of $500.

Assessment

The proposed change in flexible spending accounts will cost the government about $4 billion over the next 10 years according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

And so, as more and more medical professionals become employees, FSA rules should be monitored closely by doctors and their FAs.

Editor’s Note: If the House passes this change, the Senate would also need to take action. With the fall elections growing closer, it is becoming progressively more difficult to move forward on additional tax bills. If the change does not pass this year, it could quite possibly be included in the anticipated major tax reform expected for 2013.

Conclusion

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Why the White House Proposed Corporate Tax Reform

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Twenty-Five Years Since Last Revision

By Children’s Home Society of Florida Foundation

On February 22nd 2012, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner spoke to Congress and outlined the White House proposal for corporate tax reform. Geithner noted that there has not been a comprehensive corporate tax reform for 25 years. Since the last major corporate tax reform, there have been many significant events. These include the following changes.

  1. Internet is widely used.
  2. Cell phones are now common place.
  3. China and India have become significant economies.
  4. Global trade has greatly expanded.
  5. Nearly all other industrial societies have lowered their corporate rates.

The Five Elements of Reform

  1. Reduced Rates – The elimination of tax loopholes and subsidies will permit a reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 28%.
  2. Manufacturing Incentives – The effective tax rate for manufacturing companies will be reduced to 25% through incentives.
  3. International Taxation System – Companies could pay penalties for shifting income overseas.
  4. Simplification – Small businesses would benefit from reduced complexity in the Tax Code.
  5. Revenue Neutrality – The reduced rates are achieved through eliminating various tax deductions.

Assessment

Treasury Secretary Geithner indicated that he plans to meet with Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-MI). He hopes that it will be possible to build a bipartisan consensus for corporate tax reform.

Editor’s Note: Sen. Baucus and Chairman Camp have been holding hearings and proposing corporate tax reform for the past year. With the White House announcement, that the President, the House and the Senate agree that there should be simplification and a lower corporate top rate. The challenge will come when the government grapples with the question of which major corporate deductions (such as bonus depreciation) will actually be removed in order to lower rates. Because of the magnitude of major tax reform, it is not likely that an actual bill could be passed before 2013.

Conclusion

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Are We Finally Lifting the Secret IRS Veil on Un-Paid Taxes?

The Tax Gap Increases to $450 Billion

By Children’s Home Society of Florida Foundation

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA, CMP

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Each year the IRS conducts a survey to determine the amount of unpaid taxes. The “tax gap” is defined as the amount of taxes that are owed by taxpayers but not paid on time.

2006 Results

For the year 2006, revised figures released this week showed that the tax gap increased.  The previous estimate of the 2006 tax gap was $345 billion but it increased to $450 billion. The “net tax gap” is a smaller number that reflects the ability of the IRS to collect some of the unpaid taxes.  When the additional $65 billion in taxes collected later is subtracted from the $450 billion, the net tax gap is $385 billion.  The net tax gap number increased from $290 billion in 2001 to the larger number by 2006.

Tax Compliance Level

The compliance level for taxpayers remains 83.7%.  This indicates that the majority of Americans are continuing to calculate and pay their taxes correctly.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.  He responded to the IRS survey by noting,

“This report shows that closing the tax gap needs to be a major focus of tax reform.  An improved tax code that’s simple and fair to all Americans will help close the tax gap, boost our economy and create jobs.”

Editor’s Note: 

Both Sen. Baucus and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) have been conducting hearings that will lead to major tax reform in 2013.  For the vast majority of Americans who pay their fair share of taxes, it is beneficial if Baucus and Camp are able to simplify the tax system and reduce the tax gap.  More effective collection of revenue decreases the need to raise taxes on those who are currently paying their fair share.

Conclusion     

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On the US Tax Code Complexity

Recent Ways and Means Committee Meeting

By Children’s Home Society of Florida Foundation

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At an April 13th 2011 hearing on the tax code before the Ways and Means Committee, witnesses noted that there is a general consensus on the complexity of the tax code.

Enter Albert Einstein

One witness quoted Albert Einstein, recipient of 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics. While he was the world expert on the Theory of Relativity, Dr. Einstein also commented that “the hardest thing in the world is to understand the income tax.”

At the hearing, Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) noted there are “nearly 4,500 changes in the last decade – 579 of them in 2010 alone – the code is too complex.” Other representatives and witnesses agreed that the sheer size and complexity of the Internal Revenue Code make compliance very challenging.

Enter the AICPA

Annette Nellen represented the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in the hearing. She indicated that there are five specific steps that could be taken to substantially reduce the complexity and cost of complying with the code. These include the following actions.

1. Higher Education Deductions and Credits – Reduce the Hope Credit, American Opportunity Credit, Lifetime Learning Credit, the tuition and fees deduction and other benefits into one simple credit.

2. Education Phase Out – Create one definition for qualified education expenses and eliminate the multiple phase outs under the current system.

3. Kiddie Tax – For children with unearned income under age 18 or students under age 24, simplify the current method where they pay tax at their parents’ rate.

4. Mileage Rates – Create the same mileage rate for business purposes, medical purposes and qualified charitable travel.

5. Alternative Minimum Tax – Repeal the tax because it is too complicated to modify.

Enter the Financial Planner

Financial Planner Mark Johannessen is a CFP™ and Managing Director of a McLean, Virginia financial firm. He was President of the Financial Planning Association in 2008 and suggested that there are a number of Internal Revenue Code issues that make financial planning difficult.

First, there are temporary provisions. For example, the 2011 tax rate on dividends is 15%, but the scheduled tax rate on dividends in 2013 is 43.4%. While it’s possible that Congress could change the law between now and 2013, it makes investment planning very difficult.

Second, many changes are temporary and Congress tends to act very late in the year. Congress passed the IRA Charitable Rollover for 2010 on December 17. By that date, most individuals had already taken their required minimum distribution. Johannessen indicated that the late date “negatively impacted both the individuals’ planned charitable giving” and also the charities who received fewer gifts.

Third, the uncertainty in estate tax law continues to make planning quite difficult. While the current exemption is $5 million and there now is portability for couples, the current law only applies for 2011 and 2012. To do good planning, it is essential to know what the law will be in future years.

Assessment

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Conclusion

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Budget Committee Proposes 25% Tax Rate

The Ryan Plan for FY 2012

By Children’s Home Society of Florida Foundation

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On April 5th House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) presented his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2012. The comprehensive proposal included over $4 trillion in reduced spending during the next decade and a plan to reduce both the personal and corporate top tax rates to 25%.

House Ways and Means Committee

The tax reform provisions will be handled by the House Ways and Means Committee. Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) noted that, “with nearly 4,500 changes in the last decade alone, the code is too complex. And with Americans spending over 6 billion hours and over $160 billion annually to comply with the code, it is too costly and too burdensome. Clearly, the time for comprehensive reform has come.”

Many Loopholes

Both parties have raised the possibility of tax reform this year. At a meeting in Pennsylvania, President Obama was asked about the potential for reforming corporate taxes. He noted that the U.S. has “one of the highest tax codes for corporations in the world.”

However, due to “many loopholes” a number of U.S. corporations pay little or no taxes. Moreover, President Obama suggests that it would be good “to reform our tax code, simplify it, lower the rate for corporations, but eliminate a bunch of the loopholes.”

Assessment

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also indicated to the Senate Committee on Appropriations that he is developing a “comprehensive corporate tax reform plan” and it will be released quite soon. Sec. Geithner indicated his plan would include, “a very strong pro-investment, pro-growth, pro-competitiveness proposal.”

Conclusion

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Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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Practice Management: http://www.springerpub.com/product/9780826105752

Physician Financial Planning: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/0763745790

Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

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