It’s been 247 days since President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law.
It took 229 days for the Internal Revenue Service to push out clarifications on Section 199A – a new way for private equity firms to make deductions on income from qualifying businesses. Still, it’s not yet over. While the provision allows firms structured as partnerships to take a 20 percent deduction if their business meets certain qualifications, further clarification is needed on the aggregation of the businesses of their portfolio companies and what qualifies as business income. The agency seeks comments from private equity insiders and the public by October 16. Another set of proposals could be in the offing before rules are finalized.
The latest guidance is a step in the right direction, but the IRS needs to step up its act with the issuance of guidance on other matters that taxpayers are eagerly awaiting.
One tax advisor who deals with partnership structures is looking for additional guidance on Section 163(j), which sets limits on deductions of business interest paid or accrued on debt that’s been allocated to a trade or business. The tax expert says he’s uncertain on how several rules should be applied, which would include how carry is treated on foreign-earned income.
Other tax advisors point to the need for additional guidance on certain items such as withholding. One advisor pointed to the withholding requirement on the transfer of a partnership interest by a foreign taxpayer, which became effective at the start of this year. Legal advisory firm K&L Gates pointed out that it was unclear how federal tax treaties influence this withholding, because US tax treaties typically exclude income earned from a US trade or business if the person that earns the income doesn’t have a “permanent establishment” in the US.
Chief financial officers, especially in the mid-market group, are increasingly outsourcing their tax work, and accountants and tax experts are left to parse through the often arcane language of the IRS.
While the IRS is making headway in clarifying some ambiguous portions of the new law, such as with Section 199A, time is of the essence with a little more than four months remaining in the tax calendar year.
“You could go through pretty much all of the tax reform and go down the list, but we need guidance in a number of areas,” one tax advisor said.
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