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On December 20, President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan, year-end government spending and tax package, just hours before federal funding was set to expire. Trump's signature on the over 2,000-page spending package avoided a government shutdown.


The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) ( P.L. 111-148) individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power. However, the central question of whether the rest of the ACA remains valid after Congress removed the penalty for not having health insurance remained unanswered. Instead, the case was sent back to the district court to reconsider how much of the ACA could survive without the individual mandate penalty.


Proposed qualified opportunity zone regulations issued on October 29, 2018 ( REG-115420-18) and May 1, 2019 ( REG-120186-18) under Code Sec. 1400Z-2 have been finalized with modifications. The regulations. which were issued in a 550 page document, are comprehensive.


The IRS has issued final regulations that provide guidance on transfers of appreciated property by U.S. persons to partnerships with foreign partners related to the transferor. Specifically, the regulations override the general nonrecognition rule under Code Sec. 721(a) unless the partnership adopts the remedial allocation method and certain other requirements are satisfied. The regulations affect U.S. partners in domestic or foreign partnerships.


The IRS has released Publication 5382, "Internal Revenue Service Progress Update / Fiscal Year 2019—Putting Taxpayers First." This new annual report describes accomplishments across the agency, and highlights the work of IRS employees during the past year. It covers a variety of taxpayer service efforts, including development of the new Taxpayer Withholding Estimator, as well as operations support efforts on areas involving information technology modernization, human capital office initiatives, and others.


Bridget Roberts, the Acting National Taxpayer Advocate, released her 2019 Annual Report to Congress. The report discusses the key challenges facing the IRS regarding the implementation of the Taxpayer First Act, inadequate taxpayer service and limited funding of the agency. Further, Roberts released the third edition of the National Taxpayer Advocate’s "Purple Book," which presents 58 legislative recommendations designed to strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration.


The IRS has modified the applicability dates for proposed regulations under Code Sec. 382 that were issued with NPRM REG-125710-18, September 10, 2019 (2019 proposed regulations). The IRS is withdrawing the text of the proposed applicability dates, and proposing revised applicability dates. The newly issued proposed rules would also provide transition relief.


The Treasury and IRS have issued final regulations on the due diligence and reporting rules for persons making certain U.S. source payments to foreign persons. Guidance is also provided on reporting by foreign financial institutions on U.S. accounts. The regulations are effective on the date the regulations are published in the Federal Register.


Taxpayers have been provided with additional guidance for complying with the Code Sec. 871(m) regulations on dividend equivalent payments for 2021, 2022, and 2023. The Treasury Department and the IRS intend to amend the regulations to delay the effective/applicability date of certain rules. Further, the phase-in period provided in Notice 2018-762, I.R.B. 2018-40, 522, has been extended.


The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has renewed its call for immediate guidance on new Code Sec. 199A. The AICPA highlighted questions about qualified business income (QBI) of pass-through income under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ( P.L. 115-97). "Taxpayers and practitioners need clarity regarding QBI in order to comply with their 2018 tax obligations," the AICPA said in a February 21 letter to the Service.


The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did not directly change the tax rate on capital gains: they remain at 0, 10, 15 and 20 percent, respectively (with the 25- and 28-percent rates also reserved for the same special situations). However, changes within the new law impact both when the favorable rates are applied and the level to which to may be enjoyed.


The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increases bonus depreciation rate to 100 percent for property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023. The rate phases down thereafter. Used property, films, television shows, and theatrical productions are eligible for bonus depreciation. Property used by rate-regulated utilities, and property of certain motor vehicle, boat, and farm machinery retail and lease businesses that use floor financing indebtedness, is excluded from bonus depreciation.


The IRS has released the 2018 optional standard mileage rates to be used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, medical, moving and charitable purposes. Beginning on January 1, 2018, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup of panel truck will be:

  • 54.5 cents per mile for business miles driven (up from 53.5 cents in 2017);
  • 18 cents per mile for medical and moving expenses (up from 17 cents in 2017); and
  • 14 cents per mile for miles driven for charitable purposes (permanently set by statute at 14 cents).

Comment. A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate after using a depreciation method under Code Sec. 168 or after claiming the Code Sec. 179 deduction for that vehicle. A taxpayer may not use the business rate for more than four vehicles at a time. As a result, business owners have a choice for their vehicles: take the standard mileage rate, or “itemize” each part of the expense (gas, tolls, insurance, etc., and depreciation).


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