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Boston Tax Law Blog

Are fringe benefits from an employer taxable income?

Complimentary coffee, pastries or an occasional pizza are nice perks to get from your employer. But they are generally not considered taxable income because their value is de minimis.

It may be a different story, however, when an employer-provided perk is more valuable, such as a company-provided car.

Tax extenders and filing-season misery

Misery. Yes, it's a Stephen King novel that was made into a movie. But it is also the existential state of many taxpayers trying to comply with a more-and-more complicated tax code despite less-and-less assistance from the IRS.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was candid in calling last year's filing season "miserable," as budget cuts reduced the IRS's ability to provide customer service at a time when its workload was increasing due to the agency's role in implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Will next year be any better? In this post, we will discuss the role of one of the particular challenges for the IRS as another filing season approaches: "tax extenders."

How to prepare for and manage an IRS audit

There are many worst case scenarios that one could imagine when it comes to taxes and the IRS. The federal agency could file a lien against you; you may owe the IRS a lot of money as a result of back taxes or crimes; or you could be audited by the IRS.

With respect to the last possibility on that list, there are many things that a taxpayer should do in order to effectively deal with his or her audit.

The sharing economy and tax compliance, part 2: What type of 1099?

Let's resume our discussion of the complexities of employment taxes for people involved in the social-sharing economy.

One example of this is the controversy about whether drivers for Uber, a popular ride-sharing service, are independent contractors rather than employees. We wrote about that in the first part of this post on August 29.

Team meals and tax deductions: the Bruins versus the IRS

Hockey is not a game for the faint of heart. Speed and skill do play a role, but success often depends on aggressively challenging opponents for control of the puck.

The Boston Bruins are bringing that mindset into their dealings with the Internal Revenue Service. In this post, we will discuss the dispute between the Bruins and the IRS about tax deductions for team meals on road trips.

The sharing economy and employment taxes, part 1: ride sharing

The rapid increase in consumer transactions delivered through social-sharing services has many far-reaching implications. Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, for example, have begun to upend the business model for the taxi industry in Boston and other cities around the country.

In Greater Boston alone, at least 10,000 drivers have joined Uber since it entered the market here in 2011. But if you are providing rides or other services in exchange for payments that are delivered through a company that provides an electronic platform and may or may not send you a 1099, what is your tax status?

Innocent spouse relief, part 2: the role of a skilled tax attorney

Federal tax law recognizes that there are circumstances in which a taxpayer should not be held responsible for tax debt that arose during marriage. This recognition is reflected in relief from tax liability that is commonly called innocent spouse relief.

As we noted in the first part of this post, however, innocent spouse relief in its technical sense is only one of three types of relief that are potentially available to spouses or former spouses who filed joint tax returns.

What is innocent spouse relief? Part 1: the 3 types of relief

If your spouse or former spouse controlled the marital finances, it may not be fair to hold you responsible for tax liability incurred during the marriage. After all, he or she may have committed errors or engaged in fraudulent or otherwise questionable conduct that you had no reason to know about or were in no position to stop.

U.S. tax law recognizes this, and the relief from tax liability that is available is generally referred to as innocent spouse relief.

Whistleblower awards: Do you have to apply before providing information?

For years, the IRS has had a whistleblower program under which individuals who provide information to the government that leads to the collection of unpaid taxes are eligible to apply for financial awards.

But what if the individual who supplies this information does so before submitting the requisite form to request an award?

Hope for expats? Proposal calls for same-country FATCA exception

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is a serious headache for Americans living abroad. Indeed, that is probably an understatement. If FATCA is a headache, it is perhaps best characterized as a migraine, carrying significant compliance pain.

The offshore reporting requirements imposed by the sweeping law have made many banks wary of doing business with expatriates from the U.S. Meanwhile, Americans who live in another country find themselves struggling to keep up with a slew of detailed asset-reporting requirements under FATCA and other laws.

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