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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.


Congress’ Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the so-called “super committee”) failed to reach an agreement by its November 23 deadline after weeks of sparring over the Bush-era tax cuts.  The Budget Control Act of 2011 created the bipartisan super committee in August and instructed it to develop proposals to reduce the federal budget deficit by November 23.  The super committee held many meetings and reportedly debated several proposals, all behind closed doors, to reform the Tax Code and entitlement programs. In the end, however, Democrats and the GOP remained far apart on taxes and entitlement programs and announced they could not agree on a final proposal.

In light of the IRS’s new Voluntary Worker Classification Settlement Program (VCSP), which it announced this fall, the distinction between independent contractors and employees has become a “hot issue” for many businesses. The IRS has devoted considerable effort to rectifying worker misclassification in the past, and continues the trend with this new program.  It is available to employers that have misclassified employees as independent contractors and wish to voluntarily rectify the situation before the IRS or Department of Labor initiates an examination.

Job-hunting expenses are generally deductible as long as you are not searching for a job in a new field. This tax benefit can be particularly useful in a tough job market. It does not matter whether your job hunt is successful, or whether you are employed or unemployed when you are looking.