tax rate

Business owners can claim a qualified business income deduction

Eligible taxpayers may now deduct up to 20 percent of certain business income from domestic businesses operated as sole proprietorships or through partnerships, S corporations, trusts, and estates.  The deduction may also be claimed on certain dividends.  Eligible taxpayers can claim the deduction for the first time on the 2018 federal income tax return they file in 2019. This provision is the result of tax reform legislation passed in December 2017.

Here are some things business owners should know about this deduction:

  • The deduction applies to qualified:
    – Business income 
    – Real estate investment trust dividends
    – Publicly traded partnership income

  • Qualified business income is the net amount of qualified items of income, gain, deduction and loss connected to a qualified U.S. trade or business. Only items included in taxable income are counted.

  • The deduction is available to eligible taxpayers, whether they itemize their deductions on Schedule A or take the standard deduction.

  • The deduction is generally equal to the lesser of these two amounts: 
    – Twenty percent of qualified business income plus 20 percent of qualified real estate investment trust dividends and qualified publicly traded partnership income.
    – Twenty percent of taxable income computed before the qualified business income deduction minus net capital gains.

  • For taxpayers with taxable income computed before the qualified business income deduction that exceeds $315,000 for a married couple filing a joint return, or $157,500 for all other taxpayers, the deduction may be subject to additional limitations or exceptions. These are based on the type of trade or business, the taxpayer’s taxable income, the amount of W-2 wages paid by the qualified trade or business, and the unadjusted basis immediately after acquisition of qualified property held by the trade or business.

  • Income earned through a C corporation or by providing services as an employee is not eligible for the deduction.

  • Taxpayers may rely on the rules in the proposed regulations until final regulations appear in the Federal Register.

At Zhong & Sanchez, we provide high-quality tax and financial reporting services to privately-held entities and small business owners. Our expertise ranges from income tax filing and accounting services to international compliance and financial analysis. Located in the Silicon Valley, you can reach us at 510-458-4451 or schedule your first consultation today at https://calendly.com/zhongsanchez

More Information
REG-107892-18, Qualified Business Income Deduction 
Notice 2018-64, Methods for Calculating W-2 Wages for Purposes of Section 199A
FAQs

Source: IRS

IRS launches easy-to-use tax reform webpage

The IRS has launched an easy-to-use webpage, IRS.gov/taxreform, with information about how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affects your taxes, with a special section focused on tax exempt entities.

The tax reform page features three areas designed specifically for:

  • Individuals – For example, standard deduction increase, child tax credit, withholding. Use the Withholding Calculator to make sure you’re withholding enough tax from your paycheck.

  • Businesses – For example, depreciation, expenses and qualified business income deductions.

  • Tax Exempt Entities – For example, tax reform affecting retirement plans, tax-exempt organizations and governments.

Under the Tax Exempt Entities tab, you’ll find highlights of how tax reform affects retirement plans, tax-exempt organizations and tax-advantaged bonds.

 

Retirement plans

  • Rollovers of retirement plan loan offsets – If your plan offsets an outstanding loan balance when you leave employment, you have until the due date of your individual tax return, plus extensions, to rollover those amounts to another plan or IRA.

  • Roth recharacterizations – You can no longer recharacterize amounts rolled over to a Roth IRA from other retirement plans, such as 401(k) or 403(b) plans, or a conversion from a traditional IRA, SEP or SIMPLE to a Roth IRA.

Tax-exempt organizations

  • Tax reform imposes a 1.4 percent excise tax on the investment income of certain educational institutions.

  • An exempt organization with more than one unrelated trade or business must calculate unrelated business taxable income separately for each trade or business.

Tax-advantaged bonds

  • Tax reform repealed the authority to issue tax-credit bonds and direct-pay bonds.

  • The IRS will not process applications for, or issue allocations of, the remaining unused authority to issue new clean renewable energy bonds.

At Zhong & Sanchez, we provide high-quality tax and financial reporting services to privately-held entities and small business owners. Our expertise ranges from income tax filing and accounting services to international compliance and financial analysis. Located in the Silicon Valley, you can reach us at 510-458-4451 or schedule your first consultation today at https://calendly.com/zhongsanchez

Source: IRS

Tax Reform and U.S. Expats: The Good, the Bad and the Same

Source: CPA Practice Advisor

Here’s what we know. The new tax reform bill called, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), is the first time in 30 years that the tax code has been fully transformed. While it is expected to ease tax filings and processing for Americans, the same can’t be said for American Expats. These are US Citizens who live abroad (whether for personal or professional reasons), and who are also required to file with the IRS annually. For years, this group of tax-paying Americans have raised concerns about changes they would like made but unfortunately, for the most part, their voices were ignored. Below is a look inside the new tax reform bill for US Expats:

What hasn’t changed:

The Foreign Information Reporting Requirements Expats are required to submit, in addition to their tax returns, are largely unchanged. The Foreign Bank Account Report, AKA FBAR or FinCen 114, the FATCA requirements - Form 8938, Form 5471 (Report of Certain Foreign Corporations), Form 3520 (Report of Foreign Trusts), and the Net Investment Income Tax, are still here and unchanged. This means that many Expats will continue having trouble banking abroad and face onerous penalties if they fail to file.

The two most important tax code provisions for Expats, the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) and the Foreign Tax Credit have also not been substantially changed. Expats can use the FEIE to exclude over $100,000 in earned income, from their US taxes each year and can use the FTC to reduce their US taxes dollar for dollar by the amount they have paid to a foreign government. This allows individuals to try to avoid double taxation and this has been largely unchanged in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. However, the way the FEIE will increase going forward has been changed, which brings us to what has changed.

What’s New:

The new tax reform changes the way inflation is calculated and will affect a number of tax-related issues. Inflation calculations had previously been calculated using the “regular consumer price index,” but going forward the IRS will use the “chained consumer price index.” The end result is a lower rate of inflation will be used to calculate the increase to the FEIE, which will increase taxes over time.

Modifications were made in tax brackets, exemptions, and deductions. Tax brackets are now larger, meaning you may now be in a lower bracket than you were previously, and the standard deduction has been nearly doubled. For those considering a move to or from the US, two new issues should be considered: 1) the moving deduction has been completely eliminated; 2) the individual mandate, as part of the Affordable Care Act has been eliminated. Unfortunately, the Net Investment Income Tax was not eliminated and will still impact Expats.

The corporate tax has been the most talked about change. This tax reform bill has transitioned the US to a territorial system of corporate taxation. Before, the US operated using worldwide taxation, meaning that corporations had to pay taxes on the income they earned abroad. This change will affect Expats who own corporations outside of the US, because they will face a one-time deemed repatriation tax of 15.5% of any previously untaxed overseas profits as the US transitions to a more territorial system for corporations instead of a worldwide system.

For US Expats, the new tax bill is pretty much the same tax bill with disappointments and frustrations for the nearly 9 million Americans living away from the United States. And, those who own small businesses abroad may actually find their situation is worse under the TCJA than under the old system! We at Zhong and Sanchez will help you sort through TCJA and advise on your international exposure under TCJA. We are dedicated to provide high-quality tax and financial reporting services to privately-held entities and small business owners. Our expertise ranges from income tax filing and accounting services to international compliance and financial analysis. Located in the Silicon Valley, you can reach us at 510-458-4451 or schedule your first free consultation today at https://calendly.com/zhongsanchez

Current developments in S corporations

EXECUTIVE
SUMMARY

  • A binding, nonjudicial settlement agreement, where available under state law, offers a practical alternative to a probate court ruling to revise a trust's terms to comply with requirements to be a qualified Subchapter S trust.
  • An extension of time to make a "closing of the books" election upon termination of an S election may be available under Regs. Secs. 301.9100-1 and 301.9100-3, a recent IRS letter ruling demonstrates.
  • If an S corporation has accumulated earnings and profits and excess passive investment income for each of three consecutive tax years, its S election terminates. The IRS waived an inadvertent termination under the facts and circumstances presented in a letter ruling request. Other letter rulings determined that certain rental income was not passive investment income.
  • The Tax Court ruled in several cases involving S corporation shareholder basis that taxpayers claimed was created or increased by debt obligations. Other court cases involved determining whether the S corporation or its employee-shareholder was required to recognize income from providing services, the effect on basis of shareholders' income inclusion under Sec. 83(b), and allocation to a bankruptcy estate of shareholders' passthrough items.

In 2016 and 2017, courts have decided several cases involving S corporations and their shareholders. In addition, the IRS has issued guidance that should be of interest to S corporation owners. The AICPA S Corporation Taxation Technical Resource Panel offers the following summary of the court decisions and IRS guidance affecting S corporations and their shareholders that the panel believes will be of interest to tax practitioners.

Final regulations under Sec. 385


The IRS and Treasury in 2016 issued proposed regulations under Sec. 385 addressing when a purported debt instrument would be recharacterized as equity for income tax purposes.1These proposed regulations caused significant concerns from an S corporation perspective because their effect on a corporation's ability to satisfy the small business corporation requirements2 was unclear. Specifically, the proposed regulations raised concerns about whether the recharacterization of a purported debt instrument as equity would cause the issuing corporation to be treated as having more than one class of stock and/or cause the holder to be treated as a shareholder of the issuing corporation. However, in the final and temporary regulations issued in October 2016, S corporations are exempt from all aspects of these regulations.3

Reforming a trust to qualify as a qualified Subchapter S trust


In two private letter rulings,4 the IRS ruled that a trust was a qualified Subchapter S trust (QSST) following its reformation pursuant to a binding, nonjudicial settlement agreement.

Under the facts of the letter rulings, the terms of a trust that provided for discretionary distributions to the descendants of the primary beneficiary during the primary beneficiary's lifetime were reformed pursuant to a binding, nonjudicial settlement agreement so that the QSST requirement limiting distributions to the current beneficiary during the beneficiary's lifetime would be satisfied.5 Under the laws of the state that governed the trust, interested parties could enter into a binding, nonjudicial settlement agreement with respect to the validity, interpretation, or construction of the terms of the trust that would be final and binding on the trustee, all current and future beneficiaries of the trust, and all other interested persons, as if ordered by a court.

These letter rulings highlight a practical alternative to a probate court ruling for modifying the terms of a trust to qualify it as a permissible S corporation shareholder. However, it is important to note that modifications to a trust, whether via a nonjudicial settlement agreement or a probate court ruling, will likely not be given retroactive effect for purposes of the trust's qualifying as an S corporation shareholder, even if effective retroactively under applicable state law.6

Extension of time granted to file a 'closing of the books' election


If an S election terminates on a date other than the first day of the corporation's tax year, an "S termination year" results, consisting of an "S short year" and a "C short year."7 Unless a closing of the books is required, the corporation's items of income, gain, loss, deduction, credit, etc., are allocated between the S short year and the C short year on a daily, pro rata basis.8 However, a corporation may elect to not have the pro rata allocation rule apply and instead assign the items of income, gain, loss, deduction, credit, etc., for the S termination year to the S short year and the C short year under normal tax accounting rules (the "closing of the books election").9 The election is made by filing a statement with the corporation's return for the C short year.10 In a recent letter ruling,11 the IRS granted the taxpayer an extension of time to file a closing-of-the-books election pursuant to Regs. Secs. 301.9100-1and 301.9100-3.

Passive investment income (Secs. 1362(d)(3) and 1375)


S election termination from excess passive investment income was inadvertent

Under Sec. 1362(d)(3), if, for three consecutive tax years, an S corporation has accumulated earnings and profits at the close of each tax year and has excess passive investment income12 for each tax year, then the corporation's S election terminates at the beginning the first day of the first tax year following the third consecutive tax year. Under Sec. 1375(a), if an S corporation has accumulated earnings and profits at the close of a tax year and has excess passive investment income for the tax year, a tax is imposed on the corporation's net passive investment income.

In Letter Ruling 201710013, the IRS determined that the termination of the taxpayer's S election under Sec. 1362(d)(3) was inadvertent, even though the taxpayer had paid the tax imposed under Sec. 1375(a) for three consecutive tax years. The taxpayer represented that it was aware that having excess passive investment income could subject it to tax but was unaware that this could cause a termination of its S election. To obtain the ruling, the taxpayer agreed to distribute its accumulated earnings and profits by making a deemed dividend election under Regs. Sec. 1.1368-1(f)(3).

ObservationNote that the deemed dividend election under Regs. Sec. 1.1368-1(f)(3) may be made on a timely filed original or amended return. Thus, provided that the period of limitation on assessment has not closed for the third consecutive tax year in which a taxpayer has accumulated earnings and profits and excess passive investment income, the terminating event may be avoided by making this election on an amended return to distribute all of the corporation's accumulated earnings and profits.

Sharecropping revenue and rental income are not passive investment income

The IRS ruled in Letter Ruling 201722019 that sharecropping revenue and rental income were not considered passive investment income under Sec. 1362(d)(3)(C)(i).

Taxpayer X was engaged in a farming arrangement with another taxpayer for sharecropping purposes whereby direct expenses including processing expenses were allocated based on the percentage of crops to which each was entitled. Taxpayer X paid all utilities, maintenance, box rent, and inspection fees and was responsible for all decisions regarding the type of crops planted and marketing efforts. In a subsequent year, a new lease arrangement was signed, where X's expenses were a percentage of rental income within a fixed range, but all property taxes were to be paid byX.

The IRS held that, based on the facts and representations made, the revenue received under the sharecropping agreement and the rental income under the lease arrangement were not considered passive investment income under the rules in Sec. 1362(d), but the rental activity could still be subject to the passive activity rules of Sec. 469.

Rental income did not constitute passive investment income

The IRS ruled in Letter Ruling 201725022 that rental income received by a corporation intending to be treated as an S corporation did not constitute passive investment income for purposes of Sec. 1362(d)(3)(C)(i).

The taxpayer owned a series of commercial buildings that were leased for medical offices and support activities. The taxpayer contracted with an independent leasing agent to provide assistance with obtaining, negotiating, and renewing leases, which required significant time and attention. The taxpayer had a standard lease agreement with its tenants indicating that the landlord was responsible for maintenance and repair activities, including building systems, lighting, lawn care, walkways, and utilities. Furthermore, the taxpayer represented that these activities were performed daily by the taxpayer, its employees, its agent, and the agent's employees. The IRS ruled that the rental income received from these activities was not passive income for purposes of Sec. 1362 but could still be subject to the passive activity loss rules under Sec. 469.

Shareholder basis


In Hargis,13 the Tax Court ruled that the taxpayer, an S corporation shareholder, failed to establish that he had sufficient basis in S corporation stock and debt to deduct the losses allocated to him from the S corporation. The taxpayer relied on his position as "co-borrower" on notes from outside lenders to the S corporation and notes from related business entities to the S corporation to support his claim of sufficient basis to claim the losses.

The court determined that the loans were made directly between the lenders and the S corporation and that the S corporation was not directly obligated to the shareholder. The court noted that none of the proceeds from the loan agreements were advanced to the shareholder but rather were paid directly to the S corporation. In addition, the shareholder was not called upon to make any payment on the notes as a co-borrower, and he was not looked to by the lenders as the primary obligor on the notes. Without a direct indebtedness from the S corporation to the shareholder, the court declined to recognize basis and disallowed the lossdeductions.

The Franklin14 case is similar to Hargis in that the taxpayer was the sole shareholder of an S corporation, and he personally guaranteed the debt of his S corporation to an outside lender. Unlike Hargis, however, the shareholder in Franklin was required to make payment to the lender on the guaranteed debt when the S corporation defaulted. The Tax Court in Franklin accepted evidence that the lender did seize and sell property of the shareholder as payment on the debt of the S corporation.

The Tax Court acknowledged that the shareholder increased his basis in the S corporation by the amount of the actual payment made under his debt guarantee. The additional basis allowed the shareholder to deduct tax losses allocated to him from the S corporation. However, no deduction was allowed in another year where the shareholder had claimed a loss but the corporation had not filed a return and there was no evidence as to the loss or anybasis.

Another debt basis case was Phillips,15 in which a 50% shareholder guaranteed debts of an S corporation. The corporation defaulted on loans, and the creditors sued the guarantors and obtained a judgment against the taxpayer. The taxpayer increased her basis for the amount of the judgments in the year that the courts awarded them to the creditors. However, she had not paid any of the judgments, and the IRS and Tax Court would not allow her to claim basis until she made payments.16

Income earned by shareholder, not S corporation


In Fleischer,17 at issue was whether an S corporation or its shareholder/employee earned income from the services provided by the shareholder/employee.

The taxpayer provided professional services to customers in exchange for commissions and fees that he assigned to his wholly owned S corporation. The taxpayer was then paid a salary from the S corporation, the remaining net income or loss of the corporation was allocated to him, and he received cash distributions.

The Tax Court's opinion in Fleischer notes a first principle of income tax: that "income must be taxed to him who earned it,"18 or, more specifically, to the person "who controls the earning of the income."19 The court noted that for a corporation, and not its service-provider employee, to be the controller of the income, two elements must be found:

  1. The individual providing the services (to the customer) must be an employee of the corporation whom the corporation can direct and control in a meaningful sense; and
  2. There must exist between the corporation and the person or entity using the services (customer) a contract or similar indicium recognizing the corporation's controlling position.

Under the facts of the case, the shareholder, in his personal capacity, entered into a contract with an unrelated party prior to forming the S corporation, and the contract indicated that the shareholder's relationship with the unrelated party was that of an independent contractor. Subsequent to the formation of the S corporation, the shareholder entered into a contract with another unrelated party in his personal capacity. There were no addendums or amendments to either of these contracts requiring the unrelated parties to begin paying the S corporation instead of the shareholder or to recognize the S corporation in any capacity.

The Tax Court held that there was no indicium for the unrelated parties to believe that the S corporation had any control over the shareholder, and therefore, the shareholder, not the S corporation, should have reported the income received under the contracts.

Inclusion of income under Sec. 83(b) creates basis for distribution


Although Austin 20 is probably most notable as an economic substance case, one of its issues involved the taxability of a "special dividend" to an S corporation's shareholders. The Tax Court determined that the S corporation "was always an S corporation" and had no accumulated earnings and profits. Thus, the "special dividend" to its shareholders qualified as a distribution under Sec. 1368(b) and was excluded from the shareholders' taxable income to the extent the distribution did not exceed their stock basis.

The shareholders had relied on certain promissory notes issued as payment for their shares to provide basis and argued that the distribution did not exceed basis. The court found that the notes lacked economic substance and rejected the argument that the shareholders had additional basis. However, as a result of other rulings in the case, the shareholders recognized income under Sec. 83(b) with respect to their shares of the S corporation's stock, increasing their basis in the stock. This increase was sufficient to absorb the distribution so that the distribution was tax-free under Sec. 1368(b).

Bankruptcy estate allocated S corporation income for entire tax year


Under Sec. 1377, generally, an S corporation must allocate its income and other tax items to its shareholders on a per-share/per-day basis. In Medley v. Citizens Southern Bancshares,21two shareholders in the same S corporation transferred their shares to bankruptcy estates in early 2014. Neither shareholder elected to split his own tax year between the pre- and post-petition period under Sec.1398(d)(2). The corporation was profitable in 2014. The trustee allocated income between the shareholders and the estates based on the number of days each shareholder had held the stock. However, the court determined that Sec. 1398(e)(1) entitled the bankruptcy estate to all of the debtor's income or loss from the bankruptcy date forward. Because income does not pass through from an S corporation to a shareholder until the final day of the corporation's tax year, and the estates were the owners of the stock on that final day, all of the debtors' passthrough items for 2014 would pass through to the estates. The Medley case followed the reasoning in Williams,22 in which a shareholder who had transferred his stock to a bankruptcy estate attempted to benefit from a portion of the S corporation's losses for the year.

Inadvertent invalid QSub election highlights trap for the unwary


It has become increasingly common for an S corporation to restructure in connection with a sale or a third-party investment. A common form of this restructuring is for the S corporation's shareholders to form a new corporation (Newco), to which the stock of the S corporation (Oldco) is contributed. A qualified Subchapter S subsidiary (QSub) election is then made for Oldco, effective as of the date of contribution. Shortly after the contribution, Oldco is converted to a limited liability company (LLC) under state law. These steps are generally intended to qualify as a reorganization under Sec. 368(a)(1)(F). An unrelated party then purchases interests of the Oldco LLC or invests in it.

In Letter Ruling 201724013, the taxpayer implemented this type of restructuring; however, the QSub election for Oldco was not filed until after Oldco had been converted to an LLC under state law. Because Oldco did not satisfy all of the QSub requirements under Sec. 1361(b)(3)(B) at the time that the QSub election was filed for it, the QSub election was invalid. The IRS granted a waiver of the inadvertent invalid QSub election under Sec.1362(f).  

Footnotes

1 REG-108060-15.

2 Secs. 1361(b) and (c) and associated regulations.

3 T.D. 9790.

4 IRS Letter Rulings 201614002 and 201614003.

5 See Sec. 1361(d)(3).

6 See Rev. Rul. 93-79.

7 Sec. 1362(e)(1).

8 Sec. 1362(e)(2).

9 Sec. 1362(e)(3).

10 Regs. Sec. 1.1362-6(a)(5).

11 IRS Letter Ruling 201706013.

12 Passive investment income is excessive if it constitutes more than 25% of the corporation's gross receipts (Sec. 1362(d)(3)(A)(i)(II)).

13 Hargis, T.C. Memo. 2016-232.

14Franklin, T.C. Memo. 2016-207.

15 Phillips, T.C. Memo. 2017-61.

16 The years involved predated amendments to Regs. Sec. 1.1366-2 discussed in "Final Regulations Under Sec. 385" above, so there was no discussion of whether the arrangement created a bona fide debtor-creditor relationship between the S corporation and theguarantors.

17 Fleischer, T.C. Memo. 2016-238.

18 Lucas v. Earl, 281 U.S. 111 (1930).

19 Quoting Johnson, 78 T.C. 882 (1982), aff'd, 734 F.2d 20 (9th Cir. 1984).

20 Austin, T.C. Memo. 2017-69.

21 Medley v. Citizens Southern Bancshares, No. 13-12371 (Bankr. M.D. Ala. 5/17/16).

22 Williams, 123 T.C. 144 (2004).

Source: https://www.thetaxadviser.com/

Phantom stock: Termination of right to buy or sell, treatment of asset and basis

In Hurford Investments No. 2, Ltd., No. 23017-11 (Tax Ct. 4/17/17) (order), the Tax Court considered whether the redemption of phantom stock was treated as a sale of a capital asset and what the tax basis in the redeemed phantom stock was.

Background

Gary Hurford owned "phantom stock" in Hunt Oil Co. The phantom stock was a form of deferred compensation that Hunt Oil paid to its employees; a share of phantom stock was valued at approximately the share price of Hunt Oil's common stock and would be adjusted for its increase or decrease in value at the end of each calendar year.

Under the terms of the phantom stock agreement, after Hurford's death, which was considered a "qualified termination of service," a five-yearcountdown was started. During this time Hunt Oil would continue to pay out dividends and adjust the stock for any growth or decline in value. At the end of the fifth year Hunt Oil would automatically redeem the stock; both parties had the right to liquidate the account at any time.

When Gary Hurford died in 1999, Thelma Hurford, his wife, inherited the phantom stock. Thelma decided to transfer the phantom stock into Hurford Investments No. 2 Ltd. (HI-2) in 2000, one of three limited partnerships Thelma's attorney formed as part of her estate plan after Thelma was diagnosed with cancer. On March 22, 2000, Hunt Oil formally recognized HI-2 as the holder of this stock. At the time of the transfer, the value of the stock was $6,411,000, and the receipt was reported on HI-2's Form 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income, as a short-term gain.

Thelma died in 2001, and the value of the stock on the date of her death was $9,639,588. In 2004, the five-year period that began on Gary's death was up, and Hunt Oil exercised its right to terminate the phantom stock. In 2006, Hunt Oil distributed $12,985,603 to HI-2. The IRS argued that the difference between the $12,985,603 distribution and $6,411,000 should be treated as ordinary income (deferred compensation) and argued that HI-2 should be considered an invalid partnership for federal income tax purposes since there was no transfer of phantom stock until after Thelma died. HI-2 and the estate argued the phantom stock should be treated as a long-term capital asset in HI-2's hands, which would also establish HI-2'svalidity as a holder and recognize it for income tax purposes.

Is phantom stock a capital asset?

In Thelma Hurford's hands, the termination of phantom stock generated ordinary income (deferred compensation), but it is pertinent to note that the character of property may change depending on who holds it, e.g., a laptop is inventory for a retailer but a capital asset for most buyers. "Capital asset" has a broad definition under Sec. 1221, which defines the term as all property that is not specifically excluded in a list of exceptions. The types of property excepted from Sec. 1221 are (1) stock in trade; (2) depreciable property used in a trade or business; (3) a copyright or other similar item; (4) an account or note receivable acquired in the ordinary course of business; (5) a U.S. government publication; (6) a commodities derivative financial instrument; (7) a hedging transaction; or (8) supplies used or consumed in the ordinary course of business.

Because HI-2's interest in the phantom stock does not fit into one of the exceptions listed in Sec. 1221, the Tax Court found that it was a capital asset. This designation makes more sense when one thinks about the nature of the asset. HI-2acquired an asset that had its value linked to the stock value of Hunt Oil, and HI-2 had no influence over the underlying Hunt Oil common stock, holding it in the hope that it would appreciate. According to the Tax Court, this distinguishing characteristic is enough to conclude that the phantom stock was a capital asset.

Does Hunt Oil's redeeming the phantom stock constitute a sale?

Under Sec. 1234A(1), the gain or loss attributable to the cancellation, lapse, expiration, or other termination of a right or obligation for property that is a capital asset in the taxpayer's hands is treated as a gain or loss from the sale of a capital asset. HI-2 argued and the Tax Court agreed that when Hunt Oil liquidated the phantom stock and distributed the proceeds to HI-2, it ended HI-2's right to sell the phantom stock. Thus, under Sec. 1234A, there was a termination of a right to buy or sell a capital asset, and HI-2 was entitled to capital gain treatment.

What is the basis of the stock?

The IRS argued the basis of the stock should be $6,411,000, which was HI-2's original interest in the phantom stock upon Gary Hurford's death; the difference between the value at termination of $12,986,603 and $6,411,000 would be the long-term gain. HI-2 argued that the basis in stock should be stepped-up to the value of $9,639,588 as of Thelma's death. Because the phantom stock was included in Thelma's estate, the Tax Court found that HI-2 was entitled to a step-up in basis under Secs. 1014(a) and 1014(b)(9). The court noted that Sec. 1014(c) specifically excludes from step-up in basis "property which constitutes a right to receive an item of income in respect of a decedent under section 691." However, it concluded that Sec. 1014(c) did not apply because the phantom stock had been converted into a capital asset in HI-2'shands and as such was no longer an item of income in respect of a decedent.

'Appreciation' is a hallmark of a capital asset

According to the Tax Court, the phantom stock was a capital asset in HI-2's hands as determined by Sec. 1221; it was treated as long-term capital gain when Hunt Oil terminated the program and liquidated the phantom stock account. The partnership could not affect the value of the stock in any way and could only hope for the phantom stock value to appreciate; this characteristic was enough to classify the stock as a capital asset. Per Sec. 1234(A), it was also determined that Hunt Oil's liquidation of the stock was a termination of HI-2's right to sell the phantom stock and constituted a sale of an asset. Lastly, the partnership had basis in the phantom stock equal to its fair market value as of Thelma's death. The fair market value of $9,639,588 was included in Thelma's estate, and under Sec. 1014(b)(9), that was the partnership's basis in the stock.

Source: https://www.thetaxadviser.com/