IRS starts mopping up Congress’s tax-reporting mess

by
July 11, 2010

By Neil deMause, CNN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — With a new mandate looming that will require business owners to file millions more tax forms, the Internal Revenue Service has begun the daunting process of figuring out how to turn the law’s sweeping demands into actual rules for taxpayers.

The new regulations, which kick in at the start of 2012, require any taxpayer with business income to issue 1099 forms to all vendors from whom they purchased more than $600 of goods and services that year. That promises to launch a fusillade of new paperwork: An estimated 40 million taxpayers will be subject to the requirement, including 26 million who run sole proprietorships, according to a report released this week by National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson.

Olson’s office, which operates independently within the IRS, flagged the new reporting requirements as one of its priority issues for the next year. Like many who have delved into the details of the new rules, Olson is concerned about their far-reaching scope and potential unintended consequences.

“The new reporting burden, particularly as it falls on small businesses, may turn out to be disproportionate as compared with any resulting improvement in tax compliance,” the Taxpayer Advocate Service wrote in a report released this week.

The new rules are aimed at reducing the “tax gap” between what individuals and businesses owe and what they actually pay. The federal government misses out on estimated $300 billion each year from tax underpayment. The expanded reporting requirements, which Congress slipped into the landmark health care reform bill passed in March, are an attempt to create a paper trail of 1099s exposing business-to-business payments that might otherwise stay off the radar.

But the cost of that paper trail could swamp the small companies, sole proprietors freelancers forced to generate it. Pennsylvania business networking organization SMC Business Councils surveyed its members and found that they currently average 10 filings a year of 1099 forms. The new rules would push that average to more than 200 filings per year for a typical small business, the industry group estimates.

The IRS will have broad leeway to interpret the rules — and it’s already showing signs that it will look for ways to staunch the paperwork flood.

In a late May speech before the two payroll industry trade group, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman announced a major exception to the new rules: The IRS plans to exempt transactions made through credit and debit cards. A separate reporting requirement kicks in next year that will cover card transactions and help the IRS spot unreported payments made through those channels, “so there is no need for businesses to report them as well,” Shulman said. “Whenever a business uses a credit or debit card, there will be no new burden under the new law.”

How much of a sigh of relief you should breathe depends on what kind of purchases your business makes. Some big-ticket consumer items that are typically paid by card — airline tickets or hotel stays, for example — will be 1099-free. But SMC Business Councils President Tom Henschke, a vocal critic of the new law, estimates that exempting credit-card transactions would affect less than 10% of his members’ reporting requirements.

To read more, visit: http://money.cnn.com/2010/07/09/smallbusiness/irs_1099_flood/

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