There’s No Basis for that Argument

Yesterday, TIGTA release a report, “Efforts to Address the Compliance Risk of Underreporting of S Corporation Officers’ Compensation Are Increasing, but More Action Can Be Taken.”  From the report:

TIGTA’s analysis of all S corporation returns received between Processing Years 2016 through 2018 identified 266,095 returns with profits greater than $100,000, a single shareholder, and no officer’s compensation claimed that were not selected for a field examination.

S-Corporation officers (and owners who own 2% or more of the entity) are required to be paid a “reasonable” compensation.  Clearly, $0 isn’t reasonable for a business profiting $100,000 per year.  (There could be an exception for a company using that profit to pay back a loan that it took during the time it was unprofitable.)  I’ve seen prospective S-Corporation clients with large profits who are taking salaries of $20,000 a year; again, this is clearly unreasonable compensation.  TIGTA urged the IRS to do more, but the IRS basically disagreed with the recommendations.  I learned by reading the report that the IRS is conducting another Compliance Initiative Project to look at officer’s compensation (this began last August).

Another S-Corporation issue is basis.  One of the rules about deducting losses is you must have basis in the entity.  You can get basis in an S-Corporation by contributing capital, previous net income, and/or loaning the company money.  But let’s say I have an S-Corporation, and I give you 10% of the stock as part of your employment package.  Further, let’s assume that the business loses $100,000 (so your share of the loss is $10,000).  What can you deduct on your personal tax return?  Generally, nothing–you have no basis in the entity.

A couple of years ago the IRS tried to improve compliance here: Basis statements are required to be attached to personal tax returns in this situation.  It appears that isn’t working well (probably a combination of individuals ignoring the rule and differing forms for a basis statement).  In July the IRS published a request for comments about a new Form 7203 in the Federal Register.  The IRS is requesting comments:

Comments are invited on: (a) Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of the collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology; and (e) estimates of capital or start-up costs and costs of operation, maintenance, and purchase of services to provide information.

It appears the IRS wants to develop a standardized form (Form 7203) that S-Corporation owners must use to note their basis.  I did a search to see if there’s even a draft of Form 7203 anywhere, but there’s none.  It’s clear that the IRS at least here recognizes there’s an issue and is looking at means of resolving it.  If you wish to comment on the proposal, you have until September 17.

If you’re an S-Corporation owner and haven’t been taking ‘reasonable’ compensation, today’s a good day to start.  And if you’re an S-Corporation owner who hasn’t been tracking basis, you really need to do so.

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