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For My Student Followers – an Explanation of IRS Guidance Sent Out Into The Cosmos

Are you looking for some information that will explain all the available IRS guidance sent out into the cosmos?

The following is a list of explanations/definitions should you be interested, need some reading material, or want something to put you to sleep at night.

 

For anyone not familiar with the inner workings of tax administration, the array of IRS guidance may seem, well, a little puzzling at first glance. To take a little of the mystery away, here’s a brief look at seven of the most common forms of guidance.

In its role in administering the tax laws enacted by the Congress, the IRS must take the specifics of these laws and translate them into detailed regulations, rules and procedures. The Office of Chief Counsel fills this crucial role by producing several different kinds of documents and publications that provide guidance to taxpayers, firms and charitable groups.

Regulation

A regulation is issued by the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department to provide guidance for new legislation or to address issues that arise with respect to existing Internal Revenue Code sections. Regulations interpret and give directions on complying with the law. Regulations are published in the Federal Register. Generally, regulations are first published in proposed form in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). After public input is fully considered through written comments and even a public hearing, a final regulation or a temporary regulation is published as a Treasury Decision (TD), again, in the Federal Register.

Revenue Ruling

A revenue ruling is an official interpretation by the IRS of the Internal Revenue Code, related statutes, tax treaties and regulations. It is the conclusion of the IRS on how the law is applied to a specific set of facts. Revenue rulings are published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin for the information of and guidance to taxpayers, IRS personnel and tax professionals. For example, a revenue ruling may hold that taxpayers can deduct certain automobile expenses.

Revenue Procedure

A revenue procedure is an official statement of a procedure that affects the rights or duties of taxpayers or other members of the public under the Internal Revenue Code, related statutes, tax treaties and regulations and that should be a matter of public knowledge. It is also published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin. While a revenue ruling generally states an IRS position, a revenue procedure provides return filing or other instructions concerning an IRS position. For example, a revenue procedure might specify how those entitled to deduct certain automobile expenses should compute them by applying a certain mileage rate in lieu of calculating actual operating expenses.

Private Letter Ruling

A private letter ruling, or PLR, is a written statement issued to a taxpayer that interprets and applies tax laws to the taxpayer’s specific set of facts. A PLR is issued to establish with certainty the federal tax consequences of a particular transaction before the transaction is consummated or before the taxpayer’s return is filed. A PLR is issued in response to a written request submitted by a taxpayer and is binding on the IRS if the taxpayer fully and accurately described the proposed transaction in the request and carries out the transaction as described. A PLR may not be relied on as precedent by other taxpayers or IRS personnel. PLRs are generally made public after all information has been removed that could identify the taxpayer to whom it was issued.

Technical Advice Memorandum

A technical advice memorandum, or TAM, is guidance furnished by the Office of Chief Counsel upon the request of an IRS director or an area director, appeals, in response to technical or procedural questions that develop during a proceeding. A request for a TAM generally stems from an examination of a taxpayer’s return, a consideration of a taxpayer’s claim for a refund or credit, or any other matter involving a specific taxpayer under the jurisdiction of the territory manager or the area director, appeals. Technical Advice Memoranda are issued only on closed transactions and provide the interpretation of proper application of tax laws, tax treaties, regulations, revenue rulings or other precedents. The advice rendered represents a final determination of the position of the IRS, but only with respect to the specific issue in the specific case in which the advice is issued. Technical Advice Memoranda are generally made public after all information has been removed that could identify the taxpayer whose circumstances triggered a specific memorandum.

Notice

A notice is a public pronouncement that may contain guidance that involves substantive interpretations of the Internal Revenue Code or other provisions of the law. For example, notices can be used to relate what regulations will say in situations where the regulations may not be published in the immediate future.

Announcement

An announcement is a public pronouncement that has only immediate or short-term value. For example, announcements can be used to summarize the law or regulations without making any substantive interpretation; to state what regulations will say when they are certain to be published in the immediate future; or to notify taxpayers of the existence of an approaching deadline.

IRS Patrol: IRS Announces Pension Plan Limitations for 2011

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Sorry readers, I’m a day late posting this cost of living adjustment for 2011 pension plans and retirement related stuff.  As noted below, things haven’t changed much.  No surprise there.

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2011. In general, these limits will either remain unchanged, or the inflation adjustments for 2011 will be small. Highlights include:

  • The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in section 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b) plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $16,500.
  • The catch-up contribution limit under those plans for those aged 50 and over remains unchanged at $5,500.
  • The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are active participants in  an employer-sponsored retirement plan and have modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $56,000 and $66,000, unchanged from 2010. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $90,000 to $110,000, up from $89,000 to $109,000. For an IRA contributor who is not an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan and is married to someone who is an active participant, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $169,000 and $179,000, up from $167,000 and $177,000.
  • The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $169,000 to 179,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $167,000 to $177,000 in 2010. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $107,000 to $122,000, up from $105,000 to $120,000. For a married individual filing a separate return who is an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the phase-out range remains $0 to $10,000.
  • The AGI limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contributions credit) for low-and moderate-income workers is $56,500 for married couples filing jointly, up from $55,500 in 2010; $42,375 for heads of household, up from $41,625; and $28,250 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $27,750.

Below are details on both the unchanged and adjusted limitations.

Section 415 of the Internal Revenue Code provides for dollar limitations on benefits and contributions under qualified retirement plans. Section 415(d) requires that the Commissioner annually adjust these limits for cost of living increases. Other limitations applicable to deferred compensation plans are also affected by these adjustments under Section 415. Under Section 415(d), the adjustments are to be made pursuant to adjustment procedures which are similar to those used to adjust benefit amounts under Section 215(i)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act.

The limitations that are adjusted by reference to Section 415(d) generally will remain unchanged for 2011. This is because the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2010, while greater than the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2009, is less than the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2008, and, following the procedures under the Social Security Act for adjusting benefit amounts, any decline in the applicable index cannot result in a reduced limitation. For example, the limitation under Section 402(g)(1) on the exclusion for elective deferrals described in Section 402(g)(3) will be $16,500 for 2011, which is the same amount as for 2009 and 2010. This limitation affects elective deferrals to Section 401(k) plans, Section 403(b) plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan.

Effective Jan. 1, 2011, the limitation on the annual benefit under a defined benefit plan under section 415(b)(1)(A) remains unchanged at $195,000. Pursuant to section 1.415(d)-1(a)(2)(ii) of the Income Tax Regulations, the adjustment to the limitation under a defined benefit plan under section 415(b)(1)(B) is determined using a special rule that  takes into account that the cost-of-living indexes for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2009, and for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2010, were both less than the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2008, and that the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2010, is greater than the cost-of-living index for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2009. For a participant who separated from service before Jan. 1, 2010, the participant’s limitation under a defined benefit plan under section 415(b)(1)(B) is unchanged (i.e., the adjustment factor is 1.0000). For a participant who separated from service during 2010, the limitation under a defined benefit plan under Section 415(b)(1)(B) for 2011 is computed by multiplying the participant’s 2010 compensation limitation by 1.0118 in order to reflect changes in the cost-of-living index from the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2009, to the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2010.

The limitation for defined contribution plans under Section 415(c)(1)(A) remains unchanged for 2011 at $49,000.

The Code provides that various other dollar amounts are to be adjusted at the same time and in the same manner as the dollar limitation of Section 415(b)(1)(A). After taking into account the applicable rounding rules, the amounts for 2011 are as follows:
The limitation under Section 402(g)(1) on the exclusion for elective deferrals described in Section 402(g)(3) remains unchanged at $16,500.

The annual compensation limit under Sections 401(a)(17), 404(l), 408(k)(3)(C), and 408(k)(6)(D)(ii) remains unchanged at $245,000.

The dollar limitation under Section 416(i)(1)(A)(i) concerning the definition of key employee in a top-heavy plan remains unchanged at $160,000.

The dollar amount under Section 409(o)(1)(C)(ii) for determining the maximum account balance in an employee stock ownership plan subject to a 5 year distribution period remains unchanged at $985,000, while the dollar amount used to determine the lengthening of the 5 year distribution period remains unchanged at $195,000.

The limitation used in the definition of highly compensated employee under Section 414(q)(1)(B) remains unchanged at $110,000.

The dollar limitation under Section 414(v)(2)(B)(i) for catch-up contributions to an applicable employer plan other than a plan described in Section 401(k)(11) or Section 408(p) for individuals aged 50 or over remains unchanged at $5,500. The dollar limitation under Section 414(v)(2)(B)(ii) for catch-up contributions to an applicable employer plan described in Section 401(k)(11) or Section 408(p) for individuals aged 50 or over remains unchanged at $2,500.

The annual compensation limitation under Section 401(a)(17) for eligible participants in certain governmental plans that, under the plan as in effect on July 1, 1993, allowed cost of living adjustments to the compensation limitation under the plan under Section 401(a)(17) to be taken into account, remains unchanged at $360,000.

The compensation amount under Section 408(k)(2)(C) regarding simplified employee pensions (SEPs) remains unchanged at $550.

The limitation under Section 408(p)(2)(E) regarding SIMPLE retirement accounts remains unchanged at $11,500.

The limitation on deferrals under Section 457(e)(15) concerning deferred compensation plans of state and local governments and tax-exempt organizations remains unchanged at $16,500.

The compensation amounts under Section 1.61 21(f)(5)(i) of the Income Tax Regulations concerning the definition of “control employee” for fringe benefit valuation purposes remains unchanged at $95,000. The compensation amount under Section 1.61 21(f)(5)(iii) remains unchanged at $195,000.

The Code also provides that several pension-related amounts are to be adjusted using the cost-of-living adjustment under Section 1(f)(3). After taking the applicable rounding rules into account, the amounts for 2011 are as follows:

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for married taxpayers filing a joint return is increased from $33,500 to $34,000; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $36,000 to $36,500; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D), is increased from $55,500 to $56,500.

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for taxpayers filing as head of household is increased from $25,125 to $25,500; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $27,000 to $27,375; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D), is increased from $41,625 to $42,375.

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(A) for determining the retirement savings contribution credit for all other taxpayers is increased from $16,750 to $17,000; the limitation under Section 25B(b)(1)(B) is increased from $18,000 to $18,250; and the limitation under Sections 25B(b)(1)(C) and 25B(b)(1)(D), is increased from $27,750 to $28,250.

The deductible amount under § 219(b)(5)(A) for an individual making qualified retirement contributions remains unchanged at $5,000.

The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(3)(B)(i) for determining the deductible amount of an IRA contribution for taxpayers who are active participants filing a joint return or as a qualifying widow(er) is increased from $89,000 to $90,000. The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(3)(B)(ii) for all other taxpayers (other than married taxpayers filing separate returns) remains unchanged at $56,000. The applicable dollar amount under Section 219(g)(7)(A) for a taxpayer who is not an active participant but whose spouse is an active participant is increased from $167,000 to $169,000.

The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 408A(c)(3)(C)(ii)(I) for determining the maximum Roth IRA contribution for married taxpayers filing a joint return or for taxpayers filing as a qualifying widow(er) is increased from $167,000 to $169,000. The adjusted gross income limitation under Section 408A(c)(3)(C)(ii)(II) for all other taxpayers (other than married taxpayers filing separate returns) is increased from $105,000 to $107,000.

The dollar amount under Section 430(c)(7)(D)(i)(II) used to determine excess employee compensation with respect to a single-employer defined benefit pension plan for which the special election under section 430(c)(2)(D) has been made is increased from $1,000,000 to $1,014,000.

Related Item: Revenue Procedure 2010-40 contains certain inflation adjusted tax items for tax year 2011.

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