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IRS FAQs on Section 199A: Nasty? Helpful? Wrong?

On April 11, likely after you filed your tax return, the IRS updated its Section 199A frequently asked questions (FAQs) by increasing the number of questions and answers from 12 to 33.

The IRS often publishes FAQs on its website to help educate you on various tax law provisions. Section 199A is no different: the IRS has been updating its FAQ website with additional questions and answers on the new qualified business income (QBI) tax deduction.

We noted three of the FAQs that help fill in some holes in the final Section 199A regulations but will cause problems for many taxpayers. In fact, there will be taxpayers who will need to file amended tax returns because of the FAQs.

FAQ 29: QBI Subtractions for Partnerships

In this FAQ on partnerships, the IRS hints at the following:

  • Unreimbursed partnership expenses and business interest expenses reduce QBI in some, if not all, circumstances.
  • Traditional IRA contributions based on self-employment income don’t reduce QBI (since the IRS didn’t include them), while SEP, SIMPLE, and qualified plan deductions do reduce QBI.

FAQ 32: QBI in Final vs. Proposed Regulations

In FAQ 32, the IRS clearly says, under both the proposed and the final regulations, that you reduce QBI by the self-employed health insurance deduction, the one-half of self-employment tax deduction, and the qualified retirement plan deductions.

FAQ 33 Has to Be Wrong

FAQ 33 states that an S corporation shareholder who owns more than 2 percent may have to reduce QBI at both the entity (S corporation) and the shareholder (1040 tax return) levels.

We don’t agree with the double subtraction indicated in IRS FAQ 33, for three reasons:

  1. The final regulations state that you reduce QBI “to the extent that the individual’s gross income from the trade or business is taken into account in calculating the allowable deduction.” Unlike the proprietorship, the S corporation reduces its business income by reimbursing or paying for the health insurance that it puts on the more than 2 percent shareholder’s W-2.
  2. Under Notice 2008-1, the self-employed health insurance deduction for the 2 percent S corporation shareholder requires that you include the insurance cost as shareholder wages. The wages reduce QBI.
  3. And income from the trade or business of being an employee is not QBI.

Website Is Not an Authority

If you don’t like the positions taken on the IRS’s FAQ website, then there’s one silver lining: FAQs don’t constitute an authority for tax return positions.

April Tax Saving Tips

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