Accountants handling difficult tax and audit issues typically work from checklists. Checklists are a well-proven tool in many other work activities outside of tax and financial statement preparation. This year all of the significant federal tax law changes affecting small businesses pertain directly to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Accounting organizations like AICPA and state associations as well as a number of tax software publishers usually develop and promote these checklists. This is especially true for new high-impact tax issues. Yet other than my own published comments, I’ve not seen a single checklist by any tax authority dealing with the 2015 tax law changes affecting small business tax returns.
Until recently the AICPA and other small business advocate organizations were lobbying for relief from these 2015 tax changes. Now it is clear that legislative relief is not coming. IRS has taken extra steps to make it clear that it expects to enforce these small business tax changes as a high priority item.
I published my own list titled “Checklist for accountants preparing small business tax returns for 2015” in an obscure blog post back on November 2 and I expected to compare my notes to those published by others by now. Yet here we are in late December and that has not happened.
There are likely tens of thousands (perhaps even more than 100,000?) of small firms affected by these changes. It seems likely that the 2015 tax penalties assessed under 4980D are quite likely to be assessed at $18,400 per employee. If these penalties are missed or ignored by the tax preparer, the error would typically be large enough to trigger the IRS substantial underpayment penalty. This puts tax preparers at risk of the accuracy-related penalties without warning.
Given the huge impact on tax preparers and small business owners, the lack of guidance on this topic from the usual tax authorities is difficult to grasp.