Welcome to CPA at Law, helping individuals and small businesses plan for the future and keep what they have.

This is the personal blog of Sterling Olander, Certified Public Accountant and Attorney at Law. For over five years, I have worked as a tax professional helping clients with tax mitigation strategies, tax controversies, business transactions, wealth preservation structures, tax-exempt organiations, and estate plans.

I write about any legal, tax, or technological information that I find interesting or useful in serving my clients. All ideas expressed herein are my own and don't constitute legal or tax advice.

Reporting Refunds of Charitable Contributions

A donation to a charitable organization is an irrevocable gift, and even if the donor changes his or her mind about the gift, they generally have no legal basis on which to seek a return or refund of the donation. Furthermore, even if the charity desired to return the gift, the rules under the Internal Revenue Code are such that it should be hesitant to do so. For a good summary of these issues, see Richard R. Hammar's article, Refunds of Charitable Contributions.

If a charity nevertheless decides to refund a charitable donation, the question of whether it must then issue an IRS Form 1099 to the donor arises. In general, businesses must file a Form 1099 to report many types of income; the requirement also applies to charities.

It is clear that a taxpayer who receives the full tax benefit of a charitable donation in one year and who receives a refund of that donation in another year is required to include in gross income the amount previously deducted. In this situation, it makes sense that a charity should issue the former donor a Form 1099.

However, if the donor only received a partial tax benefit or no benefit for the donation, the charity would be placing the donor in an unfair position by issuing a Form 1099. Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Code contemplates this and does not require the charity to issue a 1099 when it refunds a charitable donation.

IRC § 6041(a) imposes the 1099 filing requirement where an organization makes a payment of, among other things, "fixed or determinable gains, profits, and income... of $600 or more." PLR 200704004 interprets this provision as follows:
While any accession to wealth can be income, not all income is fixed or determinable. Income is “fixed” when it is to be paid in amounts definitely predetermined [and] is “determinable” when there is a basis of calculation by which the amount to be paid may be ascertained. Because section 6041(a) is conditioned on a payor knowing that a payment to a payee is in the nature of income and the amount of income, if a payor cannot determine either that a payment is in the nature of income or in what amount, then the payor is not required to file an information return under the section...

The effect of the tax benefit rule can be seen in a number of contexts, for example, casualty losses, real estate tax refunds, and charitable contributions... If by its nature a payment to a taxpayer would not be an item of gross income unless the tax benefit rule applies, and the payor has no way of knowing one way or the other, then the payment is not “fixed or determinable” income falling within section 6041(a).
Accordingly, a charity should not need to report refunded charitable donations on Form 1099.

50 States' Temporary Parental Power Delegation Forms

Many states have statutes allowing parents to temporarily delegate certain parental powers to another person. A standard form is often available; this post provides a link to a Temporary Delegation of Parental Rights form from an authoritative source in every state where such a form is available. This post will be updated as better sources become available; please comment below if you come across broken links or better forms or resources than what I currently have:

 Alabama  Illinois  Montana  Rhode Island
 Alaska  Indiana  Nebraska  South Carolina 
 Arizona  Iowa  Nevada  South Dakota
 Arkansas  Kansas  New Hampshire  Tennessee
 California  Kentucky  New Jersey  Texas
 Colorado  Louisiana  New Mexico  Utah
 Connecticut  Maine  New York  Vermont
 Delaware  Maryland  North Carolina  Virginia
 District of Columbia   Massachusetts  North Dakota  Washington
 Florida  Michigan  Ohio  West Virginia
 Georgia  Minnesota  Oklahoma  Wisconsin
 Hawaii  Mississippi  Oregon  Wyoming
 Idaho  Missouri  Pennsylvania   

Donations of Closely-Held Business Interests

A charitable donation of long-term capital gain property is a useful tax-planning technique for charitably-inclined individuals. The reason this works is because the donor (1) receives a deduction for the fair market value of the donated asset and (2) avoids paying tax on the built-in gain of the asset. However, in the case of a donation of an interest in a closely-held business taxed as a partnership, two issues often arise which impact this strategy: Business liabilities and ordinary-income property.

Because relief of debt is considered taxable income, a donor who has been allocated a share of a partnership's liabilities and who transfers the interest to a charity is deemed to have engaged in two separate transactions. First, a sale transaction has occurred, whereby the donor realizes income equal to the amount of debt relief. Second, a donation has occurred, whereby the donor makes a contribution equal to the fair market value of the interest less the amount of debt relief. The donor's basis is allocated pro-rata between the two transactions, meaning the donor will recognize and pay tax on the gain arising from the "bargain sale."

The donation is further complicated if the partnership owns ordinary-income property. This is because I.R.C. § 170 requires the amount of a charitable deduction to be reduced to the extent that a sale or exchange of the contributed property would generate ordinary income.

Chapter 7 of the IRS's Partnership Audit Technique Guide contains an example addressing the impact of the debt-relief issue, which I've modified below so that it also illustrates the impact of ordinary-income property, or "hot assets." In this example, an individual donor contributes a partnership interest valued at $50,000 to a public charity. The donor's basis in the interest is $40,000 and the donor is allocated $30,000 of partnership liabilities. In addition, the partnership owns a fully-depreciated piece of equipment which, if sold, would result in $2,000 of ordinary income allocated to the donor. The consequences of this donation on the donor should be as follows:

 Bargain Sale: Footnotes:
 Deemed Proceeds:
 Allocated Basis (pro-rata):
 Gain on Bargain Sale:
 Ordinary Income Portion:
 Capital Gain Portion:
 Gross Donation:
 Ordinary Income:
 Allowable Deduction: 

1. Rev. Rul. 75-194, 1975-1, C.B. 80.
2. Treas. Reg. § 1.1011-2(c).
3. The proper allocation of the gain on the bargain sale between ordinary income and capital gain is not clear. See Jonathan G. Tidd, Charitable Gifts of Limited Partnership and Limited Liability Company Interests, Trusts & Estates, October 2015.
4. I.R.C. § 170(e)(1)(A).