Recently IRS raided Benistar and its successor, the Grist Mill Trust, the promoter and operator of one of the better known and more heavily scrutinized of the Section 419 life insurance plans. IRS attacked the Benistar 419 plan, and one of its tactics was to demand the names of all the clients Benistar worked with — so they could be audited by the IRS, Benistar refused to give the names and actually appealed the decision to turn over the names. The appeal was unsuccessful, but Benistar officials still refused to give up the names. Recently, the IRS raided the Benistar office and took hundreds of boxes of information, which included information on clients who were in their 419 plan. In documents filed by Benistar itself, they stated that 35 to 50 armed IRS agents descended upon their office to seize documents.
IRS has visited, and is still visiting most of the other plans and obtaining names of participants, selling insurance agents, accountants, etc. They have a whole task force devoted to auditing 419, 412i and other abusive plans.
It's important to understand what could happen to unsuspecting business owners if they get involved in plans that are not above board. Their names could be turned over to the IRS, where audits could ensue, and where the outcome could be the payment of back taxes and significant penalties. Then they would be fined another time under Section 6707A for not properly reporting on themselves.
Most 419 life insurance and 412i defined benefit pension plans were sold to successful business owners as plans with large tax deductions where money would grow tax free until needed in retirement. I would speak at national accounting and other conventions talking about the problems with most of these plans. I would be attacked by some attendees who where making large insurance commissions selling the plans. I would try to warn insurance company home office executives, but they too had their heads in the sand because of all the money these plans brought in. Then the IRS got tough and started fining the unsuspecting business owners hundreds of thousands a year for not reporting on themselves for being in the plan. The agents and insurance companies advise against filing. "This is a good plan. We have approval." Not only were the business owners fined under IRS Code 6707A, but the insurance agents were also fined $100,000 for not reporting on themselves. Accountants who signed tax returns are even being fined 100,000 by IRS. Then the business owners sue the accountants, insurance agents, etc. I have been following these scenarios for a long time. In fact, I have been an expert witness in many of these cases, and my side has never lost.
Most promoters of 419 plans told clients that their plans complied with the laws and, therefore, were not listed tax transactions. Unfortunately, the IRS doesn't care what a promoter of a tax-avoidance plan says; it makes its own determination and punishes those who don't comply.
The McGehee Family Clinic, P.A. was recently hit with back taxes and a penalty under Code Sec. 666A in conjunction with a deduction to the Benistar 419 planDr. McGehee's clinic took a deduction for a 419 plan (the Benistar plan) back in 2005. Eventually, the McGhee Family Clinic was audited. After the audit, the doctor was told that the deduction would be disallowed and that back taxes were due. Additionally, Dr. McGehee was hit with a 20 percent accuracy-related penalty under Code Sec. 6662A. Finally, the tax court sustained the IRS's determination that McGehee was subject to the increased 30 percent penalty, because its return did not include a disclosure statement indicating its participation in the Benistar Trust. I think that in addition to the aforementioned fines, IRS will now fine him, both on a corporate and personal level, another $200,000 or more, under IRC 6707A, for not properly disclosing his participation in a listed transaction. There was a moratorium on those fines until June 2010, pending new legislation to reduce them. The fines had been $200,000 per year on the corporate level and $100,000 per year on the personal level. You got the fine even if you made no contributions for the year. All you had to do was to be in the plan. So Dr. McGehee's fine would be a total of $300,000 per year for every year that he and his corporation were in the plan.
IRS also says the fine is not appealable. His fine would be in the million-dollar range and it would be in addition to the back taxes, interest, and penalties already discussed earlier in this paragraph.
Legislation just passed slightly reducing those fines, but you still have to properly file to start the Statute of Limitations running to avoid the fines. IRS is fining people who report on themselves, but make a mistake on the forms. Now that the moratorium on the fines has passed, and so has the new legislation, IRS has aggressively moved to fine unsuspecting business owners hundreds of thousands. This is usually after they get audited, and sometimes reach agreement with IRS. Then another division or department of the IRS imposes a fine under 6707A. I am receiving a lot of phone calls from business owners who this is happening to. Unfortunately, some of these people already had called me. I warned them to properly file under 6707A. Either they did not believe me - it is unbelievable - or their accountant or tax attorney filed incorrectly. Then they called again after being fined.
If you were involved with one of these abusive plans, there are steps that you can take to minimize IRS problems. With respect to filing under Section 6707A, I know the two best people in the country at filing after the fact, which is what you would be doing at this point, and still somehow avoiding the fine. It is an art that both learned through countless hours of research and numerous conversations with IRS personnel. Both have filed dozens of times for clients, after the fact, without the clients being fined. Either may well still be able to help you.
And the right accountant, one with the proper knowledge, experience, and Service contacts, can help with the other IRS problems as well. I recall a case where a CPA I knew and recommended was able to get $300,000 or so in liabilities reduced to three thousand dollars and change. Do not count on a result like this, but help is available.
Stay away from 419 and similar plans like Section 79 plans. Be very careful with 412i plans. Avoid most captive insurance plans. It's not worth it!
It's getting closer to the end of the year. This is when every scammer known to man/woman comes out of the woodwork to sell some fly-by-night tax-deductible plan to clients. Sometimes they come in the form of an accountant, insurance agent-financial planner, or even an attorney. I see this in all of my expert witness cases and when I speak at conventions. I have seen this since the 1990s. I wanted to remind readers that, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters. He writes about 412(i), 419, and captive insurance plans. He speaks at more than ten conventions annually, writes for over fifty publications, is quoted regularly in the press and has been featured on television and radio financial talk shows including NBC, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and others. Lance has written numerous books including Protecting Clients from Fraud, Incompetence and Scams published by John Wiley and Sons, Bisk Education's CPA's Guide to Life Insurance and Federal Estate and Gift Taxation, as well as AICPA best-selling books, including Avoiding Circular 230 Malpractice Traps and Common Abusive Small Business Hot Spots. He does expert witness testimony and has never lost a case. Contact him at 516.938.5007, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.taxaudit419.com.
The information provided herein is not intended as legal, accounting, financial or any type of advice for any specific individual or other entity. You should contact an appropriate professional for any such advise.