Loans to S Corporation Shareholder

Often times a payment or payments to S corporation shareholders will be booked or accounted for as a loan to shareholder.  Sometimes this is purposefully, other times, it may be due to lack of options.  These loans can be advantageous with the proper planning and/or under certain circumstances, but they can also create and lead to unintended and disadvantageous tax consequences.

If a loan is not being treated as a loan (documented, repayment with interest etc.) the loan can be reclassified as a distribution to the shareholder.  If the shareholder does not have enough tax basis in their stock, taxable gain will result when the loan is reclassified as a distribution.  Further, it is important to note that if a loan is reclassified as a distribution and there are multiple shareholders, the distribution could create disproportionate distributions amongst the shareholders.  Not only could the disproportionate distribution be a violation of certain law/business acts, the Internal Revenue Service could determine that the disproportionate distributions created or indicate a second class of stock.  As an S corporation, there can only be one class of stock, and thus, a second class of stock could/would result in the termination of the S corporation election, which could have ill intended tax consequences and other business consequences.

Given the above, what can be done in an attempt to prevent payments or disbursements to a shareholder from being treated as distribution, but rather a loan to the shareholder?  Generally speaking, the key is proving intent, that the disbursements were intended to be a loan or loans.  Below is a list of the issues and factors a court would likely consider when making a determination of whether or not a shareholder loan was in fact created.

  • Was the shareholder paying interest? It is also important to note, the IRS can impute interest under the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Is the amount/loan being repaid by the shareholder?
  • Is the debt evidenced by a written instrument such as a promissory note, with stated interest, payment terms & conditions and a maturity date?
  • How has the disbursement to the shareholder been recorded and reflected within the S corporation’s books
  • If the shareholder was in arrears of any payment, did the corporation attempt to enforce or require payment
  • Did the shareholder have the financial wherewithal to repay the note when the loan was provided by the corporation

Of all the above issues & factors, perhaps the most important is whether or not the shareholder was actually repaying the loan.  Courts have determined a loan existed even without documentation and promissory notes given the shareholder was making payments.

The above article has been prepared by John McGuire of The McGuire Law Firm for informational purposes.  John focuses his practice on tax matters before the IRS, advising individual & business clients on tax planning and tax related issues and business transactions from business formation and contracts to the sale of a business or business interest.

S Corporation Loan to Shareholder

Embezzlement or Fraud Involved With 941 Taxes

Embezzlement or theft may be a more frequent issue faced by small and medium sized businesses than many people think.  Often office managers or employees will improperly take money or assets from a business.  Although, perhaps not as common as an employee misappropriating monies or assets, I have seen professionals, such as the businesses CPA embezzle or steal money, which when done is typically a much higher dollar amount and more damaging to the company.  One means by which I have witnessed a CPA or professional embezzle monies from a business is through the employment tax (941 tax) process whereby federal tax deposits are paid to the IRS on a weekly or monthly basis.  Below I have provided examples of this embezzlement or fraud scheme, which hopefully can prevent some business owners from falling victim.

One situation whereby I have witnessed a CPA or office manager involved with theft or embezzlement from a company was when the CPA or office manager was preparing the 941 employment tax returns and in charge of making the federal tax deposits.  The scheme was conducted under the following facts & circumstances.  The corporation would run payroll and net payroll checks would be paid to all employees and officers.  A payroll report was provided to the corporation stating gross payroll, net payroll and the total employment tax liabilities.  The correct amount(s) were withdrawn from the corporation’s bank account to pay the tax deposits, but the deposits were not paid to the federal government or state agencies.  The deposits went to another account, usually an account under the control of the third party responsible for the embezzlement or fraud.

Thus, when looking at the bank statements, payroll records and 941 tax returns, everything would appear ok.  The net payroll was paid to employees and the appropriate amount was being withdrawn for tax deposits.  The internal books of the business would be in line.  When preparing the 941 returns, the correct return was provided to the necessary parties or officers for review and signature, but then a zero ($0) 941 was filed or no 941 was ever filed at all.  The business owners can be personally responsible for the trust fund portion of the 941 tax!

You may be asking yourself, how does the IRS catch on, or why did the IRS not catch on?  The IRS will catch on, because in all likelihood the business must issue correct W-2s to employees so employees can file their individual returns.  Eventually, the IRS will see that the W-2s are not matching up with the 941s and the federal ta deposits, but this could easily occur 12-24 months after the fact and thus the fraud could have been ongoing for 24-36 months.  Furthermore, if the individual responsible for the fraud also receives the IRS notices and is responsible for IRS contacts, knowledge to the business owners could be further delayed.

As a business owner, what can you?

  • Making the actual federal tax deposits yourself is the safest manner to prevent this fraud or embezzlement
  • If you do not make the deposits, make sure you obtain receipts of the deposits paid through eftps.gov and check these deposits against the bank withdrawals and applicable documents
  • Make sure the 941s are accurate based upon payroll and ensure they are filed. If filed and a balance is due, you would receive a notice within 15-60 days.
  • Make sure you are receiving all IRS and tax notices.

If you or your business have been the victim of theft or fraud through a similar 941 scheme, please feel free to contact The McGuire Law Firm to discuss your options with the IRS.

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Residency and Estate Taxes

What is the effect of an individual’s residency and the application of estate taxes?  This may be an issue that does not apply to you or your clients because you or your client is a citizen of the United States and thus the law is relatively clear that tax on the individual’s estate is subject to world-wide reach.  Once it is clear that your or your client is not a United Stated citizen a determination must be made upon residency, which will impact the reach of the Internal Revenue Code in regards to estate tax.

If based upon the facts and circumstances an individual is a resident of the United States for transfer tax purposes then the Internal Revenue Code will reach the world-wide assets of such individual’s assets regarding the transfer of such property regardless of where the property, properties or assets are located.  Furthermore, the individual will want to consider the application of the transfer tax laws of the state they are a resident in, or own property.

If the facts and circumstances show that the individual is a non-citizen and non-resident of the United States for estate tax purposes, the Internal Revenue Code would hold that transfer taxes should only apply to the individuals assets and property located within the United States, which may be referred to as United States situs property.

With the above being said, how does one determine residency for transfer tax purposes?  Believe it or not, Congress has not provided a specific definition for resident or non-resident.  The regulations provide somewhat of a definition using domicile as a concept.  The regulations state that a resident decedent is a decedent who at the time of his death was domiciled in the United States, and a non-resident decedent is a decedent who at the time of his death was domiciled outside of the United States.  See Regulations section 20.0-1(b)(1) and (b)(2).

Thus, we have narrowed (somewhat) our issue to defining what is domicile?  Generally, a person will acquire domicile in a place they are living (even for a brief period of time) given there is no present intention of leaving or removing themselves from the present location.  Thus, you could say domicile (at least for adults) could be established by physical presence in a place or location that is connected with the individual’s intent to remain in that location.  Generally, a child will take the domicile of their parent(s).  An individual will initially be considered domiciled where they are born and this domicile will continue until it is show to change.  Thus domicile may boil down to presence and intent.  Presence may be easier to prove and demonstrate than intent, as intent is inherently more subjective or likely to be so.

The above article was drafted by John McGuire.  John is a tax attorney and business attorney at The McGuire Law Firm focusing his practice on matters before the IRS, individual & business income tax matters and business transactions from formation and contracts to negotiations and the sale of business assets or interests.

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