Final Regulations Address Deductibility of Fines and Penalties
The IRS has released final regulations that address the changes made to Code Sec. 162(f) by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) ( P.L. 115-97), concerning the deduction of certain fines, penalties, and other amounts. The final regulations also provide guidance relating to the information reporting requirements for fines and penalties under Code Sec. 6050X.
The final regulations adopt proposed regulations released last May ( NPRM REG-104591-18), with modifications.
Under changes made to Code Sec. 162(f) by the TCJA, businesses may not deduct fines and penalties paid or incurred after December 21, 2017, due to the violation of a law (or the investigation of a violation) if a government (or similar entity) is a complainant or investigator. Exceptions to this rule are available if the payment was for restitution, remediation, taxes due, or paid or incurred to come into compliance with a law. For the exceptions to apply, the taxpayer must identify the payment as restitution, remediation, or compliance in a court order or settlement agreement. In addition, Code Sec. 6050X now requires the officer or employee that has control over the suit or agreement to file a return with the IRS
The final regulations establish that a taxpayer generally may not take a deduction for any amount that was paid or incurred:
- by suit, agreement, or otherwise;
- to, or at the direction of, a government or governmental entity; and
- in relation to the violation, or investigation or inquiry by the government or governmental entity into the potential violation, of any civil or criminal law.
This rule applies regardless of whether the taxpayer admits guilt or liability, or pays the amount imposed for any other reason. This includes instances where the taxpayer pays to avoid the expense or uncertain outcome of an investigation or litigation.
The final regulations also clarify that a suit or agreement is treated as binding under applicable law even if all appeals have not been exhausted.
Under the final regulations, governmental entities include nongovernmental entities that exercise self-regulatory powers, including imposing sanctions.
The regulations also clarify that, for purposes of the information reporting requirements in Code Sec. 6050X, a nongovernmental entity treated as a governmental entity does not include a nongovernmental entity of a territory of the United States, including American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, a foreign country, or a Native American tribe.
Violations of Law
Under the final regulations, violations of the law do not include any order or agreement in a suit in which a government or governmental entity enforces rights as a private party.
The final regulations also make clear that amounts paid or incurred for required routine investigations or inquiries continue to be deductible. In general, amounts paid or incurred for routine investigations or inquiries, such as audits or inspections, required to ensure compliance with rules and regulations applicable to the business or industry, which are not related to any evidence of wrongdoing or suspected wrongdoing, are not amounts paid or incurred relating to the potential violation of any law.
Under the final regulations, a taxpayer can establish that a payment was made for restitution or remediation by providing documentary evidence of the following:
- the taxpayer was legally obligated to pay the amount that the order or agreement identified as restitution, remediation, or to come into compliance with a law;
- the amount paid or incurred for the nature and purpose identified; and
- the date on which the amount was paid or incurred.
The final regulations expand the list of documentary evidence that may be used to meet the establishment requirement. According to the regulations, taxpayers may be able to use documentary evidence in a foreign language to satisfy the establishment requirement if the taxpayer provides a complete and accurate certified English translation of the documentary evidence.
Reporting of the amount by a government or governmental entity under Code Sec. 6050X alone does not satisfy the establishment requirement.
Disgorgement, Forfeiture of Profits
Under the final regulations, a taxpayer’s claim for a deduction for amounts paid or incurred through disgorgement or forfeiture of profits will be permitted if:
- the amount is otherwise deductible;
- the order or agreement identifies the payment, not in excess of net profits, as restitution, remediation, or an amount paid to come into compliance with a law;
- the taxpayer establishes that the amount was paid as restitution, remediation, or an amount paid to come into compliance with a law; and
- the origin of the taxpayer’s liability is restitution, remediation, or an amount paid to come into compliance with a law.
However, amounts paid or incurred through disgorgement will be disallowed if the amounts are disbursed to the general account of the government or governmental entity for general enforcement efforts or other discretionary purposes.
Final Reg. §1.162-21(e)(4)(i) clarifies that restitution and remediation do not include amounts paid to a general account or for discretionary purposes. In addition, the final regulations provide that if amounts paid by the taxpayer pursuant to an order or an agreement is returned, the taxpayer must include the amount in its income under the tax benefit rule.
Reg. §1.162-21(e)(4)(i)(A) also provides special restitution and remediation rules to address amounts paid or incurred for irreparable harm to the environment, natural resources, or wildlife.
Coming into Compliance
The final regulations list certain payments that will not be treated as “paid or incurred to come into compliance with a law.” In addition, the taxpayer must perform any required services or take any required action in order to come into compliance with the law.
The final regulations also modify an example to clarify that when a taxpayer upgrades equipment or property to a higher standard than what is required to come into compliance with the law, the taxpayer will be able to deduct the difference between what the taxpayer paid and the amount required to come into compliance.
Under Code Sec. 162(f)(2)(A), an order or agreement must identify the amount paid or incurred as restitution, remediation, or to come into compliance with a law. The final regulations modify the proposed rule for payment amounts not identified. Under this rule, the identification requirement may be met even if the order or agreement does not allocate the total lump-sum payment amount among restitution, remediation, or to come into compliance with the law. The rule also applies when the order or agreement fails to allocate the total payment among multiple taxpayers. In addition, the final regulations clarify that the identification requirement may be met even in cases where the order or agreement does not provide an estimated payment amount.
Consistent with Code Sec. 162(f)(2)(A)(ii), the final regulations provide that the order or agreement, not the taxpayer, must meet the identification requirement with language specifically stating or describing that the amount will be paid or incurred as restitution, remediation, or to come into compliance with a law.
The final regulations eliminated the rebuttable presumption for the identification requirement. Instead, the identification requirement is met when the order or agreement specifically states that the payment constitutes restitution, remediation, or an amount paid to come into compliance with a law, or when it uses a different form of the required words. For orders or agreements in a foreign language, in order to meet the identification requirement the taxpayer must provide a complete and accurate certified English translation that describes the nature and purpose of the payment using the foreign language equivalent of restitution, remediation, or coming into compliance with the law.
According to the final regulations, an order or agreement will also meet the identification requirement if it describes the damage done, harm suffered, or manner of noncompliance with a law, and describes the action required of the taxpayer to (1) restore the party, property, or environment harmed or (2) perform services, take action, or provide property to come into compliance with that law.
Taxes and Interest
Under Code Sec. 162(f)(4), taxpayers may still deduct any taxes due, including any related interest on the taxes. However, the final regulations clarify that if penalties are imposed with respect to otherwise deductible taxes, a taxpayer may not deduct the penalties or the interest paid with respect to such penalties.
The final regulations address situations where there are multiple payors and the aggregate amount they are required to pay, or the costs to provide the property or the service, meets or exceeds the threshold amount. In those instances, the appropriate official should file an information return and furnish a written statement for the separate amount that each individually liable payor is required to pay, even if a payor’s payment liability is less than the threshold amount.
According to the TCJA, the amendments to Code Sec. 162(f) apply to agreements entered into on or after December 22, 2017. However, the proposed regulations clarified that if the parties to an agreement that was binding prior to December 22, 2017, make a material change to that agreement on or after the date that the proposed regulations become final, the regulations will apply to the agreement. The final regulations have eliminated that requirement.
The final regulations provide that if the aggregate amount a payor is required to pay equals or exceeds the threshold amount of $50,000 under Reg. §1.6050X-1(f)(6), the appropriate official of a government or governmental entity must file an information return with the IRS with respect to the amounts or incurred paid and any additional information required. That information includes:
- the amounts paid or incurred pursuant to the order or agreement;
- the payor’s taxpayer identification number (TIN); and
- other information required by the information return and the related instructions.
The official must provide this information by filing Form 1098-F, Fines, Penalties, and Other Amounts, with Form 1096, Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns, on or before the annual due date. However, the regulations do not require an appropriate official to file information returns for each tax year in which a payor makes a payment pursuant to a single order or agreement. Instead, the appropriate official should only one information return for the aggregate amount identified in the order or agreement.
In instances where the final amount is unknown but is expected to meet or exceed the $50,000 threshold amount, the appropriate official should report the threshold amount on Form 1098-F.
The appropriate official must also furnish a written statement with the same information to the payor. They can satisfy this requirement by providing a copy of Form 1098-F. This statement must be provided by January 31 of such year.
The final regulations apply to tax years beginning on or after the
date of publication in the Federal Register. The final regulations under
Reg. §1.6050X-1 apply only to orders and agreements, pursuant to suits
and agreements, that become binding under applicable law on or after
January 1, 2022.