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The Future of Tax & Legal – Embracing Change with Confidence

Businessperson Calculating Invoice

Tax and legal professionals today face increasing complexity, risk, and ambiguity as technology, regulatory and business transformation converge. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the change and the infinite number of strategic options. But embracing this change is manageable with the right tools and the right partner.

Deloitte is helping clients navigate this increasingly complex, digital world by leveraging the combined strength of our technology capabilities from our Consulting and Tax & Legal practices, and by placing a continued emphasis on technology investment and skills development to prepare talent to meet the evolving needs of the business.

Harnessing Technology to Adapt to Change

Businesses in all sectors and regions are experiencing the opportunities and challenges that come with the immense changes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Even the most traditional business areas, such as tax and legal, are not immune. Technologies are disrupting business as we know it and in response, global tax and legal systems must transform and adapt to keep pace with these new business concepts and models. And organizations need to invest in their tax and legal departments to ensure they can operate confidently and effectively while minimizing risk.

Tax departments are tasked with executing flawlessly at a fundamental level: Ensure compliance, know the regulations and their implications, be precise, account for all the data, stay ahead of risk, and predict outcomes. And they are asked to do it all in an environment of exponential increases in data, added responsibility within the business, and new mandates from regulators.

As a result, tax professionals are moving to automate and apply analytics to help account for more data and to achieve greater precision. Technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI) give tax professionals the ability to work with all the information available in massive data sets.

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To not only see what has happened, but to more confidently predict what will happen. To be insightful and focus on implications and outcomes rather than being consumed by ensuring the accuracy of the numbers and on-time filing. And to do all this while meeting the increased transparency demands of regulators – who themselves are likely to use robotics and AI to collect and analyze companies’ tax data.

Likewise, technology has become a critical tool to help legal departments support rapidly evolving demands from the business and manage regulatory change.

Using Deloitte Tax and Legal professionals as an example, when the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) came into force in 2018 along with the UK Data Protection Act, Deloitte UK’s Tax group engaged Deloitte Legal to assess the scope, and remediate where necessary, approximately 45,000 engagement contracts.

In the past this would have required a very lengthy manual assessment which would have been inefficient and prone to error as contract negotiations are typically buried in emails and hard to track. Instead Deloitte exercised a combined approach using dTrax, a proprietary artificial intelligence-enabled contract lifecycle management technology, with the support of skilled Deloitte Legal resources to simplify, automate, and streamline the contracting process.

The tool allowed Deloitte Tax client relationship owners to provide details about their engagements, which were then assessed by dTrax to determine whether the corresponding engagement contract required remediation. Where remediation was required, dTrax automatically generated a letter varying the Data Protection clause, which was sent directly to the client.

If negotiation of the Data Protection clause wording was required, Deloitte Legal resources were able to negotiate by reference to playbooks built into dTrax. This approach drove consistency while keeping contract negotiations managed and recorded within a single platform.

By combining technology with skilled resources, Deloitte UK’s Tax team was able to alter the business model, allowing for up to a 50 percent reduction in the number of required legal resources, a 40 percent reduction in the delivery turnaround time per variation letter, and an up to 60 percent reduction in the overall costs. Ultimately, the team gained greater visibility and insights into their contract terms and conditions, which increased their overall compliance and reduced risk.

Fueling Talent with Technology

While digital transformation is a tech-enabled shift, it requires a collaborative effort to change mindsets and embrace and advance transformation. A successful digital transformation demands a cultural change with a focus on continuous learning and embedding technology into the way we work.

Tax professionals have traditionally been tied up with compliance and the technical side of tax. Yet in this digital age, a robot can now do the data checking and digital tools can classify line items. So, today’s, and tomorrow’s, tax professional needs to understand the processes behind tax, be able to code, interpret data and make decisions. They have the opportunity to provide far more valuable and strategic input to their organizations, but they must be more adaptable to work with technology to enhance and reinforce their advice.

From the legal perspective, lawyers will need to have a broader range of skills to be ready for the legal landscape of tomorrow. Tomorrow’s digital lawyers will need to think and operate in a different way and they will need significant management, business strategy, technology and consulting capabilities to be able to deliver real value to clients. Adoption of the right tools, such as AI and data analytics, will enable legal teams to maximize efficiencies across multiple functions, standardize and adopt best practices, and help gather insights to support better decision making for the business.

Inspiring Confidence Today and Into Tomorrow with Technology

Deloitte has invested heavily in technology and we are accelerating our efforts in order to help both our own professionals and clients stay ahead. With more than 200 technology solutions in place, including robotics, AI, and machine learning capabilities, Deloitte Tax & Legal is helping clients manage compliance, bridge gaps between countries’ accounting principles, and manage research and development incentives claims. As we navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution, having a tech-savvy foundation in our people and our processes will help set ourselves and our clients up for success and ensure our ability to work confidently now and far into the future.

Based in London, Philip Mills is the Global Tax & Legal leader at Deloitte. Prior to this, he led the Global Business Tax practice for two years and the UK Business Tax practice for seven years, amongst other roles. Philip also leads the Global Tax & Legal Executive and is a member of the Global Executive Committee. He has a Physics Bachelor of Science degree from Liverpool University, is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and is a member of the Institute of Tax.

For nearly 20 years, Philip focused on M&A tax, particularly on Private Equity, Real Estate and Hedge Funds. He has worked on some of the more significant, large and complex European transactions in recent years as well as supporting the Fund advisers. Most recently, he took on advisory roles to some of Deloitte’s largest multinational corporate clients.

Source: The Future of Tax & Legal – Embracing Change with Confidence

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How IRS Taxes Fire Victims

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Do wildfire victims worry about their taxes? You bet. How fire victims are taxed depends on what they collect, what they claim on their taxes, if they are rebuilding their property, their insurance and more. Another big variable is whether they sue PG&E. It can build out a complex tax picture, especially now that there is a new tax on litigation settlements, as many legal fees can no longer be deducted.

The IRS (and California’s notoriously tough Franchise Tax Board) require annual tax filings, so several years may be peppered with fire items. Say you lose a $1M home, but collect $1M from your insurance company or PG&E. There’s no tax, right? Not so fast. You need to know about the tax basis of the property, usually purchase price, plus improvements. Your property might be worth $1M when it was destroyed, but if the original purchase price plus improvements was only $100K, there is a $900K gain.

Does that mean a fire victim must pay tax on $900K? Not necessarily. If you qualify and replace your home, you can apply your old $100K tax basis to a replacement. That means you should not need to pay tax on that $900K gain until you eventually sell the replacement home. The replacement must generally be purchased within two years after the close of the first year in which any part of the casualty gain is realized. For Federal Declared Disasters, you get four years. However, if your insurance company has paid you enough to create even $1 of gain on your destroyed property, the clock for acquiring replacement property may already have started.

Another big issue is claiming a casualty loss. Up until 2018, many taxpayers could claim casualty losses on their tax returns. For 2018 through 2025, casualty losses are allowed only if your loss was the result of a Federal Declared Disaster. Most major California wildfires are a Federal Declared Disaster, but determining whether claiming a loss is a good move can be complex.

How to handle expenses for temporary housing and similar expenses can also be tricky. If your primary residence is damaged or destroyed, insurance proceeds intended to compensate you for living expenses like housing and food may be partially tax-free. However, if the insurance proceeds pay you for living expenses you would have normally incurred if your home had not been damaged, say your mortgage payment or your typical food expenses, that portion may be taxable income to you. If the insurance proceeds exceed the actual amount you spend on temporary housing, food, and other living expenses, that surplus can be taxable.

For victims who eventually get a legal settlement, how will it be taxed? Health problems from smoke inhalation or from the exacerbation of pre-existing medical problems can be enough for tax-free damages. Section 104 of the tax code excludes damages for personal physical injuries or physical sickness. But the damages must be physical, not merely emotional, and that can be a chicken or egg issue.

Most money in fire cases is fully taxable, and if you do not reinvest in time, you may have a big capital gain. However, up to $500K from a primary residence may be tax free for a married couple filing jointly. It isn’t only the IRS that collects tax. States do too, notably California, where all income is taxed at up to 13.3%, even capital gain.

Many fire victim plaintiffs use contingent fee lawyers. Up until 2018, it was clear that legal fees were virtually always tax deductible. Now, however, many legal fees are no longer deductible. Thus, some plaintiffs may have to pay taxes on their gross recoveries, even though 40% or more is paid to their lawyer, who also must pay tax on the same fees. The tax treatment of the legal fees has become a major tax problem associated with many types of litigation. Fortunately, if the money can be treated as capital gain, the legal fees can often be treated as additional basis or as a selling expense. In effect, it can mean paying tax only on the net recovery.

Understandably, most fire victims hope not to face any tax hit at all. That is possible in some cases, but it can involve scrupulous attention to timing and details. When it comes to taxes or fire, be careful out there.

This is not legal advice. For tax alerts or tax advice, email me at Wood@WoodLLP.com.

Check out my website.

I handle tax matters across the U.S. and abroad (www.WoodLLP.com), addressing tax problems, tax disputes, writing tax opinions, tax advice on legal settlements

 

Source: How IRS Taxes Fire Victims

IRS Will Offer Free Help For Those Struggling With Withholding Taxes

Businessman opening envelope with paycheck

If the changes to tax rates and withholding over the past year have you scratching your head, help is on the way. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is offering a free online information session on how to do a Paycheck Checkup.

Here’s why many taxpayers are confused. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) introduced many changes beginning in 2018, including caps on state and local tax deductions, a zeroed-out personal exemption amount, and the elimination of reimbursed job expenses. Additionally, new withholding tables were not available to employers until mid-January 2018, and some employees didn’t see a switch in withholding until mid-February 2018.

(You can find out more about updating your form W-4 here.)

The combination of new rules, new withholding tables, and even new tax forms meant that many taxpayers didn’t withhold properly. In January of 2019, the IRS advised that they will waive underpayment penalties so long as withholding and estimated tax payments total at least 85% of the tax shown on the return for the 2018 taxable year. Just a few days ago, the IRS expanded the relief to those whose withholding and estimated tax payments total at least 80% of the tax shown on the return for the 2018 tax year.

To avoid the same kinds of problems next year, the IRS is encouraging taxpayers to plan ahead. By plugging your current tax data into the withholding calculator on the IRS website, you can do a paycheck checkup and avoid any nasty surprises at year end. You should consider a checkup even if you did one in 2018: another review can help make sure you’re withholding the right amount for 2019.

The IRS webinar will walk you through how to use the online IRS Withholding Calculator (you can find out more about the withholding calculator here). Folks who might need a checkup include those taxpayers who had a large tax refund or tax bill for 2018 when they filed their tax return this year, or had a major life change (like a wedding, birth of a child or bought a house) in 2019. Other taxpayers who might need a checkup include two-income families or those taxpayers who have two or more jobs at the same time, or those who claimed refundable tax credits like the Child Tax Credit or Earned Income Tax Credit.

The seminar, scheduled for Thursday, March 28, 2019, will be offered twice: once in English (at 2 p.m. Eastern) and once in Spanish (at 11 a.m. Eastern). There will also be a special Q&A session. To register for the English version, click here. Para inscribirse en la versión en español, haga clic aquí. Closed captioning will also be available.

Want more taxgirl goodness? Pick your poison: follow me on twitter, hang out on Facebook and Google, play on Pinterest or check out my YouTube channel. 

Years ago, I found myself sitting in law school in Moot Court wearing an oversized itchy blue suit. It was a horrible experience. In a desperate attempt to avoid anythin…

Source: IRS Will Offer Free Help For Those Struggling With Withholding Taxes

IRS Announces Tax Season Start Date Despite Government Shutdown

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that tax season will open on Monday, January 28, 2019. The IRS will begin accepting paper and electronic tax returns that day. The IRS made the start date announcement despite the ongoing government shutdown. “We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown. I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig………

Source: IRS Announces Tax Season Start Date Despite Government Shutdown

Do You Know Who Is Preparing Your Tax Return – Megan Gorman

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There is a secret in the tax business, known within the industry but rarely discussed publicly. In fact, it’s pretty hard to get anyone in tax to talk about it. Not overseas as in a tax firm’s office based in another country. Rather, overseas as in your tax firm has contracted your tax return out to a third-party firm in another country. It sounds crazy and far-fetched but outsourcing to India, the Philippines, Bangladesh and other countries is increasingly common……

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/megangorman/2018/10/20/did-your-tax-return-earn-more-frequent-flier-miles-than-you-did-last-year/#600dd81bfb48

 

 

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