President Obama on July 31 signed into law the “highway bill”—H.R. 3236, the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015—that extends the highway trust fund authorization through October 29, 2015, and provides $7 billion in additional funding. The new revenue is provided by a number of compliance-related tax provisions, including a provision changing tax filing deadlines.
The law also includes other tax provisions including provisions relating to: (1) the excise tax on certain liquefied gases; and (2) veterans’ health.
The law generally makes the schedule for filing tax returns:
This schedule generally applies to returns for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015 (it will apply to 2016 returns).
However, a special rule applies to C corporations with a fiscal year ending June 30. For these taxpayers, the new law will not apply until returns for tax years beginning after 2025. Thus, the due date of their returns will continue to be two and a half months after the close of the year (September 15) until their 2026 tax years.
In addition, the law modifies the automatic extension of filing deadlines for C corporations for returns for tax years beginning after 2015 and before 2026 to provide:
Beginning with 2026 returns, the automatic extension period for all C corporations will be six months.
Although there is no official legislative history for the new law, the change in filing dates appears designed, at least in part, to provide for the distribution of Schedule K-1s before the individual, trust, and C corporation filing deadlines—thereby improving the accuracy of information included in those individual, trust, and corporate returns. However, that goal may have limited effect for calendar year partnerships and calendar year C corporations that request extensions to file their respective returns as the extended due date for both will continue to be September 15 until 2026.
Moving the due date of partnership returns forward will compress the period for filing these returns and the attachments required with the returns (e.g., international information returns, reportable transaction disclosures, and certain elections made on the timely filed return). Nonetheless, preparers and taxpayers will have some time to adjust to the new deadlines given that the changes in due dates do not apply to 2015 returns. Still, keep in mind that the new filing due dates could apply in early 2016 in some cases—for example, if a calendar year partnership has a technical termination in February 2016 requiring a short-year return.
In addition, note that although the new law did not specifically address the due date for Form 8804, Annual Return for Partnership Withholding Tax (Section 1446), and Form 8805, Foreign Partner’s Information Statement of Section 1446 Withholding Tax, it appears the due dates for these items may be accelerated by one month because their filing due dates are tied to the due date for filing the partnership’s Form 1065.
The special rules for June 30 fiscal year-end C corporations contribute to causing the changes in tax filing deadlines so as to raise revenue within the 10-year scoring window that ends September 30, 2025. The change in filing dates provision was scored as raising approximately $314 million over that window.
Finally, there is something new for FBAR filers. Starting with reports for calendar year 2016, FBAR filers will have an opportunity to request an extension of time to file. Presumably the IRS will create an extension request form for FBARs similar to those used for tax returns.
The new law also includes two reporting provisions:
The new law generally provides that an overstatement of basis is an omission of gross income for purposes of determining whether a substantial income omission was made on the return. Thus, an overstatement of basis that contributes to a substantial understatement of income could trigger the extended six-year statute of limitation. This provision applies to returns filed after July 31, 2015, as well as to returns filed on or before such date if the assessment period for such return had not expired as of such date.
This provision was estimated as raising approximately $1.209 billion over the 10-year scoring window.
The law extends the ability of employers to transfer excess defined benefit plan assets to retiree medical accounts and retiree group-term life insurance through 2025. Originally enacted in 2012, the underlying provision currently expires on December 31, 2021.
This provision was estimated as raising approximately $172 million over the 10-year scoring window.
The law decreases the excise tax on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to 14.1 cents per gallon (down from 24.3) and 13.2 cents per gallon (down from 18.3), respectively, for sales or uses of fuel after December 31, 2015.
This provision was estimated as losing approximately $90 million over the 10-year scoring window.
The law also includes two revenue provisions in its veterans’ health title. These provisions were estimated as losing approximately $1.2 billion in the aggregate over the 10-year revenue window. Very generally, the provisions:
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