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Don’t Become a ‘Material Advisor’
JULY 1, 2011
BY LANCE WALLACH
Accountants, insurance professionals and others need to be careful that they don’t become what the IRS calls material advisors.
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If they sell or give advice, or sign tax returns for abusive, listed or similar plans; they risk a minimum $100,000 fine. They will then probably be sued by their client, when the IRS finishes with their client

In 2010, the IRS raided the offices of Benistar in Simsbury, Conn., and seized the retirement benefit plan administration firm’s files and records. In McGehee Family Clinic, the Tax Court ruled that a clinic and shareholder’s investment in an employee benefit plan marketed under the name “Benistar” was a listed transaction because it was substantially similar to the transaction described in Notice 95-34 (1995-1 C.B. 309). This is at least the second case in which the court has ruled against the Benistar welfare benefit plan, by denominating it a listed transaction.

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The McGehee Family Clinic enrolled in the Benistar Plan in May 2001 and claimed deductions for contributions to it in 2002 and 2005. The returns did not include a Form 8886, Reportable Transaction Disclosure Statement, or similar disclosure. The IRS disallowed the latter deduction and adjusted the 2004 return of shareholder Robert Prosser and his wife to include the $50,000 payment to the plan.

The IRS assessed tax deficiencies and the enhanced 30 percent penalty under Section 6662A, totaling almost $21,000, against the clinic and $21,000 against the Prossers. The court ruled that the Prossers failed to prove a reasonable cause or good faith exception.

In rendering its decision, the court cited Curcio v. Commissioner, in which the court also ruled in favor of the IRS. As noted in Curcio, the insurance policies, which were overwhelmingly variable or universal life policies, required large contributions relative to the cost of the amount of term insurance that would be required to provide the death benefits under the arrangement. The
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