Common Plan Mistakes – Hardship Distributions in a 401(k) Plan
The Problem

A 401(k) plan permits participants to receive hardship distributions. The distributions, however, do not satisfy the plan provisions relating to hardship distributions.

Example: George is the 100% owner of the George Company. The company sponsors a 401(k) plan which provides that a participant may take a distribution on account of hardship. The plan document requires that a participant may only receive a hardship distribution for the following reasons:

(1) to purchase a principal residence;
(2) to prevent eviction from, or foreclosure on, the principal residence;
(3) to pay certain medical expenses incurred by the participant, participant’s spouse, or dependents; and
(4) to pay certain educational expenses incurred by the participant, participant’s spouse, or dependents.

In addition, the plan document requires that the participant use all other sources of financing including proceeds from insurance, liquidation of other assets, and loans from other commercial sources before applying for a hardship distribution. Jim, a plan participant, asked for and received a hardship distribution of $20,000 from the plan. He did not provide a reason for the distribution and did not establish that he had used other sources of financing before applying for the hardship distribution.

Finding the Mistake

In order to find the mistake, review:

(a) the plan document to determine when distributions may occur;
(b) each plan distribution and its related documentation showing the reason for the distribution (e.g., distribution form signed by the participant indicating the reason for the distribution); and
(c) whether distributions designated as “hardship distributions” were made in accordance with the terms of the plan.

In the example above, Jim did not complete any distribution forms. The only documentation in the file was a note requesting a hardship distribution for $20,000. It was found that Jim used the money to buy a car. There was no evidence that he investigated other sources of financing.

This was an isolated instance. For each of the other hardship distribution requests, the participant was required to complete a distribution form. The distribution form required the participant to specify the purpose for the distribution (e.g., medical expense, education expense, purchase of residence) and to certify that other sources of financing (including insurance proceeds, disposition of other assets, or other loans) were not available to the participant. The distribution form was then submitted to the employer’s accountant, who evaluated the form before approving the hardship distribution to the participant. When Jim applied for a distribution, however, he went directly to George, who authorized payment without requiring Jim to complete the distribution form. Also, George was not familiar with the terms of the plan. As a result, he approved a distribution that did not comply with those terms.

Fixing the Mistake

The company should take reasonable steps to ensure that Jim returns the erroneously distributed amounts to the plan. Jim should also be advised that to the extent any amounts are not returned, they are not eligible for tax favored treatment (i.e., the amounts are not eligible for rollover to an IRA or other retirement plan). In addition, the plan’s administrative procedures should be revised to ensure that the error does not occur again. (See “Avoiding the Mistake” below.)

Correction Program(s) Available

The plan may use the correction programs described in Revenue Procedure 2006-27 to correct the mistake. If the plan is not the subject of an IRS examination, then the plan will generally be able to correct the mistake using either the Self-Correction Program (SCP) or the Voluntary Correction Program (VCP). If the plan is under IRS examination, then mistakes are generally corrected pursuant to a closing agreement under the Audit Closing Agreement Program (Audit CAP). However, if the mistake is an isolated instance (as is the case in this example), the mistake may still be eligible for correction under SCP.

Avoiding the Mistake

George should be familiar with the terms of the plan. A formal approval process had been installed to ensure that hardship distributions comply with the terms of the plan, including documenting the reason for the hardship and certification of the unavailability of other sources of money. George should be aware of the purpose of such a process, and understand the risks of approving distributions without following it. George should not approve distributions based on verbal or informal written requests, but instead, should follow the formal approval process before authorizing a hardship distribution. For more details on how to find, fix, and avoid this mistake, you may also refer to the online 401(k) Fix-It Guide.

We offer solutions to tax problems. Contact our firm today and speak directly with Mike Habib at 1-877-78-TAXES, 1-877-788-2937, or online at

Tax Lien – How to handle an IRS federal tax Lien

A tax lien is a civil action filed in court of the county where a person resides or a business operates by a government agency particularly the Internal Revenue Service. IRS is seeking a legal claim – attachment against that person’s or business’ property or money owing to taxes. In normal situation, once the claim is proved, the court will then make an order of attachment or lien against the said property or money and published on public records. But in the case of the IRS, because of its federal power and the quasi-judicial status, it need not go to court for this process and issues directly a tax lien on the tax payer’s property. This means that it announces to the world that you owe the IRS taxes for which the property is being secured. The property that maybe subject of the tax lien can either be real which is most preferred, or personal. Once there is a tax lien on record, it becomes difficult or impossible for a taxpayer to dispose of the same and it will likewise affect the taxpayer’s credit standing. For example, the taxpayer cannot sell a parcel of land or a car subject of the tax lien nor can the taxpayer secure a financing to purchase a parcel of land or a car for that matter, unless of course, you satisfy the tax lien or until final payment is made on your liabilities or in short, the tax lien is released, discharged, withdrawn or removed.

Tax Liens are effective for a period of ten years and are generally self-releasing after that period unless refiled by the IRS in which case, it shall be effective for another 10 years. The government’s tax lien on a taxpayer’s property is priority over his other creditors and thus, the government is first on the list of creditors to be satisfied in the case of attachment and liquidation.

IRS Examples of Tax Nonfiler Investigations – Fiscal Year 2010

Mike Habib, EA 1-877-788-2937

The following examples of Nonfiler investigations are excerpts from public record documents on file in the court records in the judicial district in which the cases were prosecuted.

How To Choose A Tax Relief Company

By Mike Habib, EA at 1-877-788-2937

Choosing a reliable and reputable tax relief company is a daunting task. The reality is that many tax problems are better handled and resolved with a tax professional who knows what he is doing. Many tax relief and tax resolution companies advertise that they can wipe out all your penalties, interest and settle your tax debt for few pennies!

IRS Problem Solver – Solutions to tax problems

Tax relief expert and IRS Problem Solver, Mike Habib, states that taxation doesn’t have to be taxing! Your right to deal with the IRS by yourself carries the right to hire and solicit assistance and representation on your behalf. This is what is usually and commonly done, especially because dealing with the IRS is frustrating and intimidating for the normal taxpayer which is the essence of retaining an experienced IRS Problem Solver. The IRS Problem Solver can either be an Enrolled Agent, CPA or Tax Attorney. These tax professionals are commonly known IRS Problem Solvers, Tax Resolution Specialists, or Tax Relief Specialist.

Before knowing what an IRS problem solver is, we must first know what an IRS Problem is. Yes, these are matters relating to problems on taxes or problems encountered with the IRS either because you have back taxes, discovered deficiency in tax payment or Tax Debt, conflicting records of income and expenses when compared to IRS records discovered from other sources such as employers payroll record or other financial institution.

Tax Relief

Are you having problems with settling all your tax debts? If so, you might want to avail of any of the tax relief programs provided for by the IRS. A tax relief is a negotiated solution to your tax problem and possible reduction of the entire tax amount, penalty and interest. It is a form of help from the Government so the taxpayers, be it individuals or companies or corporations, may still be able to pay the tax that is needed to sustain the Government’s needs without such taxpayer suffering penalties from non-payment of taxes. It is a form of compromise where you, as a taxpayer and with back taxes, will promise to pay a possible lesser amount to the IRS instead of the whole amount, and where the IRS will not penalize you or charge you with interests and accept your payment as sufficient.

So what are the different tax relief programs that the Government provides? There is property, personal, business, and housing tax relief. You could also avail of the disaster tax relief program if you have experienced a natural disaster or calamity in your area, or even a financial crisis. However, before you could qualify for this kind, your place or area must first be declared by the Government to be in such a state. There is also an available tax debt relief for taxpayers who are insolvent and cannot, in any way, produce the money to settle their tax obligations. There are other tax relief programs and the best way to know which among these programs you are qualified to apply for is to consult with a tax professional that has an in-depth knowledge on these matters. Such tax professionals will assist you and make your application for tax relief successful, than if you will do it by yourself, particularly because there are many requirements to submit and papers to be produced. However, you must remember that a granted tax relief will not eliminate your tax obligations; instead, it will just make it more affordable for you to pay what you can based on your ability to pay. This is a common misperception of people about tax relief.

Important tax developments in the first quarter of 2010

IRS Tax Relief

While the new law tax changes in the health reform legislation and the hiring legislation were the most significant developments in the first quarter of 2010, many other tax developments may affect you, your family, and your livelihood. These other key developments in the first quarter of 2010 are summarized below. Please call us for more information about any of these developments and what steps you should implement to take advantage of favorable developments and to minimize the impact of those that are unfavorable.