The Internal Revenue Service released another batch of new tax forms yesterday to implement the tax-revision law, including a complicated form designed to keep parents from reducing taxes by shifting money to their children.
Limiting such shifting of income has been a longtime goal of tax-change proponents. The new form, which the IRS estimates will be filed on behalf of between 600,000 and 800,000 children next year, may add complexity to the financial affairs of those affected.
"It is going to be a massive headache. I have not see the form yet, but I know that there are a lot of people who are going to fail to comply quite by accident," said Andrew S. Lang, an acountant with Raymond E. Lang and Associates of Bethesda.
Essentially, the law requires that children 13 years old and younger who earn nonsalary income -- such as interest on savings accounts -- pay taxes on some of it at their parents' tax rate rather than their own. The idea is to keep parents from transferring large sums of money to their children in order to save taxes, since the interest earned is taxed at the child's low bracket.
The first $500 in nonwage income is exempt from the "kiddie tax" and the second $500 is taxed at the child's rate. For income exceeding $1,000 each year, children must go through a series of alternative calculations on the new form, No. 8615, to see whether their rates are lower than their parents' rate.
In most cases, it is, and the income will have to be taxed at the parents' rate. To calculate that rate, the form requires that parents add to their own taxable income all the interest all their children earned, then calculate what their bracket would have been. The children then file the regular tax return form 1040 or 1040A.
Things get even more complicated if children also have income from jobs. The job income is taxed separately at the child's rate, but can have the effect of subjecting more nonsalary income to tax. Reason: The $500 exemption must be applied to the salary income first. Only the remainder, if there is any, can be applied against the interest or dividend income.
IRS officials pointed out that a child would have to have substantial assets to earn enough interest or dividends to be covered by this provision of the law. At an interest rate of 5 percent, for instance, it would take a savings account balance of $20,000 to earn $1,000 of interest in a year. If the interest rate were 7 percent, it would take a $14,300 savings account.
Most of the families affected would be likely to have high incomes and thus probably could afford an acountant to figure out the provision, suggested Arthur Altman, chairman of the IRS' tax-forms cooordinating committee.
Financial planners said they are advising clients who want to build up assets for their children to give them high-growth, low-dividend stocks or works of art, which appreciate in value but generate less income than savings accounts or other financial instruments.
"There are ways to go ahead and use low-yielding assets or to go ahead and go for higher yield and keep the amount to $1,000 a year," said Margaret Welch, vice president of the financial-planning firm Alexandra Armstrong Advisers. "It certainly makes sense to take advantage of at least that."
Like the earlier forms issued by the IRS, these are subject to change and public comment is welcome. Among the other forms released yesterday:Schedule C, used by sole proprietors of businesses, and Schedule F, for farmers. Both forms ask whether the taxpayer "materially" participates in the business, in order to incorporate new limits on the law on paper losses from business activities if he or she does.
Schedule C also includes the law's limitation on deductions for business meals and entertainment to 80 percent. Form 3903, for moving expenses. The law made moving expenses an itemized deduction, where formerly they could also be deducted by taxpayers who took the standard deduction.
It also limits the deductibility of meals to 80 percent, although taxpayers whose employers are reimbursing the cost of those meals would not be affected. Tax rates and tables, which were set by Congress in the law. The top tax rate for individuals in 1987 is 38.5 percent; the top statutory rate in 1988 is 28 percent. Forms for a tax credit available to low-income elderly taxpayers, which was largely unchanged, and for calculating Social Securuty taxes for the self-employed, also little changed.