An individual shareholder of an S corporation restaurant operator was not allowed to claim FICA tip credits under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 45B that the S corporation did not claim. The shareholder could not unilaterally and retroactively nullify the S corporation’s election to deduct FICA tip taxes.
The restaurants owned by the S corporation had hired “tipped employees” whose earnings came partly from customer tips. The S corporation was required to pay taxes on these tips as part of its FICA tax payments. For the two tax years at issue, the S corporation did not claim any FICA tip credits. Instead, the S corporation deducted its payments of the FICA tip taxes on its Forms 1120S and did not later amend those returns.
On his amended Forms 1040 for those tax years, the shareholder claimed he was entitled to flow-through FICA tip credits with respect to his interest in the S corporation.
FICA Tip Credit
IRC Section 45B allows an employer working in the food and beverage industry to claim business tax credits for the portion of the FICA taxes—i.e., social security and Medicare taxes—that it paid on employee tips in excess of the minimum wage. The employer must have employees who receive tips from customers for providing food or beverages for consumption and must be deemed to have paid FICA taxes on the tips in excess of the minimum wage. The employer must not have already claimed a deduction for the FICA tax payment. An employer claims its FICA tip credits on Form 8846.
Here, when the S corporation chose to deduct its FICA tax payments, it had made an election not to claim any FICA tip credits. The S corporation never claimed or intended to claim FICA tip credits. Based on this reporting position, the shareholder was not entitled to any flow-through FICA tip credits for either tax year.
S Corporation Elections
Under IRC Section 1363(c) and its regulations, elections that affect the computation of items derived from an S corporation generally must be made by the S corporation, not separately by its shareholders. There are two exceptions: the shareholder claims any elections (1) for the deduction and recapture of certain mining exploration expenditures, and (2) for foreign tax credits.
In this case, the shareholder argued, in effect, that the S corporation’s election to deduct FICA tax payments could be changed unilaterally by his request, made in his capacity as a shareholder, that the S corporation amend its returns to claim the FICA tip credit. The shareholder’s position was rejected based on the plain text of IRC Section 1363(c) and of IRC Section 45B(d), which states that the credit does not apply to a taxpayer if the taxpayer elects to have the credit provision not apply.
Further, the Tax Court stated that it refused to create a new precedent that would give each individual shareholder the power to change an S corporation’s tax election unilaterally. Such a change, stated the Court, would not only affect the tax liabilities of the requesting shareholder, but could also affect the tax liabilities of the shareholders who have not consented to the change.
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