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Through A Microscope - Look Who's Watching Now! (Part 2 of 3)

Aug 18, 2007
This article examines the impact on taxpayers and appraisers as well as their advisors of the new Federal provisions of the Pension Protection Act. For appraisers performing valuations for federal tax purposes in accordance with the Pension Protection Act (PPA), signed into law in August 2006, stipulates new penalties and stiff sanctions if the appraisers or appraisals fail to meet the new qualifications.

New Appraiser Penalty

The new regulations have started to have a unsettling effect on the appraisers, primarily because it raises many questions, including what kind of tax (gift and estate tax, income tax, or both) is affected, and who may be hit by penalties.

Further, PPA added the new Section 6695A to the Internal Revenue Code. Section 6695A includes new penalties, which are pertinent to appraisers of property for income and transfer tax purposes.

New penalties are applicable to appraisals provided in connection with returns or claims for refunds filed after August 17, 2006. Penalties are applied when the appraised value of property deviates from the correct value by certain set percentages as follows:

"Substantial Misvaluation" (income tax environment): 150 percent or more off of actual value.
"Gross Misvaluation" (income or transfer tax environment): 200 percent or more off of actual value in an income tax case or 40 percent or less in a transfer tax case.

Appraiser penalty applies for appraisals prepared for returns or submissions filed after the date of enactment.

Amount of Penalty
Rather than the aiding and abetting penalty under section 6701 (generally limited to $1,000), appraisers are now subject to a penalty equal to over $1,000 or 10 percent of the underpayment attributable to the valuation misstatement, up to a maximum of 125 percent of the appraisal preparation fee (gross income) received by the appraiser.

Levying new penalties requires certain criteria to be fulfilled, including:

1. Appraiser must prepare an appraisal only in connection with a return or a claim for a refund.
2. Appraiser needs to know that the appraisal will be used for the above mentioned purpose.
3. Appraisal must result in a substantial valuation misstatement or gross valuation misstatement.

Misvaluation thresholds have been lowered, and also apply to estate and gift tax appraisals.

A substantial valuation misstatement arises if the value is 150 percent of the correct value. For example, if an income tax charitable deduction of $90,000 is claimed by a tax payee, based on an appraisal of a painting that the payee donates to a museum, and the correct value of the painting is later determined to be only $30,000, penalties would be enacted upon the appraiser section 6695A. In the case of estate or gift tax, a substantial misstatement occurs if the value exceeds the correct value by 65 percent or more. For example, if an appraiser applies a 45 percent discount for a going business with an underlying value of $100,000 for a value of $55,000. If the IRS and court determine that the discount should have only been 15 percent, the correct value would be $85,000. The appraised value is only 64.7 percent (i.e., less than 65 percent) of the "correct" value. As a result, a 20 percent substantial-understatement penalty would be levied on the appraiser's fee.

A gross valuation misstatement occurs if the value exceeds the correct value by 200 percent or more. In the case of gift or estate tax, a gross valuation misstatement occurs if the value used is 40 percent or more of the correct value.

As penalties under section 6695A are far more severe than prior to PPA, appraisers may be more conservative and might be forced to choose to restructure or raise their fees; although as described above, the more gross income an appraiser derives from an appraisal, the larger the potential penalty. For example, an appraiser prepares an appraisal which he knows will be used to support an income tax deduction for a charitable contribution of the subject property. He charges $6,000 as the appraisal preparation fee. He values the property at $1 million, resulting in an income tax benefit from the deduction of $300,000. The correct value is $600,000, resulting in an income tax benefit from the deduction of $180,000. The appraiser is subject to penalty in this case as the claimed value of $1 million is more than 150 percent of the correct value of $600,000 (i.e., $900,000). According to PPA guidelines, appraiser's penalty in this case is $7,500 (125 percent of the $6,000 fee), because this is less than 10 percent of the tax underpayment (10 percent of 120,000, or $12,000).

The new penalties imposed under section 6695A create a non-uniform field for appraisers engaged by taxpayers and appraisers engaged by the IRS. Taxpayer appraisers are likely to be under the scanner of PPA and face penalties if their appraisals are later rejected. On the other hand, IRS appraisers face no similar penalties no matter how far their appraisals are from the values finally determined for tax purposes.

The penalty will not apply if the appraiser establishes to the satisfaction of the IRS that the value established in the appraisal was more likely than not the proper value. However, given the magnitude of the trigger point percentages, it would be unlikely to prove a "more likely than not" standard when the magnitude of difference is 40 percent or 200 percent.

Prevention is better than cure. By adhering to norms and being organized and cautious about the whole process would ensure that you have nothing to fear. Educating yourself about the new law and its implications will further minimize your chances of getting in the way of PPA radar and getting penalized heavily.
About the Author
Mel Abraham CPA, CVA, ABV, ASA, CSP - author & Adjunct Professor (USD Law School. Further, for access to an audio presentation on IRS penalties and the PPA visit http://www.valuationeducation.com/penalties.html. He can be reached at mel@melabraham.com.
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