Beware: The IRS is cracking down on small-business owners

Beware: The IRS is cracking down on small-business owners who participate in tax-reduction insurance plans sold by insurance agents, including defined benefit retirement plans, IRAs, and even 401(k) plans with life insurance. In these cases, the business owner is motivated by a large tax deduction; the insurance agent is motivated by a substantial commission.

A few years ago, I testified as an expert witness in a case in which a physician was in an abusive 401(k) plan with life insurance. It had a so-called "springing cash value policy" in it. The IRS calls plans with these types of policies "listed transactions." The judge called the insurance agent "a crook."

If your client was currently is in a 412(i), 419, captive insurance, or Section 79 plan, they may be in big trouble. Accountants who signed a tax return for a client in one of these plans may be what the IRS calls a "material advisor" and subject to a maximum $200,000 fine.

If you are an insurance professional who sold or advised on one of these plans, the same holds true for you.

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