Although I am a risk advisor for my clients first and foremost, I also take great pleasure in discovering ways to simultaneously drive value for my clients and their customers. Among the strategies I frequently employ for various businesses, product warranties stand out as a reliable choice. Warranties not only offer customers peace of mind but also have the potential to bolster a company's revenue stream. However, it's essential to acknowledge that providing warranties can also introduce new risks, particularly for small to medium-sized enterprises.
However, I'm increasingly concerned that numerous small businesses are encountering difficulties in fully using the risk management tools that should be readily accessible to them, primarily due to actions taken by the IRS. Specifically, I hold the view that the IRS is engaged in an aggressive enforcement campaign targeting microcaptive insurance, often referred to as 831(b) microcaptives.
A microcaptive is essentially a small insurance company owned similarly to a parent company, serving as a means for the parent company to set aside funds and protect itself against future risks. While risk management holds undeniable importance across all industries, I have personally witnessed the significant advantages a microcaptive can offer to businesses that provide product warranties. Should a business fail to adequately plan and allocate funds for covering warranty claims, it could find itself in dire straits, possibly resorting to tapping into its operational revenue.
A market for commercial product warranty insurance does exist, but it does not afford the same level of control over the policy as a microcaptive does. In stark contrast, a microcaptive grants businesses far greater autonomy in structuring and overseeing the policy according to their unique needs and preferences.
But as mentioned earlier, it appears that the IRS fails to appreciate these merits. The agency has displayed a troubling pattern of subjecting microcaptive owners to audits and legal uncertainties while refraining from fully prosecuting cases and taking them to tax court. This leaves upright business owners with limited recourse.
Adding to these concerns, the IRS recently released draft regulations pertaining to microcaptives that, in my view, lack thoughtful consideration and could potentially stifle a significant portion of the industry. Such punitive behavior is unjust and ill-befitting of a federal agency. Every federal agency, including the IRS, should uphold principles of fairness and transparency. If a microcaptive owner violates the law, they should bear the appropriate consequences.
Instead, the IRS seems determined to paint the entire industry with a broad brush, neglecting to implement regulations that effectively differentiate between responsible actors and those acting in bad faith.
My goal is to assist my clients in effectively managing their risks, increasing their business income and ensuring customer satisfaction. I earnestly hope that members of Congress, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden from right here in Oregon, will treat this matter with the gravity it deserves. Failure to do so may result in undue hardship for small businesses nationwide.
Zebadiah Wade is an account executive for LaPorte Insurance in Portland, Ore. Contact him at [email protected].