Brokers delay 1099s, causing US investor angst

NEW YORK Fri Mar 2, 2012 2:18pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A change in the U.S. 2011 tax reporting rules that took effect this year is causing major delays in banks and brokerages delivering investors' 1099s.

Investors are now learning they might not receive 1099s, typically sent by February 15, until March 15. Tax returns can't be filed without the forms. Banks and brokerages use 1099s, required by the Internal Revenue Service, to show all income, including interest and dividends, clients received from their accounts.

The delay has caused anger and frustration among investors who face higher charges from accountants and possible penalties for late payment of taxes due. In many cases accountants are recommending that clients file for an extension from the April 17 tax filing deadline.

"Clients are very angry about this," said Gail Anger, an accountant with Professional Business Advisors in Woods Cross, Utah. "We can't do anything until we get those 1099s."

LONG PREP TIME

The rule change causing all the fuss, a provision of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, requires banks and brokerage firms to report how much clients spent to buy the equities they purchased in 2011. Previously investors could report their cost basis for their investments without verification. The cost basis is important because it determines what capital gains or losses the investor accrued over the year.

For brokerages, the new rule, clarified by the IRS in October 2010, meant revamping their systems to collect the cost basis information and reformatting their 1099s, experts said.

But despite having more than a year to prepare for the requirement that involves calculating cost-basis information for every equity purchased in 2011, many brokerages, such as Charles Schwab Corp, Raymond James Financial Inc and LPL Investment Holdings Inc's LPL Financial, asked the IRS for extra time to distribute the forms to clients.

This year the IRS gave some firms until March 15 to distribute 1099s. Most firms are taking that time, or a large part of it, much to the surprise of many investors.

Some brokers, like Charles Schwab and LPL, filed for the March 15 extensions and still distributed 1099s before the end of February. But others have not.

On February 15, the day investors expected to receive their 1099s, Raymond James sent a note to its hundreds of thousands of clients saying that it would not send 1099s until March 15, partly because of the new reporting rules. The letter advises clients to talk to their tax planners about filing for an extension as a result of the delay.

A Raymond James spokeswoman said distribution of 1099s "has been complicated by the new cost basis reporting requirements."

Many brokerages did not have to collect this information in the past. It is not a small task, said Brian Keil, director of cost basis and tax reporting at Schwab.

Schwab has long collected the cost basis data, but this is the first year it had to provide it as a regulatory requirement. Keil said the delay was because the company "wanted to make sure it got it right."

Brokerage executives say the delay also means fewer corrected 1099 forms -- a headache for clients -- will be needed. Corrections are often a result of a scheduling oddity. The February 15 deadline for distributing brokerage 1099s is the same date securities issuers must deliver to brokerages the final figures for each client's investment income.

Schwab took six extra days to distribute 1099s and sent 155,000 corrected 1099s this year, down from 350,000 last year.

ACCOUNTANT BACKLASH

Accountants say the delays have put those clients who are already testy this time of year into a full-on panic.

Novato, California-based accountant Teresa Gallina was shocked when a woman she knew casually accosted her at the gym because she had not yet received her 1099 forms from her brokerage. "She went off on me because she was so frustrated," said Gallina.

Some accountants say the delay could be damaging to them.

"I am going to have to charge some clients more and I may stand to lose some clients," said Alan Markle, managing partner with Wilson Markle Stuckey Hardesty & Bott LLP, a CPA firm.

Many CPAs interviewed by Reuters said they anticipate filing for extensions for many more clients because of the 1099 delays.

"I usually file for extensions for about 150 of my 600 clients and I expect it to be twice that this year," Anger said.

Even so, accountants still need to do the work ahead of time in order to tell clients how much they owe the IRS. Taxes owed are due April 17. Late payment penalties range from 0.5 percent per month to a maximum of 25 percent plus interest.

Some people don't want to consider an extension, said tax planners, because they think it might trigger an IRS audit.

"I had one client tell me to just sell whatever fund was causing the delay because he didn't want to deal," said one financial adviser who asked not to be named.

Eva Rosenberg, a tax planner who oversees tax advice website TaxMama.com, said everyone "needs to calm down and grow up." An extension, she said, will not trigger an audit.

Still, many planners worry that next year things will only be worse as new reporting will be required for more securities, such as mutual funds and exchange traded funds.

"I am very concerned ... particularly since most of my clients own mutual funds," said Constance Stone, president of Stepping Stone Financial Inc, a Chagrin Falls, Ohio-based financial planner.

(Reporting By Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Jennifer Merritt and Gerald E. McCormick)

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