IRS agrees that payments from VA work therapy program are not includible in income.

Author:Beavers, James
Position:Department of Veterans Affairs
 
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The IRS has acquiesced to the decision in Wallace, 128 TC No. 11 (2007), in which the Tax Court held that payments to veterans made by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for work performed under a VA-administered compensated work therapy program are veterans' benefits that are excluded from income. It also ruled that the payments did not have to be reported on an information return.

Background

The VA administers therapeutic and rehabilitative activities under its Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) program. The CWT program is authorized under 38 USC Section 1718 (Section 1718). It provides therapeutic work opportunities to veterans who are otherwise unable to work and support themselves. A physician's prescription is necessary to participate in the program, which is supervised by medical personnel. The participants receive payments (referred to as "distributions" in the law and by the VA) for the work they perform in the program. The VA's stated goal is to help participants attain independence and vocational functioning as they return to the work environment.

In 2000, Roosevelt Wallace participated in the CWT program. Wallace did not include the payments he received for his program work in his income on his 2000 return. The IRS issued Wallace a notice of deficiency for tax on the payments, and Wallace challenged the IRS's determination in Tax Court.

Wallace argued that the payments were veterans' benefits that were excludible from income under 38 USC Section 5301 (Section 5301) and Rev. Rul. 72-605 because they were paid under Section 1718, a law administered by the VA. Section 5301 provides that "[p]ayments of benefits due or to become due under any law administered by the Secretary [of Veterans Affairs] ... made to, or on account of, a beneficiary shall be exempt from taxation." In Rev. Rul. 72-605, which involved the predecessor version of Section 5301, the IRS stated that "payments of benefits under any law administered by the Veterans' Administration are excludable from the gross income of a recipient under section 61 of the Code."

The IRS contended that only payments in the nature of social welfare benefit payments were excludible benefits under Section 5301. Because Wallace had to work to receive payments from the CWT program, the Service reasoned the payments were compensation for work that was includible in gross income under Sec. 61, not welfare benefits. In addition, the IRS pointed to Rev. Rul. 65-18, in which the IRS ruled that...

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