DEFINITION of 'Abusive Tax Shelter'

An investment scheme that claims to reduce income tax without changing the value of the user's income or assets. Abusive tax shelters serve no economic purpose other than lowering the federal or state tax owed when filing. Often, these schemes channel funds through trusts or partnerships to avoid taxation.

BREAKING DOWN 'Abusive Tax Shelter'

People who invest in abusive tax shelters can be penalized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Typically, when the IRS determines someone has used such a scheme, the person will owe back taxes with accrued interest.

To help taxpayers recognize potential schemes, the IRS has compiled a list of transactions that are abusive tax shelters. If a tax shelter resembles a listed transaction, it is considered abusive and the users may face penalties.

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