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«Cash Intensive Businesses Audit Techniques Guide - Chapter 16 - Scrap Metal NOTE: This document is not an official pronouncement of the law or the ...»

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Cash Intensive Businesses

Audit Techniques Guide -

Chapter 16 - Scrap Metal

NOTE: This document is not an official pronouncement of the law or the position of the Service

and can not be used, cited, or relied upon as such. This guide is current through the publication

date. Since changes may have occurred after the publication date that would affect the accuracy

of this document, no guarantees are made concerning the technical accuracy after the publication




General Background Information

Types of Scrap Metal

Compliance Issues

Purchasers of Scrap Metal



Major Issues


Pre-Audit Steps

Information Document Request

Interview Questions

Development Process

Purchases in Cash

Purchases by Check

Sellers of Scrap Metal

Major Issues

Unreported Income

Assignment of Income

Unreasonable Compensation and Constructive Dividends

Pre-Audit Steps

Information Document Request

Interview Questions

Development Process

Common Industry Issues

Excise Tax

Inventory/IRC Section 263A

Special Rules for Long-Term Contracts

Traffic Tickets and Fines


Computer Audit Specialist


Cash Slips/Weight Tickets defined

Page 1 of 29 Shipper receipts defined


Page 2 of 29IntroductionGeneral Background Information

Throughout the ages, man has been recycling metals by melting and reusing them. A visit to almost any industrial area in the country will demonstrate that the scrap business is alive and well. You‟ll notice scrap processors (scrap facilities or scrap yards) where the scrap metal is piled high, cranes are lifting and sorting the metals, and trucks are hauling the scrap metal in and out of the facilities. Recycling metal is important because it creates big business. It also plays an important role in conserving our national resources. It helps keep our highways and cities free from debris and helps preserve landfill space.

In the U.S. alone, scrap metal processors handle the following approximate quantities of scrap

metal yearly:

–  –  –

1 Scrap: America‟s Ready Resource, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc., pp. 2- 3 Example Iron ore is extracted from the ground. It is shipped to a mill where iron or steel--steel in this example--is made into different forms, such as sheet or bar stock. The steel is then shipped to a buyer, such as a stamping plant or screw machine shop, to be fabricated. During that fabrication, scrap metal is generated; then, it is sold for processing and/or melting.

Scrap metal is also produced by the ultimate user at the end of the steel product‟s useful life. The obsolete product enters the recycling system at that point.

After processing the scrap metal, the scrap processor will sell the processed scrap to a mill, foundry, or other concern that will use the metal to make new products.

Examples of commonly recycled scrap metal products are:

 Aeronautical and aerospace equipment, including airplanes and rockets;

 Aluminum siding, doors, and window frames;

 Appliances;

 Automobiles;

 Bed frames and mattress springs;

 Bridges;

Page 3 of 29  Cast iron sinks and bathtubs;

 Cooking pots and pans;

 Electrical wire;

 Eyeglass frames;

 Food and beverage containers;

 Business equipment;

 Industrial cuttings; telephone wires  Industrial machinery and tools;

 Locks and doorknobs;

 Park and playground equipment; toys  Pipe;

 Railroad and subway cars;

 Roadbed reinforcing bars;

 Ships;

 Building Structures such as Roofs, steel building frames;

Scrap recyclers purchase recyclables from various sources, including manufacturers of metal products; airlines and railroad companies; apartment complexes; automobile dismantlers; auto mechanics; builders, roofers, and other construction sources; demolition contractors; factories;

mills; foundries; fabricators; farmers; federal, state, and municipal government agencies and programs; hospitals; universities; schools; machinists and appliance repair shops; municipal curbside collection programs; offices; stores; hotels and restaurants; plumbers and electricians;

the general public; the U.S. Armed Forces; and utility companies.

Types of Scrap Metal

Scrap metal is divided into two types: ferrous and nonferrous. Ferrous scrap is scrap iron and steel. This includes scrap from old automobiles, farm equipment, household appliances, steel beams, railroad tracks, ships, and food packaging and other containers. Ferrous scrap accounts for the largest volume of metal scrapped. Ferrous scrap is classified into almost 80 grades;

additionally, there are another 40 grades of railroad ferrous scrap and even more grades of alloy scrap. Metal alloys are made from a combination of two or more metals.

Nonferrous scrap metal is scrap metal other than iron and steel. While the volume of nonferrous scrap is less than ferrous scrap, it is more valuable by the pound. Here are some examples of nonferrous scrap: aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, titanium, cobalt, chromium, and precious metals. Millions of tons of nonferrous scrap metal are recovered by processors and consumed by secondary smelter, refiners, ingot makers, fabricators, foundries, and other industries in this country.

Scrap metal, ferrous and nonferrous, can be categorized as either “home scrap” or “purchased scrap.” Home scrap is scrap generated at the mill, refinery, or foundry, and is generally remelted and used again at the same plant. Home scrap never leaves the plant.

The other category, purchased scrap, is further classified as either industrial (also called prompt or new scrap) or obsolete scrap. An example of industrial scrap is a piece of metal that is cut or Page 4 of 29 drilled. The metal that is cut or drilled out and is not incorporated into or made into the finished product is known as industrial scrap. The largest source of industrial scrap is the automotive industry. Obsolete scrap, also referred to as old scrap, is scrap that is worn out or unwanted in its form. Examples of obsolete ferrous scrap are automobile hulks, old farm equipment, and major home appliances. Examples of obsolete nonferrous scrap include radiators and catalytic converters from old automobiles, electrical boards from old computers, old pipes from buildings, and spent photographic film. Recyclers can recover copper and lead from radiators, platinum from automobile catalytic converters, gold from computer electrical boards, and silver from the spent photographic film.

Compliance Issues

Examinations of scrap metal processors have identified areas of noncompliance in this industry.

The most common issues encountered in examinations are that deductions for cash purchases of scrap metal were often not adequately substantiated by purchasers and that payments were often not reported in income by sellers of the scrap. It should be noted that some businesses are both purchasers and sellers of scrap metal. For example, a peddler may purchase scrap metal from a manufacturing concern and also sell the scrap metal to a scrap processor. The section on examination techniques is divided into two sections; one section is on purchasers of scrap metal and the other is on sellers. These are issues that may be encountered in examinations of both purchasers and sellers.

Purchasers of Scrap Metal

Examples of purchasers of scrap metal are foundries, mills, mini-mills, brokers, peddlers, and scrap processors. The industry prefers either the term “facility” or “plant,” be used to refer to their place of business, but you may also see the term “yard” used. Operations of Purchasers Scrap Processors (also known as Scrap Dealers or Scrap Recyclers) Scrap processors collect, sort, process, and eventually sell the scrap metal to foundries, mills, mini-mills, and other purchasers. Most processors handle both ferrous and nonferrous metals but may specialize in either. Exhibit A identifies the properties of ferrous and nonferrous metals and their sources.

The equipment utilized by the scrap processor to process the scrap will vary with the type and volume of scrap the processor purchases. Most processors will have a crane that is either a traditional cable type or a hydraulic crane that is available on crawler, truck, pedestal, gantry, rail, or overhead mountings. Large magnets or grapples are attached to the cranes that lift and move the ferrous scrap. Processors may have a hydraulic baling press, an alligator shear, or hydraulic guillotine shear. Some processors have shredders that can turn an auto into much smaller pieces of scrap. Because shredders are very expensive machines, there are fewer in number. However, the shredders produce a large volume of tonnage. Additional equipment utilized to process the scrap might include scales, conveyors, mobile auto crushers, and the truck fleets and containers used to store and move the scrap from the originator to the end user.

Page 5 of 29 When the scrap metal arrives at the processor‟s location, the scale operator normally weighs the scrap placed on the scale and creates a cash slip/weight ticket. The cash slip/weight ticket generally identifies the type of metal, total weight, price per pound (or per cwt. or per ton), total amount to be paid, and name of the individual or business selling the scrap metal. The cash slip/weight ticket is then presented to the cashier for payment. If the processor services businesses where containers are kept on the seller‟s premises, these businesses, often referred to as industrial accounts, normally will be paid once or twice a month.

The scrap market can be volatile. Even experts have a hard time predicting prices for any scrap commodity at any given time. For example, ferrous scrap valued at $100 a ton in one year can be worth $50 two years later and $130 the next year. In this market, the purchaser determines the market price. When demand increases for scrap metal, a higher price is offered to the seller.

When enough scrap has been purchased, the price begins to fall. There is less incentive for the processors to collect scrap when the price is low because the profit is also lower. If the market price of scrap metal is low and processors can afford it, some may stockpile scrap and sell later when the market is more favorable. Thus, inventories may vary depending upon market conditions.

Most scrap processors eventually sell scrap metal to larger processors, foundries, or mills.

Payment is usually made by check but can be made by wire transfer or in cash.

Peddlers A scrap peddler is usually a sole proprietorship reporting on a Schedule C. The peddler purchases scrap metal and resells it to the scrap processor. Depending upon the size of the peddler‟s operation is, the peddler may have drivers working for him to help transport the scrap.

The peddler may have industrial accounts at machine shops and stamping plants or may search for scrap metal. A peddler with industrial accounts may maintain containers at the customer‟s location to store the scrap metal. The peddler is different from the processor because he does not process or store the scrap metal. He merely transports the scrap metal from the seller to the buyer. When a customer calls or the peddler locates scrap metal, the peddler takes the scrap metal to a processor. The peddler may be paid by the processor upon delivery or later with or without an invoice being issued. The peddler usually does not deal exclusively with a specific processor but “shops around” for the best price.

Brokers Brokers act as agents for others in negotiating contracts, purchases, or sales. Brokers may act as intermediaries between any buyer or seller of scrap metal. The broker is different from the peddler because the broker may not take physical possession of the scrap.

Major Issues Purchases Page 6 of 29 Although not present in every case, a major issue found in many examinations of purchasers was inadequate substantiation of purchases. Taxpayers supported their scrap purchases in a variety of ways. Substantiation varied from very detailed records to no records at all. Some taxpayers kept precise records for some sellers and no records for other sellers. Cash slip/weight tickets were sometimes incomplete, illegible, or prepared with false names. A disallowance of an offset for cost of goods sold may be warranted if the taxpayer does not provide adequate substantiation to verify purchases. In most cases, verification of a purchase may be made when sellers are paid by check because the sellers can be identified by the endorsement on the check. However, there are instances where checks are issued and the ultimate seller cannot be identified, such as when checks are issued in fictitious names and cashed for the seller by an employee of the purchaser.

Treas. Reg. section 1.61-3(a) states that…”in a manufacturing, merchandising, or mining business, „gross income‟ means the total sales, less the cost of goods sold, plus any income from investments and from incidental or outside operations or sources.” Treas. Reg. section 1.162-3 states that…”taxpayers carrying materials and supplies on hand should include in expenses the charges for materials and supplies only in the amount that they are actually consumed and used in operation during the taxable year for which the return is made....” Thus, the regulations allow the taxpayer an offset against sales for purchases made and consumed during the tax year.

Substantiation for scrap metal purchases is an important issue. It was addressed in Bard v.

Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1990-431. In Bard, the court stated that the taxpayer has the burden of proving the costs of goods sold and that the question of substantiating the amount is a factual one. Because of the vast extent of cash dealings and the taxpayer‟s fragmented and incomplete records and documentation, the court found that the taxpayer did not meet his burden of proof.

The court upheld the Service‟s disallowance of part of the taxpayer‟s claimed cost of goods sold.

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