Tax Roundup, 3/11/2013: Five weeks left edition. And Accumulated Earnings Tax agitation.

March 11th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130311-1The 1040 filing deadline is five weeks from today.  The 1120 and 1120S deadline is this Friday.  The penalty for filing an 1120-S late is $195 per shareholder, with the penalty repeated each additional month the return is late.  Proceed accordingly.

 

A Des Moines tax lawyer lets us know what we are in for:  Just a Little Bit More? Yeah Right. Get Ready to Pay More Taxes in 2013 (William Brown).  He illustrates what will happen to one of his clients, “Fred,” when he pays his 2013 taxes:

Fred’s federal taxes have increased by 9% with no change in his earnings.  If Fred does not increase his distributions from his business to pay these increased taxes, his disposable income will decrease by 19%.  Might these increased taxes have no substantial impact on the prospects of his small business and its employees?  Not a chance.

Read the whole thing.  Related:  Phil, we have altered the deal.  Pray we don’t alter it further.

 

David Cay Johnston pushes for harsher accumulated earnings tax.  As I predicted, we’re starting to see people pushing for enforcement of the Accumulated Earnings Tax to deal with the pretend problem of corporations “hoarding” cash.  Mr Johnston takes the podium in an (unfortunately gated) article in Tax Notes:

     American nonfinancial corporations held more than $2.2 trillion of cash and near cash offshore at the end of 2010 in current dollars, IRS and Federal Reserve data shows. And that is on top of the almost $1.7 trillion of liquid assets owned by firms and subsidiaries with U.S. addresses that we will see when the 2012 corporate income tax data becomes available in a few years. That global cash and near cash pile of almost $4 trillion came to $12,600 per American — well more than triple the $3,500 in per capita federal income tax revenues that year.

     There is no possible business justification for that much cash. As Tax Court Judge David Laro wrote in Haffner’s Service Stations Inc. v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2002-38  “a need to retain earnings must be directly connected with the needs of the corporation itself and must be for bona fide business purposes.”

No “possible” business justification for that much cash?  It’s pretty easy to come up with potential justifications.  If you are a corporation sitting on a lot of cash, you have a lot to think about.   You have unusual opportunities, which you need to evaluate carefully.  The imposition of the shareholder-level tax on earnings is certainly a factor.  Does that mean I trust corporate management and boards?  No.  But I trust them a lot more than second-guessers at the IRS.

The Judge Laro cite that Mr. Johnston uses only restates the legal background of the accumulated earnings tax — not the economics of it.

If you want to really encourage corporations to free up their cash, end the double-taxation of corporate income by allowing full deductibility of dividend payments — with an excise withholding tax on non-profit and non-U.S. distributees to ensure the income is taxed once.  That will give corporations a powerful incentive to distribute cash they aren’t using – one that will work a lot better than beefing up the IRS Second-Guess Division.

Update: Mr. Johnston e-mails:

            I have written in favoring of restoring tax-free dividends for modest sums or encourage savings, partly because most Americans have little saved in the tax system and even though only one in four gets dividends directly: [$link Ed.]

And I called for a two-year test of dividend deductions in this column a few months later, arguing that dividends have the virtue of separating actual value-added managers from those who play accounting games since you need need cash to make dividend payouts. [gated links here and here. Ed.].

Unfortunately I don’t have links to free versions of the original articles.

Related: Garett Jones,  Redistributing from Capitalists to Workers: An Impossibility Theorem, on why the economically-optimal rate of tax on capital is zero. (Econlog)

 

 

No more paper Internal Revenue Bulletins.  The IRS has discontinued its old paper Internal Revenue Bulletin, where it published tax guidance.  From Announcement 2013-12:

The IRB is available on IRS.gov before printed copies are available. Also, the majority of items (about two-thirds) that appear in the IRB are released with a News Release about a month ahead of when the item appears in the IRB. Since all items in the IRB are available electronically, almost a month in advance of being available in the printed IRB, we are eliminating the printing of paper copies of the IRB, which are distributed directly from the IRS. The cost savings to printing and postage would be $148,000 annually.

It makes sense.  Another bit of my accumulated tax training goes the way of the Dodo.

 

Russ Fox,  If You’re a Sole Proprietor, Get an EIN…Now!.  Otherwise it’s too easy to get your identity stolen.

William Perez,  Minnesota Revenue Department Finds “Unacceptable” Errors in TurboTax.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Explains Delays In Processing Some Returns Claiming Education Credits

Kay Bell,  Federal workers owe $3.5 billion in back taxes; Expect renewal of legislative efforts to fire federally-employed tax debtors.  Some people don’t buy the “better to give than to receive” thing.

Brian Mahany,  IRS Begins Rejecting OVDI Filings – Important News For Fence Sitters

Jack Townsend,  Bank Leumi U.S. Clients Rejected from OVDP

Robert Goulder: Taxation & Morality: Odd Bedfellows (Tax.com)

 

Peter Reilly,  Render Unto Caesar – Mormon Tithe Not A Necessary Expense In IRS Collection Case

Patrick Temple-West,  Tax haven hunter Levin to retire, and more

 

The Critical Question: Who Are Your Tax Policy Friends? (Jim Maule)

Going Concern,  No, We Can’t Help You Pass the Ethics Exam.  When I took it, it was mailed to successful CPA candidates to do at home and mail in.  No wonder there are no ethical problems with our generation.  Oh, wait…

 

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