Tax Roundup, 10/29/13: The case against the research credit. And no tax break for bike-shares.

October 29th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
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Flickr image courtesy Windy_ under Creative Commons license

Martin Sullivan, ‘Extortion’ and the Research Credit (Tax Analysts Blog) is the first prominent tax commentator I’ve seen who sees the research credit the much the way I do (my emphasis):

The problem is not with the theory of the credit but with its execution. I have been around a while and have researched the research credit since its inception in 1981. My take is that the essential problem of the credit has only grown worse: It is impossible to find a practical definition of subsidy-worthy research in the 21st century. It is less clear than ever where corporate research ends and other innovation-inducing functions like design and software development, begin. There is little empirical work regarding why, in this modern economy in which investment spending defies categorization, some business-building activity should be subsidized and others not. This inability to target incentives to where they should go means scarce resources are inappropriately and arbitrarily assigned to certain activities, certain businesses, and certain industries while others are left in the cold. What was intended as an incentive for productive activity by clever scientists and engineers turns out to be an incentive for totally unproductive activity by clever lawyers, accountants and lobbyists.

So true — though the accountants do use clever engineers to help turn stuff businesses do anyway into “research.”  I’m convinced that the credit is almost entirely harvested by businesses doing what they would do anyway.

Repeal of the research credit could fund a reduction of approximately 1 percentage point in the corporate tax rate. The benefits of the credit as it works in practice are questionable. In contrast, a reduction in the corporate rate would undoubtedly be a big plus for America’s competitiveness.

That’s right.  The IRS is institutionally incapable of distinguishing between worthwhile “research” and other spending.  If the IRS can’t competently police a tax spiff, get rid of the spiff and lower the rates for everyone.

 

Andrew Lundeen, Scott Hodge,  About Half of Tax Returns Report Less than $30,000 (Tax Policy Blog)

The median taxpayer earns roughly $33,000. This means that half of the 145 million tax filers (about 72 million or so) earn less than $33,000 and half earn more. While only about 14 percent of taxpayers earn more than $100,000, they pay the vast majority of all income taxes in America today.

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Compare that with who pays:

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In other words, The bottom half of the distribution’s income tax burden is actually negative.

 

TaxGrrrl,  10 Things You Need To Know About Getting Married & Taxes

Kay Bell, A clearer look at maximizing medical tax deductions

Paul Neiffer,  Setup Your Deferred Payment Contracts Now:

The election is on a contract by contract basis so it is important to have at least a couple contracts in the $20-30,000 range to allow for the correct amount of adjustments to income.  If you have only one contract for $150,000, that may not give you the best flexibility.   

It’s one of those sweet tax planning tools that would be bizarre and subject to penalties for most of us, but is just Tuesday for farmers.

 

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Flickr image courtesy Galpalval under Creative Commons license

Robert W. Wood, Bike Share Programs Are Not Tax-Free, Says The IRS  (Via the TaxProf).  The IRS says bikes borrowed from rent-a-bike stands, like those in downtown Des Moines, can’t be a reimbursed as a “qualified transportation fringe benefit.”  In contrast, expenses of personally-owned bikes qualify.

 

Phil Hodgen is running a series on the tax effects of expatriating.  He’s gotten ahead of me, so I’ll start at the beginning and add a link every day, starting with  Chapter 1 – A Quick Overview of the Exit Tax.

Jack Townsend, Does Our Criminal Justice System Find Truth Well And What is the Tolerance for Error?  “The question is whether our traditional criminal justice system for finding truth by triers of fact — usually juries but sometimes judges — really do it well and how much confidence can we have that they do it well.”

 

Jeremy Scott, Revenue Divide Will Likely Derail Conference Committee (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 173

Tax Justice Blog, PricewaterhouseCoopers Report Quietly Confirms Low Effective Tax Rates for Corporations But Directs Attention to Irrelevant Figures

Linda Beale,  Carried Interest — a tax privilege for the rich whose end time has come.  Except it’s not just for “the rich,” and it would do more harm than good.

 

Keith Fogg, Vince Fumo: IRS Finding of Jeopardy (Procedurally Taxing)  ”As mentioned in a previous post, the Service recently invoked the rarely used jeopardy assessment procedure against former state Senator Vince Fumo in connection with the activities leading to his criminal conviction.”

Robert D. Flach says it’s TIME FOR YEAR-END PLANNING.

 

News from the Profession:  “Is the CFO’s quitting time after 3 pm?” Coming to an Auditor’s Questionnaire Near You (Going Concern)

 

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