The foreign financial account reporting system is said to be all about keeping people from evading taxes by hiding assets overseas. I’m starting to think that it is really just a strange sadistic plan to torture random taxpayers for fun and profit. Consider:
– The FBAR filings are not part of the tax returns everyone files anyway.
– They are due at separate times from regular tax filings.
– The Treasury claims the timely mailed (or transmitted) = timely filed rule doesn’t apply to FBAR filings, unlike all other tax filings.
– The filing system is entirely separate from other tax return systems, including a separate bureaucracy and facilities.
Support for my theory comes from today’s report by Tax Analysts ($link):
Taxpayers cannot file a foreign bank account report electronically if they have a copy of popular software programs such as Adobe Acrobat installed on their computers because the programs conflict with the FBAR electronic filing portal, Tax Analysts has learned.
The only way to resolve the problem is to uninstall the conflicting programs and install a copy of Adobe Reader, according to instructionsfrom the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) e-filing help desk. The conflict was confirmed by a help desk employee.
FinCEN mandated e-filing of FBARs as of July 1, 2013. According to a FinCEN FAQ, failure to comply with the electronic filing mandate could result in civil penalties, including a $500 fine for each negligent currency transaction.
The FBAR system is way overdue for an overhaul. Some obvious steps:
– Raise the foreign account filing threshold drastically — say to $100,000 or $200,000 from the current $10,000. This would keep thousands of Americans working overseas, and thousands more Green Card holders workers from having to risk enormous fines for foot-fault violations.
– Moving the FBAR filing to the regular tax return system, with the same filing locations and due dates. Currently filing is with “FincCEN,” which is creep-ese for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network — which helps lead to the government presumption that committing personal finance while overseas is a crime.
– Making sure “timely mailed = timely filed” applies to FBAR reports.
Still better would be to join the developed world in imposing the income tax on a territorial basis, rather than on worldwide income.
Requiring taxpayers to screw around with their computer setup just to meet their FBAR requirements is outrageous. Even if FBAR filing is not merely a sadistic plot — and it sure acts like one — it seems more designed as a hook to punish violators — purposeful and accidental — than a way to gather compliance information. As usual, Congress goes after a small set of violators by firing into the crowd.
Russ Fox, Bears Sacked; Lose Court Case Worth $4.1 Million. “No, Jay Cutler didn’t throw one of his usual interceptions. Instead, Judge Mary Mason of the 1st District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the Chicago Bears had underpaid Cook County’s Amusement Tax.”
Paul Neiffer, How Does Section 179 Work?
Robert D. Flach has your fresh Tuesday Buzz!
TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 460
Kyle Pomerleau, Two New Reports on the “New Markets Tax Credit” (Tax Policy Blog):
This week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on “New Markets Tax Credits” (NMTC) at the request of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). In addition, Senator Coburn also released a report of his own outlining the program.
New Market Tax Credits were introduced in 2000 as part of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000. The NMTC were meant to encourage investment in low-income areas that don’t have access to capital.
The credit works by giving an investor a tax credit equal to 39 percent of the initial investment the investor makes in a project. This means for every $100 in an investment, an investor will receive a $39 tax credit. The credit is distributed over seven years. From 2003 to 2013, the program has cost the federal government $40 billion.
While the credit is meant to help fund projects in low-income areas, it has actually benefitted banks substantially. GAO and Coburn’s report outline significant issues with the program.
Jeremy Scott,Kansas and Missouri Show the Dangers of Tax Competition (Tax Analysts Blog):
For the last two decades, U.S. states have found themselves competing with their neighbors to attract domestic investment and relocations. And as Missouri and Kansas are learning, the real losers in tax competitions are taxpayers and state budgets.
The winners? The well-connected, fixers, middlemen, and politicians.
Career Corner. Rat Out Your Employer On Taxes. Win Cash Rewards! (Walter Olson, Reason.com)