Tax Roundup, 10/29/14: Iowa Business Tax Climate worsens. And: Ex-IRS man does a Reddit AMA.

October 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

41st out of 50. Iowa reclaimed its bottom-10 standing among the states in the 2015 Tax Foundation Business Tax Climate Index released yesterday. Iowa’s standing fell one spot from 2014.

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The Tax Foundation report mentions Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation corporation tax rate, its high individual rates, and its complicated tax system.  Iowa was rated as having the second-worst corporation tax system.

The Tax Foundation explains how the worst states got that way:

The states in the bottom ten suffer from the same afflictions: complex, non-neutral taxes with comparatively high rates. New Jersey, for example, suffers from some of the highest property tax burdens in the country, is one of just two states to levy both an inheritance and an estate tax, and maintains some of the worst structured individual income taxes in the country.

Even though Iowa’s complex and dysfunctional income tax is a long-standing embarrassment, it has been a non-issue in the current race for Governor. While he has occasionally said Iowa needs a better tax code, Governor Branstad’s administration has more avid about handing out tax credits to buy ribbon-cuttings than about fixing a tax law that burdens businesses lacking the pull to swing special deals. The tax law as it is seems to suit the Governor’s needs well enough now.

His opponent, Senator Hatch, is a big beneficiary of tax credits in his development business. As he makes a good living out of the tax law, he is an unlikely candidate for tax reform.

The report does hold out hope. North Carolina’s ranking jumped from 44th to 16th as a result of reforms enacted this year. If they can do it, maybe Iowa can too. The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, which would eliminate the corporation tax and drastically reduce individual rates by getting rid of Iowa’s rats nest of politically-convenient deductions and credits, would be a great place to start.

Other coverage:

TaxProf, 2015 Business Tax Climate: Chilliest in Blue States

Russ Fox, The 2015 State Business Tax Climate Index: Not Much Has Changed

 

20120906-1David Brunori, Yes, More Problems with Tax Incentives (Tax Analysts Blog):

People who have studied tax incentives know everything that’s wrong with them: They don’t work (companies choose where to locate for other reasons); they’re unfair (some companies get them, others don’t, and their benefits inure to the haves rather than the have-nots); they’re inefficient (government bureaucrats can’t make decisions better than the market). There are many more.

We also know why politicians support incentives, despite the mountains of criticism from people who know of what they say. Traditionally, it comes down to fear and greed. No politician wants to lose a company on his watch. Similarly, every politician wants to cut the ribbon opening a new plant. Then there is just cowardice. Taking a stand on principle is a rare commodity.

Indeed.

 

Iowa saved from giving away $30 million in corporate welfare. Iowa loses $1.4 billion fertilizer plant to Illinois (Des Moines Register) “Previous news reports have said both Iowa and Illinois offered Cronus tax incentives of about $30 million.”

 

William Perez, How Saving for Retirement Can Reduce Your Taxes

Robert D. Flach reports on THE SAVER’S CREDIT NUMBERS FOR 2015. This is an underused credit that rewards frugality by lower-income taxpayers.

Jason Dinesen, IRS Oops on E-Services E-mail. “That’s quite a mistake to “inadvertently” send an e-mail to practitioners, implying that online services were available again when they really aren’t. Especially since the IRS doesn’t intend to send a follow-up retraction to all of us who got the original e-mail.”

Jim Maule, How Not to File a Tax Court Petition “First, stand in line and get that hand-stamped postmark. Second, avoid the need to learn the first lesson by treating the petition as due EIGHTY days after it is mailed. That provides a cushion of time, an allowance for unforeseen circumstances, and contingency insurance.”

Jack Townsend, IRS CI Modifies Its Policy Regarding Forfeitures for Structuring on Bank Deposits for Legal Source Deposits.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces PTIN Renewals, Registration For Voluntary Certification

Peter Reilly, There Is An Accountant Art Expert – Who Knew?

Kay Bell, Desert island bipartisanship, sort of, on new reality TV show. Apparently a reality show left two Senators stranded on a desert island for six days. A good start.

 

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Howard Gleckman, Is There Any Chance Congress Will Pass Business Tax Reform Next Year? (TaxVox). “The chances are not zero. But the odds are very long.”

William McBride, White House Claims U.S. Effective Corporate Tax Rate is Competitive (Tax Policy Blog). Yes, the way the Giants were competitive last night in Kansas City.

 

News from the Profession. Things You Should NOT Say to a Brand New CPA (Leona May, Going Concern).

 

Recently-retired IRS agent Michael Gregory did an “ask me anything” on Reddit. It apparently didn’t impress everyone, if this report is to be believed:

Gregory accused Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has been leading the investigation of IRS misdoings, of playing politics with IRS funding, which led one Reddit user to offer a “summary” of Gregory’s comments:

From what I’ve seen so far

Lerner did nothing wrong
Darrel Issa is the devil
Throw more money at the IRS
Lack of criminal charges proves everything was just peachy and not politically driven
It’s all congress’ fault
Patriots pay taxes
The flat tax will let evil millionaires kill and eat babies

The IRS couldn’t ask for a better ‘leaker’

Other Reddit users agreed, with one complaining, “[Gregory] might as well have titled this AMA ‘having left the IRS, I am free now to reveal the IRS would be perfect if Congress just paid us more.’ I get that the IRS may be underfunded but this leaker might as well be an IRS lobbyist.”

The IRS seems to have taken the funding issue into its own hands.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/28/14: Back-to-school edition! And: IRS says it will stop stealing.

October 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The 2014 tour of Iowa begins. I am helping Roger McEowen and Kristy Maitre teach Day 1 of the Farm and Urban Tax School this year, and this morning we are starting the first of eight sessions in Waterloo. We hit Maquoketa Thursday.  Other sessions will be in Sheldon, Red Oak, Ottumwa, Mason City, Denison and Ames. It’s two great days of CPE, and it’s a bargain. Get your details and sign up for a convenient session at the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation today.  Here is the crowd this morning:

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Looks like fun, no?

f you are a Tax Update reader, come see me (Hi, Kevin!). You qualify for a discount! Well, not really, but I can get you a free postcard from the DNR Chickadee Checkoff booth…

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Have a nice day. We’re All Flies in the IRS’s Widening WebMegan McArdle on the IRS’s sudden turnabout on asset seizures stealing from innocent businesses after the New York Times reported on it:

It’s as if the IRS just noticed that they were grotesquely abusing their power in order to punish people who appear to have done nothing actually wrong. Did this not occur to them when the victims’ lawyers pointed it out? Did none of their thousands of employees wonder aloud whether they really needed to make war on America’s college funds?

I’m sure it was forced on them by budget cuts.

So think about what has happened to our government agencies. We passed a law, to raise taxes, or curb the usage of addicting drugs. That law didn’t work as well as we wanted, because a lot of people were evading it. So we passed new laws, to make it easier to enforce the original one, like requiring banks to report all transactions over $10,000. And then people evaded that, so we made another rule … and now people who had no criminal intent find themselves coughing up tens of thousands of dollars they shouldn’t owe. 

There’s a lot of that in the tax law. FATCA and the FBAR foreign financial account reporting requirements are classic examples of laws nominally aimed at big-time tax evaders that destroy the finances of thousands of innocent foot-faulters.

As in the case of the fly, we were better off leaving the original ailment alone. No, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to catch tax evasion. I’m saying we shouldn’t try so hard that we end up criminalizing a lot of innocent behavior. There are worse things than a country with some tax fraud. And one of those things is a government with vast and arbitrary power to punish people who have done no wrong. 

And a willingness to use it carelessly.

Joseph Henchman, IRS Promises to Curtail Property Seizures After Abuses Come to Light (Tax Policy Blog)

Kay Bell, IRS seizes honest taxpayers’ assets under forfeiture program. “Oh my Lord, IRS. What in the hell were you thinking?”

 

buzz20140909Paul Neiffer, IRS Disagrees With Morehouse Ruling (Of Course). It looks like they will continue to assess SE tax on non-farmers with CRP income outside the Eighth Circuit.

Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz!!

Tax Prof, Tax Revolving Door Enriches Former IRS Officials Who Cash in by Navigating Inversions Through Rules They Wrote. And Commissioner Koskinen approves.

 

Leslie Book, A Combo Notice of Deficiency Claim Disallowance Highlights Tax Court Refund Jurisdiction (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Jeremy Scott, Will a Graduated Income Tax Sink Martha Coakley? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Steve Warnhoff, Senators Defend LIFO, a Tax Break that Obama and Camp Want to Repeal (Tax Justice Blog)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 537. Today’s scandal roundup features Bob Woodward saying “If I were young, I would take Carl Bernstein and move to Cincinnati where that IRS office is and set up headquarters and go talk to everyone.

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Tax Roundup, 10/27/14: IRS visits Arnolds Park restaurant, tips itself.

October 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120703-2IRS Commissioner Koskinen likes to say there is nothing wrong with the IRS that a bigger budget can’t cure. A story out of Arnolds Park, Iowa might cause one to question that. The New York Times reports:

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

Banks are required to report “suspicious” deposits under $10,000 because they might be done to evade a required IRS filing. As they get in trouble for non-reporting, they are likely to overreport. And in these cases, that’s all the IRS required before stealing the cash. The victims have legal recourse, but it requires them to sue the federal government, owner of the largest law firm in the world; legal bills routinely run into tens of thousands of dollars.

So, without any evidence, or even suspicion, of a crime, the IRS uses some of its allegedly precious and constrained enforcement resources to steal money from a little Iowa restaurant. The story cites other cash seizure nightmares. One involved an Army sergeant saving for his daughters’ education. Others involved legitimate but cash-intensive businesses.

If this is what the IRS accomplishes with insufficient resources, imagine how much they could steal with full funding.

(via Instapundit)

Related:

Tax Justice Blog,  New Movie Aims to Scare Public by Depicting IRS as Jack-Booted Thugs. Where would anybody get that idea?

Dan Mitchell, Another Example of Government Thuggery – and another Reason Why Decent and Moral People Are Libertarians

Russ Fox, SARs Leading to Forfeiture: The IRS Oversteps

 

20141027-2Jason Dinesen, How Non-Residents or Part-Year Residents Report Federal Refunds on Iowa Tax Returns. One more complication from Iowa’s deduction for federal taxes.

Robert D. Flach, DON’T TRY TO BUY A HOUSE OR CONDO WITH ONLY 5% DOWN!. And don’t try to subsidize that either.

William Perez, Self-Employed Retirement Plans, “If you have self-employment income, then you can take a tax deduction for contributions you make to a SEP, SIMPLE, or a solo 401(k) retirement plan.”

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #9-Tax Court Further Muddies The ‘Dealer Versus Investor’ Issue

 

TaxGrrrl, Fundraising Campaign Ends For ‘Ebola Free’ Nurse, Donors Encouraged To Contribute To Charity

Jana Luttenegger, 2015 Retirement Plan Limits Announced (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Paul Neiffer, 2015 Social Security Wage Base Increases to $118,500

Kay Bell, 6 year-end tax tips for small businesses

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions (Procedurally Taxing). Recent cases on whistleblowers, interest abatement, and art valuation.

 

 

Andrew Mitchel, 2014 Third Quarter Published Expatriates – Third Highest Ever. FATCA and the IRS holy war on Americans abroad takes its toll.

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 536

 

David Brunori on the inherently corrupt nature of corporate welfare tax incentives, like those so popular with Iowa politicians ($link):

I have no doubt there are more instances of companies contributing to politicians and getting economic development payouts. I’m not naïve. Corporations donate money to governors and lawmakers and expect a return on their investment. While the governors cited above were Republican, corporations and business interests don’t discriminate. Indeed, Lockheed Martin donated lots of money to Democratic governors.

We likely won’t find a smoking gun e-mail reading, “Dear Governor, your check is in the mail, please process my multimillion-dollar handout. Your friend, CEO.” Politicians and business leaders are too smart for that. But growing evidence of tax incentives being granted by politicians who receive money should give everyone pause. It’s unlikely to be a coincidence.

But, jobs! For the middlemen, fixers and lobbyists, anyway.

 

Joseph Henchman, Michigan Senate Advances Film Tax Credit Extension Bill (Tax Policy Blog). Because Detroit has no greater need than to give money to Hollywood.

 

News from the Profession. Meet the Guy Who Prefers Falafel Over PwC (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/24/14: IRS attorney says revolving door spins away billions. And: pass-through isn’t always small.

October 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130129-1Taxes are for the little people without connections. A sensational open letter to the top Treasury tax brass from an IRS attorney alleges that the agency routinely shuts off promising examinations of big well-connected taxpayers. From Raw Story (via the TaxProf):

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, IRS commissioner John A. Koskinen, and IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, Jane J. Kim, an attorney in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel in New York, accused IRS executives of “deliberately” facilitating multi-billion dollar tax giveaways. The letter, dated October 19, will add further pressure on the agency, which is under fire for allegedly targeting conservative and Tea Party groups.

The letter describes three cases where Ms. Kim says the IRS walked away from large well-founded assessments of big corporate taxpayers raised by whistleblowers. The story implicates the revolving door between big law and accounting firms and the top levels of the IRS as a key to the strange taxpayer friendliness.

Bill Henck, who has worked for over 26 years in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel, agreed. “The senior executives drive the train on all this and pal around with lobbyists,” he said. “Treasury was involved with both the Elmer’s Glue scam and the black liquor taxability issue. IRS executives look out for themselves, which usually means protecting corporate interests, since they hire lobbyists and are close to politicians.”

Backing up Henck’s concerns, the private sector lawyer and ex-IRS attorney explained that since 1998, IRS restructuring has focused on bringing in “outside people.” This led to the employment of an extra layer of executives who were previously “partners from big accounting firms.” Citing active IRS criminal agents, the ex-IRS attorney said: “Almost every large firm or corporation has a person inside the IRS. It’s a revolving door, with the top two or three management layers all from big accounting and law firms, and this is why they won’t work big billion-dollar cases criminally. Private bar attorneys are, in effect, controlling the IRS. It’s a type of corruption – that’s the word used by one IRS agent I’m in touch with whose case was shut down by higher ups without cause.”

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

That brings to mind Commissioner Koskinen’s view of the revolving door:

So I’ve always said the best testimonial to a good place to work is people are forever coming in and trying to steal your people. And so I would be delighted to have young people come here for two or three years and some of them get recruited away because they were so good and the training is so good, because the more of that that happens, the more people are going to stand in line to get here. And as I say, the experience is, because it would be a great place to work, is the capture rate would be terrific.

So the Commissioner thinks the revolving door is a good thing. That probably means Ms. Kim’s letter isn’t exactly going to trigger reforming zeal from Mr. Koskinen. And don’t expect that you can skip out on taxes without your own mole in the IRS, chump.

 

 

Robert D. Flach has your fresh Friday Buzz! Including depressing news that Congresscritters are going to wait until January 2015 to enact the tax laws for 2014.

Kay Bell, Some retirement plan contribution, AGI limits go up in 2015

Brett Bloom, Dismantling a Partnership: The IRS’s Toolbox (Tax Litigation Survey)

William Perez, How to Plan for, Minimize, and Report the Self-Employment Tax

TaxGrrrl, IRS Gets Big Win In Court As Judge Dismisses Tea Party Targeting Cases

Peter Reilly, National Organization For Marriage – No Recovery Of Attorney Fees In Case Against IRS

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 533

 

Kyle PomerleauPass-Through Businesses are not Always Small Businesses (Tax Policy Blog). This article is a good read for anyone who thinks increases in top rates don’t hurt business because most pass-throughs are small. While that may be true, there a lots of large ones:

Compared to c corporations, pass-through businesses are still much smaller on average. The same Census data shows that 1.6 percent of corporate businesses employ 100 or more employees and 0.36 percent employ 500 or more employees. 44 percent employ between 1 and 100 employees.

However, in absolute terms, there are about as many pass-through businesses with 500 or more employees than there are traditional c corporations. According to the Census, there are approximately 9573 pass-through businesses with 500 or more employees and 9434 c corporations with 500 or more employees.

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Source: Tax Foundation

So when you increase taxes on high-income individuals, you are also increasing taxes on employers, which isn’t likely to do good things for employment.

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Robert Goulder, FATCA Envy Spreads Across Hemisphere (Tax Analysts Blog) Other countries just might want to poke into foreign accounts the way we do.

Howard Gleckman, Why Tax Lawyers and Tax Economists Can’t Communicate (TaxVox)

 Megan McArdle,  Can’t Afford a House? Don’t Buy One. Wise advice, but politicians think we should have a program to buy a pony for everyone.

Tax Justice Blog asks What Horrors Await Us in Congress after the Election?  And will they be better or worse horrors than the current bunch of congresscritters?

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/23/14: Iowa Tax Crime Edition. And: USPS > Stamps.com, in Tax Court.

October 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Tax crime happens in Iowa too. While Iowa doesn’t seem to get the same attention from tax prosecutors as some other places, tax evasion can get Iowans the same prison time as anyone else. Two Iowa entrepreneurs are learning that lesson now.

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

The operator of a venerable Des Moines pharmacy and soda fountain apparently will plead guilty to tax evasion on charges arising out of back-door sales of hydrocodone pills, according to reports.  The Des Moines Register article on the plea deal provides insight on how the charges against pharmacist Mark Graziano came about, and on the inherent dangers of tax crime:

The allegations came to light after admitted drug user Kirby Small called state regulators in 2011 and told them Graziano and Enloe were selling wholesale quantities of hydrocodone pills out of Bauder’s back door. State agents raided the business in 2012, and the Iowa Board of Pharmacy filed administrative charges against Graziano and the pharmacy. Federal officials filed criminal charges last spring.

Small, in an interview Tuesday, said that he called the pharmacy board because he was angry at Enloe, who had been a longtime friend. Enloe and Graziano had been selling Small pills, but cut him off over money issues, Small said. Then Enloe called Small’s probation officer and said that Small had been taking drugs, Small said. So Small decided to get back at them.

“You call the cops on an east-sider, what do you expect?” he said, chuckling.

The pharmacy is on the west side, for the record.

Tax crimes by businesses are almost impossible to commit without somebody besides the perpetrator finding out. Those who pay employees in cash to avoid payroll taxes create a potential informant with every new hire. Those who ask for cash payment for sales, as illegal drug sellers normally do, create a potential informant with every new customer. And if the customer falls behind on payments, it is unwise for someone committing crimes to summon the authorities.

The reports say Mr. Graziano is likely to receive a 24-37 month sentence.

 

20141023-1Stripped-down gross incomeA Northwest Iowa entrepreneur will go to prison for 33 months on charges of evading over $214,000 in taxes, reports the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:

Veronica Fairchild, 42, collected $1.1 million between 2005 and 2008, mostly from a wealthy client named David Karlen.

She declared only 45 percent of that money as income on her tax returns for those years, which she didn’t file until 2010. The remaining $643,648 was declared as a gift.

At her trial in June, Karlen testified that he’d paid Fairchild to dance, and later for sex. He claimed to have paid between $1,000 and $5,000 for a variety of sexual acts.

Ms. Fairchild, who reportedly owns a strip club in Okoboji, Iowa, denies sleeping with Mr. Karlen:

She said Karlen invented the stories about sexual encounters to cover for his failure to pay taxes on the monetary gifts.

The jury apparently concluded that that payments were for something other than disinterested generousity.

 

On the lighter sidethe usual suspects showed up at a Des Moines Burger King to protest the Kingdom’s proposed merger with Canadian donut empire Tim Hortons. The Des Moines Register reports:

About 15 Iowans rallied outside of a Des Moines Burger King Tuesday to protest the company’s plans to move its headquarters to Canada.

“About” 15? For a crowd that size, I think greater precision is possible. It would have been about 16 if Ed Fallon weren’t traveling. If you missed the rally, you can show your support by asking for large fries with your next Whopper.

 

20130415-1USPS > Stamps.comThe Tax Court ruled against a man who used Stamps.com on March 3 to buy postage to mail his Tax Court Petition on the March 3 filing deadline. The postal service postmark was March 4, and the court said that was the controlling date.  From the case:

In support of his argument petitioner provided a statement by the third party who prepared the petition for mailing and then delivered it to the post office. In her statement the third party describes how on Monday, March 3, 2014, after being “given documents to mail”, she printed postage using Stamps.com software, added extra postage for certified mail, and then took the petition to the U.S. Post Office in Bountiful, Utah, for deposit into the mail. The third party candidly states that in order to “avoid[ ] the long lines” at the post office, she dropped the petition off without having a certified mail receipt stamped by a Postal Service employee and that as a consequence “the sender has no documentation showing * * * [the post office] received the certified package” on March 3, 2014.

The moral? When your down to a mailing deadline, take no shortcuts. Go Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, and get the hand-stampted postmark — even if you have to wait in line.  If the line is really too long, use a Designated Private Delivery Service and get a timely shipping receipt. I bet the “third party” wishes she had done so.

Cite: Sanchez, T.C. Memo 2014-223.

 

Joseph Thorndike, What if Congress Raised Taxes and Nobody Cared – Or Even Noticed? (Tax Analysts Blog). I think Joseph is operating from a false premise:

In 2011 and 2012, Congress cut the Social Security payroll tax by two points. More specifically, lawmakers reduced the portion of the tax levied on employees from 6.2 percent of taxable wages to 4.2 percent. (The portion paid by employers remained at 6.2 percent; most economists believe that this other half of the tax is also ultimately borne by workers in the form of lower wages.)

The payroll tax cut was explicitly designed to be temporary – a one-year shot in the arm for the struggling economy. After a year, lawmakers agreed to extend the cut for another 12 months. But on January 1, 2013, the payroll cut expired, and workers began paying the full 6.2 percent again.

And hardly anybody noticed.

Trust me, people noticed. I got the phone calls.

 

20141023-2Robert D. Flach, THIS JUST IN – SOCIAL SECURITY COLA INCREASE FOR 2015

Me, FICA Max increases to $118,500 for 2015

Jason Dinesen, Meet Joe the Window Washer. Joe will be used for life lessons in small business tax compliance.

Jack Townsend, Blog on the Disqualification of Some Canadian “Snowbirds” from Streamlined Treatment

 

Cara Griffith, Drop Shipping Is Popular With Retailers, but Can Create Tax Challenges (Tax Analysts Blog). “From a sales and use tax perspective, if the retailer has nexus with a particular state or is voluntarily registered in the state where the sale took place, the retailer is required to collect sales tax on the transaction with the customer. Conversely, if neither the retailer nor the shipper has nexus with the state in which the sale took place, neither can be required to collect sales tax.”

Peter Reilly, National Organization For Marriage – No Recovery Of Attorney Fees In Case Against IRS

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 532

Richard Phillips, New Movie Aims to Scare Public by Depicting IRS as Jack-Booted Thugs (Tax Justice Blog) Not to defend the movie (which Peter Reilly watched so I don’t have to), but it’s not always easy to portray the IRS as, say, unicorn nurses.

Career Corner. Let’s End the Big 4 or Bust Myth Once and For All (Tony Nitti, Going Concern)

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FICA Max increases to $118,500 for 2015

October 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The Social Security Administration has announced that the maximum earnings subject to the 6.2% FICA tax rises to $118,500 for 2015.  It has been $117,000 for 2014.   That same cap applies to the 12.4% retirement portion of self-employment tax.

The maximum FICA withholding for 2015 will be $7,347.00 for 2014, up from the 2014 maximum of $7254.00.

The 2.9% medicare tax, split between employees and employers, has no wage or self-employment income cap.  There is also no maximum for the .9% additional medicare tax under Obamacare that applies when adjusted gross income exceeds $250,000 for joint filers, $200,000 for single filers, or $125,000 on married-filing-separate returns

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Tax Roundup, 10/22/14: Remembering tax reform.

October 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

19861022President Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986 28 years ago today. In hindsight, the tax law that resulted seems like a beacon of simplicity, with its 28% top rates and its lack of a capital gain differential.

Looking hard at the 1986 Act, we can see some warning signs. It enacted a temporary research credit, setting the stage for the semi-annual parade of expiring provisions. It included the current alternative minimum tax, which adds huge complexity to individual compliance. It had some benefits that phased out based on income, such as passive losses for active renters and for some IRA contributors. But at the time those could be seen as flaws to be fixed. Instead, they were weeds that would be cultivated.

I count 47 “major” post-tax reform tax laws in the Tax Policy Center list. Every one of them has done its part to undo tax reform. Most of them are represented on my souvenir bookshelf, which has tax law summaries going back to 1984. The left half of the top shelf takes us from 1984 through the 1986 reforms. The rest of it is tax reform’s undoing.

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While each law did its little damage to the tax law, I look at President Bush’s signing of the 1990 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act as the moment when things really began to unravel. OBRA increased in the top rate to 31%, uncoupled the capital gain rate from the ordinary income rate, and enacted the foul phaseouts of itemized deductions and the standard deduction that dishonestly increased the top effective rate over the top stated rate.

Three Presidents and dozens of bills later, we have individual rates over 40%, considering phaseouts and the Obamacare surtaxes. We have dozens of regularly expiring provisions that require lobbyists to pay homage to the taxwriters every year or two. We have unprecedented complexity that forces even smart taxpayers with simple financial lives to pay to get their returns done. And we have land mines all over the tax law, including foreign reporting provisions that can impose $10,000 penalties on taxpayers who have paid all of their taxes.

It’s all a depressing story. Still, 1986 did happen. Top rates came down from 50% to 28%. The base was broadened and rates reduced. It happened once, so maybe it can happen again.

 

The internet ate my first shot at this post, so just a very quick roundup today.

 

20141003-2Tony Nitti, IRS Sheds Light On The Use Of The Recurring Item Exception

 

Mitch Maahs, IRS Revises Offshore Voluntary Compliance Programs (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, NY tax scammers copying fake IRS tax call template

Peter Reilly, IRS Collection Action Can Be Delayed For A Long Time

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 531

David Brunori, Tax Ballot Predictions (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tracy Gordon, Bertha and the French Professor: Lessons for Public Private Partnerships (TaxVox)

Richard Borean, Tax Foundation Awards for Outstanding Achievement in State Tax Reform in 2014 (Tax Policy Blog). No Iowans — no surprise.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/21/14: Gander gets sauced! And: IRS Commissioner’s prophecy of tax season doom.

October 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Gander, Meet Sauce. An alert reader points out something wonderful I had missed — a ruling awarding attorney fees and costs of $257,885 to the return preparers who successfully challenged the IRS preparer regulations. It’s a rare and welcome example of the IRS being held accountable for being unreasonable with taxpayers. And the court said the IRS was being unreasonable (all emphasis mine; some citations omitted):

In the present case, the reasonableness of the government’s position can be measured by the familiar guideposts of statutory interpretation: text, legislative history, statutory context, and congressional intent. In each of those dimensions, the interpretation of § 331(a)(1) advocated by the government was deficient. Indeed, on several key points, such as the proper meaning of the word “representatives,” the IRS offered no support whatever for its interpretation. The Court therefore finds that the government’s position was not substantially justified.

Losing the battle over whether its position was justified, the IRS dipped into its seemingly bottomless supply of chutzpah to challenge the amount:

As an initial salvo, the IRS argues that it was unreasonable and excessive for Plaintiffs to request compensation for over 1,700 hours spent advocating an interpretation of the statute that Plaintiffs themselves contend is obvious.

Our position was reasonable! OK, it was so unreasonable that even a cave man could litigate against it!

The Court declines the IRS’s request for across-the-board cuts to Plaintiffs’ award. The choice of a hatchet is particularly inappropriate here for several reasons. First and foremost, Plaintiffs prevailed at every stage of this litigation and achieved the entirety of their requested relief. Degree of success is “the most critical factor” in evaluating the reasonableness of a fee award.  Second, the IRS understates the complexity of this case. To be sure, this Court and the D.C. Circuit both concluded that Plaintiffs’ was the only reasonable interpretation of 31 U.S.C. § 330(a)(1). That conclusion, however, was apparent largely as a result of Plaintiffs’ thorough research and well-reasoned briefs.

Hah.

The only thing that would make it better would be if the IRS were assessed a penalty for taking a frivolous or negligent position. Maybe someday. But congratulations to the plaintiffs and the Institute for Justice for pulling off a legal end-zone dance.

 


Cite: Loving, Civil Action No. 12-385 (DC-District of Columbia)

And if you think that preparers can now do whatever they please, read Tax preparation business owner sentenced for tax fraud:

Charles Lee Harrison has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of willfully aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of a false tax return, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Lucy Cruz, special agent in charge of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). Harrison, the owner of a tax preparation business in Houston and Navasota, pleaded guilty June 16, 2014.

Today, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Harrison a 36-month sentence to be immediately followed by one year of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay $396,057 in restitution.

I’m confident Mr. Harrison feels quite regulated at the moment.

 

Oh, Goody. “So we have right now probably the most complicated filing season before us that we’ve had in a long time, if ever. ”

-IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in an interview with Tax Analysts October 17 ($link)

The Commissioner also had an interesting idea for large partnerships ($link):

Our position is the most significant thing we can do to break that bottleneck — and I think it’s supported by a lot of people in the private sector — would be to say we need to amend [the 1982 Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act] and say we can audit a partnership,” Koskinen said. “And when we make an adjustment to the tax quantities, the partnership will absorb that that year,” he said, adding that the reporting would take place on the partnership’s Schedule K-1 for that year and the adjustment would automatically flow through to the partners.

Koskinen added that even though that statutory change would effectively shift the tax liability from those who were partners in the year under audit (and who benefited from the improper tax position) to the current partners, “that happens with mutual funds all the time. . . . People are used to buying and selling investments, recognizing whatever the tax and investment situation is.

Maybe that makes some sense for large partnerships, but it would be horrible for small ones, as anybody buying a partnership interest would also be buying three open years of audit exposure.

 

buzz20140923It’s Tuesday. That means Robert D. Flach is Buzzing with links from around the tax world!

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Tax Filing Deadline is October 31: Claim Your $54 Credit Before Then

Paul Neiffer, Will ACA Require You To Include Health Insurance as Wages. Spoiler: no.

Matt McKinney, Can I force my Iowa corporation to buy my stock? (IowaBiz.com). A common question from minority owners of closely-held corporations.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #10 – IRA and Qualified Plan Rollovers Are More Treacherous Than You Realize.

TaxGrrrl, Suspected Nazi War Criminals Collected Millions In Social Security Benefits After Fleeing The U.S.

William Perez, Payroll Taxes: A Primer for Employers

Peter Reilly, Taxpayer Barred From Communicating With CPA Still Hit With Late File Penalty. Weird and unjust.

Kay Bell, Jury doesn’t buy ‘vow of poverty’ as excuse for not filing taxes. Well, this tax evasion conviction will help the defendant fulfill the vow.

 

 

20141021-1Martin Sullivan, A Double Bias Against Infrastructure (Tax Analysts Blog)  He doesn’t mention the biggest problem: When most of government spending is just transfers from some taxpayers to others, it squeezes out everything else.

Donald Marron, A “Normal” Budget Isn’t Really Normal (TaxVox): “From 1975 to today, the federal debt swelled from less than 25 percent of GDP to more than 70 percent. I don’t think many people would view that as normal. Or maybe it is normal, but not in a good way.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 530

 

News from the Profession. AICPA Seeks to Better Weed Out Losers, Misfits with Evolved CPA Exam (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). Good thing I passed the exam before this development.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/20/14: Extension season is over. Now what? And: do your part for Boeing!

October 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

We are now in the sweet spot of the tax year. We are done with extended 1040s, and it’s too early to get most people to do year-end tax planning. That’s why this is the continuing education season for most of us.

The Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools begin next week. I will be speaking on the Day 1 program for all schools, starting October 28 in Waterloo, Iowa. Tour stops also include Maquoketa, Sheldon, Red Oak, Ottumwa, Mason City, Denison and Ames. Who said public accounting lacks glamour?

Now to get those slides prepared…

 

Government is just a word for things we do together. Like subsidizing big corporations. Using information from Good Jobs First, Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Institute provides a chart of the biggest known recipients of state subsidies:

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Meanwhile, everyone else pays a little higher tax rate to grease Boeing’s landing gear. I believe that the damage caused to the taxpayers who don’t get these subsidies makes losers out of the states that win tax incentive bidding wars.

 

20140805-3Kay Bell, 2014 tax planning starts with your tax bracket

Annette Nellen, Premium Tax Credit Problems, “This is a big deal because the PTC serves to help make health insurance affordable to individuals with income between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line.”

TaxGrrrl, Apple Seeds Perk Wars, Adds Egg Freezing As Employee Benefit.  Is that a tax-free benefit? It makes me wonder about their work-life balance.

Peter Reilly, UnFair: Exposing The IRS – Does Not Make Strong Case Or Decent Documentary. Peter watched the movie so you don’t have to.

Tax Trials, Tax Court Preserves Taxpayer Protections against Arbitrary and Capricious Appeals Rulings

Russ Fox, Copying Steven Martinez’s Idea Is Not a Good Choice. If you think you need to murder nine witnesses to stay out of jail, you probably won’t stay out of jail.

 

 

The Tax Prof reports that Linda Beale will resume tax blogging after going off the air as a result of the death of her husband. My condolences to Linda and her family.

Jim Maule, Putting the Brakes on Tax Breaks. “Never do indirectly through taxes what can and should be done directly.”

 

Andrew Lundeen, Most Common Jobs by Income Bracket (Tax Policy Blog). The professions do well.

Richard Auxier, Ahead of the Midterms, State Economic Trends Present Mixed Signals (TaxVox). “A September Pew Research poll found that while Americans’ assessment of job opportunities had improved, 56 percent reported their family’s income was falling behind the cost of living.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 529

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Quotable. Tax Analysts David Brunori  on a proposed film credit for the music industry in New York ($link):

Like their film equivalents, tax breaks for musicians are bad tax policy. Even if music producers were swayed by taxes, those breaks would be bad policy. Why musicians? Why not cab drivers? Orthodontists? Flamenco dancers? New York lawmakers, many of whom wanted to be Billy Joel growing up, will probably say yes to this terrible idea.

While I have a rooting interest in the music industry, the tax credit idea is awful.

 

News from the Profession. Let’s Watch This Audit Senior Quit His Job in the Most Fabulous Way (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/17/14: If they don’t want the money back, it’s not a loan. And: the state of your IRS “rights.”

October 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Loans aren’t income. But income isn’t loans either. A Tennessee woman struggled with the difference, but the Tax Court straightened her out yesterday.

The taxpayer did consulting work for the medical practice of a Dr. Quisling. Somehow linked to this, she got payments over an eight-year period from around $25,000 to $56,000 annually.  She didn’t file tax returns for any of these years.

The taxpayer took a strange approach to the payments. We’ll let Judge Kerrigan explain (my emphasis):

Petitioner sent Dr. Quisling a memorandum entitled “Memorandum of Understanding on Loan Terms and Conditions”. This memorandum states:

    It has been revealed to me that the action of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Inc., * * * has created a financial burden upon your medical practice, because the medical services rendered by your medical practice rely upon payment(s) received by BCBST. Therefore, I am willing to develop a loan package * * * for the short-range and long-range impact upon the delivery of medical services by the “in-network-provider” as well as the “out-of-network provider” * * *.

The memorandum further states “[a] reasonable expectation of this Memorandum of Understanding on Loan Terms and Conditions is that the loan proceedings will be based upon a) your ability to loan and b) the completion of the research which will result in profit to the undersigned in order that the loan can be repaid.”

This memorandum, dated April 1, 2003, includes the signature of petitioner but not the signature of Dr. Quisling. Petitioner sent Dr. Quisling a followup letter to the memorandum requesting a memorandum of acceptance. The memorandum of acceptance includes a signature alleged to be Dr. Quisling’s, but this signature is not his.

20120801-2See, loans aren’t income, so we don’t have to tell IRS! But Judge Kerrigan notes a flaw in this cunning plan:

Petitioner did not make payments to Dr. Quisling. Neither Dr. Quisling nor Mrs. Quisling demanded payment from petitioner.

Yes, repayment is a key part of a loan agreement. You give me money, I give it back later. Without the second part, it’s either a “gift” or “income.”

The doctor wisely did not play along, but unwisely failed to issue 1099s.. The doctor terminated the consulting relationship in 2011 when she refused belated requests for her Social Security number.

The taxpayer denied performing services. She said the money was given her for other things:

Petitioner contends that payments made by Quisling were loans. Petitioner testified that she needed the money to fund the research for a book that she was writing. However, petitioner produced no evidence of the book including the potential for publishing the book or any other evidence of her ability to repay. Dr. Quisling testified that the payments were not loans and that he did not expect to be repaid.

On February 5, 2011, petitioner faxed Dr. Quisling a letter referencing an alleged purchase of medical equipment that Quisling made from petitioner’s deceased husband. On February 25, 2011, Dr. Quisling’s attorney and the attorney for Quisling, Vincent Zuccaro, sent petitioner a letter stating that Quisling had not purchased any equipment from her husband or received a gift of property from her or her husband.

The Tax Court had little trouble finding that the taxpayer received income, rather than loans, upholding the tax assessment and various penalties.

The Moral? If you get income, calling it a “loan” doesn’t make it one. Especially when the “lender” doesn’t think it’s a loan and never asks for repayment.

Cite: Fisher, T.C. Memo 2014-219.

 

20130419-1Amber Athey, Is the IRS Upholding Your Taxpayer Rights? (Tax Policy Blog). Some better than others:

2. The Right to Quality Service:

While the opportunities for outreach seem robust, in 2012, only 66 percent of taxpayers trying to call the IRS reached a representative, and callers waited on average of 17 minutes, up from 12 minutes in 2011. An article from April of 2014 stated the wait time was up to 30 minutes, largely due to budget cuts.

And:

8. The Right to Confidentiality

Any information disclosed to the IRS may not be shared with anyone else unless authorized by the taxpayer or by law. The IRS struggles with protecting the confidentiality of taxpayers. Numerous information scandals have plagued the IRS, including the posting of 100,000 names and social security numbers on their website and an unencrypted thumb drive loaded with social security numbers being taken home by an employee.

In the first six months of 2013, 1.6 million taxpayers were affected by identity theft, compared to 271,000 in 2010. Thefts have resulted in billions of dollars in potentially fraudulent refunds, as the IRS issues refunds before they’re sure the filing was done by the person whose name is on the form. In 2011, fraudulent refunds totaled $3.6 billion.  Serious improvements in security measures need to occur in order for taxpayers to feel confident that the IRS can protect their information.

But Amber Athey still thinks the IRS “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” is a good thing:

The IRS has room to improve in protecting the rights of taxpayers, but the implementation of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights is a great first step in this process. A clear outline of rights is also highly beneficial to the IRS and taxpayers as a means setting expectations for the function of the IRS.

I suppose having something to aspire to is a good thing, but it would be a lot better if there was somebody who would actually enforce these rights and impose costs on the IRS for falling short.

 

buzz20141017buzz20141017Robert D. Flach has a friday “Buzz Light,” linking to tax things.

Jason Dinesen, Updated Wisconsin Tax Guidance for Same-Sex Married Couples

Kay Bell, Are you willing to pay more to cover Airbnb taxes?

Paul Neiffer invites you to an Ag Summit in Chicago on December 7 with Andy Biebl and Lance Woodbury on “Farm Retirement and Transition Planning.”

 

Kyle Pomerleau, The Pease Limitation on Itemized Deductions Is Really a Surtax (Tax Policy Blog). It’s also a lie. It works like a rate increase, but more complicated and without the honesty.

Howard Gleckman, Taxes and Spending Return To “Normal”– But Not For Long (TaxVox)

Robert Goulder, Early Results Are In: Inversions Aren’t Going Away (Tax Analysts Blog) “It’s too early to draw a definitive conclusion here, but it seems the world’s multinationals haven’t yet thrown in the towel on inverting to low-tax jurisdictions.”

Richard Phillips, Ireland’s Soft Pedaling Tax Avoidance Crack Down (Tax Justice Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 526

Me, IRS Issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for November 2014

Career Corner. A Quick and Dirty Guide to Getting Away With Insider Trading (Leona May, Going Concern)

 

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IRS Issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for November 2014

October 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The IRS has issued (Rev. Rul. 2014-28) the minimum required interest rates for loans made in November 2014:

Short Term (demand loans and loans with terms of up to 3 years): 0.39%

-Mid-Term (loans from 3-9 years): 1.90%

-Long-Term (over 9 years): 2.91%

The Long-term tax-exempt rate for Section 382 ownership changes in November 2014 is 2.94%.

Historical AFRs may be found here or from prior Tax Update posts.

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Tax Roundup, 10/16/14: Tax-free public pensions proposed. And: Goodbye, 2010!

October 16th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

And the statute of limitations now closes for extended 2010 1040s. That’s all water under the bridge now.

 

Accounting Today visitors, the corporate tax rate piece you seek from the newsletter is here.

 

If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

If Iowa’s income tax were a car, it would look like this.

Brutal Assault on Reason Watch.* As the political campaigns plunge into their dreary final frenzy, we can look forward to silly tax proposals intended to buy a few votes from the gullible. Proposals like this from an Iowa candidate for Governor: Hatch proposes tax exemption for public pensions:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch on Tuesday proposed to exempt public pensions from state income taxation.

In a speech to the Iowa State Police Association in Ames, Hatch said his Tax-Exempt Public Service Pensions Act would cover Iowa Public Employees Retirement System benefits, police and fire retirement benefits, judicial pensions and other smaller state, county and city pension system recipients.

Why just public pensions?

“I understand the nature of public employee bargaining,” Hatch said. “I know the contracts you negotiate include retirement as part of the bargain. You have foregone wage increases and other benefits to guarantee a strong pension, and I will honor that bargain.

“I know most of you are like a lot of public servants in that you could make a lot more money doing something else,” he added. “I want to make sure we place the proper value on your decision to serve and that we honor the contracts you have made for the long term.”

So somebody who gets a six-figure income as a local school district superintendent would get a tax-free pension, while somebody who took a much smaller salary to run a local private school would have a taxable pension. Because public service.

20130110-2There are many bad assumptions underlying this proposal. While there are many hard-working public employees, a government job implies no special moral credit. Public employees have defined benefit plans, which are nearly extinct in the private sector, and they already artificially increase public sector compensation. In general, public sector workers make more than their private sector counterparts. And the idea that people who work for the government are doing it for the public good, instead of for selfish motives, is difficult to credit.

For tax policy purposes, such carve-outs are awful. They necessarily increase the taxes on those not eligible for the benefit. That increases their motivation to carve out their own special deals, causing higher rates, causing more special deals. You end up with a completely dysfunctional system — one that looks a lot like what Iowa has now, as a matter of fact. Unfortunately, Jack Hatch’s opponent, Governor Branstad, also seems quite comfortable with the system we have.

*Click here for explanation of the “brutal assault on reason” theme.

 

Donnie Johnson, Liz Malm, Same-Sex Couples Gain More Clarity Regarding Their State Taxes (Tax Policy Blog).

William Perez, State Tax Amnesties in 2014

Tim Todd, Affiliated Group Can Use Graduated Tax Rates Even If Personal Service Corp. Is a Member. Mr. Todd is a law professor who runs the Tax Litigation Survey, which he has recently brought to my attention. I look forward to following it for its regular coverage of Tax Court cases and other tax litigation.

Diana Leyden, Not Being in Filing Compliance Can Trip Your Client Up at the CDP Level (Procedurally Taxing). Just one of many problems that arise when you get into the non-filing habit.

 

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Jack Townsend, An Example of the Difference Between Pleading and Not Pleading:

Over 95% of federal criminal cases are resolved by plea agreement.  One of the reasons is that, in the Sentencing Guidelines calculations, defendants who plead will usually qualify by the plea for the acceptance of responsibility two or three level decrease in the Guidelines calculation.  Moreover, by pleading, the defendant may make himself or herself more attractive for a Booker downward variance from the reduced Guidelines range already reduced for acceptance of responsibility.  Conversely, by going to trial, a defendant generally forgoes any realistic hope of an acceptance of responsibility adjustment or any favorable Booker downward adjustment and may behave at trial in a way that will not endear the sentencing judge to the defendant.

He covers a case where a defendant ended up with a 405-month sentence, where a co-defendant was limited to 180 months (15 years) by plea deal. So plea deals are good if you are really guilty, while pressuring the innocent to confess on the threat of spending life in prison.

 

Annette Nellen, States without an income tax – good idea?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 525

 

News from the Profession. PwC’s Bob Moritz Thinks Millennials Ask Way Too Many Questions (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/15/14: Extended return do or die day – tips on timely filing, and why you should do that.

October 15th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130415-1Friends, it’s deadline day. Extended 1040s are due today for U.S. residents. No second extension is available.

What happens if you don’t file?  Nothing good.  A few of the bad things that can happen:

- If you owe money, you can turn a 1/2% per-month late payment penalty into a 5% per month late-filing penalty.

- If you have an election to make that can only be made on a timely-filed return — for example, an election to defer insurance gains, or to carry forward net operating losses – you lose the chance to make that election forever.

- If your return would include a foreign disclosure, such as a Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets;  a Form 5471, disclosing an interest in a foreign corporation; or a Form 3520 if you have a foreign trust or a gift from a foreign personlate filing can trigger a $10,000 penalty.

- You don’t start the statute of limitations, so the IRS can come after you indefinitely for the tax year.

- Not filing can cause you to lose refunds. If you don’t file, you lose your ability to get a refund of withheld taxes after two years.

Failure to file is habit forming, and it’s a costly habit. Even if you owe and can’t pay, you still should file; you have options when you owe and can’t pay.

e-file logoWith so much on the line, it’s worth a little effort to make sure your last minute return is treated as timely-filed.  E-filing is the best way to ensure timely filing. There’s no worry about lost mail, and you get quick confirmation from the IRS.

If you must paper file, either out of conviction or because you are filing a form that can only be filed on paper, you should send it Certified mail, return receipt requestedGet down to your friendly post office and get the postmark hand stamped. And get there early; they often aren’t so friendly, or willing to hand-stamp your certified mail postmark, if you show up at closing time. And sometimes they consider that to be approximately “after lunch.”

If you can’t make it to the post office before closingall is not lost. You can go to a FedEx store or a UPS store and use a designated private delivery serviceBe sure to use one of the specified services. For example, “UPS Next Day Air” qualifies, but “UPS Ground” does not.  Get a shipping receipt with today’s date. And remember to use the street address for the IRS service center, as private services can’t deliver to the post-office box addresses.

 

Kay Bell, Tax Day 2014, the sequel: Oct. 15 Filing Extension Panic

Jason Dinesen, My Response to the IRS Saying I Can’t Speak On My Own Behalf

Peter Reilly, UnFair – One Night Stand Tonight – Exposing IRS Or Fair Tax Infomercial?

 

Keith Fogg, Picking the Wrong Collection Due Process Notice to Petition (Procedurally Taxing)

TaxGrrrl, Ireland Declares ‘Double Irish’ Tax Scheme Dead

 

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William McBride, U.S. Companies Continue to Flee Uncompetitive U.S. Tax System (Tax Policy Blog)

Matt Gardner, The Inversion Parade Continues: Steris Announces Pretend Move to Britain (Tax Justice Blog)

Howard Gleckman, The Small, Happy World of Supersized IRAs (TaxVox)

Joseph Thorndike, Forget Privacy — It’s Time to Tax Miles, Not Gas (Tax Analysts blog).  How do I put this politely? No, it’s not.

 

David Brunori, Schooling the Governors (Tax Analysts Blog) “Back when my libertarianism was still in the closet, I wrote critically of the Cato report card. I now regret my harsh critiques of the project because I believe Cato does the nation a great service by analyzing, assessing, and rating state executives.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 524

The new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Chatswood ConsultingThe ancient and venerable roundup of insurance and risk management posts has many highlights, including Hank Stern on Ebola and your health coverage.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/14/14: Iowa tax credits expected to pay out $361 million this year. And: Fix FBAR!

October 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Extended 1040s are due tomorrow!

 

20120906-1$521 million for the well-connected and well lobbied. The Des Moines Register reports on a new set of estimates from the Iowa Department of Revenue:

Iowa would have to pay about a half-billion dollars for tax credits during a 12-month period should every recipient come to the table asking for their awards.

The state has a tax credit liability of $462 million for the 2015 fiscal year, which started July 1 and runs until June 30, 2015, according to an Iowa Department of Revenue report.

For the 2016 fiscal year, the state’s tax credit liability is expected to hit $521.2 million.

But it’s not so bad as all that:

The Revenue Department said it only expects $361.4 million worth of tax credits to be claimed in fiscal 2015 and $402.8 million to be claimed in fiscal 2016.

Compare the $361 million in expected tax credit giveaways to expected receipts, net of refunds, from the entire Iowa corporation income tax in fiscal 2015 of $413.5 million. A good chunk of this is actually in the form of cash grants via the Iowa research credit. Iowa persists in giving these away even though a commission tasked with finding out whether they do any good was unable to say they were worth anything.

Iowa couples its regime of special favors for special political friends with high individual rates, and the highest corporation tax rate in the U.S., for those of us lacking lobbyists or state house connections.  Far better to slash individual rates, get rid of the near-worthless corporation income tax, strip out loopholes and deductions, and make everybody’s tax life easier.  It’s time for The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

passportAllison ChristiansPaperwork and Punishment: It’s Time to Fix FBAR (Tax Analysts, Via the TaxProf). A righteous takedown of one of the worst features of an awful tax law:

The FBAR penalty structure is harsh at best and tremendouosly unfair at worst. An FBAR failure or mistake attracts a one-size-fits-all punishment, which rapidly escalates according to a formula that is known only to the IRS. The instructions claim that a taxpayer can avoid penalties by showing a “reasonable cause,” but they also state that a “non-willful” mistake or failure carries a $10,000 penalty, regardless of the amount of money actually at stake…

It cannot be noted without irony that for a regime created to catch hard-core financial criminals, FBAR now criminalizes something we would hardly consider a serious crime — namely a paperwork mistake.

It’s IRS policy to shoot the jaywalkers so they can slap the real international financial criminals on the wrists.  Read the whole thing.

 

Paul Neiffer reminds us that you have Less Than Two Full Days to Get Your Return Filed

It’s a quiet Buzz day at Robert D. Flach’s place. 

Kay Bell, Federal holiday effects on federal taxes,

Stephen Olson has the Summary Opinions for 10/03/14, rounding up developments in tax procedure at Procedurally Taxing.

 

20121022-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 523

Me, The C corporation dilemma and how not to solve it. My latest at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professionals’ Blog. I discuss the C corporation double-tax, and a failed effort to solve the problem with a “midco transaction” in advance of a sale of the business.

 

How is that even possible? District Court Sets The Bar Lower For Accountants Than Attorneys (Peter Reilly)

News from the Profession. Center for Audit Quality Managed to Find Some People Confident in Audits (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/13/14: Appeals Court holds CRP payments not Self-employment income to non-farmers. And: Extended due date looms!

October 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

binNot farming isn’t farming. That is one way to look at Friday’s decision by the Eighth Circuit in Morehouse that Conservation Reserve Program payments to non-farmers are not self-employment income. Overturning a Tax Court decision, a split three-judge panel rejected the IRS assessment of self-employment tax on landowners who enrolled in the CRP when they were not engaged in the trade or business of farming. The appeals panel said the CRP payments to hold erodable land out of production are instead rental payments with respect to non-farmers; real estate rental income is not subject to self-employment tax.

Roger McEowen, who worked on the case from the taxpayer’s side, has a detailed analysis of the case and its history. He summarizes the state of CRP law:

 Now, the Eighth Circuit’s reversal of the Tax Court means that non-farmers do not have to pay self-employment tax on CRP payments. That’s the case at least within the Eighth Circuit.  Active Farmers still have to pay on CRP payments unless the 2008 Farm Bill provision applies to them. But, non-farmers and non-materially participating farm landlords are given relief within the Eighth Circuit. For CRP rents paid after 2007, the question is whether the recipient is a materially-participating farmer.

The “2008 Farm Bill provision” holds that CRP payments are not self-employment income for recipients receiving Social Security payments.

In Iowa, taxpayers might want to think twice before taking their CRP payments out of self-employment income. Iowa has a special exclusion of capital gain income for taxpayers who have held land for ten years and who have also “materially participated” in a business with the land for ten years. The Iowa Department or Revenue in a recently-released decision said that it would consider a taxpayer to be “materially participating” in CRP ground if self-employment tax were paid. Given how much appreciation there has been on farm ground in recent years, paying a little self-employment tax might be worth it to avoid Iowa tax on a big farm sale gain.

Cite: Morehouse, CA-8, No. 13-3110.

Paul Neiffer has more: Morehouse Appeal is Released – Taxpayer Victory

 

20140513-1Making crashes more likely, for your safety The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago shortened yellow light times to increase red-light camera revenues.  As Brian Gongol notes, this demolishes the argument that the cameras are for safety, rather than revenue: “It’s quite simple: If you want to cut down on red-light running and consequent crashes, you lengthen yellow lights and increase the gap between the red in one direction and the onset of green in the other.

Our local politicians never seemed very concerned about dangerous intersections until they found a way to make money off of them. Nor did they experiment with non-revenue safety options, like longer yellow cycles and a delay between the red one way and the green light the other, before turning on the revenue cameras.

 

Russ Fox, You Filed That Extension, And Only Now Are Realizing the Deadline is Wednesday… “First, in most cases tax professionals say it’s better to extend than amend. But extending is now out [1], so it’s better to get a reasonable return in.”

Peter Reilly, Paper Filing 1040 On October 15th? Go To The Post Office! Use Certified Mail:

 It is almost October 15th.  October 15 is the extended due date of your federal individual tax return.  If, like me, you still have not filed it and you are planning, unlike me, to paper file, use certified mail and save the return card when it comes back – especially if you owe money.

I e-file, myself, but if you are filing to claim a refund on a 2010 extended return, paper filing may be your only option — and then you absolutely should go certified mail, return receipt requested.

If you are an American abroad, Phil Hodgen explains how to obtain an Income Tax Return Extension Until December 15, 2014

TaxGrrrl, Trying To Reach IRS? Hold On Until Tuesday. Columbus Day, plus they shut down their computers for the weekend.

Tony Nitti, A Tale Of Two Activities: How To Beat The Hobby Loss Rules 

Jack Townsend, Bitcoins Update

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Filing Status

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 522

William McBride, EPI Perpetuates Myth of Low Corporate Taxes. (Tax Policy Blog). A lesson on the dangers of ignoring the ascendance of pass-through entities.

Daniel Shaviro, Frontiers of quasi-tax fraud. “Because (a) partnership tax rules are so complex that only a handful of people really understand them – perhaps a thousand across the entire country? – and (b) people at the IRS generally don’t understand them, and (c) the audit rate for partnership tax returns is below 1%, compliance with partnership tax rules that are meant to block abusive tax planning that contradicts the actual tenor of the rules has pretty much completely collapsed.”

Renu Zaretsky, Cheap Talk, Scoring, and Promises, No, it’s not another night at the singles bar; today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers developments in the medical device tax repeal effort, loophole closers, and talk (just talk) of tax reform.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 10/10: Lottery Bust, Music Credits on the Table (Tax Justice Blog). New York considers expanding corporate welfare to record companies, of all things.

 

Unlike the politicians, they at least give you what you pay for. A summary of tax cases involving prostitutes in the wake of the Cartagena Hooker scandal from Robert Wood.

News from the Profession. Which Accounting Firm Fired an Employee for His Dispute with Comcast? A: PwC (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). And they fired me when I didn’t even have cable.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/10/14: Tax Court: consolidated return, consolidated determination of professional corporation status. And more!

October 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2

Accounting Today visitors, click here for the pile of clothes.

Professional Services Corporation in consolidated return not subjected to flat rate tax. When a professional business – law, medicine, consulting, engineering, architecture, actuarial science, performing arts, or accounting – is operated as a C corporation, the “professional service corporation” rules tax its income at a flat 35%. It is denied the use of the 15, 25 and 34% brackets otherwise available.

A corporation is a Qualified Personal Service Corporation (QPSC) subject to the flat 35% rate if it passes (or fails, depending on how you look at it) two tests:

– Substantially all of its activities involve the performance of personal services, and

– 95% of the shares are held by employees who performed such services.

An engineer and his wife operated an engineering practice in a C corporation. This C corporation owned 100% of the stock of a ranching business. The tax law allows C corporation parent corporations to file consolidated returns with their subsidiaries, reporting all of the income on one return. On a consolidated bases, the ranch activity caused the company to not have “substantially all” of its activities involve performing personal services.  As a result, it filed its return using the lower brackets.

The IRS came in with a novel argument. It said the QPSC tests had to be applied separately to each group member — not to the consolidated return as a whole. On that basis, the engineering business would have to pay up its taxes at a flat 35% rate. Tax Court Judge Jacobs explains:

Respondent asserts that where one member of an affiliated group is a qualified personal service corporation and another is not, the consolidated taxable income of the affiliated group must be broken up into two separate baskets. Respondent argues that section 448 requires that the determination as to whether a corporation is a qualified personal service corporation is to be made at the entity level, not at the level of the affiliated group. Further, respondent posits that the Code provides for treating qualified personal service corporate members of an affiliated group differently from other members.

The Tax Court decided that the tax law fails to support the IRS here:

Although section 448(d)(4) provides special rules by which members of an affiliated group may determine their status as a qualified personal service corporation in electing whether to use the cash method of accounting, it provides no illumination as to the rate of tax to be applied to the consolidated taxable income of the entire group. Nor does section 448(d)(4) provide support for the proposition that the consolidated taxable income of an affiliated group is to be broken up into separate baskets.

The court also found that the consolidated return regulations don’t provide for a breakout of QPSC income from other income:

In computing the proper tax liability of an affiliated group, we begin with section 1.1502-2, Income Tax Regs. Section 1.1502-2(a), Income Tax Regs., does not distinguish between taxable income under section 11(b)(1) and (2), and we find no authority to permit the breakup of an affiliated group’s consolidated taxable income into separate baskets. We look to the affiliated group as a whole, i.e., the entity which generated the consolidated taxable income, to determine the characterization of the consolidated taxable income. And in this regard, the parties agree that, when viewed as a whole, Applied Research’s affiliated group is not a qualified personal service corporation.

To conclude, we hold that in the situation involved herein, graduated rates set forth in section 11(b)(1) should be applied to the affiliated group’s consolidated taxable income. I

I’m surprised the IRS even made this argument. To me, it doesn’t even seem like a close issue. It’s the sort of assertion the IRS can make without risk, because it isn’t subject to the same penalties for taking unsupported positions that apply to taxpayers. A sauce for the gander rule, allowing taxpayers to collect the same penalties for bad positions asserted by IRS that they can assert against taxpayers, is overdue.

Cite: Applied Research Associates, Inc., 143 T.C. No. 17.

 

 

20120906-1Yes, Smith’s tax break does take money out of Jones’s pocketFans of corporate welfare tax credits sometimes argue that nobody gets hurt when a favored business gets a sweetheart deal. But their competitors who don’t get the sweet deal may not agree. An Iowa City grocer sure doesn’t:

New Pioneer Food Co-op is crying foul over the idea of the city of Iowa City providing $1.75 million in tax-increment financing assistance to attract a national grocery chain.

New Pioneer’s board of directors sent a letter to the Iowa City Council’s Economic Development Committee this week saying that using TIF money to bring an out-of-state company to Iowa City would hurt local grocers.

These tax breaks — like the state income tax credits the Governor likes to hand out — take money from existing taxpayers to lure and subsidize their competitors — a point not lost New Pioneer:

New Pioneer’s board said if the city were to approve the TIF assistance, it would be at the expense of existing local businesses that would lose customers and be essentially subsidizing a competitor with their tax dollars.

“The market for groceries in the Johnson County area is fixed, and already very competitive,” the board said in its letter. “Bringing in an additional competitor in this category will not drive economic development in the city. It will not increase the size of the market, nor will it increase employment in Johnson County since one or more other stores likely will be forced to eliminate jobs to match their reduced market shares.”

But that’s no concern of the politicians handing out the breaks:

[Iowa City Economic Development Administrator] Davidson said although he respects New Pioneer’s perspective, it’s appropriate for the city to get involved because the project would have a significant impact on the taxable value of the Iowa City Marketplace and properties in the surrounding commercial district.

In other words, screw you guys who are already here paying taxes. We want to give away your money because we think it will enable us to collect more somewhere else in town.

 

buzz20140905Fresh Friday Buzzfrom Robert D. Flach, including word on the upcoming extender train wreck.

Paul Neiffer, Time Running Out on Late Portability Elections. If a taxpayer wants to carry over a deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exclusion, they have to file an election by December 31 for deaths in 2012 or 2013.  This filing requirement is, of course, stupid.

Kay Bell, Tax extenders delay could delay 2015 filing season

Jason Dinesen, Move Up the W-2 Filing Deadline to Combat ID Theft? “Moving up the W-2 deadline should be done and it might be a partial fix to the problem of identity theft … but it’s one piece of a solution, not a cure-all.”

Peter Reilly, Teresa Giudice’s Surprise Sentence And Possible Better Ways To Motivate Compliance. “What I found interesting in this piece by Kelly Phillips Erb was that Ms. Giudice was surprised when she was sentenced to some prison time.”  Me too.

TaxGrrrl has more guest posts: “Tisha,” Giving Up Citizenship Because Of Taxes; and Matthew Litz, The Inverted Talk About Tax Inversions — They’ve Got it All Upside-Down.

Keith Fogg, Unrecorded Conveyances and the Attachment of the Federal Tax Lien or Innocent Spouse Once Removed (Procedurally Taxing)

 

A map of per-return Iowa Earned Income Credit by Iowa School District, courtesy  Iowa Taxpayers Association and the Legislative Services Agency:

Iowa EITC map

Click image for full-size map.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 519

Andrew Lundeen, The Tax Code Isn’t Good at Fighting Inequality (Tax Policy Blog):

A recent article on Vox, How Sweden Fights Inequality—Without Soaking the Rich, notes that countries with the most success in fighting inequality do not have highly progressive tax systems, such as the United States’ tax code.

Inequality is just something our politicians use as a distraction from their own failure to improve the lot of the poor.

 

News from the Profession. Deloitte So Desperate to Populate Its LinkedIn Group They’ve Resorted to Bribery (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). So where’s my bribe?

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/9/14: Tax-exempt now, tax-exempt forever! And: Real Housewife, real plea deal.

October 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

Accounting Today visitors, click here for the pile of clothes.

 

20120511-2Maybe somebody has tried this before, but as far as I know, this is a new bad idea.  Mr. Lundy, a Florida man, received a non-taxable disability settlement. The IRS didn’t dispute that the settlement was exempt. But then things went to another level.  Tax Court Judge Armen explains (my emphasis):

Rather, petitioners contend that they invested Mr. Lundy’s disability retirement income (which respondent does not challenge as nontaxable) in Mrs. Lundy’s sole proprietorship and that, as a consequence, income generated by that proprietorship is nontaxable. Or, in petitioners’ words: “[A]ny thing we funded with those funds were completely tax free also.”

interesting argument. Once you get a tax-free dollar, anything that grows from that dollar is tax-free forever. That would be awesome. You could invest in municipal bonds, and then anything you buy with the exempt interest would be tax-free too!  If only it worked that way…

Alas, it doesn’t.  Judge Armen elaborates:

In arguing as they do, petitioners fail to distinguish between an item that is excludable from income and the income that such an item may produce once it is invested. Many items are statutorily excluded from gross income. For example, gross income does not include the value of property acquired by gift or inheritance. Sec. 102(a). In contrast, income generated from property acquired by gift or inheritance does not come within such statutory exclusion.

Dang.

Cite: Lundby, T.C. Memo 2014-209.

 

Russ Fox, It’s Not As If Anything Is Happening Right After This…:

And there is. For reasons that only the bureaucrats at the IRS can fathom, every year over Columbus Day weekend the IRS shuts down their computer systems. This includes processing of returns and IRS e-services.

Well, it’s not like there’s a deadline coming up or anything. Oh, wait…

 

The “Real Housewives” casting department apparently didn’t test reading comprehension. TaxGrrrl reports: Real Housewives’ Teresa Giudice Claims She Didn’t Know That Jail Was A Possibility:

The sentence came as a shock to Teresa who claimed, in the interview, that her lawyer did not tell her jail time was a possibility under the plea. She said about the plea, “I didn’t fully understand it. I thought my lawyer was going to fight for me. I mean, that’s what lawyers do. I don’t know. That’s why you hire an attorney. You put it in their hands.”

This shows the importance of reading legal documents before you sign them. She signed a plea agreement with the language excerpted here:

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I’m not sure how you can sign something that says “the sentencing judge may impose any reasonable sentence up to and including the statutory maximum term” and feel safe. But then again, I’m not a real housewife.

 

harvestPaul Neiffer, Taxable is Taxable -Whether a 1099 or not! “The bottom line is any income received on the farm is taxable income whether there is a form 1099 or not.”

Jack Townsend, IRS Grants Automatic Treaty Relief for Canadian RRSPs and RRIFs

Kay Bell, Don’t overlook tax breaks in your rush to file by Oct. 15

 

Liz Malm, How Does Your State Score on Property Tax Administration? Probably Not Very Well (Tax Policy Blog). Iowa gets a C.

 

Cara Griffith, Is the Maryland Tax Court Hiding Its Opinions? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Here’s the problem: The Maryland Tax Court publishes a small fraction of its decisions online. It published a single decision in 2013 and has yet to publish a decision in 2014. The court has, of course, issued far more decisions; it simply chooses not to make them publicly available. One would presume, then, that the court retains all decisions and that if a taxpayer or practitioner wanted to review those decisions, a copy could be requested. But it is not that simple in Maryland. 
According to the court’s most recent retention schedule, decisions are to be permanently retained and periodically transferred to the Maryland State Archives. In reality, however, the tax court retains them for three years, but then the decisions are “shredded.” They are not sent to the archives.

Strange. If decisions aren’t public, they are of no use for taxpayers and practitioners trying to follow an often uncertain tax law. The shredding can also provide cover for favoritism or incompetence on the bench. Outrageous.

 

Howard Gleckman, Ryan and Lew Both Object to JCT Scoring of Future Tax Reform (TaxVox). “Like a couple of baseball managers working the umpires before a big World Series game, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), who wants to be the next chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, are looking to change the way Congress scores tax reform even before Congress begins a rewrite.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 519.

News from the Profession. Comcast: Let It Be Known That We Did Not Ask PwC to Fire That Guy (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/8/14: Koskinen warns of another hellish filing season. And: FATCA “tormenting” offshore taxpayers.

October 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The Younkers Building ruins, morning, March 29, 2014.

The Younkers Building ruins, morning, March 29, 2014.

Here we go again. We know from bitter experience that Congress might cause tax season delays by passing an election-year “extenders” bill at the last minute. IRS Commissioner Koskinen gave official warning yesterday in a letter to the head of the Senate Finance Committee:

This uncertainty, if it persists into December or later, could force the IRS to postpone the opening of the 2015 filing season and delay the processing of tax refunds for millions of taxpayers. Moreover, if Congress enacts any policy changes to the existing extenders or adds new provisions, the IRS would have to reprogram systems and make processing changes, which would result in longer delays. If Congress waits until 2015 and then enacts retroactive tax law changes affecting 2014, the operational and compliance challenges would be even more severe — likely resulting in service disruptions, millions of taxpayers needing to file amended returns, and substantially delayed refunds.

It was just such retroactive changes that made the 2013 filing season so awful. Add the first go round for Obamacare penalty computations on tax returns, and we can look forward to an even more wonderful tax season in 2015.

I predict that we will get a last-minute passage of the Lazarus provisions that keep dying and being resurrected, sometime in December. Of course, it could drag into January again. I expect pretty much all of the expiring provisions, including bonus depreciation, to be included. But I never rule out Congress dropping the ball entirely.

Other coverage: Richard Rubin, IRS Warns of Tax-Filing Season Delays If Congress Stalls 

Joint Committee on Taxation, list of expiring provisions 2013-2024 (pdf).

 

20140815-2Taxpayer Advocate: FATCA “Tormenting” TaxpayersTaxpayer Advocate Nina Olson doesn’t seem to be a fan of FATCA. She spoke to the Financial Markets Association yesterday, and it sounds like she foresees bad things ($link, my emphasis.):

“This is a piece of legislation that is so big and so far-reaching, and [has] so many different moving pieces, and is rolling out in an incremental fashion . . . that you really won’t be able to know what its consequences are, intended or otherwise,” Olson said. “I don’t think we’ll know that for years. And by that point we’ll actually be a little too late to go, ‘Oops, my bad, we shouldn’t have done this,’ and then try to unwind it.”

Wait, this was passed by our duly elected representatives. What could possibly go wrong?

Olson also questioned the penalty regime underlying FATCA. The law provides for a $10,000 penalty for failing to disclose a foreign bank account, and up to $50,000 for failing to disclose after IRS notification, she said. For someone with a $51,000 unreported foreign bank account, that could be a $60,000 penalty.

IRS policy states that penalties should be objectively proportioned to the offense, Olson said. “Putting a $60,000 penalty on someone for failing to report a $51,000 account does not seem to me like a penalty that is proportioned objectively to the offense,” she said.

Olson observed that a similar disproportionality emerged in recent IRS offshore voluntary disclosure initiatives, when the highest proportionate fines fell on the smallest accounts. In 2009 the median unreported balance for the smallest accounts was $44,000, she said. The lowest-balance account holders paid an FBAR penalty almost six times the actual tax due, she said. Yet the top 10 percent, with a median unreported balance of $7 million, paid a penalty roughly half the amount of tax owed, she said.

This is actually in keeping with the longstanding IRS policy of shooting jaywalkers while slapping the real international tax evaders on the wrist.

How could our legislative supergeniuses have come up with such an insane and unfair system? Look at the name of the legislation — “FATCA.” For fat cats, get it? They passed it claiming to be going after fat cats, but drafted it in a way that beats up on everybody working or living abroad attempting to commit personal finance. But because they “intended” to go after fat cats, they absolve themselves of guilt for the collateral damage, the financial devastation of the innocent and unwary, the retirements ruined. And they smear the rare politician who points out the insanity of FATCA with accusations of being soft on tax evasion.

 

canada flagThere was some rare good news on the offshore tax compliance front yesterday when the IRS made it easier to get favored tax treatment on Canadian retirement accounts:  IRS Simplifies Procedures for Favorable Tax Treatment on Canadian Retirement Plans and Annual Reporting Requirements:

The change relates to a longstanding provision in the U.S.-Canada tax treaty that enables U.S. citizens and resident aliens to defer tax on income accruing in their RRSP or RRIF until it is distributed. Otherwise, U.S. tax is due each year on this income, even if it is not distributed.

In the past, however, taxpayers generally would get tax deferral by attaching Form 8891 to their return and choosing this tax treaty benefit, something many eligible taxpayers failed to do. Before today’s change, a primary way to correct this omission and retroactively obtain the treaty benefit was to request a private letter ruling from the IRS, a costly and often time-consuming process.

Many taxpayers also failed to comply with another requirement; namely that they file Form 8891 each year reporting details about each RRSP and RRIF, including contributions made, income earned and distributions made. This requirement applied regardless of whether they chose the special tax treatment. The IRS is eliminating Form 8891, and taxpayers are no longer required to file this form for any year, past or present.

But in case you think the risk of fiscal catastrophe related to Canadian accounts is past, the IRS warns:

The revenue procedure does not modify any other U.S. reporting requirements that may apply under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and section 6038D. See FinCEN Form 114 due by June 30 of each year, and Form 8938 attached to a U.S. income tax return for more information about the reporting requirements under the BSA and section 6038D.

In other words, you can still be assessed a penalty of 50% of the account balance for not filing an FBAR report on the accounts, or a $10,000 penalty for not disclosing a balance on Form 8938 foreign financial asset form. But if you get ruined by these penalties, consider it a sacrifice on the altar of “an improved set of global rules,” you fat cat.

Russ Fox has more: IRS Simplifies Reporting for RRSPs and RRIFs.

 

20141008-1William Perez, Missed the Tax Deadline? Here’s what penalties might apply

Donnie Johnson, Liz Malm, What Does Yesterday’s Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Appeal Denial Mean for Same-Sex Couple Tax Filers? (Tax Policy Blog). Maybe taxpayers in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin could learn from Jason Dinesen’s work here in Iowa.

Kay Bell, Gambling pays out a $38 billion bonus to tax collectors.

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: IRA

KCCI, Pharmacist’s trial has been moved to next year. The owner of Bauder’s Pharmacy, facing tax and other charges arising out of alleged illegal sales of painkillers, is now set to go on trial in February.

 

Howard Gleckman, How Asset Building Tax Subsidies Miss Their Targets (TaxVox):

Nearly one-third of all federal tax expenditures–$384 billion in 2013 alone– is aimed at various forms of asset building, such as retirement savings, higher education, and home ownership. Yet, according to research by several of my Tax Policy Center and Urban Institute colleagues, these tax breaks do little to help low-and middle-income households build wealth.

Gee, you might conclude that maybe not every problem is a tax problem.

 

Two more TaxGrrrl Guest Posts: The IRS’s Uncharitable Treatment Of Charitable Contributions (Andrew VanSingel) and Roadways And Taxes (Charles Horn III).

David Brunori, Last Stand for Soda Taxes — Hopefully (Tax Analysts Blog). “If they can’t get folks in uber-liberal San Francisco and Berkeley to vote for soda taxes, they should just hang up their hats.”

Sebastian Johnson rounds up some more Tax Proposals on the Ballot this Election Season at Tax Justice Blog.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 517

Jeremy Scott, Will the EU Commission Crack Down on Irish Tax Deals? (Tax Analysts Blog).

 

News from the Profession. Some Big 4 Alumni Just Can’t Quit Their Old Firms. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). No problem for me.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/7/14: Sweet pursuit of Tax Fairy turns sour. And: shut up and get used to FATCA!

October 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

tax fairy

Isaac Brock visitors: here is a direct link to what you are looking for.

Not so sweet.  A business owner who turned to a man associated with the JoY Foundation “pure trust” scam in pursuit of the Tax Fairy may be regretting his choice of tax advisors after a bad day in Tax Court yesterday.

The taxpayer had an apparently successful S corporation, Specific Enterprises, specializing in cabinet doors.  In 2002, Mr. Joseph Sweet came up with a cunning plan, starting with a liquidation of Specific Enterprises.  Tax Court Judge Nega takes up the story (footnotes and citations omitted, emphasis added):

On December 3, 2002, an entity called RCC Capital Group (RCC) was formed that purported to be a “PRIVATE, NON-STATUTORY, NON-ASSOCIATED, CONTRACTUAL PURE TRUST (CPT)”…

On January 2, 2003, petitioner and RCC entered into an “Asset Purchase Option Contract” (drafted by petitioner) where petitioner purported to grant RCC options to purchase petitioner’s factory building, the land upon which it was located, and equipment. The exercise price for the contract was $1,650,000, and petitioner accepted $21 (presumably the same $21 conveyed to RCC by Brad R. Scott) plus two promissory notes valued at $700,000 and $950,000 in full consideration of the deal. The contract was also contingent upon a separate rental contract, the “Facility Production Contract”, between RCC and Cabinet Door Shop for Cabinet Door Shop’s use of the factory building, land, and equipment… At the behest of petitioner, RCC did not file income tax returns.

Pursuant to the “Facility Production Contract”, dated January 3, 2003, Cabinet Door Shop made total rental payments of $273,000 and $126,000 to RCC for 2003 and 2004, respectively, although RCC did not exercise the option to purchase the factory building, land, and equipment from petitioner until some time around March 10, 2004. After receiving these rental payments RCC made total payments to petitioner in the exact same amounts: $273,000 in 2003 and $126,000 in 2004.

In 2003 as part of a separate transaction Cabinet Door Shop made monthly installment payments to petitioner totaling $80,798 for the sale of inventory.

“Pure trusts” are a hackneyed and worthless tax scheme that retains a following among tax deniers. The IRS naturally didn’t like the way this stuff was reported, assessing tax on the sale of inventory and sticking the taxpayer with the income earned in the “pure trust.”  First, the inventory:

Petitioner has not provided any facts or details that permit a reasonable estimate of his basis in the inventory. Although petitioner provided respondent with his personal tax returns and tax returns for Specific Enterprises one day before trial, these returns are mere admissions; and we are unwilling to attach significance to them in the absence of corroborating evidence as to petitioner’s basis in his assets. The record does not establish the cost basis of the inventory. The record indicates only that Cabinet Door Shop paid $80,798 to petitioner for the inventory…  Because petitioner has not provided any pertinent information that would help us estimate his basis in the inventory, the Cohan rule does not apply. Consequently, the entire amount paid by Cabinet Door Shop for petitioner’s inventory is includable in petitioner’s gross income for the 2003 taxable year.

A self-inflicted wound. Surely the taxpayer had basis in the inventory, but apparently he didn’t take the Tax Court proceeding seriously enough to document it.

The “pure trust” fared no better, with all of the “rental payments” received by the trust taxed to the taxpayer instead.  The IRS also won 25% penalties for non-filing of returns for 2003 and 2004.

It’s interesting that no tax is assessed for 2002, the year the corporation was liquidated — a corporate liquidation would normally have triggered a lot of tax. I assume the omission of 2002 from the case implies that a return was filed, starting the statute of limitations, though the Tax Court decision doesn’t confirm this. Considering the whole thing was done to start a tax avoidance scheme, it would seem strange for the gain to be properly reported.

The Moral: Beware of trust schemes that say they make your taxes go away. They are just Sweet nothings. If the Tax Court wants you to document something, don’t give them the information the day before trial. And there is no Tax Fairy.

Cite: Wheeler, T.C. Memo. 2014-204

 

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

Worst Acting Commissioner Ever says FATCA may not be worth it, but it’s here to stayTax Analysts reports ($link) on a speech by Steve Miller, who was Acting IRS Commissioner when the Lois Lerner scandal broke. He says that while the FATCA offshore disclosure bill may not be worth its cost, it shouldn’t go away:

“I can’t even say with conviction that I’m sure, looking strictly on a cost-benefit basis, that FATCA’s . . . benefits are going to outweigh the cost,” Miller told a lunch crowd at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association FATCA Policy Symposium in Washington. “It’s not clear to me that when you look solely at the burden placed on financial institutions and others, versus the amount of revenue that may come into the treasury, that this is going to be a revenue-positive event for the United States.”

And despite the fervent wishes of some in the finance industry, FATCA is here to stay, said Miller, now national director of tax for Alliantgroup. “I don’t see a repeal in the cards,” he said. “FATCA . . . is tied inextricably to offshore evasion work, and that has to be kept in mind as you talk about repeal, as you talk about changes.”

In case you’re wondering, Alliantgroup is a tax consulting company that specializes in tax code complexity exploitation via services like research credit studies.

Miller said he recognized “that the folks in this room are sort of on the wrong end of FATCA implementation and that you’re bearing the cost and not necessarily the benefit of FATCA.”

But Miller added, “The future is an improved global set of rules, [and] I have high hopes that it will create a level playing field that will make it much more expensive and risky to hide assets offshore. And that should be some help at least to compliant financial institutions as people consider where to invest their money into the future.”

FATCA has made ordinary personal finance difficult to impossible for Americans abroad. Americans are losing opportunities to work offshore because foreign employers fear FATCA hassles. U.S. citizens who do find work offshore face hassles and headaches just trying to open a bank account. But that’s a small price to pay for “an improved set of global rules,” right?

Of course, a defense of burdensome tax provisions is no surprise coming from an IRS official going out the revolving door to a company whose business depends on helping taxpayers deal with “the burden placed on financial institutions and others.” It makes Glenn Reynold’s Revolving Door Surtax proposal look very tempting.

 

buzz20140909Robert D. Flach has some fresh Tuesday Buzz,  including a link to a discussion of the prospects for tax reform (dismal) and the immediate future for figures in the T.V. show “Real Housewives of New Jersey” (dismal also).

TaxGrrrl has two new guest posts: Steven Chung, The Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax and Dominic Ferszt, The Accidental Tax Invasion. The second post is an excellent summary of the FATCA nightmares Steven Miller says offshore taxpayers should just suck up and get used to.

Kay Bell, Signs of change for sports league tax exempt status

 

Martin Sullivan, Can Multinationals’ Offshore Cash Fund a U.S. Infrastructure Bank? (Tax Analysts Blog). Apparently fixing a tax code debacle may be doable if we create a domestic spending boondoggle.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 516

 

20140729-1Scott Drenkard, North Dakota Democrat Tax Commissioner Candidate Proposes Flat Tax—Big Tax Climate Improvement (Tax Policy Blog). In North Dakota, Tax Commissioner is a statewide elective office.

Imagine an Iowa Democrat proposing what Joseph Astrup proposes:

His plan would flatten and simplify the individual income tax to a single bracket, while lowering the top rate from 3.22 percent to 2.52 percent. The exemption would be raised to $40,000 for singles and $80,000 for married filers.

In fairness, I can’t imagine an Iowa Republican proposing something like this, either. But if an Iowa politician does want to take some inspiration from North Dakota, the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be a fine place to start.

 

Tracy Gordon, It’s Not Easy to Escape the Local Pension Vise (TaxVox). Maybe not, but it’s necessary.

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Judge Appreciates Art More Than Your Average Revenue Agent, Which presumably makes a certain art professor appreciate the Tax Court more than the IRS.

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Tax Roundup, 10/6/14: Nine more days, folks. And: four hours of ethics to rule them all!

October 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

4868It’s October 6. That means extended 1040s are due in nine days, no further extension allowed.

I spent part of my weekend finishing up my own 1040, so I can’t be too self-righteous about procrastinators. Still, my return was 95% done on April 15. This was really just going through the information I had put together for my extension and making sure I hadn’t missed anything. I had gotten all of my information to the preparer (me) months ago.

Meanwhile, I have clients who have gotten me nothing, or maybe just their W-2. These taxpayers often are making the perfect the enemy of the adequate. They want to go through their checkbooks to identify every possible charitable deduction. And that last deduction is rarely worth the wait.

Just get the stuff you have to your preparer now. If you later find a deduction that matters, we have three years to amend the return. But you only have nine days left to file on time.

 

get-outEthics time. I am trying to find four hours of “ethics” courses to take before year-end, because the Iowa Board of Accountancy requires it for license renewal. Robert D. Flach sums up my feelings:

The powers that be seem to feel that unless tax preparers are forced to sit through at least 2 hours of redundant ethics preaching each and every year they will suddenly begin to create large fictional employee business expense deductions for clients, or add erroneous dependents, and false EIC claims, to client 1040s.

I have been preparing 1040s for over 40 years. If I ain’t “ethical” by now, having 2 hours of preaching thrust upon me isn’t going to miraculously make me honest.

In real life, “ethics” courses really seem to be CYA seminars — how to document your file and prepare engagement letters to help ward off frivolous lawsuits. That can be useful, but I’m not sure “ethics” is the right name for it.

 

20140805-2Tony Nitti, Artists Rejoice! Tax Court Concludes Painter’s Activity Isn’t A ‘Hobby’. Tony covers a Tax Court case last week where the IRS improbably went after an art professor’s Schedule C art business on hobby loss grounds.  She won the hobby loss issues, but Tony thinks she will lose other parts of her case, in which the IRS says she deducted personal expenses on her business filing.

Peter Reilly, TIGTA Must Disclose More About Investigation Of Possible IRS Release Of Koch Industries Return Information. Peter looks into whether Koch Industries is an S corporation and learns that some highly political people are humor-impaired and comically challenged.

Russ Fox, Legaspi Gets 21 Months:

Francisco Legaspi didn’t want to go to jail. Back in November 1992, he pleaded guilty to tax evasion. Instead of showing up for his sentencing in January 1993, he headed to Mexico and then Canada to avoid prison. That worked for 20 years. In 2012, the State Department found him when the Bureau of Diplomatic Security found his Facebook page. (A helpful hint to any fugitives out there: Avoid posting anything on the Internet. Law enforcement reads the Internet, too.) They forwarded his information to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who arrested him; the Mounties always get their man.

Now he’ll serve that 21 months.

 

20141006-1Kay Bell, Estate gets $14 million tax refund on value of art. Kay’s a little giddy about her Baltimore Orioles sweeping Detroit. Now they have to face the Royals, managed by the Magic 8-ball.

Jim Maule, Do Squatters Have Gross Income? A woman moves into an abandoned house. Nobody kicks her out or demands rent. Prof. Maule ponders the implications.

Janet Novack, IRS: We Made A Mistake Valuing Michael Jackson’s Estate. They want more.

Annette Nellen, California to study alternative to current gas tax. Most gas taxes aren’t indexed, and technology is reducing gas consumption. This makes paying for roadwork more complicated.

TaxGrrrl is hosting a bunch of guest posters, including Josh Hoxie, When Income Tax Cuts Masquerade As Estate Tax RepealRebecca McElroy, Making Changes To The Tax Code Starting With The Medical Expense Deduction; and Elaine Kamarck, On The Tax Code, Time for America to Have it Our Way.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 515

 

Quotable:

There’s nothing wrong with being nostalgic unless you’re trying to do it on someone else’s dime.

-Brian Gongol, on the denial of “landmark” status for Des Moines’ dilapidated riverfront YMCA.

 

News from the Profession. Why are People in Public Accounting So Ridiculously Good Looking? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). If you think we’re hot, you haven’t seen the actuaries.

 

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