Tax Roundup, 2/5/2015: Conformity bill passes Iowa Senate with Sec. 179, but without Bonus. And: buy Maserati, or pay tax?

February 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Iowa Senate passes conformity bill. The Iowa Senate sent the 2015 “code conformity” bill (SF 126) to the House yesterday on a 49-0 vote. The bill, conforms Iowa’s 2014 tax law to reflect December’s “extender” legislation, including the $500,000 “Section 179″ deduction, but not including bonus depreciation.

The House could vote on the bill as early as today, though it’s not on this morning’s House debate calendar. Still, with the bill out of the Senate, it seems like a sure thing, even if it has to wait until next week.

ice truck

 

There may have been a flaw in the planThe former owner of Arrow Trucking Company pleaded guilty yesterday to tax charges connected with the 2010 failure of the company.

The “information” containing the charges outlines an energetic looting of the company that brought in a host of helpers — and potential informants. For example:

In about September 2009, a conspirator asked an Arrow Trucking Company employee to have a telephonic communication with a representative of Transportation Alliance Bank with respect to an audit and to falsely verify the authenticity of fraudulent invoices.

Well, that’s one witness right there. And here’s another.

In about December 2009, a conspirator asked an Arrow Trucking Company employee to have a telephonic communication with a representative of Transportation Alliance Bank with respect to an audit and to falsely verify the authenticity of fraudulent invoices.

Well, no harm no foul — they had pretty much made sure the IRS would catch up with them, if the information is to be believed. They failed to file the federal Form 941 payroll tax returns for 2009, or to remit the payroll taxes for those quarters. That’s a sure way to attract IRS attention. And once the IRS started sniffing around, they left a lot of clues for the IRS in the alternative uses they made of the withheld taxes. These other things included payment of $20,000 in company funds to an ex-wife. But that didn’t mean the next ex was slighted:

During the year 2009, Arrow Trucking Company funds were used to make payments to The Events Company for a conspirators wedding.

They should have been able to leave the wedding in style:

During 2009, Arrow Trucking Company Funds were used to make payments related to a Bentley automobile for the benefit of a conspirator.

Or maybe, honey, we want something a little sportier:

During 2009, Arrow Trucking Company Funds were used to make payments related to a Maserati automobile for the benefit of a conspirator.

It all seems like fun and games, but that fun led to this:

In December 2009, the carrier left hundreds of its drivers stranded on highways across the United States after a Utah bank voided company fuel cards.

Between halting payroll tax returns, using company funds for lavish toys, and getting employees to lie for them, they pretty much made sure the feds would visit, belt and suspenders. The IRS audit program for businesses is designed to find such things, but it sounds like they left a pretty easy trail to follow.

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Peter Reilly, Mr. Koskinen’s Last Chance To End The Form 3115 Madness:

Here is the crisis.  Some very smart people with a lot of influence in the tax industry are telling all the rest of us the following story.  You know those new regulations are telling you to change your accounting methods.  Even if you look at what you’ve done over the years and decide that there is no income or expense to be picked up it is still an accounting method change.  Given all the new concepts you could not possibly have been using those methods.  So if your client has any sort of a trade or business, there are one or more Forms 3115 that have to be filed. 

If he was as keen on preserving limited IRS resources as he keeps telling Congress, he would announce that taxpayers could adopt the new accounting methods without a 3115 by attaching an election to their return, if they prefer it that way. That would save forests, and enormous amounts of IRS storage space.  But if he were serious about maximizing agency resources, he also wouldn’t allow 200 IRS employees to collect government checks for union work, and he wouldn’t divert IRS resources into a “voluntary” preparer regulation scheme.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 637. This edition links to a Bloomberg piece about the Commissioner’s recent Senate testimony: IRS Chief: I Don’t Want to Be Seen As Influencing 2016. I take that as meaning he wouldn’t mind influencing  the elections; he just doesn’t want to be seen doing so.

 

Robert Wood, Coming Soon: No Travel Or Passport If You Owe IRS. What could go wrong?

 

Kay Bell, Seven tax extenders approved by Ways & Means Committee. Similar to the permanent extenders that passed the house and died last year, they can be seen as a counter to the President’s tax proposals in his budget.

Robert Goulder, Smart Tax Reform: Parity for Passthroughs (Tax Analysts Blog):

An obvious difficulty in business-only tax reform is devising a means to level the playing field between corporate and noncorporate entities. The overwhelming majority of commercial enterprises in the United States (roughly 90 percent) are not organized as corporations. They take alternate forms such as S corporations, partnerships, LLCs, or sole proprietorships. The primary difference, of course, is the lack of entity-level taxation for noncorporate businesses.

Unless you hate pass-throughs, as the administration seems to.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, The President Proposes Changing the International Tax System for Corporations (Tax Policy Blog)

 

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Cara Griffith, Texas Comptroller to Look to Legislature for Guidance on Taxing Aircraft (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tracy Gordon, A Fuller Accounting of How State and Local Governments Fared in the Great Recession (TaxVox).

 

News from the Profession. Let’s Catch This PwC Partner Up on the Fun Stuff She Missed Over the Last 20 Years (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/4/15: Backlashes, Blood and Dollar Bills Edition.

February 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1236It’s a busy, snowy day, so just links.

Robert Wood, Obamacare Tax Filing Backlash: There Will Be Blood:

This year for the first time, the Affordable Care Act has created a trickier tax season. It is more expensive, as virtually all Americans filing tax returns will have to consider the law’s impact. There will be confusion and many mistakes. 

Well, there are always the “repair regs” to cheer us up.

 

William Perez, Should Married Couples File Taxes Separately? Joint returns usually get a lower tax on the same income, but joint returns stick you with any snakes hiding in your spouse’s return.

Kay Bell, Tax moves to make in February 2015

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Varnum Ruling. “Whenever you see or hear reference to the Varnum Ruling in Iowa, it’s referring to the 2009 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that legalized same-gender marriage in Iowa.”

IMG_2535Jack Townsend reports on the ABA Tax Section Meeting Developments on Streamlined Disclosures. “The IRS representative said that the IRS will not issue additional guidance on the meaning of willfulness in the streamlined program.”

Leslie Book, Tooting Our Own Horn and Remembering Janet Spragens and the Needs of Low Income Taxpayers (Procedurally Taxing). P.T. contributor Keith Fogg received the ABA Tax Section  Spragens Pro Bono Award for “‘outstanding and sustained achievements in pro bono activities’ in tax law.”  Congratulations!

 

David Brunori, Ignoring the People in Nevada (Tax Analysts Blog):

The state apparently needs money, and the governor is proposing to increase a “fee” on businesses. Specifically, Sandoval is calling for an increase in the state business license fee based on a business’s gross revenue. The current fee is $250 and is justified to cover the administrative costs of registering and regulating business enterprises. Most states have these fees, and they are usually nothing more than small nuisances. But Sandoval would like to impose the fee based on the amount of gross income — not profit — earned by state businesses.

Many folks have moved from California to Nevada to get away from ridiculous taxes. I don’t see the attraction of imitating California like this.

 

IMG_0940TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 636

Joseph Thorndike, Obama Abandons the Gas Tax – Just Like Everyone Else (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Obama plan would break with the long tradition of using gas taxes to pay for roads (and some mass transit, as conservatives are quick to point out). Over the decades, this tradition has served the nation well, funding the construction and maintenance of the interstate highway system, among other things. And it has assigned the cost of building all those roads to the people and businesses that actually use them.

Funny, I thought the 2009 “stimulus” fixed all the roads.

Kyle Pomerleau, Obama Budget would Increase Top Marginal Capital Gains Tax Rate in California to 37.2 percent. Of course, it’s worse than that, as capital gains normally have already been taxed once.

Renu Zaretsky, Taxed Reactions and Revenue Rules. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s dislike of pass-through entities and John Koskinen’s “what scandal, give me money!” testimony before the Senate Finance Committee.

Amber Erickson, Obama’s Progressive Plan to Simplify and Expand Education Tax Credits (Tax Justice Blog). Subsidies for higher education have led to $60,000 annual tuition. What do you think more subsidies will do?

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Career Corner. How to be More or Less Happy as an Accountant. (Jennifer, Going Concern)

TaxGrrrl, Texas Man Arrested After Attempt To Pay Taxes With Dollar Bills. I hope he brings pennies next time.

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Tax Roundup, 2/3/15: President announces fresh new hopeless tax proposals!

February 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Economic supergenius

160 tax proposals. Close to 160 doomed tax proposals. The President released the details of the tax proposals for his 2015 budget yesterday. Tax Analysts Reports ($link):

The added details on international reforms the administration is seeking serve as “a significant step forward” to flesh out its business tax reform framework and see if there is an “opportunity for movement” on business reform with Congress, a senior Treasury official told reporters at a February 2 briefing on the release of the Treasury’s green book explanation of the revenue proposals in the budget.

Overall, the fiscal 2016 budget includes roughly 160 tax proposals, of which about 30 are new, 45 are modifications or combinations of old proposals, and 85 are the same or similar to the administration’s fiscal 2015 budget, the Treasury official said.

Almost all of these proposals are doomed for this Congress. As most of these couldn’t pass when Democrats controlled the Senate, they’re hardly likely to pass now that they don’t. A GOP Congress is also not about to pass some of the more publicized class warfare proposals, like the increase in the capital gain rate, the taxation of capital gains at death, increase the estate tax rate to 45% (from 40$) and lowering the estate and gift tax lifetime exclusion to $1 million (from $5+ million).

No Walnut STA few proposals might get a sympathetic hearing on their own from GOP taxwriters. These include:

– Cash basis accounting and repeal of Section 263A inventory capitalization for companies with up to $25 million in gross receipts.

– Permanent extension of the Section 1202 exclusion for qualifying small C corporation stock gains.

– Permanent extension of the refundable Child Tax Credit.

– Increasing the maximum Section 179 deduction from $500,000 to $1 million.

A few other corporate welfare gimmicks that might get a hearing include permanent research credits and permanent New Markets Tax Credits.

While there are a few items that might attract GOP support, overall this batch of proposals is more extreme than the ones that went nowhere before. The President probably won’t let Congress just pick out the tasty bits from his proposals, so I expect little to none of this to actually pass.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Other Coverage:

TaxProf, Tax Provisions in President Obama’s FY2016 Budget

WSJ, Obama Would Block Strategies to Pump Up Roth IRAs

Accounting Today, Obama Proposes Sweeping Tax Changes in 2016 Budget

Jeremy Scott, Obama’s Foreign Earnings Tax: 19 Percent Minimum DOA but Deemed Repatriations Key (Tax Analysts Blog)

Kyle Pomerleau, The President’s Tax on Offshore Earnings Represents the Worst of Retroactive Policy (Tax Policy Blog)

Len Burman, Are Accrued Capital Gains Income in the Year You Die? (TaxVox). “But reclassifying exceptionally thrifty middle-class families to the top of the income distribution by counting a lifetime of unrealized gains in income when they die clearly overstates their well-being.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Aspects Of The President’s FY2016 Budget

TaxGrrrl, Obama Budget Proposal Tackles Small Business, Changes To IRS

Kay Bell, Tax highlights in Obama’s FY2016 budget proposal

Annette Nellen, President Obama’s 2015 Tax Proposals

 

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Megan McArdle, Government Blinks Again on Obamacare, a discussion of the IRS announcement that it won’t impose the failure-to-pay penalty on exchange policy purchasers who have to repay some subsidy:

The IRS emphasizes that this is a one-time-only deal, just for 2014. But I’m not sure if you should believe that. This emphasizes one of the problems we’ve spoken about a lot in this space: The political will to impose the costs of the Affordable Care Act is a lot less strong than the will to distribute the benefits.

It also telegraphs that the IRS expects that a lot of taxpayers who are anticipating a refund will be instead writing a check on April 15.

 

20140925-2Peter Reilly, Repair Regs And Tax Pros Are Like Headlights And Deer:

For the most part, the people who have been really looking at these regulations have had a large firm perspective.  To be a just a little cynical, they actually kind of like all this complexity, since they can make a case for sending out big bills to entities that can afford to pay them.  My brief time at the national level, not Big 4, but with many former Big 4 people made me realize there is a radically different perspective at that level.  They are used to having a very small number of competitors for any client who more or less sing from the same hymn book.  The client people that they deal with are quite likely fellow members of the Big 4 cult rather than tight fisted entrepreneurs who resent every penny they spend on professionals.

Regulation always favors the big, and the “repair regulations” are no exception.

 

Russ Fox, Fake Interest Income, Fake Withholding, Real Fraud at the Tax Court. “What is amazing to me is that the petitioner has not, as far as I can tell, been criminally indicted.”

Robert Wood, The Truth About Lying On Your Tax Return.  “…as with your resume, making up something on your tax return is a terrible idea.”

Martin Sullivan, JCT Report Provides New Insight on Competitiveness (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 635

 

News from the Profession: How Internal Controls Will Keep You Safe From Velociraptors (Leona May, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/2/15: Film trial sequel ends badly for a main character. And: Iowa conformity bills advance.

February 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Dennis Brouse

Dennis Brouse

They got him for the trailer. The filmmaker who got more transferable tax credits under the Iowa film tax credit program than anyone else was convicted Friday of first degree fraud with respect to the program. From the Des Moines Register:

Dennis Brouse, 64, could face up to 10 years in prison at a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 23. Brouse owned Changing Horses Productions, a company that received $9 million in tax credits from the scandal-ridden Iowa Film Office. Brouse starred in the company’s main series, “Saddle Up With Dennis Brouse.”

Prosecutors claim Brouse bought a 38-foot camper trailer from an elderly couple, Wayne and Shirley Weese, for $10,500 in cash. But prosecutors charged that Brouse claimed the trailer cost twice that much in a statement for tax credits that he turned in to the state.

The State Auditor’s Report on the program reported that Changing Horses claimed 50% tax credits for many other doubtful items. For example, they claimed a $1 million value for a “sponsorship” awarded to a feed company that had refused to sign a document with that value on the grounds that it was “grossly overvalued.” This enabled the company to get tax credits that likely were more than 100% of the money spent in Iowa by the filmmaker.

Mr. Brouse had a prior conviction on charges related to the film program overturned, and his attorney says he will appeal this conviction.

While Iowa’s film credit program was spectacularly mismanaged, it was only one extreme example of the unwisdom of the state legislature attempting to manage Iowa’s economy via the tax law.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Iowa conformity bills advance The bill to update Iowa’s income tax to reflect the December federal “extenders” bill cleared both the House and Senate taxwriting committees. I think than means the bills won’t be delayed, and we can get on with Iowa’s tax season. Both bills conform for pretty much everything in the federal tax law, including the increased Section 179 deduction, but do not conform to federal bonus depreciation.

 

Dahls checks outThe central Iowa grocery chain was broken up Friday in a bankruptcy liquidation. Seven stores will re-open under another name.

Perhaps the greatest victims of the failure are longtime Dahls employees who owned the company through their Employee Stock Ownership Plan. They get nothing, or close to it.

Iowa passed a special break for sales of companies to ESOPs in 2012. Proponents pointed to the employee ownership of Dahl’s major competitor, Hy-Vee, in support of the bill.

The Dahls example shows a dark side of employee ownership — the way it concentrates a large portion of employee retirement assets in a single vulnerable asset.

 

Jason Dinesen, Do I Have to Have Form 1095-A Before I Can File? “Yes, you need the Form 1095-A if you got premiums through an insurance exchange.”

William Perez, Need More Time? How to File for a Tax Extension with the IRS

20150105-1Jim Maule, When Is A Building Placed in Service? “Because the taxpayer presented undisputed evidence that certificates of occupancy had been issued, that the buildings were substantially complete, and that the buildings were fully functionally to house the shelving and merchandise, they had been placed in service within the required time period.”

Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Sharing Financial Responsibility at Tax Time (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “Whatever your situation, it is important to keep good records so that someone else can pick up where you left off, if needed.

Kay Bell, Is Belichick’s coaching style like tax avoidance or tax evasion?

Paul Neiffer, $500,000 Permanent Section 179 Could be Coming Soon! “The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to vote on seven expired tax provisions on February 4, including making permanent Section 179 expensing at the $500,000 level.” Given the politics involved, I’m not holding my breath.

Robert Wood: Receipts Rule IRS Keeps Quiet: They’re Optional. Well, sometimes they aren’t optional, and they always help.

TaxGrrrl, Salaries, Ads & Security: What’s The Real Cost Of Super Bowl XLIX?

Russ Fox, This Never Works…:

Patrick White is the owner of R & L Construction in Yonkers, New York. He liked his home and he liked to gamble. There’s nothing wrong with that. He took payroll taxes withheld from his business and used that money for his homes and for gambling. There’s a lot wrong with that, especially when it totals $3,758,000. Mr. White pleaded guilty to one count of failing to pay over payroll taxes to the government. He’ll be sentenced in May.

Russ throws in some good advice about using EFTPS.

Robert D. Flach regales us with THE TWELVE DAYS OF TAX SEASON

Stephen Olsen, “Summary Opinions for 1/6/15-1/23/15” (Procedurally Taxing). News from the tax procedure world.

 

IMG_0543Christopher Bergin, Robin Hood and Other Fables (Tax Analysts Blog):

When it comes to taxation, President Obama has his own particular points of view. He may use terms such as “middle-class economy” or say things like “the rich can pay a little more,” but at the core he views the tax system as either a mechanism that helps the rich hang on to their ill-gotten gains or as a “honey pot” to fund his political ideas and base. It’s all politics. And that’s why we will see no progress – regarding the gas tax, taxation of businesses, or any other kind of real tax reform – until there has been a change in administrations.

In fact, the major lesson we’ve learned from this latest episode is that when it comes to of tax reform, the Obama administration has the “tinnyist” of tin ears. Whether the merry men and women at the White House believe that section 529 tuition savings plans benefit the ”rich,” they should know that when American voters actually recognize and identify with a tax break by its code section number (in this case, 529), be careful — very, very careful. You usually can’t sneak a fast one into the tax code when taxpayers know the section by number.

Hard to argue with this.

 

Arnold Kling, 529: Popular != Good Policy. “529 plans subsidize affluent people for doing what they would have done anyway–send their kids to exclusive, high-priced colleges.” Maybe, but it still is better than rewarding borrowing by subsidizing it.

Howard Gleckman, Obama’s Failure to Kill 529 Plans May Say Less About Tax Reform Than You Think (TaxVox). “But the survival of these education subsidies does not mean that a rate-cuts-for-base-broadening swap will never be possible.”

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 634

Matt Gardner, Facebook’s Record-Setting Stock-Option Tax Break (Tax Justice Blog). 595 words on the evils of the deduction for stock option compensation without one word noting that every dollar of “phantom” deduction for the issuing corporation is also a dollar of “phantom” income to the employees — and usually at higher rates than the corporation pays.

Scott Drenkard, Gov. Kasich’s Plan May Be A Tax Cut, But It’s Still Poor Policy. (Tax Policy Blog) “Unfortunately, the plan which is set to be announced next Monday by Governor Kasich isn’t going to address any of these problems and will probably make them worse.”

 

Career Corner. You Should Take a Nap This Afternoon Because Science (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/30/15: Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day Edition! And: judging your golf score

January 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

daydrinkersDid you know that today is “Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day“? Most of us don’t get the day off, but as it is Friday, we can celebrate after work into the wee hours.

What are we celebrating? Well, the EITC is a refundable tax credit designed for poor working families with children. A “refundable” credit generates a tax refund if there is no tax to offset, so the EITC works as a welfare payment for poor families with some earned income. It phases out as incomes increase.

Some economists praise the EITC as a useful anti-poverty program that doesn’t kill jobs the way minimum wage laws do. Others look at it as a way to achieve “tax justice” by redistributing taxes to the poor.

Still, if you really want to be fully aware of how the EITC works, you should know about a few things that aren’t on the IRS EITC Awareness Day web page.

For example, you should know that the EITC phase-outs make it a poverty trap. The effect of the phase-out of the credit as income rises is to impose a marginal rate on additional earnings of EITC recipients as high as that imposed on some of the top income earners. The Federal-Iowa combined rate, taking into account phaseouts and payroll taxes, can exceed 50%.

eic 2014

This is a serious disincentive for EITC recipients to improve their earnings. Combined with the loss of other benefits, it can make self-improvement an unrewarding pastime.

 

Up to 25% of the EITC goes to people who shouldn’t get it, according to TIGTA. Part of it is because taxes are complicated and math is hard. A significant part, running into the billions, goes to fraudsters. Even in a good cause, you have to question the value of a program that misdirects so much money.

EITC error chart

Like all refundable credits, the EITC is a fraud magnet. Any time the government will write a check just for the effort of filling out a form, fraud happens. Just a few random instances:

Waterloo, Iowa preparer get 30 months for earned income tax credit fraud. A preparer invented earnings to get Iowa clients EITC refunds.

Tax Preparer Sentenced For Fraud Scheme. “The fraudulent returns sought refunds of $354,000 based on bogus expense deductions and refundable credits, such as entitlement to the First Time Home Buyers Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit when the filer had little, if any, taxes withheld from income in that year.”

Tax preparer who bilked IRS out of $4M for poor clients: Fraud a ‘spiritual calling’. “As it turned out, Reed was inflating the incomes of his clients – generally unemployed women with children – so that they could claim an earned income tax credit.”

So as you observe this festive day in your own way, you can ponder whether the guy celebrating at the next table is buying because he just got his fraudulent EITC refund.

 

20140826-1Get your Buzz now! Because Robert D. Flach has posted his final Buzz for this tax season, with a kind shout-out to the Tax Update Blog. Don’t miss his thoughts on choosing a tax pro.

Kay Bell, What would you pay for professional help in filing your taxes?

William Perez, Head of Household Filing Status, Explained

Accounting Today, Obamacare Penalty to Be Owed by as Many as 6 Million Taxpayers. That will make it popular.

Robert Wood, Senators Blast IRS Commissioner Over Waste, Bonuses, Bad Service, More. Well, shooting fish in a barrel can be fun.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 631. More government stonewalling. Well, it’s worked so far.

 

William McBride, Federal Government Lost Money from 2013 Tax Increases on Investors (Tax Policy Blog):

As President Obama prepares to roll out another tax increase proposal targeting capital gains and dividends, it’s instructive to look at what happened the last time he did that. Fortunately, the IRS just released preliminary data on tax year 2013, the year the top tax rate on capital gains and dividends went from 15 percent to 23.8 percent. The fiscal cliff deal raised the top rate to 20 percent and the Obamacare investment surtax added 3.8 percentage points.

From the IRS data, we can see that investors didn’t just sit there and pay the higher tax rate. Qualified dividend income dropped 25 percent, from $189 billion in 2012 to $141 billion in 2013. Capital gains dropped 12 percent, from $475 billion to $416 billion. Recall this was in the midst of a historic stock market boom.

Not all tax increases lose money, and not all tax cuts make money. This shows, thought that increases in capital gains rates can backfire. The realization of many capital gains is discretionary, and many taxpayers will discreetly hold on to gains, rather than cash them out, when rates rise.

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Perhaps this might not have been the best way to impress the sentencing judge. The Denver Post reports Convicts in $100 billion tax fraud skipped sentencing to play golf

The three Colorado Springs defendants were arrested Thursday after they failed to appear for sentencing Wednesday. They were escorted into court Thursday afternoon in handcuffs, all wearing street clothes.

“We did go golfing. I shot a 49, which was pretty good for me,” Pawelski told the judge after she emphasized the seriousness of the felony charges he faced.

Judges always understand you skipping a court date if you have a tee time.

Arguello reset sentencing for all three tax fraud convicts for Feb. 10. The judge brought each offender into the courtroom separately. Brokaw and Pawelski each told the judge they are a “natural man.”

“I am a natural man, a legal person, a legal man; something I didn’t know before,” Pawelski said.

Good thing he figured that out. He’ll likely have plenty of time to ponder that starting about February 11.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/29/15: Iowans, fill ‘em up now. And: lessons from the Obama Sec. 529 retreat.

January 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

dimeFill me up. ‘Overall consensus’ toward 10-cent hike in state gas tax O. Kay Henderson reports:

 Key legislators say a 10-cent increase in the state gas tax has a good chance of passing the legislature in February and going into effect as early as March.

“I think the overall consensus is to go 10 cents now…We’re so far behind that we need to implement it right away,” Senator Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said this morning.

At the opening of this session of the General Assembly, I guessed that there would be no gas tax boost. It’s looking more likely every day that I was wrong. I asked a few legislators and lobbyists about it when I attended the Iowa ABI Legislative Reception, and they all said a 10-cent gas tax boost was a done deal.

That would test my alternative forecast – that if there was a gas tax boost, it meant Governor Branstad will not run for a seventh term.

 

csi logoAlan Cole, President’s Plan to Tax 529s Was Not a Distraction (Tax Policy Blog):

While the issue was, perhaps, a distraction from the administration’s priorities on community college, it was not at all a distraction from the administration’s priorities on tax policy. It is deeply philosophically consistent with virtually every tax policy proposal, proposed or enacted, from the administration.

The administration’s proposals all tend to follow a particular blueprint for tax policy: simply put, that when Americans save by investing in some kind of asset, that they should be taxed at ordinary income rates on both the initial value of the asset and all the future returns on the asset. (For example, with 529 plans, the initial investment is taxed, and the Obama Administration’s proposal is to tax the returns as well.) This view is mistaken, in that a financial asset’s value is precisely in its future returns. The value of the financial asset, then, is taxed twice. 

The difference here is that the administration has dressed up its tax grabs by saying only “the rich” would have to pay. That’s never really true, but it was so obviously wrong here that even the President’s allies couldn’t support it with a straight face.

 

IRAJoseph Thorndike, What Obama’s 529 Flip-Flop Says About Your Roth IRA (Tax Analysts Blog):

The bursting of the 529 trial balloon should serve as an object lesson for anyone hoping to rein in other tax preferences. In particular, proposals to scale back Roth IRAs – popular among liberal analysts – seem hopeless in the extreme.

I think the dumbest thing was pairing the elimination of a tool to enable people to save for education costs with the unwise “free” community college proposal. That was pretty much saying those who want to pay their own way through college without government grants are chumps.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 630. It has become an issue in the hearings for the Attorney General nominee.

 

Jason Dinesen, What I’m Asking My Clients Regarding the ACA. Pretty much what we are asking our clients.

TaxGrrrl, Form 3115 Adds Confusion & Cost – But May Be Required For 2015. “Since there’s no user fee – and virtually no risk – I tend to agree with those who suggest that businesses owning real and/or tangible property err on the side of caution and file form 3115 to obtain automatic consent.”

Robert Wood, Missing A Form 1099? Why You Shouldn’t Ask For It “Nevertheless, if you don’t receive a Form 1099 you expect, don’t ask for it. Just report the income.”

Tony Nitti, Super Bowl XLIX Tax Tale Of The Tape: Who Ya’ Got? Meh. My football rooting interest ended in Seattle. But for socially-awkward tax nerds (but I repeat myself) who are going to Super Bowl gatherings, Tony has a lifeline.

 

20140512-1Peter Reilly, Don’t Use The IRS To Address Koch Political Spending. Whether it’s Tom Steyer, George Soros, or the Brothers Who Must Not Be Named, the government has no business telling them what causes they can fund.

Russ Fox, Caesars Wins Round One: Chicago, not Delaware. Caesars Entertainment’s bankruptcy litigation, that is.

Carl Smith, Unpublished CDP Orders Dwarf Post-trial Bench Opinions in Uncounted Tax Court Rulings (Procedurally Taxing). Insight on what Tax Court judges do that those of us who don’t do that sort of litigation for a living don’t see.

Jack Townsend, Unreported Offshore Accounts Remains on IRS Dirty Dozen” List

Kay Bell, Illinois shoppers to start paying state sales tax on Amazon purchases on Feb. 1; federal online tax bill still stalled

 

Tax Trials: Georgia Tax Tribunal Rules that Electric Utility’s Machinery and Equipment Used in Transmission and Distribution System Not Exempt from Georgia Sales & Use Tax. Bad tax policy all over. Business inputs should not be subject to sales tax.

Cara Griffith, Tax Appeal Reform May Be a Possibility in Washington State (Tax Analysts Blog)

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David Brunori, Regressive Taxes Are Neither New Nor Good (Tax Analysts Blog): “States should also broaden the sales tax base to tax things rich folks buy, while lowering the tax rates on the things the poor consume the most. But the rich will remain rich.”

Steven Rosenthal, Is Obama Closing Retirement Savings Loopholes or Just Curbing Congress’ Generosity? (TaxVox). How about another choice – he’s just looking to increase taxes on “the rich” any way he can get away with?

Richard Phillips, Congress Should Pass the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act to Combat International Tax Avoidance. (Tax Justice Blog). I have a better idea: a less onerous tax system that would make international tax avoidance less attractive.

 

Career Corner. The Public Accountant’s Definitive Guide to Disclosure of Past Convictions (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 1/28/15: President scurries away from plan to tax college savings. And: more hard-hitting journalism!

January 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

csi logoAccounting Today reports: Obama Said to Drop Proposal to Repeal 529 College Tax Break. Good.

This was perhaps the most obnoxious of the proposals in the President’s budget, and that’s saying something. Promoting “free” community college tuition, while punishing those who actually save for college to avoid government loans, is a model of awful incentives and policy.

I can’t let pass this item from the Accounting Today report (my emphasis):

The administration’s quick retreat on the proposal emphasizes the difficulty of changing popular tax breaks, even in ways that lower the overall tax burden.

Yes, hard-hitting journalism in the form of making excuses for the President. It what way does repealing the exclusion for Section 529 plan withdrawals from taxation help “lower the overall tax burden?” The CBO estimates the President’s proposals would increase taxes by over $1 trillion over ten years.

Speaking of hard hitting journalism, we have this from the Des Moines Register today:

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For those who no longer take the print edition, be assured that this important story is also available to internet readers.

Related: Annette Nellen, President Obama’s 2015 Tax Proposals

 

William Perez, Tips for Green Card Holders and Immigrants Who are Filing a US Tax Return. “Being a resident for tax purposes doesn’t necessarily mean you actually live here full time. As long as you have a green card, for example, you are responsible for reporting and paying tax on your worldwide income.”

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Trust Fund Tax Credit for 2014 Tax Returns. $15 per person this year.

Kay Bell, New IRS Form 1095-A among tax docs that are on their way. ACA adds a new wrinkle to this year’s filings.

Robert D. Flach, OBAMACARE AND 2014 TAX RETURNS

 

1099misc2014TaxGrrrl, Where Are My Tax Forms? Due Dates For Forms W-2, 1099, 1098 & More. Including a reminder that K-1s from S corporations, partnerships and trusts are not due when 1099s and W-2s are.

Leslie Book, Thumbs Up on No Income Even When IRS Serves up 1099 DIV: Ebert v Commissioner (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Disagree With An IRS Form 1099? Here’s What To Do. “What happens if the issuer won’t cooperate?”

 

Jim Maule on The Taxation of Egg Donations. “The Court’s conclusion makes sense, and not simply because it reaches the conclusion I advocated for reasons I suggested relying on cases on which I relied.”

Russ Fox, One Good Crime Deserved Another:

Let’s say you’re involved in a 20-year scheme that has successfully evaded millions of dollars in payroll and income taxes for your largest client. However, you’ve only had minor profits from the scheme. So why not embezzle millions of dollars from that client?

Russ offers some pretty good reasons why not.

 

cooportunity logoHank Stern, CoOpportunity assumes room temp (InsureBlog). More on the demise of Iowa’s sole SHOP provider, set up with millions in government grants and loans. Underwriting is hard.

Jack Townsend asks Why the Lenient Sentencing for Offshore Account Tax Crimes. “But, from my perspective, it seems to me that one can fairly question the notion that commission of tax crimes via offshore accounts is any less blameworthy — i.e., punishable — than commission of tax crimes in other contexts.”

 

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Kyle Pomerleau, Richard Borean, Pass-through Businesses Account for More than $1.6 Trillion of Payroll (Tax Policy Blog):

Today, Pass-through businesses pay a significant role in the United States Economy. They account for 95 percent of all businesses, more than 60 percent of all business income, and more than 50 percent of all employment.

These are businesses taxed on owner 1040s. Remember that when politicians want to raise rates on “the rich” even more — they are hammering employers when they do this.

Richard Auxier, Pitching, Defense, and State Tax Policy (TaxVox): “So is Max Scherzer saving money in DC? Yes. Are the District’s tax laws a big reason why he signed with the Nationals? I doubt it.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 629

News from the Profession. Jilted Girlfriend Has Totally Had It With Cheap Accountant Boyfriend and His Stupid Spreadsheet (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/27/15: IRS waives late payment penalty for ACA tax credit recapture. And more!

January 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20140413-1Be thankful for small favors. Perhaps millions of taxpayers will face an unhappy surprise this tax season thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The ACA provides a tax credit to help taxpayers up to 400% of the poverty level pay for insurance purchased on an ACA exchange. The credit is computed based on an estimate of the taxpayer’s household income and paid directly to the insurance company; the premium paid by the taxpayer is reduced by the same amount.

At tax time, the policyholder-taxpayers have to compare their actual income to the income they estimated when they bought the policy. If the actual income is higher than what was estimated, they may have to repay thousands of dollars in credits paid to the insurers.

Yesterday the IRS provided some cold consolation (Notice 2015-9) for these folks, for 2014 returns only. If they can’t come up with the cash to pay the tax on April 15, the IRS will waive the penalty for late payment of taxes if the amount is reported on a timely return. They are also waiving penalties for underpayment of estimated tax attributable to the credit.

20121120-2Taxpayers claiming the waiver are just supposed to file the return without the payment for the recaptured excess credit. Then when the IRS sends an underpayment demanding payment with penalties, they are supposed to respond with a letter saying “I am eligible for the relief granted under Notice 2015-9 because I received excess advance payment of the premium tax credit.” That will go over well, I’m sure. They also have pay up by April 15, 2016, with interest.

These waivers don’t cover the separate penalty for failing to carry health insurance — the “individual mandate” — because the IRS can’t assess penalties for not paying it in the first place.

Unfortunately, the IRS has not yet issued a blanket waiver for the much more severe penalties on employers with non-compliant premium reimbursement arrangements (“Section 105 plans“). We’ll see if the IRS wants to tangle with the thousands of 2014 waiver requests they will receive if they don’t issue a blanket waiver, one-at-a-time.

Related:

Tony Nitti, IRS: No Penalties For Late Repayments Of The Premium Tax Credit

Megan McArdle, Reality Check on Obamacare Year Two

Me: The ACA and filing season. Be afraid.

 

Robert D. Flach brings you your fresh Tuesday Buzz, including advice about checking information returns and choosing a preparer.

TaxGrrrl, Credit Cards, The IRS, Form 1099-K And The $19,399 Reporting Hole. “Tucked in the middle of the housing bill was a provision that had absolutely nothing to do with housing: a new requirement that banks and credit card merchants to report payments to the IRS.”

Kay Bell, Don’t become a tax identity theft victim. Good idea.

William Perez, A First Look at TaxACT Free File Edition

Russ Fox, The Form 3115 Conundrum: “This year there’s a conundrum faced by tax professionals: Do we need to file a Form 3115 for every taxpayer who has equipment, depreciation, rental property, inventory, etc.?”

I think we will need many 3115 filings, but I don’t think they are required for everyone. As Russ notes, nobody seems to know for sure.

Robert Wood, How Yahoo’s Alibaba ‘Sale’ Skirts Tax Billions, Buffett-Like.

Peter Reilly, A Free Kent Hovind Might Have Backing For A Bigger Better Dinosaur Theme Park. It really is an amazing world.

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Stephen Entin, The President Proposes a Second Tax on Estates (Tax Policy Blog):

The step-up in basis is no loophole. The step-up is needed to prevent double or triple taxation of the same assets. Without it, the president’s plan could result in a 68 percent tax rate on capital gains upon death (the inheritance would be taxed at the 40 percent estate tax rate plus the proposed 28 percent tax rate on capital gains).

It’s worse than that, considering inflation and the fact that those assets were purchased with after-tax income in the first place.

Jeremy Scott, Three Early Signs of What to Expect From Congress (Tax Analysts Blog): “It will be unpredictable.”

IMG_1116TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 628 “The pattern begins with blatant denials — bald lies — and stonewalling. … Next in the pattern, when the lies fail, comes the attribution of responsibility to the lowest level of bureaucrat. …”

Martin Sullivan, Is There Now a Window of Opportunity for Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog). Spoiler: “We will have to wait until 2017 for any real progress on tax reform. And by no means is there any guarantee of movement then.”

Howard Gleckman, Is Dynamic Scoring of Tax Bills Ready For Prime Time?

Sebastian Johnson, Sam Brownback’s White Whale. “Little did Kansas voters know that in reelecting Sam Brownback they were actually voting for a vengeful old sea captain obsessed with one issue above all others – eliminating the state’s personal income tax.”

 

Career Corner. Stop Using These Played Out Words in Your LinkedIn Profile Immediately (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/26/15: Is Iowa 2014 tax season in jeopordy? And: how “trust fund tax” encourages trusts.

January 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors: Here is the accounting method post mentioned by “in the blogs.”

 

20130117-1Uh-oh. Is there a holdup on passing the annual “conformity” bill at the statehouse? This from Republican State Senator Bill Anderson in the Sioux City Journal is a bad sign:

Senate Democrats are playing politics with the issue. The Department of Revenue is recommending accountants tell clients to delay filing their taxes until a decision is made. Senate Democrats’ indecisiveness to pass legislation in a timely manner creates uncertainty for taxpayers and tax professionals, preventing them from filing returns.

I had not heard there was any difficulty here. I hope it’s not serious, but I will be watching it more closely now.

This is another example of why Iowa should have a “floating conformity” rule. I don’t understand why they can’t say they will automatically adopt federal extender changes. If they want to leave out bonus depreciation, that could be done with language excluding that from the automatic conformity. We shouldn’t have to go into February without knowing what the state tax law is for the prior year.

 

Janet Novack, Obama Attack On “Trust Fund Loophole” Could Increase Tax Advantage Of Trusts. “Without step-up, there would, for example, be an even greater tax advantage to putting assets that are likely to explode in value—such as founders’ stock in a hot start-up—into an irrevocable trust for children or grandchildren.”

 

Kay Bell, Capital gains gain in income reporting, but tax hike unlikely

Jack Townsend, Fifth Circuit Rejects Attempt on Direct Appeal to Withdraw Guilty Plea in False Claims Conspiracy Case

Jim Maule, No Agreement? No Alimony Deduction. In divorce, paperwork is everything.

Robert Wood, 10 Crazy Sounding Tax Deductions IRS Says Are Legit. My favorite is “free beer.”

20130607-2Anthony Nitti, IRS Futher Limits Deductions For State-Legal Marijuana Facilities:

Most notably, Section 280E provides that “no deduction is allowed for any amount incurred in a business that consists of trafficking in controlled substances.” Because marijuana finds itself on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the IRS has the ammunition necessary to deny the deductions of any facility that sells the drug.

And it does. Regularly.

I hope nobody really believes this actually prevents any drug crimes. What it does is add a crushing tax debt that helps ensure that anybody who gets involved in drug traffic can never reform and become a productive member of society.

 

Robert Goulder, Should the Mayor of London Pay U.S. Taxes? (Tax Analysts Blog):

True, there are tax treaty protections at play and foreign tax credits available. But the point of the story isn’t double taxation; it’s jurisdictional overreach. Many will argue that a citizenship-based tax regime is unfair and heavy-handed.

The U.S. is the only country that does it. Oh, Eritrea, too.

Stephen Olsen, The Gift that Keeps on Taking–Does Section 6324(b) Limit Gift Tax to the Value of the Gift or Can the IRS Take More? (Procedurally Taxing)

 

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Alan Cole, The IRS Has Too Many Responsibilities (Tax Policy Blog):

On one hand, the IRS’s basic responsibilities have gotten less onerous over the years. More and more taxpayers file electronically, which means that everything just zips straight into the IRS’s computer system with little need for human oversight. This should mean that the IRS really doesn’t need to grow, and if anything it could stand to shrink.

But on the other hand, the IRS has been overloaded with all sorts of additional responsibilities. It’s acting as an extension of the Department of Health and Human Services in enforcing the Affordable Care Act. It’s acting as an extension of the Federal Election Commission and regulating political speech (an authority it has perhaps not used so well.) It’s acting as an extension of the Department of Energy with its residential energy credits, and it’s acting as an extension of the Department of Education in offering deductions and credits for teachers and students. It has to figure out who has health insurance and who has children and where the children live. It even has to try to get data from foreign banks, due to the complexity of our worldwide system of taxation. The more arbitrary things find their way into the tax code, the more verification systems the IRS has to put in place.

These are only a few of the non-revenue responsibilities dumped on the IRS that uses the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Beyond the bottle opener and the screwdriver, every gadget you add makes it harder to use it as a knife, and now we have a Swiss Army Knife the size of a railcar.

 

20140919-2Gretchen Tegeler, Benefits and Costs of DARTing Forward  (IowaBiz.com), on the troubling financial structure behind Des Moines’ public tansportaiton:

Despite a nearly 20 percent increase in ridership over this period, there has been no associated increase in fare-based revenue.  If more millennials are riding the bus, why aren’t we seeing an increase in operating revenue?  The absence of growth in operating revenue suggests that all of the recent improvements in service and ridership have been funded by non-users, i.e. from increases in property taxes.  Are we okay with this model? How far should we go with it?

Maybe if they had to rely more on farebox revenue, they would spend less on things like the downtown Palace of Transit.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 627

Glenn Reynolds, Middle-class Savings Like Blood in the Water. Paying for “free” college and student loan subsidies by taking money out of the pockets of those who save for college sets up a strange incentive structure.

Megan McArdle, Uncle Sam Is Coming After Your Savings. They need it to buy you “free” stuff.

 

Career Corner. The Public Accountant’s Definitive Guide to Disclosure of Past Convictions (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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IRS issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for February 2015

January 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

The IRS has issued (Rev. Rul. 2015-03) the minimum required interest rates for loans made in February 2015:

Short Term (demand loans and loans with terms of up to 3 years): 0.48%

-Mid-Term (loans from 3-9 years): 1.70%

-Long-Term (over 9 years): 2.41%

The Long-term tax-exempt rate for Section 382 ownership changes in February 2015 is 2.68%.

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

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Tax Roundup, 1/23/2015: Egg donor compensation taxable payment for services. Meanwhile, kidney donor compensation is a felony.

January 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
"White-&-Brown-Eggs" by Evan-Amos - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“White-&-Brown-Eggs” by Evan-Amos – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The big news in the tax world today is a Tax Court case ruling that payments to an egg donor were compensation for services. The case turned on the language of the contract of between the egg donor and the agency that procured the eggs. Tax Court Judge Holmes ruled that the payments were not excludible as payments for physical damages because there was no tort claim involved.

There are plenty of places you can read more details on this case, including Russ Fox and Tony Nitti. The TaxProf has a roundup.

So there is an organized and legal market for donor eggs, which, if all goes well, turn into an entire new human. That’s a good thing. But if an agency paid you for one of your kidneys to save the life of an already-born child on the kidney donor list, they would face a $50,000 fine and five years in prison under the Gore-Hatch National Organ Transplant Act of 1984.

The National Kidney Foundation reports that 12 people die daily waiting for a donor kidney, and that 4,453 died waiting for a kidney transplant in 2013.  It’s a felony to save any of those lives by buying a kidney from a healthy, willing and fully-informed seller. Meanwhile, nobody dies waiting for a donated egg.

Cite: Perez, 144 T.C. No. 4

Related: The Case for Paying Organ Donors (Sally Satel)

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Richard Borean, More than Half of all Private Sector Workers are Employed by Pass-through Businesses:

53.7% of Iowans work for pass-through businesses taxed on 1040s.

53.7% of Iowans work for pass-through businesses taxed on 1040s.

“Pass-through” income is income earned by S corporations and partnerships, including LLCs. This income is taxed on 1040s. Those who favor ever-increasing individual taxation of “the rich” by definition favor increasing the tax on employment.

 

buzz20140923Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz, including thoughts on avoiding scammers claiming to be from IRS and on Wal-Mart’s cash tax refund program: “My advice – avoid this program.”

Kay Bell, IRS gets $1.3 million for Darryl Strawberry’s Mets annuity

Paul Neiffer, IRS Scammers Net $14 Million from 3,000 Victims. If the e-mail says it’s from the IRS, it’s not. If you aren’t expecting a call from the IRS, the caller isn’t from the IRS.

Jason Dinesen, Ridiculous IRS Situations I’ve Recently Dealt With. A continuing series.

Leslie Book, Tax Court Addresses Verification Requirement in Trust Fund CDP Case (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Washington Nationals $210M Pitching Contract For Max Scherzer Is About Taxes. “The Home Rule Act prohibits the District from imposing a commuter tax on non-residents.”

Peter ReillyExclusive – Kent Hovind Claims Congressmen Are Looking Into His Case. All you could possibly want to know about the case of the guy who thinks the Flintstones was actually a documentary series.

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Robert Goulder, Reading the Tea Leaves: China’s Jurisdictional Tax Claims (Tax Analysts Blog). Contrary to some reports, even Communist China doesn’t plan to tax worldwide income of non-resident Chinese. The U.S. stands alone in doing that.

Howard Gleckman, A Look at the Territorial Tax Systems in Four Countries Finds No Magic Bullets (TaxVox). No magic beans, either, I’ll bet.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 624

 

Career Corner. Here Are Just a Few Questions You’ll Be Asked in a Big 4 Interview (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/22/15: Business-only tax reform: do-able, or doomed? And: Are Iowa taxes all that bad?

January 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
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Paul Ryan

Business-only tax reform? Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the chief taxwriter in the GOP-controlled House is exploring tax reform ideas with the Obama administration:

As Republican taxwriters look for a way to advance tax reform in the face of White House ambivalence, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he would explore a business-only compromise with the Obama administration, as long as it includes passthroughs.

“I’d like to think that there is perhaps an area for common ground there,” Ryan said on Fox News January 20 after President Obama’s State of the Union address. “We’re going to try to explore it and see if we can find something.”

Ryan said Obama’s recent tax proposals, which involve increasing capital gains taxes and implementing a tax on financial institutions to pay for new and expanded middle-income tax incentives, as well as new spending programs, show he is disinterested in comprehensive reform.

I think “as long as it includes passthoughs” is absolutely the right approach. I also think it will be fatal to the reform effort. A majority of businesses and business income is taxed on 1040s as a result of the increased popularity of passthrough structures like S corporations and limited liability companies.

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

Any tax reform effort worthy of the name would bring down rates in exchange for a broader base. As the President seems firmly committed to ever-higher rates on “the rich,” I don’t see how this can happen.

 

Is Iowa’s business tax climate really that bad? (Me, IowaBiz.com). Is Iowa ready for tax reform? Ready or not, it’s overdue for it:

Even after all of the explaining, the Tax Foundation’s main points remain true. Iowa’s corporation tax rate is the highest in the U.S. (even taking the deduction for federal income taxes into account). In fact, it is the highest in the developed world. Our individual tax rate is high, even considering the federal tax deduction. All of the special breaks make Iowa’s income tax very complex. And while Iowa has many tax credits, they are often narrowly tailored and require consulting and string-pulling to obtain. Many small businesses don’t qualify for the wonderful tax breaks, but they still have to pay their accountants to comply with the resulting complex and confusing tax system.

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.

The post begins an exploration of Iowa tax reform options I will be running at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professional’s Blog. While longtime readers know my fondness for massive changes to the Iowa tax system, I will also be exploring changes on the margin that would improve and simplify Iowa’s tax system in its existing structure that might be easier to pass.

 

David Brunori, Bad State Tax Ideas Abound – Nebraska, Virginia, and Missouri (Tax Analysts Blog):

Special taxes — those on narrow bases — should be imposed sparingly and only for good reason. The best reason is to pay for externalities. But unlike, say, cigarettes, 99 percent of gun purchases produce no externalities. So they should not be subject to special taxes — unless you really hate guns, gun owners, and the guys from Duck Dynasty.

Not every problem is a tax problem.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayers Urged To Be On ‘High Alert’ For Fraud During Filing Season:

This week, the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) issued a reminder to taxpayers to beware of scammers making calls claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The scam, which heated up last year, has continued to plague taxpayers.

If you aren’t expecting a call from the IRS, it’s not the IRS.

 

William Perez, Understanding Form W-2, the Annual Wage and Tax statement

Robert Wood, 10 Surprising Items IRS Says To Report On Your Taxes. As a listicle, it will probably generate traffic to crush Forbes’ servers.

Tax Trials, Fourth Circuit Affirms the Tax Court on Conservation Easement Donation.  “In the end, the Fourth Circuit held that while the conservation purpose of the easement was perpetual, the use restriction on the’ real property is not in perpetuity because the taxpayers could remove land from the defined parcel and replace it with other land.”

Robert D. Flach, ONE WAY RETIREES ARE SCREWED ON THE NJ-1040.

Keith Fogg, How Long Does a CDP Case Toll the Statute of Limitations on Collection? (Procedurally Taxing)

Peter Reilly, Bitter CPA Fight Good For Attorneys And Nobody Else. The U.S. Sixth Circuit picks up the tale of one of the worst accounting firm breakups I’ve come across.

Jack Townsend, USAO SDNY Announces Another Offshore Account Client Plea

 

20141201-1Glenn Hubbard, Obama’s Bad Economic Ideas (Via the TaxProf): “Piling up child tax credits and subsidies for health care over narrow household income ranges, as the president proposes, leads to high rates of taxation on earnings from work as assistance is phased out.” In other words, a poverty trap.

Kay Bell, Obama’s ‘won both’ elections State of the Union quip, Republicans’ many responses to the speech (and gibe)

 

The Tax Policy Blog has lots on the Presidents’ doomed tax proposals:

Kyle Pomerleau, Andrew Lundeen, The Basics of President Obama’s State of the Union Tax Plan

Scott A. Hodge, Michael SchuylerWhat Dynamic Analysis Tells Us About the President’s Tax Hike on Capital Gains and Dividends

Stephen J. Entin, President Obama’s Capital Gains Tax Proposals: Bad for the Economy and the Budget

 

TaxVox is also flooding the SOTU zone:

William Gale, David John, Retirement Security a Priority in the 2015 State of the Union

Gene Steuerle, President Obama’s Middle-Class Tax Message in the State of the Union

William Gale, Adjusting the President’s Capital Gains Proposal

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 623. Today’s installment features an e-mail where scandal figure Lois Lerner shows she’s well aware her unit was under suspicion, and was desparately discouraging further inquiry.

Matt Gardner, Adobe Products’ Acrobatic Tax-Dodging Skills (Tax Justice Blog). I would read that as “skills in meeting their fiduciary duty towards their shareholders.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/21/15: The Peculiar Case of the Trucking Tax Turtle. And more SOTU reaction, oh boy.

January 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

tbtTurtles carry their home on their back. So do some taxpayers. The Tax Court yesterday ruled that a truck driver who claimed Minnesota residency was a tax turtle, carrying his tax home on his back.

It matters because you can only deduct meal and lodging expenses for travel “away from home.” When you’re a tax turtle, you’re never away from home — you live on the road.

Judge Holmes takes up the story.

Shalom Jacobs has been a truck driver since 2002. His trips were mainly long haul “over the road” — meaning he spent a significant number of weeks and months on the road and was paid by the mile…

When he wasn’t on the road, Jacobs considered his home to be in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, where he stayed in the guest room of his longtime friend and fellow expat, Shimon Casper. Casper and Jacobs were both born in Israel and reared on kibbutzim. According to Jacobs, the Caspers’ Cottage Grove home was an American-style kibbutz, where Casper, his wife and children, and Jacobs recreated the communal life of their homeland with everyone contributing everything they had and taking only what each needed.

I don’t think the kibbutz  life is the life for me, but if it were, I think I would stay in Israel, where the weather is better. But that doesn’t address our deduction issue. Judge Holmes, again (my emphasis, citations omitted):

Flickr image by USFWS Mountain Prairie under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by USFWS Mountain Prairie under Creative Commons license

The Code is a little peculiar in defining a person’s “home.” Normal people think of their home as the place where they spend their personal and family lives, but a “home” in tax law is usually where a taxpayer has his principal place of employment. Tax law defines a home as the permanent residence at which a taxpayer incurs substantial continuing living expenses only if he doesn’t have a principal place of employment But what if a taxpayer is constantly on the move? Cases decided over many decades give us the answer — a taxpayer who’s constantly in motion is a “tax turtle” — that is, someone with no fixed residence who carries his “home” with him.  Such a taxpayer is not entitled to business deductions for traveling expenses under section 162.  The burden of proof is on the taxpayer if he disagrees with the Commissioner, and that is a high hurdle for a tax turtle to clear.

Turtles aren’t typically seen in hurdle events, and this one failed to clear that high hurdle. Judge Holmes said the taxpayer failed to show that his friend’s home was, in fact, communal, that he actually paid household expenses, or that he used that address for voter registration. This is a good reminder of the importance of documentation in tax controversy; the judge is more likely to take your word if it agrees with a cancelled check.

The Moral: To deduct meals and lodging away from home, you need to leave your home behind. And Tax Turtles will clear a hurdle only if they have a ladder of good records to help them get over it.

Cite:  Jacobs, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-3

 

buzz20140905Actually, that’s yesterday now. Reminder: Worst Tax Season Ever Starts Today (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

Kay Bell, Tax filing season 2015 is here

William Perez, The Penalty for Not Having Health Insurance. “Here are details on how the individual shared responsibility payment is calculated.”

Jason Dinesen, Does Nebraska Recognize Same-Sex Marriages for Taxes?

Robert Wood, Why IRS Form 1099 Is So Dangerous To Your Tax Bill. “Failing to report one is asking for an audit.”

Tuesday Buzz is just as good on Wednesday. A belated Buzz from Robert D. Flach, including coverage of the recent Taxpayer Advocate’s report.

 

Stephen Olsen offers Summary Opinions for 12/19/14 to 1/05/15 at Procedurally Taxing. This rounds up tax procedure happenings.

Paul Neiffer, 2 Senators Work to Eliminate Capital Gains Tax on Chapter 12 Bankruptcies.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the capital gains generated by these sales are subject to income tax.  The two senators do not believe this was the original intent of Congress when the wrote the original law during the 1980s farm debt crisis, so this new bill is designed to eliminate the imposition of capital gains or other taxes on the sale of property due to the Chapter 12 bankruptcy.

The two senators are Grassley and Franken.

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TaxGrrrl liveblogged the State of the Union address. I live-slept it

Howard Gleckman, The Tax Reform Gap Between Obama and the GOP is Widening (TaxVox):

But it isn’t hard to see where the two parties are headed. Obama does not want an anodyne debate over tax reform. Rather, he’s using reform rhetoric to support a “middle-class economics”agenda aimed at using the tax code to redistribute some income from the rich to working-class households. For their part, Republicans want to use reform talk as a framework for a business-oriented growth agenda leavened by some targeted breaks for working families. 

That should be “some more income.

Scott Hodge, Will Obama’s New Plan to Help the Middle-Class Succeed When $1.5 Trillion in Redistribution Has Not?. Spoiler: no.

Tony Nitti, Why Republicans Should Embrace A 28% Tax On Capital Gains. I’m not remotely convinced; the correct rate is zero, as that income is already after tax money. But if you can get the ordinary rate down to 28% too, I’ll listen.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 622

Peter Reilly, Will Kent Hovind Become This Year’s Cliven Bundy? If I knew who Cliven Bundy is, I might have an opinon on that.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/20/2015: What’s with the accounting method changes? And: foot kissing + tax evasion = double trouble.

January 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

3115-2009If your business return seems extra thick this year, it could be a result of an “accounting method change” application — Form 3115 — buried in it.

The tax law requires taxpayers to get IRS permission to change a “method of accounting.” Without getting into all of the tedious details, and with great oversimplification, a “method of accounting” occurs when the way you account for something on your tax return affects the timing of income or expense, but not the total amount over time. In other words, it’s temporary vs. permanent differences.

Of course timing is everything in tax planning, and the IRS doesn’t want you to change accounting methods willy-nilly. The IRS doesn’t have the time to consider every accounting method change, though, so it publishes a long list of “automatic” method changes annually. This year’s list is in Rev. Proc. 2015-14.

This year will see more Forms 3115 than usual as a result of the so-called “repair regulations” that are effective for 2014 returns. These rules distinguish between “repair” expenses, which can be deducted, and “improvements,” which have to be capitalized and depreciated.

20140925-2The repair regulations have provisions that let taxpayers treat their building components — HVAC, roofs, elevators, etc — as separate items under these rules. Their effect is to permit deductions for some costs that may have been trapped in the depreciable cost of the building. That makes the automatic method change under these rules (Rev. Proc. 2014-17) a good deal, as it can provide a catch-up deduction for prior capitalized costs. Many returns will also include a method change (Rev. Proc. 2014-16) to reflect updated rules for deducting or capitalizing “materials and supplies.”

Automatic method changes are a good thing; if you have a method change that isn’t automatic, special IRS permission is required, and it doesn’t come cheap. But even an automatic change isn’t free, especially if your preparer has to go through old repair records to determine the catch-up deduction. But if you have significant depreciable real property, it’s probably worth the effort.

 

Russ Fox, Former Mayor (and Current CPA) Learns of Tax Fraud, Joins the Conspiracy

Now, let’s assume you’re a tax professional and you learn that a company is withholding payroll taxes and not paying them to the IRS. Would you:
(a) Tell them that the taxes aren’t being paid, that’s violating the law, and you need to fix this (which could include setting up payment plans with the IRS and Minnesota, or just paying the withheld funds);
(b) Tell them that if they don’t start remitting the withheld funds that he would need to quit the engagement; or
(c) Join the conspiracy. 

An accountant from Stillwater, Minnesota — who happened to also be the Mayor — chose poorly.

 

20121120-2Hank Stern, Counting down the ObamaTax:

Many (most?) folks believe that the tax is a mere $95 this year and, for some people, this may well be the case. But it’s actually just a minimum; the actual rate (this year) is 1% of income:

TurboTax, an online tax service, estimated that the average penalty for lacking health insurance in 2014 will be $301.”

A common misconception.

Robert Wood, Beware Obamacare When Filing Taxes This Year. A roundup of the individual mandate penalty and the net investment income tax.

 

Annette Nellen, Due diligence for preparing 1040s for 2014:

What’s new for due diligence for 2014 individual tax returns?  Virtual currency, Affordable Care Act, FBAR, Airbnb rentals, for sure.  Also, the typical charitable contributions, mortgage interest and 1099-K review.  The biggest new item for 2014 will the new line asking if the individual had health coverage for the year.

More work doesn’t come free. The post lists to a longer article about preparer “due diligence” this tax season.

 

Tim Todd, Tax Court Adopts Functional Test to Define “Bank”. “In sum, the Tax Court held that Moneygram satisfied neither the Staunton functional test nor the § 581 test because it failed to receive deposits, make loans, and was not regarded as a bank by any state or federal regulator. Consequently, Moneygram was not entitled to the reported bad debt deductions of the partial or wholly worthless asset-backed securities.”

Jason Dinesen, A Brief History of Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 2: Taxes in 1913.

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Understanding Partnership Distributions, Part 1. “As you will see, the regime governing partnership distributions is drastically different from the one governing corporate distributions.”

TaxGrrrl, Fun With Taxes: Tax Haiku 2015. How about this:

 insure worker health?

Better not reimburse it

That is expensive.

 Kay Bell, Martin Luther King Jr. Day lessons via “Selma” & “Glory”

Mitch Maahs, IRS Announces New Standard Mileage Rates (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

 

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Robert D. Flach, BO SOTU PLANS TO INCREASE TAX ON THE “WEALTHY”. ” BO’s tax proposals, both to help the middle class and punish the wealthy, will never pass in the Republican controlled Congress.”

Matt Gardner, President Obama Takes on the Capital Gains Tax Inequity with New Proposals. By making it worse, of course, though not to hear Mr. Gardner tell it.

Renu Zaretsky, To Build a Better Tax Code, You Could Follow the Money.  The TaxVox headline roundup is heavy on the President’s proposals.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 621. This edition cites Stephen Moore’s Op-ed: “Congress needs to hold the IRS accountable and demand the firing of Mr. Kostiken because he has he admitted openly he can’t do his job.”  Unfortunately, the President who hired him thinks he is doing his job, which is to be a partisan scandal goalie.

 

The headline that wins the internet: Foot Kissing Chiropractor Sentenced for Bribing IRS Agent (Jack Townsend)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/19/15: President announces doomed tax proposals. And: Iowa gets 2015 credit for non-SHOP plans.

January 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

Economic supergenius

No, he’s not serious. The President has put forth a new set of tax proposals. So much for any ideas that he would spend his lame-duck last two years reaching out to pass bipartisan bills. The President’s “fact sheet” is a tendentious, partisan collection of slogans and half-truths posing as policy.

The first proposal:

Close the trust fund loophole – the single largest capital gains tax loophole – to ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share on inherited assets. Hundreds of billions of dollars escape capital gains taxation each year because of the “stepped-up” basis loophole that lets the wealthy pass appreciated assets onto their heirs tax-free.

This is just partisan class warrior nonsense. First, it has nothing to do with “trust funds.” That’s just content-free name-calling. It would, according to Peter Reilly, treat death as a taxable sale of assets at fair market value.

The “wealthiest” already pay estate tax at rates up to 40% on the value — not just the gains — on their assets at death. But stepped-up basis applies to everyone, not just the wealthiest. The President’s proposal, if it really does call for elimination the basis step-up at death, affects everyone who inherits property, not just the few who pay estate tax. Everyone would get to try to find out how much Mom and Dad paid for that land or that stock in 1967, not just the wealthy.

Raise the top capital gains and dividend rate back to the rate under President Reagan. The President’s plan would increase the total capital gains and dividends rates for high-income households to 28 percent.

Somehow this proposal omits restoring the Reagan-era 28% top ordinary income rate that was key to allowing the 28% capital gain rate. The proper capital gain rate, of course, is zero.

None of this has a remote chance of passing, so there’s no point in me spending a lot of time on it. If you want more coverage, TaxGrrrl and Robert D. Flach dive into the details.

I’ll just point out that this is all dishonest class warrior nonsense about making “the rich” pay their “fair share.” A fair look at the numbers indicates that the rich guy is already picking up more than his share of the tab.

First, the shares of all taxes paid by different income segments:

Tax foundation Distribution of Federal Taxes in 2014

Next, the share of federal taxes by the dreaded “top 1%” vs. the bottom 90% since 1980:

taxfoundation top 1 vs bottom 90 percent

Maybe you think that “the rich” may pay more tax, but they still don’t pay as much as the rest of us as a share of their income. Nope:

tax foundation income share vs tax share

Finally, the taxes (Federal, state and local) paid by different income levels compared to the government benefits received by those income levels:

tax foundation taxes vs benefits 2012

No matter how much “the rich” have to cough up, as far as the President is concerned, it will never be enough.

More coverage:

Paul Neiffer, Do Farmers Take Advantage of “Trust Fund” Loopholes

Peter Reilly, President Obama Would Make Death A Taxable Event. “The President’s proposal would close the stepped-up basis loophole by treating bequests and gifts other than to charitable organizations as realization events, like other cases where assets change hands.”

Len Burman. President Obama Targets the “Angel of Death” Capital Gains Tax Loophole. (TaxVox). So dying is a loophole now.

 

cooportunity logoIn case you missed it, the IRS announced Friday that it will allow taxpayers in 85 Iowa counties to claim the small employer health care tax credit in 2015 now that CoOportunity, the sole provider of “SHOP” policies in those counties, has been taken over by insurance regulators. Details here.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 620. Today’s installment quotes Friday’s Wall Street Journal:

If the IRS continues to stonewall the political targeting investigation, as Mr. Koskinen has, then the only tool Congress has to express disapproval is the power of the purse. In any case it’s hard to imagine the IRS could offer worse service than it already does.

Please, don’t tempt them.

 

Scott Hodge, Don’t Cry for the IRS, We’re Doing Their Work for Them (Tax Policy Blog)

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On the Martin Luther King holiday, a cautionary tale of politically-motivated tax prosecution from Robert Wood.

Annette Nellen, Due diligence for preparing 1040s for 2014

Kay Bell, Terrorism, not taxes, rank high on policy priorities survey. I’ll bet that changes in about two months.

Christopher Bergin, Frack It, Tax It (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

Career Corner. If Your Accounting Firm Uses Timesheets, For the Love of God, Track Your Time Daily (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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IRS allows non-SHOP plans in 84 Iowa counties to qualify for small employer credit in 2015.

January 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

cooportunity logoThe version of the small employer health care tax credit that applies starting in 2014 is only available by its terms when the small employer buys a plan on the Healthcare.gov “SHOP” exchange. That became impossible for most Iowa employers when state insurance regulators took control of CoOportunity, which was the only insurance company offering SHOP policies in 85 Iowa counties.

The IRS yesterday reacted by issuing guidance (Notice 2015-08) allowing Iowa employers in those counties to claim the credit on non-SHOP policies. From the Notice:

An eligible small employer with a principal business address in one of the counties listed in section IV below may calculate the credit under section 45R by treating health insurance coverage provided for the 2015 health plan year as qualifying for the section 45R credit, provided that that the coverage would have qualified for a credit under section 45R under the rules applicable before January 1, 2014. This treatment applies with respect to the coverage provided during the 2015 calendar year and during any portion of a health plan year beginning in 2015 that continues into 2016. If the eligible small employer claims the section 45R credit for the 2015 taxable year, then the credit will be calculated at the 50 percent rate (35 percent for tax-exempt eligible small employers) for the entire 2015 taxable year.

The small employer credit provides a credit of 50% of the cost of coverage for up to two years. It has two phase outs: it is reduced as the number of employees goes from 10 to 25, at which point it goes to zero; it also phases out to zero as average wages go from $25,000 per year to $50,000 per year.

The Iowa counties covered by the Notice 2015-08 relief:

Read more »»

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Tax Roundup, 1/16/15: Insurance reimbursements may trigger $100/day penalty, but at least they’re not on W-2.

January 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2Letter to Congressman says insurance reimbursements that trigger $100/day Obamacare penalty still excludible from W-2. 

Small employers have long used “Section 105″ plans to reimburse employee purchases of individual health insurance, in lieu of setting up an employer group health plan. Such reimbursements were excludible from employee W-2 taxable income.

Under the Administration’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act, such plans trigger a $100 per-day, per-employee penalty starting in 2014. Many employers are just learning that they had disqualified plans last year and are scrambling to comply; fixing a plan within 30 days of compliance may enable such taxpayers to avoid the $36,500 hit for each employee on “reasonable cause” grounds.

One question that has hung over this is whether the employer has to put the reimbursements that trigger the penalties on employee W-2s as income. A letter to an Illinois Congressman reprinted today in Tax Analysts says they don’t. From the letter  (my emphasis and links):

Prior to the ACA, an employer could reimburse employees for the medical expenses of the employee and the employee’s family and exclude those amounts from the employee’s income and wages under section 105(b) of the Code. The ACA has not changed the tax treatment of the reimbursement for employee medical expenses. However, these arrangements, under the ACA, are considered to be group health plans and must satisfy the market reform rules for them.

The guidance that we provided in Notice 2013-54 did not change the tax results described in Revenue Ruling 61-146. This ruling says that under certain conditions if an employer reimburses an employee’s substantiated premiums for individual health insurance policies, the payments are excluded from the employee’s gross income under section 106 of the Code. This exclusion also applies if the employer pays the premiums directly to the insurance company.

W2Note that the exclusion “applies.” That’s present tense, meaning it’s still alive.

Some employers responded to Notice 2013-54 by treating reimbursements as taxable, but subsequent guidance issued in November last year said that didn’t work to make the $100/day penalty go away.

While they scramble to terminate their now horrifyingly expensive Sec. 105 reimbursement arrangements and figure out how to get out of the penalties, employers still have to issue W-2s this month. Now they know they can at least leave the reimbursements off employee W-2s. Given how widespread the problems seems to be, and how terrible the penalties, the IRS ought to just issue a blanket penalty waiver on this for everyone for 2014 if the non-compliance is disclosed.

Why wasn’t this printed as guidance? This letter went to Congressman Lipinski in September. A similar letter went to Kansas Congressman Goodlatte about the same time. Obviously the IRS knew from the Congressional inquiries that guidance was needed, but until Tax Analysts published this guidance, the IRS had never explained how to handle the W-2s. They still haven’t published guidance telling employers how to  “correct” the erroneous plans, as required on the penalty waiver instructions to the penalty reporting form, Form 8929.

 

IMG_0598Yeah, like he’d admit that. From Tax Analysts ($link):

The IRS is not pursuing a “Washington monument” strategy of discontinuing taxpayer services to protest recent congressional budget cuts, Commissioner John Koskinen told reporters at a press conference on January 15.

The Washington monument strategy refers to claims made by some media outlets during the October 2013 government shutdown that various federal agencies seemed to be closing highly visible public services as a protest against the shutdown.

Koskinen denied that any such calculations entered into the IRS’s decision-making regarding service and enforcement constraints that he said were induced by Congress’s $346 million cut (to $10.9 billion) to the IRS budget for fiscal 2015.

I’ll believe that he’s serious when he closes the “voluntary” preparer registration program and stops paying IRS employees to work full-time for the Treasury Employees Union.

James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal doesn’t deny that the IRS needs more money, but doesn’t have much sympathy anyway (WSJ subscription may be required to access original):

It’s all rather comical—but also galling. The IRS’s abuse of power in its harassment of conservative nonprofits aimed in substantial part at suppressing opposition to ObamaCare. That is, the IRS traduced the free-speech rights of citizens in order to preserve a law expanding IRS power and creating more work for IRS agents.

Now the commissioner complains that the IRS has too much work and not enough resources and threatens to make life even more difficult for taxpayers. It’s like the guy who killed his parents and then pleaded for mercy because he was an orphan.

And an unapologetic one.

IMG_0543

Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz, with a warning for users of off-the-shelf software.

William Perez, The Penalty for Not Having Health Insurance. Don’t think it’s just $95.

Robert Wood. 3 Reasons Filing Taxes Sucks? Obamacare, Obamacare & Obamacare. I can think of a lot of others, myself, but these are definitely three of them.

Alan Cole, The Employer Mandate Reduces Hours Worked (Tax Policy Blog). Not by tax preparers, it doesn’t.

 

Kay Bell, IRS Free File opens Friday, Jan. 16, for eligible taxpayers, four days ahead of Jan. 20 full tax season start

Russ Fox, If You Do Government Work, It Pays to Treat the Government Well

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 617

Howard Gleckman, What To Make of the Senate Finance Committee’s Tax Reform Workgroups 

 

Keith Fogg, Eskimos and the IRS: A Winter’s Tale (Procedurally Taxing) “This post is not about tax procedure issues in the native American population in Alaska but a recent Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report concerning frozen credits at the IRS made me think about the number of ways Eskimos have to say snow.”

 

News from the Profession. Ron Baker: You Can Put Lipstick on Billing by the Hour But Don’t Call It Value Pricing (Adrienne Gonzales, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/15/15: Taxpayer Advocate rips offshore account enforcement, recommends fixes to Congress.

January 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today Readershere is the post on the 2015 Iowa legislative session outlook.

 

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Still shooting jaywalkers. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson has submitted her Annual Report to Congress, and she rips the IRS offshore compliance program. Among the “most serious problems” noted in the report is “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs Undermined the Law and Violate Taxpayer Rights.”

The report says the IRS routinely stretches the penalties for “willful” violations of foreign reporting requirements to inadvertent violations, interprets its own guidelines whimsically and unfairly, and makes a practice of hammering small violators disproportionately.  The report also criticizes the IRS practice of denying relief for taxpayers who came in from the cold early when it later started applying reduced penalties.

The report includes one awful example of the IRS treating an apartment owned by the taxpayer as a foreign financial account for purposes of computing the penalty for late reporting:

Example : An IRS employee took the position that a taxpayer’s foreign apartment must be included in the “offshore penalty” base solely because the taxpayer filed returns reporting income from the apartment between two and fifteen months late—after receipt of foreign information reporting documents relating to inherited property. The employee concluded the delay in filing returns meant that the apartment was related to tax noncompliance. Under the 2011 OVDI FAQ 35, “[t]he offshore penalty is intended to apply to all of the taxpayer’s offshore holdings that are related in any way to tax noncompliance.” FAQ 35 defines tax noncompliance as follows:

“Tax noncompliance includes failure to report income from the assets, as well as failure to pay U.S. tax that was due with respect to the funds used to acquire the asset.”

The taxpayer timely overpaid her taxes and reported the income from the apartment (albeit on late-filed returns), and the apartment was not acquired with untaxed funds. Thus, the IRS employee’s unreviewable determination to include the apartment in the offshore penalty base appears to contradict FAQ 35.

This indicates an IRS practice of shooting jaywalkers so that it can slap real international tax cheats on the wrists. Especially unrepresented jaywalkers:

20150115-1

These penalties – $2,202 average penalty for an average $268 tax understatement for the smallest accounts – are unconscionable. I defy anyone to say otherwise. Well, anyone who doesn’t work for IRS.

It also indicates that taxpayers who oped out of the voluntary disclosure program got better results — which is a harsh indictment of the way the “voluntary” program treats taxpayers.

The report does praise recent changes to IRS practice, but slams the IRS for not applying them retroactively.  The report also recommends that Congress ease up on offshore penalties, including eliminating the penalties when the taxpayer resides in the same country as the foreign account. This would be incredibly useful, eliminating the penalty for committing personal finance while living abroad.

I would go further and make the U.S. tax system territorial for non-residents, to eliminate absurd spectacles like the IRS going after the U.S.-born Mayor of London for capital gains on the sale of his home in London.

Related coverage: 

Robert Wood, National Taxpayer Advocate Slams IRS Offshore Programs & FBAR Penalties, Demands Change

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayer Advocate IDs Most Serious Problems For Taxpayers: Unacceptably Low Levels Of Service Tops List

 

20150115-2Kay Bell, It’s a new year, but time for final 2014 estimated tax payment

Russ Fox, Waiting for Godot. ” If you’re going to call the IRS, expect very lengthy hold times; yesterday I was on hold for 101 minutes before speaking with an IRS representative. I expect the hold times to get far worse as we head into Tax Season.”

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About EAs, #5: EAs are the Only Pros Required to Take Tax CPE.

Robert D. Flach, WTF IS AN EA?  Wednesday Tax Forum is an EA?

Tim Todd, Unsubordinated Mortgage Prevents Charitable Deduction for Conservation Easement

Iowa Public Radio, Tax Time Gets New Ritual: Proof Of Health Insurance.

 

Alan Cole, Financial Transactions Are A Very Poor Tax Base (Tax Policy Blog):

Simply put, financial transactions are a very poor tax base. For one thing, it results in “pyramiding:” taxing the same economic activity many times. For another, economists generally think of trades as highly-valuable activity that benefits both parties, given that they both agreed to the deal. Taxing trade itself results in a kind of “lock-in” effect where people hold on to the things they have, whether or not they’re the best people to actually be holding on to them.

He also notes the social value of the ability to easily sell financial assets, one that would be damaged by a transaction tax.

Howard Gleckman, Gale and DeLong Debate: Is the Budget Deficit Even a Problem? (TaxVox).

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Cara Griffith, Illinois Lawsuit Challenges Tax Credit Program for Encouraging Job Retention (Tax Analysts Blog). “But the interesting question this lawsuit raises is whether job creation and job retention should be treated as equal for purposes of a tax credit.” Yes, they should all get no tax credits.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 1/12: When Your Mouth Writes a Check Your State Can’t Cash (Tax Justice Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 616

Career Corner. The Happiest Lawyers Are Tax Lawyers  (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/14/15: Education credits to delay refunds? And: it’s not volunteering when you’re paid.

January 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Kristy Maitre

Kristy Maitre

If your tax refund this year seems to take forever to arrive, education credits might be involved. The invaluable Kristy Maitre, former IRS Stakeholder Liaison and now with the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, has leaned that the IRS may delay refunds on returns claiming the “American Opportunity Credit.” From an e-mail she has distributed:

If your client is getting the American Opportunity Credit this year you need to be aware of a possible “refund hold” on the credit to verify attendance at the college. At this time we “assume” only that part of the refund will be held and the other part of refund not related to the American Opportunity Credit will be released.

At this time we are not sure who this will impact, IRS appears to want to keep it a BIG secret. Our concern is that the tax preparer will be blamed for the delay of the refund and overall it would make the preparer look bad as well as having to deal with an upset client due to the issue. I was able to find some criteria in a new IRM, but we need more information from IRS.

Your client should be  informed by IRS of the reason the refund is being held and that once the 1098-T from the accredited institution is verified the refund will be released,  or they will receive a Letter 4800C to inform them if further documentation is required to allow the education credit…

The AOTC is a “refundable” credit; if the credit exceeds the tax computed, the IRS will pay you the excess. Given the high incidence of refund fraud involving refundable credits like the AOTC, it’s understandable that the IRS would want to verify eligibility before issuing a refund.

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Unfortunately, this verification will come from matching 1098-Ts issued by colleges and universities. These forms, which purport to show tuition paid, are notoriously unreliable. The inevitable matching errors will leave some taxpayers trying to get their refunds fixed well into the summer.

This highlights the unwisdom of using the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. It’s hard enough to get taxable income right. Congress also assigns IRS education policy, health care, social welfare, industrial policy, campaign finance regulation, you name it. Like with the Swiss Army Knife, you can only add so many functions before you make it bad at being a knife.

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Commissioner Koskinen wants us to blame cuts in his budget for tax refund delays. In a memo to IRS employees, he outlines the dire effects of the cuts in his agency budget, including:

Delays in refunds for some taxpayers. People who file paper tax returns could wait an extra week — or possibly longer — to see their refund. Taxpayers with errors or questions on their returns that require additional manual review will also face delays.

It’s foolish of Congress to pile work onto the IRS and then cut its budget. That said, Mr. Koskinen has brought a lot of this on himself with his combative and tone-deaf response to the Tea Party scandal.

Also, there’s a bit of the Washington Monument Strategy in his memo, by making cuts in areas that inflict pain on taxpayers. I would be more convinced that the IRS is really committed to making taxpayer service a priority if his list of budget adjustments included sending to the field, or laying off, the hundreds of full-time IRS employees who do only union work. He would be more convincing if he said the “voluntary” preparer regulation initiative was on ice until funding improves. Instead, the Commissioner puts the National Treasury Employees Union and his own power grab ahead of processing refunds.

 

No Walnut STVolunteering. I don’t think that word means what you think it means. From Governor Branstad’s 2015 Condition of the State address:

 In addition, I am offering legislation creating the Student Debt Reorganization Tax Credit. This tax credit allows individuals to volunteer for worthy causes within Iowa’s communities and in exchange have contributions made toward their student debt.

There is so much wrong with this, beyond the idea that it’s “volunteering” when you get paid for it. It’s one more random addition to an already ridiculous mishmash of distortive and unwise education subsidies. It’s one more incentive for students to take on debt they can’t otherwise afford. And it misplaces human capital from productive for-profit enterprise to the black hole of the government and non-profit sector.

Iowa Form 148 already lists 32 different tax credits. The Governor thinks adding some more is the solution to Iowa’s problems. I think the credits are a big part of the problem, as they help make the Iowa tax law the complex high-rate mess that it is.

 

William Perez, How Soon Can We Begin Filing Tax Returns?

Kay Bell, Reducing your 2014 tax bill using exemptions, deductions

Jason Dinesen, H&R Block Doesn’t Really Have ACA “Specialists” On Staff. A bold charge, but a convincing one.

Peter Reilly, Can Walgreen Stance On Property Tax Hurt Income Tax Position Of 1031 Investors? Thoughts on getting too cute in analyzing the value of a real estate interest.

Leslie Book, Can IRS Change Taxpayers from Procrastinators to Payors By Drafting Letters that Make Taxpayers Feel Bad? (Procedurally Taxing). Usually people feel bad when they get a letter that says “notice of levy,” but that’s not what he’s talking about.

Robert Wood, Citizenship Renunciation Fee Hiked 422%, And You Can’t Come Back

Jack Townsend, Another UBS Depositor Sentence; Consideration of the Role of Potential Deportation

 

IMG_0940

David Brunori, Using the Poor for Fixing the Roads (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Michigan Legislature passed a bill that would significantly increase the state’s earned income tax credit. Some 800,000 Michigan families will see tax relief. I think that is a good thing. But the change won’t go into effect unless voters approve a sales tax increase from 6 percent to 7 percent.

I don’t share David’s enthusiasm for the EITC, but I do appreciate the absurdity of the sales tax link.

Kyle Pomerleau, Representative Van Hollen Releases New $1.2 Trillion Tax Plan.  “Unfortunately, most of Representative Van Hollen’s tax plan would move the U.S. further away from having a competitive, modern tax code.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 615. This installment covers a Tea Party group that has been waiting five years for Lois Lerner’s old office to approve their exemption application.

 

Career Corner. Age and accounting as a second career (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/13/15: Another bad day for Mr. Banister in Tax Court.

January 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Sometimes people with ideas that are shocking and revolutionary are ahead of their time. And sometimes they are just wrong.

lizard20140826“Tax Honesty” figure Joe Banister has been in the second category for some time, as far as the Tax Court is concerned. The former KPMG accountant and IRS criminal division agent made an unusual career change, becoming a guru for those who insist there is no federal income tax. His biggest success may have been winning an acquittal on criminal tax charges in 2005. His courtroom ventures have been less rewarding since.

In 2008, the Tax Court ruled that he owed tax on about $24,000 in unreported income from 2002. Yesterday they hit him harder.

This case picked up Mr. Banister’s unfiled return string in 2003. From the Tax Court’s opinion (emphasis mine):

During 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, petitioner earned income from his tax consultation services, speeches, book sales, and other business activities promulgating his views of the Federal income tax system. In 2006 he received $71,497 in nonemployee compensation. He deposited his income into six bank accounts over which he maintained control. He earned interest income on some of them. Deposits into those accounts totaled $280,270.01, $522,418.98, $247,666.61, and $118,608.72 for 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively. Petitioner did not file Federal income tax returns or pay taxes for any of those years.

The IRS commenced an audit for petitioner’s 2003 through 2006 tax years. Petitioner failed to submit for examination complete and adequate books and accounts for the years under audit. He resisted IRS efforts to obtain bank records through the use of summonses. The IRS ultimately prepared substitutes for returns under section 6020(b), determining petitioner’s correct adjusted gross income for each year by the bank deposits analysis method. The IRS determined that taxable deposits into the six bank accounts were $143,607.46, $177,402.24, $130,502.24, and $87,389.49 for 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively. Those amounts were used in the statutory notice sent to petitioner.

It appears that giving odd tax advice is at least as lucrative as being a criminal agent. But maybe not after tax and penalties, as we will see.

Mr. Banister tried to use his own medicine to fight the IRS:20120511-2

During the course of this case, petitioner did not deny receipt of the income determined in the statutory notice and did not identify deductions that had not been allowed. His arguments, his motions, his attempts to conduct discovery, and his cross-examination of respondent’s witnesses at trial have been directed to his claim that the statutory notice was invalid because it was not signed by an authorized person and that, as a result, this Court lacks jurisdiction over his case. In his pretrial memorandum he also asserted that his U.S. income was not subject to tax and that he had no obligation to file tax returns, repeating or restating the arguments that had led to his disqualification to practice before the IRS and his loss of his certified public accountant’s license. Petitioner refused to testify at trial, citing his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Instead he submitted a “motion for offer of proof” that, to the extent intelligible at all, repeated and elaborated on his argument that his U.S. income was not subject to income tax.

It didn’t work, and the Tax Court upheld deficiencies of $176,786. They tacked on 25% failure to file penalties and 75% fraud penalties, and estimated tax underpayment penalties, about doubling the bill. Then for good measure they penalized him $25,000 for making “frivolous” arguments in Tax Court.

Assuming the IRS accurately assessed Mr. Banister’s income, he netted $152,801 after tax for four years — though California will surely want some of that. Assuming conservatively that 20% of what’s left after taxes and penalties goes to the Golden State coffers, Mr. Banister nets about $122,000 after tax and penalties for four year’s work — an amount that probably compares poorly  to what he would have pocketed with less trouble had he stuck it out at IRS. Of course, there might be other cash income out there that never hit the IRS bank account computation.

The funny thing is, Mr. Banister could have filed his tax returns and cut his tax bill in half — and nobody would have been the wiser, except for the IRS. It may have been foolish consistency for him to take his own advice, but consistency it was.

I doubt Mr Banister is done in court. It’s not typical of hard-core “tax honesty” adherents to just pay assessments. The IRS is likely to have to slog through the dreary process of levy and asset seizure now. For those who think that Mr. Banister actually understands the tax law, this dismal record of assessment and collection litigation should be instructional. Unfortunately, anybody who still buys tax protest thinking is by definition a slow learner.

Cite: Banister, T.C. Memo 2015-10

Russ Fox has more: The Second Time Wasn’t the Charm

 

20120620-1Busy day, so just some quick links.

Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz,  with links to Jason Dinesen and thoughts on national franchise tax prep firm marketing.

Kay Bell, Senate Finance Democratic duo introduces bill that would give IRS regulatory authority over paid tax preparers. Fine, if the Senators require themselves and their House colleagues to do their own returns on a live webcast, by hand, with a rolling comment screen so their regulated preparers can chime in with all kinds of helpful advice.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, The Earned Income Tax Credit Still Faces High Error Rate (Tax Policy Blog).

Jeremy Scott, Nunes Plan Ignores Base Erosion Concerns:

Republican House taxwriter Devin Nunes released a business tax reform plan last week that would gradually lower tax rates to 25 percent and move to full expensing. Nunes’s plan shifts U.S. international tax rules toward territoriality and imposes a 5 percent tax on a company’s undistributed earnings. He says that when it is scored, it will be revenue neutral. Sounds great, right? Well, Nunes has decided to completely ignore the problem of U.S. tax base erosion, saying when pressed that those concerns are “irrelevant” because he is creating a new tax code.

Tax reform in this Congress seems unlikely, but if 2016 adds a Republican President to a GOP Senate and House, things they’re talking about now could turn into law in a hurry.

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Martin Sullivan, Would Congress Dare Pass the Nunes Plan? (Tax Analysts Blog):

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 614

 

Career Corner. So You Passed the CPA Exam; What Do You Want, a Cookie? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

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