Tax Roundup, 6/2/15: See what the thief filed to claim your refund. And: a crowded Irish address files 580 1040s!

June 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20111040logoIt seems only fair. In a policy change, the IRS will enable identity theft victims to see copies of fraudulent returns filed in their names, reports Tax Analysts ($link).

Tax-related identity theft victims will soon be able to obtain IRS copies of the fraudulent tax returns used to steal their identity, thanks in part to a push by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

“Once we have a procedure in place, we will issue an announcement informing tax-related identity theft victims of the process for receiving a redacted copy of the fraudulent return,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a May 28 letter that acknowledged Ayotte as the impetus for the change in the tax agency’s identity theft policy.

The redactions will deal with other taxpayers included on the stolen return. I am guessing could include pretend spouses and dependents used by the ID thief.

This is good news for taxpayers, as it may help them resolve otherwise inexplicable problems with their IRS accounts. It also promises to help shed light on how the thefts occur and, perhaps, help practitioners suggest measures to fight the fraud. It’s also long overdue. It’s not as if thieves can reasonably expect confidentiality for their crimes.

 

20130316-1The luck of the IRisSh. The tax agency still seems to be way behind the ID thieves. This report from the Irish Times is hardly reassuring: 

An address in Kilkenny topped a table of addresses used for multiple potentially fraudulent tax return applications submitted to the Internal Revenue Service in 2012, a study by the US treasury has found.

The address in Kilkenny was used for 580 returns in 2012, which led to “refunds” totalling $218,974 being issued, according to the study by the treasury inspector general for tax administration in the United States.

The IRS likes to claim that budget constraints are behind its abject failure to control the identity theft refund fraud epidemic. The inability to flag hundreds of refunds claimed from the same offshore address — which would seem like an easy enough programming problem to solve — indicates the problems are deeper than lean budgets.

 An address in Kaunas, Lithuania, was used for 525 applications that prompted the payment of $156,274, while an address in Miami, Florida, came third on the list, with 417 applications leading to the payment of $221,806. 

Somehow this doesn’t tell me the IRS needs to expand its responsibilities — but Congress and the President clearly feel otherwise.

 

Will there finally be real steps to fight the problem? Tax Analysts also reports ($link) that the IRS, in cooperation with states and software vendors, will require additional information to process e-filings:

Central to the announcement is a greatly enhanced public-private effort to combat fraud through increased information sharing.

Another upshot is that industry and government will need to process returns differently starting with the 2016 filing season, said Alabama Department of Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee. On the front end, tax return preparation software providers will need to provide multifactor authentication steps when a taxpayer logs in or returns to a site, she said.

The changes also will require vendors to increase by a few dozen data points the amount of information collected from the taxpayer or the return and sent in a standardized format to the IRS and state revenue departments, Magee said.

The story says the details will be announced sometime this month to enable vendors to prepare for next season. We will cover the announcement when it is made.

 

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Robert D. Flach has a fresh Tuesday Buzz roundup, covering topics as diverse as extenders and “I Love Lucy.

William Perez, The Key Benefits of Health Savings Accounts. Tax deductible contributions, tax-free accumulation, and tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses.

Robert Wood, IRS Says If You’re Willful, FBAR Penalties Hit 100%, $10,000 If You’re Not

Peter Reilly, Conservation Easements – Tax Court Lets Owner Sell Them Or Give Them But Not Both

Jason Dinesen, History of Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 9: After Poe v. Seaborn. “Finally in 1948, Congress acted. For the first time, filing statuses were created and we moved closer to the tax system we know today.”

Kay Bell, Ohio becomes 25th state in which Amazon collects sales tax

Me, How states try to tax the visiting employee. My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.

 

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Alan Cole, Oregon to Experiment with Mileage-Based Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

Oregon will become the first state to implement a per-mile tax on driving. The tax is voluntary – an alternative to the state’s fuel tax. Drivers will get the choice of paying one or another. Should they choose the mileage-based tax, they will be charged 1.5 cents per mile, but get a credit to offset the taxes they pay on gas.

States have difficulty increasing gas taxes. Energy-efficient cars and electric (coal powered!) vehicles also are affecting gas tax revenues. The post doesn’t expain how the state will measure mileage; privacy issues promise to be a big obstacle for mileage taxes, but if this can be overcome, expect more states to follow Oregon.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 754

Martin Sullivan, How Grover Norquist’s Pledge Can Hurt the Conservative Cause (Tax Analysts Blog). “First, the pledge’s hard and fast prohibition on tax hikes can prevent signers from agreeing to compromises that would result in outcomes most conservatives would consider highly favorable.”

 

Scott Sumner asks Why are interest expenses tax deductible? (Econlog).

The cost of equity (dividends, etc.) is not tax deductible, while interest is deductible. But why?

Good question. I respond with another — why aren’t dividends deductible? That would prevent double taxation of corporate income while making sure corporations can’t be used as incorporated investment portfolios.

 

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/1/15: Trusts, but verify. And lots more!

June 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

tack shelterTrust not flaky trusts. There’s a sort of folk belief that the rich and the sophisticated skip out of income taxes through clever use of trusts. That’s not true; trust income is taxed either to the trust owners, their beneficiaries, or to the trusts themselves — and at high effective rates. The 39.6% top rate that kicks in for unmarried individuals at $413,200 applies starting at $12,300 for trusts.

Still, this folk belief creates a market of gullible people who want to be like the sophisticated kids that don’t pay taxes. Where there’s a market, someone will attempt to meet the demand. That can go badly.

It went very badly for two westerners last week. From a Department of Justice press release:

Joseph Ruben Hill aka Joe Hill, 56, and Lucille Kathleen Hill aka Kathy Hill, 58, both of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Gloria Jean Reeder, 68, of Sedona, Arizona, were convicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstructing a grand jury investigation following a three-week trial. In July 2014, Joe Hill, Kathy Hill and Reeder were indicted for conspiring to defraud the United States by promoting and using a sham trust scheme. Joe Hill and Reeder were also indicted for conspiring to obstruct the grand jury investigation in the District of Wyoming by causing individuals to withhold records required to be produced by federal grand jury subpoenas.

What were they selling?

Essentially, the scheme involved assigning income to the trust by using a bank account in the trust’s name that was opened with a false federal tax identification number. The Hills, Reeder, and many other CCG clients who testified during the trial used the CCG trusts to conceal income and assets from the IRS.

All of their customers can count on thorough and painful IRS exams.

 

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Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Did you miss the last holiday in May? Friday was 529 Day (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “A recent Forbes article discussing the so-called holiday reported two-thirds of Americans are unfamiliar with 529 Plans.”

Hank Stern, The Flip Side of Halbig/King/Burntwell. “But there’s another side to this, one which has thus far gone unremarked: is there a potential upside to folks whose subsidies go away? (Insureblog)

William Perez, Identity Theft Statistics from the Latest TIGTA Report

Annette Nellen, Should Sales Tax Deduction Be Made Permanent? House Says Yes

Kay Bell, Are we tax sheep? A U.K. collection effort says ‘yes’:

These psychologists, anthropologists and other observers of human nature suggested that a couple of lines be added to tax collection letters:

“The great majority of people in your local area pay their tax on time. Most people with a debt like yours have paid it by now.”

It worked.

I’m sure this approach has its limits, but it contains an important insight: people will pay their taxes if they think other people do. But if they feel other people get away with not paying, they’ll stop. Nobody likes to be a chump.

Jack Townsend, New IRS FBAR Penalty Guidance

Jim Maule, Can Anyone Do Business Without Tax Subsidies? Most of us have to — which is a powerful case against giving special favors to the well-connected and well-lobbied.

Andy GrewalThe Un-Precedented Tax Court: Summary Opinions (Procedurally Taxing). “It’s a bit strange to pretend that a judicial opinion does not exist…”

Peter Reilly, Structuring – First Kent Hovind – Now Dennis Hastert. The IRS has overreached in its structuring seizures, but keeping deposits under $10,000 in order to avoid the reporting rules for large tax transactions is still illegal. Bank personnel are trained to report suspected structuring. If you do it consistently, your chances of getting caught approach 100%.

Robert Wood, 20 Year Old Oral Agreement To Split Lottery Winnings Is Upheld. Still, it’s always better to get things in writing.

TaxGrrrl, Man’s Tax Refund Seized For Parking Tickets On Car He Never Owned. This sort of injustice is inevitable when the tax law is drafted into service for non-tax chores.

Russ Fox, I’m Shocked, Shocked! That a Chicago Attorney may have Committed Tax Evasion Related to Corruption. Eddie Vrdolyak may be involved.

 

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Tony Nitti, Rick Santorum Announces A Second Run For President: A Look At His Tax Plan. Mr. Santorum is slightly more likely to be president than I am.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 753The IRS Scandal, Day 752The IRS Scandal, Day 751. I like this from Day 752: “The job of the IRS should be to collect taxes, fairly and efficiently. Since the income tax was enacted in 1913, however, the IRS has appropriated to itself—sometimes on its own, sometimes with congressional blessing—the right to make political judgments about groups of citizens. That is the central failure revealed by this scandal.”

 

Scott Drenkard, How Tax Reform Could Help Stabilize the Housing System (Tax Policy Blog):

Removing the impediment to saving baked into the tax code, then, has real impacts on real people. It helps people save for down payments on homes, or to put money toward education. Perhaps, if pared with a reduction in policies meant to artificially reduce down payments, tax reform could be an important component to stabilizing the housing market.

No-down-payment means you’re betting someone else’s money.

 

Richard Phillips, Martin O’Malley’s Record on Taxes is Progressive (Tax Policy Blog). That means he likes to raise them.

News from the Profession. Madoff Auditor Better at Cooperating Than Auditing, Won’t Serve Time (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

There will be no leftovers at the putlucks. Indiana Marijuana Church Granted Tax-Exempt Status, Plans ‘Call To Worship’ When Members Will Light Up (TaxProf).

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/29/15: A distracted IRS takes its eye off the ball. And more Friday goodness.

May 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
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.

The IRS Fails at Job One(Christopher Bergin, Tax Analysts Blog).

Over the years, as the fight for transparency continues, I’ve marveled that while the IRS was willing to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars to hide information the courts eventually would force it to turn over to the public, it never shirked from its responsibility to protect the truly private information it was entrusted with. I’ve always admired the IRS for its unflinching diligence in putting that job well ahead of its paranoia of public scrutiny regarding how it operates.

But now there’s a chink, and a big one, in that armor.

The IRS has too much to do. It has its hands full just with its primary job of assessing and collecting taxes, issuing refunds, and protecting taxpayer data. But Congress has chosen to use the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. As a result, the IRS has become a sprawling superagency with a portolio that includes the nation’s health finance system, industrial policy, welfare for the poor, campaign finance… you name it. It should be no surprise that its real job suffers.

 

William Perez, Identity Theft Statistics from the Latest TIGTA Report. “I was curious, just how big is identity theft, and how much money is leaking out of the Treasury?”

Annette Nellen, IRS Data Breach Unfortunate in Many Ways – PIN? “Why not use of a PIN as is used to access bank data and use credit cards?”

Kay Bell, IRS security breach highlights need to rethink online privacy. “We’ve all to some degree shared details of our lives to broader audiences.”

Justin Gelfand. Most Recent IRS International Hacking Reveals Vulnerability ( Procedurally Taxing). “Perhaps more than anything else, this cyber-attack reveals that stolen identity tax refund fraud is not a problem the Government can prosecute its way out of.”

 

eic 2014Arnold Kling, The EITC in Practice. Mr. Kling quotes Timothy Taylor on some of the practical problems in administering this program, and then considers an alternative:

One of the advantages of a universal benefit is that you give the money to everyone. My idea is that you would then tax some of it back at a marginal rate of 20 or 25 percent. That is, for every dollar that someone earns in the market, they are lose 20 cents or 25 cents in universal benefits. Compared to a marginal tax rate of zero, 25 percent is more complex and has a disincentive. But it is much less complex and de-motivating than our current system of sharp cut-off points for benefits like food stamps and housing assistance. And having a non-zero tax rate allows you to have a higher basic benefit at lower overall budget cost.

In another post, he says:

I think that the incentive problems with the current system are so bad that I would like to see the next Administration take its best shot at something better. As you know, my preference is for a negative-income-tax type system, but with the added administrative issue of having the grants be in the form of flexible-benefit dollars that only can be used for food, housing, medical care, and education.

I like that idea much more than refundable credits, which are a fraud magnet.

 

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Adjunct Professors and Mileage Deductions

Robert D. Flach has some fresh Friday Buzz!

 

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Megan McArdle. Obamacare’s Intent? Just Read the Law. “Memory is so very terrible, and this law is so very complex. Anyone who tells you that they have a full and accurate memory of the evolution of the various moving parts is lying — at least to themselves.”

Hank Stern, A Quarter Trillion Here, A Quarter Trillion there…  “Obamacare is set to add more than a quarter-of-a-trillion—that’s trillion—dollars in extra insurance administrative costs to the U.S. health-care system”

 

Joseph Henchman, Major Tax Actions in Texas, Illinois, Nevada, and Louisiana (Tax Policy Blog). The Illinois legislature continues its rush to fiscal disaster. Nevada advances an unwise gross receipts tax. Louisiana advances a bill to kill its poorly conceived franchise tax.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 5/28: Deals Made, Dreams Fade (Tax Justice Blog). State tax news from New York and Alabama, where a flat tax proposal has fizzled.

 

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Howard Gleckman, The Perpetual, Immortal, Eternal, Never-Ending Tax Extenders. “The magic number for today is 16. That is, remarkably, the number of times Congress has extended the allegedly temporary research and experimentation tax credit since it was first enacted in 1981.”

Jack Townsend, Former House Speaker Indicted for Stucturing and Lying to Federal Agents. It appears blackmail was involved. Robert Wood has more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 750

 

Well, it’s not brain surgery. Accountants Lack Some Skills (Caleb NewquistGoing Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/28/15: Tax Court doesn’t let auto dealer undo LIFO termination seven years later. And more!

May 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

No Walnut STYou messed up, but you’re stuck with it. A California auto dealer decided to get off LIFO inventory. “Last-in, First-out” inventory accounting generally reduces current income by capitalizing smaller amounts in inventory over time. If you sell your business, however, it catches up with you — those savings all come into income at once.

The auto dealership operated as an S corporation. The owner decided that because he might be selling soon, he would go off LIFO using the automatic method change procedure then offered by the IRS. That procedure, Rev. Proc. 97-37, allowed him to spread the additional income over four years.

Something went wrong. The taxpayer represented on the Form 3115 filed under the IRS procedure that it would value all inventory under the lower of (FIFO) cost or market, but instead it valued its new cars, used cars and parts three different ways. This went unnoticed and unchallenged for a number of years, starting in 2001. Needless to say, the contemplated sale of the dealership did not occur in the meantime.

At some point, the dealership’s tax preparer concluded the different methods might be a problem after attending a seminar. In 2009, they filed amended returns for 2002 through 2007 that said the LIFO termination was ineffective and that as a result the taxable income for those years was overstated – by about $875,000 for 2002 and 2003 alone.

This led to a strange argument, where the taxpayer argued that their failure to properly follow Rev. Proc. 97-37 meant their LIFO termination was never effective. The IRS said the taxpayer’s inadequate compliance was good enough, and the taxpayer is stuck with the no-longer-desired LIFO termination.

Tax Court Judge Wherry decided that the automatic change failed — siding with the taxpayer — but that didn’t settle the issue:

First, we must decide whether, notwithstanding its failure to secure respondent’s automatic consent in 2001, JHH’s filing of its 2001 through 2007 tax returns in accordance with a new method of accounting was a change in method of accounting. If so, second, we must ascertain whether the amended returns reflect a further change in method of accounting for which respondent’s consent is again required. If it is, then because respondent has not consented to the change, JHH may not revert to the LIFO method simply by filing amended returns.

The court decided that the filing of on-LIFO returns for 2001 through 2007 by the taxpayer — referred to as “JHH” —  effected an accounting method change, even though the automatic change was ineffective (citations omitted):

…”a short-lived deviation from an already established method of accounting need not be viewed as a establishing a new method of accounting.” And in that case, “neither the deviation from, nor the subsequent adherence to, the method of accounting would be a change in method of accounting.” 

As we observed in Huffman: “The question, of course, is what is short-lived.”

Seven years wasn’t short enough, to the court:

Regardless of the upper temporal boundary of a “short-lived deviation”, we think that seven years lies beyond it. JHH’s “consistent treatment of an item involving a question of timing * * * establishes such treatment as a method of accounting.”  Notwithstanding its failure to secure respondent’s automatic consent, JHH changed its method of accounting from LIFO by accounting for its vehicles inventory on the specific identification method on its 2001 through 2007 tax returns.

20121212-1The court said the IRS has two choices when confronted with such an unauthorized method change: force the taxpayer to change to the old method, or accept the unauthorized change, imposing any adjustments necessary to avoid double-counting. The IRS chose to accept the change.

That meant the attempt to go back on LIFO was another method change, again requiring IRS consent. The IRS wasn’t going along, and the taxpayer was stuck with FIFO.

The moral? Many taxpayers filed automatic accounting method changes for 2014 under the “repair reg” rules. This case shows that the IRS can enforce the automatic method change conditions and deny benefits to taxpayers who don’t dot all of their “i”s.

It also shows reminds us that if you are doing something wrong for a number of years, it becomes “right,” in that it becomes an accounting method. It might be an improper method, but you still need IRS consent to change it. Many improper methods can be changed automatically, but sometimes advanced IRS permission is required. If you don’t do it “right,” the IRS holds all the cards.

Cite: Hawse, T.C. Memo. 2015-99; No. 8267-12

 

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Tom VanAntwerp, How Hackers Breached the IRS and Stole $50 Million (Tax Policy Blog):

Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, previously tried to access his own transcripts without resorting to personal knowledge. Using the real estate website Zillow and personal information site Spokeo, he was able to successfully find answers to the personal questions that only he should have known.

Cybercriminals who specialize in stealing and processing this personal data en masse were able to answer these identifying questions at scale. Much of the information used by the IRS to verify identity is either publicly available or for sale to underground cybercriminals. Hackers can buy access to stolen consumer or financial data, and then write a program to plug answers into the questions asked by the IRS. Once hackers successfully claim an identity, they can use the information from previous years’ tax returns to file new, fraudulent returns and steal tax refunds.

That’s… not comforting.

 

Our friends the Russians. AP sources: IRS believes identity thieves from Russia (KWWL.com)

TaxProf, GAO, TIGTA Warned Of IRS’s Lax Computer Security For Years Before Hack Of 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts On IRS Website.

William Perez, What Can We Do Differently in Light of the IRS Data Breach. Some suggestions for protecting your personal data.

 

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Robert D. Flach, WHAT A DISRUPTIVE DEVELOPMENT THIS IS!. Robert refers to the late arrival of corrected 1099s. “Clients who would normally send me their “stuff” in early or mid-February – allowing for a much smoother work flow during the season – now must wait until mid-March because of the need to “wait and see” if corrected brokerage reports arrive.”

Russ Fox, Surprise! You Heard About that May 29th Filing Deadline, Right?.

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayers Have More Time To File In 2016. “Three more days!”

Robert Wood, Man Gets Prison For Inventing His Own Church, And It’s Not Scientology. Technically, his prison time isn’t for starting a new church — that’s legal — but for using it to evade taxes.

Peter Reilly, Limits Of Hobby Lobby – Priests For Life Denied Rehearing On Contraception Mandate.

Kay Bell, Italy charges Bulgari luxury jewelry heirs with tax evasion

 

Len Burman, The Trouble with the FairTax (TaxVox). Mr. Burman concentrates on its distribution among income classes, rather than its overall implausibility.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 749

Career Corner. Reminder: Robots Are Coming For Your Accounting Jobs (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/27/15: 104,000 taxpayers compromised by IRS transcript app breach. And: EITC is no free lunch!

May 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1That took some work. The IRS disclosed yesterday that 104,000 taxpayer accounts have been compromised by identity thieves who did it the hard way. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The IRS said that to access the information, crooks had to clear a multistep authentication process that required prior personal knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security information, date of birth, tax filing status and street address before accessing IRS systems. The process also involved answering personal identity-verification questions, such as “What was your high school mascot?”

Mr. Koskinen, when asked how impostors obtained answers to these so-called “out-of-wallet” questions, suggested social media might have played a role.

“This is not a hack or data breach. These are impostors pretending to be someone who has enough information” to get more, said Mr. Koskinen, who said thieves might be using sophisticated programs to aggregate and mine data.

This is much more difficult than your standard ID theft, where all you need is a Social Security number to go with a name, and maybe a birth date. Getting through the IRS transcript access system requires a fair amount of data entry and outside information.

The breach will complicate filing for the 104,000 taxpayers whose data was accessed, and possibly for another 96,000 taxpayers whose records the thieves failed to breach. Tax Analysts reports ($link):

The IRS will provide credit monitoring and protection to the 104,000 victims at the agency’s expense, Koskinen said. Victims will also be given the IRS’s identity protection personal identification numbers so they are not targeted again, he said. All 200,000 of the taxpayers affected by the raid will be sent notification letters from the IRS and will have their accounts flagged on the agency’s core processing systems, he added.

The IRS has been losing the IT security wars for some time. It’s a shame, because the transcript service has been very useful for taxpayers needing return information for loans or to resolve IRS notices. I think the IRS will eventually have to delay refunds and processing so that it will be able to match third-party information — W-2s and 1099s — with returns before issuing refunds. The era of “rapid refunds” is coming to an end.

Lots of coverage of this. The TaxProf has a roundup. Other coverage:

William Perez, IRS Data Breach: Hackers Gain Access Through ‘Get Transcript’ Web App. “The IRS emphasized that taxpayers don’t need to do anything further. The agency will be sending letters to affected taxpayers explaining what to do next.”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Says Identity Thieves Accessed Tax Transcripts For More Than 100,000 Taxpayers “IRS was alerted to the problem when its monitoring systems noted an unusual amount of activity related to the [transcript] application.”

Russ FoxIRS “Get Transcript” Application Hacked; 104,000 Tax Returns Illegally Accessed. ” It would be time consuming but entirely possible for a stranger who had my social security number and date of birth to answer all the other verification questions.”

Accounting Today, IRS Detects Massive Data Breach in ‘Get Transcript’ Application

J.D. Tucille, Details About 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts Stolen From IRS (Reason.com)

“[T]he vast databases held by the IRS, HHS, security agencies, etc, will be leaked on purpose, leaked because of bureaucrat sloppiness, or be hacked. The more they collect, the more that will eventually leak.” Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, predicted to me last year. That “eventually”—at least, the latest round of it—is now.

Oh, goody.

 

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Kay Bell, Winners of meet-the-candidate contests face tax costs:

True, you won’t pay from your own pocket for the flights, hotel stay, chauffeur or meal with a future president. But the value of those things, like all prizes, is considered taxable by the Internal Revenue Service.

The winners can’t simply ignore the potential tax bill. The political contest organizers should send them, and the IRS, 1099 forms stating the value of the prize.

Well, that’s one tax problem I won’t be having, unless they start paying voters enormous amounts to talk to us. I will meet any candidate who will pay me $100,000 for 10 minutes of my time. Meet me at the Timbuktuu on the EMC Building skywalk.

 

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: You Won the Dream Home, Part 4 — Changing My Mind

Jack Townsend, Switzerland Publishes Certain Identifying Information of Certain Foreign Depositors in Swiss Banks

Bob Vineyard, Bad Moon Rising (Insureblog). “Obamacare news isn’t good.”

 

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David Brunori, Scalia is Right (Tax Analsyts Blog). “The dormant commerce clause is here to stay, with precedent and established expectations and all, but it would be nice if we just admitted that we made it up.”

Robert Wood, Why Aren’t Those $26.4M Speech Fees Taxable To Bill & Hillary Clinton?

James Kennedy,Pennsylvania Senate Considers Hiking Income and Sales Taxes (Tax Policy Blog). They’re pretty high already.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 748

 

Howard Gleckman, Marco Rubio Wasn’t the Only One Who Cashed Out an IRA Last Year (TaxVox). “Substantial assets leak because people under age 59 ½ take early withdrawals or borrow against their IRAs or 401(k). And the problem raises an important and challenging policy question:  Should the money in these accounts be available for non-retirement purposes?”

 

eic 2014Leslie Book offers thoughful consideration of Warrren Buffet’s support for an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (Procedurally Taxing). You should read the whole thing, I’ll highlight this part:

As Mr. Buffet knows, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Using the tax system to deliver benefits is no silver bullet when it comes to addressing inequality. To administer the tax system as we know it today is no easy task. When Congress asks the IRS to do more, there are costs to taxpayers and the system overall. As Congress considers whether to ratchet up EITC, it should do so with the absence of rhetoric. It should also consider the tools it wants to give IRS to combat errors as well as address what costs it wants to impose on claimants and third parties. The current system passes costs on others, many of which are hidden. As with lunch, someone has to pick up the tab.

Among the costs is the 20-25% improper payment rate. Another cost is the high hidden marginal tax rate caused by the phase-out of the credit as incomes increase — a combined federal and state rate that can exceed 50%. And there is a cost to an already-stressed tax system of administering a social program.

Sebastian Johnson, Some States Support Earned Income Tax Credits for Working Families, Others Fall Short. (Tax Justice Blog) A piece that is oblivious to the issues raised by Leslie Book.

 

News from the Profession. EY Law Continues to Not Threaten Law Firms By Poaching Lawyers (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

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Tax Roundup, 5/26/15: It’s not always the onions that make you cry. And: beer taxes and other summer fun!

May 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1589Onions aren’t the only thing that will make you cry. An S corporation brokering onions tried to reduce its tax bill through a “Section 419(f)” arrangement that purported to be a tax-exempt employee benefit plan. In reality, many such plans were actually tax shelters attempting to invest deductible employer contributions in variable life policies and similar financial instruments benefiting the owner.

The IRS got wise to these plans and issued Notice 95-34, ruling that such arrangements are “reportable transactions” subject to special taxpayer disclosure rules. Failure to make such disclosures can trigger severe penalties

A Wisconsin U.S. District Court has ruled the onion broker had such a plan, and is subject to the penalties, to the tune of $40,000:

In short, the trial evidence showed that CJA’s Affiliated Employers Health & Welfare Trust was an aggregation of separate plans maintained for individual employers that were experience-rated with respect to individual employers, that is, they were structured so as to assure each employer that its contributions would benefit only its own employees. The money that participating employers paid into the Plan bought insurance for only their own employees; there was no pooled risk.

The Moral? It’s a cliché, but it’s still valid: when something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The taxpayer presumably lost their deductions on top of the $40,000 penalty.

Cite: Vee’s Marketing, DC-WD-WI No. 3:13-ccv-00481

 

 

With summer here, you may want to know How High Are Beer Taxes in Your State? Scott Drenkard of the Tax Policy Blog provides this map:

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I don’t understand the high rates in the southeast. Whisky protectionism? Temperance movement echoes? Whatever the reasons there, it’s hard to imagine why they would apply to Alaska and Hawaii.

 

Megan McArdle, Sticker Shock for Some Obamacare Customers:

So the proposed 2016 Obamacare rates have been filed in many states, and in many states, the numbers are eye-popping. Market leaders are requesting double-digit increases in a lot of places. Some of the biggest are really double-digit: 51 percent in New Mexico, 36 percent in Tennessee, 30 percent in Maryland, 25 percent in Oregon. The reason? They say that with a full year of claims data under their belt for the first time since Obamacare went into effect, they’re finding the insurance pool was considerably older and sicker than expected.

Obamacare? You mean the “Affordable” Care Act.

 

TaxGrrrl, Civil War Widows, General Logan & Why We Celebrate Memorial Day. Interesting history involving an Illinois politician who made a pretty good Civil War general.

Kay Bell, Memorial Day thanks for the ultimate military sacrifice

Robert D. Flach starts this short work week with fresh Buzz! Robert takes issue with Warren Buffet’s support for the Earned Income Tax Credit: “While federal welfare, which is what the EITC is, may be appropriate, it should not be distributed via the US Tax Code.”

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: New Preparer Requirements on Earned Income Credit = Higher Fees for Clients

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: When Can A Business Deduct Prepaid Expenses? A surprisingly complex issue.

Russ Fox, Staking and the WSOP: 2015 Update. Having backers can complicate a poker pro’s tax life.

 

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Robert Wood, Florida Says Uber Drivers Are Employees, But FedEx, Other Cases Promise Long Battle

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions. The latest roundup by Procedurally Taxing of developments in the tax procedure world.

Jack Townsend, IRS Establishes Cybercrimes Unit to Combat Solen ID Tax Fraud. At least five years too late.

Paul Neiffer tells about this year’s ISU-CALT Summer Seminar Series. I’m not participating this year, probably making it a better program than ever!

 

Renu Zaretsky, Roads, Schools, Sales and Wills. A delay in the federal highway bill, gas tax politics in California, and Amazon pays U.K. tax in today’s TaxVox headline roundup.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 744Day 745Day 746Day 747

Career Corner. More Quick and Dirty Tips for Your Insider Trading Scheme (Leona May, Going Concern)

 

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IRS issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for June 2015

May 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

The IRS has issued (Rev. Rul. 2015-14) the minimum required interest rates for loans made in June 2015:

-Short-Term (demand loans and loans with terms of up to 3 years): 0.43%

-Mid-Term (loans from 3-9 years): 1.60%

-Long-Term (over 9 years): 2.50%

The Long-term tax-exempt rate for Section 382 ownership changes in June 2015 is 2.50%.

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

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Tax Roundup, 5/22/15: IRS to refund RTRP test fees. And: Memorial Day!

May 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

Memorial Day weekend!. As most offices will be deserted by 3 p.m., let’s get started. And while you are getting ready for the long weekend, remember that late this afternoon is a great time to get embarrassing news out, while nobody’s watching. The politicians know this.

20130121-2IRS to refund RTRP test fees. From an IRS announcement:

The IRS is refunding the fees that return preparers paid for the Registered Tax Return Preparer test. Letters will be mailed to refund recipients on May 28 and checks will be mailed on June 2. Return preparers took the test between November 2011 and January 2013 and paid a fee of $116. About 89,000 tests were paid for and taken, with some preparers taking the test more than once.

Mighty nice of them. But they have an ominous warning:

The IRS remains committed to the principle that all persons who prepare federal tax returns for compensation should be required to pass a test of minimal competency and take annual continuing education training.

In other words, they will continue to try to sneak preparer regulation through the back door. When the people who pass the tax laws have to pass a test of minimal competency, come back to me with your time-wasting paperwork, IRS.

 

buzz20140923Robert D. Flach rounds up tax happenings in his Friday Buzz!

Mitch Maahs, Tapping into Beer Tax Reform (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog):

As the craft beer industry continues to boom, the margins of many craft breweries have continued to tighten. Representatives of the industry have taken to Congress to seek tax breaks for these small brewers, but the large, multinational beer giants also want a pour from the tax-break tap.

Currently, all brewers pay a federal excise tax, per 31-gallon barrel (about 248 pints), based on the volume the brewer produces or imports. On its first 60,000 barrels brewed or imported, breweries pay $7.00 per barrel. The tax increases to $18.00 for each additional barrel above 60,000.

Excise taxes should work like user fees, paying for costs generated by the beer consumers. That’s not what this tax does.

Let’s shop! Memorial Day sales tax holidays for Texas, Virginia shoppers (Kay Bell)

William Perez talks about 3 Types of Tax Form 5498 (and Why You Got One): “Essentially, Form 5498 provides independent confirmation to the IRS of the amounts you contributed to IRAs and other tax-preferred savings accounts.”

 

 

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Jack Townsend, GE Gets Slapped Down Again for its B*****t Tax Shelter.

Peter Reilly, Kent Hovind To Be Free In August – Maybe Sooner. His pet velociraptor will be glad to see him.

Kyle Pomerleau, Bernie Sanders’s Financial Transaction Tax Won’t Raise as Much Revenue as He Thinks (Tax Policy Blog):

In the 1980s, Sweden introduced a financial transactions tax. As expected, the tax reduced trade volume: “when the 2% tax was introduced in 1986, 60% of the trading volume of the 11 most actively traded Swedish share classes migrated to London to avoid taxes.”

Of course, the Sanders response to such failure would be to “crack down.”

 

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Renu Zaretsky, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup talks about a push to make bike riders pay for their bike trails, as well as the continuing fiscal turmoil in Kansas.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 743

News from the Profession. 34-Count Indictment Won’t Stop Accountant from Serving His Clients: Lawyer. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). If he’s convicted, though, that just might stop him.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/21/15: Credits targeting what you would do anyway! And: minimum wage, ACA, and lots more.

May 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

IMG_0603Paying people to do what they would do anyway. Rhode Island is proposing a new credit for “job creators,” reports David Brunori:

It would work the same way other bad tax incentive programs work: A company that creates new jobs in the state would receive a reduction in its income tax. The proposal mirrors a bill introduced earlier this year. Basically, the bill, if signed into law, would reduce the tax rate for companies that hire full-time employees in Rhode Island who work at least 30 hours per week and receive a salary that is at least 250 percent of the prevailing hourly minimum wage in the state. Large companies would be eligible for a 0.25 percent tax incentive off their net income tax rate for every 50 new hires. Smaller companies would be eligible for a 0.25 percent incentive off their personal income tax for every 10 new hires. The rate reduction would be limited to a maximum of 6 percentage points for the applicable income tax rate and to no more than 3 percentage points for the applicable personal income tax rate. Complicated? You bet. But that’s why law firms like the incentive business.

Statewide employment is expected to grow in Rhode Island in the next several years without the political gimmicks of tax incentives. So this bill is unnecessary (no one thinks the incentives will lead to growth greater than what’s expected). In other words, there is no incentive being provided; the state is just making a welfare payment.

This is true of all “job creation” credits. As David points out: “No sane business owner will hire someone for $40,000 simply to save $4,000 on her tax bill. This bill will not create one new job in Rhode Island.”

An Illinois representative has proposed a “Patriot Employer Tax Credit Act,” (Tax Analysts, $link) with a tax credit of up to $1,500 for employers who:

-Invest in American Jobs: Does not move its headquarters overseas or reduce the number or percentage of U.S.-based workers in comparison to workers overseas.

-Pay Fair Wages: Pay 90% or more of U.S. workers an hourly wage of at least $15 per hour.

-Provide Quality Health Insurance: Offer ACA-compliant healthcare to employees.

-Prepare Workers for Retirement: Provide 90% of non-highly compensated U.S. employees a defined benefit plan OR a defined contribution plan and contribute at least 5% of worker compensation.

-Support Our Troops and Veterans: Pay the difference between regular salary and military compensation for all National Guard and Reserve employees called for active duty and have a plan in place to recruit veterans.

-Create a Diverse Workforce: Have a plan in place to recruit employees with disabilities.

By claiming the word “patriot,” it wraps bad economics in the flag. Because nothing says “I love my country” like tax credits.

 

20150423-1Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Health Savings Accounts: Beneficiaries and Taxes (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “As HSAs become more common, it is important to consider the HSA in various capacities, including in premarital agreements, death, and divorce.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: In Order To Convert A Home To A Rental, You Should Probably Rent It

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: AMT.

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayer’s Call To IRS Accidentally Broadcast On Howard Stern’s Radio Show. I’m just amazed the caller reached an actual IRS agent.

Peter Reilly, Tax Girl Challenges Homeownership And You Should Really Listen To Her. “To many of us homeownership is a necessary step in becoming a full-fledged adult and a house that is rented can never be a home.  This book might help you rethink that attitude.”

Jim Maule, The Dependency Exemption Parental Tie-Breaker Rule. “Under the parental tie breaker rule in section 152(c)(4)(B), if the parents claiming a dependency exemption deduction for a qualifying child do not file a joint return, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the parent with whom the child resided for the longest period of time during the taxable year, or if the child resides with both parents for the same amount of time during the taxable year, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the parent with the highest adjusted gross income.”

Paul Neiffer, April 18 (or 19), 2016 is Due Date for 2015 tax returns

Jack Townsend, Remaining Swiss Bank Criminal Investigations Likely to Go Into 2016

Robert Wood, Appalling $187 Million Cancer Charity Fraud Case Settles — When 97% Of Money Isn’t For Charity

Keith Fogg, Argument Over Furlough of National Taxpayer Advocate Set for June 2 Before the Federal Circuit (Procedurally Taxing)

 

 

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Cara Griffith, Tax Reform Laboratories (Tax Analysts Blog). “Federal lawmakers could learn a lot from an examination of what has worked and what hasn’t across the nation.”

 

Insureblog, Dear HHS, Will You Share My ACA Success Story?:

  So how has this Obamacare thingy helped my small company:-We have seen an overall decrease in benefits since 2010.
-From November 2010 to our current plan year premiums have increased 58.7%.
-If we would have been forced to an Obamacare compliant plan the increase would have been 116.7%

Tom Vander Well, Placing customers on hold without diminishing satisfaction (IowaBiz.com). The suggestions do not endorse the IRS practice of “courtesy disconnects.”

 

Carl Davis, Sweet Sixteen: States Continue to Take On Gas Tax Reform (Tax Justice Blog). To the Tax Justice folks, tax reform = tax increase.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Republicans Should Embrace the Gas Tax – After All, They Invented It (Tax Analysts Blog). Everyone loves being told what they “should” like.

 

Kay Bell, Will Congress OK highway money before it hits the road?

 

Elaine Maag, A Redesigned Earned Income Tax Credit Could Encourage Work by Childless Adults. (TaxVox). Only if they can re-design it so that it doesn’t squander 25% of the cost on improper payments.

 

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Megan McArdle, $15 Minimum Wage Will Hurt Workers. A well-explained post explaining what should be obvious:

When the minimum wage goes up, owners do not en masse shut down their restaurants or lay off their staff. What is more likely to happen is that prices will rise, sales will fall off somewhat, and owner profits will be somewhat reduced. People who were looking at opening a fast food or retail or low-wage manufacturing concern will run the numbers and decide that the potential profits can’t justify the risk of some operations. Some folks who have been in the business for a while will conclude that with reduced profits, it’s no longer worth putting their hours into the business, so they’ll close the business and retire or do something else. Businesses that were not very profitable with the earlier minimum wage will slip into the red, and they will miss their franchise payments or loan installments and be forced out of business. Many owners who stay in business will look to invest in labor saving technology that can reduce their headcount, like touch-screen ordering or soda stations that let you fill your own drinks.

These sorts of decisions take a while to make. They still add up, in the end, to deadweight loss — that is, along with a net transfer of money from owners and customers to employees, there will also simply be fewer employees in some businesses. The workers who are dropped have effectively gone from $9 an hour to $0 an hour.

Most people who insist that minimum wage increases are harmless snicker at those who believe in “intelligent design.” Yet they are themselves trying to impose their own design on an eveolutionary system. At least creationists don’t claim to be designing species.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 742

 

News from the Profession. Accountants Lack Some Skills (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “But it’s foolish to expect accounting graduates to have skills for corporate accounting. They don’t have them because they don’t learn them in school and they don’t learn them in public accounting.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/20/15: April 15 is on April 18 next year. And: exit > voice.

May 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20140805-3It looks like we’ll be working an extra weekend next April. Thanks to the puzzling rules regarding the observance of Emancipation Day in Washington D.C., the deadline for 1040s next year will be April 18 – even though April 15 falls on a Friday. Residents of Massachusetts and Maine get even one more day. From Rev. Rul. 2015-13:

The District of Columbia observes Emancipation Day on Friday, April 15 when April 16 is a Saturday. This makes Monday, April 18, the ordinary due date for filing income tax returns. However, in this situation, Monday, April 18, is the third Monday in April, the date that Massachusetts and Maine observe Patriots’ Day. Because residents of Massachusetts and Maine may elect to hand carry their income tax returns to their local IRS offices, A (a Massachusetts resident) has until the next succeeding day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday to file A’s income tax return. Thus, A has until Tuesday, April 19, to file A’s income tax return.

I suppose I will appreciate the extra time when the deadline comes, but I would really just as soon get it over with.

Kay Bell has more.

 

Update on Iowa effects of Wynne decision. The Iowa Department of Revenue public information officer responded to my inquiry about the state’s reaction to Monday’s Supreme Court decision requiring states to allow a credit on resident individual returns for taxes paid in other states: “We are in the process of reviewing the decision.”

Not surprising, as it is a new decision. If you have a refund statute of limitations expiring soon, don’t wait on their guidance to file a protective refund claim for income taxes paid in non-Iowa municipalities.

 

20150504-2Alito on the limits of politicsThe dissent in Wynne said that Maryland resident taxpayers afflicted with a discriminatory double tax on out-of-state income shouldn’t have prevailed becasue they had recourse to the ballot box to protect their interests. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito pointed out that this does little good (my emphasis):

In addition, the notion that the victims of such discrimination have a complete remedy at the polls is fanciful. It is likely that only a distinct minority of a State’s residents earns income out of State. Schemes that discriminate against income earned in other States may be attractive to legislators and a majority of their constituents for precisely this reason. It is even more farfetched to suggest that natural persons with out-of-state income are better able to influence state lawmakers than large corporations headquartered in the State. In short, petitioner’s argument would leave no security where the majority of voters prefer protectionism at the expense of the few who earn income interstate.

This is actually a powerful argument to limit the role of government in the first place. One voter has negligible power to overthrow unfair legislation. In the one-party rule typical of large American cities, political activity for a minority view is futile, Jim Maule notwithstanding.

20140513-1Arnold Kling points out how market institutions, which hold no elections but allow choice, can actually be more empowering for an individual:

Neither my local supermarket nor any of its suppliers has a way for me to exercise voice. They don’t hold elections. They don’t have town-hall meetings where they explain their plans for what will be in the store. By democratic standards, I am powerless in the supermarket.

And yet, I feel much freer in the supermarket than I do with respect to my county, state, or federal government. For each item in the supermarket, I can choose whether to put it into my cart and pay for it or leave it on the shelf. I can walk out of the supermarket at any time and go to a competing grocery.

The exercise of voice, including the right to vote, is not the ultimate expression of freedom. Rather, it is the last refuge of those who suffer under a monopoly.

He argues  that we should be able to choose governing institutions more like we choose other service providers:

In fact, if we had real competitive government, then we would be no more interested in elections and speaking out to government officials than we are in holding elections and town-hall meetings at the supermarket.

He makes this argument more detail in his book Unchecked and Unbalanced). Somehow I don’t think that will go over well with our current officeholders.

 

 

Russ Fox, The Real Impact of the Wynne Decision: “However, many states do not give credits for local taxes. Joe Kristan highlighted Iowa today; Kentucky is another state that does not currently offer such tax credits. Under Wynne I believe they’ll be required to offer such credits.”

Robert D. Flach, DEDUCTING MORTGAGE INTEREST:

Taxpayers are required to keep separate track of acquisition debt and home equity debt, to make sure that the deduction on Schedule A does not include interest on debt principal that exceed the statutory maximums ($1 Million for acquisition debt and $100,000 for home equity debt – no limit on grandfathered debt), and to determine what interest deduction to add back on Form 6251 when calculating Alternative Minimum Taxable Income.

I firmly believe that 99.5% of taxpayers do not do this. I do not know of any taxpayer who does.

The clients don’t, but that doesn’t mean preparers shouldn’t watch out for these items. When taxpayers have interest on multiple home loans, or very high home interest deductions, alert preparers have to ask questions to make sure the deductions and AMT are determined correctly.

Annette Nellen, Filing season tax updates

Robert Wood, Floyd Mayweather Gambles, Wins, Pays IRS:

 

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Another ACA Co-op on the ropes? Hank Stern reports at Insureblog that the Kentucky health care cooperative is insolvent. That means it may go the way of Iowa’s short lived and expensive catastrophe Co-Oportunity.

 

Jeremy Scott, Hawkins Casts Powerful Shadow Over OPR (Tax Analysts Blog):

Hawkins will probably always face at least some criticism because of the overreach of the preparer regime, and some accusations that she was too favorable to the large practitioner groups such as the ABA and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. But she should more properly be remembered as the person who brought coherence to IRS Circular 230 enforcement and essentially rebuilt OPR from scratch.

 

In fairness, the preparer regulation overreach was decided above her level.

 

Scott Sumner, A consumption tax is a wealth tax (Econlog). “For any income tax regime, there is a consumption tax regime of equal progressivity. Unfortunately that equally progressive regime will look much less progressive. This is one of the biggest barriers to tax reform.”

Kyle Pomerleau, What are Flat taxes? (Tax Policy Blog):

When most people hear “Flat Tax,” they usually think a tax system with one, flat tax rate on all income. They also imagine a tax system with little or no deductions or credits. While this is a possible way to design a flat tax, it is not what makes a flat tax a flat tax. The key to a flat tax goes beyond its rates. The key is that it is a consumption tax. You would not call a low-rate tax on all transactions in an economy a flat tax, even though it had one, flat rate.

Interesting.

 

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Howard Gleckman, Are GOP Presidential Candidates Downplaying Tax Cuts Or Hiding The Ball? Referring to Joseph Thorndike, he says: “Joe, who is very much in the watch-what-they-do-not what-they-say (WWTDNWTS) camp, noted that while few GOP presidential hopefuls are talking about tax cuts, many of their proposals are, in fact tax cuts.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 741

 

Caleb Newquist,  “Just Ask the Guy” Not Always a Futile Fraud Detection Method (Going Concern).  Not foolproof, though.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/19/15: Is yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision an Iowa refund opportunity? And AICPA looks for love!

May 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
The Hoover Office Building, the warm and cuddly home of the Iowa Department of Revenue.

The Hoover Office Building, the warm and cuddly home of the Iowa Department of Revenue.

Time for Iowans to claim refunds for local income taxes paid out-of-state? The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled that Maryland was required to allow its residents credit for taxes paid in other states.

State tax systems normally tax resident individuals on 100% of their taxable income. They tax non-residents on only the share of income apportioned or allocated to the state. In order to keep their residents from being clobbered by multiple state income taxes, the states typically allow them a “credit for taxes paid in other states.” This is, roughly, the lesser of the tax paid to the other state or the resident state tax computed on the out-of-state income.

Maryland failed to allow a credit for taxes paid in other states for the “county” portion of its individual income tax. The U.S. Supreme court ordered Maryland to issue such a credit to the plaintiffs, who had out-of-state S corporation income.

Iowa allows a credit for taxes paid in other states, but does not allow such a credit for taxes paid in municipalities or counties. These taxes can be significant. Many Iowans pay taxes in New York City, Kansas City, St. Louis, or Washington, D.C., for example. Many Ohio municipalities also impose income taxes. While the Supreme Court decision doesn’t specifically address such taxes, the court’s logic that double-taxes discriminate against interstate commerce would seem to apply here. A Tax Analysts article ($link) on the decision notes (my emphasis):

Local governments filed an amicus brief  saying Wynne may have implications and that there are many states with long-established tax programs like Maryland’s that do not afford dollar-for-dollar credits to residents for all out-of-state income taxes paid.

That brief identified Wisconsin and North Carolina as states that do not allow a credit against local income taxes, as well as a number of local governments that fail to provide a credit for state taxes paid against local taxes, including Philadelphia; Cleveland; Detroit; Indiana’s counties; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis; and Wilmington, Delaware.

I have emailed an Iowa Department of Revenue representative asking how they will respond to the case, and will report whatever I may hear back from them. Meanwhile, taxpayers who extended their 2011 Iowa returns and paid municipal taxes elsewhere should consider filing protective refund claims while their statutue of limitations remains open.

The TaxProf has a roundup of coverage.

Cite: COMPTROLLER OF THE TREASURY OF MARYLAND v. WYNNE ET UX. No 13-485.

supreme courtMore coverage:

Joseph Henchman, A Victory for Taxpayers: SCOTUS Strikes down Maryland Tax Law (Tax Policy Blog). “This is important not just for one Maryland business, but for anyone who does business in more than one state, travels in more than one state, or lives in one state and works in another.”

Howard Gleckman, A Divided Supreme Court Rejects Maryland’s Tax On Out-Of-State Income (TaxVox). “But given the closeness of the decision and the wide gulf between the majority and the minority, today’s ruling may not be the last word in the argument over whether, and how, states can tax out-of-state income.”

Russ Fox, A Wynne for the Dormant Commerce Clause. “This case also highlights the difficulties facing a taxpayer without deep pockets.”

TaxGrrrl, In Landmark Case, Supreme Court Finds Maryland’s Tax Scheme Unconstitutional. “In the end, it all came down to this: “the total tax burden on interstate commerce is higher” under Maryland’s current tax scheme. That double taxation scheme, the Court found, is unconstitutional.”

Kay Bell, Supreme Court tax ruling could cost Maryland $200+ million. Wheneer a taxing authority gets caught imposing an illegal tax, they always moan about how terrible it will be to repay their ill-gotten gains. I’ll give them the same sympathy they typically give a taxpayer who loses a fight with them.

 

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Bloomberg, Iowa Spent $50 Million to Lure IBM. Then the Firings Started. That was $50 million paid by other Iowa businesses and their employees, money they could have used to grow businesses that might not have fled.

 

Jason Dinesen, Why Make Estimated Tax Payments, Part 2. “Here’s the reason: if you’re fully self-employed, you don’t draw a paycheck in the traditional sense.

Paul Neiffer, What Runs Through the Estate! “In many cases, the heirs will use the cost basis from grandpa and not pick up the extra cost from mom and dad.”

Robert D. Flach comes through with fresh Tueesday Buzz, including thoughts on the use of the tax law as a welfare program.

William Perez, 10 Emerging Financial Technology Apps with a Tax-Angle

 

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Peter ReillyFree Kent Hovind Movement Has Big Win. ” Judge Margaret Casey Rodgers has granted Kent Hovind’s motion for a judgment of acquittal on the contempt of court charge that he was convicted of in March.”

Robert Wood, U2’s Bono Sounds Increasingly Like Warren Buffett. That’s OK, pitch correction software can do amazing things.

Andy Grewal, The Un-Precedented Tax Court: Bench Opinions (Procedurally Taxing). “Opinions can’t cause a lot of confusion if no one can find them.”

 

Martin Sullivan, As in Florida, Rubio Pursues ‘Big, Hairy’ Goals in the U.S. Senate (Tax Analysts Blog).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 740. Today’s post is a useful corrective to the persistent scandal denialists.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. AICPA Wants CGMA Love From the C-Suite (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

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Tax Roundup, 5/18/15: IRS steals business account, tells victim to shut up. And: a vanity plate that fails to impress.

May 18th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

ijlogoYou should thank me, peasant! The IRS has agreed to return all of the $107,000 it stole from a North Carolina in a “structuring” case. Like a similar Iowa case, the IRS seized this taxpayers bank account because he routinely made deposits under $10,000 — even though it never implied that the taxpayer was evading taxes or committing crimes.

And the IRS says the owner should be happy, and shut up:

Even after he recovers his bank account, Lyndon is still out tens of thousands of dollars, thanks to the government’s actions. Lyndon paid a $3,000 retainer to a private attorney before IJ took the case on pro bono, and he also paid approximately $19,000 for an accountant to audit his business and to provide other services to help convince the government he did nothing wrong. The government is refusing to pay those expenses. And the government also is refusing to pay interest on the money. 

It’s especially outrageous in light of the government’s high-handed bullying:

Two months ago, U.S. Attorney Steve West told Lyndon McLellan that any attempt to garner publicity about his civil forfeiture case “doesn’t help. It just ratchets up feelings in the agency. My offer is to return 50% of the money.” 

Oh, the poor feelings of the agency!

Good work by Institute for Justice, the public-interest law firm that got the IRS to give back the money the IRS stole from the Iowa and North Carolina businesses. Consider a donation. And remember, government is just a word for things we do together.

 

 

Andrew Lundeen, FATCA Makes Life Tough for Americans Who Live Abroad. “The results are frustrating for Americans living abroad as they struggle to find foreign banks willing to serve them.”

Whenever I see someone say FATCA is a success, they’re only talking about how hard it has become to evade taxes  offshore — not about how difficult it has made ordinary financial life for Americans abroad. It’s as if you jailed 99 innocent people and called it a success because by golly you got that guilty one too.

 

Russ Fox, Fake Businesses, Phony Dependents: What Could Go Wrong?

From 2008 through 2011 the business earned in $1.9 million in fees, so it was producing a good amount of revenue. And they were probably getting good refunds for their clients. After all, they did the “normal” things for Bozo tax preparers; phony dependents and itemized deductions for personal expenses were the norm (so that taxpayers would qualify for the Earned Income Credit).

When a preparer gets results that nobody else gets, you might want to actually read the return. If they are scamming, it will go badly for their customers.

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William Perez, Tips for Reducing Small Business Taxes by Changing Behaviors.

Kay Bell, Alabama woman charged with $7.5 million tax identity theft

Jason Dinesen, Breakeven Analysis for Small Businesses, Part 2

 

Jim Maule, When Is a Casualty Loss Not (Yet) A Casualty Loss? “In a recent decision, Hyler v. Comr., T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-34, the Tax Court held that a taxpayer’s casualty loss deduction claimed in 2012 was not allowable in that year because during that year, and even as late as 2015, the taxpayer was continuing to pursue reimbursement from those alleged responsible for the loss.”

Peter Reilly, Kent Hovind In Pensacola – Looks Like No Trial On Monday

Robert Wood, Obamacare Cadillac Tax Is A Lemon, And Businesses Are Slashing Coverage To Avoid It

TaxGrrrl, I’m Going Back To The Movies!

I’m going back to the movies! This summer, I’m reviving my popular “Taxgirl Goes To The Movies” feature. I’ll review movies suggested by readers – from Mad Max to Avengers to Tomorrowland – focusing on the tax consequences to the characters in the film. Stay tuned!

So when Bilbo takes the Arkenstone, should that go on Schedule C?

 

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for April 10th through 24th. A roundup of recent developments in the tax procedure world.

Jack Townsend, Finter Bank Zurich AG Obtains NPA Under DOJ Swiss Bank Program

 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 737The IRS Scandal, Day 738The IRS Scandal, Day 739. Included is a link to an odd Brookings Institute report saying the scandals show why we need more government — because the Treasury Inspector General helped uncover the scandal. Never mind the systematic obstruction of inspectors general under the current administration.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Tax Cuts Are Tax Cuts Even When You Call Them Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, Runnin’ on Empty. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers a Nebraska gas tax increase and federal highway funding woes.

 

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Cara Griffith, Could There Finally Be Transparency About Tax Abatements? (Tax Analysts Blog). She writes of a proposed requirement of the Government Accounting Standards Board for disclosures of Corporate welfare tax abatements:

The proposed statement would require governments to disclose general information about their tax abatement agreements, including the tax being abated, the authority for the abatement, eligibility, how the abated taxes will be recaptured, and the types of commitments made by tax abatement recipients. Governments would also be required to disclose the number of tax abatement agreements entered into during the reporting year, the dollar amounts of taxes abated during the reporting period, and other commitments made by the government as part of a tax abatement agreement.

It’s shameful that this disclosure isn’t already required.

 

Sebastian Johnson, Illinois Lawmakers Need to Take Responsibility for Budget Crisis (Tax Justice Blog). You’ll be shocked to hear that the Tax Justice folks think there’s nothing wrong with Illinois’ insane public pensions that higher taxes can’t cure.

 

Caleb Newquist, Who Puts “USGAAP” on Their License Plate? (Going Concern). “On a Porsche, no less.”

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Tax Roundup, 5/14/15: Snowbird fails to melt Iowa Department of Revenue opposition to gain exclusion. And many links!

May 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

Programming note: No posting tomorrow. See you Monday!

 

Iowa's business tax climate, illustrated

Materially-participating in winter

Snowbird loses “material participation” Iowa capital gain exclusion argument. A taxpayer who claimed the unusual Iowa exclusion on very-long-term capital gains failed to convince the Department of Revenue that he “materially participated” in the activity for the minimum of ten years required to qualify for the exclusion.

Iowa allows taxpayers to exclude certain long-term gains from their Iowa taxable income if they meet two requirements:

– They have held the property for ten years, and

– they “materially participated” in the business sold (or in the business holding real property sold) in the ten years preceding the sale.

The “material participation” rule follows the federal “passive activity” material participation definitions. This usually is based on time spent in the activity. Farmers who materially participate in five of the last eight years before they start drawing Social Security payments are considered to materially participate in the farming activity forever. Other taxpayers who retire after working in a business generally are considered to “materially participate” for five years after retirement.

The Iowa ruling letter gives sketchy facts, but it does note (my emphasis):

In determining material participation, only the 10 calendar years immediately prior to the sale are considered and the determination of the participation is limited to that property which is sold.  Both the Department’s rule and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) require material participation to be regular, continuous, and substantial.  The fact that you wintered in Florida lends serious doubt as to the regular part of that requirement.  Additionally, your daughter was paid for management services.  Rule 701 IAC 40.38(1)(e)(7) states in part, “Management activities of a taxpayer are not considered for purposes of determining if there was material participation if either of the following applies: any person other than the taxpayer is compensated for management services, or any person provides more hours of management services than the taxpayer.”

The letter goes on to say that it’s up to the taxpayer to prove participation, and the taxpayer failed to provide logs, calendars or other evidence that he worked sufficient hours to meet the material participation tests.

The moral? If you want to claim material participation, and you have stepped away from the business, it’s important to keep good records of your participation. The state may not be inclined to take your word for it.

Cite:  Document Reference: 15201008

Related:

Material Participation Basics

IOWA’S SUPER-LONG TERM CAPITAL GAINS DEDUCTION: IF YOU QUIT, DON’T WAIT TOO LONG TO RETIRE

 

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Kay Bell, Don’t ignore that IRS letter and nine other tax notice tips

Robert Wood, Facts About FATCA, America’s Global Disclosure Law. “If you think money anywhere can escape the IRS, think again.”

Jim Maule, When Do Relationships End for Federal Income Tax Purposes?:

The taxpayer argued that the child remains her foster child because they continued their relationship and hold each other out as parent and child. The Tax Court, however, determined that the taxpayer’s guardianship terminated in 2004 when the child attained majority. At that point, the child no longer could be said to be someone who “is placed” with the taxpayer.

Interesting.

 

Robert D. Flach, NO INCOME IS TAXED ALONE

Andrew Mitchel has a new Flowchart – Taxation of Pension Distributions Under UK – US Income Tax Treaty

 

Cara Griffith, Learn to Love the Property Tax — It’s Not So Bad (Tax Analysts Blog):

Despite its bad reputation, the property tax has numerous benefits. For local governments, the tax provides a relatively stable source of revenue. Local governments also have a fairly high collection success rate. Many property owners have escrow accounts through their mortgage companies, which collect tax monthly and remit it at the appropriate time. Because of that, and the fact that the property tax is attached to something physical, it is hard to avoid or evade.

It’s hard to beat the property tax for funding local services. When the politically-influential carve themselves out of it with TIFs or special exemptions (e.g., special agricultural assessment rules), those that are left footing the bill are understandably unhappy.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Wishes, Dreams, and Bittersweet Denials Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers thoughts on the effect of reduced refunds on this spring’s retail sales, the failure of a proposed soda tax in California, and the need for more IRS authority to fix bad EITC claims.

Alan Cole, NFIB Survey: Taxes a Top Problem for Business (Tax Policy Blog).

Carl Smith, IRS Plays Cat and Mouse With Tax Court on Its Constitutional Status (Procedurally Taxing).

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Joseph Thorndike, Even Under a Flat Tax, Learn to Love Those Loopholes, Because They’re Here to Stay (Tax Analysts Blog). “Once you win the battle, you have to keep fighting it over and over again.”

Greg Mankiw, Why I invest in index funds. “For investors, 2014 was the sixth consecutive year that hedge funds have fallen short of stock market performance, returning only 3 percent on average.”

Hank Stern, Cover Cali sputtering. (InsureBlog). “The Golden State’s health exchange (Covered California) continues to burn through tax-payer dollars at an alarming rate.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 735

 

Career Corner. Should CPAs Consider an MBA? (Paul Gillis, Going Concern). Not to fix your car, no.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/13/15: Des Moines tries to speed through a red light. And: Tax Expert, heal thyself.

May 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

DNo Walnut STes Moines plans to sue to keep revenue camera revenue flowing. The Des Moines tax on unwary out-of-town motorists driving past Waveland Golf Course lost another battle yesterday.  The Iowa Department of Transportation turned down the city’s appeal of the Departments order to shut down the city’s freeway speed cameras (Des Moines Register)

As seems to be the practice when it imposes an illegal tax, the City now plans to blow a bunch of money on lawyers rather than obey the law, reports the Register:

Des Moines will appeal the ruling to district court, officials said.

Iowa is the only state in the United States that has permanent speed enforcement cameras on its interstate highways, according to the DOT, which in late 2013 adopted new rules governing the use of the devices on or next to state highways.

A few years ago Des Moines was caught imposing an illegal franchise tax on its residents’ utility bills. Rather than apologizing abjectly and refunding the ill-gotten gains, it appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, losing every step of the way. In the end it had to repay the tax, the city lawyers, and the taxpayer lawyers for a bunch of pointless litigation. The city still seems to favor that approach.

 

Flickr image by Ano Lobb under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image by Ano Lobb under Creative Commons license.

The cobbler’s children go barefoot. Mr. Hughes, a U.S. Citizen, had a successful career at one of international accounting firm KPMG. Tax Court Judge Wherry tells of an impressive career arc (my emphasis):

During his tenure at KPMG Mr. Hughes rose through the ranks and moved among KPMG’s international offices. Between September 1979 and 1994 he worked in the firm’s international tax group in Houston, Chicago, and Toronto, earning promotions from staff accountant to manager, from manager to senior manager, and finally, in 1986, to partner. During this period his duties shifted from preparing corporate and partnership Federal income tax returns to advising clients, particularly publicly traded corporations. Mr. Hughes also began to specialize in the international aspects of subchapter C of the Code and cross-border transactions, particularly mergers and acquisitions (M&A). He returned to the Chicago office and continued with his transactional work for publicly traded corporations.

A key aspect of M&A work is gain recognition and the basis consequences of transactions.  Transactions like this:

During 1999 KPMG spun off its consulting business to a newly formed corporation, KCI. The firm retained a direct equity stake of approximately 20% of KCI’s outstanding shares, and these shares were specially allocated among KPMG’s partners, including Mr. Hughes (K-1 shares), in January 2000. KPMG caused KCI to issue shares representing the remaining 80% of its equity to KPMG’s partners, including Mr. Hughes, who received 95,467 shares of KCI stock (founders’ shares) on January 31, 2000. Mr. Hughes did not contribute funds to KPMG in connection with KCI’s formation. He took zero bases in the founders’ shares.

So far, so good. Mr. Hughes along the way married a U.K. national and gave shares to his wife. There things begin to get a little foggy. The shares were sold at a time the couple resided in the U.S. , and the taxpayers did not claim full proceeds in income, on the grounds that the recipient spouse received a tax-free step-up in basis when she received the shares in the U.K. After clearing away some fog, the Judge lays out the remaining issues:

The first two are: (1) whether Mr. Hughes transferred ownership of the KCI shares to Mrs. Hughes, and (2) if so, whether Mrs. Hughes took bases greater than zero in the KCI shares. For petitioners to prevail, we must answer both questions affirmatively.

20120511-2When you give shares, or anything else, to a spouse who is a U.S. citizen, Sec. 1041 applies to provide that no gain is recognized and basis carries over. Sec. 1041 doesn’t apply to non-U.S. spouses. The Tax Court explains what happens:

Where, as here, an interspousal property transfer takes the form of a gift, no gain is realized, so regardless of whether section 1041(a) applies, there is no gain to be recognized…

The donee, on the other hand, realizes an economic gain upon receipt of a gift. His or her wealth increases by the value of the gift. But for tax purposes section 102(a) excludes this gain from the donee’s gross income. To preserve the U.S.’ ability to tax any unrecognized gain in property that is the subject of the gift, section 1015(a) sets the donee’s basis in the property equal to the lesser of the donor’s basis (or that of “the last preceding owner by whom it was not acquired by gift”) or if there is unrecognized loss, then for loss purposes, the property’s fair market value.

The taxpayer, who doubtless guided many clients through harrowing cross-border M&A deals unscathed, failed to achieve that on his own return. The court ruled that not only did he owe additional tax, but also a 40% “gross valuation misstatement penalty”:

Given his extensive knowledge of and experience with U.S. tax law, Mr. Hughes should have realized that the conclusion he reached — that the KCI shares’ bases would be stepped up to fair market value, such that the built-in gain in those shares would never be subject to tax in either the United States or the United Kingdom — was too good to be true.

Ouch.

Cite: Hughes, T.C. Memo 2014-89

 

Locust Street, Des Moines

Locust Street, Des Moines

 

Paul Neiffer, “Cost don’t Matter, Except When it Does”

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 8: 1920s Court Battles

TaxGrrrl, 11 Reasons Why I Never Want To Own A House Again

Calling Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge producer pleads guilty to film tax credit fraud (WAFB.com):

Baton Rouge producer pleads guilty to film tax credit fraud:

“Louisiana’s film tax credit program cannot function as intended when people are constantly defrauding it,” said Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street. “We are continuing to do everything we can to make sure there are criminal consequences when that happens, and today’s guilty plea is the latest example of that.”

Au contraire, as the Cajuns might say. I think that’s pretty much exactly how these things are intended to function.

Kay Bell, Duck Dynasty’s Louisiana state tax credits could be winged

 

David Brunori, A Flat Income Tax is a Good Thing (Tax Analysts Blog). “Every — and I mean every — tax commission that has ever opined on good tax policy has called for a tax system built on a broad base and low rates.”

 

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Howard Gleckman, Is the GOP’s Enthusiasm for Tax Cuts Going the Way of American Idol? A question answered “no” since at least 1981.

Andy Grewal, The Un-Precedented Tax Court: Part I (Procedurally Taxing) ” Although the court purportedly exercises the judicial power (more on that in a later post), most of its work product is not judge-like.  That is, the Tax Court decides most of its cases as an administrative office would, without setting precedent.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 734, featuring Peter Reilly’s IRS Not Grossly Negligent In Disclosure Of Exempt Application. High standards, not.

 

Jeremy Scott, Unexpected Tory Victory Has Major Ramifications for Europe (Tax Analysts Blog). “Defying polls, pollsters, and the specter of a hopelessly fractured Parliament, the Conservatives won a resounding victory in the U.K. election last week.” Just note that I arrived in Scotland with Labour leading the Tories 41-1 in Scotland. By the time I landed in Des Moines, the Tories held the same number of Scottish seats as Labour. No wonder I felt so tired.

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Graphic from BBC

 

News from the Profession. Grant Thornton Not Gonna Let Some Rich Guy Drag Its Good Name Through the Mud and Get Away With It (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/12/15: IRS updates list of permitted private delivery services for timely-mailed, timely-filed rule.

May 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

UPS 2nd-dayWhen it absolutely, positively has to be postmarked today. While we live in an electronic age, there are still tax things that can only be submitted the old-fashioned way, on dead tree byproduct. That means the “mailbox rule” — timely-mailed means timely-filed — still means something to those of us facing filing deadlines.

The traditional way to document timely filing has been to use Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, at the good old post office. Sometimes it’s hard to get to the post office before they close — or before they stop bothering to process certified mail for the day — so many taxpayers have come to rely on “designated private delivery services” to document their filings.

The IRS last week updated its list of permitted private delivery options in Notice 2015-38. It is the first update of the list since 2004 and reflects changes in the offerings of the large delivery services. The approved services (effective May 6, 2015) are:

 

FedEx:

1. FedEx First Overnight

2. FedEx Priority Overnight

3. FedEx Standard Overnight

4. FedEx 2 Day

5. FedEx International Next Flight Out

6. FedEx International Priority

7. FedEx International First

8. FedEx International Economy

 

UPS:

1. UPS Next Day Air Early AM

2. UPS Next Day Air

3. UPS Next Day Air Saver

4. UPS 2nd Day Air

5. UPS 2nd Day Air A.M.

6. UPS Worldwide Express Plus

7. UPS Worldwide Express.

This means DHL no longer offers approved services. It’s UPS, FedEx, or the USPS. Also note that the popular “UPS Ground” service is not on the list. If you use a non-designated service, the filing date is the date the IRS receives it.

For the thrifty among us, it’s worth noting that for both UPS and FedEx, 2nd-day service works just as well as overnight delivery. In either case, the key is to make sure your shipping documents show a ship date that beats the deadline. Also, make sure you use the proper street address; the private services can’t deliver to IRS service center post office boxes.

Related: Russ Fox, Not All Private Delivery Services Are Equal

 

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Just time for a few links today:

 

TaxGrrrl, Tax Deadline Looms For Tax Exempt Organizations

Kay Bell, It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a tax collector!

Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz!

 

David Brunori, The Highest Corporate Tax Rate Should Be Zero (Tax Analysts Blog):

Since 2002 I have been saying that states should repeal their corporate income taxes. I speak practically and am not furthering some ideological agenda. I said then that (1) the corporate income tax did not raise a lot of money; (2) without combined reporting and other safeguards, it would never make a lot of money; (3) it consumed an inordinate amount of resources (planning, litigating, auditing); and (4) it does not matter and we should stop pretending that it does.

Repeal of Iowa’s highest-in-the-developed-world income tax is a key part of the Tax Update Quick And Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

IMG_1557Andrew Lundeen, Let’s Eliminate the Tax Code’s Bias Against Saving with Universal Savings Accounts (Tax Policy Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 733, discussing a non Tea Party victim of IRS targeting that took it to court: “Last week a panel of three DC Circuit judges heard the IRS appeal. The hearing did not go well for the IRS. Indeed, it was an exercise in righteous humiliation of the Department of Justice.”

 

News from the Profession. Throwing Money at People Still a Solid Retention Strategy (Going Concern)

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/11/15: Returned, recovering, and ranting! Sales taxes, tax credits for special friends pondered by Iowa legislature.

May 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

IMG_0983I am back from overseas, and somewhat recovered from a nasty bug that hit me just before it was time to come home. So much to catch up on — if I don’t link your post today, I might get it later this week, as I dig out.

I was saddened to learn that the Iowa legislature is still in session. David Brunori reports ($link) on a proposal to allow Des Moines to vote on increasing its own sales tax without participation of its neighbors:

Iowa Rep. Tom Sands (R), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, has introduced legislation that would allow greater Des Moines communities to ask voters to approve a 1 percent local option sales tax. I have written about this issue a lot over the years. The reality is that while there are sound reasons for imposing a local option sales tax, the problems far outweigh the benefits.

When Des Moines adopts this tax, the folks who shop in the city will pay. But many of them don’t live within the city limits. It will be people in the surrounding suburbs and rural areas who pay some of the tax. That’s great for Des Moines, but not so good for other jurisdictions. I am unsure why a legislator from a rural area — or even an area without significant retail — would support this measure. Their citizens will pay but won’t see the benefits.

Well, it’s just another example of the delight Des Moines politicians take in picking the pockets of non-voters (Exhibit A: freeway speed cameras). But remembering the result of the last sales tax increase vote in the area — crushed by a 85% “no” vote — I don’t think the municipal highwaymen should count their sales tax loot just yet.

 

Politicians call for more subsidies for their well-connected friends, from your pockets. Iowa leaders call for biochemical tax credits for ethanol, biodiesel (Sioux City Journal).

 

Andrew Lundeen, Pass-through Businesses Employ Most of the Private Sector Workforce (Tax Policy Blog).

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“Pass-though” businesses are those taxed on owner 1040s. When you tax high income individuals, there is no escaping that you are reducing funds available for the nations principal employers to hire and expand.

 

William Perez, Your Guide to the 6 Types of Business for Federal Tax Purposes. “Entrepreneurs can set up their small business as a sole proprietorship, corporation, S-corporation, partnership, non-profit organization, Limited Liability Company, Limited Liability Partnership, and in some states a Professional Limited Liability Company/Partnership.”

Jason Dinesen, Why Make Estimated Tax Payments, Part 1. “People who are new to self-employment are often confused about what estimated tax payments are and why they might need to make these payments.”

Kay Bell, A Mother’s Day tax gift: 10 child care tax credit tips

TaxGrrrl, 11 Things I’ve Learned About Tax From My Mom

Leslie Book, On Mother’s Day Cowan Case Highlights Unfairness of Family Status Tax Rules

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Get Too Greedy! And however greedy you get, you need to follow the appraisal rules if you want to deduct a property donation.

Jack Townsend discusses a Sentencing for Failure to Pay Over Trust Fund Taxes. If you don’t remit withheld payroll taxes, thinking that you are just “borrowing” it, your “interest” might include prison time.

Peter Reilly, Home Schooling Contingency Does Not Kill Alimony Deduction

Robert D. Flach, WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN WRITING TO THE IRS. Not a speedy resolution.

 

 

Andrew Mitchel, The Exodus Continues (2015 1st Quarter Published Expatriates).

We began tracking expatriations in late 2009 because we anticipated that the number of expatriations would increase as a result of changes in U.S. tax laws and due to “saber rattling” by the IRS about the imposition of potential penalties in the wake of the UBS scandal.  Our prediction has been accurate.

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

 

Robert Wood, New Un-American Record: Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

Me, An obscure tax deadline that could cost you big. A discussion of the looming FBAR deadline.

 

 

Kristine Tidgren, Minnesota Producers Impacted by Avian Flu Granted Extra Time to File and Pay Taxes (ISU-CALT Ag Docket)

Hank Stern at Insureblog notes that May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month. Given the stakes, and the relatively low price, it’s shocking that 57% of working adults have no coverage.

Annette Nellen, Narrow exemptions cause inefficiency, inequity and complexity – HR 867 and S. 1179. But they are such a great way to get lobbyists to come to your summer golf fund-raisers.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 732. “Every time we turn around we get more emails.” Two years, and Commissioner Koskinen is still tired of your complaining.

Russ Fox,730:

The IRS’s budget isn’t going to be increased until the root cause of the IRS scandal is known. That’s a fact. It’s now been over 730 days (Monday will be day 732) that the scandal has been ongoing. If a Republican wins the White House in 2016, we’ll likely know what happened by day 1460. Otherwise, who knows.

The day Commissioner Koskinen resigns is the first day the IRS might start to figure it out.

 

Cara Griffith, Learn to Love the Property Tax — It’s Not So Bad (Tax Analysts Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Congress Has Not Passed A 2016 Budget. It Has Only Begun The Process.

 

Career Corner. The Monthly Close: White Collar Crime Should Be a Fun and Scary Surprise (Going Concern)

 

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No roundup today.

May 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Just this.

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Tax Roundup, 5/5/15: The rainy day FAIR edition.

May 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

It’s a very cozy day to be in my hotel room in Ediburgh.

 

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Unfortunately, I have to walk about ten minutes to get to today’s TIAG conference. That calls for some bracing thoughts and links.

Fairly puzzling. The “Fair Tax” is coming up in these early stages of the 2016 presidential race. Tax Analysts reports ($link) that Mike Huckabee has stepped up for this national sales tax proposal to replace the income tax. One attraction of the proposal is that by turning administration of the tax system to state tax collecters, the IRS would go away.

Tax Analysts explains the basic idea:

In its basic form, as offered by a core group of House and Senate conservatives, it calls for a 23 percent sales tax on all purchases, no exceptions. But the federal government would send a monthly check — called a “prebate” — to all legal households so that purchases of essentials up to the poverty level would essentially be tax free. The Department of Health and Human Services would administer the prebates, calculating them based on federal poverty levels for different-size families. Meanwhile, all income and payroll taxes would be eliminated, with funding for Social Security and Medicare coming from general revenue instead.

It combines a national basic income program, provided by the government, with a very high sales tax rate. And Tax Analysts notes how the 23% rate isn’t honest. When we buy a $1 item and a 6% sales tax, we expect to pay $1.06. But the Fair Tax rate includes the sales tax. That means your $1 item would cost you about $1.30. So how is this 23% 30 cents is about 23% of $1.30.

So by the way we normally calculate sales taxes, it’s a 30% rate. That would fall on top of the existing state sales tax rates — which would rise themselves, because states would be hard pressed to have income taxes without the federal income tax to piggyback on. We end up with 40% or higher combined sales tax burden, combined with an enormous federal transfer payment program. A sales tax rate that high would almost certainly fail. No sales tax rate near that rate has survived in the wild, as far as I know.

The IRS is awful, so the attraction of a plan to make it go away is undeniable. Still, the Fair Tax just isn’t plausible. If the income tax goes away, it will be through some other consumption tax, such as a Value Added Tax or something like the Bradford X-Tax proposal. If someone offers an idea like that, or a major overhaul of the income tax, they might be serious. If all a candidate has to offer is the Fair Tax, you might want to shop elsewhere for a tax reformer.

 

Kristine Tidgren, Minnesota Producers Impacted by Avian Flu Granted Extra Time to File and Pay Taxes (Ag Docket)

Kay Bell, May the tax force be with you. Tax moves for May.

 

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Robert Wood, Hillary’s Excellent Clinton Foundation Reporting Adventure 

Peter Reilly, IRS Denies Exempt Status To Historical Interpreters. Maybe they should try taking millions from offshore donors and botching their IRS filings.

Russ Fox, Honesty Is Usually a Good Policy. A lesson an L.A. public official seems not to have absorbed.

Scott Drenkard, What Can Adam Smith Teach Us About Modern Transportation Policy?. (Tax Policy Blog).  “Real reform would align the costs of these services with the people who use them most.”

Being in Edinburgh, his adopted hometown, I wish Adam Smith had left an umbrella in my hotel room.

Jeremy Scott, What’s at Stake in the U.K. Election (Tax Analysts Blog) “Although the U.K. election is not exciting much interest in the United States, the results could dramatically affect both the U.K. economy and how it approaches tax and fiscal policy over the next five years.”

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/4/15: Dateline, Edinburgh.

May 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

I am successfully established in my hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, after three enjoyable days driving around Northern Ireland and Scotland and one rainy day holed up in my room finally sleeping off my jet lag.

Today the meetings of the independent accounting firm alliance TIAG get underway in earnest. Roth & Company jointed this alliance early this year to better serve our clients with multistate and offshore needs. I met a lot of nice people from around the U.S. and the world a welcoming reception and I look forward to getting to know them better.

 

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It doesn’t appear I’ve missed any earth shattering tax news on the road, so let’s do some links.

 

William Perez, Did You Have Gambling Winnings This Weekend? Winnings are Taxable, and Losses Can be Deducted

Paul Neiffer, NFL Gives Up Tax Exempt Status. A big nothing.

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Capital Gain/Capital Loss

Robert D. Flach brings the Buzz.

 

Howard Gleckman, ACA Tax Filing Was Surprisingly Painless, But Not For All. They punted the worst parts, again.

Alan Cole, Cleveland’s Taxes on NFL Players Ruled Unconstitutional (Tax Policy Blog). This was an especilly abusive tax, based strictly on the the number of games played in Cleveland vs. elsewhere, and taking no account of all of the practice time spent out of state by the players in camps and in their home cities.

Kay Bell, Congress close to expanding tax help for college costs. Read that as “Congress close to increasing tuition again.”

TaxGrrrl, George Soros May Owe Billions in Taxes. Rich people who advocate for high taxes don’t mean it for themselves.

Peter Reilly, IRS Partnership Adjustments In Millions May Produce No Tax

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 724. More emails found by TIGTA that IRS said were lost forever. It’s amazing what turns up if you actually look at the backup tapes.

 

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Joseph Thorndike, Abolish the IRS? Good Luck With That (Tax Analysts Blog). “For opinion writers, it takes a special sort of gumption to deliberately antagonize your most loyal readers. In that spirit, this week’s Profile in Editorial Courage award goes to Patrick Brennan of The National Review, who recently dared to defend the existence of the IRS.”

The “Fair Tax” isn’t happening. There will always be a federal tax collection agency, and the only way they will ever “abolish” the IRS will be to call it something else. Even if it’s named the Ministry of Magic, it’s ability to commit evil will be based on the tasks and powers assigned it by Congress.

Joseph Henchman, Kansas May Drop Pass-Through Exclusion After Revenue Projections Miss Mark Again (Tax Policy Blog). I don’t think Kansas thought that through very well.

David Brunori, Immigrants Are Good for Us (Tax Analysts Blog).

Jeremy Scott, Rubio Would Be Another Obama on Tax Lawmaking (Tax Analysts Blog). “The danger is that Rubio, like Obama, would almost certainly defer to his congressional caucus in the drafting of a tax reform proposal.”

News from the Profession. SOX 404 Not Helping: Study (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Silly report. It helped big firm revenues immensely. What do you think it was supposed to do?

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/28/15: Iowa flunks another business tax study. And: on to Belfast and Edinburgh.

April 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20121226-1Programming note. I will be riding the magic flying chair across the ocean tomorrow on my way to the TIAG Spring Conference in Edinburgh, U.K. It will be the first conference since Roth & Company became a member of the TIAG worldwide alliance of independent accounting firms, and I am excited to meet representatives of our sister firms from Canada, China, the U.K. and elsewhere.

I will first stop off in Belfast to attempt to extend the family tree by a branch or two, and to do some sightseeing in County Tyrone, where my mom’s ancestors lived before heading to Ontario, and then to Illinois, in the mid 19th century. Any tips for using the facilities of the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland are welcome and appreciated.

With the travel, posting here will be variable based on time, internet connections, computer functionality, and jet lag. But there will be posts, and there will be pictures, so stop by. Full posting should resume May 8 or so.

 

20130117-1Iowa does it again! Our fair land between the rivers shows up near the bottom of another survey of state business tax systems — this time in 45th place in the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council Best to Worst State Tax Systems for Entrepreneurship and Small Business. Iowa scores especially poorly for its high corporation tax rate and corporate capital gain rates.

Worse, neighboring South Dakota ranks #1. They have no corporation income tax at all. Repeal of the corporation income tax is a key part of the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan. Right now Iowa relies on the highest corporation tax rate in the country, along with 31 (and counting) special interest tax credits, to grow businesses. I think South Dakota’s idea makes more sense.

Related: What an Iowa income tax might look like with a fresh start.

Liz Malm, North Dakota Cuts Income Taxes Again (Tax Policy Blog). They were 15th on the SBE survey before this.

 

Meanwhile, Iowa’s General Assembly ponders a sales tax increase, reports the Des Moines Register:

A late-session bid to raise Iowa’s sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent to generate $150 million annually for natural resources and outdoor recreation programs has gained some traction in the Iowa Legislature, but it remains a long shot.

Cash is fungible, and like highway “trust fund” dollars, the politicians will divert “targeted” revenues to their pet projects sooner or later.

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Roger McEowen, It Ain’t Over Until the FBAR Report is Filed (ISU-Calt Ag Docket): “You trigger a filing requirement whenever you have a an interest in or signatory authority over a foreign financial account with a value over $10,000 at any time during the calendar year.”

William Perez, How to Get Your Tax Withholding Just Right

Kay Bell, Wrong tax refund amount? What now?

Andrew Mitchel, Recognition of Losses on Dispositions of PFICs

 

20140826-1The Buzz is Back! The Wandering Tax Pro, Robert D. Flach, comes back from another tax season with a fresh roundup of tax blog posts presented with his hand-crafted perspective.

‘Moose’ declined comment. ‘Squirrel’ Threatens To Bomb IRS Building (TaxGrrrl)

Robert Wood, Ten Facts About Fighting IRS Tax Bills.

Peter Reilly, Is IRS Targeting Drunkards? Well, somebody has to work there.

Jack Townsend, The Stored Communications Act and Emails: An Overview

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 719 “IRS Attacks Conservative Groups But Silent on Clinton Foundation.” And Media Matters, and…

Howard Gleckman, A Small But Important Change in Retirement Savings Rules (TaxVox). “The proposal would exempt those who have $100,000 or less in retirement savings from having to take required taxable distributions from 401(k)s, IRAs, and the like starting at age 70 ½.”

 

Government is just the name for things we do together. IRS Seeks To Tax $50k Raised From GoFundMe For Cancer Treatment For Car Crash Victim (TaxProf).

 

 

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