Tax Roundup, 1/6/15: Why the snake oil guy doesn’t use his own stuff.

January 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

When  the man selling the snake oil out of the patent medicine wagon takes a deep draught of his inventory, it tells you he believes it at least won’t hurt him. But if he then keels over and goes into convulsions, he’ll find sales tough to come by.

This explains why it might be harder for Peymon Mottahedeh to recruit additional “students” to his “Freedom Law School” after his visit to Tax Court last week. The gentleman is well-known in “tax honesty” circles — enough to have earned him a spot in the Quatloos “Hall of Shame.”

Mr. Mottahedeh’s law school has what the bar association might consider an unorthodox curriculum. Judge Morrison explains (footnotes omitted):

Since at least 1999, the Freedom Law School has organized conferences attended by hundreds of people. The Freedom Law School charged fees to the attendees. The Freedom Law School also sold books, tapes, CDs, and DVDs. It also sold packages of services, including:

-the “Simple Freedom Package” (for an initial fee of $4,000);

-the “Royal Freedom Package” (for an initial fee of $6,000).

The Freedom Law School also offered multilevel marketing arrangements, including:

-“Freedom Fighter in Training”;

-“Freedom Promoter”;

-“Freedom Leader”; and

-“Master Freedom Leader”.

You have to admit, not every law school gives you MLM opportunities.

 

FLS logoThrough its conferences, materials, and service packages, the Freedom Law School promoted various techniques for evading the payment of federal income taxes. The techniques included:

-Minimize financial records.

-Do not give information to the IRS.

-Do not file tax returns.

Mr. Mottahedeh apparently took his own advice, and that worked out about as well as you would expect. The Tax Court allowed the IRS to statistically estimate his spending, in the absence of bank and financial. The taxpayer objected, but the judge explains:

The Mottahedehs counter that in reconstructing their income the revenue agent should have considered only the income reflected in their bank and credit-union records. But the Mottahedehs tried to avoid the use of banks. Their bank records would not provide sufficient information about their income. Furthermore, even the bank records that the revenue agent obtained were incomplete. The revenue agent was unable to obtain records of all of the deposits to the Mottahedehs’ accounts. For these reasons, focusing exclusively on the income reflected in their bank records would underestimate the Mottahedehs’ income. The revenue agent had to find other methods of estimating their income. The revenue agent chose to use average spending statistics supplemented by estimates of actual spending amounts. The courts have permitted the IRS to rely on the use of average spending statistics when, as here, the taxpayer fails to cooperate with the IRS

The bottom line: $93,187 in tax, along with another $47,303 in penalties.

If the patent medicine man doesn’t die, expect him to just find another crowd and open up shop again.

Cite: Mottahedeh, T.C. Memo 2014-258

 

Seventh Avenue, Des Moines, this morning.

Pierre Lemieux“The Economics of Tax Dodging,” (via David Henderson):

From the vantage point of orthodox public finance, dodging taxes is naturally considered bad because the burden of financing essential public expenditures is transferred to compliant taxpayers. Bad taxpayers free ride on good ones, who become the suckers. In our public choice model, however, dodging taxes provides a built-in check on Leviathan. Tax dodgers are not free-riding on other taxpayers; on the contrary, taxpayers benefit from tax dodgers’ resistance. They benefit because potential tax resistance prevents Leviathan from increasing everybody’s tax burden even more.

I think both views are likely true.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Report: 3.4 Million ACA Subsidy Recipients May have Reduced Refunds (Tax Policy Blog). I can’t wait to tell my affected clients…

William Perez reminds us of Critical Tax Deadlines in 2015

Robert D. Flach has the Buzz! Avoiding scams, New Year tax tips, and more.

Robert Wood, Big Winner Of 4,000% Tips For Jesus? IRS

 

Christopher Bergin, Would You Settle for Flowers in Place of Help From the IRS? (Tax Analysts Blog). Considering what they do to us, we should also insist on dinner and drinks.

Norton Francis, Oklahoma Pulls the Trigger on an Unaffordable Tax Cut (TaxVox): “The state triggered a major rate reduction by tying it to an essentially meaningless revenue target.”

Kay Bell, U.S. debate on Internet taxes looms in 2015, but new digital tax rules now in place for European Union electronic shoppers

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 607. Today’s issue quotes Robert Wood:

Even if it is, the second IRS scandal, the alleged release of confidential taxpayer data to the White House, is far more debilitating. It too isn’t just alleged. We know it happened. What we do not know is how much was released, whose tax records they were, or who over at the White House requested them.

Oh, I’m sure they just wanted to make sure Republicans got all of the refunds they deserved.

Peter Reilly, Report On IRS Targeting Of Conservatives – No Christmas Pony For Darrell Issa. Peter seems to think the real scandal is that we aren’t paying more attention to whether one of the unfairly-targeted organizations might actually guilty of something.

 

News from the Profession. Here Are the Things the Accounting Profession Will Continue to Give Lip Service to in 2015 (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/5/15: Early year-end planning edition. And: too cold for a film credit trial?

January 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today “In the Blogs” visitors: the tax and AMT article is here. You may also be interested in these thoughts on when prepaying tax is unwise, even without AMT.

 

20150105-1Now that you’re done with 2014 year-end tax planning, let’s get started on 2015. Procrastination is as human as liking sugar and shiny things. It’s natural to get serious about anything right at the deadline, whether it’s homework or tax planning.

But it’s often wiser to get started early. That’s especially true when looking at contributions to tax-advantaged savings accounts. You should look to fund these as soon as you can, rather than putting them off to the last minute. The sooner you fund your 2015 IRA, your Health Savings Account, or your Section 529 education savings account, the sooner your funds are earning their return tax-free.

So if you have the funds on hand, here’s a new year’s resolution to keep today — fully fund your tax-advantaged savings accounts. Your limits for 2015:

Contributions can not exceed the amount necessary to provide for the qualified education expenses of the beneficiary. If you contribute to a 529 plan, however, be aware that there may be gift tax consequences if your contributions, plus any other gifts, to a particular beneficiary exceed $14,000 during the year.

Taxpayers filing in Iowa can deduct their contributions to the College Savings Iowa Section 529 plan up to $3,163 per beneficiary, per donor on their Iowa income tax return. A married couple funding plans for their two children can therefore deduct up to $12,652 in 2015 CSI contributions.

 

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Too cold for a film tax credit trial? A strange development in the Iowa Film Credit scandal, reported by the Des Moines Register:

A new fraud trial for a Nebraska filmmaker accused of using a fake purchase agreement to get tax credits should be delayed because two elderly witnesses have left Iowa for the winter, according to a prosecutor handling the case.

Yes, it’s cold here. We’re supposed to get a snowstorm today, and it’s supposed to be 1 on Wednesday. For a high temperature. And I can’t say I have a great deal of sympathy for somebody who got millions in tax credit money.

But a criminal trial is serious business, and the film scandal has been going since 2009. The prosecution says the witness is worried that he might fall. I think arrangements can be made to get him safely from the car.

What’s the case about?

Dennis Brouse, 64, has been waiting for a second trial after judges on the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned a felony fraud conviction against him in April. Brouse’s company, Changing Horses Productions, received $9 million in tax credits from Iowa’s scandal-ridden film tax credit program.

Brouse faces a single fraud charge and potentially a prison sentence, stemming from the purchase of a 38-foot camper trailer he bought from Prole couple Wayne and Shirley Weese. Prosecutors say Brouse paid the couple $10,500 in cash for the trailer, but he claimed it cost twice that amount in a statement for tax credits given to the Iowa Film Office.

The state auditor’s report on the Iowa Film Office showed a lot of creative accounting for Changing Horses, including the claim of a $1 million expense for non-cash “sponsorship” considerations. I am guessing that they are going after the trailer case because there are e-mails from the Iowa Department of Revenue blessing the “in-kind” expense concept. I’m pretty sure that there is no such endorsement of doubling expenditures.

 

Roger McEowen, Top 10 Agricultural Law and Taxation Developments of 2014 (ISU-CALT). The impact of Obamacare is #1.

20121120-2Alan Cole rings in the new year with New Year, New Individual Mandate Penalty and New Year, New Employer Mandate (Tax Policy Blog). What new individual mandate penalty?

However, it’s also worth remembering that the penalty will be doubled (or more than doubled) for 2015. 2014’s penalty is $95 or 1% of your household income, whichever is higher. 2015’s penalty is $325 or 2% of your household income, whichever comes higher.

And the employer mandate? It’s the penalty on taxpayers with 100 or more “full-time equivalent” employees. A blog post can’t really do it justice:

The IRS has issued a truly epic 56-question FAQ to help explain the even-more-epic final regulations for the employer shared responsibility provision. In case you are wondering, those final regulations total to over seventy thousand words – similar in size to the novel Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

It will get more epic if the Supreme Court rules that the individual tax credit only applies in the 14 states that have established their own ACA exchanges. The employer mandate only applies if an employee has qualified for the credit, and the individual mandate penalty will not apply to taxpayers whose insurance becomes “unaffordable” if the credits go away.

 

Robert Wood, Think Filing Taxes Was Tough Before Obamacare? Just Wait. “This year for the first time, the Affordable Care Act has created a trickier tax season. It is more expensive too, as virtually all Americans filing tax returns will have to consider the law’s impact on them and their taxes.”

Annette Nellen, ACA – Affordability of health insurance and age

William Perez, Directory of tax extensions for each state

Russ Fox, 1099 Time (2015 Version). “It’s time for businesses to send out their annual information returns.”

 

Kay Bell, Cigarettes are a bigger state tax target than booze. I think that explains the hostility of state governments to e-cigs.

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About EAs, #4: The SEE Isn’t a Tax Prep Exam

Peter Reilly, IRS Revokes Exempt Status Of Faux Veterans Groups

 

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Renu Zaretsky, Cap and Trade Plans, Tax Deadlines, and Rate Drops. The TaxVox headline roundup covers gas taxes, dynamic scoring, and an insane plan in Washington state for a state-only “cap and trade” carbon program.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 606

News from the Profession: Celebrate the New Year with Accounting Salaries Charted by Company Type, Role, Service Line and More (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/31/14: Last minute tax moves: losses, gifts, and… weddings? Timing is everything!

December 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140608_2So.  2014 is down to its last few hours. What can we do today to make April 15, 2015 a little happier? Well, maybe less bad. It’s asking too much of one day to fix a year’s worth of tax problems, but today might still make a difference. A few things you can do yet today:

– Sell stocks at a loss to offset capital gains. It’s the trade date that counts in determining when a loss is incurred (except on a short sale). That means if you have incurred capital gains in 2014, you can sell loss stocks today and reduce your taxable gains for the year. Most individuals can deduct capital losses on a 1040 to the extent of your gains, plus $3,000. To the extent you fail to offset capital gains with the losses sitting in your portfolio, you are paying taxes voluntarilyJust make sure you make the trade in a taxable account and don’t repurchase the losers for 30 days.

– Consider making your state 4th quarter estimated tax payment today (and your federal payment, if you are an Iowan). Don’t do this rashly, as alternative minimum tax can make this a bad move for some taxpayers. Also, time value considerations can make this a bad move. But in the right circumstances, you can save a lot in April by getting your payment in the mail today.

- Make a charitable gift today, if you are so inclined. Gifts (and other deductions) paid with a credit card today are deductible, even if the credit card isn’t paid off until next year. Checks postmarked today are deductible this year. If you don’t know where to make your gifts, I have some suggestions; if you don’t like those, TaxGrrrl has some others.

- And if you are fanatical about tax planning, and someone else, you can change your marital status today. Your marital status on December 31 is your status for the whole year, as far as the IRS is concerned. But if you are seriously considering this, you definitely need to bring someone else into the discussion.

 

20120511-2A Tax Court Case yesterday shows how important year-end timing can beA Minnesota couple paid $2,150.85 of community college tuition for their daughter’s Spring 2011 semester on December 28, 2010. That normally would have qualified for an American Opportunity Tax Credit of about $2,037 — a dollar-for-dollar reduction fo their 2011 taxes. But they were four days too soon.

Tax Court Judge Marvel explains (my emphasis):

Generally, the American opportunity credit is allowed only when payment is made in the same year that the academic period begins. Sec. 1.25A-5(e)(1), Income Tax Regs. For cash method taxpayers, such as petitioners, qualified education expenses are treated as paid in the year in which the expenses are actually paid.

Because the semester didn’t begin until 2011, the 2010 payment didn’t count. Judge Marvel explains that close isn’t close enough:

We realize that the statutory requirements may seem to work a harsh result in a case such as this where a four-day delay in making the December 28, 2010, payment would have engendered a different result. However, the Court must apply the statute as written and follow the accompanying regulations when consistent therewith.

The Moral? When it comes to tax planning, the difference between December 31 and January 1 is one year, not one day. If timing matters, be sure to get on the right side of the line, and be sure you can document your timing. If you are mailing a big check, go Certified mail, return receipt requested, and save that postmark.

Cite: Ferm, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-115.

 

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

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

Iowa rated 8th worst small business environment. The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council has ranked the entrepreneurial environment of the 50 states. Iowa does poorly:

Iowa is the nation’s number one producer of corn. Unfortunately, it’s costly policy climate works against production from free enterprise and entrepreneurship in general. Iowa ranks 43rd in terms of its public policy climate for entrepreneurship and small business among the 50 states, according the 2014 “Small Business Policy Index.” While Iowa’s entrepreneurs, businesses, investors and workers benefit from fairly low crime rate and a low level of government debt, there are many negatives, such as high individual capital gains taxes; very high corporate income and capital gains taxes; high unemployment taxes; and a high level of government spending.

While I think overall Iowa is better than 43rd, our awful tax environment hurts. Our system of high rates with dozens of carve-out credits for the well-advised and well-connected works great for insiders, but not so well for the rest of us. Maybe 2015 will be the year Iowa considers serious tax reform, like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Kay Bell, Donating and deducting a car

Jack Townsend, Reasonable Doubt and Jury Nullification

Jason Dinesen lists his Top 5 Blog Posts of 2014. My favorite is his #5, Having a Side Business in Multi-Level Marketing Doesn’t Make Personal Expenses Deductible

Tony Nitti warns us of Five Traps To Avoid When Deducting Mortgage Interest

Robert D Flach shares: MY NEW YEAR’S EVE TRADITIONS: “I type W-2s and 1099s.” Don’t get too wild, Robert!

Me, IRS issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for January 2015

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G. Brint Ryan, Who’s Afraid of the IRS? When Business Fights Back Against Government Overreach and Wins (Procedurally Taxing)

Annette Nellen,State taxes and bitcoin

Robert Wood, No Mickey Mouse Taxes On Jim Harbaugh’s $48M Michigan Deal And 49ers Exit. “Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers contract may be history, but his $48M Michigan deal has tax components that you might not expect.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Taxes, Charitable Gifts, the ACA, and Ineffective Deadlines (TaxVox).  “Scrambling to make a last-minute charitable donation to beat the New Year’s Eve deadline for a 2014 tax deduction? Take a deep breath and ask yourself, ‘Why am I going through this craziness now?'”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 601

 

Post-sequester commuting.

Not excited about all the wild New Years Eve hoopla? Maybe you prefer a more low-key celebration, like the one Robert D. Flach relates in MY NEW YEAR’S EVE TRADITIONS:

Every year during the day on New Year’s Eve I do the same thing I do during the day on Christmas Eve – I type W-2s and 1099s.

Live it up, Robert!

 

And Happy New Year to all of you Tax Update readers! This is it for 2014 here.  See you next week, and next year.

 

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IRS issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for January 2015

December 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The IRS has issued (Rev. Rul. 2015-01) the minimum required interest rates for loans made in January 2015:

Short Term (demand loans and loans with terms of up to 3 years): 0.41%

-Mid-Term (loans from 3-9 years): 1.75%

-Long-Term (over 9 years): 2.67%

The Long-term tax-exempt rate for Section 382 ownership changes in January 2015 is 2.8%.

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

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Tax Roundup, 12/30/14: Is prepaying taxes a good bet even without AMT? And: CoOportunity failure ripples.

December 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

I’ll gladly pay you today for part of a hamburger tomorrow. In our zeal to pile deductions into this year’s return, it’s easy to overdo it. If you aren’t subject to alternative minimum tax, you can get a 2014 tax benefit by mailing your estimated 2014 state balance due by tomorrow. But does it really make sense to pay a dollar of tax now to get a 35-cent benefit on April 15? at the 35% bracket, the answer would be yes, but for lower brackets, the numbers don’t work as well.

The chart below shows compares the time value lost by sending $1,000 to the government early to the present value of the tax benefit received, using a 2% discount rate.

Green numbers show a present value benefit for prepaying 12/31/14 vs. the statutory due date indicated.

Green numbers show a present value benefit for prepaying 12/31/14 vs. the statutory due date indicated.

Every situation differs. This table should be used with caution. It does provide some tentative rules of thumb for individuals, assuming you will be in the same bracket in 2014 and 2015, that you itemize, and that AMT does not apply:

– It always makes sense to pay your fourth quarter state estimates in December instead of January.

– If you are an Iowa taxpayer, it makes sense to prepay fourth quarter federal payments at any bracket, but it never makes sense to pay your April 15 balance due in December.

– It only makes sense to prepay your state balance due for April 15 2015 by tomorrow only if you are in at least the 33% bracket, which kicks in for joint filers and $226,850 of taxable income, and for single taxpayers at $$186,350. For Iowa taxes due April 30, it’s about a push, or even a small present value loss.

– It makes sense for taxpayers in the 25% bracket ($73,500 joint, $36,900 single) to prepay their March 1 property tax installments.

– It never makes sense to prepay your September property taxes nine months ahead.

As we discussed yesterday, AMT can make prepayments a much larger blunder, so don’t do anything without running some numbers.

 

cooportunity logoThe failure of Iowa’s federally-funded CoOportunity health care insurance company is drawing national attention. The Wall Street Journal opines in Fannie Med Implodes: “Call it the Solyndra of ObamaCare.”

Meanwhile, Iowans covered by CoOportunity have to deal with the consequences. Des Moines Register, CoOportunity’s crisis could cost members thousands:

Customers who switch out of CoOportunity coverage won’t be able to start their new policies until Feb. 1, because Dec. 15 was the national deadline for obtaining insurance policies that start Jan. 1. In the meantime, many customers would have to start meeting CoOportunity’s annual deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums for 2015. Then, when they switch insurers in February, “they would have to start over, unfortunately,” Commissioner Nick Gerhart said Monday.

If you like your plan…

CoOportunity Health’s troubles could affect whether small Iowa employers can qualify for 2015 tax credits toward workers’ insurance premiums.

Employers with fewer than 25 full-time workers making an average of less than $50,000 are supposed to be eligible for the tax credits, which can amount to 50 percent of the cost of premiums. However, starting in 2015, those credits are to be applied only to policies that are sold on the employer side of the public marketplace, healthcare.gov. In Iowa, CoOportunity was the only carrier selling health policies to Iowa employers on the marketplace. The company has ceased selling new policies because of its financial crunch.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said he’s checking with federal officials to see if there’s another way to let small Iowa employers obtain the tax credit.

The IRS has let taxpayers in some counties without a SHOP provider take the credit. We will see if they grant a similar waiver here.

Related: Hank Stern, SHOP Chop.

 

Robert Wood, 3 Quick Year End Steps Pay Off Big April 15old walnut

Kay Bell, 5 tax-saving moves you can make by Dec. 31

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #1-Obamacare Endures Additional Attacks. Aw, poor thing.

Russ Fox, IRS Announces Tax Season to Start on January 20th

Robert D. Flach, THE YEAR IN TAXES 2014. “Once again the year ended with the idiots in Congress waiting until literally the last minute to pass an extension of all of the expired ‘tax extenders’.”

Melanie Migliaccio, 9th Cir. Rejects IRS’s Transferee Status Recharacterization Argument (Tax Litigation Survey)

 

Iowa Public Radio, Rep. Grimm To Resign After Guilty Plea On Tax Charge.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 600

Alan Cole, Au Revoir to the Millionaire’s Tax (Tax Policy Blog). “The French government will quietly allow its millionaire’s tax to expire.”

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If you think I’m unsympathetic to Commissioner Koskinen’s pleas of IRS povertycheck out No Fat to Cut at the IRS? So Take a Chainsaw to the Rest of the Beast. (J.D. Tuccille, Reason.com):

Of course, Koskinen framed it in terms of customer service, and friendly media outlets immediately parroted the message that a $346 million cut, bringing the IRS budget down to $10.9 billion, inevitably means longer wait times on the phone for distraught taxpayers seeking answers for their pressing tax questions.

This is an all-hands-on-deck spin on IRS cuts, with National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson (who is theoretically on the victims’ side, despite her government paycheck) recruited to caution that the IRS is “chronically underfunded” with unfortunate implications for taxpayer service and assistance.

Then again, that might not be so horrible an outcome, given that IRS assistance involved giving taxpayers bad advice 22 percent of the time back in 1987, 41 percent of the time in 1989, 22 percent of the time in 2002, and 43 percent of the time in 2003. And no matter the advice dispensed by the tax collectors themselves, taxpayers are on the hook for getting it right.

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

I can’t help thinking that the cuts to service are an IRS version of the Washington Monument Strategy, where the government responds to budget cuts by closing the most popular and visible tourist attractions. I would find Commissioner Koskinen’s pleas of poverty more convincing if he weren’t spending money on the new “voluntary” preparer program to end-run the Loving decision that shut down the preparer regulation power-grab. It would also be a good signal to put the 200 IRS employees who spend their working days doing union work on the phones instead.

Related: Cromnibus cuts IRS budget, delays extender vote.

 

Career Corner. What If Your Job Title Were Brutally Honest? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). I don’t suppose it would be easy to fit “Chronic Blogger Who Does Taxes to Finance It” on a business card.

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Tax Roundup, 12/29/14: Why AMT matters in year-end planning. And: Laffering it up.

December 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors! Click here to find the capital gains planning item from “In the Blogs.”

IMG_1944How AMT can make prepaying state and local taxes a false move. Prepaying state and local taxes is a venerable year-end tax planning move. It can also be a costly one, thanks to the Alternative Minimum Tax. If you are in AMT this year — perhaps thanks to a big non-recurring capital gain — but you won’t be next year, prepaying your state and local taxes might result in your taxes actually being much higher over the two-year period.

An example involving a fictional Iowa married couple shows how this works. The couple has one earner with $150,000 in self-employment earnings in 2014 and 2015. In 2014 the couple generates $300,000 in a one-time capital gain.

If the couple prepays their 2014 state tax on the capital gain, they get a federal tax benefit of precisely zero in 2014; the capital gain causes them to be in AMT whatever they do because the capital gain rates are the same for AMT and regular tax.

In 2015, the couple has no AMT on their $150,000 of self-employment income. Nor do they have AMT even after paying both their 2014 Iowa balance due and their 2015 Iowa estimates. My projection software comes up with these numbers (yes, oversimplified, but the concepts hold):

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This shows that prepaying the taxes would be a $6,043 mistake for the couple.

There are cases where prepaying state taxes makes sense. There are also cases where AMT makes doing so a blunder. Make sure you run the numbers before you mail that check.

 

In case you missed it over the holidays, central Iowa’s only SHOP marketplace insurance provider was taken over by Iowa’s insurance regulators last week.  Read about it here.

 

Younkers ruins 20140610William Perez offers A First Look at ABLE Savings Accounts. These accounts, included in this month’s “extender” bill, allow Section 529-like benefits for accounts set up to pay disability costs.

Robert D. Flach, THE CLOCK IS TICKING. For 2014 Qualified Charitable Distributions from IRAs.

Mitch Maahs, Summary of the Tax Extenders in the Tax Increase Prevention Act (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, Look out for phishing scam from fake Treasury Secretary

Jack Townsend, Tax Return Preparers Convicted of Conspiracy and Failure to File FBARs. They chose badly.

Cara Griffith, Crowdfunding and State Taxation (Tax Analysts Blog). Is Kickstarter funding taxable income or taxable sales?

Tim Todd, 4th Cir. Rejects Conservation Easement with Substitution Provision

Peter Reilly, Phantom Mares And Real Trucks Don’t Make For A Winning Horse Loss Tax Case. Plus, it’s really hard to find good phantom breeding studs.

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Renu Zaretsky, Will Tax Reforming Be Forgot and Never Brought to Mind? This TaxVox headline roundup covers the Kansas struggles with careless tax reform, among other things.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 599

 

Stephen MooreThe Laffer Curve turns 40: the legacy of a controversial idea:

To punctuate his point, he grabbed a pen and a cloth cocktail napkin and drew a chart showing that when tax rates get too high, they penalize work and investment and can actually lead to revenue losses for the government. Four years later, that napkin became immortalized as “the Laffer Curve”…

Laffer Curve, via Wikipedia

Laffer Curve, via Wikipedia

The idea that tax rates can become so high that they actually reduce net revenue shouldn’t be controversial. If you have a 100% tax rate on an activity, you will avoid that activity, or at least letting the government know about it. Of course, a zero rate will also generate no tax revenue. The revenue-maximizing rate is somewhere in between.

Unfortunately, some people on the right have taken this point and jumped to the conclusion that tax cuts will always cause such increased taxable activity that tax revenues will increase. That’s as much a fallacy as left-side assumptions that increasing taxes can never be economically-harmful or revenue-reducing.

The real issues should be identifying the point at which the harms to economic activity and to revenues occur. It seems likely that the economically-damaging rate is lower than the revenue-maximizing rate, as Megan McArdle discusses here. These points have to differ for different kinds of tax. A 30% income tax rate might not be very destructive to economic activity, but a 30% sales tax would hurt, and a 30% gross receipts tax would be ruinous. The results also differ for state and federal taxes, given how much easier it is for activity to to move between states than between countries.

All this, of course, ignores the obvious question of how much revenue the government needs in the first place. I would argue that a well-run government limited to its proper sphere wouldn’t have to ask these questions all the time.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/26/14: Bad SHOP-ing day: Iowa SHOP health insurance provider goes into receivership.

December 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

cooportunity logoSmall businesses wanting to provide health insurance coverage for their employees got a lump of coal in their stocking Christmas Eve with the announcement that CoOportunity Health, Inc. was placed in receivership by the Iowa Insurance Division. The Omaha World Herald reports:

CoOportunity Health, the two-year-old Iowa health insurance cooperative set up with federal loans under the Affordable Care Act, is running out of money and may be liquidated, which raises questions for other health insurance cooperatives nationally.

The company’s 120,000 individual and group customers, most of them in Nebraska and the rest in Iowa, are still covered if they signed up before Dec. 15 and should continue paying premiums to keep coverage in effect, said Nick Gerhart, Iowa’s insurance commissioner.

When the insurance division takes over an insurer, their policies remain in force while the insurer is either reorganized, sold or liquidated. But that doesn’t apply to brand-new enrollees. From the Herald:

But he recommended that policyholders switch to other insurance companies during open enrollment, which ends Feb. 15. People who enroll in new health plans by Jan. 15 would have that coverage in place by Feb. 1.

People who signed up for the first time with CoOportunity after Dec. 15 will not have coverage and should find other insurers, he said. CoOportunity, one of 24 health insurance cooperatives set up under the federal health care law, cannot sell or renew policies.

CoOportunity provided coverage on both the individual healthcare.gov marketplace and the “SHOP” marketplace for small businesses. A FAQ (.doc format) from the Iowa Insurance Division on the takeover has this for small businesses looking for coverage:

If I want to remain in the marketplace and change insurance companies, where do I go?

Contact your agent or broker or go to www.Healthcare.gov.

In central Iowa the website isn’t much help. In our coverage area, CoOportunity was the only SHOP provider, as far as I can tell. I have entered sample information in the SHOP marketplace for our 50309 zip code, and I get this result:

shop plans 20141224

This makes life complicated for small businesses that don’t currently have “grandfathered” coverage. The “marketplace reforms” of the ACA have a long list of requirements for qualifying coverage. If you provide coverage that fails to meet these rules, you incur an insane penalty of $100 per day, per employee. You need to make sure your broker knows if you don’t qualify for a grandfathered plan.

This also causes problems for employers wishing to take the 50% tax credit for providing employee coverage, as the credit is only available for plans purchased through the SHOP.

Roth & Company considered a plan offered by CoOportunity at our renewal last fall. It was slightly cheaper than our current plan (for which we had a 30%+ premium increase), but we stuck with our grandfathered plan, thinking the disruption to our employees wasn’t worth the minor savings. Bullet dodged.

More coverage:

Des Moines Register, CoOportunity Health falters, taken over by state.

Bob Vineyard, Another One Bites the Dust (InsureBlog).

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Peter Reilly, Tax Court Rules Wounded Warrior Can Take His Time With The Trash – Merry Christmas. Peter discusses a wonderful Tax Court case from earlier this week that treats a disabled veteran as “materially participating” in maintaining three rental properties as a real estate professional. His handicaps, which make his caretaking a slow process, actually helped him achieve better tax results, as Peter explains.

TaxGrrrl offers A Christmas Day Look At Santa’s Tax Bill.

Kay Bell, Merry Christmas 2014

Paul Neiffer, Merry Christmas – 2014

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: You Won a Home! Now What? Part 3 of the Series

Jim Maule, Enact Tax Laws But Break Them?:

Even if Representative Michael Grimm eventually gives in to the calls for his resignation or is removed in some way from holding office, his failure to step down as part of the plea is an affront to hard-working Americans who do their best to comply with the tax law.

Heck, it’s even an affront to lazy Americans.

 

buzz20141017Robert Wood, IRS Hid Conservative Targeting Until After 2012 Presidential Election. Smidgen Corrupt?

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions. It’s the Procedurally Taxing roundup of recent tax procedure developments.

Many folks are taking today off, but Robert D. Flach is Buzzing away with his usual good stuff from around the tax world.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 596

 

William McBride, Japan Plans to Cut Corporate Tax Rate, Leaving U.S. Further Behind (Tax Policy Blog):

Japan currently has a corporate tax rate of 37 percent, the second highest in the developed world after the U.S., which has a corporate tax rate of 39.1 percent (federal plus state). With this cut, Japan would be roughly tied with France for the second highest corporate tax rate in developed world, at 34.4 percent.

Iowa has the highest corporate rate in the U.S., which makes us Number 1 in a not-good way.

Howard Gleckman, House GOP Leadership Would Require Dynamic Scoring of Some Tax Bills. Will It Matter?

20141226-1

Scott Sumner, The French experiment: Laffer >>>>>>> Piketty. (Econlog). France imposed a 75% top rate. Mr. Sumner observes:

Even if you are not a devout supply-sider (and I am a moderate supply-sider, who believes tax increases usually lead to more revenue) it would be hard to deny that this particular tax increase cost revenue, after accounting for the impact of French economic growth.

There are people who seriously insist that a 75%-90% top tax rate would be a good thing. France is Exhibit A.

 

The Cavalcade no longer moves on. The Cavalcade of Risk, the long-running roundup of insurance and risk-management posts is ending. It’s guiding light, Hank Stern, posts the final edition, which includes his own contribution Green Mountain State Blues, on the demise of their attempt at single-payer coverage in one state.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/24/14: Giving season edition! How to give, avoiding traps, and suggestions for the perplexed.

December 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The extender bill was signed while I was away, as you have probably figured out already. While the extenders remain awful policy, at least we go into the year-end knowing what the tax law is. We should be grateful for our presents; even a lump of coal can help keep us warm.

Related: Kristine Tidgren, Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 Revives Tax Breaks, But Only for 2014Paul Neiffer, It’s Official.

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Tax tips for the giving seasonAs the business week winds down early on Christmas Eve, many taxpayers find themselves feeling generous to charity. Here are some things to keep in mind as you go about your charitable gifting

Gifts of appreciated long-term capital gain property are often the most tax-efficient. Such gifts, done properly, give you a full fair market value deduction without ever taxing you on the appreciation. If you are not gifting publicly-traded securities, however, appraisal requirements for gifts over $5,000, and just the paperwork that may be involved in transferring ownership, may make it impossible to complete such a gift this year.

Even gifts of traded securities can be hard to pull off this late in the year. You have to get the securities into the donee’s brokerage account by the close of business December 31. I’ve seen attempts to get this done fail more than once. It is especially troublesome in dealing with small or unsophisticated charities, who might not even have a brokerage account available to use.

Congress renewed the IRA break in the extender bill, but it needs to happen by December 31, and there are some restrictions. The IRS explains:

  • If you are an IRA owner age 70½ or older you have until Dec. 31 to make a qualified charitable distribution, or QCD.
  • A QCD is direct transfer of part or all of your IRA distributions to an eligible charity. You may transfer up to $100,000 per year.
  • You may exclude the distributed amounts from your income. You can claim this benefit regardless of whether you itemize your deductions. If you do exclude the QCD from your income, you can’t also deduct it as a charitable contribution on Schedule A if you do itemize.
  • You can count your QCDs in determining whether you meet the IRA’s required minimum distribution.
  • The provision had expired at the end of 2013. The new law is retroactive for 2014. This means any eligible QCD in 2014 will qualify.
  • Not all charities are eligible. For example, donor-advised funds and supporting organizations are not eligible recipients.

If you want to give cash, the “mailbox rule” applies. The postmark date controls whether a mailed check is deductible this year.  If you don’t care to take chances, a gift by credit card is deductible in the year the credit card is charged, even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until next year.

If you give any charity a gift over of $250 or more, you need to insist on a written receipt declaring that you received no value for your contribution — or disclosing the amount of any value. No receipt, no deduction.

Of course, your gift has to go to an actual charity to be deductible. The IRS list of qualified Section 501(c)(3) organizations can help you make sure your intended donee qualifies.

If you feel generous, but don’t know what to do, I humbly submit for your consideration a few worthy organizations I donate to:

salvation armySalvation ArmyThey take care of many of the most needy and down-and-out with very little leakage to internal bureaucracy.

Institute for JusticeThis organization shut down the IRS preparer regulation power grab, winning a battle all good-thinking people considered hopeless and frivolous. They made the IRS give back the money they stole from the owner of a little restaurant in Arnolds Park, Iowa while forcing a change in their abusive use of their cash account seizure powers. They also support the little guy when the government abuses its eminent domain powers on behalf of the powerful and well-connected.

Tax FoundationThese guys do wonderful work in helping to form better tax policy. While it is difficult to get politicians to make tax policy for everyone, rather than just the well-lobbied, their 2014 successes in North Carolina, Indiana, Michigan and New York show that the good guys win sometimes.

ISU Center for Agricultural Law and TaxationRoger, Kristine, Kristy and Tiffany do great work helping keep the taxpayers and tax preparers of Iowa in compliance and out of trouble. If you use them, like I do, you should help them out.

 

William PerezQualified Charitable Distributions

Peter Reilly, The Wheels On The Easement Void The Deduction

 

 

20131209-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 594. This edition covers the new report by the House Oversight Committee on the scandal.

There is a lot to the report, which I hope to spend more time on. The item that jumps out at me is that 2011 IRS assessments of gift taxes on contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations were no accident, but were instead part of the IRS effort to fight conservative 501(c)(4) organizations.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

The then-IRS commissioner, Doug Shulman, denied at the time that the IRS was making a broad effort to assess gift tax on donors to such tax-exempt groups, which are formed under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Mr. Shulman said in a May 2011 letter to lawmakers that the audits were initiated by a single IRS employee and were “not part of any broader effort to look at donations” to these organizations.

The new report from GOP lawmakers says that “although the IRS denied any broader attempt to tax gifts to 501(c)(4) groups, “internal documents suggest otherwise.” It notes that in May 2011, an attorney in the IRS chief counsel’s office wrote to his superiors that the “plan is to elevate the issue of asserting gift tax on donors to 501(c)(4) organizations,” and seek a decision from the commissioner and the IRS chief counsel.

It’s clear that Shulman at best didn’t care enough to learn the truth before testifying. At worst he gave false information on purpose. Either answer burnishes his crown as Worst Commissioner Ever.

Related: Can political contributions really be taxable gifts?

 

Grimm tidings. A Congressman pleads guilty to tax fraud involving a restaurant he owned. From the New York Times:

Michael G. Grimm, the Republican representing New York’s 11th Congressional District, who carried the burden of a 20-count federal indictment to a landslide re-election in November, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a single felony charge of tax fraud.

Representative Grimm said he had no intention of stepping down. “Absolutely not,” he said.

My limited experience with felons is that they are cursed with grossly excessive self-esteem. That certainly seems to be the case here.

 

20141201-1Robert D. Flach brings the Holiday Buzz! Good tax stuff from around the tax blogs just in time for Christmas.

Kay Bell, Christmas tree ‘tax’ delayed again. Effort to end it continues

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Tax Court: Vacant House Can Still Qualify as Rental

Robert Goulder, The Vatican Bank, Christmas Cheer, and FATCA (Tax Analysts Blog). “The pontiff is cool with tax transparency.”

Tony Nitti, IRS To Sell The Right To Collect Darryl Strawberry’s Remaining New York Mets Salary.

Russ Fox, Nominations Due for 2014 Tax Offender of the Year

 

Amy Frantz, How the Grinch Taxed Your Christmas Candy in Iowa (Caffeinated Thoughts)

Howard Gleckman, The Tax Vox Lump of Coal Awards: The 10 Worst Tax Ideas of 2014 (TaxVox). My list would differ, but there are so many worthy ideas from which to choose.

Career Corner. Be Social, Don’t Skip the Party, and Other Redundant Holiday Party Advice (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/19/14: What to do when capital gain tax is voluntary. And: no signature yet.

December 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: The Tax Update will be taking a long weekend. Back Wednesday.

The President hasn’t signed the extender bill yet. Everyone says he will sign HR 5771, but a lot of taxpayers will feel better when its official.  You can frantically refresh the Whitehouse.gov “Signed Legislation” page to watch for it.

 

Flickr Image courtesy donjd2 under Creative Commons License.

Flickr Image courtesy donjd2 under Creative Commons License.

So you cashed out some stock market gains this year. That makes it a good year to cash out your losers too. Capital losses can be deducted on individual returns to the extent of capital gains, plus $3,000.  That means if you have some unrealized losses on other investments, paying tax is optional to that extent.

If you don’t want to volunteer to pay those extra capital gain taxes, here are some tips for deducting your investment losses:

The loss has to be realized in a taxable account. Selling a loser in an IRA or 401(k) plan doesn’t give you a deductible loss.

-Be sure the trades are executed no later than December 31. For long positions, the trade date controls.

-If you have a loss on a short sale, the settlement date has to be no later than December 31.

-You can’t buy the same stock within either 30 days before the sale or 30 days afterwards. If you do, the “wash sale” rules disallow your loss. The IRS says this rule applies even if your loss is in a taxable account and your gain is in a non-taxable IRA.

Related: Topic 409 – Capital Gains and Losses (IRS.gov)

 

20120906-1Robert Wood, Ranking Facebook, Boris Johnson, Google On Taxes (Diplomatically Please). Well, Boris Johnson is the only one who doesn’t collect corporate welfare from me via the State of Iowa.

Kay Bell, Good news: the 2015 tax-filing season will start on timeBad news: It will be pretty miserable for IRS and taxpayers. Whee.

Jack Townsend, The Rub Between Restitution Assessed as a Tax and a Deficiency

Jim Maule, Code Size Claim Shrinks But Not Enough. The code is bad enough. There’s no need to exaggerate.

Peter Reilly, First Circuit Loss For Transgender Prisoner May Have Positive Tax Implications For Others. Peter can find tax implications in places I wouldn’t have thought to look.

Robert D. Flach gets us Buzzing into the big holiday week.

 

20120702-2Kristopher Hauswirth has been pondering the Farm Bill:

Commodity producers with the resources and/or level of sophistication to confidently optimize their farm bill decisions least need the safety net. While the smallest and/or least sophisticated producers will have to stumble into positive outcomes, if they benefit at all.

The greatest beneficiaries of this law are the people who have serve no public interest in benefitting from a program of this nature. They are the people and entities that create the system, unlock the riddle, and administer the program: lobbyists, lawmakers, attorneys, accountants, and government agencies.

So it’s pretty much like the tax law, then.

 

William McBride, New Research Shows Multinational Corporations Have No Tax Advantage Over Domestics (Tax Policy Blog). “The study calls into question policy makers’ emphasis on international “profit shifting,” including the elaborate efforts by the OECD and rich-country governments to crack down on MNCs exclusively.”

William Gale, Magical Thinking on Tax Reform (TaxVox). “Tax reform is important but policy makers and the public should not be misled about its true trade-offs. Unfortunately, the benefits of reform are more modest than its backers sometimes claim and its costs are often higher.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 589

 

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Clint Stretch, Did Next Year’s Holiday Gift Shopping Just Get Easier? (Tax Analysts Blog). “President Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba may add Cuban cigars and Cuban rum to next year’s holiday gift possibilities.”

Sebastian Johnson, What to Buy the Discerning Policy Wonk in Your Life: The ITEP/CTJ Holiday Gift-Giving Guide. The Tax Shelter Coloring Book!

Career Corner. Be Social, Don’t Skip the Party, and Other Redundant Holiday Party Advice (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). “Now, let’s talk about alcohol. Just because you can get blitzed on Fireball shots doesn’t mean you should.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/18/14: Year-end planning and relatives. And: when will the President sign the extenders?

December 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

When will he sign? Now that Congress has finally sent the extender Bill, HR 5771, to the President, the “expired provisions” require only his signature. When will that happen? I have no idea. There is nothing at Whitehouse.gov about it. But everyone says he’ll sign. It would be the practical joke of the year if he didn’t.

 


IMG_1944Beware t
he relative! The tax law generally assumes that when related parties do business together, they’re up to no good somehow. That’s why the law has so many provisions that deny or delay tax benefits when relatives are involved.

For example, Code Section 267 only allows a deduction to a related party “as of the day as of which such amount is includible in the gross income of the person to whom the payment is made.” That’s no problem if the “related party” is on the accrual method, because they will be accruing the income at the same time you accrue the expense. But if the related party is a cash-basis taxpayer, you have to pay this year to get a deduction this year.

But who is related? It’s more complicated than you might think. For purposes of year-end deductions,  owners of more than 50% of C corporation stock, and their families (siblings, spouses, ancestors and descendants) are related.  Families are usually considered as a single owner for the 50% test.

For pass-through entities — partnerships and S corporations — any owner is a related party, along with members of owners families and anybody related to the family members.

 

Seventh Avenue, Des Moines, this morning.William Perez, Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014. “A quick summary of the tax changes included in the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014.”

Kay Bell, Tax filing projections for the 2015 season and beyond

Peter Reilly looks back on his idiosyncratic tax coverage this year. Everything from atheist parsonages to Dr. Dino. Peter covers a lot of stuff that I wish I did, in a lot more depth than I could.

Jason Dinesen, A Brief History of Marriage in the Tax Code: Part 1, In the Beginning

Robert D. Flach, THERE ARE A LOT MORE THAN 20 REALLY STUPID THINGS IN THE US TAX CODE! “The one and only purpose of the federal income tax is to raise the money necessary to run the government. Period.”

Me, Year-end business deductions: the two-minute drill. My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professionals’ Blog. “While you add up the score in April, December is when you run the two-minute drill.”

 

20130419-1Robert Wood, 8 Savvy Tax Tips & Extenders For Year-End

Tim Todd, 5th Cir. Affirms IRS’s Adjustment Outside Limitations Period for Improper Installment Sale of Partnership Interest.

Keith Fogg, Collection Due Process Determination and Decision Letters Redux (Procedurally Taxing)

Jack Townsend, Plea in Corporate Corruption Case with Tax Charge. Kickbacks kick back.

Gavin Ekins, The IRS’s Long Reach Doesn’t Just Apply to Corporations (Tax Policy Blog). The post describes some of the ridiculous hoops Americans abroad have to jump through to comply with the tax law, and observes:

Are Americans alone in this onerous system? Unfortunately, they are. Only one other country taxes its citizens is this manner. Eritrea, the small country on the northern border of Ethiopia, is the only other country which taxes its citizens who live and work abroad, but unlike the U.S., they have a reduced flat rate for those citizens and none of the reporting burden.  

The results range from annoyance to financial disaster for the absurd crime of committing personal finance while abroad.

Renu Zaretsky, They Saved the Must-Pass for Last. The TaxVox headline roundup provides a good summary of the passage of the extender bill; it also talks about state gas tax moves.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 588

 

20141218-1Cara Griffith, A Champion for Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog). “New York enacted a comprehensive tax reform package designed to improve the competitiveness of the state’s tax code by merging the bank tax into the corporate franchise tax, adopting single-sales-factor apportionment with market-based sourcing, broadening the corporate tax base, and lowering the rate.”

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 12/10: The Best Laid Plans (and Reports) (Tax Justice Blog)

 

Daniel Shaviro,  Evaluating the Case for 1986-Style Corporate Tax Reform, (TaxAnalysts, available via the TaxProf)

 

Career Corner. My Firm Holiday Party is a Teaching Moment For What Not to Do at a Firm Holiday Party (Leona May, Going Concern)

 

News from the Profession. Former Stillwater mayor charged with aiding tax fraud (MPRnews.org):

A former mayor of Stillwater was charged in federal court Wednesday with helping two Minnesota brothers keep millions of dollars in taxes from the state and federal governments.

Ken Harycki, a certified public accountant, knowingly prepared false tax forms for twin brothers Thurlee and Roylee Belfrey and their health care companies, according to charges filed in U.S. District Court.

CPAs, you must only use your powers for good.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/17/14: Lazarus rises! For two weeks, anyway. Senate passes extender bill.

December 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The Senate has passed the extender bill and sent it to the President. The Hill reports:

By a 76 to 16 vote, the Senate passed a measure that would extend more than four dozen tax breaks for both businesses and individuals just through 2014.

Republicans and Democrats latched on to the one-year deal after the White House undercut negotiations on a broader bipartisan package, underscoring divisions between Democrats in the wake of this year’s heavy losses at the polls. Senators from both parties said Tuesday that they would have preferred legislation that restored the tax breaks through 2015.

20130113-3The President is expected to sign. That means we now know what the 2014 tax law is with two weeks left in the year. Unfortunately, all of the revived provisions die again on January 1, and Congress will have to go through this whole exercise to raise Lazarus again.

What does this do for year-end planning?

Fixed asset frenzy. Taxpayers who can place fixed assets in service between now and year-end can qualify for the $500,000 Section 179 deduction or 50% bonus depreciation.

The Section 179 rule allows taxpayers to fully deduct the cost of up to $500,000 in assets placed in service during 2014 that would otherwise be capitalized and depreciated over a period of years. It can apply no new or used property. It is normally unavailable for real estate or rental property. It is limited to taxable income, and it phases out dollar-for-dollar as fixed asset acquisitions exceed $500,000.

Bonus depreciation enables taxpayers to deduct 50% of the cost of qualifying property in the year in which it is placed in service. The remaining cost is depreciated under normal depreciation rules. It is only available for new property with a life up to 20 years, but it is not limited by taxable income or amount of assets placed in service, so it can generate net operating losses.

Remember that the tax law applies special limits to both Section 179 and bonus depreciation for vehicles.

S-SidewalkS corporation Built-in gains. The tax law requires S corporations to pay a 35% corporate-level tax on “built-in gains” included in taxable income during the “recognition period” after the convert from C corporation status. “Built-in gains” are income items, including appreciation of asset values, that exist at the time a C corporation becomes an S corporation.

This rule was enacted in 1986 with a ten-year “recognition period.” The tax goes away after the recognition period is over. The bill reduced the recognition period to five years for gains recognized in 2014. That opens tax planning doors. Taxpayers that have been S corporations for more than five years can unload appreciated assets. Taxpayers in their fifth S corporation year can reduce their taxable income to push any gains recognized this year past the recognition period — assuming this provision is extended to 2015.

IRA donations. The extender bill revives the provision allowing IRAs owned by individuals subject to the minimum distribution rules to make direct donations of up to $100,000 to charity. These donations do not show up as income or as itemized deductions on the owner returns.

Other tax breaks revived through the end of 2014 include the research credit, the deduction for state and local sales taxes, the educator expense deduction, charitable donations of conservation easements, and energy production tax credits. The Tax Policy Blog has more coverage, including a complete list of the extended benefits.

Other coverage:

Paul Neiffer, Senate Passes Tax Extender Bill 76-16

Robert D. Flach, FINALLY!

 

 

20130426-1Neil GandalWhy Does Uncle Sam Hate American Expats?  (Wall Street Journal, via the TaxProf):

The U.S. is the only developed country in the world that requires citizens who live abroad to file tax returns. This is so complicated that it is virtually impossible to do without an accountant, and that can cost more than $1,000 a year, even for very simple tax returns.

But that’s only the beginning. There are additional reporting requirements for Americans who live abroad. The FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) requires holders of foreign financial accounts to report detailed information about all such accounts each year. It can take many days to obtain and compile the information and then prepare the form.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2010 made matters worse. Fatca compliance costs for foreign banks are so high that many banks have closed the accounts of Americans living abroad. Joining the ranks of the “unbanked” is becoming the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Our thumbless Congress, eager to to score cheap political points by cracking down on international “millionaires and billionaires,” has inadvertently, but effectively, made it ridiculously difficult for ordinary Americans working overseas to commit personal finance. They have enacted horrific financial penalties for petty paperwork violations. And the IRS has enforced these penalties under the assumption that everyone with an overseas account is a crook.

 

Tony Nitti, Have You Heard The One About The Tax Credit That You Pay To The IRS? It’s the premium tax credit under ACA that many taxpayers will have to repay with their tax returns in April.

Kay Bell, Noah’s Ark park loses state tax breaks (but Christmas is safe)

 

taxanalystslogoJeremy ScottSlashed Budget Shows IRS’s Failure to Build Political Support (Tax Analysts Blog, my emphasis):

Republicans made it clear that the cuts to the IRS were in response to the agency’s recent actions. The GOP has a long laundry list of complaints: the payment of IRS bonuses, the failure to accurately and timely answer questions about the exempt organization scandal, old training videos, and the cost of Obamacare implementation. With the exception of the last item, the Service has been tone-deaf in its response to Republicans. In fact, one might even call some of its vague and misleading answers outright defiance of the House majority. That’s an odd strategy for an agency crying out for more resources to take.

Regular readers know that this is my view also. I agree with this too:

Those who criticize the GOP’s handling of the various IRS scandals have a point. But lost in their reflexive defense of the Service are valid Republican complaints about the IRS’s lack of transparency and responsiveness. For whatever reason, the Service decided that it wouldn’t cooperate with Republicans over the scandal. Maybe it thought the GOP wouldn’t be reasonable. Maybe it thought giving clear answers and admitting obvious wrongdoing would be more damaging to its prospects than being opaque and evasive. Well, it was wrong — both in hindsight, given the budget passed over the weekend, and at the time, given the agency’s duty to be nonpartisan.

Read Mr. Scott’s whole piece. The result will be bad for taxpayers, but the IRS leadership can look in the mirror for someone to blame.

Howard Gleckman, The War on the IRS. As Jeremy Scott notes, the IRS is its own worst enemy in this war.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 587. Featuring a contrarian take on the scandal from Peter Reilly.

Robert Wood, 20 Facts About IRS Targeting, Those Emails And The White House

 

News from the Profession. Going Concern Presents: The Worst of Auditing 2014 (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/16/14: Extenders as dessert after the Senate eats its peas.

December 16th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy seriousbri under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy seriousbri under Creative Commons license.

It appears that the extenders will be served up to the Senate only when the Senators clean their plates. The Hill reports (my emphasis):

Once they are out of the way, Senate aides expect an agreement to confirm Obama’s other pending nominees by midweek.

That would speed up final votes on a package extending a variety of lapsed tax breaks and on the stalled Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

Senate aides say a one-year extension of expired tax breaks will be one of the last items to move because it has strong support on both sides of the aisle and gives lawmakers incentive to stay in town to complete other work. They predict it will pass quickly once put on the schedule.

So lingering uncertainty about the tax law for taxpayers and advisors is the price we have to pay for the Senate to do its job. Glad to help, guys!

 

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

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

Joseph Henchman, A Big Year for State Tax Reform, and Congrats to COST! (Tax Policy Blog):

All groups who work on state tax reform should feel proud of the accomplishments of 2014. North Carolina simplified and reduced its whole system, Indiana and Michigan cut investment taxes, New York reformed its entire corporate tax system, and even Rhode Island and the District of Columbia enacted tax reductions. Additionally, voters defeated tax increase proposals in Colorado and Nevada, and in the spring a big tax increase proposal in Illinois failed. Maine raised its sales tax, the only tax increase at the state level in 2014.

Iowa is painfully absent from this list, and it needs tax reform as much as any place.

 

buzz20140923Robert D. Flach offers your Tuesday Buzz, with links from all over.

William Perez explains How to Make Sure Your Charity Donation Is Tax-Deductible

Jason Dinesen, Changing the Way I Work with Business Clients. “For all entities, I now require some sort of year-round relationship.”

Keith Fogg, Bankruptcy Court Grants IRS Equitable Tolling and Denies Discharge on Late Return (Procedurally Taxing).

Peter Reilly, Tom Coburn Tax Decoder Takes On Clergy Tax Abuse. “Senator Tom Coburn has served as a deacon in a Southern Baptist church but that has not prevented him from taking a blast at a tax break that benefits the Southern Baptist Convention mightily.”

Kay Bell, Congress’ job rating improves! But just by 1 percentage point.

David Henderson, Deadweight Loss from the New California Gas Tax. Rather than using the money for roads, it goes into a big hole high-speed rail.

 

Martin Sullivan, Will Orrin Hatch Lead on Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog). “. If — as Hatch writes in the preface to the report — “reform is vital and necessary to our nation’s economic well-being”– should he not also go beyond publishing reports and principles and write a real bill?”

20141216-1

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 586

 

When there are so many worthy nominees, it’s hard to pick only twenty. 20 Really Stupid Things In The U.S. Tax Code (Robert Wood) I still think the Section 409A deferred comp rules and everything Obamacare should head any such list.

News from the Profession. The Office of the Future Looks Kind of Like a Homeless Encampment Under a Bridge (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/15/14: Is today the day the expired provisions arise? And: Ames Day!

December 15th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Hey, calendar-year corporations and foundations, your fourth quarter estimates are due today.

lazarus risingCromnibus passes. Extenders today? The monstrous $1.1 trillion ($1,100,000,000,000) government funding bill that had been holding up passage of the one-year “extender” bill finally cleared the Senate over the weekend. We might see the Lazarus provisions rise again as early as today. The 55 provisions that expired at the end of 2013, and which HR 5771 would retroactively extend through the end of this month, include the $500,000 Section 179 limit, 50% bonus depreciation, and the research credit. The bill would also extend the five-year built-in gain tax recognition period and the rule allowing IRAs to contribute to charity.

I’ll be following developments and post if the bill clears today.

Update, 10:54: This from The Hill makes it look like nothing happens on the extenders before late tonight.

 

Ames! Today is the final session of this year’s Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. We expect over 300 attendees here at the conference and another 80 webinar attendees.  I always learn a lot from teaching and hearing from the attendees. Thanks to everyone who attended.

 

Kay Bell, Cutting IRS budget is a bad idea for taxpayers, U.S. Treasury.

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.

Kay is correct. Congress continues to pile more policy into the tax law. The IRS has become a superagency with a portfolio covering everything from industrial policy to historic preservation to running the national health care finance system. Oh, and it’s supposed to collect the revenue to finance the government, too.

Unfortunately, with great power comes great responsibility. The IRS has been abusing the power and scurrying away from the responsibility. The new Commissioner has forfeited any goodwill he had by stonewalling Congressional investigators in the Tea Party scandal. He insisted to Congress that the agency had exhaustively tried to retrieve the missing Lerner e-mails, only to have them turn up on backup tapes.

Also, the IRS undercuts its claims of poverty when it spends on things like the “voluntary” preparer initiative to sneak in the preparer-regulation scheme that the courts have barred.

It’s hardly a surprise that Congress isn’t eager to fund a rogue agency with an untrustworthy leader. Until a new Commissioner can restore trust, IRS will continue to struggle to get funding.

 

20121217-1Robert D. Flach, THE RETURN OF THE GAO UNDERCOVER OPERATION:

In 2006 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sent undercover operatives to 19 “commercial preparer” branch offices in a major metropolitan area posing as taxpayers looking to have their tax returns prepared. Errors were identified in 19 of the 19 completed federal returns, some “significant”.

As complicated as the tax law has gotten, this is no surprise, and it’s gotten a lot worse since 2006.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #3-Aragona Trust Changes The Way We Look At Real Estate Professionals.   This case is a big deal, and it definitely changes the landscape of trusts under the new 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax.

Robert Wood, IRS Can Audit For Three Years, Six….Or Forever. “Anyone who is hiding income or assets from the taxman should consider how long they need to be looking over their shoulder.

William Perez, What You Need to Know About the Penalty for Not Having Health Insurance

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About EAs, #3: Two Ways to the EA. One requires working for the IRS.

Leslie Book, CDP and Installment Agreements: Sometimes Court Review is Crucial; Other Times Not So Much. “This past week the Tax Court issued an opinion in a collection due process (CDP) case, Hosie v Commissioner. The case is a bad case for those who support CDP.”

Tim Todd, Tax Court Not Limited to Administrative Record in Plan Revocation Action

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 585.

Peter Reilly, Did You Hear The One About Lois Lerner Walking Into A Bar?

Elaine Maag, Will Immigrants Get A Tax Windfall From Refundable Credits? (TaxVox)

Alan Cole, The Problem with Free Stuff (Tax Policy Blog):

If you see a promotion for something like 7-Eleven’s Free Slurpee Day, you always end up having to temper your excitement when you realize that you’ll inevitably be waiting in line with the many others who want to enjoy the same treat. This is an unfortunate fact of life, the sort of thing we all reluctantly come to grips with by the time we turn twelve or so.

What puzzles me, then, is why we so often forget that fact of life when we’re sitting in traffic.

Roads are very much like free Slurpees. While roads are certainly not free to construct (much like a Slurpee isn’t free to make) using a road involves relatively little in the way of a user fee.

I’ve driven in Slurpee-like conditions. Good tires are a must.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/12/14: Extenders by tomorrow? Don’t count on it.

December 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

IMG_2491They filed an extension.  Congress avoided a “shutdown” of the government blast night by passing a bill to fund the government for two more days. That presumably gives the Senate time to pass the “Cromnibus” train wreck to fund most of the leviathan for the rest of the fiscal year. Now it looks like they might wrap it up by Monday.

The Hill reports that Outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid will have the Senate take up the one-year tax extender bill as soon as the spending bill passes:

“We’ll take up the long-term spending bill tomorrow,” Reid said on the floor shortly before 10 pm Thursday. “Senators will want to debate this legislation. We’ll have that opportunity. The Senate will vote on the long-term funding bill as soon as possible.”

The omnibus will have to wait, however, until the Senate casts a final vote on the annual Defense Department authorization bill, which may take place as late as 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Reid hopes to pass the omnibus on Friday or Saturday and then move immediately to a one-year extension of various expired tax provisions.

The expired provisions would be revived by HR 5771. The bill retroactively extends the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, 50% bonus depreciation, the R&D credit, and the 5-year S corporation built-in gain recognition period through the end of this month. It also extends the IRA charitable contribution break and the non-business energy credits, among many other things.

There is a chance this could drag out until Monday, according to The Hill:

Reid will need to get unanimous consent to stick to his plan to finish work by Saturday. If any of his colleagues object to moving the omnibus quickly, a final vote on it could be delayed until Monday. 

Given the strong dislike of the bill from parts of each party, that’s a real possibility.

Related: Paul Neiffer, Tax Extender Bill May Be Punted to WeekendRenu Zaretsky (TaxVox),  Everybody’s Working for the Weekend.

 

Scott Drenkard and Richard Borean offer a map of Corporate Alternative Minimum Taxes by State, as of July 1, 2014 (Tax Policy Blog):

state corp amt map

Iowa has one. It adds a lot of complexity and very little revenue. Sort of like the Iowa corporation income tax itself.

 

William Perez offers some Year End Tax Planning Ideas for Self Employed Persons

Annette Nellen discusses Filing status challenges and developments

Robert D. Flach brings a “meaty” Friday Buzz, including a discussion of which states are the most corrupt. The “winner” may surprise you.

Keith Fogg, Bankruptcy’s Bar to Filing a Tax Court Petition

Peter Reilly, With Amazon Facing $1.5 Billion Income Tax Bill, Bezos Too Busy To Testify.

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About EAs, #3: Two Ways to the EA

Breandan Donahue, Top Six Year-End Estate Planning Tips (ISU-CALT)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 582

Richard Phillips, Cutting the IRS Budget is a Lose-Lose for American Taxpayers (Tax Justice Blog)

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Kay Bell, Tax reform bill finally introduced in Congress’ waning days. If its going to pass never, it doesn’t hurt to start it late.

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Tax Roundup, 12/11/14: Cromnibus cuts IRS budget, delays extender vote. And: Mileage goes to 57.5 cents.

December 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The “Cromnibus” train-wreck spending bill process seems to be holding up everything else, including the extender vote. The 55 Lazarus provisions awaiting revival are on hold while Congress struggles to avert a government “shutdown” at midnight tonight.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Reid has said that the Senate will finish the Cromnibus before voting on the extender bill, HR 5771. The house-passed bill would extend dozens of tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013 retroactively through the end of this month. Business provisions in the bill include the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, 50% bonus depreciation, the R&D credit, and the 5-year built-in gain period for S corporations. The provision allowing IRA charitable donations is among the individual breaks at stake.

There is no indication that the Senate will fail to eventually pass HR 5771, or that the President will veto it, but politics are uncertain, and I’ll feel better about things when they do pass it. It appears the hope they would finish up today is wishful thinking, though; this Wall Street Journal story says the House is expected to pass a two-day funding bill today to give the Senate extra time to approve the spending bill.

The IRS faces a 3.1% funding cut in the bill. That’s a tribute to the tone-deaf and confrontational attitude of IRS Commissioner Koskinen, who has responded to the Tea Party scandals pretty much by saying “give us more money!” Given the increased responsibilities given the IRS by Congress, cutting their budget seems strange. Yet as long as the Commissioner keeps antagonizing his funders, and keeps finding money to fund his “voluntary” preparer regulation program to get around the Loving decision, he can expect similar appropriation success.

Related: Paul Neiffer, Tax Extender Bill May Be Punted to Weekend

 

Mileage rate goes to 57.5 centsWith gas prices falling, the standard IRS mileage rate is naturally going… up. The IRS yesterday released (Notice 2014-79) the 2015 standard mileage rates:

– 57.5 cents per mile for business miles. This is 56 cents for 2014.

– 14 cents per mile for charity miles, same as in 2014.

– 23 cents per mile for medical and moving miles. This rate is 23.5 cents for 2014.

Related: William Perez, How to Deduct Car and Truck Expenses on Your Taxes

 

20130819-1Peter Reilly, Iowa Corporation Not Liable For California Corporate Tax From Ownership Of LLC Interest. It discusses a California court ruling that mere ownership of a California LLC interest isn’t enough to make the corporate owner subject to California’s $800 minimum franchise tax. If it holds up, it will be good news for many taxpayers dinged by this stupid fee.

Jim Maule, Do-It-Yourself Tax Preparation? Better? Paid preparers didn’t do an impressive job handling the GAO’s secret shoppers.

Kay Bell, Mortgages offer nice tax breaks, but in limited parts of the U.S.

 

The new Cavalcade of Risk is up! at WorkersCompensation.com.  Always good stuff in the venerable roundup of insurance and risk-management blog posts; this edition features Hank Stern’s take on the “creepy” ACA 404Care.gov site.

 

Bryan Caplan, The Inanity of the Welfare State:

While taxes are highly progressive, transfers have an upside-down U-shape.  Households in the middle quintile get the most money.  The richest households actually get more money than the poorest.  Think about how many times you’ve heard about government’s great mission to “help the poor.”  Could there be any clearer evidence that such claims are mythology?

Eye-opening. Read the whole thing.

 

 

Robert Wood, Obama Justice Department Was Involved In IRS Targeting, Lerner Emails Reveal

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 581

 

EITC error chartAlan Cole, Treasury Report: Improper Payments Remain a Problem in EITC, Child Credit (Tax Policy Blog)

David Brunori, Mississippi’s Very Good Idea to Help its Poor (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s an earned income tax credit. Given the massive EITC fraud and error rate, I’m not convinced.

Tax Justice Blog, Update on the Push for Dynamic Scoring: Will Ryan Purge Congress’s Scorekeepers?

Joseph Thorndike, Wall Street Journal Prefers Ignorance to Expertise (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s about the CBO.

 

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Robert Goulder, Taxing Diverted Profits: The Empire Strikes Back (Tax Analysts Blog).  “The message is this: Once people realize what a functional territorial regime looks like, they suddenly become less enamored with the concept. One of several reasons why U.S. tax reform won’t be easy.”

Chris Sanchirico, A Repatriation Tax Holiday for US Multinationals? Four Contagious Illusions (TaxVox)

 

News from the Profession. The AICPA Can’t Figure Out Why Record Numbers of Accounting Grads Aren’t Taking the CPA Exam (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/10/14: Extender bill lives, permanent charitable extender bill doesn’t. And: don’t just buy it; install it!

December 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

lizard20140826Whither the extender bill? HR 5771, the bill to extend retroactively through the end of this month the 55 or so tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013, has been “placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.” That means it appears to be proceeding to a vote, though I find nothing on when that will happen. Tax Analysts reports ($link) that outgoing Senate Majority Leader Reid says he will take up the extender bill ” after finishing work on a defense authorization bill and a government funding measure.”

Meanwhile, the President has threatened to veto a separate attempt to permanently extend three charitable breaks in the extender bill, including the break for IRA contributions. While that’s bad for those breaks, it implies that the White House will not oppose HR 5771’s one-year extension.

 

20130422-2Because it looks as though the “extender” bill will clear the Senate, taxpayers looking to add fixed assets have extra incentive to get it done this year. The bill extends through 2014 — and only through 2014 — the $500,000 limit on Section 179 deductions and 50% bonus depreciation. These breaks allow taxpayers to deduct over half (bonus depreciation) or all (Section 179) of the cost of fixed assets that are otherwise capitalized, with their deductions spread over 3 to 20 years.

Taxpayers should remember that it’s not enough to order or pay for a new asset by the end of 2014 to qualify for these breaks. The asset has to be “placed in service” by year end.

A Tax Court case from last December drives home the point, where a taxpayer lost an $11 million bonus depreciation deduction in 2003 because an asset bought at year-end wasn’t “placed in service” on time.  Judge Holmes takes up the story:

On December 30, 2003, an insurance salesman named Michael Brown1 took ownership of a $22 million plane in Portland, Oregon. He flew from there to Seattle to Chicago — he says for business meetings — and then back to Portland. Brown says these flights put the plane in service in 2003, and entitle him to a giant bonus-depreciation allowance. But a few days later he had the plane flown to a plant in Illinois where it underwent additional modifications that were completed about a month later.

The IRS argued that the need for modifications meant the airplane wasn’t “placed in service” before year end. The taxpayer argued that the airplane was “fully functional” as purchased, and therefore was “placed in service” when acquired and used for its first flight on December 30, 2003. The court agreed with the IRS:

While acknowledging in his briefs that those modifications made the Challenger “more valuable to him” and allowed him to “more comfortably conduct business” as a passenger, he says they have “nothing to do with the Challenger’s assigned function of transporting him for his business.” The problem is that this posttrial framing just doesn’t square with the trial testimony, in which Brown testified that those two modifications were “needed” and “required”. We therefore find that the Challenger simply was not available for its intended use on a regular basis until those modifications were installed in 2004. Brown thus didn’t place the Challenger in service in 2003 and can’t take bonus depreciation on it that year.

A new asset doesn’t actually have to be used during the year to be “placed in service,” but it has to be ready to go. A new machine should be on the floor and hooked up, not just in a crate on the dock, or in a trailer on the way in, if you want to depreciate it. If the new asset is a vehicle, you need to take delivery to get the deduction. If the asset is a farm building, it needs to be assembled and in place, not in boxes on the ground.

Cite: Brown, T.C. Memo 2013-275

 

20141210-1

 

The TaxProf reports on a new Treasury Inspector General report, TIGTA: IRS Has 25-30% Error Rate In Refundable Child Tax Credits, Mistakenly Pays $6-7 Billion:

The IRS has continually rated the risk of improper ACTC payments as low. However, TIGTA’s assessment of the potential for ACTC improper payments indicates the ACTC improper payment rate is similar to that of the EITC. Using IRS data, TIGTA estimates the potential ACTC improper payment rate for Fiscal Year 2013 is between 25.2 percent and 30.5 percent, with potential ACTC improper payments totaling between $5.9 billion and $7.1 billion. In addition, IRS enforcement data show the root causes of improper ACTC payments are similar to those of the EITC.

So at least 1/4 of the credit is claimed fraudulently or illegally. This is one of the provisions the President insists be made permanent as a price for permanently extending business provisions. He killed the permanent extender compromise when it didn’t also make the child credit permanent.

 

Wind turbineIowa Public Radio reports Grassley Wants Wind Tax Credit to Go Further. He should read Bryan Caplan’s review, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels: We Owe Civilization to Fossil Fuels. “And despite decades of government favoritism, alternative fuels have yet to deliver.”

 

Peter Reilly, Seventh Circuit Will Not Let Tax Protester Blame His Lawyer For Conviction:

James Stuart thought that Peter Hendrickson had “cracked the code” – the Internal Revenue Code, that is. Joe Kristan would characterize it as finding the tax fairy – that magical sprite who make your taxes go away painlessly while your sucker friends send checks to the tax man.   

It’s always fun to be named-checked by a Forbes blogger.

Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Tax Tips for Gifts to Charity (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).

Robert D. Flach, DONOR ADVISED FUNDS. For at least 99.99% of taxpayers, these are far better than setting up a private foundation.

Kay Bell, Sen. Tom Coburn’s parting gift: a tax code decoder

Paul Neiffer, Watch Your Crop Insurance Form 1099s This Year

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About EAs, #2: We Don’t Work for the IRS

Brad Ridlehoover, The Grinch That Stole Their Reasonable Cause… (Procedurally Taxing)

Tim Todd, IRS Erred in Making Notice of Tax Lien a Condition to Installment Agreement

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 580. Lois Lerner appears to have been scheming to sic the Justice Department on the Tea Partiers as early as 2010, according to newly-unearthed e-mails.

 

Howard Gleckman asks Why Does Congress Pay For Some Tax Cuts and Not Others? (TaxVox). “It can’t be the merits of the recipients. By now, TaxVox readers know that the expired tax breaks included such worthies as preferences for race horse owners, Puerto Rican rum manufacturers, and TV and film producers.”

Eric Cederwall asks What is the Simplest Tax System? (Tax Policy Blog). “Normative economics aside, a per-person tax is one of the most economically efficient taxes for raising revenue.”  Not happening, though.

 

Adrienne Gonzalez, Kids These Days Trust the IRS More Than Olds Do (Going Concern). Like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, they’ll figure it out eventually.

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Tax Roundup, 12/9/14: Just because your manager steals your payroll taxes doesn’t get you out of them. And: Rashia!

December 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

No news on extenders yet. 

 

EFTPSDouble the pain: Idaho business manager steals payroll taxes, but IRS still wants them. An implement dealer in Idaho hired a manager to run day-to-day operations. He learned the hard way that while you can delegate your payroll tax function, you can’t escape it.

The taxpayer, a Mr. Shore, hired Mr. Lewis to run Bear River Equipment, Inc. (BRE), a McCormick Tractors dealership. Mr. Lewis had managed the dealership before Mr. Shore acquired it, so it seemed a sensible hiring decision.

Things started to go wrong quickly. Mr. Lewis failed to remit payroll taxes in his first year running the dealership. Mr. Shore kept up with the business by phone and made quarterly visits, according to a U.S. District Court judge, and he also reviewed financial results. This process enabled him to note unpaid taxes in 2005, the first year of operations, and he had Mr. Lewis get them caught up.  As owner, Mr. Shore had checkbook authority, but he let Mr. Lewis take care of it for him.

The judge explains how things went very wrong (my emphasis):

In August 2007, Shore received notice from an Internal Revenue Service Agent that there were some serious issues with BRE’s employment taxes for 2006 and 2007. This notice was the first time Shore became aware that BRE’s 2006 and 2007 payroll taxes had not been paid. Shore subsequently learned that Lewis had been embezzling from BRE, failing to pay creditors or pay BRE’s taxes, and stealing BRE’s assets. Upon discovering Lewis’ fraud, Shore fired Lewis and took over management of BRE.

Not a good hire, in hindsight. It proved fatal to the business:

Shore ultimately decided to close BRE because he believed he could not pay all of the liabilities and contribute sufficient working capital to keep the company going. Before closing the company, however, Shore allowed more than $120,000 from BRE’s checking accounts to be paid to unsecured creditors other than the United States.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Via Wikimedia Commons

As it turns out, that was a false move. The tax man gets really, really upset when payroll taxes aren’t remitted to the IRS. The business was incorporated, which protects owners from most liabilities incurred inside the corporation. The tax law, though, allows the IRS to collect payroll taxes from “responsible persons,” regardless of the existence of the corporation, if there is a “willful” failure to remit. The court held that Mr. Shore was a “responsible person” even though he didn’t run the business day-to-day:

…despite delegating his authority to Lewis and permitting him to run BRE’s daily affairs, Shore remained a “responsible person” because he had effective control of the corporation and the effective power to direct the corporation’s business choices, including the withholding and payment of trust fund taxes.

It’s not enough to be “responsible.” The tax law requires “willful” nonpayment of employment taxes to assess them against a responsible person. The $120,000 payment was a bad fact, according to the court:

Here it is undisputed that Shore learned of BRE’s unpaid tax liability in August 2007. It is also undisputed that BRE paid more than $120,000 to unsecured creditors after Shore learned of BRE’s tax liability. Shores’ failure to remedy the payroll tax deficiencies upon learning of their existence in August 2007, while subsequently allowing corporate payments to be made elsewhere, including to unsecured creditors, constitutes “willful” conduct under § 6672.

The Moral? There are a number of lessons to be drawn here. One is basic accounting controls. It appears that the manager had far too much control over the accounting function and bank accounts, enabling him to loot the company, and the payroll tax account, before the owner caught on.

Even with poor accounting controls, though, the owner could have detected the non-payment of payroll taxes. These are supposed to be remitted under the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Users of EFTPS can log into their payroll tax account and monitor their payments. Had Mr. Lewis done so, he might have detected the failure to make payments that ultimately ballooned into a million-dollar payroll tax deficiency.

Cite: Shore v. U.S., DC-ID, No 1:13-cv-00220

 

Gas Tax Fever: Branstad Weighs Proposed Gas Tax (CBS2Iowa.com): “On Monday Governor Branstad said he would keep an open mind on raising the tax if a bipartisan plan came to his desk and he’s hopeful lawmakers can come to some agreement this coming year.”

 

Mason City Sundog Morning. It’s cold here today.

Peter Reilly, Chief Counsel Advice Provides Timely Warning About 1099 Filing Requirements. “A recently released memo from the IRS Chief Counsel – CCA 201447025 – drives home for me the point that there is probably a lot of exposure out there from not filing 1099s.”

Robert D. Flach has your Tuesday Buzz, with a typically rich set of tax links, including one to Prof. Maule’s thoughts on being nice to siblings.
 

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things About EAs: We’ve Been Around Since 1884
 

Paul Neiffer, Are We Getting Section 179 Fatigue? “After purchasing a lot of equipment over the last 4 years to take advantage of Section 179, I am not sure how much capital is still available to purchase even more equipment to get the Section 179 deduction.”
 

Kay Bell, Attention older IRA owners, your RMD is due by Dec. 31
 

Michael Schuyler, The Government’s Tax-Transfer System Is Extremely Progressive (Tax Policy Blog):

In November, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released the latest annual edition of its report on the distribution of household income and federal taxes, with data for 2011. The CBO study confirms that the federal tax system is progressive. It further shows that government transfers to households are also progressive.

It appears that way:

transfer-tax ratios

Chart from Tax Policy Blog

 

Jeremy Scott, The New GOP Congress and the Congressional Budget Office (Tax Analysts Blog). “If Republicans accept the premise that shaking up congressional staff would make it look like they are rigging the process in favor of their proposals, that undermines the logic behind their priorities to begin with.”

Isabel Sawhill, The Lee-Rubio Family-Friendly Tax Is a Disappointment (TaxVox)

Martin Sullivan, Rand Paul Puts Chokehold on Cigarette Taxes — He’s Got a Point (Tax Analysts Blog).:

But there are still 42 million smokers in the United States. Nicotine is extremely addictive. These folks should elicit our compassion, not our contempt. And if we are going to fine them for their sins, the revenues should not inure to our benefit.

State governments are loathe to give up their nicotine fix.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 579

 

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

Rashia gets time off. The self-proclaimed “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud” will return from exile a little sooner, thanks to an appeals court decision yesterday. From Tampa Bay Online:

A federal appeals court has thrown out Wilson’s two sentences, ruling that senior U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. made procedural errors that may have increased her total prison term by more than 3 1/2 years.

Her convictions stand and Moody retains discretion. But he must recalculate the formula he used to determine punishment and he must resentence Wilson, now 29, at a future hearing.

Ms. Wilson is unlikely to be coming home right away. She is serving a 21-year sentence on charges related to identity theft refund fraud. She got in trouble after taunting the IRS on her Facebook, which also included photos of her posing with wads of stolen cash.  The article explains the background for the sentencing reduction:

The original sentencing was especially complex because Wilson was indicted twice in 2012. In one case, she pleaded guilty to possessing guns, illegal for a felon. In another, she admitted to netting more than $3 million through aggravated identity theft and wire fraud.

When using social media, sometimes it pays to be discreet.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/8/14: Denison! And: Do-or-die week for extenders?

December 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

donnareedThe Tax Update comes to you today from Denison, Iowa, birthplace of actress Donna Reed. It’s also the fertile ground from which sprang the fertile imagination of Kennedy assassination figure Jim Garrison.

Today Denison hosts the seventh session of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. I’m helping out with the Day 1 panel. The last session is in Ames next Monday (register now!).  If you can’t be there in person, that session will also be webcast.

 

Congress wants to finish up its year Thursday, reports The Hill. This article says the Senate is expected to take up the “extenders” bill before it goes home. This could mean that Majority Leader Reid’s comments last week that he might be too busy to bring up the bill are no longer operative. I hope so.

This post from the Tax Policy Blog lists all of the extenders passed by the House last week in HR 5771. The bill revives these provisions through the end of this month, retroactively to the beginning of 2014. Prominent among them are the $500,000 Section 179 limit, 50% bonus depreciation, the research credit and the five-year limit on built-in gains. The bill also includes individual provisions like the exclusion for IRA donations for charity and the deduction for educator expenses and the non-business energy credit.

Paul Neiffer, Senate to Vote on Tax Extenders on Wednesday?

 

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Today in Denison, Iowa.

 

Tax reform on the Iowa legislative agenda? The Des Moines Register reports that legislators are at least thinking about it.

Income tax reform will be high on the agenda when the Legislature convenes in January, although many details have yet to be hammered out, key lawmakers said Friday.

However, Democratic and Republican legislative leaders told the Iowa Taxpayers Association they are welcoming a debate on revising Iowa’s income tax system.

This paragraph from the story is why I don’t expect much to happen this session:

State Rep. Tom Sands, R-Wapello, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said his preference would be to examine corporate and individual income taxes while exploring ways to simplify the tax system. Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said any tax cuts should be focused on helping middle-class Iowans.

Nor does this bode well:

“If it is only to say really rich people get a break that nobody else can use; no, it doesn’t pass muster,” Gronstal told reporters.

If you have to “explore” ways to simplify Iowa’s byzantine tax system, you haven’t looked very hard. The whole thing about “really rich” taxpayers could guarantee that any reform of Iowa’s high rates and complexity won’t pass muster with Senator Gronstal, which is the same thing as not clearing the Iowa Senate.

If they do want to get serious, though, they could do a lot worse than starting with The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform plan, sweeping away vast swaths of deductions and crony credits, eliminating the corporation tax, and slashing rates.

 

Just a few quick links today:

 

20121108-1Russ Fox, Speaking of Efficiency. “Imagine what would happen if every Congresscritter did their own tax returns by hand. The Tax Code would unanimously be shrunk four hours later.”  I think they should have to do it on a live webcast with a running comments feature.

Robert D. Flach, EVERYBODY OUGHT TO HAVE AN IRA

Kay Bell, IRS holding millions of dollars in frozen taxpayer accounts

TaxGrrrl, Whistleblower Alleges Vanguard Cheated On Taxes, Costing Taxpayers More Than $1 Billion

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 578

 

20141208-2TaxSlayer Bowl! Iowa’s highest-paid state employee will lead the 7-5 Hawkeyes to Jacksonville to compete with 6-6 Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl.  I understand the game will be played under standard college football rules. It would help the educational mission of the schools if they modified the rules to reflect the tax theme. If college football had rules like the tax law, we might see some different rules.

– Throughout the game, referees would audit completed plays, with the option of imposing penalties for infractions in the three prior games, with yardage charged in the current game.

– When the play clock runs down, the quarterback can call for one automatic extension.

– When calling an audible, the quarterback will have to request a change in method from the referee.

– When a penalty is called, the referees could not tell the opposing team what the penalty is for under confidentiality rules.

– Penalties can be imposed on coaches who are “responsible persons” with respect to the infraction.

– If you like your football, you can keep your football.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/5/14: Senate just too busy to pass extenders? And: grumbling about incentive tax credits.

December 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

lizard20140826Is the Senate just too darn busy to vote on the House-passed extender bill? Lame Duck Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says it just might be, says a report in The Hill:

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday night that the Senate might not be able to pass the House tax extenders bill before the end of the year.

“Everyone knows we have to do a spending bill. Everyone knows we have to do a defense bill,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “Everyone knows that we’re trying to do some tax extenders. We’re trying to do that but we’ll see.”

I hope he’s not serious. Given the stakes to individual and business taxpayers and to the IRS this filing season, I think Senator Reid coud fit an up-or-down vote into his busy, busy day.

This passive-aggressive foot-dragging could be an attempt to get some concession out of Senate Republicans while Senator Reid still is majority leader. Perhaps it’s a mere gesture to save face after his humiliation at the hands of the President, who shot down a compromise he had negotiated with House GOP taxwriter Dave Camp. Or maybe it’s just a poke at the GOP, which will take over the Senate next month.

The bill  (HR 5771) would extend 55 provisions that lapsed at the end of 2013 through the end of this month retroactively. The Lazarus Provisions include the $500,000 Section 179 limit, 50% bonus depreciation, the research credit and the five-year limit on built-in gains. It also includes individual provisions like the exclusion for IRA donations for charity and the deduction for educator expenses.

I still expect the Senate to pick up the bill soon. Accounting Today reports that the Senate is likely to vote on the House-passed “Extender” bill as soon as next week. Still, it is an unwelcome turn in the extenders melodrama, leaving taxpayers and the IRS hanging just a little longer.

Prior coverage: House passes extenders; Senate alternative appears dead. And: Gas tax fever!

Paul Neiffer, House Passes HR 5771 Tax Extender Bill

 

20120906-1Will corporate welfare tax incentives be an issue in the next Iowa legislature? A report by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell hints that it might be:

State assistance to attract Google, Microsoft, and Facebook to Iowa is under scrutiny by a statehouse committee.

The panel is looking at tax incentives the state hands out to attract industry, including the big datacenters which are making more than three billion dollars in capital investments in the state.

It appears chief Iowa Senate taxwriter Joe Bolkcom is involved:

“We need a better handle on the money being spent and the jobs being created,” says Iowa City Democrat Joe Bolkcom.

Officials with the Department of Revenue say the companies’ tax records are confidential . Lawmakers may sponsor legislation to get around that.

“Taxpayers have a right to know the exact cost,” Bolkcom says.

That’s the wonder of corporate welfare tax credits. Because tax returns are confidential, we can’t know exactly how much taxpayer money is thrown at any company. All we see are the phot0-ops and ribbon cuttings by the politicians who are being generous with other people’s money.

Senator Bolkcom says Iowa’s tax credits have doubled in four years. That’s true, though they are still below the $342 million record set in fiscal year 2007. The most recent Iowa Tax Credits Contingent Liabilities Report shows $248.5 million tax credits were issued in the last fiscal year.  The report attributes the decline to caps imposed on the credits in the wake of the Film Tax Credit Scandal.  That amount is expected to rise to $402 million for 2016. That compares to $428 million collected by the entire Iowa corporation income tax in 2013, according to this report (page 6).

I have an idea for a compromise. Get rid of Iowa’s highest-in-the world corporation income tax and all of the incentive tax credits. Enact The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform! That should make everyone happy, right?

 

20140826-1Robert D. Flach has some fresh Friday Buzz. It looks like I won’t have my extended comments on his thoughts on tax preparer civil disobedience until next week. Dang extenders.

Keith Fogg, Litigating the Merits of a Trust Fund Recovery Penalty Case in CDP When the Taxpayer Fails to Receive the Notice (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Recovered IRS Emails Can’t Be Revealed Because Of Privacy…That Was Already Breached,

Kay Bell, NYC’s high cigarette tax blamed for Eric Garner’s death.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 575 (TaxProf)

 

Career Corner. Ex-Crazy Eddie CFO’s 10 Tips for Advancing Your Accounting Career (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). Always trust a felon!

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IRS issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for December 2014

December 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The IRS has issued (Rev. Rul. 2014-31) the minimum required interest rates for loans made in December 2014:

Short Term (demand loans and loans with terms of up to 3 years): 0.34%

-Mid-Term (loans from 3-9 years): 1.72%

-Long-Term (over 9 years): 2.74%

The Long-term tax-exempt rate for Section 382 ownership changes in December 2014 is 2.8%.

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

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