Archive for the ‘Tax Roundup’ Category

Tax Roundup, 3/27/15: Scammer targets the Tax Update! And: a Des Moines tax crime sentence.

Friday, March 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

No Walnut STEnhancements in scam productiity. The IRS-impersonator-scammer community seems to be seeking improved productivity through automation. A robo-call to my house yesterday threatened us with dire consequences, including being sued, for unpaid taxes if we didn’t immediately call a New York City phone number — presumably with credit card and bank account information so they could loot our savings.

It was, of course, a scam call. The last year has seen the rise of the IRS-impersonation phone scam. My wife took the call, and wisely didn’t fall for it, but she found it convincing enough to call me just to make sure I hadn’t gotten us in tax trouble (trust, but verify!).

The IRS doesn’t do this. They will never call unless they write first. You won’t be in dire tax trouble without knowing about it before they call you. If somebody calls you claiming to be from the IRS, assume it’s a scam. Hang up. Provide no personal information, no credit card numbers, no bank info. If you have any questions at all, call your tax pro before you do anything the phone caller asks.

The scam phone number was 347-809-5928, by the way.

The IRS has put up an information page about phone scams. People who receive these calls are encouraged to report them to the Treasury Tax Inspector General for Tax Administration. I did.

Other information:

TaxGrrrl, TIGTA, IRS Warn Phone Scam Continues As Fraudsters Rake In Millions

Laura Saunders, No, That’s Not the IRS Calling. Just Hang Up.

 

baudersA Des Moines tax sentence. I missed this when it happened last month, but a Des Moines pharmacist has been sentenced on drug and tax charges arising out of an investigation of illegal sales of painkillers. The Des Moines Register reports that the pharmacist received a two-year sentence in federal prison.

The tax charges are what I find interesting. The pharmacist apparently went through a lot of work to fool the tax preparer for his small family-owned pharmacy, according to the plea deal:

Prior to providing the monthly credit card statements to the accounting firm, Defendant altered the credit card statement by (1) deleting the personal benefit purchases, and (2) increasing the amounts represented as additional inventory from wholesale distributors. Defendant would then provide the altered credit card statements to the bookkeeper, who entered that information…

He also improperly deducted purchases of sports memorabilia, which he now has to surrender to the Feds as part of his sentence. The federal inmate locator website places him at Leavenworth now. The pharmacy remains open, obviously under new management.

Prior coverage: The crime of deducting Cal Ripken’s bat.

 

Mortgage Credit season. Iowa Finance Authority Announces Launch of 2015 First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit:

terrace hill 20150321The program provides eligible home buyers with a tax credit against their federal income tax liability every year for the life of their mortgage. The amount of the tax credit for the 2015 program is set at 50 percent of the mortgage interest paid, up to a maximum of $2,000 per year, for up to 30 years. The remaining mortgage interest may be taken as a deduction from taxable income if the home buyer itemizes.

Eligibility for the Take Credit Program requires home buyers to meet household income and purchase price limitations and meet the definition of a first-time home buyer. The federal income limits vary by county, the limits currently range from $65,300 to $111,300 per year.  A purchase price limit of $250,000 applies statewide with the exception of federally Targeted Areas where the limit is $305,000.

I think the credit is bad policy, but if you qualify, it would be silly not to use it.

 

William Perez, Personal Exemptions Reduce Taxable Income

Keith Fogg, More Bad News for Late Filers (Tax Procedure Blog). “The First Circuit in Fahey joins the Fifth and the 10th in holding that the hanging paragraph at the end of Bankruptcy Code Section 523 excepts from discharge the tax liability for any year in which the taxpayer files the return late – even by one minute.”

Robert Wood, NY Tax Preparer Indicted On 31 Tax Counts Could Face 3 Years Prison—For Each. That’s a lot of years.

TaxGrrrl, After BBC Sacks Top Gear’s Clarkson, Viewers Say They Won’t Pay Tax. The UK has an awful tax on televisions to fund the (literally) state-owned media. That system turns programming decisions into political ones.

 

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Tax Justice Blog, Thank You for Being a Friend: States Make Golden Years a Golden Ticket. This left-side blog shows its righteous side:

Poorly targeted tax breaks for the elderly are a costly commitment for many states—and long-term demographic changes threaten to make these tax breaks unaffordable since older adults are the fastest growing age demographic in the country. Moreover, while poverty has often been associated with advanced age, a 2014 US Census report found that Americans over 65 are less likely to be poor than people in their prime working years, further exacerbating the mismatch between the tax breaks offered and needs within the population.

Despite these concerns, lawmakers in many states have proposed further tax breaks for the elderly (click here to read an ITEP brief on this topic). Here are five states where senior tax proposals are on the table:

Iowa: State Sen. Roby Smith recently filed legislation (SF 277) that would remove pensions, annuities, and retirement income from the personal income tax base. So far, the legislation has 23 cosponsors and a similar bill is being sponsored in the House. Note that Iowa already allows a $6,000 exclusion ($12,000 for married couples) for retirement income…  

If you want to protect the poor from high taxes, fine. But poverty and age aren’t the same thing.

Prior coverage of SF 277 here.

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Jim Maule, Yes, Tax Uncertainty Hurts. ” Tax uncertainty causes economic harm. It also cause other problems, not the least of which is taxpayer anxiety and the opportunity for politicians to grandstand on the issues and to use taxpayer fear as leverage for gathering up campaign contributions.”

Howard Gleckman, The Medicare “Doc Fix” That Isn’t. “The doc fix doesn’t fix much, and what it does repair likely will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt in coming years.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 687

Jack Townsend, Two Courts’ Approaches to Taxpayer Culpability in the Son-of-Boss B******t Tax Shelter.

 

Caleb Newquist, Let’s All Enjoy This Story of a Rich Guy Who Procrastinated on His Taxes and Missed Out on a $1 Million Refund (Going Concern). It tells of somebody who made estimated payments, but never got his act together to file — costing him $1 million. Ouch.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/26/15: Not every project is an “activity,” and why that’s a good thing. And: starting Iowa’s tax law fresh.

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

What’s an activity? The tax law’s “passive loss” rules limit business losses when a taxpayer fails to “materially participate” in an “activity.” Whether an “activity” is “passive” is mostly 20150326-2based on the amount of time spent in the activity by the taxpayer. That can raise a tricky question: just what is an “activity?”

Many businesses do multiple things. Take a CPA firm that does tax and auditing. If those feckless auditors lose money, is that a separate “activity” from the hard-working tax side? Or consider a convenience store owner with two locations; is each a separate activity, or are they one big activity?

The Tax Court addressed this problem yesterday in a case involving a South Florida developer. Greatly simplifying a complex story of real estate backstabbing and inter-family rivalry, the problem was whether an S corporation was the same “activity” as a partnership with the same owners set up for s specific development project. If so, family patriarch Mr. Lamas could cross the basic 500-hour threshold for participation in the combined activity, making his losses deductible.

Judge Buch explains the IRS regulation (1.469-4(c)) governing this issue:

This regulation sets forth five factors that are “given the greatest weight in determining whether activities constitute an appropriate economic unit for the measurement of gain or loss for purposes of section 469″:

(i) Similarities and differences in types of trades or businesses;

(ii) The extent of common control;

(iii) The extent of common ownership;

(iv) Geographical location; and

(v) Interdependencies between or among the activities (for example, the extent to which the activities purchase or sell goods between or among themselves, involve products or services that are normally provided together, have the same customers, have the same employees, or are accounted for with a single set of books and records).

This regulation further instructs that taxpayers can “use any reasonable method of applying the relevant facts and circumstances” to group activities, and that not all of the five factors are “necessary for a taxpayer to treat more than more activity as a single activity”.

Equality in action in the Soviet Union on the Belomor Canal

The judge said that Shoma (the S corporation) and Greens (the partnership) met these requirements, considering they had the same control and both were in the same general business. Also:

Finally, Shoma and Greens were interdependent. Greens operated out of Shoma offices, used Shoma employees, and consolidated its financial reporting with Shoma’s. Greens was formed by Shoma as a condominium conversion project. The shareholders intended that Greens be dissolved after the project was completed and the capital returned to its shareholders.

Because Shoma and Greens meet these five factors, we find that they are an appropriate economic unit and should be grouped as a single activity.

The taxpayer was able to satisfy the court through witness testimony and phone records that he met the 500-hour requirement.

This case is good news for developers, as this structure is common in that business: a permanent S corporation sets up new LLCs for each development project. This case correctly concludes that they are all part of the same development business.

Cite: Lamas, T.C. Memo 2015-59.

 

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.

Me, What an Iowa income tax might look like with a fresh start. My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals’ Blog, on what Iowa’s tax system might look like if we could start over. A taste:

A system designed from scratch would apply the ultimate simplification to Iowa’s corporation income tax: it wouldn’t have one. Iowa’s corporation income tax is rated the very worst, with extreme complexity and the highest rate of any state. 
 
Eliminating the corporation income tax would eliminate the justification for almost all of the various state incentive tax credits, all of which violate the principles of neutrality and simplicity in the first place. For its astronomical rates and complexity, it generates a paltry portion of the state’s revenue, typically 4-7 percent of state receipts.
 
For S corporations, a from-the-ground-up tax reform might tax Iowa resident shareholders only on the greater of distributions of S corporation income, or interest, dividends, and other investment income earned by the S corporations. The investment income provision would prevent the use of an S corporation as a tax-deferred investment. The effect would be to put S corporations on about the same footing as C corporations.

I have little hope in the legislature actually doing something sensible, but we have to start somewhere. I’d love to hear any thoughts readers may have.

 

 

Roger McEowen addresses the Tax Consequences When Debt is Discharged (ISU-CALT): “There are several relief provisions that a debtor may be able to use to avoid the general rule that discharge of indebtedness amounts are income, but a big one for farmers is the rule for ‘qualified farm indebtedness.'”

Russ Fox, A Break in my Hiatus: Poker Chips and Tax Evasion. Russ lifts his head from his tax returns to tell of the tax problems of a poker chip maker that he has personal experience with. “A helpful hint to anyone wanting to emulate Mr. Kendall: Just pay employees in the normal way, on the books, and send the withholding where it belongs.”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): N Is For Nonrefundable Tax Credits

Robert Wood, Tax Fraud Draws 6 1/2 Year Prison Term Despite Alzheimer’s. Specifically, a dubious claim of Alzheimer’s.

Peter Reilly, Did Andie MacDowell’s Mountain Hideaway Require Tax Incentives? To listen to some people, you’d believe nothing good ever happened until tax credits were invented.

 

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Jason Dinesen, Financing a Small Business, Part 5 of 5: Know When to Keep Quiet With the Banker. “Here are a couple of real-world examples I’ve seen where business owners got hung up with the bank because the owner wouldn’t stop talking.”

This has lessons for IRS exams, too.

Kay Bell, Obamacare, bitcoin add twists to 2014 tax filing checklist

Annette Nellen, Another Affordable Care Act Oddity. “Perhaps the problem is more tied to the “cliff” in the PTC that causes someone to completely lose the subsidy once their income crosses the 400% of the FPL (more on that here).”

William Perez, How Much Can You Deduct by Contributing to a Traditional IRA?

 

Alan Cole, Richard Borean, Tom VanAntwerpWhich Places Benefit Most from State and Local Tax Deductions? (Tax Policy Blog):

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The short answer? Places with high state tax rates and high-income earners. Note the purple spot right in the middle of Iowa.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 686

Renu Zaretsky, Sense and Sensibilities. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the House GOP budget, a Texas tax cut, and tax-delinquent federal employees.

 

Richard Phillips, How Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz Would Radically Increase Taxes on Everyone But the Rich (Tax Justice Blog). A taste:

On the flat tax, Cruz has not yet spelled out a specific plan that he would like to see enacted, but it’s unlikely that any plan he proposed will be significantly better than the extremely regressive flat tax proposals that have been offered in the past.

Or, “we don’t know what he will do, but it will be terrible!”

 

Caleb Newquist, Big 4 Gunning for Big Law. To steal a cheap line: who wins if the Big 4 and Big Law fight to the death? Everybody!

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Tax Roundup, 3/24/15: Goldilocks and the medical practice. And: the spirit is willing, but the Tax Fairy is weak.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Reasonable Compensation and the Goldilocks Rule. The IRS has been fighting taxpayers over how much compensation is “reasonable” since Great-grandpa realized he could reduce his corporate tax by taking it out as a salary. The agency historically fought this war over whether taxpayers were taking too much compensation. The IRS has since opened a second front, arguing that S corporation owner-employees were improperly reducing their employment taxes by taking too little salary out of the corporation. Employee owners now need to find a comp level that is “just right.”

As in any two-front war, a victory on one front might cause problems on the other. A Tax Court victory yesterday for the IRS over an eye doctor who took “too much” compensation may give ammunition to S corporation professional practices that take corporate earnings out via their K-1s and distributions — free of Medicare taxes — rather than as salary and bonus.

Judge Kerrigan says Dr. Ahmad, the owner and principal employee of Midwest Eye Center, took four $500,000 bonuses in November and Decemeber of 2007. This wiped out corporate income, which would likely have otherwise been taxed at a flat 35% rate under the “professional corporation” tax rules. They even overdid the bonus a little, carrying a net operating loss into 2008.

The taxpayer failed to convince the judge that the bonus was “reasonable”:

Petitioner produced no evidence of comparable salaries. Instead, petitioner argues that there are no “like enterprises” under “like circumstances” from which to draw comparisons. Petitioner argues that Dr. Ahmad’s large bonus was reasonable for several other reasons. Petitioner points to Dr. Ahmad’s increased workload during 2007 and the various roles that Dr. Ahmad performed, such as CEO, CFO, and COO, and the corresponding managerial duties of those positions. However, petitioner did not provide any methodology to show how Dr. Ahmad’s bonus was determined in relation to these responsibilities.

This tells us that when you have a C corporation owned by a single professional, you have to do more to determine how much bonus is “reasonable” than estimate what the pre-bonus taxable income is. If you are going to suck the income out of such a corporation through bonuses, it is wise to have written bonus criteria that make sense when compared to other practices.

It might be even better to make an S corporation election. The medical practice C corporation was hit with over $320,000 in tax on $1 million “excessive” compensation (and some other items), and another $62,000 in penalties — all of which would have been avoided in an S corporation, where all income is taxed on the 1040 regardless of whether it is “excessive.”

In fact, this case helps S corporation professional practices a little, in that it is evidence that it is not “reasonable” to assume that all income of the practice has to come out as compensation subject to employment taxes.

Cite: Midwest Eye Center, S.C., T.C. Memo 2015-53.

 

tax fairyIRS says “Rabbi” had a tax practice that wasn’t entirely orthodox. A Department of Justice Tax Press Release tells a story of a man who sought the Tax Fairy in the Torah:

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, alleges that Lawrence Preston Siegel, aka Larry Lave, Yehuda Lave and Larry Easy, falsely represented that he is a licensed attorney and CPA in order to solicit business for his tax practice. 

According to the civil injunction suit, Siegel pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion and two counts of subscribing false tax returns in 1994.  He subsequently resigned from the California bar in 1994, lost his CPA license in 1997, and never regained either accreditation, according to the suit.  The complaint alleges that following his release from federal prison in 2001 for additional convictions, Siegel established a tax practice and stated online that he is an “[i]interesting combination of a Tax Lawyer and CPA who is also a Rabbi trained in Spirituality.”  Siegel, the complaint alleges, claimed to others that his “goal as a spiritual Rabbi, Tax Attorney and CPA is to save people money without going to jail … Everybody wants to pay very little tax, I do it legally and morally under the Torah.” 

It never occurred to me that a Rabbi would require the qualifier “trained in Spirituality.” Isn’t that the whole idea? In any case, he isn’t well-trained in tax, if the Justice Department press release is to be believed (my emphasis):

According to the complaint, among his tax fraud schemes, Siegel falsely advised his customers, typically high earners who own profitable businesses, that they can establish companies in Nevada and treat their California home as an out-of-state corporate office.  Siegel falsely claimed that doing so would transform a vast array of non-deductible personal expenses into tax deductible business expenses, according to the suit.  According to the complaint, Siegel boasted about this tax fraud scheme in e-mails, including one where he falsely claimed that his customers are entitled to free housing as tax-free compensation from their out-of-state companies and that “[t]he housing can [b]e luxurious and cost thousands a [] month” because “[t]here is an assumption that corporations don’t waste money.”

What’s amazing to me is that (if the allegations are true) he had clients who actually believed this. Religious or secular, reform or orthodox, believer or non-believer, the desire to believe in the Tax Fairy is strong among all races, religions and belief systems. But there is no tax fairy.

 

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Kristine TidgrenExpanded Relief for Taxpayers Receiving Erroneous 1095-As:

On Friday, March 20, CMS announced that it had discovered additional 1095-A errors among those forms issued by both State-run exchanges and the federally-facilitated exchange. CMS is notifying taxpayers impacted by these errors with emails, phone calls, and messages in their Marketplace accounts. Because of these errors, Treasury is expanding the relief it offered in February.

Now, anyone who (1) enrolled in any type of marketplace coverage, (2) received an incorrect Form 1095-A, and (3) filed their return based upon that form, does not need to file an amended tax return. The IRS will not pursue the collection of any additional taxes based on updated information contained in the corrected forms. This relief applies to tax filers who enrolled through either the federally-facilitated marketplace or a state-based marketplace. As provided before, taxpayers who were harmed by the errors may file amended returns to collect the difference.

So the liability of a taxpayer for potentially thousands of dollars in taxes depends on two items:

1. Whether the exchange botched the 1095-A filing, and

2. Whether the taxpayer filed before the 1095-A was corrected.

These are whimsical criteria on which to stake thousands of dollars of tax credits.

 

Chicago Tribune, It’s Obamacare’s first tax season. Can the IRS handle it?Kristy Maitre of the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation is quoted: “Overall, I do not believe they’re as prepared as they could have been.”

Hank Stern, The Best Laid Plans [Updated]. “In other words, a lot of folks with even rudimentary math skills have figured out that paying the fine penalty tax and “going bare” is a much more cost-effective choice than buying coverage.”

Robert Wood, Happy Anniversary Obamacare Taxes, Many Happy Returns.

 

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Norton Francis, Bobby Jindal’s Revenue Enhancements (TaxVox). “His trick: Turn refundable business credits into non-refundable credits.”

Kay Bell, Downton Abbey’s new tax connection via Rep. Aaron Schock

Tyler Cowen presents New arguments on a carbon tax, including one that suggests a way in which “…a carbon tax could make global warming worse.”

Martin Sullivan, U.S. Effective CorporateTax Rate Higher Than Foreign Competitors? Not Really (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 684

 

News from the Profession. Conducting Tax Return Update Meetings at the Gym Maybe Not the Best Idea (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “If a client requests a meeting at a location where heavy objects are laying around, and there’s an off-chance that the news you have may be anything other than positive, may we suggest an alternative venue.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/23/15: ACA is five years old today. How’s that working out?

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Productivity wins! All three Iowa teams are out of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. Back to those 1040s, fans!

 

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President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act. Image via wikimedia.org

Five years. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was signed into law five years ago today. Thanks to many delays — some part of the original law, others done in spite of the law to get past the elections — taxpayers and preparers are just beginning to cope with key portions of the law.

This is the first year for returns with the individual mandate — officially, and creepily, the “Individual Shared Responsibility Provision.” While many taxpayers thought this would only amount to $95, taxpayers hit with the penalty are learning that their refunds will get dinged for up to 1% of their AGI over a relatively low threshold.

This is also the first year that taxpayers have to true up overpayments of the advance premium tax credit.  Many taxpayers who bought policies on the ACA exchanges had their monthly premiums reduced based on their estimates of 2014 earnings. This subsidy is actually a tax credit, and it has to be reconciled at year end with the actual earnings.  Taxpayers with earnings in excess of what they estimated are now learning from their preparers that they need to write checks.

20121120-2The premium tax credit is horribly designed, with a stepped, rather than gradual, phaseout. One additional dollar in income can result in a loss of thousands of dollars in premium tax credits, which then have to be repaid with the tax return. H&R Block reports that most taxpayers who claimed the credit have to repay an average of $530. The IRS has tried to patch over some of the unpleasantness, unilaterally waiving penalties this year for taxpayers who have to repay the credits.

Here in Iowa, smaller employers who want to offer ACA-approved health insurance can’t, in the wake of the failure of the heavily-subsidized CoOportunity health insurance carrier. The IRS will still allow Iowa businesses to claim the convoluted credit for small employers for 2015. It required carriers who had signed up with CoOportunity to scramble to find new coverage, and it required many families who had already reached their out-of-pocket limits to start them over with a new carrier.

 

Looming over all this is the Supreme Court’s impending decision in King v. Burwell. The IRS decided to allow the premium tax credit in the 34 states using federal exchanges, in spite of statutory language limiting the credits to exchanges created “by the states.” If the court goes with the way the law is drafted, the premium tax credit will be gone for those 34 states, including Iowa. Employers in those states will be suddenly exempt from the “employer mandate” that begins to take effect in 2015. Millions of taxpayers will also be free of the individual mandate penalty because their insurance will no longer be “affordable.”

If you want to celebrate, head over to Insureblog, where they are always updating the latest developments and unintended consequences of the ACA.

 

 

20150312-1William Perez, Did You Pay Interest on Student Loans? It May be Tax Deductible

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Forms: 1098-T, Tuition Statement

Roger McEowen, Are Payments Made to Settle Patent Violations Deductible? (ISU-CALT)

Kay Bell, Tax returns on hold while IRS asks ‘Who Are You?’

Peter Reilly, Ninth Circuit Rules Against War Tax Resister

Jim Maule, Tax Credit for Purchasing a Residence Requires a Purchase. “Nothing in the opinion explains why the taxpayer thought she had purchased the residence. Nor does it explain why the taxpayer, if not thinking that she had purchased the residence, would claim that she did.”

Peter Hardy, Carolyn Kendall, Between the National Taxpayer Advocate and the Courts: Steering a Middle Course to Define “Willfulness” in Civil Offshore Account Enforcement Cases Part 1 (Procedurally Taxing). “The OVD programs have netted many people who may have inadvertently failed to file FBARs, and who are not wealthy people with substantial accounts.”

In other words, shooting jaywalkers while giving international money launderers a good deal.

 

Robert Goulder, When All Else Fails, Blame a Tax Pro (Tax Analysts Blog) “OK, the tax code is a disgrace. I get it. But a member of Congress is blaming tax professionals? Really?”

Congress is sort of like the guy who leaves his food plate on the floor, falls asleep, and then blames the dog for eating it.

 

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Joseph Henchman, 10 Remaining States Provide Tax Filing Guidance to Same-Sex Married Taxpayers. “After the IRS decision to allow gay and lesbian married couples to file joint federal tax returns, we noted that a number of states would have to provide guidance because they require two contradictory things: (1) if you file a joint federal return, you must file a joint state return, and (2) same-sex married couples cannot file jointly.”

Renu Zaretsky, Budget Battles and Filing Follies: The Sagas Continue. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup tells of abundant ACA tax filing headaches and more tax nonsense from the only avowedly-socialist senator, Bernie Sanders.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 683Day 682Day 681. “Commissioner John Koskinen, testifying before the House Appropriations subcommittee this week, admitted that nearly a dozen grassroots conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status are still awaiting determination.”

Robert Wood, Report Says Former IRS Employees–Think Lois Lerner–Can Still Peruse Your Tax Returns. Well, that’s reassuring.

 

Career Corner. Going Concern March Madness: More #BusySeasonProblems (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Brackets asking important work life questions like Which is the bigger busy season problem? Working Saturdays (#1 seed), or Colleagues who heat up smelly leftovers (16 seed).”

I’ll take the underdog.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/20/15: Tax Foundation looks at Iowa Alt Max Tax proposal.

Friday, March 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1284More on the Iowa Alternative Maximum Tax Proposal. The Tax Foundation’s Jared Walczak discusses HSB 215 in Iowa Considers Alternative Maximum Tax:

The basic idea is that each year, taxpayers get to choose between (1) paying under the current graduated income tax structure, claiming any credits, deductions, or exemptions for which they are eligible; or (2) paying a flat 5 percent rate on all taxable income while foregoing most income subtractions.

Those making the election for a flat rate would still be able to subtract the standard deduction ($6,235 for an individual), plus interest and dividends from federal securities, and federal pension income, but would forego other subtractions. In exchange, they could pay a flat 5 percent rate.

Jared comes to conclusions much like I did when I looked at the 2013 version of this proposal:

Iowa is one of a small number of states that allow a deduction for federal income taxes paid, which can certainly be significant. However, I crunched the numbers on a variety of scenarios, and conservatively estimate that taxpayers with more than $40,000 in taxable income would almost always be better off paying the alternative tax—unless, again, they fall into tax-advantaged categories as farmers, low-income families with children, and the like.

It is not, however, a sure thing. Some high income taxpayers might fare better under the traditional rate structure if they combine that federal deductibility with, say, sizable deductions for charitable contributions. And some low middle-income families might qualify for enough assistance through the tax code to make the standard approach worth their while. This adds complexity to the system, as taxpayers would want to calculate their tax burden both ways.

Jared notes that the proposal would be a revenue loser to the state, adding to its political problems. He also provides an example of another state that has tried a similar setup:

Alternative maximum taxes are rare but not unknown. Rhode Island adopted an alternative flat income tax structure from 2006 – 2011 which culminated in lower overall rates and the elimination of the state’s top brackets. That bill included phased-in reductions in the flat rate, whereas the legislation pending in Iowa sets the rate at 5.0 percent in perpetuity, but like the Rhode Island bill, this Iowa proposal draws upon elements of good tax policy. Ideally, though, Iowa would look at ways to reduce its high income tax burden without making taxpayers calculate their tax burden twice.

While I have not heard anyone in the legislature say so, I believe this is an attempt to provide badly-needed individual tax reform to Iowa withoutIf Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this. offending Iowans for Tax Relief.  The self-proclaimed “Taxpayers’ Watchdog” is known as a powerful force in the Iowa GOP, and has been known to set up primary challenges to those falling into its disfavor (though one observer says its influence has waned). ITR is an uncompromising backer of the deduction for federal taxes on Iowa returns. It is very difficult to achieve significant rate reductions while leaving the deduction in place. By leaving the deduction on the books while making it mostly meaningless, the Alt Max Tax backers sneak reform past the watchdog.

Related Tax Update Coverage:

Iowa Alternative Maximum Tax advances to its doom.

The Iowa flat tax proposal: a good deal for middle class and up, but not for lower incomes.

 

Roger McEowen, How Do I Handle Unharvested Crops At Death? (ISU-CALT). “When an individual dies during the growing season, the tax treatment of the crop is tied to the status of the decedent at the time of death.”

William Perez, Did You Pay Interest on Student Loans? It May be Tax Deductible

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Forms: 1098-E, Student Loan Interest Statement

Robert Wood, Which Legal Fees Can You Deduct On Your Taxes?

Kay Bell, IRS welcomes tax tip-off time, aka March Madness betting

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Earned Income Credit

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Rules That Being Accommodation Party In Tax Shelter Is Hard Work. Apparently signing papers can be taxing. I appreciate this:

The Harvard degrees and successful architecture practice were negatives when it came to getting out of the accuracy penalty. Also Mr. Chai had not provided all the correspondence to his tax adviser.  Of late I’ve been thinking that the IRS is too quick to propose the accuracy penalty, a sentiment Joe Kristan shares,  I’ll bet Joe wouldn’t object to this one.  It is actually pretty mild.

Not every wrong tax penalty is negligent or willful, but some certainly are.

 

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Keith Fogg, From Lindbergh to Nixon to Stegman – Fixing Information Flow in Identity Theft Cases (Procedually Taxing):

Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Kansas in the case of Kathleen Stegman ruled that the IRS could keep from the taxpayer the return filed by someone using her identifying information.  The sad part here is that the administrative decision to withhold the returns from her and the Court’s decision sustaining the IRS refusal to turn over the information seems to correctly reflect the law as it stands.  The law should change and taxpayers should have the ability to access documents using their identifying information.

It seems that the IRS is very good at hiding behind taxpayer confidentiality to cover its own mistakes.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 680

Annette Nellen covers the AICPA tax reform suggestions for individuals:

The suggestions address:
1. Simplified Income Tax Rate Structure;
2. Education Incentives;
3. Identity Theft and Tax Fraud;
4. Relief for Missed Elections (9100 Relief); and
5. “Kiddie Tax” Rules.

The AICPA proposal is here.

 

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Howard Gleckman, Trying to Square the House’s Tax Cuts and Its No-Tax-Cut Budget. “House tax writers seem to be ignoring their own party’s fiscal plan.”

Matt Gardner, House Budget Proposal Silent on Fate of Budget-Busting Tax Extenders (Tax Justice Blog).

Career Corner. The Aftermath of the Ex-PwC Employee Who Got Fired After a Dispute with Comcast Is About What You’d Expect (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

Today’s Spambox Bargain: “Canadian Nightcrawlers Shipped Direct To You. Live Guarantee.”

Canadian!

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Tax Roundup, 3/19/15: Iowa Alternative Maximum Tax advances to its doom. And: The Tax Foundation doesn’t want your 1040!

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
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 House Ways and Means advances Alternative Maximum Tax. The committee voted to send HSB 215 to the House Floor yesterday.  The bill would let taxpayers choose between the current Iowa income tax and a simpler version with a broader base, lower rates, and no deduction for federal taxes.

The ideas in the alternative bill are all good policy. But just adding this to the current awful income tax is like spray painting a car that’s half rusted-through. It’s extra work that does no good.

In the real world, taxpayers would compute both taxes and pay the lower one. This is the opposite of the current alternative minimum tax, where you pay the higher of the regular or alternative tax base. That’s why I call it an Alternative Maximum Tax.

If you want to simplify taxes, simplify the tax system; don’t just tack a simplification module on the existing code.

Really, though, this proposal is just for show, as they know Senator Gronstal will never let it move in the Iowa Senate. If it reinforces the idea that you can lower rates with a broader base and by taking out the deduction for federal taxes, it could even do some good. It might even get them thinking about the  Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Filing season tip: Please Don’t Mail Your Tax Returns to the Tax Foundation (Joseph Henchman, Tax Policy Blog):

Someone mailed us their tax returns and documents today. We quickly sent it back to that individual, as we neither process tax returns nor assist individuals with tax planning or preparation. Tax documents contain a lot of private information and everyone should be very careful about to whom they send this information.

We are here for taxpayers but we are unable to assist individuals with tax planning or preparation. Our staff includes scholars who study tax policy and data, not tax preparation professionals.  

Another inadvertent argument for e-filing: those returns are pretty sure to end up in the right place.

 

TPC logoRoberton Williams, Who’s Afraid of Income Taxes? New Interactive TPC Tools To Help You Understand the 1040. A cool new feature at TaxVox:

In bite-sized pieces, Who’s Afraid of the Form 1040? discusses the main tax form, explaining the different filing statuses, who counts as a dependent, and what income is taxed (and what income isn’t). How do deductions and credits cut your tax bill and how does the AMT boost it? And how does the income tax help you pay for college, health care, and retirement?

With tax trivia (we used to file our returns on the Ides of March) and facts (just 2.9 percent of taxpayers will owe AMT for 2014 but they’ll pay an average of $6,500), the new feature explains many aspects of the income tax. It won’t make it easier to file your taxes but it might make the process a bit more interesting.

We have also updated our Interactive 1040. Inaugurated last year, this web tool allows users to examine each individual line of the 1040 and Schedule A (itemized deductions). Pop-up boxes contain brief explanations and links to distributional tables and other TPC resources on each topic.

It might be a good way to help you understand why that refund you thought you had coming didn’t.

 

IMG_1322TaxGrrrl, It’s Not A Scam: IRS Is Really Sending Out Identity Verification Letters. Letters, people, not phone calls, not emails. They don’t call without sending a letter first.

Kay Bell, What should be on the IRS’ taxpayer service to-do list? I would start with not sending billions of dollars to ID-fraud scammers.

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 679.

 

David Brunori, A Very Good Tax Reform Idea in Louisiana (Tax Analysts Blog).

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has a tax plan that should be creating buzz all around the country. He wants to convert some of the state’s individual and business tax credits from refundable to nonrefundable. Let’s be clear: Refundable tax credits are government transfers. They are welfare. They merely use the tax code as a vehicle to take money from some people and give it to others. And apart from the earned income tax credit, no refundable credits represent sound policy.

Given that over 25% of the EITC ends up in the wrong hands, I’m not sold on that one either. David is absolutely correct on the unwisdom of refundable credits, and transferable credits are just as bad.

 

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Tony Nitti, AICPA Sends 34 Tax Proposals To Congress

Annette Nellen posts on Need for greater tax literacy and regulation of preparers. Tax literacy, sure. Preparer regulation? Not so much. Massive simplification? Definitely.

Joseph Thorndike, Mike Lee’s Tax Plan Was Promising. Until It Wasn’t. (Tax Analysts Blog). “Are the reformicons done for?”

Matt Gardner, GOP Budget Proposal Once Again Punts Tough Questions (Tax Justice Blog)

Career Corner. Busy Season Zen: The Swish Montage (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Ommmm.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/18/15: In Spite of all the Danger, state shuts down revenue cameras. And more!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by Robert Couse-Baker used under Creative Commons license

Des Moines to lose freeway revenue cameras. The Iowa Department of Revenue moved to reduce the tax on strangers driving through Des Moines yesterday by ordering the city to shut down its speed cameras in I-235. From The Des Moines Register:

Ten of 34 automated traffic enforcement cameras on or adjacent to Iowa highways must be shut down by April 17 because they are not making roads safer, the state’s Department of Transportation ruled Tuesday.

Among the 10 that would be powered down are speed enforcement cameras on eastbound Interstate Highway 235 near Waveland Golf Course in Des Moines.

Department of Transportation traffic and safety director Steve Gent explained:

Gent said that that section of I-235 is safe, with a crash rate that is significantly lower than the state average for urban interstates. In addition, the crash rate there has not changed significantly since the cameras’ installation, he said.

People who live here know where the cameras are. It’s people who are new to town, who have been driving 75 all the way from Omaha, and who hit town when traffic is light, who are likely to get the tickets. Of course, the municipal highwaymen are not pleased:

“We give out 43,000 tickets a year there to people who that are going 11 miles an hour or more over the speed limit,” Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said. “It’s amazing to me that the DOT doesn’t think that that is a safety issue.”

Hmmm. The cameras aren’t reducing speeding; the number of tickets issued is holding steady. They aren’t reducing the accident rate. But safety is at risk! The the safety of the municipal revenue stream. “Last year, 43,032 citations were issued, which generated about $1.2 million for the city, officials said.”

Related:

The city needs to pick your pockets for four more years to be sure you are safe.

Des Moines revenue cameras: $32,305 per accident ‘prevented’

 

eic 2014The TaxProf reports GAO: Improper Government Payments Increased 18% in 2014, to $125 Billion; EITC’s 27% Error Rate Is Highest of Any Program. That’s $17.7 billion either misdirected or stolen annually under “our most effective anti-poverty program.” It certainly helps reduce the poverty of the scammers and grifters that rob the program, and the shady preparers who make it easier.

 

 

 

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Forms: Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement

And probably not YOUR situation. Clothing tax deductions are OK, but just in certain situations (Kay Bell)

Peter Reilly, Dude Ranch Shareholders Stuck With Corporate Tax – It’s All About Execution. A “Midcoast” transaction falls afoul of “transferee liability.”

Robert Wood, There’s Still Time To Turn Your Hobby Into A Tax Write-off. “Will the IRS pay for your hobby? The short answer is no, at least if you ask the question this way. But sometimes, the IRS will foot the bill provided you make your pastime enough of a real business to qualify.”

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 4: Joint Returns Still the Norm in 1917

Tony Nitti, Take The Tax Bracket Challenge: Which Is The Best Code Section Of Them All?. My favorite is Sec. 6313, without which the whole edifice must fall. It reads in full:

In the payment of any tax imposed by this title, a fractional part of a cent shall be disregarded unless it amounts to one-half cent or more, in which case it shall be increased to 1 cent.

 

If only the whole tax law were that clear and easy to understand.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 678. The IRS role in criminalizing political opposition is discussed.

Clint Stretch, How to Make Tax Return Filing Easier (Tax Analysts Blog)

Scott Hodge, A Response to Josh Barro on Dynamic Scoring (Tax Policy Blog).

Howard Gleckman, The House GOP Budget As Can Opener: An Impossible Task and A New Lesson in Dynamic Budget Scoring (TaxVox)

Caleb Newquist, Triple Entry Accounting: Harebrained or Genius? (Going Concern). “I’ve never been to SXSW, but I imagine that all the smart people talking about smart ideas and getting all smart with each other is nauseating.”

 

Hiryu, the fourth and last Japanese aircraft carrier destroyed at the Battle of Midway 70 years ago today.

Hiryu, the fourth and last Japanese aircraft carrier destroyed at the Battle of Midway

Yes, because it worked so well the last time.  Japan should follow wartime slogan to deal with tax evasion, LDP lawmaker says:

Junko Mihara, a House of Councilors member from the ruling party, referred to the slogan hakko ichiu at a meeting of the Upper House Budget Committee on Monday, saying it represented “values Japan has cherished since its founding.”

The term roughly translates as “all the world under one roof.”

During the Sino-Japanese war and World War II, the Japanese government used the slogan to justify its Emperor-centered policies and overseas expansion.

If that doesn’t work, they can always rebrand it as The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. I’m sure neighboring countries would be on board.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/17/15: St. Patrick didn’t chase the taxes out of Ireland.

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150317-1aTax luck of the Irish. While America celebrates Irish heritage by today by drinking far too much bad dyed beer, we’ll ponder the sober look taken by Kyle Pomerleau at the Irish tax system (my emphasis):

It may be surprising to Americans to hear that Ireland has pretty high taxes. We usually hear about Ireland’s tax system in the context of its corporate income tax rate, which sits a low 12.5 percent, half the average rate of the OECD. We are led to believe that Ireland is a low-tax country in general.

In reality, Ireland’s tax code has some of the highest marginal tax rates, especially on income, in the OECD.

Ireland’s top marginal individual income tax rate is 40 percent on individuals with incomes over 33,800 EUR ($36,236).  On top of that, individuals need to pay payroll taxes of 4 percent on wages and other compensation. Ireland also has “Universal Social Charge,” which tops out at 8 percent (11 percent for self-employed individuals).

Altogether, the top marginal tax rate in Ireland is 52 percent. The average top marginal income tax rate (plus employee-side payroll taxes) is 46 percent in the OECD. Not only is this rate high, it applies at a relatively low level of income ($40,174).

It’s enough to make me glad great-great-great Grandpa took off for North America in the 1840s.*

The tax rate is also high on investment income. Capital gains are taxed at 33 percent, which is significantly higher than the OECD average of about 18.4 percent. Dividends are taxed at ordinary income tax rates of 40 percent plus the 8 percent Universal Social Charge (48 percent).

The US top marginal rate, excluding state taxes, is about 44.588%, considering phase-outs and the Obamacare 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax, but it doesn’t kick in until taxable income reaches $406,750 for single filers and $457,600 on joint returns. Our fully-loaded top capital gain and dividend rate is 19.25%. So if you must drink something, drink to having a less awful top marginal rate than Ireland.

*OK, technically he came from County Tyrone, which is in the U.K., not the Republic of Ireland.

 

daydrinkersMaria Koklanaris reports on a study by the left-side policy shop Good Jobs First (Tax Analysts $link):

There are 11 companies listed in both the top 50 state and local subsidy recipients and the top 50 federal subsidy recipients. They are Boeing, The Dow Chemical Co., Ford Motor Co., General Electric, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., NRG Energy Inc., Sempra Energy, SolarCity, and United Technologies.

Also, six companies on the top 50 state list are on the list of the top 50 recipients of federal loans, loan guarantees, and bailout assistance — Boeing, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase. Five companies – Boeing, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Motors, and JPMorgan Chase — are on all three lists.

All companies you just feel good about when you pay extra taxes, so they can pay less. Especially GE and JPMorgan Chase.

 

Christopher Bergin, The IRS Doubles Down on Secrecy (Tax Analysts Blog):

Faced with blistering criticism over how it handled exemption applications, accusations that it wrongly – and, perhaps, even criminally – withheld e-mails from lawmakers and the public, and rising concerns that it is the most secretive government agency we have, what is the Internal Revenue Service’s response?

To become even less transparent. As the saying goes: You can’t make this stuff up.

I think the evidence can lead to only two conclusions about the current IRS commissioner: either he is the most tone-deaf and socially-unskilled administrator in the Federal government, or he wants to make the IRS as unaccountable as possible.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 677. IRS, fighting transparency tooth and nail.

 

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.

Peter Reilly, Don’t Sic IRS On Racist Frat Boys. “Nobody ever suggests that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Department of Education should pitch in and help collect taxes, but for some reason the IRS is seen as the Swiss army knife of social policy, ready to further shred its tattered reputation addressing issues that stump other institutions.”

 

 

William Perez, Need to File a Year 2011 Tax Return? Deadlines and Resources

Kay Bell, Filing tips for the 2015 tax deadline that’s just a month away

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): I Is For Insolvency. And Illinois, but that’s the same thing.

Robert Wood, Of Obamacare’s Many Taxes, What Hurts Most. So many choices.

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for week ending 02/27/15 (Procedurally Taxing). A roundup of developments in the tax procedure world.

Russ Fox begins his last part of tax season hibernation. Take care of yourself and your clients, Russ. I’ve been tempted to hibernate myself, but since now is when people are most interested in this stuff, I keep at it.

 

Picture by Dan Kristan

Picture of Irish countryside by Dan Kristan

 

Richard Auxier, Can Rube Goldberg Save the Highway Trust Fund? (TaxVox). “In principle, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is simple. Drivers pay a federal gas tax when they purchase fuel, the revenue goes to the HTF, and the federal government sends the dollars to states and local governments for highway and transit programs. But in practice the system is a mess and a new proposal by a road builder trade group shows just how tangled this web has become.”

News from the Profession. Accountants Share Their Dreams. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/16/15: Corporation returns are due today! And: IRS plays a cruel joke on 2011 non-filers.

Monday, March 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130415-1It’s March 16. That means calendar-year corporation and S corporation returns are due today. Failure to file on time can be expensive. If you are filing or extending today, protect yourself by e-filing. If you must paper file, use Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, to document timely filing. If you can’t get to the post office before it closes, you can go to the FedEx or UPS stores, but make sure you use the right Authorized Private Delivery Service and send it to the proper service center street address, as private services can’t deliver to the service center post office box addresses.

 

Flickr image courtesy Sean MacEntee under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Sean MacEntee under Creative Commons license

Hah! Fooled you! The IRS last week issued a press release: IRS Has Refunds Totaling $1 Billion for People Who Have Not Filed a 2011 Federal Income Tax Return.

If you haven’t filed your 2011 return yet and you want to claim your refund, you’re in for a nasty surprise: you’re probably already too late.

Section 6511 of the Internal Revenue Code (NOT the “IRS Code.” Stop that!) says (my emphasis):

Claim for credit or refund of an overpayment of any tax imposed by this title in respect of which tax the taxpayer is required to file a return shall be filed by the taxpayer within 3 years from the time the return was filed or 2 years from the time the tax was paid, whichever of such periods expires the later, or if no return was filed by the taxpayer, within 2 years from the time the tax was paid. 

That means for most nonfilers, it’s too late to get that 2011 refund, and it’s 2012 refunds that expire on April 15.

Don’t believe me? Then believe Robert Wood

If you pay estimated taxes or have tax withholding on your paycheck but fail to file a return, you generally have only two years (not three) to try to get it back.  Suppose you make tax payments (by withholding or estimated tax payments) but haven’t filed tax returns (shame on you!) for three or four years? When you file those long-past-due returns, overpayments in one year may not offset underpayments in another.

This is why it is an awful idea to fall behind on filing. If you have a refund coming, it dies in two years, but if you owe and don’t file, the statute of limitations never starts, and the IRS can come after you anytime. If you have refunds coming for some years, but owe on others, you don’t get to offset the expired refunds against the amounts you owe. Heads they win, tails you lose.

I wonder if they do high-fives at the IRS Service Centers when people file their 2011 returns looking to cash in on that $1 billion.

Related: Kay Bell, April 15, 2015, is deadline for unclaimed 2011 tax refunds

 

You mean that wasn’t a guitar mass at 2 a.m.? Tax Exempt Church Turns Out To Be A Night Club (Robert Wood).

 

W2TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Forms: W-2, Wage & Tax Statement

Kristine Tidgren, Proving That Loan Was a Gift Requires Evidence (ISU-CALT). If it’s documented as a loan and the “lender” dies, it will be hard to convince the heirs that you weren’t supposed to pay it back.

Annette Nellen, Busy Season Updates – TPR and ACA. Some practical thoughts on this tax season’s biggest new challenges.

Jason Dinesen, Financing a Small Business, Part 4 of 5: Don’t Spend Money Just to Get Tax Deductions. A disappointing amount of this happens right at year-end.

Jim Maule, Who’s to Blame for Tax Fraud?  “As to the first point, that tax software is not the reason for tax fraud, I agree.”

Russ Fox, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Gets a Vegas Preparer in Hot Water

Jack Townsend, Sentencing of Ex-Casino Owner, Nevada Businessman and Former NFL Player for Fraudulent Tax Scheme

 

I went to a hockey game yesterday, and a wedding broke out:

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There was a pretty good fight, too. Not involving the couple, I’ll hasten to add.

 

William McBride, Critics of Rubio-Lee Tax Reform Are Way Off the Mark (Tax Policy Blog):

In sum, there are many reasons to think the Rubio-Lee tax plan, or something similar, would have tremendous growth effects. The Tax Foundation’s macroeconomic tax model finds that the plan is indeed extremely pro-growth, while raising the after-tax incomes of families up and down the scale.

While critics may challenge the magnitude of these findings, given the current state of the economy and middle-class wages, this is a serious plan that should spur an honest debate over how best to overhaul our dysfunctional federal tax code.

He addresses doubters like William Gale.

 

Jennifer DePaul, Michigan House Kills Film Tax Credit, Florida Lawmakers Look to Revamp Theirs (Tax Analysts, $link):

Bill sponsor Rep. Dan Lauwers (R) said the film industry has “sapped the state’s budget without creating promised full-time jobs.”

“For every dollar of taxpayer money we have invested into film subsidies, the state has gotten 10 cents in return from that venture,” Lauwers said in a statement. “There are so many more worthwhile uses we can put that money toward.”

It’s good to see a state legislator grasp the concept of opportunity costs. Florida lawmakers apparently didn’t get the memo.

Jared Walczak, Film Tax Credits on the Chopping Block in Massachusetts (Tax Policy Blog)

 

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IJReview, New Tax Scam: That ‘IRS Agent’ Calling and Threatening You For Your Money Is a Fake.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 676The IRS Scandal, Day 675The IRS Scandal, Day 674. This one, quoting Roger Wood, tells you why the IRS will never be trustworthy under its current commissioner:

After the targeting scandal had been underway for over a year, Mr. Koskinen testified that recovery efforts had been thorough, but the tapes and emails just couldn’t be found. As if to goad Republicans, he said that millions in taxpayer money was spent looking. Over 250 IRS employees spent 100,000 hours, costing taxpayers at least $14 million. However, the Treasury Inspector General has revealed that the IT people at the IRS say no one even asked them to recover the emails.

A new commissioner isn’t sufficient to make the IRS trustworthy, but it is necessary.

 

Caleb Newquist, PwC Gave Former Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp a Job. (Going Concern) It may be tax season, but I suspect he’s not going to be looking at any 1040s.

Peter Reilly, Looks Like No Charitable Deduction For Gifts To Steak And You Know Day. No, not baked potatoes.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/13/15: Making the ultimate sacrifice to tax administration. And: Tax Sadist Tourism!

Friday, March 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SPA51928.JPG#/media/File:SPA51928.JPG

“SPA51928″ by Jan Leineberg – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Maybe I should leave my office door open. A tax office official in Finland who died at his desk was not found by his colleagues for two days (BBC, via the TaxProf):

The man in his 60s died last Tuesday while checking tax returns, but no-one realised he was dead until Thursday.

The head of personnel at the office in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, said the man’s closest colleagues had been out at meetings when he died.

He said everyone at the tax office was feeling dreadful – and procedures would have to be reviewed.

Procedures? Like what? I can see the memo now:

To: All Employees

From: Pekka Raanta, HR director

Re: New Procedures

The recent unfortunate incident involving our dear colleague highlights a need for new procedures for preventing a recurrence of the incident. The presence of unauthorized dead in the office poses both safety and administrative issues.

To ensure early deduction of deaths among our colleagues, we will initiate the following MANDATORY daily procedures.

1. The office manager is to begin each day by kicking all employees. The receptionist will kick the office manager. Should they not respond, please complete form HR-6-MORT.

2. At 10 am and 2 pm each day, we will have a roll call. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Please do not answer the roll for an absent colleague, as this could inadvertenly conceal a death.

3. Buddy system. You will be assigned a “death buddy” by the H.R. Department. You and your death buddy will be responsible for continuous respiration monitoring. Should you go on break or to the restroom, IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SECURE A SUBSTITUTE. You are also responsible for making mutually satisfactory arrangements to vacation together.

4. ALL EMPLOYEES are required to attend training to enable you to identify dead colleagues. Warning signs such as unusually low productivity and wearing the same outfit for consecutive days will be covered. We realize that it can be difficult to distiguish between the productivity of the dead and the normally-functioning, but there are important signs to look for.

Pihla will complete our colleague’s final time report. Please charge the final two days to “diversity training.” 

I wonder if there is a Purple Heart for tax officials who die at their desks. TaxGrrrl has more on this important story.

 

Foggy Friday at Principal Park. Opening day looms in the fog, April 17!

Foggy Friday at Principal Park. Opening day looms in the fog, April 17!

Russ Fox reminds us that Corporate Tax Deadline is Monday, March 16th and Form 1042 Filing Deadline is Monday, March 16th. Form 1042 reports most foreign withholding, except for partner withholding.

 

Jack Townsend, Judge Posner Confronts a Crackpot in a Tax Crimes Case. “The point is, Judge Posner entertains.”

Jim Maule, Moving? Let the IRS Know. “The lesson is undeniable. Taxpayers who move need to send a change of address notice to the IRS.”

Peter Lowy covers the same case as Prof. Maule in Gyorgy v Comm’r Tees Up Important Procedural issues at Procedurally Taxing.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Robert Wood, Fake IRS Agent Scam Targets Public, Even Feds, While Identity Theft Tax Fraud Is Rampant. “Senate testimony shows just how serious fraudsters are at tax time, and just how easy it is for them to get your tax refund.”

Tom Giovanetti,, Blame the IRS and Congress, not software, for tax fraud (The Hill)

Responsibility falls squarely at the feet of the IRS to enforce existing law but ultimately to Congress, as it’s within Congress’s power to reform and simplify programs and restructure administrator incentives to identify and prosecute fraud.

That’s why it’s shameful to see Congress pass the buck and attempt to pin the blame for tax fraud on . . . tax preparation software. That’s right—according to some in Congress, apparently TurboTax is to blame.

Blaming TurboTax for the way the IRS sends billions to thieves every year is like blaming GM for a bank robbery when a Chevy was used as the getaway car.

 

Peter Reilly, Jury Finds Kent Hovind Guilty Of Contempt Of Court No Verdict On Fraud Charges. More on the sago of the founder of the young earth creationist theme park.

 

20130316-1Kyle Pomerleau, Irish Business Leader Calls for Income Tax Reform:

It may be surprising to Americans to hear that Ireland has pretty high taxes. We usually hear about Ireland’s tax system in the context of its corporate income tax rate, which sits a low 12.5 percent, half the average rate of the OECD. We are led to believe that Ireland is a low-tax country in general.

In reality, Ireland’s tax code has some of the highest marginal tax rates, especially on income, in the OECD.

I did not know that.

 

Robert Goulder, Reading Between the Lines (Tax Analysts Blog). “Reading between the lines, we can surmise that conservatives in Congress are now trying to decide which is worse: Camp’s revenue raisers or a federal consumption tax.”

Kay Bell, Old online sales tax bill resurrected in new Senate

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 673. My high school classmate got pushed around by Lois Lerner in her FEC days, and Politico can’t be bothered to care.

Carl Davis, Nine States and Counting Have Raised the Gas Tax Since 2013 (Tax Justice Blog)

G. William Hoagland, Dynamic Scoring Forum: Overblown Concerns? (TaxVox)

 

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Tony Nitti, House Bill Would Provide Tax Deduction For Gym Membership; Shake Weight. I wonder how long it would take to start qualifying gyms specializing in 12-ounce curls to tap into this?

Alberto Mingardi, Greece and tax sadist tourism (EconLog):

The Greek government apparently announced that it wants to hire part timers as “undercover agents to grab out tax evaders”. Tourists, students and housewives could work armed with wireless devices to catch shopkeepers and service providers who do not issue receipts when they sell goods and services.

The application of the concept to tourists potentially opens up a new whole kind of business: sadistic tourism. Syriza regularly portrays Germans as evil people that want to make the poor Greek suffer: why not turning that into a profitable line of activity for the government? Come to Greece. Ouzo, great sea, beautiful landscapes, moussaka, and you’ll have the pleasure to force dirty little shopkeepers to pay their dues to the government!

If the Treasury Employees Union has a travel office, this could be a popular offering.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/12/2015: Tails and legs: Tax Court says that by any name, refundable tax credits are income.

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2Yesterday the Tax Court ruled that refundable business incentive tax credits issued by New York generate taxable income. Judge Holmes made the decision entertaining. Well, except maybe for the taxpayer who lost.

Credits works differently from deductions. A $100 tax credit reduces your tax by $100, while a $100 deduction reduces the tax of a taxpayer in the 25% bracket by only $25. When a credit is “refundable,” if it exceeds the tax you would otherwise owe, the government sends you a check for the excess. The federal Earned Income Tax Credit is the most common example. Iowa has several such credits, including its EITC and its research credit for business.

New York also uses refundable credits. Judge Holmes sets the stage (all emphasis is mine):

New York State uses extremely targeted tax credits as an incentive for extremely targeted economic development in extremely targeted locations. Those who receive these credits may be extremely benefited — even if they do not owe any state income tax, New York calls the credits overpayments of income tax and makes them refundable. David and Tami Maines say that none of the credits should be taxable because New York labels them “overpayments” of past state income tax, and they never claimed prior deductions for state income tax. The Commissioner disagrees and argues that these refundable credits are, in substance even if not in name, cash subsidies to private enterprise — and just another form of taxable income.

The taxpayer said that because New York called the refundable amount of the credits “overpayments,” they were like withholding:

So the key question in this case becomes whether a federal court applying federal law has to go along with New York’s definition.

The Maineses understand the importance of this question, and they argue that if New York State tax law calls these payments “overpayments” we have no power to call them something different. They point to cases like Aquilino v. United States, 363 U.S. 509, 513 (1960) (quoting United States v. Bess, 357 U.S. 51, 55 (1958)), where the Supreme Court held that Federal tax law “‘creates no property rights but merely attaches consequences, federally defined, to rights created under state law.”‘

Judge Holmes is unconvinced (my emphasis):

The Commissioner does not challenge these cases. And he also agrees that New York law labels the credits as “income tax credits,” and excesses or surpluses as “overpayments” of state income tax for state-tax purposes. But is a state’s legal label for a state-created right binding on the federal government? Here begins the disagreement. The Maineses contend that New York’s tax-law label of these excess EZ Credits as overpayments is a legal interest that binds the Commissioner and us when we analyze their taxability Lincolnunder federal law. The Commissioner warns that if this were true, a state could undermine federal tax law simply by including certain descriptive language in its statute. To use Lincoln’s famous example, if New York called a tail a leg, we’d have to conclude that a dog has five legs in New York as a matter of federal law. See George W. Julian, “Lincoln and the Proclamation of Emancipation,” in Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (Allen Thorndike Rice, ed., Harper & Bros. Publishers 1909), 227, 242 (1885), available at https://archive.org/details/cu31924012928937.

We have to side with the Commissioner (and Lincoln) on this one: “Calling the tail a leg would not make it a leg.” Id. Our precedents establish that a particular label given to a legal relationship or transaction under state law is not necessarily controlling for federal tax purposes.

The taxpayer advanced a more novel argument:

The Maineses also contend that their credits are excludable from their taxable income as welfare. The Commissioner has long held that certain payments from social-benefit programs that promote the general welfare are not includible in gross income.

I’ve called such credits “Corporate welfare” at least once or twice myself. But calling a tail a leg, or corporate welfare, doesn’t make it welfare for tax exclusion purposes:

Critics of programs like New York’s might call them “corporate welfare.” But that’s just a metaphor — the credits that New York gave to the Maineses were not conditioned on their showing need, which means they do not qualify for exclusion from taxable income under the general-welfare exception. See also, e.g., Rev. Rul. 2005-46 (holding that state grants for expenses incurred by businesses that agree to operate in disaster areas are not excludable under the general-welfare exclusion).

We therefore hold that portions of the excess EZ Investment and Wage Credits that do not just reduce state-tax liability but are actually refundable are taxable income.

New York FlagOne interesting thing about the New York credits at issue is that they can either be refunded, at the cost of a loss of some of the credits, or carried forward in full at the taxpayers option. In a footnote, Judge Holmes says that while the taxpayer has the option of whether to claim the refund, there is no option on when it affects taxable income:

Recall that whether or not the Maineses choose to receive the refundable portion of the credit, they are in constructive receipt of it and therefore must include it in their gross income.

This is a full-dress “reported” Tax Court decision, which means it is meant to guide future litigation in this area. A footnote in the decision says there are 10 other related New York cases pending. It has obvious implications for the Iowa research credit and historical building credits, which are refundable. There are many other such refundable tax credits in other states.  I never doubted that such credits were taxable “accessions to wealth,” and the Tax Court feels the same way.

Cite: Maines, 144 T.C. No. 8.

 

The Des Moines Register reports Lawmaker proposes end to Iowa taxes on pensions:

Sen. Roby Smith, a Republican, has introduced Senate File 277, which would phase out taxes on retirement income over five years, starting in fiscal year 2017. The measure is co-sponsored by 23 Republican senators. He said that during his re-election campaign last fall, one of the common complaints he heard from older Iowa voters was the need to pay taxes on retirement income.

Let me register my complaint about having to pay taxes on income while I’m working. Can I get an exemption?

IMG_1284This sort of carve-out is a classic example of how the tax law goes bad. High rates make people motivated to carve out breaks for themselves. It works especially well if those seeking the breaks are organized and have time to spare to press their case, like retired folks.

But giving tax breaks just by virtue of age or working status is the wrong way to go. If a retired person is poor, reduce his taxes to take his poverty into account (the tax law already does so in a number of ways). But if he is wealthy and retired, why should he get a better deal than a less-wealthy person who still trudges to work every day? In terms of wealth, the elderly are better off than the not-so-elderly, as a group.

It would be much better for the legislature to cut the rates for everyone, get rid of special carve outs for the politically influential, and help the poor, of whatever age, with a reasonable exemption for low-income taxpayers.

 

Jason Dinesen asks Why Do Unethical Clients Bother Working With Tax and Accounting Pros?:

I asked one of my peers about this and he said it’s because that type of person likes to feel important. They “have an accountant” and they can brag about it to their friends.

It’s an excellent question. My answer is that they feel they are buying excuses. If they get caught, they will immediately blame the accountant.

Robert Wood, Former NFL Player & 2 Others Get Jail & $35M Restitution For Tax Break Scheme:

The evidence at trial established that through NADN, the defendants promoted and sold a product called Tax Break 2000. Tax Break 2000 purported to be an online shopping website. The defendants falsely and fraudulently told customers that buying the product would allow them to claim legitimate income tax credits and deductions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by modifying the website each customer was provided to make it accessible to the disabled.

If the stupidity of the tax scheme were a factor in sentencing, they’d have faced a firing squad.

 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): Early Distributions

Cara Griffith, Will There Be an Increase in State Transfer Pricing Audits? (Tax Analysts Blog). “States have not, however, been particularly successful in challenging the arm’s-length pricing of intercompany transactions”

 

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Kay Bell, Senate tax writers want public suggestions for tax reform

Stephen Entin, Tax Indexing Turns 30 (Tax Policy Blog)

William Gale, Rubio-Lee Hints at Tax Reform’s Troubling Direction (TaxVox).

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 672. The state continues its efforts to criminalize opposition.

Tax Analysts ($link), IRS Stops Providing Exemption Letters to Press. Given the stellar performance of the IRS Exempt Organizations division, what’s not to trust?

 

Adrienne Gonzalez wonders What Are the Accounting Profession’s Darkest Secrets? (Going Concern). Other than the ritual human sacrifice?

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/10/15: Deductions by the bag. And: tax credits put the “green” in green energy!

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy Jen Waller under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy Jen Waller under Creative Commons license.

Bags and bags of deductions. To many taxpayers, the deduction for donations of household goods is sort of an extra standard deduction. If the value of non-cash charitable deductions claimed on 1040s were really as high as the deductions claimed, Salvation Army and Goodwill could be in the Fortune 500.

But the tax law doesn’t really have a freebie deduction for contributions of household goods. The IRS explains (item 7):

To claim a deduction for gifts of cash or property worth $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the qualified organization. The statement must show the amount of the cash or a description of any property given. It must also state whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

A Maryland woman failed to meet this test in Tax Court yesterday. Special Trial Judge Carluzzo takes up the story:

Petitioner claimed a $31,037 charitable contribution deduction on her 2008 return, consisting of $15,340 in cash contributions and $15,697 in noncash contributions. Petitioner claimed a $10,357 charitable contribution deduction on her 2009 return, consisting of $6,490 in cash contributions and $3,867 in noncash contributions.

The cash contribution substantiation was inadequate. The documentation for the non-cash portion wasn’t any better (my emphasis):

With respect to the noncash charitable contributions, petitioner attached a Form 8283 to her 2008 and 2009 return, showing several contributions of property for each year, with each contribution of property valued over $250. To substantiate the contributions, petitioner submitted donation receipts from the Purple Heart, the National Children’s Center, the Lupus Foundation of America, Inc., and the Vietnam Veterans of America. Each of the donation receipts is deficient in one way or another, lacking either a date of contribution or a description of the property contributed, or both. Furthermore, the donation receipts neither reconcile with petitioner’s Form 8283 nor provide anything more than vague descriptions of the items donated.

Every practitioner who has been doing 1040 work for very long has seen things like this — say a round “$2,000″ for, say, “10 bags, clothes — Goodwill.”  Or, sometimes, $7,000 (that never works; good luck finding a “qualified appraiser” for your old laundry). No receipts, or maybe an unsigned slip of paper that says “10 bags” from the donee. That doesn’t meet the requirements for a “statement” showing a “description of any property given.” The outcome:

Accordingly, we find that for each year in issue, petitioner has failed to establish entitlement to a charitable contribution deduction for donations of property in greater amounts than those now allowed by respondent.

The Moral? The deduction for household goods is not a freebie. If you are claiming it for over $250, you have to meet documentation requirements similar to those for cash donations. Even if you took pictures of the items before donating them, you lose without the statement from the donee.

Cite: Jalloh, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-18.

 

Wind turbinePutting the green in renewable energy tax creditsTax Analysts’ Brian Bardwell tells us ($link) how green energy credits worked in Oregon:

The Oregonian reported at the end of February that the Oregon University System had claimed credits under that later deadline, saying that it had already begun work on a $27 million installation of solar arrays across its seven main campuses. And although then-Gov. John Kitzhaber used a golden shovel in a 2011 groundbreaking ceremony, contractor Renewable Energy Development Corp. — known as Redco — had not yet obtained building permits for the project or even finished its design plans, the paper reported.

But the DOE approved credits for the program, apparently relying on invoices from a nonexistent company indicating that it had already begun installing the foundations for solar racks at each of the campuses.

Following the reports, DOE Director Michael Kaplan called on the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate the case.

The program had some things in common with Iowa’s film credit program:

Relatively modest to start, the program grew quickly, with lawmakers approving an ever-growing list of eligible projects, increasing the maximum credit from $2 million to $20 million, removing the overall program cap, and allowing some claimants to transfer their credits.

As the program became more unwieldy and the DOE struggled to administer it, the legislature began winding it down…

This is related to the scandal that forced Governor Kitzhaber to resign. Special industry incentives are inherently corrupt, even if nobody in government is on the take, because they reward insiders at the expense of the body of taxpayers, known genericly as “chumps.” (for you Illinois readers, that’s the same as chumbolones).

More coverage at oregonlive.com: Oregon’s signature solar energy project built on foundation of false hopes and falsehoods

 

TaxGrrrl, Heart Surgery & Hospital Stays: Deducting Medical Expenses On Your Tax Return. An intrepid tax blogger finds a tax angle in her father’s heart surgery. We wish him a speedy recovery.

William Perez has Concise Guide to Schedule C for all you self-employeds.

Robert Wood, Wesley Snipes Lands NBC Show Endgame. Why His IRS Endgame Failed. “Stay away from crazy arguments.”

 

Alan Cole, Tom VanAntwerp, Richard Borean, Where Do Americans Take Their Retirement Income? (Tax Policy Blog).

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Warm places and lake country, it looks like.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 670. This missing email stuff seems to be a pattern.

So what? The Rich Get (Much) Richer Under The Rubio-Lee Tax Plan (Tony Nitti). If it helps everyone else more than any other plan, why is that a problem?

Kay Bell, Tax simplification is focus of yet another Capitol Hill hearing.

Peter Reilly,  Pensacola Shows Little Interest In Kent Hovind Trial

Simon Johnson, Dynamic Scoring Forum: The Dangers of Dynamic Scoring (TaxVox)

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Martin Sullivan, “Beep, Beep” — Korean Singer YoonA Wins Model Taxpayer Award (Tax Analysts Blog):

She is one of eight members of the wildly popular band Girls Generation which has recorded such hits as Beep-Beep and Do the Catwalk. And now . . . she is the recipient of a presidential award from the South Korean government for being a dutiful and honest taxpayer who has made a significant financial contribution to her country.

We don’t expect an award, but it would be nice if the IRS would at least send a thank-you note.

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Tax Roundup, 3/9/15: The dark side is very powerful. And: conventional unwisdom, unwise candidacies.

Monday, March 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1Christopher Bergin asks Has the IRS Truly Moved to the Dark Side?

Anyone who reads my posts knows that I have always given the IRS the benefit of the doubt in its dealing with exemption applications from conservative political organizations (which is what they are in every way but technically). I have not accused the IRS of influencing the political process. I’ve argued that it simply screwed up, albeit in a bad way, noting that stupidity is not a crime.

But now “criminal activity” has been raised. And not in a casual way, but in an official way.

The IRS’s response to this latest accusation came in a lame statement issued February 27 that essentially says it’s the inspector general’s “responsibility” to look into all this. For those of us old enough to remember the TV show Hogan’s Heroes, that is the equivalent of Sergeant Shultz saying, “I know nothing.”

Except it’s not funny.

If you’ve lost Christopher Bergin, you’ve lost Middle Arlington. You’ve also lost the “no scandal here” argument.

 

20150120-1Conventional unwisdomThe Des Moines Register’s Joel Aschbrenner is doing some excellent work on the new convention center hotel that Polk County and the City of Des Moines are helping to fund.

Researchers: Convention hotels rarely fulfill promises: “‘In a great many cases his forecasts have proven to be off, in some cases wildly off,’ Sanders said.”

Who is at risk if hotel under-performs?

The city has offered a $5 million loan guarantee that will come into play three to five years after opening when the hotel refinances its mortgages, Assistant City Manager Matt Anderson said. Hotels often refinance after they build a customer base and stabilize their business, he said.

If the hotel is under-performing due to lower-than-expected occupancy levels or room rates, or if interest rates have spiked up, refinancing would be more expensive and the city would have to cover the difference.

East Village hotel plan loses one floor: “The developer of a hotel and apartment project that will cover an entire East Village block says the hotel is being scaled back in part because of competition from downtown’s proposed convention hotel.”

The City of Des Moines has been pleading poverty. It runs revenue cameras to pick the pockets of random travelers committing the crime of not quite stopping before turning right on red at an empty intersection. It has collected illegal taxes and fought against refunds all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet it thinks it has the resources to help finance a hotel. That has to be terrific news to all of the other hotels downtown.

This isn’t the first time Des Moines has put money in a private downtown business. That hasn’t gone entirely smoothly.

 

Peter Reilly, 1099-C From Out Of The Blue? Don’t Ignore It! Fight It! Peter reminds us that just because somebody issues a 1o99-C saying there was debt forgiveness income doesn’t make it so.

Russ Fox, You Have to Have an Unreimbursed Loss to Claim a Casualty Loss

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): C Is For Commuting Expenses and D Is For Disability Income.

Kay Bell, No day off for tax advice: March’s first weekly tip round-up

Jack Townsend, Certifying Non-Willflness for Streamlined – The Risk. More on the puzzle palace of IRS offshore account enforcement.

Patrick Thomas, Inability to Correctly Calculate CSED – Confusion Leads to Unlawful Results (Procedurally Taxing).

It is a basic concept of law that once a statute of limitation has passed, no action barred by the statute may take place. Yet, as noted in the National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2014 Annual Report, the IRS often engages in forced collection action after the Collection Statute Expiration Date (CSED) has passed.

I’ll just note that the IRS is pretty good about not issuing refunds when the statute has passed.

 

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David Henderson, Rubio-Lee Isn’t Great:

Co-blogger Scott Sumner, over at his TheMoneyIllusion blog, has a post titled “Rubio-Lee is great, so why not make it even greater?”

I don’t agree that Rubio-Lee is great. It has many good features and Scott has listed pretty much all of them, so I won’t repeat them here. It has a feature, that I’ll mention shortly, that is a major negative.

Unfortunately, Scott didn’t mention the worst aspect of Rubio-Lee: the huge tax credits.

 

Tony Nitti, Reviewing The Rubio-Lee Proposal For Tax Reform

 

Hank Stern, Another day, Another CoOp Snafu (Insureblog):

Thanks to a heads’ up from FoIB Josh Archambault, we have this little gem:“The Minuteman Health Inc. Co-op in Massachusetts got more than $156 million and covered only 1,822 people – over $86,000 per enrollee.”But wait, that’s not all!

“HealthyCT Inc. Co-op in Connecticut got more than $128 million and covered only 6,094 people – more than $21,000 per enrollee.”

If that doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies, I have no idea what will.

At least they haven’t gone belly-up, unlike Iowa’s CoOportunity Co-op.
Alan Cole, CRS Report: Medical Device Tax Burden Falls On Consumers (Tax Policy Blog). “Don’t worry, the consumers will ultimately be hit with the tax, and they’ll just have to deal with it because they need their pacemakers!”
Annette Nellen, Obamacare confusion – real and made up. “The current system is too complex, confusing, inequitable, expensive, – and, not providing health care commensurate with the costs.”

Accounting Today, Cover Charge: How the ACA Is Affecting Fees. Spoiler: it’s not lowering them.

 

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Robert Wood, First Win Lottery, Then Defend Suits By Ticket Sellers, Co-Workers, Relatives

Adrienne Gonzalez, To Whom It May Going Concern: My CPA Is Locked Up and They Won’t Let Her Out. (Going Concern). Sometimes imprisonment is a sign to reconsider your choice of preparer.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 669Day 668Day 667

Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson is running for president. The Washington Post reports that he is running as a Republican on a platform of “bold tax reform.

After leaving the IRS, he took a job as CEO of The American Red Cross. That went badly: “The president and CEO of The American Red Cross (ARC) is out after less than six months – involved in an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate.”

It seems like a long shot. Perhaps he looked at the scandals surrounding the presumptive Democratic nominee and her husband and concluded that was the path to an unopposed nomination.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/6/15: Crime Watch Edition. Rashia, still 21.

Friday, March 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

It’s the time of the year when exasperated taxpayers and preparers are tempted to say, “bugger all this, I’m going to go for the gusto and cheat on my taxes!” That’s when it’s useful to look in on an old friend of the Tax Update to see how well that’s going.

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

Let’s look in on Rashia Wilson, who proclaimed herself (on Facebook!) the “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud.” Her reign was cut short by federal identity theft tax refund charges, resulting in a 21-year sentence. And with federal sentences, you have to serve at least 90% of the time.

Ms. Wilson naturally was unhappy with this judicial lèse-majesté, so she appealed, citing procedural irregularities. The trial judge was ordered to reconsider. On further review, the call on the field stands. 21 years.  Robert Wood has more.

Iowa has tax ID fraud too. While South Florida may be the kingdom of tax refund fraud, it has colonies everywhere. Even in Iowa: Cedar Rapids woman charged with filing false tax returns (KWWL.com):

The United States Department of Justice says 33-year-old Gwendolyn Murray is charged with twelve counts of filing false claims for tax refunds, seven counts of theft of government property, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.­ The indictment containing the charges was unsealed on Tuesday.

It is alleged that Murray filed 12 fraudulent tax returns in 2012 and 2013 using other people’s names. She received refunds on seven of those tax returns. The court also alleges that Murray stole the identities of two people.

It’s good to prosecute ID thieves, but it’s far better to keep them from thieving. It’s eye-opening that 7 of the 12 alleged attempts allegedly succeeded. Criminals aren’t known for their impulse control or their ability to anticipate long-term consequences. If they see somebody get a bunch of cash just from keying in some numbers on a computer, they’re going to want some of that bling themselves, and they aren’t going to ponder the likelihood of a prison sentence first.  The IRS is pretty much leaving the door unlocked and the cash register open.

 

Megan McArdle says the culture of “getting a big refund” is part of the problem in Fewer Tax Refunds, Fewer Scams:

If all returns were submitted at the same time, and refunds were held until they could be cross-checked against the IRS’s copies of W-2s and 1099s, then this sort of fraud wouldn’t work very well; the IRS would know it had two returns and could start the process of figuring out which one was fraudulent before it mailed the check. But we love our early refunds, and people often count on getting that check as early as possible.

She offers wise advice:

However, there’s one thing you personally can do to fight tax fraud, and that’s make sure that you don’t give the government more money than you have to. You should never get excited about a tax refund; all it means is that you gave the government a substantial interest-free loan by withholding too much tax throughout the year. You should aim for your refund to be as small as possible — ideally, zero.

A system that sends $21 billion annually to fraudsters — and that number is rising rapidly — can’t continue forever. Part of this will be a technological fix.  My wife can’t buy a dress at Nordstrom in Chicago without triggering phone calls from two credit card companies.  Meanwhile, the IRS happily wires wads of cash to Rashia. One would hope the IRS could learn something from Visa and Discover.

But the IRS is bad at technology, so part of the fix will have to be slower (and ideally, smaller) refunds. This could include lower penalty thresholds for underpayments so that taxpayers will be more willing to risk owing a bit on April 15 — perhaps combined with withholding tables that leave taxpayers owing a bit, rather than getting refunds.

 

What else can you do to protect yourself? 

  • Be careful with your tax information. Never divulge your bank account or credit card info to strangers over the phone.
  • Assume any unexpected call from a tax agency is a scam.
  • Don’t send copies of 1099s and W-2s as e-mail attachments to your preparer, and don’t email a pdf of your 1040 to a loan officer. That leaves your information exposed.
  • When you transmit confidential information, use strong encryption, or better yet upload it via a secure file transfer site, like the FileDrop system we use at Roth & Company.

 

 

20150105-2Peter Reilly, IRS Grossly Unqualified To Make Determinations About Software Related Exempt Applications. The IRS is grossly unqualified for any number of things that Congress gives it to do. Just a very few that come immediately to mind:

– Determining what is “qualified research” for the research credit.

– Determining the energy properties of “green fuels” for the biofuel subsidies.

– Running the nation’s healthcare insurance finance system.

– Policing political speech by tax-exempt organizations.

An outfit that can’t keep two-bit grifters from cashing in billions in tax refunds annually shouldn’t be looking for new things to do.

 

Kay Bell, Tax identity thief mistakenly sends fake refund to real filer. The police don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

Jack Townsend, More on Light Sentencing for Offshore Account Tax Crimes.

 

Russ Fox provides a valuable service with Online Gambling Addresses Updated for 2015. Taxpayers with offshore online gambling accounts are required to report them on the “FBAR” report of foreign financial accounts (Form 114). The FBAR requires a street address for the account, and these can be hard to find for gambling websites.

William Perez offers advice on how to Communicate Effectively with Your Tax Preparer. We aren’t always the best company this time of year. Come prepared, be efficient, and you can leave our office before we do something bizarre. Other than what we do for a living, of course.

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 3: Big Changes in 1917

Jim Maule, The IRS and the Taxpayer: Both Wrong. “The taxpayer argued that because the distribution from the IRA was less than the his investment in the IRA, it should be treated as a return of investment. The IRS argued that the entire distribution should be included in the taxpayer’s gross income. The Tax Court concluded that both the taxpayer and the IRS were wrong.”

 

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Kyle Pomerleau, The Rubio-Lee Plan Would be Good for Everyone, Especially Low Income Earners (Tax Policy Blog):

If you take all the pieces of the Rubio-Lee tax plan together, it actually produces the largest increase in after-tax income for the lowest income earners, not the highest.

According to our analysis, the bottom decile of taxpayers will see an increase in after-tax income of 44.2 percent, a percentage increase in income nearly four times larger than the top 1 percent’s increase in after-tax income. But the plan doesn’t just increase the after-tax income of the top and the bottom. All taxpayers will see higher after-tax incomes due to this plan.

The Rubio-Lee plan, with its elimination of the double corporate tax and its business rate reductions, is the most promising tax reform plan to surface in a long time. But its opponents can never see wisdom in anything that benefits “the rich,” even when it benefits everyone else.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Expensive Plans, ACA Developments, and Exercises in Futility. Today’s TaxVox roundup has links to folks hating on Rubio-Lee, Spanish film tax credits, and more.

Patrick Smith, Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing Case May Have Great Significance in Anti-Injunction Act Cases (Procedurally Taxing)

 

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Spring will come!

 

 

Cara Griffith, The Use of Big Data in Auditing (Tax Analysts Blog). “For state auditors, big data (like other types of data) could be used to better evaluate and select taxpayers for audit.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, 666

 

Why would he want a job with less power? Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson To Run For President. Yes, Of The United States (Tony Nitti)

Culture Corner. A Tax Shelter Board Game Is a Thing That Exists (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/5/15: More tax credits! Also: ACA on the dock again, and good tax news for gamblers.

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitorsclick here for the frosty Iowa tax climate post, or go here for a longer treatment.

 

David Brunori has a wise post about Michigan’s disastrous tax credits: Tax Incentives Cause Trouble For More Reasons Than You Might Think (Tax Analysts Blog). “The history of job creation tax credits in Michigan is a story of corporate welfarism.”

20120906-1That’s just as true here in Iowa, where every legislative session seems to bring a new tax credit, to go with the dozens already on the books. From today’s Des Moines Register: New chemical production tax credit bill advances.

For example, companies like Cargill that produce ethanol and other fuels from corn produce corn oil in the process. The tax credit is geared toward companies that take that oil and other byproducts to create higher-value chemicals. Those higher-value chemicals can then be used to produce plastics, paints or pharmaceuticals.

The legislation would provide a credit of 5 cents for every pound of chemical a company produces. It would not apply to chemicals that are used in the production of food, animal feed or fuel.

These byproducts are already used somewhere. That means the credit would do one or more of the following:

– Subsidize companies that are already making the chemicals.

– Divert the byproducts from their current buyers — producers of food and animal feed, for example — to those who would receive subsidies, forcing the current buyers to find more expensive substitutes.

– Create subsidized competition for companies that already produce chemicals from other sources.

In short, they would take money from existing businesses and their customers and give it to someone with a better lobbyist.

The bill is HSB 98. The bill also contains increases in “seed capital” and “angel investor” tax credits, expanding the Iowa’s dubious role as an investment banker that doesn’t care whether it makes money.

 

supreme courtYesterday was the current Obamacare challenge’s day in the Supreme Court. It’s pretty clear that the four liberal justices will vote to uphold the IRS, and the subsidies to taxpayers outside of state exchanges. Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas will vote no. The decision is in the hands of Justices Kennedy and Roberts, who aren’t giving much away.

I’ll defer to others for coverage of yesterday’s hearing, including:

Megan McArdle, Life or Death. “This morning, someone on Twitter explained that this case really is different because if the Supreme Court rules the wrong way, thousands of people will die. I find this explanation wholly unconvincing, for two reasons.”

Jonathan Adler, Oklahoma’s response to Justice Kennedy and Things we learned at today’s oral argument in King v. Burwell.

 

Russ Fox, IRS Proposes Session Method for Slot Machine Play and a Revision to the Regulations on Gambling Information Returns:

There’s a lot to like in IRS Notice 2015-21, the IRS’s proposal for a “Safe Harbor Method for Determining a Wagering Gain or Loss from Slot Machine Play.” The proposal is for a daily session for slot machine play where there are electronic records. Let’s say an individual plays slot machines at Bellagio from 10:00am – 12:00pm and from 3:300pm – 5:00pm. That can all be combined into one session per this revenue procedure (if it is finalized).

This is important for gamblers because gambling winnings are included in Adjusted Gross Income, but losses are itemized deductions. If you treat each play as a separate taxable event, then you inflate both the above-the-line winnings and the below-the-line deductions. Increasing AGI causes all sorts of bad things, including making Social Security Benefits taxable, and at higher levels causing a loss of itemized deductions and exemptions and triggering the Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax of 3.8%. Allowing winnings and losses to be netted over a day reduces this inequity.

 

IMG_1219Where red-light cameras take you. The Ferguson Kleptocracy (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution). When the role of law enforcement becomes picking the pockets of the citizenry, bad things happen.

 

 

Scott Drenkard offers a link rich state tax policy roundup: More Research against the Texas Margin Tax, New Kansas Pass-Through Carve Out Data, and Capital Gains Taxes in Washington (Tax Policy Blog). It includes this:

Barbara Shelly at the Kansas City Star has a review of the Kansas income tax exclusion for pass through entities that blew a hole in the budget. Kansas expected 191,000 people to take advantage of the exclusion, but 333,000 people ended up taking it, for a loss of $207 million in revenues. I testified today to the Ohio House Ways & Means Committee on a similar provision being considered by Gov. Kasich.

Imagine that.

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Kay Bell, Alabama’s GOP governor calls for – gasp! – new, higher taxes

Peter Reilly, Government Focusing On Codefendant Hansen As Kent Hovind Trial Commences. More coverage of the young-earth creationist tax case.

Robert Wood, Despite FATCA, U.S. Companies Stash $2.1 Trillion Abroad—Untaxed

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): B Is For Bona Fide Residence Test

 

William McBride, Rubio-Lee Plan Cuts Taxes on Business Investment to Grow the Economy by 15 Percent (Tax Policy Blog):

  1. It cuts the corporate and non-corporate (or pass-through) business tax rate to 25 percent.
  2. It eliminates the double-tax on equity financed corporate investment, by zeroing out capital gains and dividends taxes.
  3. It allows businesses to immediately write-off their investments, instead of requiring a multi-year depreciation.

Also:

Second, the growth in the economy would eventually boost tax revenue, relative to current law. We find after all adjustments (again, about 10 years) that federal tax revenue would be about $94 billion higher on an annual basis. This is our dynamic estimate. Our static estimate, i.e. assuming the economy does not change at all, shows a tax cut of $414 billion per year. We believe the dynamic estimate is much closer to reality.

For another (non-dynamic?) view, there’s Howard Gleckman, The Rubio-Lee Tax Reform Plan Raises Important Issues But Would Add Trillions to the Debt. (Tax Vox)

 

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Accounting Today, Senate Report Blames Tax Pros for Unfair Tax Code. I think that’s a little like criminals blaming their victims for their crimes. I agree with Tony Nitti: Senate Report Blames Tax Professionals For Inequities In The Tax Code; Is Completely Insane.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 665.

Joseph Thorndike, Voters Are Confused About the Difference Between Tax Avoidance and Evasion – Because Politicians Blur the Line (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

News from the Profession. PwC Concludes Female Millennials Are Great For Vague, Pointless Research (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). “It’s the 3% that don’t care about work/life balance I’m worried about…”

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/3/15: ‘Tens of thousands’ of returns delayed by ACA. Also: Feds, Iowa provide partial deadline relief for farmers.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson

Tax season is saved! Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the IRS is sitting on “tens of thousands” of returns affected by the Obamacare advance premium tax credit:

Speaking March 2 in Washington at an American Payroll Association event sponsored by Bloomberg BNA, Olson said the returns have been “held for quite a long time, since the beginning of the filing season,” because the IRS is still waiting for matching data from state health insurance exchanges. The returns are being held in suspense and the IRS has instructed its employees not to inform taxpayers why their return is being suspended when the taxpayer contacts the Service, she said.

According to Olson, the Taxpayer Advocate Service will not follow the IRS’s instructions to remain silent on the issue because taxpayers have the right to be informed under the taxpayer bill of rights.

More of Commissioner Koskinen’s famous committment to transparency and disclosure. But all is well, right?

Olson said her office has received days of training on the ACA so her employees are prepared when these cases come in. “I think this is one of the most complicated provisions that we’ve ever inserted into the Internal Revenue Code” and I’m “astonished at the complexity of it,” she said.

“I’m very concerned about the filing season,” Olson said, adding that the federal exchange has already sent erroneous reporting information to 800,000 taxpayers.

Just yesterday the IRS, on the due date for farmer and fisherman returns where no estimated tax was paid, waived estimated tax penalties for such taxpayers where they are still waiting on 1095-A forms from their healthcare exchange. This follows the universal waiver of late payment penalties for amounts owed on the advance premium credit, the waiver of ACA penalties on health insurance premium reimbursement plans, and the last-minute waiver of Form 3115 requirements for smaller businesses under the repair regs. It’s an overwhelmed IRS desperately patching up a failing tax season with duct tape and wire.

 

binFeds extend 1040 deadline to April 15 for farmers awaiting form 1095-A; Iowa extends deadline to April 15 for all farmersFarmers are eligible for a special deal that lets them not pay estimated taxes, as long as they file and pay the balance due by March 1. The deadline was yesterday because March 1 was on a Sunday this year.  As we reported yesterday, the IRS issued a last-minute waiver of the deadline for farmers still awaiting their Form 1095-A from an ACA exchange.

Yesterday Iowa followed suit. The Iowa Department of Revenue sent this to practitioners on its email list (I can’t find a link on the Department website; the emphasis is mine):

The Iowa Department of Revenue has granted an extension to all farmers and commercial fishers to file 2014 Iowa individual income tax returns without underpayment of estimated tax penalty.

If at least 2/3 of their income is from farming or commercial fishing, taxpayers may avoid penalty for underpayment of 2014 estimated tax in one of the following ways:

(1) Pay the estimated tax in one payment on or before January 15, 2015, and file the Iowa income tax return by April 30, or

(2) File the Iowa income tax return and pay the tax due in full on or before March 2, 2015.

The issuance of corrected premium tax credit forms (Form 1095-A) from the Health Insurance Marketplace may affect the ability of many farmers and fishers to file and pay their taxes by the March 2 deadline.

Therefore, any farmers or fishers who miss the March 2 deadline will not be subject to the underpayment of estimated tax penalty if they file and pay their Iowa taxes by April 15, 2015.

The Iowa relief is not limited to farmers awaiting a 1095-A. The slightly tricky thing: non-farmer Iowa 1040s are due April 30, but the new farmer deadline is April 15. Be careful out there.

Related: Paul Neiffer, IRS Has Impeccable Timing (As Usual)

 

 

W2All is well.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) Additional Medicare Tax Reporting Is Causing Problems. It quotes Paul Carlino, an IRS branch chief:

Carlino explained that reporting amounts in Form W-2 box 6 that do not equal the 1.45 percent tax on wages has caused confusion among taxpayers, some of whom seek refunds believing their employer withheld an incorrect amount of tax.

Carlino said that another problem is taxpayers who are not having the additional Medicare tax withheld. 

The Additional Medicare Tax is unique among federal payroll taxes in that it is computed at separate rates for married and single filers, requiring a reconciliation on the 1040. That can result in underwithholding.

 

Russ Fox, Don’t Call Us:

When I called today I reached the normal recording, but every time I attempted to obtain help for an individual not in collections (that’s one of the options when calling the PPS) all I got was, “Due to extremely high call volumes that option is not available now. Please try your call again later.”

Well, the IRS has other priorities than your silly tax return, peasant.

 

TaxGrrrl, Tax Checks Go Up In Flames After Mail Truck Burns. Sums up this tax season.

Robert Wood, Obama Immigration Fix: 4M Illegals Who Never Paid U.S. Tax, Get 3 Years Of Tax Refunds. Only about 25% of EITC payments are made improperly. What could possibly go wrong?

William Perez, Moving Expenses Can Be Tax-Deductible

Kay Bell, Jeb Bush reportedly won’t sign no-tax pledge

Soon, my precious, soon.

Soon, my precious, soon.

Peter Reilly, Lois Lerner Out From Under Freedom Path Lawsuit For Now

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 663, quoting James Taranto from the Wall Street Journal: “So the IRS admittedly denied tax-exempt status improperly to at least 176 groups, tried to apply extralegal restrictions to others, and is still delaying approval for those groups that have gone to court in an effort to vindicate their rights.”

 

Alan Cole, How to Dismantle an Ugly IRS Worksheet (Tax Policy Blog):

The difficulty of the worksheet is not the fault of the IRS. If anything, the IRS put a very difficult concept into a one-page worksheet. But even with the worksheet’s good design, it’s still 27 lines. That’s because the underlying tax code it deals with is not elegantly designed.

The post goes on to explain how our system of taxing corporation income twice leads to this complexity.

 

Martin Sullivan, High Hopes for Highway Funding: A Bridge to Nowhere (Tax Analysts Blog). “Congress is talking a lot about long-term solutions to our infrastructure funding problem, but will likely only do another short-term patch.”

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Renu Zaretsky asks Can Expectations Be Too Low? In today’s TaxVox headline roundup. (No, by the way.). The post addresses the low IRS audit rate for businesses, the IRS plan to issue retroactive earned income tax credit to beneficiaries of the executive amnesty for illegal immigrants, and the upcoming Supreme Court arguments in King v. Burwell on whether the IRS exceeded its authority in granting ACA credits in states that didn’t set up exchanges under the act. 

 

Career Corner, Here Are Some Coded Phrases You Will Hear During Busy Season (Andrew Argue, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/2/15: Thawing Iowa’s frosty business tax climate. And: film credit post-production!

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Iowa's business tax climate, illustrated

Iowa’s business tax climate, illustrated

Baby steps towards fixing Iowa’s business tax climate. At IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professionals’ Blog, I discuss some easy steps to make Iowa’s tax climate a little less frosty, along with a few slightly harder ones.

The real easy:

– Eliminate the Iowa individual and corporation alternative minimum tax.

– Have Iowa’s tax law automatically conform to federal changes.

– Tie Iowa return due dates to federal due dates for all returns.

The slightly harder:

– Encourage or require “composite” returns or withholding for pass-through non-resident taxpayers.

– Repeal the deductibility of federal taxes by building the tax advantages into lower tax rates.

– Repeal refundable and transferable business tax credits.

None of this takes the place of a real Iowa tax reform along the lines of the Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, but you have to start somewhere. My next IowaBiz piece will attempt to put some more meat on the bones of the Quick and Dirty plan.

 

The Iowa Film Tax Credit Program is dead, but the lawsuits linger. A disappointed filmmaker wanted more taxpayer money, but the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Economic Development had the final say over what expenses would qualify. Ghost Player, L.L.C. and CH Investors, L.L.C. vs Iowa (Sup. Ct. Iowa, No. 14-0339)

 

Kristine Tidgren, March 2 Deadline Extended for Farmers Waiting for 1095-A. Farmers that file by March 1 (today this year, because March 1 was on a Sunday) do not have to pay estimated taxes. “In a last-minute announcement, the IRS has declared that farmers waiting for a corrected 1095-A will have until April 15 to file their returns and pay their taxes. If they file Form 2210-F along with their return, the penalty for failure to pay quarterly estimated tax will be waived.”

Russ Fox, It Was the Sisterly Thing To Do. “Three Wisconsin sisters allegedly decided that tax fraud and identity theft should stay in the family. They’ve been accused of filing 2,000 phony returns by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

 

 

Jack Townsend, DOJ Tax Tough Talk About the Violating Trust Fund Tax Withholding and Payment Obligations. It seems that the IRS has become more willing to try to jail employers who fail to pay withholding; this post discusses how it can become a criminal issue. You can’t argue with this: “The solid advice is to withhold, account for and pay over to the IRS.”

William Perez explains The Key Benefits of Health Savings Accounts. “Contributions are tax-deductible when going into the HSA. And distributions can be tax-free when coming out the HSA.”

Jason Dinesen, Financing a Small Business, Part 3 of 5: Tell Your Accountant Before You Spend the Money

Kay Bell, Lions, lambs, warning Ides and luck all apply to March taxes. “Are you a tax lion, aggressively hunting down tax breaks? Or are you a tax lamb, cowering before the complicated Internal Revenue Code?”

Leslie Book, US v Clarke Remand: Allegations of Bad Faith Still Face A High Hurdle (Procedurally Taxing). “The case involved allegations of retaliatory summons issuance following a failure to extend (for a third time) the statute of limitations and allegations that the summons was a way to avoid discovery limitations in a Tax Court TEFRA proceeding that was commenced after the summons was issued.”

Bob Vineyard, Solyndra-care (InsureBlog). While Iowa’s ACA co-op, CoOpportunity, was the first one to collapse, it might not be the last.

 

Liz Malm, Richard Borean, How Does Your State Sales Tax See That Blue and Black (or White and Gold) Dress? (Tax Policy Blog):

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Robert Wood, Finally, Suing IRS Over All Those Emails. “IRS attorneys said the back-up system would be too onerous to search. Yet in recent testimony, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said IRS tech employees told them that IRS management never asked for the tapes.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 660Day 661Day 662. It appears that Commissioner Koskinen is putting the same effort at getting to the bottom of the Tea Party harrassment that Vladimir Putin is putting into finding Boris Nemtsov’s killer.

 

Richard Phillips, Netflix is a Real-Life Frank Underwood When it Comes to Tax Breaks (Tax Justice Blog)

Eric Todor, What if We Funded Public Education Like Affordable Care Act Health Insurance? (TaxVox). “Both seek to promote a form of universal or near-universal coverage – K-12 education for all and mandated health insurance for many. But they go about it in very different ways: one makes government subsidies explicit and the other makes much of them disappear, at least in the budgetary and political sense.”

 

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Peter Reilly, Will Christian Soldiers Be On The Streets Of Pensacola As Kent Hovind Goes To Trial? Peter covers the latest developments in the strange and sad case of the guy who had the “Young Earth Creationist” theme park devoted to the idea that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

 De gustibus non est disputandum. Form 1040: An Unappreciated Work of Art. (Christopher Bergin, practitioner of dark arts for Tax Analysts).

News from the Profession. Florida Man Drives Porsche on Sidewalk to Make a Point, Gets Arrested. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). When Grandma started doing that, we took away her keys.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/27/15: Bartender beats barrister in Tax Court. And more!

Friday, February 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Bartender or barrister, you need to keep good records.  A Nevada bartender, arguing his own case against an IRS attorney, defeated the IRS in Tax Court yesterday. He did it by keeping records.

The IRS said the taxpayer understated his tip income, and it used a generic tip model to assess additional tax. The bartender argued that the IRS model didn’t reflect what happened at the casino where he worked, and that he had the records to prove it:

Petitioner testified about how his bar was set up and what a shift was like during the years at issue. He stated that his bar had only six stools and that customers would often sit at the stools playing poker for several hours and receive several comped drinks as a result. He testified that the only time his bar would be busy was when there was a big convention and then most of the drink sales tips would be on company credit cards rather than cash. He described the difficult [*15] economic times that Las Vegas faced during the years at issue and how his business had decreased as a result.

Petitioner also testified about the typical tipping behavior of his patrons. Most of his drinks served were comps, and he testified that customers rarely tipped on comp drinks and that if they did they might “throw [him] a buck or two” after several hours of sitting at his bar receiving the comped drinks. Petitioner additionally testified that college kids and foreigners rarely tipped.

And the records:

Petitioner argues that he has met his burden because he complied with the recordkeeping requirements of section 6001 and section 31.6053-4(a)(1), Employment Tax Regs., having kept detailed, contemporaneous daily logs which are substantially accurate. Petitioner routinely recorded the amounts of his cash and charge tips on slips of paper at the end of each shift. Petitioner kept these logs and produced them to respondent and at trial.

20130903-1The IRS tried to nit-pick the records, but Judge Kerrigan was satisfied:

Respondent argues that petitioner was not tipped in exact dollar amounts. Petitioner testified credibly that when he was tipped with change he would put the change in a glass jar to be mixed in with the other tips. When he would periodically cash out the change jar, he would give the change to the cashiers who cashed him out at the end of the shift. He also testified that when he cashed out daily his charged tips receipt, he would give the cashiers any change that was generated by those tips. We find petitioner’s explanation credible and do not find the logs inadequate merely because the amounts are recorded in whole numbers.

I think the important lesson here is that he generated the records every day, and that he was able to produce them to the judge. Contrast that with a recent decision involving a Mrs. Hall, an attorney deducting travel expenses:

Mrs. Hall did not maintain a contemporaneous mileage log. Mr. Katz testified that he based the number of miles driven on discussions with Mrs. Hall. Mr. Katz claimed that he reviewed documentation in order to determine the number of miles driven. The documentation that Mr. Hall and Mrs. Hall offered into evidence to substantiate the number of miles driven consisted of seven parking receipts, an equipment lease, a help wanted advertisement, a phone message slip, and a few other documents. The evidence they submitted does not demonstrate that Mrs. Hall incurred mileage expenses in amounts greater than those respondent allowed in the notice of deficiency.

Citations:

Sabolic, T.C. Memo 2015-32

Hall, T.C. Memo 2014-171

 

TaxGrrrl, Opting Out Of The Obamacare Tax: What Happens If You Don’t Pay?. Oddly, the IRS can’t use most of its collection tools to collect the individual mandate. The advance premium clawback is a different story.

Russ Fox, 10 = 2500 ?. “On Monday, I mailed a Tax Organizer to a client here in Las Vegas; she’s about ten miles from where I am. I also mailed a completed tax return to a client in South Carolina. Both will be received today.”

Annette Nellen talks about Taxes Around the World.

Kay Bell, Survey says tax refunds going into savings, paying off debt

Jack Townsend covers Key points of Article on ABA Webcast on Offshore Accounts

 

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Robert Wood, New IRS Scandal Hearings Reveal 32,000 More Emails, Possible Criminal Activity:

But in what was the most disturbing revelation, House Member attendees were told that the IRS had not even asked for the backup tapes when the ‘hard drive crash’ excuse was first used. That contradicted the prior testimony of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. He had testified to the effect that recovery efforts had been thorough, and that the tapes couldn’t be accessed.

Do you believe the Commissioner when he says he needs more money?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 659.

 

Don Boudreaux links: Dick Carpenter and Larry Salzman, in this new publication from the Institute for Justice, explain how the I.R.S. helps to fuel in the U.S. the uncivilized banana-republic terror that is civil asset forfeiture. (Cafe Hayek)

Jim Maule, Testing Tax Knowledge.

According to a report on a recent NerdWallet survey, “[m]ost American adults get an ‘F’ in understanding income tax basics.”

It would be fun to require members of Congress and candidates for that office to take this survey, or one like it. I cannot imagine the outcome would be any better than that achieved by the 1,015 survey takers.

Nor can I.

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Andrew Lundeen, Corporate Tax Cuts Increase Federal Revenue in the Long Run (Tax Policy Blog):

It’s important to note that this increase in revenue would be in the long run, after the economy has fully adjusted (probably about 10 years in the future). In the early years, federal revenue would fall before investment and growth pick up fully as the economy adjusts to a better tax system.

However, tax policy—all public policy, in fact—should be made with a focus on the long-term.

Unfortunately, politicians buy our votes with our money in the short-term.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Hey, It Could Happen! The Optimist’s Case for Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog). ” It will result from a transparent, flexible, and bipartisan bill drafting process; from strategic use of congressional staff to test the waters of controversial proposals; from skillful deployment of transition rules and other minor bill changes to win support from rank-and-file members of Congress; and from streamlined or fast-track debate procedures.”

 

Renu Zaretsky, The Internet, Drug Profits, and Sacrifice. The TaxVox headline roundup covers the uncertain tax effects of the “net neutrality” power grab.

Kristine Tidgren, Iowa Fuel Excise Tax Set to Increase 10 Cents on Sunday (ISU-CALT)

Matt Gardner, Is the Starz Network Series “Spartacus” a Jobs Creator? (Tax Justice Blog). I’m sure it helped create lots of work for film tax credit middlemen and fixers.

 

I bet the judge gave him a stern talking-to. Bow Man Sentenced for Fraud, Tax Evasion.(Concord Patch).

Caleb Newquist, Actually, Everyone Knows That Having Two Monitors Is Super Boss. (Going Concern).

Only two?

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Tax Roundup, 2/26/15: Fifth circuit bails out abandonment. And: gas up before Sunday, Iowa!

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Fill ‘em up Saturday. Iowa’s Governor Branstad signed a 10-cent per gallon gas tax boost into law yesterday. It takes effect Sunday.

Somewhat related: Replacing the Gas Tax with a Mileage-Based Tax (Kyle Pomerleau, Tax Policy Blog).

 

20131212-1Taxpayer wins $20 million bet. Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation had an offer to sell securities for $20 million. It had a $98.6 million cost in the securities, so it wasn’t a great return, but $20 million is still better than nothing. Well, maybe not.

The taxpayer determined to abandon the securities in the belief that the result would be a $98.6 million ordinary loss — generating a tax savings of around $34.5 million. That seemed like a better deal than taking the cash, because the $78.6 million loss would then be a corporate capital loss — deductible only against capital gains, and expiring after five years.

In December 2012 the Tax Court said that Pilgrims Pride made a losing bet, ruling that Section 1234A made the loss a capital loss. Now the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the taxpayer made the right bet, reversing the Tax Court:

The primary question in this case is whether § 1234A(1) applies to a taxpayer’s abandonment of a capital asset. The answer is no. By its plain terms, § 1234A(1) applies to the termination of rights or obligations with respect to capital assets (e.g. derivative or contractual rights to buy or sell capital assets). It does not apply to the termination of ownership of the capital asset itself. Applied to the facts of this case, Pilgrim’s Pride abandoned the Securities, not a “right or obligation . . . with respect to” the Securities.

Taxpayers outside the Fifth Circuit still need to be aware that the Tax Court says abandonment doesn’t turn capital losses into ordinary income, but in the right circumstances, it may still be worth a try. In the Fifth Circuit, abandon with, well, abandon.

I find this from the Fifth Circuit opinion interesting, if not necessarily true:

Congress does not legislate in logic puzzles, and we do not “tag Congress with an extravagant preference for the opaque when the use of a clear adjective or noun would have worked nicely.”

Logic puzzles seem to be pretty common in the tax law. Look at the ACA, which provides a $100 per-day, per-employee penalty for Section 105 plans, while Section 105 itself still rewards employees who participate in these plans with a tax benefit. That puzzles me. But I digress.

When the Tax Court first ruled in this case, I wrote:

Presumably the Gold Kist [a company that ended up owning Pilgrim’s Pride] board didn’t decide to go for the ordinary loss on its own.  Somewhere along the way a tax advisor told them that this would work.  That person can’t be very happy today for advising the client to walk away from $20 million in cash.

That’s one tax advisor who had an excellent day yesterday.

Cite: Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, CA-5, No. 14-60295

Other coverage: Fifth Circuit Reverses Tax Court, Allows $98 Million Deduction To Pilgrim’s Pride (Tony Nitti)

 

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Jason Dinesen ponders What to Do with a K-1 with a Fiscal Year End

Russ Fox, Taxes Impacting the Giants. “There’s an obvious implication here: the big spending Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees have inflated their salaries to cover high state taxes.”

TaxGrrrl, Looking For Your Refund? Need To Ask A Question? Finding Answers At IRS.

Peter Reilly, IRS Denies 501(c)(3) Exemption To Booster Club Due To Inurement. Quoting the IRS denial letter:

However, the money that they make in your name does not go into your general budget. Rather, you keep an accounting of how much revenue each member brings in and permit each member to apply that revenue to the cost of athletic competitions for their children.

Peter explains why that doesn’t work.

 

Kay Bell, More forgiving IRS to waive some bad 1095-A tax penalties

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 658. Today’s big story is the $129,000 on bonuses paid to Lois Lerner while Tea Party applications for exemption languished. I’m sure there’s no connection.

Alan Cole, Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together on Corporate Integration (Tax Policy Blog):

The reason that the traditional American C corporation is in decline is that it has faces multi-part tax, with two successive rounds of taxation for the owners. In contrast, the pass-through structure faces only one. That is why American businesses, when possible, are choosing this tax structure. It is now the dominant legal structure for businesses in America. In that structure, the owners of the corporation simply pay ordinary income tax on all the corporation’s income.

The path ahead to fundamental tax reform almost necessarily must lead through corporate integration. Fortunately, my colleague Kyle Pomerleau has done the research that ties this all together. He has found out how some other countries – like Australia and Estonia – have gone about tying together their corporate taxes and their shareholder taxes into one neat single layer.

So simple it just might work!

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Matt Gardner asks whether Goldman Sachs is Too Big to Pay Its Fair Share of Taxes? (Tax Justice Blog).

 

Cara Griffith, The Pinnacle of Secret Law (Tax Analysts Blog). ” That the Colorado Court of Appeals would seek to shield from public view most of the opinions it issues is appalling.”

Richard Auxier, GOP Governors Flirt with Tax Hikes but Still Wedded to Income Tax Cuts (TaxVox). Governor Branstad went boldly beyond flirting yesterday. Does signing the gas tax boost make Governor Branstad an unfaithful husband?

 

Caleb Newquist, Supreme Court Unhooks Fisherman From Conviction Under SOX Anti-Shredding Provision (Going Concern). “Please practice catch and release.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/25/15: Iowa gas tax boost goes to Governor. And: an appointment with Sauron.

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1284Both houses of the Iowa General Assembly approved a 10-cent per gallon gas tax increase yesterday. The Des Moines Register reports:

The fuel tax increase has had strong support from a coalition representing farm groups, business organizations and local government officials. Iowa Farm Bureau members flooded the Capitol last week to lobby legislators to encourage a vote in favor of the gas tax increase. They contended better roads are crucial to the state’s economy and that gas taxes — 20 percent of which are paid by out-of-state motorists — offered the best solution.

The legislation was opposed by Iowans for Tax Relief and Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group, as well as truck stop operators and convenience store owners who worry retailers on Iowa’s borders will lose business to competitors in neighboring states. Opponents suggested lawmakers needed to better prioritize state spending, and proposed tapping revenues from the state’s general fund to pay for highway projects.

While I think gas taxes are a good way to pay for roads — they put the cost on the users — I am unconvinced that the state uses the funds wisely. By ramming the bill through committee by stacking it with yes votes, the legislature leadership made sure such concerns would not be addressed.

I expect the Governor to sign the bill. The legislature wouldn’t have gone through the trouble if they had any doubt. I have predicted that his approval of a gas tax increase means he won’t run for another term. But I also predicted the gas tax wouldn’t pass.

Somewhat related: Jim Maule, So Who Should Pay for Roads?

 

IMG_0543Why not exempt everyone? Tax Analysts reports ($link) that taxpayers who have filed returns based on incorrect ACA 1095-A forms will not have to pay any additional tax based on the corrected forms:

Tax return filers who purchased health insurance from federal marketplaces set up under the Affordable Care Act and who then filed tax returns based on erroneous information contained in Forms 1095-A will not need to file amended returns with the IRS to stay compliant, the Treasury Department said in a February 24 statement.

“The IRS will not pursue the collection of any additional taxes from these individuals based on updated information in the corrected [1095-A] forms,” the Treasury statement said.

It’s yet another example of the IRS making up rules for Obamacare when its flaws become too obvious. I’m not one to complain when the IRS fails to enforce a dumb tax, but does anybody think the IRS would be as understanding for, say, failing to amend based on a corrected K-1?

Related: Robert Wood, Wrong Obamacare Form Tax Filers Get Relief From IRS. “Unfortunately, the 750,000 people who were sent erroneous form but who haven’t yet filed their taxes are being told to wait until the corrected forms arrive in March.”

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Testing Taxpayer Appointments At Some Taxpayer Assistance Centers. Why appointments?

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Tax season is saved! Majority of Taxpayers with Obamacare Premium Tax Credits Need to Pay Back Portion (Accounting Today). I’m sure that’s popular.

Howard Gleckman, So Far, Affordable Care Act Users Are Managing Tax Filing, Many Uninsured May Use New Enrollment Period (TaxVox)

Jason Dinesen, Is Iowa Filing Status Tied to Federal Filing Status When You’re Married?

Annette Nellen explains Bitcoin transaction reporting. If you use Bitcoins regularly, you’ll need a bigger tax return.

Kay Bell, New York city, state lawmakers seek pet adoption tax credit. Not every problem is a tax problem, folks.

Leslie Book, Taxpayer Rights: A Look Back to Congressional Testimony of Michael Saltzman and Nina Olson

Jack Townsend, Cono Namorato to Be DOJ Tax AAG.

 

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Snow warning today!

 

Scott Drenkard, Utah Is Eyeing An E-Cigarette Tax, But Its Reasoning Is Faulty (Tax Policy Blog). States have a pretty sweet deal with the tobacco devil, getting a cut of tobacco revenues. They hate the idea of e-cigs cuttting into that.

 

David Brunori, Sorry Folks — Clothes Should Be Taxable (Tax Analysts Blog):

The sales tax should fall on all final personal consumption. Everything you buy, be it tangible personal property or services, should be subject to the tax. Such a broad base minimizes economic distortions, allows for overall lower rates, and makes both administration and compliance easier.

But it minimizes the opportunities for legislators to do favors for friends.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 657

 

Caleb Newquist, Accountants vs. Lawyers: A Pointless Debate (Going Concern). “A lawyer and an accountant walk into a bar. Everyone else in the bar doesn’t care.”

 

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