Archive for the ‘Tax Roundup’ Category

Tax Roundup, 9/29/14: Obamacare fines can hit $12,000 for a family for 2014. And: tax-evading Congressman beamed up.

Monday, September 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2Laura Saunders, Penalty for Not Having Health Coverage Can Be Thousands of Dollars; The ACA Penalty Can Top $12,000 for a High-Income Family of Five:

For a family of five, the penalty could be as high as $12,240 for the 2014 tax year, experts say. And for many people, the penalty will rise sharply in 2015 and 2016.

The massive health-care changes passed in 2010 are phasing in, and this is the first year most Americans must have approved health insurance. Those who don’t will owe a penalty under the Individual Shared Responsibility Provision. It’s due with your income taxes, payable by April 15, 2015.

For your own good, of course.  And even if you get the coverage, you can get surprised by a tax bill at year-end if you mis-estimated your income for the year.  (Via the TaxProf). 

 

TraficantBeamed up. When Congresscritters are called “colorful,” it implies they are harmless and almost cute. James Traficant was often described as a “colorful” Congresscritter.  He would give speeches with the tag line “beam me up.”  Russ Fox reports that his request has been granted; the former Congressman died last week.

His colorful career came to a bad end with seven years in prison for tax evasion and other charges. He was accused of accepting bribes and not paying taxes as a sheriff before he made it to Congress; his defense was that he was conducting a secret undercover investigation of the bribe-givers.  He was convicted and expelled from the House. You have to achieve a pretty high standard of low to be expelled from that wretched hive of scum and villainy.

As his release date neared, a minor league baseball team prepared to celebrate with a “Traficant Release Night” promotion, until they got cold feet and cancelled.

It’s fun to laugh at these antics, and it’s healthy to mock politicians. Yet even an ineffective Congresscritter wields an enormous amount of power, with a 1/535 say in a trillion-dollar federal budget. The real laugh is on the taxpayers who put such power in such hands.

Update: Peter Reilly has a detailed history of Mr. Traficant’s tax troubles: James Traficant Jr. And The Taxpayer’s Burden

 

Russ Fox, California Mandates E-Filing of Business Returns:

There is one major issue with the law that I see: Most tax software today does not allow for electronic filing of a single-member LLC return (a disregarded entity). While there is no federal return for such an entity, California does require the return to be filed (and an $800 annual fee be paid). California also does not have its own online system to e-file business returns. My software currently does not have the ability to e-file a California single-member LLC return. I’ll be asking my software provider about this…but not until after October 15th.

Impossibility has never been an excuse with California.

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Saving & The Kiddie Tax.

Kay BellLying to your tax pro could result in a bad tax situation. Shockingly, this appears to be an issue with the Jersey Shore guy’s tax problems. I mean, if you can’t trust a guy from Jersey Shore, what’s left to trust?

William Perez, Investing in a 401(k)? Learn Your Yearly Maximum Contribution Amounts

Peter Reilly, Scholarships Do Not Make Beauty Pageant A Charity.  No, but 501(c)(3) also exempts “educational” institutions, and without the Miss U.S.A. pageant, I would have never been educated on the use of red cups as musical instruments.

 

Phil Hodgen, Your expatriation tax return when U.S. income is zero. It’s sad that our insane and abusive treatment of offshore Americans is making this a common issue.

Jack Townsend, Wylys Ordered to Disgorge Hundreds of Millions of Tax Benefits With Interest

Jason Dinesen, The IRS Says I’m Not Authorized to Speak On My Own Behalf:

So to recap:

  1. The IRS says I am not my own authorized representative so they can’t make the changes I requested

  2. The IRS sent me a duplicate copy of their letter because I am my authorized representative

But I’m sure preparer regulation would go smoothly…

 

20140929-1Kyle Pomerleau, Always Be Careful with IRS Income Data (Tax Policy Blog):

The U.S. tax code only accounts for capital income (capital gains, specifically) when it is realized. This means that someone may have been accumulating capital gains for 40 years in an investment portfolio, but the IRS only sees the final (sometimes massive) realization. Suppose an individual invested in stock. Each year, the gains were small, but in the 41st year, he realized all of the past years’ gains and earned $1 million in income. IRS data would show that this taxpayer was a millionaire one year (and part of the 1 percent).

And he’d be the Devil, for one year.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Pressure, Power, and a New View on Cuts. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers unintended consequences of the new inversion rules and the changing politics of tax cuts.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 508. Speculation on whether there is a link between the IRS scandal and the Holder resignation.

 

Department of Unfortunate Examples.  Econlog’s Scott Sumner has an interesting post addressing why pay disparities that seem puzzling on the surface might make sense: Don’t jump to conclusions (markets are smarter than you or I)

It’s a wise post, but I wish he’d have found a different example:

You might think that a secretary is a secretary and a janitor is a janitor. Not so, they vary quite a bit in competence. Goldman Sachs has much more to lose from an incompetent secretary than does a small accounting firm in Des Moines.

I prefer to think that our “small accounting firm in Des Moines” doesn’t have to pay as much as Goldman Sachs because people here don’t have to work with people from Goldman Sachs.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/26/14: Fact-check Fail Edition. And: it’s Buzz day!

Friday, September 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20121006-1During the continuing brutal assault on reason perpetrated by campaign ads in election season, it would be nice if the press would do competent work to identify misleading and stupid claims by candidates.

Alas.

Erin Jordan at Cedar Rapids’ TheGazette.com took a stab at it in her “fact check” of an ad by Pat Murphy, running in Iowa’s 1st congressional district:

“Blum cheated his workers out of overtime.”

“He moved his business to dodge Iowa taxes.”

“He laid off over 70 workers”

Source of Claim: Iowa Sen. Pat Murphy, a Dubuque Democrat running for U.S. House of Representatives

“Blum” is Rod Blum, a former executive at Eagle Point Software, and Mr. Murphy’s opponent.  This being a tax blog, let’s look at the tax claim discussion (my emphasis):

Claim 2: “Moved his business to dodge Iowa taxes”

Originally incorporated in Iowa in 1983, Eagle Point, under Blum’s leadership, reincorporated in Delaware in 1995, according to SEC filings. The company’s physical location and all employees remained in Dubuque.

Many U.S. companies — including more than half of those in the Fortune 500 — have their legal home in Delaware for beneficial tax laws and courts.

University of Iowa College of Law professor Andy Grewal, who specializes in tax law, said a company’s Delaware presence — even if it’s just a P.O. Box — may charge royalties on income gained in other states. Companies deduct those royalties from the income taxes they are required to pay in, say, Iowa, while Delaware doesn’t tax the royalties.

From the “conclusion”:

Under Blum, Eagle Point reincorporated in Delaware, generally viewed as having more business-friendly tax laws and courts. In these types of cases, the home state can lose out on corporate income taxes…

The claims in Murphy’s ad are mostly true.

20131029-3The “fact checker” has no basis for that statement, at least with the tax information in her story. The idea that companies incorporate in Delaware primarily for tax reasons is flat wrong. Delaware is preferred largely for its well-developed business-friendly corporate law.

While Delaware is tax-friendly, the royalty maneuver casually referred to in the story only works if an intellectual property corporation has been set up in Delaware to own the IP; the IP company collects the royalties in Delaware, and the operating company deducts the payments to lower its income in high-tax states.  There appears to have been no such entity. 

The 1999 10-K filing with financial statements for Eagle Point Software would detail related parties and subsidiaries included in the financial statements. Any Delaware IP subsidiary would be included in the consolidated financial information, because while investors like it when their companies reduce state taxes, they don’t like it if it means real cash leaves the company covered by the financial statements.

Eagle Point’s only subsidiary included in the financials is a Wisconsin Corporation, ECOM Associates. As Wisconsin is a high-tax state, nobody would set up an IP holding company there.

The only “related party transaction” shown in the statements is its lease for its facilities. There is no mention of any intellectual property lease.

And there almost certainly would have been no need for Eagle Point Software to go through the trouble.  Corporations apportion their income to Iowa based on the destination of the sale.  As a public company, we can assume over 90% of their sales were to non-Iowa customers.  That means almost all of its income would not be taxed in Iowa to begin with.  And that would have been just as true if the company were incorporated in Iowa, rather than Delaware.

So, apparently without looking at publicly available information on Eagle Point, and with only a general statement by a law-school prof claiming no direct knowledge of the transaction, the Gazette’s “fact checker” called the assertion that the company incorporated in Delaware to dodge Iowa taxes “mostly true.” In fact, there appears to be no royalty agreement to funnel income out of Iowa. And, as most of Eagle Point Software’s sales would have been to non-Iowa customers, there would be little state tax to reduce in the first place.

Conclusion: with respect to the tax claims evaluated by Thegazette.com, I rate their fact-checking effort worthless. I rate the claim by Pat Murphy that Eagle Point incorporated in Delaware to “dodge Iowa taxes” false.

 

buzz20140905It’s Friday, so it’s Buzz Day! Go see Robert D. Flach for the fresh Buzz, including (of course) his pungent thoughts on the Jersey Shore celebrity who is facing tax charges.

TaxGrrrl brings word of ‘Staggering’ Sanctions Slapped On Wyly Brothers In Offshore Case. $190 million, plus interest, will get anyone’s attention.

 

 

Christopher Bergin, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds (Tax Analysts Blog):

This week the Treasury Department got into the act, putting corporate America on notice that it will soon issue regulations that will take “targeted action to reduce the tax benefits of – and when possible, stop – corporate tax inversions.” Treasury said it “will continue to review a broad range of authorities for further anti-inversion measures as part of our continued work to close loopholes that allow some taxpayers to avoid paying their fair share.”

I think Treasury will end up regretting this announcement. First, two minor points: So-called loopholes are created by elected officials and include such things as the ability to deduct the interest you pay on the mortgage you got to buy that house you live in. And it’s up to Congress to decide on “fair shares.” The Treasury Department doesn’t get to make law, which is why when it comes to corporate inversions it will ultimately do little more than make a lot of noise and create an initial annoyance.

The point is to score some election season points; if it causes problems down the road, well, they’ll be somebody else’s.

 

Joshua McCaherty, California Triples Film Tax Credit. (Tax Policy Blog)  Because Hollywood needs taxpayer funding.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 505

 

Now he’s probably taken a big step towards fulfilling that vow. Mississippi surgeon found guilty of tax evasion after claiming “vow of poverty”

 

News from the Profession. Revealed: The tax accountant who runs brothel from Belfast terrace (Belfast Telegraph).  Think of the cross-selling opportunities! No word on whether that’s where he gets his extra help for busy season.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/25/14: Jersey Shore Special! And: does bonus depreciation really work?

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140925-1The IRS just dropped in to see what situation my situation is in. The big tax news today apparently is that some guy from the “Jersey Shore” T.V. show with the nickname “The Situation” is accused of not paying his taxes on $8.9 million of income.

TaxGrrrl reports:

According to the indictment, the feds allege that Mike and his brother, Marc (who is also Mike’s manager) used two companies they controlled, MPS Entertainment, LLC and Situation Nation, Inc., to evade taxation. Both of the companies were set up as S corporations which means that they were passthrough entities: the income and expenses were meant to pass through to the shareholders who were, you guessed it, Mike and Marc. As part of the conspiracy, it’s alleged that the brothers took money out of the companies for personal expenses like “high-end vehicles, purchases of high-end clothing, and personal grooming expenses” but claimed that they were legitimate business expenses. They allegedly also deliberately understated the amount of income received by the companies to their accountants who then passed through the lower income amounts to be reported on individual returns. 

To test your care in reading the story, Tony Nitti offers a quiz.

I have never seen “Jersey Shore,” but I get the impression that the indicted guy wasn’t cast to showcase his intellectual achievements.  It’s not remarkable if he didn’t pay his taxes; it is remarkable that he made almost $9 million in the first place. Easy come, easy go.

 

20140814-1William McBride, New Study Finds Bonus Depreciation Boosts Investment (Tax Policy Blog):

The authors are Eric Zwick, of the University of Chicago, and James Mahon, of Harvard, and they conclude that “bonus depreciation raised eligible investment by 17.3 percent on average between 2001 and 2004 and 29.5 percent between 2008 and 2010.” This is more than double the effect that previous studies have found, which the authors attribute to the fact that previous studies excluded the effects on small and medium-sized firms.

Bonus depreciation — the ability to deduct 50% (formerly 100%) of the cost of new assets that would otherwise have to be depreciated or amortized — expired at the end of 2013. It may be revived retroactively after the elections.

I have my doubts that it makes as much of a difference as the study concludes. Still, when you have bonus depreciation, you give businesses an easy way to control their taxable income at year-end planning time, and in some cases it surely causes purchases that would otherwise be delayed or foregone.

Bonus deprciation has other consequences. By lowering the cost of capital investment it makes it easier to substitute machinery for labor — something minimum wage advocates ignore as they merrily price low-skill people out of the labor market with their good intentions.

 

Jason Dinesen, Things Tax Preparers Say: S-Corporation Compensation (Again!):

S-corporation owner hasn’t been paying himself a salary despite having large corporate net income, and despite taking large withdrawals of money from the corporation. Those withdrawals had always been called “shareholder distributions.”

On the owner’s personal return, all of the corporate net income was reported as ordinary income. He also makes contributions into an IRA.

There is no happy ending here.

 

20130121-2Leslie Book, For Those Keeping Track: Preparers in the Spotlight (Procedurally Taxing):

TIGTA also recently released a report criticizing IRS’s failure to manage the flow of complaints relating to preparer misconduct. The TIGTA report, which did describe some progress IRS has made in its processing and review of potentially misbehaving preparers, also showed that IRS is not fully using the information it has to combat preparer misconduct. Juxtaposing that with the IRS’s efforts to expand its oversight through testing and education does not lead to a pretty picture and opens IRS up to criticism along the lines of the following: IRS has information and powers at its disposal; IRS is failing to use either properly; IRS should at least manage what it has before expanding powers and imposing costs on preparers and taxpayers

Of course, preventing misconduct and incompetence is only a pretext for preparer regulation. The real goal is to increase barriers to entry and the value of the nationwide tax prep chains. After all, they wrote the rules in the first place.

 

Andrew Mitchel, Payments to Foreign Contractor Entities: Form W-8BEN-E. You might need to be withholding from a vendor who gives you you one of these. You should always get a W-9 from your vendors; if they aren’t a U.S. person, they’ll have to give you a W-8 instead, alerting you to a possible withholding liability.

William Perez, What Is Alternative Minimum Tax?

Janet Novack, Retirement Rich List: 314 Have IRAs Averaging $258 Million Each, GAO Estimates. Naturally, the politicians want some of that.

 

20140925-2David Brunori, $1 Billion Is the New Normal in the Incentives World (Tax Analysts Blog) “Nevada is giving $1.3 billion to a company that is essentially owned by a guy worth $12 billion.” And they’re taking it from a lot of Nevadans who aren’t worth $12 billion.

Kay Bell, Amazon tax collection begins Oct. 1 in Maryland & Minnesota

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 9/24: Tax Cuts, Tax Cuts and More Tax Cuts (Tax Justice Blog). To The TJB folks, that’s considered bad news.

Cara Griffith, Taxing the Cloud (Tax Analysts Blog). “Interestingly, of nine states that have recently issued administrative guidance on the taxability of cloud computing services, only two have found the services taxable. The remaining seven have determined cloud computing is not taxable.”


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 504. Today’s scandal roundup features  500 Days After IRS Scandal Broke, Reporter Still Refuses To Pay His Taxes:

500 days later, the IRS still hasn’t produced emails from Lerner and the more than 20 other IRS employees whose computers allegedly crashed, whose Blackberries were thrown away and “upgraded,” and, in Lerner’s case, whose hard drive was “scratched” and destroyed. But we know that Lerner exchanged confidential taxpayer information on conservatives with top White House adviser Jeanne Lambrew during the 2012 election cycle. We know that Lerner and her White House-visiting underling Nikole Flax were involved in a “secret research project” involving conservative donor information that was approved by then-IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller. President Barack Obama first called the whole thing “outrageous.” Then he said there’s “not a smidgen of corruption.”

The reporter who isn’t paying his taxes better be putting the money aside, and then some, as he surely will pay them, with penalties and interest.

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Tax Roundup, 9/24/14: The $3,000+ price tag of Iowa’s special tax breaks. And: Tea Parties in the strangest places.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1Do special favors for special friends in the Iowa income tax cost Iowa families $3,000? A Buena Vista University professor seems to think so.  Paul Brennan reports that Jeremy Horpedahl, an economist at BV, has determined that removing all “tax privileges” in Nebraska would save the average Nebraska family that much, and that it might be more in Iowa:

Although he hasn’t yet done a thorough analysis Iowa’s tax codes, Horpedahl said eliminating tax privileges would result in at least as great as savings.

“Actually, it would probably be a little higher, because Iowa has more privileges built into its tax code,” Horpedahl said.

Sadly, Mr. Horpedahl said he studied Nebraska’s system because they are actually considering serious tax reform, unlike Iowa.  What does he mean by “privileges?”

“I define a tax privilege as a tax break or exemption that benefits a specific type of industry or an individual taking a certain type of action,” Horpedahl explained.

“The standard deduction on income tax isn’t a privilege, because that’s available to everyone. But a tax break that benefits just the construction industry is. For an individual, that certain goods or services they buy are exempt from sales tax is a privilege,” he said.

Mr. Horpedahl sounds a theme familiar to Tax Update readers:

Horpedahl pointed out that Iowa’s businesses would  also benefit from the elimination of tax privileges.

“Iowa has a very high corporate tax rate — 12 percent — so to be attractive to businesses, the state has to offer them a way of avoiding it,” Horpedahl said.

“But not every business can avoid it. So what we end up doing is rewarding lobbying. Those who are successful in lobbying for privileges get lower taxes. And that implicitly punishes those who don’t lobby, because they end up paying higher rates.”

Also:

“Politicians love to hand out these privileges,” Horpedahl said. “It allows them to say, ‘‘I’m doing something, I’m bringing businesses to the state, I’m creating jobs.’”

“They never mention that the tax rate has to be kept high to pay for all these privileges. And most people don’t realize that research has shown that these sweetheart deals very rarely pass the cost-benefit analysis test, so there’s very little push back.”

Precisely. They take your money to lure and subsidize your competitors, and then they tell you that it is good for you. There is a solution out there, waiting for a bold politician to run with it: The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Related:

IF TRUTH IN ADVERTISING APPLIED TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES

Taking your wife’s purse to buy drinks for the girls

 

 

20140521-1More dangerous and inflammatory anti-tax rhetoric. A political group of Americans abroad surveyed its members and discovered that they think the FATCA crackdown on offshore financial activity is making life tough for innocent non-billionaire expats, reports Laura Saunders of the Wall Street Journal:

The survey… found that nearly one in six respondents had had a financial account closed by a bank or brokerage house. More than two-thirds of the checking accounts that were closed had a balance of less than $10,000. Nearly 60% of the closed investment accounts had a value of less than $50,000. Other people were unable to open accounts.

Respondents also reported Fatca-related difficulties with non-U.S. spouses and partners. More than one-fifth said they have separated or are considering separating financial accounts held jointly with their partner.

Added one person, “Fatca has caused enormous friction in my marriage. My non-U.S.spouse is refusing to let the U.S. government know about his salary/earnings/savings… and moving to separate bank accounts would leave me very vulnerable as I’m an unemployed, stay-at-home mother.”

Well, of course you’d expect this sort of anti-tax rhetoric from some Tea Party outfit. I wonder if Democrats Abroad, who ran the survey, will have its tax exemption questioned now. But if they expect Democrats in Congress to ease their plight, good luck.

 

William Perez, How Do You Report Alimony on Your Tax Return?

Peter Reilly, For Joint Filing Status You Have To File.  “You’re not supposed to do that if you are actually married though.”

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Internships. ” If there’s no income to report, that makes the income piece easy.”

Robert D. Flach, IRS ANNOUNCES NEW PER DIEM RATES FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL

Keith Fogg, Extracting Yourself from a Tax Court Case (Procedurally Taxing)

 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 503,  The day 503 of the so-called “so-called scandal” includes a link to this from Jason Keisling and Emily Elkins: Lois Lerner Claims the IRS Did Nothing Wrong. The Data Say Otherwise, with this fine chart:

targetingstatschart

 


Alan Cole, Reducing Compliance Costs for Small Businesses (Tax Policy Blog):

A good principle in tax policy – as well as policy in general – is to let the little things go. This principle has taken form in a legal maxim, de minimis non curat lex, Latin for “the law does not concern itself with trifles.” Currently, any business expected to owe at least $1,000 in tax for the year must file quarterly. $1,000 is a trifling amount to the IRS, one that need not be split into installment payments.

The Peters bill would allow very new businesses, or businesses with less than $1 million in total revenues, to file their taxes only once yearly – an arrangement that seems more reasonable.

Good thinking.

 

Howard Gleckman, Treasury’s New Rules May Slow, But Won’t Stop Corporate Tax Inversions (TaxVox). “Now the dealmakers have the roadmap they need to keep their inversions Kosher. And with that guidance, it is likely that lawyers will attempt to restructure many transactions to satisfy the new rules.”

 

News from the Profession. Why Your Firm Needs a Bring Your Dog to Work Policy (Leona May, Going Concern).  Sounds like animal cruelty to me.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/22/14: Lerner speaks, sort of. And: a federal tax amnesty?

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner gives an interview. The former IRS officer at the center of the Tea Party disclosure scandal won’t testify under oath, but she sat down for a two-hour interview with Politico: Exclusive: Lois Lerner Breaks Silence:

And she’s a savvy lawyer: She studiously avoided answering fundamental questions about her role in the IRS scandal that could land her in deeper trouble with Congress. During her POLITICO interview, flanked by her husband, a partner at a national law firm, and two of her personal attorneys, she opened up about her life as a pariah, joked about horrible news photos and advice that she disguise herself with a blond wig, and cried when expressing gratitude for her legal team’s friendship.

It is, of course, a public-relations play, designed to make her look like a misunderstood victim of a partisan witch hunt. But it isn’t an especially impressive effort. From the Politico piece:

Several Lerner allies said she was so focused on enforcement that she failed to see the sensitivity of bringing cases against incumbents running for reelection.

But Republicans continue to point to emails in which Lerner inquired about Crossroads specifically, asking her colleagues why the group hadn’t been audited and suggesting the group’s application should be denied. And just weeks before the tea party news broke, after she had seen a draft of the damning inspector general report, she asked colleagues if internal IRS instant messages are tracked and could be requested by Congress.

A little history sheds some light on her “non-partisan” background:

– Before she worked at the IRS, she worked at the Federal Elections Commission, she attempted to get an Illinois GOP senate candidate to withdraw from public life as the price for ending an FEC investigation. The allegations were later dismissed.

– The IRS Commissioner, Doug Shulman, repeatedly denied there was any targeting before the report. Either he knew better, or as a subordinate, she didn’t pass the word up the chain.

– She was in the middle of the Tea Party efforts at an early date. When the Treasury Inspector General Report was about to open the scandal, she did a modified limited hangout, using a planted question to spin the story as just a Cincinnati rogue agent problem.

– She had a hang-up about the Citizens United decision, and her emails show that she was trying to use the tax law to accomplish what the Supreme Court had forbidden.

– The numbers are glaring, showing that conservative groups got much more scrutiny, and it took much longer for their applications to be approved than liberal groups:

targetingstats

Ms. Lerner has, of course, invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress about her role in the scandal.

Presumably this interview is the start of a P.R. campaign. I don’t think it will work, but it might get her some good press from outlets inclined to dismiss the scandal.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 500. It features Stonewall Koskinen: The IRS Commissioner Was Supposed to Clean Up the Mess. Instead, He’s Running Interference from Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal:

 The only thing Mr. Koskinen has seemed remotely interested in turning around is his agency’s ugly story-line. He has yet to even accept his agency did anything wrong, spending a March hearing arguing that the IRS didn’t engage in “targeting” and claiming the Treasury inspector general agreed. This was so misleading the Washington Post gave Mr. Koskinen “three Pinocchios, ” noting the IG had testified to the exact opposite.

He seems intent on de-throning Doug Shulman as the Worst Commissioner Ever.

 

 

get-outRobert D. Flach asks WHAT ABOUT A FEDERAL TAX AMNESTY?

This would be a one-time only offer. The legislation creating the Federal Tax Amnesty Program could so state by forbidding any future Amnesty programs. Or it could state that the federal government would not be able to institute another Amnesty Program during the twenty years after the end of the current amnesty period.

I have my doubts. One Congress can’t bind another, and if it is popular, the pressure for another amnesty will start building as soon as the first one ends. I also worry about the chump effect – people will feel like chumps for complying, and will convince themselves that if they don’t comply, there will be another amnesty anyway. But I might be convinced otherwise, especially if it were combined with tax reforms that would help prevent the need for another one.

 

Russ Fox, “I’ve tried to tell you the truth every time I’ve been here”. “That quote is from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during his testimony from earlier this week on Capitol Hill. I have a simple question for Commissioner Koskinen: Why doesn’t that quote read, ‘I’ve told you the truth every time I’ve been here?'”

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Childcare Expenses

Jack Townsend, Trial Management of the Cheek Good Faith Defense.  Or as an old lawyer I know calls it, the “good-faith fraud defense.”

Kay Bell, Getting old sucks. We can’t stop Father Time, but we can prepare physically, emotionally and financially. And it still beats the alternative.

 

David Brunori talks about Nevada’s Tesla giveaway in State Tax Notes ($link):

Nevada is giving $1.3 billion to a company that is essentially owned by a guy worth $12 billion. I don’t begrudge Elon Musk his money. On the contrary, I admire his ability to create and accumulate great wealth. I just don’t see the need to give him public money. Assuming you ascribe to the belief that horizontal equity requires that similarly situated taxpayers bear similar burdens, Nevada is giving away public money…

I know that the politics of incentives are impossible to overcome. And I have had numerous readers tell me to give my constant ranting a rest. But the political inevitability of tax incentives does not make them appropriate or good.

Tax credit corporate welfare doesn’t just hurt the states that “lose” the competition to bribe companies like Tesla. It hurts all of the businesses of the “winning” state that have to pay full-freight while brazen and well-connected companies like Tesla pay nothing.

 

20140922-1William Gale, Income Tax Changes and Economic Growth (TaxVox) “While there is no doubt that tax policy influences economic choices, it is by no means obvious on an ex ante basis that tax rate cuts will ultimately lead to a larger economy.”

Joshua McCaherty,  Senator Schumer’s Retroactive Tax Bill (Tax Policy Blog). Part of the inversion diversion.

Ajay Gupta, Renouncing the Dogma of Surrey’s Infallibility (Tax Analysts Blog). Sounds like something involving the Pope and Henry VIII, but it’s really about transfer pricing.

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Workers Comp Resource Center, with posts from around the insurance and risk-management world.

 

News from the Profession. 15 Reasons Why EY’s BuzzFeed Post Is a Bunch of Malarkey (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/19/14: Brutal Assault on Reason Season Edition. Arrggh!

Friday, September 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121006-1Brutal Assault on Reason Season is underway. Elections depress me. Arnold Kling sums up my feelings:

To me, political campaigns are not sacred events, to be eagerly anticipated and avidly followed. They are brutal assaults on reason. I look forward to election season about as much as a gulf coast resident looks forward to hurricane season.

Very few of us are in a position to have more than intuitions on the great issues of the day. Rarely are voters health-care economists, trade experts, military or foreign policy specialists, etc., and most of us have little basis to tell when the politicians are lying about these issues (though that is a good default assumption). Doing taxes for a living, though, I feel competent to identify bogus tax claims by politicians. William McBride does so in a Tax Policy Blog Post,  U.S. Corporate Tax Revenue is Low Because High Taxes Have Shrunk the Corporate Sector.

He quotes the U.S. Senate’s only unabashed socialist, Bernie Sanders:

“Want to better understand why we have a federal deficit? In 1952, the corporate income tax accounted for 33 percent of all federal tax revenue. Today, despite record-breaking profits, corporate taxes bring in less than 9 percent. It’s time for real tax reform.”

There is a truly brutal assault on reason, and Mr. McBride fights back:

The share of U.S. business profits attributable to pass-through businesses has grown dramatically as well, as they now represent more than 60 percent of all U.S. business profits. The second chart below shows that C corporation profits, while extremely volatile, have generally trended downward in recent decades, while the profits of S corporations and partnerships have trended upwards. In the 1960s and 1970s, C corporation profits were about 8 percent of GDP, while partnership profits were about 1 percent and S corporation profits were virtually nil. Now C corporation profits hover around 4 percent of GDP (4.7 percent in 2011), while partnership profits are almost at the same level (3.7 percent in 2011) and S corporation profits are not far behind (2.4 percent in 2011). Partnership and S corporation profits are growing such that they will each exceed C corporation profits in the near future if not already. When commentators claim that “corporate profits are at an all-time high”, they are referring to Bureau of Economic Analysis data that combines C corporations and pass-through businesses, whether they know it or not.

In sum, the Senator’s statement is flat out false. It is completely misleading to claim that corporate profits are up while corporate tax revenues are down, essentially implying there is some mischief going on via “loopholes”, etc. The truth is corporate tax revenue has been falling for decades because the corporate sector has been shrinking, and not just by corporate inversions. The most likely culprit is our extremely uncompetitive corporate tax regime.

In other words, high rates are driving businesses out of the corporate form and to pass-throughs of one sort or another.

20140919-1

As we head into election season, expect the brutal assaults to continue. Here are a few phrases commonly seen in assaults on reason when taxes are involved, enabling you to spot them even if you don’t know a 1040 from a hole in the ground:

“Politician X voted for tax breaks to ship jobs overseas.”

“This tax cut will pay for itself.”

“I believe in free markets, but tax credit X is needed to level the playing field.”

“I don’t want to punish success; I want X to pay his fair share.”

“This tax credit created X jobs”

I know I’m missing many. If you point out more in the comments, I’ll be happy to talk about them.

 

It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, so Kay Bell comes through with Avast, me hearties! The IRS wants its cut of your illegal income, be it pirated or otherwise criminally obtained.

 

Peter Reilly, Professional C Corp Denied Deduction For Uncashed Salary Check To Owner.  He covers a story I covered earlier this week where a professional corporation deducted a year-end bonus “paid” through an NSF check that was “loaned” back to the corporation.  His take: “I’m not sure that the Tax Court was right to deny any of  deduction, but I really question whether the whole deduction should be denied.”

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Deducting Student Loan Interest (Even If You Don’t Pay It)

20140826-1Robert D. Flach has fresh Friday Buzz, including links on the cost of tax compliance and “7 deadly tax sins.”

William Perez, When are State Refunds Taxed on Your Federal Return?

Jason Dinesen, IRS Says Online Sorority Is Not Tax Exempt. Social media apparently isn’t social enough for them.

Jim Maule, An Epidemic of Tax Ignorance. He covers one of my pet peeves — people who use the term “the IRS code” for the Internal Revenue Code. It’s Congress that came up with that thing, not the IRS.

Russ Fox, Hyatt Decision a Win for FTB as Far as Damages, but Decision Upheld that FTB Committed Fraud. FTB is the California Franchise Tax Board. Tax authorities should get in trouble for fraud to the same extent they hold taxpayers responsible for fraud.

 

A. Levar Taylor, What Constitutes An Attempt To Evade Or Defeat Taxes For Purposes Of Section 523(a)(1)(C) Of The Bankruptcy Code: The Ninth Circuit Parts Company With Other Circuits (Part 1) and (Part 2).

 

20140801-2Joseph Thorndike, Should We Tax Away Huge Fortunes? (Tax Analysts Blog). “In other words, if you like the estate tax, talk more about revenue and less about dynasties.”

Richard Philips, House GOP Bill Combines Worst Tax Break Ideas of 2014 for Half-a-Trillion Dollar Giveaway. (Tax Justice Blog). When they know that the Senate will ignore whatever they do, it’s easy to accommodate anyone lobbying for a tax break.

Renu Zaretsky, Will Tax Reform See Light at the End of the Next Tunnel? This TaxVox headline roundup covers Tax Reform, Treasury’s plans on inversions, and the continuing resolution passed before the congresscritters left D.C. to assault reason some more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 498

Me, IRS issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for October 2014

News from the Profession. Grant Thornton Has a Fight Song and It’s As Awful As You Might Expect (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/18/14: The $14.8 million suitcase squeeze. And: Koskinen visits the Hill.

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy Sascha Kohlmann under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Sascha Kohlmann under Creative Commons license

Accounting Today visitors: click here for the item from the September 17 “In the Blogs.”

When tax-free merger isn’t. Working with family-owned businesses, a common misunderstanding arises: if a deal is tax-free, like an “A” merger or a partnership contribution, there can’t be gift tax, right?  Very wrong, as a New Hampshire couple’s experience in Tax Court shows.

The parents, Mr. and Mrs Cavallero, had a successful S corporation known as Knight Tool Co. Their son Ken set up another business to make liquid dispensing machines, Camelot.  As part of their estate planning, the two companies merged in an income tax-free deal.  From the Tax Court summary:

Ps and their sons merged Knight and Camelot in 1995, and Camelot was the surviving entity. Valuing the two companies in accordance with the advice their professionals had given, Ps accepted a disproportionately low number of shares in the new company and their sons received a disproportionately high number of shares.

It turns out that the estate planners “postulated” a technology transfer earlier in the lives of the companies that would have resulted in most of the value already being in the second generation. One planner explained to a skeptical attorney that “History does not formulate itself, the historian has to give it form without being discouraged by having to squeeze a few embarrassing facts into the suitcase by force.”

The trouble with doing that is that when the latches break, the suitcase spills all over the place. But the planners persisted.  From the Tax Court decision:

As a result of Mr. Hamel’s correspondence campaign, however, the previously separate tracks of advice — one from the accountants at E&Y and Mr. McGillivray, and the other from the attorneys at Hale & Dorr — now came together for the first time. The contradiction was evident to all the professionals: The accountants had assumed no 1987 transfer (and thus believed there was a need for a means to transmit value to the next generation), but the attorneys postulated a 1987 transfer (and subsequent transfers) pursuant to which that value had already been placed in the hands of the next generation. The attorneys eventually prevailed, however, and the accountants acquiesced. Eventually all of the advisers lined up behind Mr. Hamel’s suggestion that a 1987 transfer be memorialized in the affidavits and the confirmatory bill of sale. They provided a draft of the documents, which Mrs. Cavallaro read aloud to Mr. Cavallaro. After they reported a few typographical errors, the attorneys prepared final versions, which Mr. Cavallaro and Ken Cavallaro executed on May 23, 1995.

So in 1995 they executed documents for a 1987 transaction.  What could go wrong? Well, perhaps the IRS could come in and assess $27.7 million in gift taxes, plus fraud penalties.  And they did. The dispute ended up in Tax Court.  The IRS won the main issue — its argument that the valuable technology was not in fact transferred in 1987 — and with that win, predictably also won the battle of appraisers.  The IRS appraiser at trail asserted a $29.6 million gift, which would result in a gift tax of about $14.8 million at 1995 rates. Because of the involvement of the outside experts, the Tax Court declined to uphold penalties.

This shows how important valuation can be even in a “tax-free” deal.  When doing business among family members at different generations in estate planning, you don’t have the conflicting interests that unrelated buyers and sellers have, so you have the possibility of creating a taxable gift if you are careless. It’s natural for family members to believe numbers that help their estate planning, so it’s wise to get an independent appraiser in to provide a reality check.  And if the facts, or values, don’t fit into the suitcase, don’t squeeze; get a bigger suitcase.

Cite: Cavallero, T.C. Memo 2014-189

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Instapundit, IRS COMMISSIONER: Our Story On The IRS Scandal Isn’t Changing. It’s Just, You Know, Evolving Now And Then.  “I’ve taken a dislike to this Koskinen fellow. He seems sleazy even by DC standards.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 497. Mostly coverage of another slippery appearance by Commissioner Koskinen before House investigators.

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: American Opportunity Credit

Kay Bell, Private and often untaxed home rentals under fire

Peter Reilly, Need To Show Rental Effort To Deduct Expenses. “I think the way I would put it is ‘If at first and second and third you don’t succeed, try something different.  Otherwise forget about deducting losses.'”

 

David Brunori, Fairness and the Reality of State Tax Systems (Tax Analysts Blog) “etc. This week WalletHub released a rating of the fairest state and local tax systems… I am not doubting the accuracy of WalletHub’s survey. But the results don’t align with political reality.”

Cara Griffith, Single Sales Factor May Be Inevitable, but Is It Fair? (Tax Analysts):

In the end, if state officials are truly concerned with making their state more attractive to businesses, perhaps they should consider retaining (or returning to) the three factor apportionment method and focus on a less burdensome corporate tax system overall. In the end, if state officials are truly concerned with making their state more attractive to businesses, perhaps they should consider retaining (or returning to) the three factor apportionment method and focus on a less burdensome corporate tax system overall.

No, they are concerned with ribbon cuttings, press releases, and campaign contributions from those seeing tax credits and carveouts.

 

 

20140805-2Renu Zaretsky, A Hail Mary or Two on the Hill.  The TaxVox tax headline roundup covers inflation adjustments and beating up on the NFL with the tax code, among other things.

Alan Cole, Why do I have Four Different Retirement Accounts? (Tax Policy Blog) “Give us one unlimited saving account, tax it properly, like an IRA, and let us use it how we will.”

Russ Fox, Zuckermans Sentenced; No Word on Fido & Lulu “Unfortunately, members of a board of directors must be human: Fido and Lulu don’t qualify.”

Adrienne Gonzalez, Mad Scientist Gets Prison Time for Using His Dog and Cat in a Tax Avoidance Scheme (Going Concern). PETA couldn’t be reached for comment.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/17/14: Is 30 years long enough to find a tenant? And more!

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140325-1If you can’t get a tenant in 30 years, maybe you’re doing something wrong.  A Minnesota architect named Meinhardt bought a farmstead in 1976.  He  rented out the cropland to neighboring farmers. He looked for a tenant for the farmhouse, too.  He was still looking in 2007, but never managed to find a cash-rent tenant for the house.

Though he never reported any rental income on the house, he paid for house expenses, including repairs, insurance supplies and utilities, deducting them on Schedule E on a joint return.  The deductions totaled $42,694 from 2005 through 2007.

The IRS decided that the architect failed to demonstrate enough of a profit motive to take the deductions.  The taxpayer argued that the expenses were actually part of renting the farmland, which the IRS agreed was a for-profit enterprise. The taxpayer also argued that he really tried to rent the house, but it just didn’t work out.

The Tax Court sided with the IRS, and now so has the Eighth Circuit.  First addressing the argument that the house expenses should be lumped in with the land rental:

They offered no evidence they ever tried to rent or lease the farmhouse and farmland together. Donald testified the farmhouse could be parceled off and sold separately from the crop and pasture land. The Tax Court did not clearly err in finding that the Meinhardts treated the farmhouse separately from the leased farmland, which was admittedly a business activity, and therefore expenses related solely to the farmhouse could not be deducted as ordinary and necessary expenses of the leased farmland activity.

The hard-luck landlord defense didn’t fare any better:

The Tax Court found that the Meinhardts did not prove the farmhouse was held for the production of income during the tax years in question because they “did nothing to generate revenue during the years in issue [and] had no credible plan for operating it profitably in the future. There was no affirmative act (renting or holding for appreciation in value) to demonstrate that the property was held for the production of income.” (T.C. Memo. citations omitted.) This finding, too, was not clearly erroneous. Without question, the Meinhardts’ expenditures for substantial repair and improvement of the farmhouse over many years, including the tax years in question, increased the value of that property. But they failed to prove that they were holding and improving the property to profit from its rental or its appreciation, as opposed to improving it for personal use.

The clincher:

The reasonableness of this alternative personal-use explanation for the expenditures in 2005-2007 was rather dramatically confirmed when they sold their home in suburban Minneapolis and moved into the farmhouse in 2010. 

Oops.

The Moral? If you hold property for years without generating income, you better have pretty good evidence that you have worked hard to rent it if you want to deduct the costs on your Schedule E. If it’s a rental home that you also use on weekends, you’ll have to work harder. If you hold it for 30 years without a cash tenant and then move in, your battle to convince a judge of your profit motive might be hopeless.

Cite: Meinhardt, CA-8, No. 13-2924 

Tax Court case: Meinhardt, T.C. Memo. 2013-85.

ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Annotation: No Deduction For Farmhouse-Related Expenses.

 

IMG_1944TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Deducting The Cost Of Playing Sports

William Perez, Repaying the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit. The first misbegotten version of the misbegotten First-Time Homebuyer Credit was actually more a loan than a credit, and it must be repaid over 15 years. Some of them will be repaying long after the home was sold, or foreclosed

Kay Bell, Spousal abuse: physical, financial and tax-related

Jason Dinesen, Will Software Really Replace Accountants?  I suppose it’s possible, but not with a tax system anything like we have.

Peter Reilly, Montana Catches Non-filer With Property Tax Break. When you claim a homestead exemption on your property taxes somewhere, that place might just decide that you should pay resident income taxes.

Phil Hodgen ponders the Valuation date for expatriate’s balance sheet. When you expatriate, there’s a tax for that.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 496.

20140729-2Lyman Stone, New S&P Report Shows Income Taxes Are Volatile, Sales Taxes Need Reform (Tax Policy Blog) “This closely relates to our previous findings on state revenue volatility, where we found that states with high reliance on income taxes, excise taxes, or natural resource taxes experienced some of the highest volatility.”

Howard Gleckman, Congress Cries Wolf Over Internet Access Taxes (TaxVox). “Unable to do anything important before its election season recess, Congress is about to knock down a favorite digital straw man—It will extend for a few months the about-to-expire federal ban on state taxation of Internet access.”

 

It’s campaign season, everything is a lie. PolitiFact: Democrats Are Recycling False Accusation That Republicans Support Tax Breaks for Companies That Ship Jobs Overseas (TaxProf)

Looking forward to after campaign season.  Obamacare 2.0, Outlook Not So Good (Bob Vineyard, Insureblog)

Tony Nitti, Whether You Like The Government Or Not, The IRS Expects Its Tax Revenue.  They sure do.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/15/14: Extended business returns are due today. And: the great Czech Toilet Paper Caper!

Monday, September 15th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130415-1Extended calendar-year 2013 business returns are due today. No more extensions. If you have a 1040, 1065, 1120, or 1120-S filing for 2013, be sure you get it done today.  E-filing is the best. If you want to go the old-fashioned way, get to the post office and send it “Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested.”  Keep the postmark.

If you can’t get to the post office before it closes, you can still head to a UPS Store, Fed-Ex Kinko’s, or similar place and use a designated private delivery service; be sure to use one of the qualifying services, and make sure your receipt has a time and date designation with today’s date to prove timely filing.

Why does it matter? The penalties are $195 per K-1 per month, so a late S corporation with 10 shareholders overdue six months racks up a late-filing penalty of $11,700 — no matter how little income is reportable on the return.

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Casualty Loss And Theft Deduction.  Also: a chance to win a protective phone case!

Russ Fox, From Owning a Party Mansion to Partying at ClubFed. ” Mr. Verbal and his employees offered customers a unique bonus system: If the return was falsified and the client paid cash, he would get a much larger refund.”

Tony Nitti, Client Sues Tax Advisor For Bad Advice: Is The Settlement Payment Tax-Free?

Annette Nellen, Truncating Taxpayer Identification Numbers – Enough?. “It does nothing about the trillions of documents of all sorts that exist that have people’s SSNs on them.”

Jason Dinesen, Putting Profit First While Planning for Expenses

Kay Bell, What do workers want? At some offices, it’s tax-free lunches

Keith Fogg, A Proposal to Amend Flora or Collection Due Process for Individuals Examined by Correspondence Who Do Not Pick Up or Process Their Mail. (Procedurally Taxing). “When the current procedures for tax administration were built, the rich or upper middle class were the ones interfacing with the tax system.”

lizard20140826Jack Townsend, More on [BS] Corporate Tax Shelters (with Some Rantings):

The large(r) Accounting firms developed substantial practice groups that, overtime (over time also), became an echo chamber that caused or contributed to individuals doing things that they would not do individually.  (For background, this is a major reason that conspiracy is a separate crime.)  Because individuals in these groups were in a echo chamber, they slowly begin to believe the bull shit of the echo chamber.  Had they not been in the echo chamber, they likely would not have done what they did.  But they were in the echo chamber; conduct become less evil or illegal or morally wrong because all these smart people and honorable people were participating in the venture.  Of course, the views of those at senior and more experienced levels were often substantially influenced by the extravagant money that could be made by participating.

It’s hard to see straight through a big pile of cash.

 

Joshua D. McCaherty, The Cost of Tax Compliance (Tax Policy Blog). “All said, Americans spent over 3.24 billion hours, which is about 369,858 years, preparing and filing tax returns in 2012.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 494. “So I’m thinking maybe Anthony Weiner should put his selfie in Lois Lerner’s emails.”

Ajay Gupta, Burning the Inversions Fuse at Both Ends (Tax Analysts Blog). “Here is the ultimate irony in the story: Investment bankers hired by a foreign multinational confronting acquisition by a U.S. corporation alerted the administration, the politicians, and the country to the imperatives of ‘economic patriotism.'”

Kelly Davis, Tax Policy and the Race for the Governor’s Mansion: Ohio Edition (Tax Justice Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, Taxes Take Center Stage This Week—At Least on the House Floor.  Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers Nevada’s corporate welfare for Tesla, hearings on retirement savings, and another futile extenders vote coming up this week.

A special Monday Buzz! from Robert D. Flach. Among the topics is an often-overlooked price of “backdoor” Roth IRAs.

 

20140915-1We’ll get to the bottom of this.  Czech special police team flushes out corruption after it seizes millions of toilet paper rolls:

The Czech special police squad Kobra revealed tax evasion estimated at at least 25 million Kč in business involving toilet paper and tissues, representatives of the police and customs officers has told journalists.

The police seized 3.7 million toilet paper rolls from a businessman.

Czech Financial General Directorate Deputy Director Jiří Zezulka said the toilet paper circulated among firms in the European Union while only serving as “the carrier of tax fraud” and was not produced for any final customer.

No word on whether it had special absorbency to carry tax fraud.  I love that the toilet paper caper was uncovered by “Kobra.”
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Tax Roundup, 9/12/14: C Corporation can’t kite checks to owner to wash out income. And: a church of strange idols.

Friday, September 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2In the misty early days of my tax career, S corporation elections were a big thing. There was a grace period after the passage of the 1986 Tax Reform Act where you could make the election and avoid having to deal with the built-in gain tax.

I remember calling on a prospect C corporation, thinking I could easily sell the merits of escaping the second layer of corporation tax. They were ready for me. They explained that they didn’t need an S corporation election because, as I remember it, they could always W-2 their income to the owner to zero out their taxable income. They then made an entry to record a “loan” or capital contribution for the same amount from the owner to the corporation, so no actual cash changed hands. That’s what they said they always did, and they’d never been audited.

I sputtered, “that doesn’t work,” but it apparently worked fine, as long as the IRS never called. Needless to say, I failed to land the prospect. I went back to the office determined to find a case with the same facts.  I never did find the perfect case — until now.

Yesterday the Tax Court ruled that a version of this trick didn’t work for a Minnesota C corporation architectural practice.  The stakes are higher for “personal service corporations,” including architects, as they don’t get to use the lower C corporation brackets for their taxable income; they pay 35% from dollar one. Many corporations accept that, assuming they can wipe out their taxable income with year-end bonuses to owner-employees; that way they retain a few tax-free fringe benefits unavailable to S corporation shareholders.

The Tax Court explains how the Minnesota taxpayer went about this (my emphasis, footnotes omitted):

In 2008 Vanney Associates paid Mr. Vanney monthly wages totaling $240,000. At the end of each year, it was the Vanneys’ practice to determine Vanney Associates’ remaining profit after paying any outstanding bills and paying bonuses to employees. After determining this amount, Ms. Vanney would prepare a check on behalf of Vanney Associates and pay the remaining profit to Mr. Vanney as a yearend bonus. The Vanneys testified that their intent behind the yearend bonus was only to pay out the remaining profit; it was not to zero out the tax liability of Vanney Associates even if that was the effect.

On December 30, 2008, Vanney Associates paid Mr. Vanney a yearend bonus totaling $815,000. After withholding and paying to the IRS the appropriate Federal income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes, Vanney Associates wrote a check to Mr. Vanney for $464,183. Mr. Vanney signed the check on behalf of Vanney Associates and then endorsed the check in his own name and made it  payable to Vanney Associates. He never attempted to cash the check. Ms. Vanney recorded the payment on the books as a loan from Mr. Vanney, and Vanney Associates repaid Mr. Vanney in March 2009.

Tax Court Judge Buch found that the check was never cashed for good reasons:

Mr. Vanney testified that he “believe[d]” he knew that Vanney Associates did not have the funds necessary to honor the check. However, he maintained that Vanney Associates could have gotten a loan to cover the check.

20131206-1The IRS disallowed the $815,000 bonus expense, and it ended up in Tax Court. The court sided with the IRS:

Mr. Vanney was the sole shareholder of Vanney Associates. Ms. Vanney, as Vanney Associates’ bookkeeper, knew or should have known that Vanney Associates did not have the funds to cover the bonus check to Mr. Vanney, and Mr. Vanney testified to having at least some idea of this as well. Vanney Associates argues that the payment was unconditional and payment occurred when Mr. Vanney took possession of the check. Vanney Associates cites O’Connor v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1954-90, where this Court held that “[t]he essential element is that the control of property distributed by way of a dividend must have passed absolutely and irrevocably”. The Court in O’Connor also relied on the fact that the payee had “unrestricted use” of the money and the “amount was unqualifiedly his, to do with as he wished.” That is not the case before us. If anything, Mr. Vanney had only restricted use of the check. He could not cash it at the bank, use it to pay a debt, or use it to make a loan to someone other than to Vanney Associates. In fact, Mr. Vanney’s only option to make use of the money at that time was to lend it back to Vanney Associates because the check could not be honored. Additionally, we have previously held that although a taxpayer maintains possession of a check, the amount of the check may not be treated as a distribution or may not be included in gross income when the account has insufficient funds to honor the check.

Accordingly, respondent’s disallowance of a portion of the deduction for officer compensation is sustained.

I can’t time travel to the 1980s to show this case to my now-defunct prospect corporation, but I suspect there are plenty of other C corporations that still do this. It only works if the IRS never calls, and if they do, the value of the C corporation fringes is unlikely to cover their additional C corporation taxes.

Cite: Vanney Associates, Inc., T.C. Memo 2014-184.

 

Christopher Bergin, The Church of Corporate Inversions (Tax Analysts Blog): “I never thought I’d miss stories about Lois Lerner. But if we are going to talk about fairness in our tax system and raising enough revenue to support the people’s government, dealing with the increasingly dysfunctional IRS is just one of the problems we face that are far more important than corporate inversions.”

Speaking of worshipping at The Church of Corporate Inversions: New CTJ Report: Congress Should Require Inverting Corporations to Pay Up Taxes They Owe on Profits Held Offshore (Steve Warnhoff, Tax Justice Blog)

 

20140728-1Kay Bell, Tax relief for terrorist attack victims and their families

Paul Neiffer, How Do We Plan For Section 179 in 2014. “Now, we are fairly confident that Section 179 will be increased, but we probably will not know until the last week of the year and we may get 50% bonus depreciation back too.”

Russ Fox, Cash & Carry.  A restaurateur discovers that all receipts are taxable, even if the customer doesn’t use a credit card.

Peter Reilly, Parsonage Supporters Encouraged By Seventh Circuit Oral Arguments

Leslie Book, Technology and Tax Administration: The Appeals Virtual Service Delivery Program (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Amber Athey, House September Agenda Includes Potential Tax Changes (Tax Policy Blog). Mostly extenders, none of which seem to be going anywhere until after the elections.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 491

 

Donald Marron, Does the Export-Import Bank Make or Lose Money? (TaxVox). Both. It makes money for Boeing, but loses money for those of us not on the corporate welfare rolls.

 

Career Corner. The Obvious Link Between Inadequate Staffing and Stress Explains Why You Hate Your Life (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/10/14: Another campaign season, another Iowa tax credit proposal. And: a property tax appeal goes very badly.

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 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.

How Iowa’s tax law gets worse and worse, episode 7,433.  From TheGazette.com (my emphasis):

Gov. Terry Branstad and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, traveled to college campuses Tuesday offering their plan for making higher education affordable and reducing student debt.

The GOP team proposed offering fixed-price degrees or $10,000 bachelors degree for popular major at public universities to cut costs for al limited number of in-state students and tax credits for being volunteers in qualifying community activities during stops at Iowa State University in Ames and Drake University in Des Moines.

Say that again, slowly: “tax credits for being volunteers in qualifying community activities.”  Paid volunteerism.  What a wonderful concept, like non-alcoholic whiskey.

To reduce debt that is among the nation’s highest for college students, Branstad and Reynolds said they would work with the Legislature in 2015 to create a state tax credit that would allow students to reduce debt by participating in volunteer activities within their community through a qualified Student Debt Reduction Organization.

Details and specifics of the tax credit would be worked out so it would encourage community volunteerism while also maintaining the strength of other successful tax credit programs, such as the Student Tuition Organization Tax Credit, [campaign spokesman Tommy] Schultz said.

Bluto20140910It’s something cooked up to sound good in a re-election campaign.  Well, cooked-up may be too strong a term, when it is admittedly only half-baked (details and specifics to be worked out).  You would give the Department of Revenue a new job of supervising “Student Debt Reduction Organizations.” These organizations would be set up by non-profits and government agencies to spend state money.

Can you think of any way this will end well?  Does anyone really think the “volunteer” time will be well used? Or that these local communities will have useful projects for all these “volunteers?”  And does anyone doubt that local politicians will find ways to use these “volunteers” to help them get re-elected?

But it sounds good. “Promote civic involvement.”  And the Iowa tax law gets another barnacle.

Another fallacy of the Governor’s plan: the idea that the reason college isn’t “affordable” because there aren’t enough government programs and tax credits to subsidize it. Yet every few years there is a new subsidy or tax credit, on top of the old ones.   Pell Grants, student loan subsidies, Lifetime Learning Credits, HOPE Credits, American Opportunity Tax Credits, student loan interest deductions…  all touted as making college “more affordable.”  Yet somehow tuition keeps outpacing inflation.  It should be obvious by now that higher education just raises prices to soak up the subsidies.  More subsidies and tax credits are the problem, not the solution.

 

Why you might want to hire somebody to handle your property tax appeal.  From the Des Moines Register:

An Iowa man angry about his property taxes was fatally shot during a public meeting Tuesday after he pulled a gun from a briefcase and pointed it at the county assessor, law enforcement officials said.

Francis Glaser, a former Maquoketa city manager, had become agitated and vocal about his property taxes going up during a weekly meeting of Jackson County’s board of supervisors in Maquoketa, a town about 30 miles south of Dubuque.

It apparently involved a tax incentive.

 

Paul Neiffer, Will Tax Inversion Debate Yield Permanent Section 179

Peter Reilly, Andrew Kay Passes – Helped Accountants Abandon Pencil Pushing:

 I never knew who he was, but the machine that his company made had a profound influence on tax and accounting practice , at least in my neck of the woods.  Mr. Kay was responsible for the Kaypro.

I never used a Kaypro, but I am probably indebted to Mr. Kay. With my penmanship, I could never have survived in accounting without computers.

 

20140910-1Richard Auxier, Nearly All States Play the Lottery, But None Are Big Winners (TaxVox). “Playing the lottery can be fun. But politicians selling lotteries as a panacea for education spending are just as disingenuous as lotto advertisements promising big wins. And states pushing instant and electronic games on their poorest residents are doubling-down on a bad bet.”

Russ Fox, New Jersey Tries Hail Mary on Sports Betting; Will IRS Intercept?

Kay Bell, Will Tax Inversion Debate Yield Permanent Section 179

David Brunori, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Tax Ideas (Tax Analysts Blog)

Matt Gardner, Wisconsin Contemplates Property Tax Shift from Business to Homeowners. (Tax Justice Blog). Business don’t ultimately pay taxes. They merely collect them on behalf of customers, employees and owners.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, New Earnings Stripping Bill is Fundamentally Unserious (Tax Policy Blog).  Of course it is. That doesn’t mean it won’t pass someday.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 489. Today’s roundup includes this from the Washington Post about Commissioner Koskinen’s duplicity in handling the scandal:

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testified this summer that he played no part in spreading word of the agency’s controversial missing e-mails to the Treasury Department or the White House. But one of his closest advisers apparently did.

And he wonders why Congress doesn’t want to give him all the money he asks for.

 

Career Corner.  How Failing the CPA Exam Might Actually Help You Succeed (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/8/14: One week left for procrastinators. And: there were no abuses, because they abused everyone!

Monday, September 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

7004cornerYour extended 2013 corporation, partnership and trust returns are due a week from today.  If you have a pass-through entity and you file late, you have a $195 per month, per K-1 penalty going back to April if you don’t make the extension deadline.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 487.  Among the links today is one from the Washington Post, Why Did the IRS Clean Out Lois Lerner’s Blackberry as Probes Began? It also quotes this from Russ Fox:

Let’s assume you’re under a court order to find some emails. Your hard drive crashed, but you think that some of them are saved on your Blackberry. Would you:

(a) Try to find them on the Blackberry,
(b) Do nothing, or
(c) Erase the Blackberry.

If you’re the IRS, the answer is (c)

For an agency that insists it has nothing to hide, the IRS sure acts like it is hiding something.  Just to ice the cake, IRS Says It Has Lost Emails From 5 More Employees. Can dogs eat emails?

Meanwhile, Democratic Senators released a report insisting the IRS picked on left-side outfits just as much as right-side ones and slamming Treasury Inspector General Russell George for insisting otherwise.  So let’s go to the stats:

 

targetingstats

No left-side groups have produced evidence of the absurdly-intrusive questioning faced by some right side groups. We can assume that if they existed, they would have come out by now. Mr. George stands by his work.

 

The Iowa Department of Revenue has given its web site a makeover.  Ain’t it pretty?

 

20120703-2Tyler Cowen, Civil forfeiture cash seizures:

Only a sixth of the seizures were legally challenged, in part because of the costs of legal action against the government. But in 41 percent of cases — 4,455 — where there was a challenge, the government agreed to return money. The appeals process took more than a year in 40 percent of those cases and often required owners of the cash to sign agreements not to sue police over the seizures.

Hundreds of state and local departments and drug task forces appear to rely on seized cash, despite a federal ban on the money to pay salaries or otherwise support budgets. The Post found that 298 departments and 210 task forces have seized the equivalent of 20 percent or more of their annual budgets since 2008.

Civil forfeiture rules in the U.S. allow outrages every day.  It’s very third-world, inherently corrupt, and way overdue for reform.

Phil Hodgen, Renunciation Interviews Not So Intense.  “The State Department justifies the new $2,350 user fee for renunciation by saying ‘Hey, it’s a lotta work. It’s intense. You have to pay me more.'” It looks a lot like civil forfeiture, where the government takes the money because they’re bigger than you, and they can.

 

20140521-2William Perez, How to Adjust Withholding in the Middle of the Year in 9 Steps

Paul Neiffer, A Deduction of Zero is Still Zero:

If the calf was born on the ranch and raised there, the tax deduction due to a death loss is zero.  Since the ranch is allowed to deduct all of the feed and other costs associated with raising the calf, the rancher has a tax basis in the calf of exactly zero.  Therefore, the rancher can deduct zero which is still zero.

It’s the same reason you can’t deduct wages you never received; you never pick them up in income to start with.

Russ Fox, Lies, Deceit, and Nefarious Schemes.  He addresses a VEBA scam:

His plans allowed you to both get the tax deduction and, “then later access the full cash value of their plan contributions by taking out loans against the life insurance policies purchased with plan contributions.” That’s not allowed.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

 

nfl logoKay Bell, NFL 2014 season underway, along with the taxable betting.  Kay also has a great map of NFL team affinities by county.  Oddly, it appears central Iowa is Packer Country.

Jack Townsend, Offshore Enabler Nabbed in Sting Operation Sentenced

Peter Reilly, New Hampshire Supreme Court Declines More Power In Tuition Credit Case. The New Hampshire court refused to stop tax credits for contributions to private schools.  Iowa and many other states have instituted such credits.  An athiest group said the credits amounted to an “establishment” of religion. If New Hampshire disallow the credits to the Richard Dawkins Country Day School, they’ll have a better case.

Annette Nellen, Is disclosure of corporate tax information a good idea?  Professor Nellen doesn’t care for proposals to require disclosure of public company returns.

 

 

Ajay Gupta, How Not to Stop an Inversion (Tax Analysts Blog).  “All those proposals focus on the inverting corporate entity—a wonderfully inanimate piñata-like container that can be repeatedly hit for enjoyment and will occasionally yield the candy of additional revenue. None targets the individuals at the helm of the corporation, the men and women who stand to make vast amounts of money from their collective decision to execute an inversion.”

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown, 9/5: Gun Holiday in Mississippi, Shortfall in Wisconsin, and a Showdown in Washington (Tax Justice Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, Business Tax Reform: Will Patience Be a Vice? This TaxVox headline roundup talks business tax reform, Nevada’s corporate welfare plan for Tesla, and how individual tax revenues will grow, but not as fast as the government will spend them.

 

Tony Nitti, The IRS Cares Not For Your Vow Of Poverty.  “Call me conservative, but if I wanted the IRS to take my vow of poverty seriously, I’d probably refrain from cruising around town in a Mercedes.”

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Tax Roundup, 9/5/14: Obamacare tax credits get a reprieve. And: what’s $14 billion waste for a good cause?

Friday, September 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will re-hear Halbig.  The full court will re-decide the decision reached by a three-member court panel that limited tax credits under Obamacare to policies purchased through state-established exchanges.  As 36 states have not established exchanges, the decision would have undermined both the employer and employee mandates, which are largely dependent on the tax credits.  Jonathan Adler has more.  Michael Cannon explains the politics behind the decision to re-hear the case.

 

EITC error chartLeslie Book, IRS Issues New Report on EITC Overclaims (Title A).  Leslie covers the recent IRS report on how much of the cost of this welfare program run through tax returns is misspent:

“As a result of the EITC program growth the total overclaims in the study are higher in the 2006-08 Report than in the past 1999 study, with annual overclaim estimates for 2006-08 at $14 billion (lower estimate) or $19.3 billion (higher estimate), compared to 1999 figures of $12.3 billion (lower estimate) and $14 billion (higher estimate).”

The report shows that the errors arise largely from misreporting of income and claiming ineligible dependents.  While some of the errors are attributable to complexity, the skewing of the errors to extra refunds points to widespread cheating.  Complexity errors would tend to be more equally split between overpayments and underpayments, but the vast majority of errors resulted in EITC overpayments.

All of this makes Arnold Kling’s proposal to roll all means-tested welfare programs into a single voucher grant with a uniform phase-out rate look wise.

 

haroldMore on the Iowa Film Credit Settlement with a Rhode Island filmmaker from Maria Koklanaris at Tax Analysts ($link):

The state admits no liability in making the settlement, according to the agreement. An accompanying letter from Adam Humes, a state assistant attorney general, to Joseph Barry of the state Department of Management, says that “the agreement will resolve all claims related to these film projects, and all claims in . . . the civil case in exchange for a cash settlement. After the settlement becomes final, the civil case . . . will be dismissed with prejudice.”

Joe Kristan of Roth & Co. PC of Des Moines said several civil suits arose after the state “slammed the brakes on everything” to do with the film tax credit scandal, which resulted in seven criminal convictions amid revelations that the state had issued $26 million in improper credits.

You gotta like her sources.

 

Sebastian Johnson, Big Oil Wins In Alaska, Hollywood Wins in California.  Because California has plenty of cash to shower on filmmakers…

Russ Fox, $1.25 Billion Attracts Tesla to Nevada

 

Kyle Pomerleau, IRS Aims to Tax Silicon Valley Workers’ Fringe Benefits (Tax Policy Bl0g).

“The IRS and U.S. Treasury Department last week included taxation of “employer-provided meals” in their annual list of top tax priorities for the fiscal year ending next June. The agencies said they intend to issue new ‘guidance’ on the matter, but gave no specifics about timing or what the guidance would say.”

The IRS believes that the regular free meals provided to employees are a fringe benefit and should be taxed like compensation.

You can make a good theoretical argument that a lavish Silicon Valley cafeteria results in taxable income for the employees. It’s much harder to make a good practical arguemnt for taxing that benefit.  There are serious measurement problems, and the amount of revenue at stake hardly seems worth it.

 

buzz20140905It’s Friday!  That means it’s Buzz day for Robert D. Flach, who buzzes from taxing frequent flyer miles to taxing marijuana.  However you get high, there’s a tax for that.

William Perez, How to Deduct Car and Truck Expenses on Your Taxes.  “To prove you are eligible to deduct your car and truck expenses, you should keep a mileage log.”

Paul Neiffer, Partner Must Have Basis to Deduct Loss. “The bottom line is if you show a loss from a partnership, make sure you have enough “basis” to deduct the loss.”

Kay Bell, New NFL players ready for football, IRS ready for their taxes

Peter Reilly, IRS Shows Serious Meatspace Prejudice.  “You would think with all the pressure that it puts on people to file and pay electronically that the IRS would have a forward looking view and a preference for cyberspace.  It does not seem to be that way  in the tax exempt division, where meatspace seems to be much preferred.”

 

Jack Townsend discusses an Article on Swiss Banks in U.S. DOJ Program.  He quotes from the article:

Caught in the crossfire of these strategies, however, are thousands of bank clients who are either innocent of tax evasion offences or were unaware of their reporting responsibilities.

These include US citizens living and working in Switzerland who cannot open bank accounts or take out mortgage loans. In some cases they have been expelled by their banks as involving too much unwanted paperwork and risk.

Well done, Congress.  Your FATCA makes everyday personal finance a miserable challenge for Americans abroad.

Tax Trials, IRS Updates Internal Revenue Manual for Streamlined Offshore Compliance

 

horse 20140905Annette Nellen, Shakespeare, building your vocabulary … and taxes.  She summons up a “parade of horribles” — well, a judge she quotes does.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 484

 

Should I show this to my high school junior?  What Every High School Junior Should Know About Going to College (Bryan Caplan).  “College is a good deal for good students, a mediocre deal for mediocre students, and a poor deal for poor students.”

News from the Profession: EY Is No Longer Blocking Sports Websites Just in Time for Football Season (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/4/14: IOU? No basis for you! And: IRS may say TANSTAAFL.

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2Partner IOUs fail to increase basis.  Just like S corporation shareholders, partners in a partnership can only deduct their share of the entity’s losses to the extent they have basis.  Like S corporation owners, partner basis starts with the basis of property and the amount of cash contributed to the partnership; it is increased by the owner’s share of taxable and tax-exempt income, and is reduced by expenses and distributions.

In a Tax Court case yesterday, partners”contributed” IOU from themselves to the partnership, VisionMonitor Software LLC.; the partners then used the amounts of the IOUs as basis for deducting losses.

Unfortunately for the partners, that doesn’t work.  Judge Holmes explains (minor editing by me):

VisionMonitor argues that the notes in this case, like the assumption of debt in Gefen, were necessary to persuade a third party to kick in more funding to a cash-strapped partnership. But unlike the partner in Gefen, neither Mantor nor Smith were guaranteeing a preexisting partnership debt to a third party. And they did not directly assume any of VisionMonitor’s outside liabilities — these notes are their liability to VisionMonitor, not an assumption or guaranty of VisionMonitor’s debt to a third party…  And there’s also no evidence that Mantor or Smith were personally obliged under the VisionMonitor partnership agreement to contribute a fixed amount for a specific, preexisting partnership liability.

Unlike S corporation shareholders, partners can get basis for debt owed by a partnership to third parties — for example, by providing a guarantee to a third-party lender (watch out for the “at-risk” rules).  But the court held that writing an IOU, by itself, doesn’t rise to the level of creating debt basis for the partner:

 Here… the partners each have no adjusted basis in the notes, and until they are paid, the notes are only a contractual obligation to their partnership. Mantor made a payment under his notes only in 2010, and the record has no evidence that Smith ever did. We therefore find that Mantor’s and Smith’s bases in their promissory notes during the 2007 and 2008 tax years were zero and, accordingly, that VisionMonitor’s basis in the contributed notes was also zero.

As it always does, the IRS tried to stick the partners with a 20% “accuracy-related” penalty. Judge Holmes wisely declined, holding that they relied reasonably on oral advice from their tax man, a Mr. Sympson:

We have little problem in finding that VisionMonitor actually relied on Sympson’s advice — his conclusion that the notes were additions to VisionMonitor’s capital (and the capital accounts of Smith and Mantor) was set out on the company’s returns. And we have little trouble in finding that this reliance was in good faith. In a case like this one — where VisionMonitor secured Smith and Mantor’s promises to increase their personal risk alongside their promise to extend their personal credit to the firm’s vendors — advice from a longtime tax adviser that this increased Smith’s and Mantor’s bases would seem reasonable to Mantor.

This is the sort of standard that the Tax Court should apply.  Taxes are hard — that’s why people hire out their tax work.  If they are open with their tax advisor, and they don’t have reason to think the tax advisor is incompetent, they shouldn’t get hammered with penalties just because the advisor makes a mistake. After all, the IRS makes mistakes too.

The Moral: If you want to get basis in your partnership without putting in cash, you need to get third party debt allocated to you in a way that makes you at-risk.  And: when things get complicated, if you are open with your preparer and follow the advice given, IRS penalties are not automatic.

Cite: VisionMonitor Software LLC, T.C. Memo 2014-182.

Related: How much K-1 loss can I deduct? Start with your basis.

 

TANSTAAFL. (There Aint) No Such Thing As A Free Lunch: IRS Mulls Tax On Employee Meals. (TaxGrrrl)  Just because you can make a theoretical argument that something is taxable doesn’t mean you should tax it.

 

20130121-2So you think regulation of preparers by IRS will stop fraud?  IRS Employee Accused Of Tax Fraud.  If they can’t keep themselves honest, they aren’t likely to prevent preparer cheating. Of course, preparer regulation isn’t about stopping fraud or improving tax compliance. It’s about grabbing power and helping well-placed friends.  Russ Fox has more.

 

Jana Luttenegger, Tax Court Ruling on Frequent Flyer Miles as Income (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, Tax differences between home repairs & home improvements.  It can make a big difference when you sell.

Robert D. Flach tells you WHAT TO ASK A TAX PRO

Jack Townsend, Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – Ramblings

 

David Brunori, Business Pays a Lot of State and Local Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

COST recently released its 12th edition of the report. And it continues to influence the state tax debate as much today as it did in 2002. The new report says that businesses paid $671 billion in state and local taxes in 2013, up about 4 percent over the previous year. But business taxes accounted for 45 percent of all state and local taxes.

I note that the amount of tax paid by “business” is deceptive. Businesses do not pay taxes; people pay taxes. And every dime of the $671 billion was paid by some combination of shareholder, owner, employee, customer, or supplier. Those on the left desperately want the burden to fall on shareholders. But there is growing evidence that in a global economy, the burden falls on employees. 

And if it does fall on shareholders, remember that pension funds are also shareholders.

 

20140801-2Lyman Stone, Governor Rick Scott Offers Mixed Bag of Tax Proposals for Florida (Tax Policy Blog). “Governor Scott’s tax proposals offer meaningful improvements in some areas like cell phone and corporate income taxes. But on other issues like the property tax cap, it’s not clear whether or how the plan will work; on sales tax holidays, the proposed “tax cut” would actually make the tax code more complicated and distortionary, while creating little or no economic growth.”

Yes.  Next Question?  Is It Time to Repeal The Corporate Income Tax? (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox) “This view acknowledges that roughly 10 million businesses already have engaged in self-help tax reform by organizing themselves as pass-through firms (where owners at taxed as individuals but bypass the corporate tax entirely).”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 483

 

News from the Profession.  Ladies Still Need Entire Panels Made Up of Dudes to Talk About Ladies in the Profession (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)  “Don’t worry, ladies, the guys are ON IT.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/28/14: Frequent flying in the Tax Court. And: you don’t need 50 employees to face Obamacare problems.

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120529-2TaxGrrrl, Tax Court Sides With IRS In Tax Treatment Of Frequent Flyer Miles Issued By Citibank.  TaxGrrrl reports on a case this week where a taxpayer was awarded with “points” for opening a bank account, which could be redeemed for airplane tickets.  A couple who cashed in the points for tickets worth over $600 received a 1099 for them and left it off their 1040.

TaxGrrrl reports:

Thankfully, the Tax Court did draw a distinction between the taxability of “Thank You Points” and frequent flyer miles attributable to business or official travel using Announcement 2002-18 (linked above), wherein the IRS made clear that they would not tax frequent flyer miles attributable to business travel. But that’s where the good news for taxpayers stopped.

TaxGrrrl thinks its a bad result:

In a case of what could be characterized as bad facts making bad law, taxpayers didn’t put up much of an argument for not including the income on the tax return: there was no lengthy brief explaining why it might be excludable. Nor did the IRS say much about the inclusion: they more or less took the position that Citibank’s form was enough to prove income, saying “we give more weight to Citibank’s records.”

The Tax Court made this a “reported” decision, which signals that they will side for the IRS in taxing miles that show up on 1099 information returns.

The tax law certainly allows non-cash transactions to be taxable.  If they didn’t, barter exchanges would rule the world.  It’s also true that at some point trying to tax everything of value doesn’t make sense.  You might value the smile from the cute barista on the skywalk, but that doesn’t mean you should pay tax on the extra value received with your coffee.  The hard part now is knowing when you cross the line.

Cite: Shankar, 143 T.C. 5

 

20121120-2Health Reimbursement Plans a danger under Obamacare.  Health Reimbursement Plans Not Compliant with ACA Could Mean Exorbitant Penalties  (Kristine Tidgren):

As of January 1, 2014, a number of long-time options became illegal under the ACA. Lest employers are tempted to ignore this issue, they should know that offering noncompliant plans subjects them to a possible excise tax of $100 per day per employee per violation. ACA violations are no small matter.

In IRS Notice 2013-54, issued last fall, the Treasury Department and the Department of Labor made clear that such plans are no longer allowed. This prohibition applies to a number of long-used standalone health care reimbursement plans that are not integrated with an ACA-compliant group health care plan. Although some exceptions apply, the ACA has made the following types of reimbursement plans illegal (subjecting their sponsors to the possible $100/day/employee/violation penalty tax):

  • Standalone §105 medical reimbursement plans (including Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs))

  • Employer payment of individual health insurance premiums on a pre-tax basis

  • §125 salary-reduction plans for employee health insurance premiums


If you think that you don’t have to worry about Obamacare because you don’t have 50 employees, think again.


Roger McEowen, Structuring the Business: S Corporation or LLC?.  “But, beyond the requirement to pay reasonable compensation, the S classification provides a means for extracting money out of the business without paying employment taxes – there isn’t any employment tax on distributions (dividends) from the S corporation.”


20130311-1Jason Dinesen, Tax Preparer Ethics: Miscellaneous Deductions:

Is it okay to show the purchase as a miscellaneous deduction if the amount is less than 2% of their income and thus isn’t deductible anyway? That way, the taxpayer sees it on their tax return but technically the government hasn’t been harmed because the amount was too small to actually be deducted. Is this okay?

This can be tempting for a practitioner.  You can “take” a deduction for “subscriptions” that are probably Sports Illustrated and appease a pushy taxpayer without actually reducing taxes.  But Jason makes good points as to why it can make it hard to stop taxpayers from pushing for bogus deductions that actually matter.


Peter Reilly, Bank Out 40 Grand When It Allows Withdrawal Two Hours After IRS Levy.  Oops.

Kay Bell, Be tax smart in combining business and personal travel

Phil Hodgen, Toronto Consulate Wait Times Have Ballooned.  They’re lining up to get out from under U.S. taxation.  Phil offers this advice:

Many of you will want to renounce your U.S. citizenship before year-end. You can go anywhere in the world to do it. Start calling Consulates and Embassies to see what the wait time is.

Our experience is that the Caribbean and Central American countries are often good. Southeast Asia seems to be good as well.

That’s a sad commentary on how we tax Americans abroad.  Congress makes financial life miserable for expats, and then calls them “deserters” for doing something about it.

 

Stephen Olsen, Boeri: Not a citizen, never lived or worked in the US? IRS will still keep your money. (Procedurally Taxing).  Of course they will.  They’re bigger than you.

 

 

Remember, these are the people who think we preparers are out of control and in need of regulation.  IRS Ethics Lawyer Facing Possible Disbarment, Accused of Lying (Washington Times):

A lawyer in the IRS ethics office is facing the possibility of being disbarred, according to records that accuse her of lying to a court-appointed board and hiding what she’d done with money from a settlement that was supposed to go to two medical providers who had treated her client.

Of course, given Commissioner Koskinen’s policy of stonewalling and evasion, she might be just the woman he wants for the job.  (Via TaxProf)

 

 

William McBride, Canada’s Lower Corporate Tax Rate Raises More Tax Revenue (Tax Policy Blog):

The natural question is: How much tax revenue did Canada lose?

Answer: None.

canada corp revenue chart

You shouldn’t assume that the lower rate caused the revenue increases.  Still, when our current rates clearly incentivize tax-saving moves like inversions, you shouldn’t assume rate cuts will be big revenue losers, either.  The revenue-maximizing rate has to be influenced by rates charged in other jurisdictions.

 

Cara Griffith, Is the Dormant Commerce Clause in Jeopardy? (Tax Analysts Blog)  “In matters of state taxation, the dormant commerce clause provides a much stronger defense against discriminatory taxation than the due process clause.”

Kelly Davis, Cumulative Impact of Ohio Tax Changes Revealed (Tax Justice Blog)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 476

 

News from the Profession.  California Board of Accountancy Moves to Stop Incarcerated CPA From Providing Exceptional Client Service in Prison

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/27/14: Inversions! Fire! Flee! FIRPTA! Edition. And: state credits and the race for Governor.

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140815-2DOOM! PANIC!  Corporate inversions!  DO SOMETHING!  This isn’t the first time politicians have gotten their dresses over their heads in a pseudo-patriotic panic over legal transactions, as Ajay Gupta explains for Tax Analysts ($link):

FIRPTA is a statute conceived in xenophobia and dedicated to the proposition that not all investors are created equal. It is nothing more or less than the embodiment of a congressional desire to limit the grasp of foreign investors on domestic real estate.

“FIRPTA” is the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, and it requires buyers of U.S. real estate to withhold 10% of the gross purchase price paid to non-U.S. sellers.  In practice, it functions as a trap for unwary U.S. buyers who fail to withhold, leaving them liable for the withholding liability on top of their purchase price.  It arose out of the panic over a wave of Japanese purchases of U.S. real estate — a panic that we can now see clearly as madness.  Yet FIRPTA lives on, long after the Japanese moved on to other things.

Things like this tell us that the best way to deal with the current panics, like corporate inversions, is to not “do something” that will surely be half-baked and haunt the tax law forever.

 

Megan McArdle, Burger King and the Whopper About Taxes (my emphasis):

As my colleague Matt points out, most Americans — including a lot of journalists who write about this — seem to be under the misimpression that companies that invert, or people who renounce their citizenship, are doing so to get a lower tax rate on income they earn here. And in a few intellectual-property-based businesses, which can make aggressive use of transfer pricing strategies to declare most of their income in low- or no-tax countries, these complaints have some basis. In most cases, however, including Burger King, they’re doing it because the U.S. inexplicably insists on taking a big chunk off the top of all their foreign income, and making their lives miserable in the process.

But, but, deserters!  Traitors!

 

canada flagIf you are wondering why Burger King might be attracted to Canada,  read How Much Lower are Canada’s Business Taxes? (William McBride, Tax Policy Blog):

First, Canada has a much lower corporate tax rate: 15 percent at the federal level plus another 11 percent on average from provincial corporate taxes. Compare that to the U.S. federal corporate tax rate of 35 percent plus an average state corporate tax rate of about 4 percent.

Second, Canada has a territorial tax system, meaning there is no additional repatriation tax on foreign profits. The U.S. has a worldwide tax system, which applies a repatriation tax to foreign profits when those profits are brought back to the U.S. The repatriation tax is basically the difference between the foreign corporate tax rate and the U.S. corporate tax rate, which is typically more than 10 percent. The average foreign corporate tax rate in the developed world is 25 percent.

Third, the U.S. is not particularly competitive in terms of taxing shareholders. Canada integrates its corporate tax with shareholder taxes to avoid double-taxation. In the U.S. it just piles up, so the integrated corporate tax rate on equity financed investment is over 50 percent.

A corporation pays 35% federal tax on its net income, leaving 65% for the shareholders.  If it gets distributed to a top-bracket taxpayer, it gets hit at 20%, plus the 3.8% Obamacare surtax. That is a combined effective rate of 50.47% — and that’s low, as it doesn’t count phase-outs or state taxes. Yet congresscritters profess astonishment that anybody would find that a problem worth solving.

 

Howard Gleckman, Could The U.S. Fix Taxation of Multinational Corporations With A Sales-Based Formula? (TaxVox) “Instead of focusing on the real disease—an increasingly dysfunctional corporate income tax—we are obsessing over a symptom—firms such as Burger King engaging in self-help reform by relocating their legal residences overseas.”

Joseph Thorndike, Warren Buffett Is a Tax Avoider. Good for Him. (Tax Analysts Blog). Now Mr. communitarian billionaire who wants high taxes for other people is a deserter too.  Is nothing sacred?

 

20140729-2Paul Neiffer,  $563 Cost a Taxpayer $6,320:

If the taxpayers had simply paid the $563 of additional tax owed on the original assessment, that is all they would have been out-of-pocket.  However, when they went to court, the IRS determined that they had made a math error in their original calculation of AMT and reassessed the tax owed from $563 to $6,883 or an increase of $6,320.  Since this calculation was now correct, the Tax Court honored the IRS calculation and suddenly the taxpayers suddenly owed another $6,320 just for going to court.

Oops.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 475.  It links to this from George Will: “The IRS is the most intrusive and potentially punitive institution of the federal government and it is a law enforcement institution and it is off the rails and it is now thoroughly corrupted.”

And the IRS Commissioner thinks all his agency needs is more money.

 

Kay Bell, IRS, betting that expired state and local sales tax deduction will be renewed, hires firm to calculate Schedule A tables

TaxGrrrl, IRS Still Struggling With Tax Treatment Of Immigrants, Changes Rules Again   

Jack Townsend, BASR Briefs On Issue of Unlimited Statute of Limitations for NonTaxpayer Fraud

David Brunori, Repealing the Bad Franchise Tax is a Good Idea (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Eighteen states still impose a franchise tax; they shouldn’t.”

 

MP branstadBy all means, lets make state tax credits an issue.  The Branstad re-election campaign is making a big deal about how his campaign opponent, Jack Hatch, bottled up a GOP bill that would have reduced developer fees in tax credit deals — fees that Mr. Hatch makes a good living collecting.

Senator Hatch could truthfully explain that his committee snuffed every GOP tax bill last session, so that bill didn’t receive special treatment.  Still, it doesn’t look good.

Yet this ignores the real scandal with state incentive credits: they are inherently corrupt.

For starters, the credits for low-income housing and historic rehabilitation go disproportionately to well-connected insiders who know people and know how to pull strings — at the expense of real estate owners without the connections — and arguably at the expense of renters who might benefit more from housing aid not run through developers.

But also that’s true of the other credits.  Special deals go to Microsoft, Google and Facebook because they are big and they know how to play the system.  Tax credits go to big fertilizer companies for doing what they would do anyway, while other poor schmucks without lobbyists and fixers pay full-freight on their income and property taxes.  NASCAR and the Field of Dreams played on glamour and celebrities to keep sales taxes they collect, while other sellers of amusements have to collect the same sales taxes and turn them over to the state.  And Governor Branstad has handed out these tax credits generously.

I’m fine with the Governor’s criticism of Senator Hatch for tax credit deals; I don’t care for them either.  Still, the Governor should keep his old MP helmet handy, because he is calling down fire near his own position.

 

Claire Celsi, PR is like pork scraps and pickle juice (IowaBiz.com).  Sounds yummy.

 

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Tax roundup, 8/26/14: Oh, that backup file. You can’t have that one. And lots more!

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

perryheadOh, that email backup?  From Today’s TaxProf IRA scandal roundup, The IRS Scandal, Day 474, comes this dazer:

Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe.  The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search. 

Tremendous.  After telling the court that there just was no way on earth those emails survived, now they say there is a backup, but it’s just too much of a hassle for them to use it to comply with the court’s orders.  I find it hard to imagine the brashest private-sector lawyer saying something like that, at least more than once.

But wait, there’s more:

The IRS filing in federal Judge Emmet Sullivan’s court reveals shocking new information. The IRS destroyed Lerner’s Blackberry AFTER it knew her computer had crashed and after a Congressional inquiry was well underway. As an IRS official declared under the penalty of perjury, the destroyed Blackberry would have contained the same emails (both sent and received) as Lois Lerner’s hard drive. 

Yet Commissioner Koskinen says we should just stop bugging him about this silly abuse of power stuff and give him money instead.  Because we can trust the IRS.

Related: TaxGrrrl, Judicial Watch Claims IRS Attorneys Admit Lois Lerner’s ‘Missing’ Emails Exist;  Russ Fox, Remember Those Missing IRS Emails? They Appear to Exist….

 

Peter Reilly, Home Sweet RV Does Not Always Produce Best Tax Result.  Peter discusses the recreational vehicle tax Catch-22 we noted recently.

harvestPaul Neiffer, How to Sell Your Land and Pay No Tax – MAYBE.  It involves stretching out the payments and keeping your other income down.

Jason Dinesen, More Commentary About Year-Round Proactive Services to Clients.  “Those of us who are good professionals rarely demand the respect we have earned. And then we wonder why clients seemingly don’t respect us, don’t value us, don’t listen to our advice, or jump ship the moment you breathe about a rate increase.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Computing Earnings and Profits.  “The primary purpose for computing E&P is to determine whether a distribution represents a taxable dividend, a nontaxable return of shareholder capital, or capital gain to the recipient shareholders.”

 

Leslie Book, A Stolen Check, Mistaken Identity and Prisoners (Procedurally Taxing):

This post considers Hill v US, a case from the Court of Federal Claims involving a prisoner named Mark Hill whose $1182 tax refund was stolen and cashed by another prisoner with the same name after the prison system mistakenly delivered an IRS letter relating to the missing refund check to the wrong Mark Hill. With time on his hands, but no check, the right Mark Hill sought justice in the form of a new check. After getting the runaround from the IRS, the right Mark Hill sued the US to force it to issue a new refund check. For good measure, he also wanted interest and punitive damages.

Turns out the IRS doesn’t get any more helpful if you are behind bars.

 

20140826-1Robert D. Flach serves your fresh Tuesday Buzz, with links about smart giving, educational savings options, and what you can earn working tax season at a national return prep franchise.

That’s a long time.  Cobb County man sentenced to 20 years for ID theft, tax fraud (ajc.com).  The guy is also supposed to pay back $5 million he stole.  Good luck on that.  Sure, the guy should go away for a long time, but the real crime is that the IRS let him steal that much from the taxpayers.

Jeremy Scott, Fracking Taxes Help States Now, but What About the Future?  (Tax Analysts Blog)  “North Dakota has been transformed by its rapidly growing energy sector, but it should be cautious about staking too much of its fiscal future on continually increasing severance taxes.”

 

Andrew Lundeen, Solutions on Inversions and Corporate Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog).

Steve Warnhoff, Will Congress Let Burger King’s Shareholders Have It Their Way?  (Tax Justice Blog).  If it means we get Tim Horton’s donuts, I’m all for the proposed merger.

 

Renu Zaretsky,  Tax Rates: Growth, Competition, and Debt.  The TaxVox headline roundup ponders the effects of individual rate cuts, the badness of corporate rates in the U.S., and film credits in North Carolina, among other things.

lizard20140826Have a nice day.  1.2 Billion Reasons to Worry: Security firm reports Russian crime ring compromised 1.2 billion usernames and passwords (John Lande, Iowa Banking Law Blog)

News from the Profession.  Extra-Marital Affairs Site Claims Accountants are Kings of Romance Because Their Jobs are Boring (Adrienne GonzalezGoing Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/25/14: Tax Credits for not killing a puppy. Well, another puppy. And: mind your spelling!

Monday, August 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr Image courtisy Llima under Creative Commons license

Flickr Image courtesy Llima under Creative Commons license

Wisconsin finds a new frontier in incentive tax credits.  From madison.com:

The board overseeing the state’s flagship job-creation agency has quietly approved a $6 million tax credit for Ashley Furniture Industries with a condition allowing the company to eliminate half of its state workforce.

As approved by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board, the award would allow the Arcadia-based global furniture maker to move ahead with a $35 million expansion of its headquarters and keep 1,924 jobs in the state.

Stop me with tax incentives, or I’ll fire some more people!

Of course, all of these tax credits are paid for by people who, by definition, aren’t getting their taxes wiped out with special tax breaks that allow politicians to show up for a ribbon cutting.  Politicians know that they’ll get attaboys for “creating jobs,” and nobody will call then out for the jobs they cost by taxing people to give money to their special friends.

Thanks to an alert reader for the tip.

Related: IF TRUTH IN ADVERTISING APPLIED TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES

 

Peter Reilly reports on tax pro who thinks a case we discussed last week may have been wrongly decided.  I think the court probably got it right, but it’s a good read.  If the taxpayer wins on appeal, it will be very helpful for tax planning.

 

Does that make this a tax shelter?

Does that make this a tax shelter?

Audit the Pope, then?  New Tax Head Says She Knows Why Italians Don’t Pay Taxes: They’re Catholic (TaxGrrrl)

Kay Bell, Coverdell Education Savings Account’s pre-college options.

Jason Dinesen, Bridging the Gap Between What Clients Want … And What They’ll Pay For. “Sure, people “want” a proactive approach. But it seems to me like few are actually willing to PAY for the service.”

Russ Fox, Tax Preparers Behaving Badly, “There’s a common thread among these tax professionals: You’ll be getting a refund. That sounds good until you realize that you really shouldn’t have, and that you will likely get in trouble later.”

Robert D. Flach,  OOPS! THEY DID IT AGAIN.  “The State wants taxpayers, and preparers, to submit income tax returns electronically – but when they do the returns and payments therefor are not properly processed.”

Jack Townsend, Criminal Justice Article of U.S. Global Tax Enforcement

Tony Nitti, Your Complete Guide To Every Tax Reference In ‘The Simpsons’ Marathon 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 473

Ajay Gupta, Carbon Taxes and the White Man’s Burden (Tax Analysts  Blog):

 China, which surpassed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of CO2 in 2006, has made it clear that it has no intention of agreeing to any reduction quotas “because this country is still at an early stage of development.” India, which now ranks third, behind China and the United States in total CO2 emissions, has similarly rejected the notion of subjecting itself to binding reductions.

Yet the carbon tax lobby in the West remains unfazed in the face of this repudiation of responsibility by the developing world. Among the grounds advanced for pressing ahead with unilateral action is one that relies on the residence time of CO2. For several decades, the West pumped much more CO2 into the earth’s atmosphere than China, India, or any other developing county. Unilateralists argue that those historical emissions and their persisting warming effects ensure that the West will remain the largest contributor to climate change for years to come.

That argument has more than a whiff of reparations.

Frack away.

 

2140731-3Matt Gardiner, Kinder Morgan Doesn’t Want to Be a Limited Partnership Anymore–But They’re One of the Few (Tax Justice Blog).  Paying one tax is better than paying two, other things being equal.

William McBride, More Jobs versus More Children:

I, like most humans, think that children are blessing. I am also one to think we as a society should have more kids. I also think that in the very long run, say decades, demographics are destiny, i.e. we cannot expect to be a large, flourishing economy a generation from now if our birth rate continues to be at or below the replacement rate.

However, boosting the birth rate is not as simple as boosting the child credit. 

Not every problem can be solved with a tax credit.

 

Howard Gleckman, How Much Would An Individual Tax Rate Cut Add to the Deficit, and Who Would Benefit? (TaxVox).  “A one percentage point across-the-board reduction in tax rates would add $662 billion to the budget deficit over 10 years—about $40 billion in 2015 rising to more than $85 billion by 2024.”

 

Donald Boudreax is not a happy taxpayer:

 I pay what I “owe” in taxes not because I have a “responsibility” to do so but, instead, only because government threatens to use violence against me if I don’t pay what it demands.  I stand in the same relation to the tax-gatherer as I stand in relation to any common thug who points a gun, knife, or fist at me demanding my money.  [I actually prefer the common thug, for he neither insults my intelligence by telling me that his predation is for my own good nor spends the money he takes from me to fund schemes to further interfere in my life.] 

I suppose that illusion-free approach probably applies to most of us, if you think about it.

 

Career Corner.  Use All Your Vacation Days, Even If It Means Making Less Money (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

dictionarySpelling is important.  Even for identity theives.  From Dispatch.com:

A $3.5 million bogus tax-refund scheme that unraveled because the conspirators couldn’t spell the names of well-known cities has resulted in a federal-prison sentence of more than eight years for the scam’s mastermind.

Sims and Towns misspelled the names of several cities when they listed return addresses, including “Louieville” and “Pittsburg.” That caught the attention of Internal Revenue Service investigators.

I love how they call somebody who committed a stupid crime in a stupid way — and showed up for a sentencing hearing drunk, apparently —  a “mastermind.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/21/14: IRS says saving the company still “passive;” Tax Court says otherwise And: the $105.82 c-note!

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: No Tax Roundup will appear tomorrow, August 22.   I will be up in Ames helping teach the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation class “Affordable Care Act (ACA): What Practitioners Need to Know in the morning.  Webinar registration is closed, but you can still  attend as a walk-in.

 

S imageS imageS-SidewalkYou saved the company.  Big deal.  Apparently pulling the company you started from the brink of failure wasn’t enough to convince the IRS that a taxpayer “materially participated” and could deduct losses on his tax return.

Charles Wade was a founder of Thermoplastic Services, Inc. and Paragon Plastic Sheeting, both S corporations.  After his son Ashley took over daily management of the business, he still owned a significant stake in the company.  He never really retired, though.  From the Tax Court (my emphasis, footnotes omitted in all Tax Court quotes):

With Ashley there to handle day-to-day management, Mr. Wade became more focused on product and customer development. He did not have to live near business operations to perform these duties, so petitioners moved to Navarre, Florida. After the move he continued to make periodic visits to the facilities in Louisiana and regularly spoke on the phone with plant personnel.

In 2008 TSI and Paragon began struggling financially as prices for their products plummeted and revenues declined significantly. Mr. Wade’s involvement in the businesses became crucial during this crisis. To boost employee morale, he made three trips to the companies’ industrial facility in DeQuincy, Louisiana, during which he assured the employees that operations would continue. He also redoubled his research and development efforts to help TSI and Paragon recover from the financial downturn. During this time Mr. Wade invented a new technique for fireproofing polyethylene partitions, and he developed a method for treating plastics that would allow them to destroy common viruses and bacteria on contact. In addition to his research efforts, Mr. Wade ensured the companies’ financial viability by securing a new line of credit. Without Mr. Wade’s involvement in the companies, TSI and Paragon likely would not have survived.

Slacker.  At least according to the IRS, who said that this participation failed to rise to the level of “material participation” and disallowed over $3 million in pass-through losses on Mr. Wade’s return.

The Tax Court took a different view.  Judge Goeke explains :

A taxpayer materially participates in an activity for a given year if, “[b]ased on all of the facts and circumstances * * * the individual participates in the activity on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis during such year.” A taxpayer who participates in the activity for 100 hours or less during the year cannot satisfy this test, and more stringent requirements apply to those who participate in a management or investment capacity.  The record reflects that Mr. Wade spent over 100 hours participating in TSI and Paragon during 2008, and his participation consisted primarily of nonmanagement and noninvestment activities. Ashley managed the day-to-day operations of the companies; Mr. Wade focused more on product development and customer retention.

Although Mr. Wade took a step back when Ashley became involved in the companies’ management, he still played a major role in their 2008 activities. He researched and developed new technology that allowed TSI and Paragon to improve their products. He also secured financing for the companies that allowed them to continue operations, and he visited the industrial facilities throughout the year to meet with employees about their futures. These efforts were continuous,  regular, and substantial during 2008, and we accordingly hold that Mr. Wade materially participated in TSI and Paragon. 

20120801-2It’s notable that the judge did not require Mr. Wade to produce a daily log.  Apparently there was enough testimony and evidence to show that his participation crossed the 100 hour threshold.

The 100 hours might not have been considered enough under some circumstances.  Usually the IRS holds taxpayers to the default 500-hour test for material participation.  This case is unusual in its use of the fall-back 100-hour “facts and circumstances” test. It’s good to see the Tax Court use it, as the IRS seems to think this test never applies.

It’s also interesting that the efforts at “customer retention” were counted.  This could be useful in planning for the 3.8% Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax.  The NIIT taxes “passive” income, defined the same way as the passive loss rules.  A semi-retired S corporation owner who still calls on some of old accounts after turning daily operations over to successors might be able to avoid the NIIT under the logic of this case.  If so, though, it would be wise to keep a calendar to prove it.

Cite: Wade, T.C. Memo. 2014-169

Related:

Russ Fox, A Passive Activity Case Goes to the Taxpayers.  “Hopefully the IRS can get more of these cases right at audit and appeals–they’ll be dealing with many more of these over the coming years.”

Paul Neiffer, More than 100 but Less than 500.  “It is nice to see that a subjective test went in the taxpayer’s favor.”

Material participation basics.

 

How far does $100 go in your city?  Last week the Tax Foundation issued a map showing how far $100 goes in different states.  Now they have issued a new map in The Real Value of $100 in Metropolitan Areas (Tax Policy Bl0g).  It is wonderful — just scroll your cursor over your town.

In Des Moines, $100 is good for $105.82.  In New York, it gets you $81.83.

 

TaxGrrrl, Anna Nicole Smith’s Estate Loses Yet Another Run At The Marshall Fortune

Tony Nitti, Could The IRS Disallow Ice Bucket Challenge Charitable Contributions?  Go ahead, IRS, just try it.  You’re just too popular.

William McBride, Earnings Stripping, Competitiveness, and the Drive to Further Complicate the Corporate Tax (Tax Policy Blog)

Roberton Williams, One Downside Of Inversions: Higher Tax Bills For Stockholders (TaxVox)

Kay Bell, How does the U.S. corporate tax rate compare to other countries?  Poorly.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 469

 

David Brunori, Using Local Cigarette Taxes for Schools Is Silly (Tax Analysts Blog).  Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.  For the children!

Cara Griffith, Was Oregon’s Tax Incentive Deal With Intel Unnecessary? (Tax Analysts Blog).  No, it was absolutely necessary to enable the Governor of Oregon to issue this press release and YouTube announcement.  That’s the point, after all.

 

Quotable:

The United States gets little tax from Americans overseas today. Most of them live in high-tax countries and have no U.S. income tax in any event because of FTCs and the section 911 foreign earned income exclusion. But as we all know, Congress couldn’t care less about this subject, and this is all a non-starter. Better to place your money on a genetically modified flying pig.

Robert L. Williams in Tax Analysts ($link)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/20/14: Keeping time reports isn’t just for CPAs anymore.

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Track your hours now, not when you get audited.  Doing time reports is no fun.  If I had a nickel for every CPA who left public accounting and told me how fun it is to not do time reports, I’d have multiple nickels.

Unfortunately, the tax law might make time sheets necessary for people who don’t charge by the hour.  The passive loss rules disallow losses if you don’t spend enough time on a loss activity to “materially participate.”  Obamacare uses the same rules to impose a 3.8% “Net Investment Income Tax” on “passive” income.

It’s up to the taxpayer to prove they spent enough time to “materially participate,” as a Mr. Graham from Arkansas learned yesterday in Tax Court.

The taxpayer wanted to convince Judge Nega that he met the tax law’s stiff tests to be a “real estate professional,” enabling him to deduct real estate rental losses.  If you are not a “professional,” these losses are automatically passive, and therefore deferred until there is passive income.  To be a real estate professional, the taxpayer has to both:

– Work at least 750 hours in real estate trades or businesses, and

– performs more than one-half of all personal services during the year in real property trades or businesses in which the taxpayer materially participates.

That’s a high bar to clear for a taxpayer with a day job.  Mr. Graham gave it a good try, providing a judge with spreadsheets to show that he did that work.  The judge remained unconvinced:

Mr. Graham did not keep a contemporaneous log or appointment calendar tracking his real estate services. His spreadsheets were created later, apparently in connection with the IRS audit. 

There were other problems:

Furthermore, the entries on the spreadsheets were improbable in that they were excessive, unusually duplicative, and counterfactual in some instances. As all petitioners’ rental properties were single-family homes, reporting 7 hours to install locks or 30 hours to place mulch on a single property (amongst other suspect entries) are overstatements at best. Performing maintenance for a tenant that did not pay rent for an entire year with no record of “past due rent” or any attempt to collect rent (as Mr. Graham would note on entries for other rental properties) seems dubious.

The judge ruled that the taxpayer failed to meet the tests.  Worse, the court upheld a 20% penalty: “We conclude that the exaggerated entries in petitioners’ spreadsheets negate their good faith in claiming deductions for rental real estate losses against their earned income.”

The Moral?  Maintain your time records now.  When the IRS comes calling, it’s too late.  And play it straight; the Tax Court didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.

Cite: Graham, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-79. 

 

20130426-1Russ Fox, FBAR Filing Follies:

Joe Kristan reported last week that you cannot use Adobe Acrobat to file the FBAR; you must use Adobe Reader. In fact, if you have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer and use Adobe Reader it won’t work either. Well, I have some mild good news about this.

Mild is right.

 

Peter Reilly, Robert Redford’s New York Tax Trouble Provides Lessons For Planners.  “You dodge non-resident state taxes, either on purpose or by accident, at the peril of missing out on a credit against the tax of your home state.”

Jason Dinesen, S-Corporation Compensation Revisited.  “But what should the salary be? And what if the year has ended and the W-2 deadlines have passed, but the corporate tax return still needs filed?”

Keith Fogg, Postponing Assessment and Collection of the IRC 6672 Liability (Procedurally Taxing).  Issues on the “trust fund” penalty imposed for not remitting withholding.

TaxGrrrl, Flipping Through History: Online Retailers Owe Popularity And Tax Treatment To Mail Order Catalogs:

Online shopping is again changing the way that we look at nexus but for now, more or less the same kinds of principles that ruled in the day of mail order catalogs are still good law. The law remains settled that in states that impose a sales tax, retailers that have established nexus must charge sales tax to customers in that state.

And just like in the old days, states want to extend their reach no matter how flimsy the nexus.

20140729-1Lyman Stone, New Upshot Tool Provides Historical Look at Migration (Tax Policy Blog):

Prominent changes in the data suggest that taxes may have a role in affecting migration, though certainly taxes are just one of many important variables, and probably not even the biggest factor. As always, talking about migration isn’t simple: migration data is challenging to measure and represent, and even more difficult to interpret.

I will be seeing Mr. Stone speak at the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Tax Committee this morning.  I’m geeking out already.

 

Jim Maule, “Give Us a Tax Break and We’ll Do Nice Things.” Not.  It seems the subsidized Yankees parking garages don’t stop with picking taxpayer pockets.

Kay Bell, Is it time for territorial taxation of businesses and individuals?  “Territorial taxation advocates hope that long local journey has at least now started.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Is Treasury About to Curb Tax Inversions on Its Own? (TaxVox).  If the law is whatever the current administration says it is, I look forward to the $20 million estate tax exclusion next time the GOP takes power.

Daniel Shaviro, The Obama Administration’s move towards greater unilateral executive action.  “And the conclusion might either be that one should tread a bit lightly after all, or that we are in big trouble whether one side unilaterally does so or not, given the accelerating breakdown of norms that, as Chait notes, are no less crucial than our express constitutional and legal structure to ‘secur[ing] our republic.'”

20130422-2The best and the brightest in action.  TIGTA: ObamaCare Medical Device Tax Is Raising 25% Less Revenue Than Expected, IRS Administration of Tax Is Rife With Errors (TaxProf)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 468

 

News from the Profession.  AICPA Celebrates 400,000th Member Just Because (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

I can verify that a Kindle absorbs less coffee than paper.  Do readers absorb less from a Kindle than from paper? (Tyler Cowen)

 

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