Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Small employers, S corporations get relief from $100 per day premium reimbursement penalty

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

The IRS yesterday announced (Notice 2015-17) that it would not impose the $100 per day Obamacare penalty on small employers who reimburse employee-paid health insurance premiums. This relief will cover such arrangements for all of 2014 and through June 30 of 2015.

20121120-2The Notice also says premium reimbursements for S corporation owner-employees will not be subject to the penalty pending further guidance. Until then, the IRS will continue to apply the rules of IRS Notice 2008-1 (discussed here).

Employers covered by Notice 2015-17 will not have to File Form 8928, report the Sec. 4980D excise tax, or request a waiver of the tax.

Notice 2015-17 gives a blanket waiver of the ACA penalty for “small employers,” defined here as those with fewer than 50 full-time-equivalent employees through June 30, 2015, with an “employer payment plan as described in Notice 2013-54.” The description says these occur when:

…an employer reimburses an employee’s substantiated premiums for non-employer sponsored hospital and medical insurance, the payments are excluded from the employee’s gross income under Code § 106. This exclusion also applies if the employer pays the premiums directly to the insurance company. An employer payment plan, as the term is used in this notice, does not include an employer-sponsored arrangement under which an employee may choose either cash or an after-tax amount to be applied toward health coverage.

Notice 2015-17 does not exempt all Section 105 plans for small employers from the penalty. “This relief does not extend to stand-alone HRAs (health reimbursement arrangements) or other arrangements to reimburse employees for medical expenses other than insurance premiums.”

The notice also provides a way to integrate Medicare premium reimbursement plans with employer group plans.

Other items in Notice 2015-17.

– The notice provides some flexibility for determining the measuring period for employers who might be on the bubble.

– The notice says that employers may give employees a raise to cover the cost of their insurance premiums, as long as the employer “does not condition the payment of the additional compensation on the purchase of health coverage (or otherwise endorse a particular policy, form, or issuer of health insurance).”

– Simply putting premium reimbursements on the W-2 does not work. That will still be considered a group health plan failing the ACA “market reforms,” subjecting the employer to the penalty tax.

This is a huge (and much needed) relief provision. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of employers in Iowa alone who will benefit from this provision.

I am baffled by the exclusion of stand-alone Sec. 105 plans. Thousands of farms and small employers have had these plans, and the word of their ACA problems was slow to spread. Some Sec. 105 plan administrators remained in denial in 2014.

Employers not covered by Notice 2015-17 can still claim relief by filing From 8928 and reporting a zero tax under the form instructions. It remains to be seen how lenient the IRS will be in processing these.

W2Many employers may want to amend 2014 W-2s and 941 filings, possibly claiming refunds. There had been some thought that the way to bring non-qualifying reimbursement plans into compliance was to include health reimbursements on the W-2 form. There is no such requirement in Notice 2015-17. Such reimbursements continue to be exempt from employee income, even if the would trigger the employer penalty tax, and exempt from FICA and Medicare payroll taxes.

Related:

DOL nixes many employer health reimbursement setups.

ACA and filing season pessimism revisited

ANOTHER QUESTION ON S CORPORATION HEALTH INSURANCE

S CORPORATION HEALTH INSURANCE: READER QUESTIONS

MORE ON S CORPORATION HEALTH INSURANCE

IF IT’S NOT ON THE W-2, S CORP SHAREHOLDERS CAN’T DEDUCT HEALTH INSURANCE

Update, from Kristine Tidgren: IRS Notice 2015-17 Provides Some Limited ACA Penalty Relief to Small Employers (ISU-CALT)

 

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List of Rev. Proc. 2015-20 method changes

Saturday, February 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

I have put together a list of the Form 3115 method changes that Rev. Proc. 2015-20 has made optional for “small” trades or businesses for 2014 filings, by my reading. I also include the section of Rev. Proc. 2015-14 that authorizes the method changes. The list is derived from Rev. Proc. 2015-20, Section 5.01.

RP 2015-20 changes

Perhaps the most important tangible property regulations change not covered by Rev. Proc. 2015-20 is the “late partial disposition election” (Change 196) for pre-2014 disposals of depreciable assets. Also not covered is Method 195 for deducting holding costs of real property acquired through foreclosure.

Update, 2/15. As alert reader Brian points out in the comments, if a taxpayer uses Rev. Proc. 2015-20 to skip filing Form 3115 for the permitted items above for any trade or business, it forfeits the right to use the advantageous Change 196 for all trades or businesses.

 

This is the kind of list the IRS should have put together to save taxpayers and practitioners the time and effort of wading through the Rev. Proc. 2015-20 and 2015-14 maze of cross-references. I realize the IRS $10 billion budget is pretty darn tight, but I got it done with a Saturday morning, donuts and coffee, so just maybe the IRS could have done so too.

For more discussion of Rev. Proc. 2015-20, see IRS drops “Form 3115″ requirement for smaller taxpayers under tangible property rules. 

 

 

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IRS drops “Form 3115″ requirement for smaller taxpayers under tangible property rules. 

Friday, February 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20140925-2The IRS today announced (Rev. Proc. 2015-20) that taxpayers with gross receipts under $10 million (averaged over the prior three years) or assets under $10 million can elect to adopt the 2014 changes to the rules on deducting or capitalizing repairs and property additions without filing Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method.

(Update, 2/14/15: I have put together a List of Rev. Proc. 2015-20 method changes, organized by Form 3115 method change number.)

This is welcome relief for many smaller taxpayers, and their preparers, and to trees everywhere. This will eliminate the filing of tens of thousands of useless accounting method change applications under the so-called “Repair Regs.” Unfortunately, it still requires the useless filings in thousands of other cases.

Some taxpayers who are allowed to skip the Form 3115 might want to file one anyway. For example, the regulations allow taxpayers to write off parts of buildings that have had significant replacements, like new roofs, installed in prior years, but this deduction is only available for taxpayers filing a Form 3115. Taxpayers who have sinned by writing off as “repairs” amounts they should have capitalized may also want to file a Form 3115 to keep the IRS from going back and auditing the issue for old years.

We should be thankful for small favors, but this doesn’t eliminate a dumb rule; it just applies it to fewer taxpayers. There is no good reason why the “cut off” approach of Rev. Proc. 2015-20 for post-2013 expenses shouldn’t also be allowed for larger taxpayers.

I may update this post as I have more time to soak up its hideously dense language. One key sentence shows you what I mean:

However, a taxpayer using this option must also use sections 6.37(4)(f) and 6.39(6)(b) of this revenue procedure to calculate a §481(a) adjustment for any change made under section 6.37(3)(a)(iv), (a)(v), (a)(vii), or (a)(viii) or section 6.39 of this revenue procedure and must use section 10.11(6)(b)(iii) of this revenue procedure to calculate a §481(a) adjustment for any change made under section 10.11(3)(a) of this revenue procedure.

Got that?

 

Update: John Koskinen Saves Tax Season With Form 3115 Relief For Small Business (Peter Reilly):

I’m hoping that this announcement will help my blogging buddy Joe Kristan warm up to Commissioner Koskinen a bit.  I think Joe tends to be a little hard on the Commish and he will have to grant that he has done us a solid here.

I don’t know, Peter. It’s a little like having an awful boss; he doesn’t become a good boss when he surprises you with a cookie. A dumb policy is still dumb even when the dumbness is applied to fewer victims.

Update, 12/14: Rev. Proc. 2015-20 has an unusually taxpayer-friendly application of its $10 million limits. Rather than applying to the entire taxpayer’s assets or gross receipts, they apply to each “separate and distinct trade or business” of the taxpayer.  See Section 4 of the procedure. They define “separate and distinct trade or business” by reference to Reg. Sec. 1.446-1:

(d) Taxpayer engaged in more than one business.

(1) Where a taxpayer has two or more separate and distinct trades or businesses, a different method of accounting may be used for each trade or business, provided the method used for each trade or business clearly reflects the income of that particular trade or business. For example, a taxpayer may account for the operations of a personal service business on the cash receipts and disbursements method and of a manufacturing business on an accrual method, provided such businesses are separate and distinct and the methods used for each clearly reflect income. The method first used in accounting for business income and deductions in connection with each trade or business, as evidenced in the taxpayer’s income tax return in which such income or deductions are first reported, must be consistently followed thereafter.

(2) No trade or business will be considered separate and distinct for purposes of this paragraph unless a complete and separable set of books and records is kept for such trade or business.

(3) If, by reason of maintaining different methods of accounting, there is a creation or shifting of profits or losses between the trades or businesses of the taxpayer (for example, through inventory adjustments, sales, purchases, or expenses) so that income of the taxpayer is not clearly reflected, the trades or businesses of the taxpayer will not be considered to be separate and distinct.

This means there are no related party rules to apply, and no aggregation of commonly controlled businesses, in determining eligibility. Even if a taxpayer’s gross receipts and assets exceed the $10 million thresholds, some or all of its component businesses may still qualify for this relief. This could be a big benefit, for example, to a real estate operation that keeps separate records for all of its properties, enabling the taxpayer to avoid filing Form 3115s under the tangible property regulations except as they may be useful.

Update, 2/15. After seeing a comment by alert reader Brian, I realize that the IRS is being less generous than I had believed. While the $10 million threshold applies to each trade or business, using the protection for any trade or business denies the taxpayer some of the most beneficial method change opportunities.  If you select the Rev. Proc. 2015-20 treatment for any trade or business, you forego the Change number 196 -the change for prior year  partial dispositions- for all trades or businesses of the taxpayer. So if you want to claim the benefit of the deemed partial disposition of real property if, say, you replace a roof, you have to file a Form 3115 to adopt the other parts of the repair regs.

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Tax Roundup, 2/13/15: Gas tax advances, tax system declines.

Friday, February 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors: click here for the post on the updated auto depreciation limits.

 

IMG_1284It looks more likely that I was wrong in predicting no gas tax increase. Subcommittees in both the House and Senate Ways and Means committees approved a 10-cent per gallon increase this week, advancing the increase to the full committes. KCRG.com reports:

A group of top lawmakers from both parties and Gov. Terry Branstad have proposed the 10-cent gas tax increase, which is expected to generate more than $200 million annually.

Supporters say the gas tax is the most fair and equitable way to generate funds for road construction.

At least it looks like my backup bet — that a gas tax increase would indicate that Governor Branstad won’t run for another term — is looking better.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, Reform What? (Tax Analysts Blog). It has a great teaser line: “Yes, it sure is fun thinking about tax reform. And doing nothing about it could be fun as well. We might get to watch this colossal structure collapse soon.”

Christopher goes on to explain:

But all this talk has me thinking about other things, too. Which tax system will we reform – or at least start with? Should it be the one most of us are struggling to comply with -– the one that about half of us “regular” taxpayers still have to pay taxes under? You know, the one with deductions for charitable contributions that we’d make anyway — the one that discriminates between people who own a house and rent a house. The one that’s so confusing, many of us just turn our taxes over to a paid preparer or a paid-for program to figure out. Let’s not forget that if you’re doing well under this tax system, you win a prize: the alternative minimum tax (which is sort of a booby prize).

Or maybe we should start by reforming the IRS, which has become so broke and inept that it can’t afford to help your grandmother find the line on her Form 1040 for the dependents she can no longer claim. That’s the agency that is also supposed to enforce the law so that none of us “regular” taxpayers are the true suckers in all this. (How’s that working out for you?)

Lots of that sort of cheerful stuff. In some ways the system is already collapsing before our eyes. A system that wires $21 billion annually to thieves — and it’s getting worse quickly — isn’t built to last.

 

Des Moines Register, 16 companies claim 82 percent of Iowa’s R&D tax credits. “In all, 265 companies claimed about $51 million in credits for research and development last year, the report shows. Of that, 16 companies claimed $42.1 million.”

My coverage of the story from yesterday is here: The Federal $21 billion thief subsidy; the Iowa $37 million corporation subsidy.

 

William Perez, If You Drive for Uber, Lyft or Sidecar, These Tax Tips are Just for You

20150105-2Kay Bell, IRS drops some features in latest app upgrade

Jim Maule, Self-Employment Income Not Offset by NOL Carryforward

Carl Smith, The Eight Circuit Gives Both Sides a Hard Time on What is a “Separate Return” for Section 6013(b) Purposes (Procedurally Taxing). ” Does the limit on changing from a “separate return” to an MFJ return after filing a Tax Court petition only apply where a taxpayer initially filed an MFS return (as the taxpayer argues), or does it also apply where a taxpayer initially filed a “single” or HOH return (as the government argues)?”

Robert Wood, Nine Habits of Exceptionally Tax-Averse People. Numbers 5 and 6 are key.

TaxGrrrl, Are You Insured? Obamacare Deadline Quickly Approaching

Tony Nitti, Republicans, Democrats Agree On Tax Issue; Winter Storm Warning Issued For Hell. Tony, gang truces are more common than you’d think.

Jack Townsend, Structuring 20150119-1Forfeitures Again in the News (my emphasis):

After taking considerable heat on which we reported before, the IRS has hunkered back to a policy that generally (that’s a fuzz word) will allow seizure only where the IRS has proof of illegal income.  So, under the new law, generally the innocents (meaning those without illegal income) can intentionally violate the structuring law without being subject forfeiture and presumably without being subject to structuring prosecution. It seems to me that Congress should change the law rather than have the IRS not enforce the law as Congress wrote it or to signal to citizens that they can violate the law with impunity so long as they do use illegal funds.

I think Jack gives too much credit to the IRS, as if they have only been taking money when there was “intentional” structuring. The news reports have shown there are plenty of reasons to make deposits before you have $10,000 on hand, including insurance policy restrictions and the common sense idea that you don’t leave too much cash sitting around. But IRS didn’t inquire as to whether there was any actual intent to keep deposits low; they just took the money.

While the IRS has plenty to answer for in its seizure policy, I agree that Congress is just as guilty, passing laws allowing asset seizures without barely a nod at due process and without a hearing.

 

IMG_1218

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 645

Amber Erickson of Tax Justice Blog boldly makes The Case for Keeping the Medical Device Tax,

Health insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and the medical device industry are all expected to gain from the ACA by earning greater profits as more people enter the healthcare marketplace. The tax is intended to reciprocate those benefits by tacking on a small flat rate to a firm’s revenue.

But that tax is only on the medical deveisces, not “health insurance providers,” the big winner, and not on pharmaceuticals. It really isn’t on the device industry; it is on the people who need them.

 

Eric Cedarwell, Senator Bernie Sanders’s New Deal for America (Tax Policy Blog).

 Inspired by Roosevelt’s New Deal in many regards, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) recently outlined his vision for America, featuring expansionary government spending policies. A major federal jobs program, a hike in the minimum wage to at least $15, expansion of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, increased regulation of Wall Street, and protectionist trade policies are examples of initiatives Sanders emphasized. However, Sen. Sanders provided little information on how he might finance his vision.

In other words, a reprise of the policies that put the “great” in the Great Depression.

Howard Gleckman, Lawmakers Talk Tax Reform But Keep Pushing New Tax Subsidies (TaxVox). Of course they do.

 

Caleb Newquist, When Is the Right Time to Start Your Own Accounting Firm? (Going Concern). December 19, 1990 worked for us. I think it was about 8:30 am.

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IRS issues 2015 vehicle depreciation limits, updates 2014 limits for Extension of Bonus depreciation

Saturday, February 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

The IRS has updated the limits for depreciation for 2014 automobiles to reflect the extension of the 50% bonus depreciation through 2014 in newly-issued Rev. Proc. 2015-19. The IRS also issued the 2015 limits in the revenue procedure.

The updated 2014 numbers:

2015-19 table5

The 2014 limits for trucks and vans:

2015-19 table6

 

The 2015 limits for passenger automobiles:

2015-19 table1

The 2015 limits for trucks and vans:

2015-19 table2

 

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

Saturday, January 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

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IRS issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for January 2015

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flickr image courtesy seriousbri under Creative Commons license.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 586

 

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

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

 

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

Friday, December 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

state corp amt map

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

 

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

Annette Nellen discusses Filing status challenges and developments

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

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

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 582

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

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

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

Friday, December 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Neiffer, House Passes HR 5771 Tax Extender Bill

 

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

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

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

It appears chief Iowa Senate taxwriter Joe Bolkcom is involved:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 575 (TaxProf)

 

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

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Tax Roundup, 12/3/14: House voting on extenders today. Are Senate, White House on board?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130113-3The House will likely pass one-year extender bill today. Will the Senate and White House go along? Multiple reports say that the House of Representatives is expected to approve HR 5771 today, reviving 55 perennially-resurected tax breaks through 2014. The breaks, which include bonus depreciation, the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, and the research credit, all expired at the end of 2013.

While the fate of the bill in the Senate and the White House are not entirely clear, I expect the House bill to pass, given the lack of alternatives.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) used a weekly Senate Democratic luncheon Tuesday to push for an alternative that would extend expiring tax breaks through 2015.

But his Republican counterpart on the committee, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, brushed that aside, saying time was running out. Mr. Hatch—on whom Mr. Wyden frequently relies when crafting deals—came out in favor of the short-term fix, saying the only alternative he would support at this point was the one worked out between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and drew a White House veto threat last week. If the Senate advanced a new version, “there will be no bill” because “the House is going to leave,” Mr. Hatch said.

The full text of Sen. Hatch’s statements can be found here.

The Hill reports that the White House appears ready to go along with the House bill. Given the way the White House threatened a veto of the House-Senate deal that would have extended some of the breaks permanently, I think the lack of a veto threat means the President is likely to sign this version. While there appears to be some unhappiness with the House bill — Senator Grassley is not a fan of the one-year approach —  I expect the lame-duck Senate to pass it anyway. Unfortunately, it’s not clear when the Senate will act.

Congress has for years passed these provisions for one or two years at a time because Congressional budget rules allow them to pretend they are less expensive than they really are. Unfortunately, that often leaves taxpayers uncertain as to what the tax law is for the year until the year is almost over — or, in 2012, until the year was over. That makes it hard to evaluate the economics of important fixed-asset decisions. The abortive House-Senate deal would have ended this game for several key provisions, but the White House chose scoring cheap political points over an improved business tax environment.

Related:

Paul Neiffer, Is an One-Year Extension of Section 179 all we get?!

Howard Gleckman, How To End the Tax Extender Drama: Stop Calling Them Extenders—And Make Congress Pay For Them

Kay Bell, Tax extenders compromise: OK expired breaks for 2014 only

 

20121108-1Peter Reilly, Repair Regs – A Hellish Tax Season And Refunds Of Biblical Magnitude. Peter discusses the need, or not, for massive filing of useless accounting method changes to implement the new “repair regulations.” He also touches on a potential boon for owners of commercial real estate.

Robert D. Flach, TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE 0% TAX RATE

William Perez, What You Need to Know about the Premium Assistance Tax Credit

Russ Fox notes A Rare Piece of Efficiency from the IRS

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #4-IRS Rules on Self-Employment Income Of LLC Members.

 

Robert Wood, What IRS Calls ‘Willful’–Even A Smidgen–Can Mean Penalties Or Jail

TaxGrrrl, Feeling Spendy This Year? ’12 Days Of Christmas’ Slightly More Expensive

 

microsoft-appleSound Advice. David Brunori offers Advice for the New Republican Legislative Majorities (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s full of sound advice, but I especially like this:

Republicans should become the party of virtue, courage, and honesty when it comes to taxes. They should fight crony capitalism, as there is nothing more abhorrent to the free market than the government picking winners and losers. Yet state governments do just that all the time. The proliferation of tax incentives represents horrible tax policy. That politicians can decide economic policy through tax incentives is more akin to a Soviet five-year plan than to Adam Smith’s invisible hand. True conservatives should fight attempts to use tax policy to further economic objectives. Broad-based taxes and low rates will always serve the conservative cause better than the existing nonsensical tax laws. Standing on principle to ensure a broad tax base is hard — and neither party has been able to do it. But it is a stand worth taking.

That would be wonderful advice here in Iowa, but our newly re-elected GOP governor has been up to his mustache in crony tax breaks to chase high-profile businesses. Meanwhile Iowa’s home-grown businesses don’t get the big subsidies. They are dragged down by the highest corporation tax rate in the developed world, baroque complexity, and a bottom-ten business tax environment.

A real pro-business tax reform in Iowa might look something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 573.

 

lizard20140826Leslie BookH&R Block CEO Asks IRS To Make it Harder to Self-Prepare Tax Returns and Why That is Good for the Tax System.  “Yet, as I explain here, I think the changes he proposes would likely be good for the tax system because they could enhance visibility and accountability, principles the IRS should emphasize with issues that tend to have sticky error rates.”

H&R Block has been trying to pad its income for years on the backs of retail taxpayers. Its former CEO authored the illegal tax preparer regulations system the IRS tried to force on the industry — a system that would have run many of Henry and Robert’s competitors out of the buisness. Now they want to force the lowest-income earners through their doors.

I think the right approach to advice from an outfit that so shamelessly promotes its interests at the expense of taxpayers may be to carefully note it, and to do exactly the opposite.

 

Stephen Entin, No Mystery that Investment Slump Hurts Workers, Lowers Productivity and Wages (Tax Policy Blog)

 

News from the Profession. Why Is Everyone in Public Accounting Obsessed with Sports? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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IRS releases 2015 401(k) max, other 2015 retirement plan limit adjustments

Friday, October 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The IRS has announced the inflation adjustments to retirement plans for 2015.  Some highlights:

– Maximum contributions to 401(k) and 403(b) plans rises to $18,000 (from $17,500).  Taxpayers who are 50 years old by the end of 2015 will be able to contribute and additional $6,000 (formerly $5,500), for a combined maximum of $24,000.

The maximum 2014 IRA contribution limit remains at $5,500, plus the additional $1,000 “catch-up” for taxpayers who are 50 or older by the end of 2015.

The maximum contribution to defined contribution plans increases from $52,000 to $53,000.

The annual defined benefit plan annual benefit limit remains at $210,000.

More details are available from the IRS news release.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/24/14: IRS attorney says revolving door spins away billions. And: pass-through isn’t always small.

Friday, October 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130129-1Taxes are for the little people without connections. A sensational open letter to the top Treasury tax brass from an IRS attorney alleges that the agency routinely shuts off promising examinations of big well-connected taxpayers. From Raw Story (via the TaxProf):

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, IRS commissioner John A. Koskinen, and IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, Jane J. Kim, an attorney in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel in New York, accused IRS executives of “deliberately” facilitating multi-billion dollar tax giveaways. The letter, dated October 19, will add further pressure on the agency, which is under fire for allegedly targeting conservative and Tea Party groups.

The letter describes three cases where Ms. Kim says the IRS walked away from large well-founded assessments of big corporate taxpayers raised by whistleblowers. The story implicates the revolving door between big law and accounting firms and the top levels of the IRS as a key to the strange taxpayer friendliness.

Bill Henck, who has worked for over 26 years in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel, agreed. “The senior executives drive the train on all this and pal around with lobbyists,” he said. “Treasury was involved with both the Elmer’s Glue scam and the black liquor taxability issue. IRS executives look out for themselves, which usually means protecting corporate interests, since they hire lobbyists and are close to politicians.”

Backing up Henck’s concerns, the private sector lawyer and ex-IRS attorney explained that since 1998, IRS restructuring has focused on bringing in “outside people.” This led to the employment of an extra layer of executives who were previously “partners from big accounting firms.” Citing active IRS criminal agents, the ex-IRS attorney said: “Almost every large firm or corporation has a person inside the IRS. It’s a revolving door, with the top two or three management layers all from big accounting and law firms, and this is why they won’t work big billion-dollar cases criminally. Private bar attorneys are, in effect, controlling the IRS. It’s a type of corruption – that’s the word used by one IRS agent I’m in touch with whose case was shut down by higher ups without cause.”

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

That brings to mind Commissioner Koskinen’s view of the revolving door:

So I’ve always said the best testimonial to a good place to work is people are forever coming in and trying to steal your people. And so I would be delighted to have young people come here for two or three years and some of them get recruited away because they were so good and the training is so good, because the more of that that happens, the more people are going to stand in line to get here. And as I say, the experience is, because it would be a great place to work, is the capture rate would be terrific.

So the Commissioner thinks the revolving door is a good thing. That probably means Ms. Kim’s letter isn’t exactly going to trigger reforming zeal from Mr. Koskinen. And don’t expect that you can skip out on taxes without your own mole in the IRS, chump.

 

 

Robert D. Flach has your fresh Friday Buzz! Including depressing news that Congresscritters are going to wait until January 2015 to enact the tax laws for 2014.

Kay Bell, Some retirement plan contribution, AGI limits go up in 2015

Brett Bloom, Dismantling a Partnership: The IRS’s Toolbox (Tax Litigation Survey)

William Perez, How to Plan for, Minimize, and Report the Self-Employment Tax

TaxGrrrl, IRS Gets Big Win In Court As Judge Dismisses Tea Party Targeting Cases

Peter Reilly, National Organization For Marriage – No Recovery Of Attorney Fees In Case Against IRS

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 533

 

Kyle PomerleauPass-Through Businesses are not Always Small Businesses (Tax Policy Blog). This article is a good read for anyone who thinks increases in top rates don’t hurt business because most pass-throughs are small. While that may be true, there a lots of large ones:

Compared to c corporations, pass-through businesses are still much smaller on average. The same Census data shows that 1.6 percent of corporate businesses employ 100 or more employees and 0.36 percent employ 500 or more employees. 44 percent employ between 1 and 100 employees.

However, in absolute terms, there are about as many pass-through businesses with 500 or more employees than there are traditional c corporations. According to the Census, there are approximately 9573 pass-through businesses with 500 or more employees and 9434 c corporations with 500 or more employees.

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Source: Tax Foundation

So when you increase taxes on high-income individuals, you are also increasing taxes on employers, which isn’t likely to do good things for employment.

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Robert Goulder, FATCA Envy Spreads Across Hemisphere (Tax Analysts Blog) Other countries just might want to poke into foreign accounts the way we do.

Howard Gleckman, Why Tax Lawyers and Tax Economists Can’t Communicate (TaxVox)

 Megan McArdle,  Can’t Afford a House? Don’t Buy One. Wise advice, but politicians think we should have a program to buy a pony for everyone.

Tax Justice Blog asks What Horrors Await Us in Congress after the Election?  And will they be better or worse horrors than the current bunch of congresscritters?

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/23/14: Iowa Tax Crime Edition. And: USPS > Stamps.com, in Tax Court.

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Tax crime happens in Iowa too. While Iowa doesn’t seem to get the same attention from tax prosecutors as some other places, tax evasion can get Iowans the same prison time as anyone else. Two Iowa entrepreneurs are learning that lesson now.

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

The operator of a venerable Des Moines pharmacy and soda fountain apparently will plead guilty to tax evasion on charges arising out of back-door sales of hydrocodone pills, according to reports.  The Des Moines Register article on the plea deal provides insight on how the charges against pharmacist Mark Graziano came about, and on the inherent dangers of tax crime:

The allegations came to light after admitted drug user Kirby Small called state regulators in 2011 and told them Graziano and Enloe were selling wholesale quantities of hydrocodone pills out of Bauder’s back door. State agents raided the business in 2012, and the Iowa Board of Pharmacy filed administrative charges against Graziano and the pharmacy. Federal officials filed criminal charges last spring.

Small, in an interview Tuesday, said that he called the pharmacy board because he was angry at Enloe, who had been a longtime friend. Enloe and Graziano had been selling Small pills, but cut him off over money issues, Small said. Then Enloe called Small’s probation officer and said that Small had been taking drugs, Small said. So Small decided to get back at them.

“You call the cops on an east-sider, what do you expect?” he said, chuckling.

The pharmacy is on the west side, for the record.

Tax crimes by businesses are almost impossible to commit without somebody besides the perpetrator finding out. Those who pay employees in cash to avoid payroll taxes create a potential informant with every new hire. Those who ask for cash payment for sales, as illegal drug sellers normally do, create a potential informant with every new customer. And if the customer falls behind on payments, it is unwise for someone committing crimes to summon the authorities.

The reports say Mr. Graziano is likely to receive a 24-37 month sentence.

 

20141023-1Stripped-down gross incomeA Northwest Iowa entrepreneur will go to prison for 33 months on charges of evading over $214,000 in taxes, reports the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:

Veronica Fairchild, 42, collected $1.1 million between 2005 and 2008, mostly from a wealthy client named David Karlen.

She declared only 45 percent of that money as income on her tax returns for those years, which she didn’t file until 2010. The remaining $643,648 was declared as a gift.

At her trial in June, Karlen testified that he’d paid Fairchild to dance, and later for sex. He claimed to have paid between $1,000 and $5,000 for a variety of sexual acts.

Ms. Fairchild, who reportedly owns a strip club in Okoboji, Iowa, denies sleeping with Mr. Karlen:

She said Karlen invented the stories about sexual encounters to cover for his failure to pay taxes on the monetary gifts.

The jury apparently concluded that that payments were for something other than disinterested generousity.

 

On the lighter sidethe usual suspects showed up at a Des Moines Burger King to protest the Kingdom’s proposed merger with Canadian donut empire Tim Hortons. The Des Moines Register reports:

About 15 Iowans rallied outside of a Des Moines Burger King Tuesday to protest the company’s plans to move its headquarters to Canada.

“About” 15? For a crowd that size, I think greater precision is possible. It would have been about 16 if Ed Fallon weren’t traveling. If you missed the rally, you can show your support by asking for large fries with your next Whopper.

 

20130415-1USPS > Stamps.comThe Tax Court ruled against a man who used Stamps.com on March 3 to buy postage to mail his Tax Court Petition on the March 3 filing deadline. The postal service postmark was March 4, and the court said that was the controlling date.  From the case:

In support of his argument petitioner provided a statement by the third party who prepared the petition for mailing and then delivered it to the post office. In her statement the third party describes how on Monday, March 3, 2014, after being “given documents to mail”, she printed postage using Stamps.com software, added extra postage for certified mail, and then took the petition to the U.S. Post Office in Bountiful, Utah, for deposit into the mail. The third party candidly states that in order to “avoid[ ] the long lines” at the post office, she dropped the petition off without having a certified mail receipt stamped by a Postal Service employee and that as a consequence “the sender has no documentation showing * * * [the post office] received the certified package” on March 3, 2014.

The moral? When your down to a mailing deadline, take no shortcuts. Go Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, and get the hand-stampted postmark — even if you have to wait in line.  If the line is really too long, use a Designated Private Delivery Service and get a timely shipping receipt. I bet the “third party” wishes she had done so.

Cite: Sanchez, T.C. Memo 2014-223.

 

Joseph Thorndike, What if Congress Raised Taxes and Nobody Cared – Or Even Noticed? (Tax Analysts Blog). I think Joseph is operating from a false premise:

In 2011 and 2012, Congress cut the Social Security payroll tax by two points. More specifically, lawmakers reduced the portion of the tax levied on employees from 6.2 percent of taxable wages to 4.2 percent. (The portion paid by employers remained at 6.2 percent; most economists believe that this other half of the tax is also ultimately borne by workers in the form of lower wages.)

The payroll tax cut was explicitly designed to be temporary – a one-year shot in the arm for the struggling economy. After a year, lawmakers agreed to extend the cut for another 12 months. But on January 1, 2013, the payroll cut expired, and workers began paying the full 6.2 percent again.

And hardly anybody noticed.

Trust me, people noticed. I got the phone calls.

 

20141023-2Robert D. Flach, THIS JUST IN – SOCIAL SECURITY COLA INCREASE FOR 2015

Me, FICA Max increases to $118,500 for 2015

Jason Dinesen, Meet Joe the Window Washer. Joe will be used for life lessons in small business tax compliance.

Jack Townsend, Blog on the Disqualification of Some Canadian “Snowbirds” from Streamlined Treatment

 

Cara Griffith, Drop Shipping Is Popular With Retailers, but Can Create Tax Challenges (Tax Analysts Blog). “From a sales and use tax perspective, if the retailer has nexus with a particular state or is voluntarily registered in the state where the sale took place, the retailer is required to collect sales tax on the transaction with the customer. Conversely, if neither the retailer nor the shipper has nexus with the state in which the sale took place, neither can be required to collect sales tax.”

Peter Reilly, National Organization For Marriage – No Recovery Of Attorney Fees In Case Against IRS

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 532

Richard Phillips, New Movie Aims to Scare Public by Depicting IRS as Jack-Booted Thugs (Tax Justice Blog) Not to defend the movie (which Peter Reilly watched so I don’t have to), but it’s not always easy to portray the IRS as, say, unicorn nurses.

Career Corner. Let’s End the Big 4 or Bust Myth Once and For All (Tony Nitti, Going Concern)

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FICA Max increases to $118,500 for 2015

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The Social Security Administration has announced that the maximum earnings subject to the 6.2% FICA tax rises to $118,500 for 2015.  It has been $117,000 for 2014.   That same cap applies to the 12.4% retirement portion of self-employment tax.

The maximum FICA withholding for 2015 will be $7,347.00 for 2014, up from the 2014 maximum of $7254.00.

The 2.9% medicare tax, split between employees and employers, has no wage or self-employment income cap.  There is also no maximum for the .9% additional medicare tax under Obamacare that applies when adjusted gross income exceeds $250,000 for joint filers, $200,000 for single filers, or $125,000 on married-filing-separate returns

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Tax Roundup, 9/23/14: Lois Lerner interview goes over… not well. And: Inversion action!

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

man-wichLois Lerner’s interview with Politico published yesterday got some reaction. The Tax Prof has a great roundup in The IRS Scandal, Day 502, including these wonderful headlines:

American Thinker:  Politico Does Weepy Story About Poor Lois Lerner

PJ Media:  Politico Disguises A Slobbering Love Letter To Lois Lerner As An Interview

Breitbart:  News Site Seeks Mutually Beneficial Exclusive with Former IRS Exec (Must Love Dogs)

And my favorite:

Daily Caller:  Lois Lerner Compares Herself To Jeffrey Dahmer

So Tea Party-friendly web sites were not won over, apparently.  Some other reaction:

 

Instapundit:

LOIS LERNER TOOK THE FIFTH, but now she’s telling Politico that she did nothing wrong, and that she’s the real victim here. And note the prominent play Politico gives to alleged anti-semitic epithets, and to Lerner’s brownie-baking. So why the media-rehab operation — and that’s what this is — and why now?

But it’s nice to hear that even the Washington revolving-door apparat finds her “untouchable.” Perhaps that’s because nothing much in this story suggests that she didn’t target Tea Party groups for partisan political reasons.

 

David Hirsanyi, Sorry, Politico, But Lois Lerner Is Not A Victim:

 She has already admitted and apologized for the practice of targeting conservatives groups with terms like “Tea Party” or “patriots” in their titles. She claims that it was done in an effort to deal with the surge in applications for tax-exempt status asking for permission to participate in the political process. Yet, she didn’t aim at groups with the “climate change” or “fairness” in their names to mitigate this alleged crush of work she was facing.

Peter Suderman, Unapologetic Lois Lerner Insists She’s Done Nothing Wrong (Reason.com):

Lerner thinks she did nothing wrong, and she won’t apologize. “Regardless of whatever else happens, I know I did the best I could under the circumstances and am not sorry for anything I did,” she said in an interview with the paper.

That’s basically all she says about her role in the scandal. Lerner, who, after reading a statement, exercised her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when called to testify before Congress last year, doesn’t really add anything to her defense with the statements in her piece. She declares that she stands by her work—and that’s it.

And James Taranto reports “Politico landed an exclusive interview with Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the still-unresolved scandal, and to call it a whitewash would be an insult to lime.”

I think we can safely say of this PR stunt, so far, not so good.

Prior Tax Update coverage: Lerner speaks, sort of. And: a federal tax amnesty?

 

No Walnut STTreasury “does something” about inversions.  The moral panic over inversion transactions took its next logical step when the Treasury announced it would issue regulations out of nowhere to “crack down” on corporations trying to escape our awful U.S. corporation income tax. Notice 2014-52 has the technical details.

The Treasury has previously issued such notices, generally describing future regulations, when it is in a hurry to stop some kind of transaction and doesn’t want to wait for the usual regulation comment period to “do something.”

The Wall Street Journal explains the rules in general terms:

The Treasury rules will make it harder for companies that invert to use cash accumulating abroad—a big draw in recent deals. In addition, the government has made it more difficult to complete these overseas mergers.

The tax changes took effect immediately, officials said, and applied to all deals that hadn’t closed by Monday.

The article addresses how the deal might affect pending deals: (I removed the WSJ’s obligatory stock price info):

The new guidelines could impact a number of pending mergers and acquisitions, including Medtronic Inc. s proposed acquisition of Irish medical-device maker Covidien PLC; Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd.’s acquisition of a division of Italy’s Cosmo Pharmaceuticals SpA; and Mylan Inc.’s  pending deal for Abbott Laboratories overseas generics business. It could also interfere with the merger of fruit grower Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Fyffes PLC.

Less clear is how it would impact Burger King Worldwide Inc. BKW -0.48% ‘s proposed acquisition of Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons Inc., THI.T +1.92% a deal that was designed to move the new corporate headquarters to Canada. 

That deal is structured somewhat differently, and experts disagree whether it would be affected by the new government rules. Most agree the rule changes aren’t likely to end inversions altogether.

Of course it won’t. As long as the U.S. has an uncompetitive business tax climate — better only than France and Portugal in the developed world — corporations will be forced to seek self-help, like inversion deals.

Tax Analysts has a story about how the last round of inversion rules created dangers for corporations who aren’t even inverting ($link): “The existing anti-inversion rules under section 7874 create several traps for foreign companies and individuals that could cause transactions to be treated as inversions when no inversion has taken place.”

Unintended consequences result, traps are created for the unwary, and the awful U.S. corporation income tax gets a little worse. Well done, Jack Lew!

The TaxProf has a roundup.  Howard Gleckman asks Does Treasury Have the Legal Authority To Curb Tax Inversions? (TaxVox): “This issue is the subject of heated debate among tax lawyers.”

 

 

buzz20140923Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz, including links to posts covering ground from tax holidays to How Does a Sole Proprietor Get Paid?

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Moving Expenses

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: Anxiety, Depression Are Not Physical Injuries

Russ Fox, They Both Begin With “E”. Embezzlement, evasion. Add another: eventually detected.

Kay Bell, Identity theft tax refund fraud is increasing, but ways to prevent the crime are not likely to be popular

Jason Dinesen, Entrepreneurial Maturity. “In other words, a business owner who has entrepreneurial maturity knows what they don’t know.”

Annette Nellen, Points from your bank. On the “frequent flyer miles” Tax Court case.

Steven Olsen, Summary Opinions for 9/12/14 (Procedurally Taxing). Rounding up recent developments in tax procedure.

Jack Townsend has some Comments on the Warner Sentencing Oral Argument: “The panel was also concerned that, if Warner’s conduct were so bad, why did the Government argue at sentencing for only a sentence of 1 year and 1 day when the Guidelines range was significantly higher.”

 

20140923-1Alan Cole, The U.S. Tax Code is its Worst Competitive Weakness (Tax Policy Blog). “Simply put, while assessments of the U.S. tax code – both at Tax Foundation and elsewhere – are bleak, there is much to be optimistic about in America.”

Martin Sullivan, Should We Give Up On Reagan Style Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog) “The landmark 1986 Tax Reform Act is an inspiration to all would-be tax reformers. But reforms following that basic framework have gotten nowhere in Congress.”

Steve Warnhoff, The Estate Tax Is Not Doing Enough to Mitigate Inequality: State-by-State Figures (Tax Justice Blog). It’s not working, so lets do it more, harder!

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Great moments in urban planning

Friday, September 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

A city planner who claimed to be responsible for the selection of the site of the new Des Moines Palace of Transit said he chose the location so it would be convenient to passenger rail; he spoke at a luncheon I attended a few years ago.

Because it is located between two one-way streets, all buses on north-side routes have to cross the tracks twice.  As I look out my window, I can see how that works with a freight train having stopped for about 1/2 hour (accident, maybe?) across both the one-way streets.  You can spot nine stranded buses in this picture (The bus palace is the white-roofed structure in the left-center):

20140919-2

By the way, Des Moines hasn’t had passenger rail since 1970, and there is no realistic expectation of passenger train service resuming.

Related: But where will they put the zeppelin port?

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/16/14: U.S. taxes are worse than the Cubs. And: the last month of extension season has begun!

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Now to finish off the extended 1040s.  The extension season for business returns ended yesterday. Now it’s time to mop up the remaining extended individual returns — the “GDEs,” as Robert D. Flach calls them.

 

CubsIf the U.S. tax system were a baseball team, it would be worse than the Cubs. That’s the conclusion I draw from the Tax Foundation’s first International Tax Competitiveness Index released yesterday. The U.S. ranked 32nd out of the 34 rated countries, ahead of only Portugal and France. At 66-84 this morning, the Cubs are ahead of four other teams out of the 30 in the major leagues. Small but mighty Estonia is number 1 (in the Index, not in baseball).

Some “key findings” of the study:

The ITCI finds that Estonia has the most competitive tax system in the OECD. Estonia has a relatively low corporate tax rate at 21 percent, no double taxation on dividend income, a nearly flat 21 percent income tax rate, and a property tax that taxes only land (not buildings and structures).

France has the least competitive tax system in the OECD. It has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the OECD at 34.4 percent, high property taxes that include an annual wealth tax, and high, progressive individual taxes that also apply to capital gains and dividend income.

The ITCI finds that the United States has the 32nd most competitive tax system out of the 34 OECD member countries.

The largest factors behind the United States’ score are that the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world and that it is one of the six remaining countries in the OECD with a worldwide system of taxation.

The United States also scores poorly on property taxes due to its estate tax and poorly structured state and local property taxes

Other pitfalls for the United States are its individual taxes with a high top marginal tax rate and the double taxation of capital gains and dividend income.

20140916-1Unlike the Cubs, the U.S. tax system shows little hope for improvement. What changes we’ve seen recently, or are likely to see in the coming year, only make things worse. The implementation of FATCA doubles down on the committment to worldwide taxation, while putting U.S. taxpayers at a disadvantage abroad.  The inversion frenzy is likely to promote legislation to place even more burdens on U.S.-based businesses.  This legislation responds to the failures of worldwide taxation by doing it harder. In baseball terms, it’s the opposite of Moneyball.

 

TaxGrrrl has more with U.S. Ranks Near The Bottom For Tax Competitiveness: We’re #32! “The United States is one of just six OECD countries that imposes a global tax on corporations meaning that its reach extends beyond its own border.”

Martin Sullivan, REIT Conversions: Good for Wall Street. Not Good for America. (Tax Analysts Blog). REITs are a corporate form that allows some real estate income to be taxed only once. They are a do-it-yourself response to a dysfunctional corporation income tax. It would be good for America if all corporations could move to something more like the REIT model, with a deduction for dividends paid to eliminate the multiplication of tax on corporate income.

 

 

20120511-2Leslie Book, Tax Court Finds Reliance On Advisor In Messy Small Business Setting (Procedurally Taxing), addressing a case we discussed here.  “VisionMonitor is a useful case for practitioners seeking a reliance defense even when advice does not come in the way of a formal opinion, and the advice and corporate formalities reflect less than perfect attention to detail. In other words, this case is representative of the way many small businesses operate.”

Peter Reilly, Grandfather Beats IRS In Tax Court Without Lawyer. “They mystery to me is why when the IRS decided to drop the penalty, they did not drop the case entirely, since, by dropping the penalty, they were indicating that they did not think Mr. Roberts was lying and, given that, it’s pretty clear that he wins.”

Jack Townsend, More on the Warner Sentencing Appeal. Did the Beanie Baby Billionaire get off easy?

 

Jim Maule discusses The Persistence and Danger of Tax and Other Ignorance. It’s fascinating how a man who accurately notes the prevalence of ignorance among voters still thinks policy concocted by politicians elected by these same ignorant voters is better than private solutions .

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 495. I like this point: Why Focus on Ray Rice Instead of Lois Lerner? The relative attention to Rice and Lerner is roughly inverse to their relative importance.

 

np2102904Norton Francis, How Michigan Blocked a $1 Billion Tax Windfall for Corporations (TaxVox). “The case involved the way multistate corporations calculated their state income tax liability from 2008 to 2010. The trouble for Michigan is that, during this time, they had two ways to apportion state income on the books: one, which they thought no longer applied, based on a three-factor formula—the shares of a firm’s property, payroll, and sales present in the state—and the other based only on sales in the state.”

Matt Gardner, New S&P Report Helps Make the Case for Progressive State Taxes (Tax Justice Blog). I link, but I sure don’t endorse.  Using high individual tax rates at the federal level to redistribute income is futile and unwise, but at least it’s plausible. Using state income taxes for that purpose is just absurd.

 

News from the Profession. We Can’t Help But Wonder if This EY Conference Room Cactus Is Trying to Say Something (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

He lost the job after he told his client to get a haircut.  Former Sampson consultant guilty of fraud, conspiracy*

*For those of you who will point out that the guy in the Bible is named “Samson,” just you be quiet.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/11/14 – Link and run edition.

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120531-2Just links today.

Accounting Today visitors: Go here for the dog/email discussion.

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Commuting Tax Benefits

Peter Reilly, Did Florida County Tax Man For Being Happily Married?

Jason Dinesen, When Does the “1099s to Veterinarians” Rule Start?

Kay Bell, IRS Direct Pay one of many ways to pay estimated taxes.  Remember, third quarter payments are due Monday.

William Perez, Have a Home Office? Here’s How to Deduct It On Your Taxes

 

Cara Griffith, A Win for Transparency (Tax Analysts Blog) ” A Kentucky court has ordered the release of redacted copies of the Department of Revenue’s final letter rulings in a suit Tax Analysts joined seeking release of the documents under the Open Records Act”

Alan Cole, The Estate Tax is a Poor Source for Federal Revenue (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Don’t Count on Much Economic Growth From Individual Tax Reform…Or From Tax Rate Cuts (TaxVox)

 

Russ Fox, Let’s Give Lois Lerner Credit Where Credit Is Due. “It turns out that Ms. Lerner was upset with an unnamed IRS employee who was paid $138,136 a year and was doing ‘nothing.'”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 490

 

The IRS standard.  “Wherever we can, we follow the law.” — IRS Commissioner Koskinen.

Career Corner.  Congratulations, Your Job Has Been Arbritrarily Chosen as One of the Most Underrated of 2014 (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 9/9/14: The $63 Question Edition. And: is there such thing as an influential accountant?

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140321-4Asking the judge the 63-dollar question.  CPA practitioners sue to stop PTIN fees (Journal of Accountancy):

Two CPAs have filed suit in the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia, asking the court to stop the IRS from charging fees for issuing preparer tax identification numbers (PTINs), to obtain refunds of fees paid in the past, and to enjoin the IRS from asking for more information than needed to issue preparer tax identification numbers (PTINs)…

Although the IRS claims that the excess fees are intended to be used to pay the costs of the registration cards sent to each preparer, the costs of forms and other guidance provided to preparers, and the costs of tax compliance and suitability checks, the plaintiffs point out that none of this has been done or should be done. No registration cards have been sent, the IRS does not normally charge to issue other tax forms and instructions, and it has not conducted suitability checks because attorneys and CPAs are not subject to those requirements. In fact, CPAs are subject to their own requirements to prove that they are fit and competent. 

While I think the plaintiffs are correct in saying the $63 fee far exceeds any benefit we get from it, I suspect the attorneys will be the real winners in this suit.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 488

 

AndersenlogoFrancine McKenna, Arthur Ashes:

Arthur Andersen is back from the dead. A group of former partners from the accounting firm is reviving the brand a dozen years after its demise. It’s a display of hubris that attempts to give credence to some revisionist history about Andersen.

Enron was no isolated event. Andersen was implicated in cases involving Sunbeam, WorldCom and others. Its settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over Waste Management was at the time, in early 2001, a rare fraud case against a big accounting firm.

With only four “major” accounting firms left, it’s hard to imagine any of them going the way of Andersen.  It’s also hard to imagine that the Andersen brand will be worth more than, say, the Enron brand.

 

EITC error chartKyle Pomerleau, IRS Releases More Detail on EITC Over-Payments:

One of the major issues with the Earned Income Tax Credit is that is suffers from a high amount of payment error. In any given year, the error can amount to approximately 25% of total payments and cost $14 billion dollars.

It is usually not clear exactly why these errors occur. There are two common stories behind them. The first story is about plain fraud. Taxpayers, or the preparers that help them file taxes, are purposefully misrepresenting their information in order to receive the EITC, or increase their EITC.

The second story is that EITC filers, which are typically lower-income individuals with lower levels of education, are making a high number of mistakes when filing. For instance, they may claim their child as a dependent (which leads to a much larger EITC), but their ex-spouse may have claimed their child as well. The result being that one parent is non-compliant.

Given that the errors result in overpayments of the credit, you have to think fraud is a big part of it.  If the errors were random, you would expect about the same amount of underpayment errors as overpayment errors. Human nature itself plays a role, too; a disappointed taxpayer might keep working the numbers until a happy answer — an overpayment — is reached.  A taxpayer who reaches a happy answer right away is less likely to re-run the numbers.

 


buzz20140909TaxGrrrl, 
Back To School 2014: Expired Educator Expenses & Unreimbursed Employee Expenses

Jason Dinesen ponders What Responsibilities Do Tax Preparers Have in Assessing ACA Penalties?  “Just because we think a law is stupid doesn’t mean we don’t deal with it.” If we didn’t, we would have very little to do.

Peter Reilly, Joan Rivers Made Tax History

Robert D. Flach brings your early-in-the-week Buzz! Today he returns to the hive withmore news of the anti-PTIN fee lawsuit, among other topics.

 

Martin Sullivan, How Much Do Converted and Nontraditional REITs Cost the U.S. Treasury? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Treasury’s Lew Says Anti-Inversion Decision Will Come Soon, But Offers No Hints About What Or When.  While we don’t know what the decision will be, we can be confident that it will leave the real problems — high rates and worldwide taxation of U.S. taxpayers — untouched.

 

Accounting Today has issued its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in Tax and Accounting.  Somehow I missed the cut again, though I follow a few on Twitter. I hope I can make the “100 most influential accountants in Polk County” list, but I may have to do some lobbying.

Congratulations to TaxProf Paul Caron and Going Concern’s Caleb Newquist, but the omission of Caleb’s crony Adrienne Gonzalez is a crime that cries out for justice.

 

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