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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):

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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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Tax Roundup, 9/3/14: Fight the power edition. And: another Iowa film credit economic triumph!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

It’s good to be back.  Sometimes other things take precedence over work.

 

Fight the Power!  Tax Analysts’ Joseph Thorndike defends the corporation income tax as a bulwark against corporate power ($link):

Popular fondness for taxing corporations may reflect an imperfect understanding of the corporate levy’s incidence. But it also reflects a clear-headed view of where the power lies in American society.

That’s interesting.  Lets see where some major institutions stack up in terms of “power,” measured by revenue (an imperfect measure, but one that is at least available for all of them, unlike net worth).

Google: $55 billion.

Apple: $171 billion.

Microsoft: $23 billion.

BP: $379 billion

State of California: $112 billion

United States Government revenue: $2,770 billion.

United States Government spending: $3,450 billion.

 

In handy graph form:

20140902-1

Of course, only one of these outfits can also send in people with guns to settle disputes with all of the others.  So who is going to impose an income tax to rein in the monster on the Potomac?

 

Economic Development, film style: Iowa pays $2 million to settle film lawsuit (Des Moines Register).  But think of the intangible benefits!

 

Kristy Maitre, Kristine Tidgren, ACA’s Thorny Impact On More-Than-2% S Corporation Shareholders

Consequently, in the absence of further guidance, we believe that if an S corporation chooses to increase wages for its employees to make up for its non-ACA-compliant employer payment plan, the more-than-2% shareholders will now have to pay FICA/FUTA taxes on that compensation, just as the other employees will now have to pay income taxes and FICA taxes on the increased wages. These payments are no longer made pursuant to an employer health plan and cannot be excluded from taxation.

You don’t have to have 50 employees to have Obamacare problems.

 

Peter Reilly, IRS Will Not Tax Forfeited Jackpots Of Compulsive Gamblers.  Mighty kind of them.

Kay Bell, Running errands for mom and other September tax moves

TaxGrrrl, Credit Cards, The IRS, Form 1099-K And The $19,399 Reporting Hole

Tony Nitti, Tax Court Says Bank ‘Thank You’ Points Are Taxable Income   

 

 

Scott Hodge, IRS Data Contradicts Kleinbard’s Warnings of Earnings Stripping from Inversions  (Tax Policy Blog)

Ajay Gupta, Yep, Son, We Have Met the Enemy (Tax Analysts Blog).  Mr. Gupta discusses the FIRPTA precedent for the current inversion hysteria:

It turns out that the enemy in the ‘80s was not the pools of offshore money ready to descend on onshore real estate. Nor will the enemy this time be the many offshore tax havens ready to shelter departing onshore companies. The enemy, as always, is closer to home.

Congress would be a good place to look.

 

Robert D. Flach once again gets to the heart of the matter:  “There is absolutely nothing illegal, immoral, or unethical with trying to ‘dodge’ taxes.  By ‘dodge’ I mean ‘avoid’.”

 

20140527-1Joseph Thorndike, When Do-Gooder Taxes Don’t Do Good (Tax Analysts Blog).

I’m no fan of anti-obesity taxes, whether they target soda, candy bars, or any other junk food. They are regressive and arbitrary, not to mention paternalistic and condescending. Supporters have all sorts of genuine good intentions. But ultimately, these taxes are simply an unfair money grab dressed up as a public health initiative.

Now we have some evidence that they may be ineffective, too.

Imagine that.

 

William Gale, Don’t be fooled: America’s deficit is still a problem

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown: Sept. 2 (Tax Justice Blog).  A left-side rundown of “Oil tax ballot fails in Alaska, film tax credits pass in California, and Ohio needs to do more on EITC expansion. Also: updates on Iowa gubernatorial election and a new report on airline gas tax breaks.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 482

 

And New Coke marketing genius award goes to…  From Going Concern, news of the boldest marketing move since the Edsel.  (Adrienne Gonzalez)

 

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Have a good weekend

Friday, August 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The Tax Update is taking an extra-long weekend.  See you next week.

 

20140711-2

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I, for one, welcome my Accounting Today overlords.

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Here is the way to to the tax incentive story from today’s “In the Blogs.”

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Tax Roundup, 8/11/14: Don’t you dare agree with me edition.

Monday, August 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

microsoft-appleDavid Brunori notes ($link) some odd behavior by Good Jobs First, a left-side outfit that has been on the side of the angels by highlighting the baneful effects of corporate welfare tax incentives.  The American Legislative Exchange Council came out with a report blasting cronyist tax incentives, and rather than embracing the report, Good Jobs First ripped it — because the Koch Brothers are the Devil:

Yet, Good Jobs First slams ALEC because many recipients of tax incentives have close ties to ALEC. But so what? The fact that corporations, including those run by the Koch brothers, provide support to ALEC doesn’t diminish the argument that incentives are terrible.

Weirdly, Good Jobs First primarily blames the recipients of corporate welfare for taking the money, rather than the politicians who give it away:

Moreover, Good Jobs First inexplicably says that ALEC is wrong to blame policymakers rather than the companies that receive incentives. But the blame for those horrible policies rests squarely on the shoulders of lawmakers and governors who perpetuate them. In a world where the government is handing out benefits to anyone who asks, it’s hard to fault the people who line up for the handout. No one has been more critical of tax incentives than I, but I’ve never blamed the corporations. Nor do I blame the army of consultants and lawyers who grease the wheels to make incentives happen. There’s no blame for anyone other than the cowardly politicians from both parties who can’t seem to resist using those nefarious policies.

Precisely correct.  When somebody is handing out free money, it’s hard to turn it down when your competitors are taking all they can.

I have seen smart people I respect do everything short of donning tin-foil hats when talking about the Koch Brothers and their dreadful agenda of influencing the government to leave you alone.  Maybe everyone needs an Emmanuel Goldstein.

Adam Michel, Scott Drenkard, New Report Quantifies “Tax Cronyism” (Tax Policy Blog)

Annette Nellen, What about accountability? California solar energy property.  Green corporate welfare is still corporate welfare.

 

20130121-2Russ Fox, Where Karen Hawkins Disagrees With Me…  The Director of the IRS Office of Preparer Responsibility commented on Russ’ post “The IRS Apparently Thinks They Won the Loving Case.”  Russ replies to the comment:

Ms. Hawkins is technically correct that Judge Boasberg’s order says nothing about the use of an RTRP designation. However, the Order specifically states that the IRS has no authority to create such a regulatory scheme. If there isn’t such a regulation, what’s the use of the designation?

The courts closed the front door to preparer regulation, so the IRS is trying to find an unlocked window.

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Imposes New Limits On Tax Refunds By Direct Deposit.  “Effective for the 2015 tax season, the IRS will limit the number of refunds electronically deposited into a single financial account (such as a savings or checking account) or prepaid debit card to three.”

This seems like a measure that should have been put in place years ago.  The Worst Commissioner Ever apparently had other priorities.

 

Kay Bell, Actor Robert Redford sues NY tax office over $1.6 million bill.  The actor gets dragged into New York via a pass-through entity in which he had an interest — a topic we mentioned last week.

Renu Zaretsky, August Avoidance: Corporate Taxes and Budget Realities.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers inversions, gridlock, and Kansas.

Peter Reilly, Org Tries Exempt Status Multiple Choice – IRS Answers None Of The Above

 

 

20140811-1Ajay Gupta, The Libertarian Case for BEPS (Tax Analysts Blog)  BEPS stands for “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.”

Matt Gardiner, Inversions Aside, Don’t Lose Sight of Other Ways Corps. Are Dodging Taxes (Tax Justice Blog).  Don’t worry, Matt.  If I did, my clients would take their business elsewhere.

Robert D. Flach, HEY MR PRESIDENT – DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER!  “If there is something wrong with the Tax Code do not blame the accountant or tax professional.  We have a moral and ethical responsibility to bring to our clients’ attention all the legal deductions, credits, loopholes, techniques, and strategies that are available to reduce their federal and state tax liabilities to the least possible amounts.”

 

Roger McEowen, Federal Court, Contrary To U.S. Supreme Court, Says ACA Individual Mandate Not a Tax.

Jack Townsend, U.S. Forfeits Over $480 Million Stolen by Former Nigerian Dictator.  The headline is misleading — the U.S. received the cash in a forfeiture — they seized it, rather than forfeiting it.

 

2140731-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 459

Instapundit, GANGSTER GOVERNMENT: Inspectors general say Obama aides obstruct investigations.  The majority of the 78 federal inspectors general took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter saying the Administration is blocking their work as a matter of course.  The IRS stonewalling on the Tea Party scandal is part of the pattern.

 

 

News from the Profession. It’s Completely Understandable Someone Might Sign Over 200 Audit Reports By Mistake (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

You mean they didn’t shift to organic carrot juice?  “From Coke to Coors: A Field Study of a Fat Tax and its Unintended Consequences” (Via Maria Koklanaris at Tax Analysts):

Could taxation of calorie-dense foods such as soft drinks be used to reduce obesity? To address this question, a six-month field experiment was conducted in an American city of 62,000 where half of the 113 households recruited into the study faced a 10% tax on calorie-dense foods and beverages and half did not. The tax resulted in a short-term (1-month) decrease in soft drink purchases, but no decrease over a 3-month or 6-month period. Moreover, in beer-purchasing households, this tax led to increased purchases of beer.

I’m sure the politicians who want to run everyone’s diet will angrily demand higher beer taxes in response.

 

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July 5, 1944

Saturday, July 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Today is the 70th anniversary of my Dad’s last mission in World War II.   He was operating the machine gun in the top turret of B-24 42-78127 in an attack on the submarine pens in Toulon, France.

 

20110705-2

 

This picture was taken by the unit photographer on the mission.  I think 42-78127 is one of the planes in the picture, based on the mission summary below:

20140705-1Not quite without incident.  The pilot of “127” was dead before they left the target, and the co-pilot was trying to get the crew home in a plane that was losing fuel and altitude.  Corsica was the nearest friendly spot.  They almost made it.

The pilot tried to ditch 42-78127 in this bay:IMG_1906

The B-24 broke in two, with the nose crashing on the beach, and the tail slowly sinking.  Tail Gunner David Korcuc pulled Dad and two other survivors out of the back end before it sank.  Six crew members died.

This picture of the bay was taken at about the spot where the front of the plane stopped.

 

The crew of 42-78127 is  below.

Those killed:

• Vaessen H William 1st Lt 0-536855 829th BS 485th BG Pilot

• Sipes R William 2nd Lt 0-705827 829th 485th BG Copilot

• Wittenbrink E George S/Sgt 36446168 829th BS 485th BG Radio

• Duer N Richard 2nd Lt 0-703456 829th BS 485th BG Bombardier

• Witham L Harris Sgt 35753847 829th BS 485th BG Nose Gunner

• McGregor W Jack Sgt 35613832 829th BS 485th BG Ball gunner

 

The survivors:

• Curtis W Carl S/Sgt 15195606 829th BS 485th BG Engineer

• Falerics M Wayne 2nd Lt 0-712782 829th BS 485th BG Navigator

• Korkuc David S/Sgt 32769227 829th BS 485th BG Tail Gunner

• Kristan J John Sgt 36650977 829th BS 485th BG Top Gunner

 

Dad rarely talked about the war, but he always seemed sad and thoughtful on July 5.   He said every year after the crash was a bonus year.  I still miss that guy.

 

Thanks to Dominique Taddei and Frank Allegrini of Corsica, who kindly shared their research on the crash and escorted my family to the remote wreck site.  More information is available at 42-78127.blogspot.com.

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IRS makes it less risky for U.S. residents to start reporting foreign accounts.

Thursday, June 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The IRS has announced updated procedures for taxpayers to file overdue FBAR foreign account disclosures.  These reports are required of taxpayers who have foreign accounts with balances that exceed $10,000 at any time during the year.  Penalties can reach 50% of the highest account balance per year of willful violations.

The new rules provide a streamlined procedure for U.S. residents to begin reporting FBAR non-filing.  The procedure had been available only to non-residents.  It also has eliminated the inane $1,500 cap on unreported taxes from foreign accounts.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

     In addition to permitting resident U.S. taxpayers to use the streamlined program, the IRS has also eliminated the $1,500 tax threshold and the risk questionnaire. Taxpayers must certify that previous compliance failures were not willful.

Under the revised program, all penalties will be waived for nonresident U.S. taxpayers and resident taxpayers will be subject only to a miscellaneous offshore penalty equal to 5 percent of the foreign financial assets that gave rise to the tax compliance issue.

[Attorney Caroline] Ciraolo said practitioners will be pleased that the streamlined program will now be available to residents that previously did not qualify because they were living in the U.S. at the time they initially attempted disclosure. 

This liberalization is combined with higher penalties in some cases.

This looks like a positive development, though I still think it should be more liberal.  A no-questions asked policy for taxpayers with liabilities under a reasonable threshold, with only interest charged on late taxes, would be even better — especially given the extra penalties on those who come in only when it is clear their banks are going to turn over their names anyway.  There are requirements for submitting back foreign account statements, which may not be available.

The IRS doesn’t appear to be applying the relief retroactively, so taxpayers who have already come in voluntarily and paid ridiculous penalties are played for chumps.  And the real problem — worldwide taxation under the U.S. tax system — remains.  A Wall Street Journal report sums it up:

One potential drawback: Taxpayers who come forward in the future may end up faring better than those who heard about the U.S. campaign in the past and presented their case to the IRS then. For example, experts said, taxpayers from the latter group who owed more than $1,500 in taxes could have paid a penalty as high as 27.5%.

In addition, taxpayers abroad face the risk of double taxation, said John Richardson, a Toronto lawyer who works with U.S. taxpayers living in Canada. “The problem is that, penalties aside, the U.S. tax laws are very punitive for U.S. citizens abroad,” he said.

Links:

Commissioner Koskinen news release

IRS news release, IRS Makes Changes to Offshore Programs; Revisions Ease Burden and Help More Taxpayers Come into Compliance 

Streamlined offshore resident procedures

Streamlined U.S. resident procedures

Jack Townsend has a summary and more useful links to the updated IRS procedures.

Accounting Today has a useful article with an oxymoronic headline, IRS Eases Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program for Non-willful Tax Evasion.  If it’s not willful, it’s not evasion.

And remember, the FBAR report for 2013 accounts on Form 114 is due June 30.

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Tax Roundup, 6/9/14: The great Illinois privatized tax shakedown. And lots more!

Monday, June 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The wedding was beautiful, and great fun.  Introducing the new married couple.

 

Illinois sealGreat moments in state taxation.  Tax Analysts has a disturbing story ($link) about how an Illinois law firm is using the “qui tam” recovery procedures of the state’s False Claims Act against out-of-state taxpayers.  In a “qui tam” proceeding, an outside party, known as a “relator,” can file a lawsuit alleging fraud against the state and then share in the recovery — up to 25%, according to the story.

And they actually may be hurting state tax collection efforts, according to the story:

“The cases have clearly interfered with the administration and enforcement of tax law and may have even ultimately cost the state money, though it’s impossible to quantify how much,” said Mark Dyckman, the Illinois Department of Revenue’s deputy general counsel for sales tax litigation.

The story says the firm involved “is responsible for 99 percent of the qui tam tax litigation in Illinois.”

The story says Illinois may encouraged the suits initially, apparently thinking it could get some easy money out of the deal.  In other states where the firm tried the same thing, state Attorneys General won dismissals of the initial suits, discouraging further efforts.  The firm is also incentivized by the ability of a relator to share in outsized false claim penalties:

Second, while the treble damages for back taxes under false claims acts naturally attract the most attention, [taxpayer attorney Jordan] Goodman said the civil penalty — generally $5,000 to $10,000 per false claim under the federal law and $5,500 to $11,000 per false claim under the Illinois statute — can be just as oppressive, depending on what counts as a false claim. If each monthly sales tax return is a false claim carrying a $10,000 penalty, and 12 returns are filed in one year, that’s a $120,000 penalty. If every failure to collect taxes on shipping and handling is a false claim, and the business averages 10 sales into the state per month for 120 false claims, that’s a $1.2 million penalty for the year, which can turn into $12 million for the 10-year period covered by the false claims act.

Wikipedia image of Tams

Wikipedia image of Tams

The story says that one tactic used by the Illinois law firm is to make out-of-state purchases over the internet, and then to file suits if no sales tax is collected.  As the law covering remote sales remains unclear, it’s difficult to consider these items “false claims.”  That’s especially true in suits in which the taxpayer either was following published guidance or an audit settlement with Illinois.

These cases have apparently been going on since 2002, and the legislature and the state have yet to stop what would appear to be a purely abusive and parasitic practice.  If there ever was a case for universal application of a “sauce for the gander” rule, in which a losing plaintiff had to pay the same amount of penalties asserted against the winning defendant, this would be it.

 

Alligator bait.  The New Orleans Advocate reports on a Film tax credit promoter sentenced to 70 months.  It’s remarkable what high quality entrepreneurs these state tax giveaways attract.

 

20130114-1The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Education is setting up a “Tax Place” feature on its website.  They seek your input.

Paul Neiffer reminds us that FBAR Filing Deadline is Near

Peter Reilly, CPA Faces Prison For Letting Client Deduct Personal Expenses.  It makes you want to carefully consider the work you want to take on.

Russ Fox, Back to the Past: Poker Sites and FBARs. Poker Sites Are Again Reportable Foreign Financial Accounts.  More incomprehensible foreign tax enforcement.

 

Cara Griffith, Protecting Confidentiality When Information Is Exchanged Between Tax Authorities  (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxGrrrl, As NBA Finals Continue, Tax Incentives Lure 76ers Into New Jersey   

 

 

20140321-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 396

Kyle Pomerleau, CTJ and U.S. PIRG Mislead with New Report on Corporate Taxes (Tax Policy Blog):  “USPIRG also doesn’t mention that their ideal corporate tax code has been tried in other countries with negative results. New Zealand attempted ending deferral as USPIRG suggested. The results were devastating to their economy.

Tax Justice Blog, Tax Foundation’s Dubious Attempt to Debunk Widely Known Truths about Corporate Tax Avoidance Is Smoke and Mirrors.  Never let the facts get in the way of what is “widely known.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Are Domestic Partnerships A Way For Heterosexual Couples To Avoid The Marriage Tax Penalty?   (TaxVox) This sort of thing makes makes me question the usefulness of “nudge” strategies to use the tax code to encourage behavior.  There are always perverse unintended consequences.

 

News from the Profession.  Public Accounting Firms, Ranked by CEO Hotness (Going Concern).  A tallest midget competition.

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