Posts Tagged ‘Accumulated Earnings Tax’

Tax Roundup, 3/11/2013: Five weeks left edition. And Accumulated Earnings Tax agitation.

Monday, March 11th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130311-1The 1040 filing deadline is five weeks from today.  The 1120 and 1120S deadline is this Friday.  The penalty for filing an 1120-S late is $195 per shareholder, with the penalty repeated each additional month the return is late.  Proceed accordingly.

 

A Des Moines tax lawyer lets us know what we are in for:  Just a Little Bit More? Yeah Right. Get Ready to Pay More Taxes in 2013 (William Brown).  He illustrates what will happen to one of his clients, “Fred,” when he pays his 2013 taxes:

Fred’s federal taxes have increased by 9% with no change in his earnings.  If Fred does not increase his distributions from his business to pay these increased taxes, his disposable income will decrease by 19%.  Might these increased taxes have no substantial impact on the prospects of his small business and its employees?  Not a chance.

Read the whole thing.  Related:  Phil, we have altered the deal.  Pray we don’t alter it further.

 

David Cay Johnston pushes for harsher accumulated earnings tax.  As I predicted, we’re starting to see people pushing for enforcement of the Accumulated Earnings Tax to deal with the pretend problem of corporations “hoarding” cash.  Mr Johnston takes the podium in an (unfortunately gated) article in Tax Notes:

     American nonfinancial corporations held more than $2.2 trillion of cash and near cash offshore at the end of 2010 in current dollars, IRS and Federal Reserve data shows. And that is on top of the almost $1.7 trillion of liquid assets owned by firms and subsidiaries with U.S. addresses that we will see when the 2012 corporate income tax data becomes available in a few years. That global cash and near cash pile of almost $4 trillion came to $12,600 per American — well more than triple the $3,500 in per capita federal income tax revenues that year.

     There is no possible business justification for that much cash. As Tax Court Judge David Laro wrote in Haffner’s Service Stations Inc. v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2002-38  “a need to retain earnings must be directly connected with the needs of the corporation itself and must be for bona fide business purposes.”

No “possible” business justification for that much cash?  It’s pretty easy to come up with potential justifications.  If you are a corporation sitting on a lot of cash, you have a lot to think about.   You have unusual opportunities, which you need to evaluate carefully.  The imposition of the shareholder-level tax on earnings is certainly a factor.  Does that mean I trust corporate management and boards?  No.  But I trust them a lot more than second-guessers at the IRS.

The Judge Laro cite that Mr. Johnston uses only restates the legal background of the accumulated earnings tax — not the economics of it.

If you want to really encourage corporations to free up their cash, end the double-taxation of corporate income by allowing full deductibility of dividend payments — with an excise withholding tax on non-profit and non-U.S. distributees to ensure the income is taxed once.  That will give corporations a powerful incentive to distribute cash they aren’t using — one that will work a lot better than beefing up the IRS Second-Guess Division.

Update: Mr. Johnston e-mails:

            I have written in favoring of restoring tax-free dividends for modest sums or encourage savings, partly because most Americans have little saved in the tax system and even though only one in four gets dividends directly: [$link Ed.]

And I called for a two-year test of dividend deductions in this column a few months later, arguing that dividends have the virtue of separating actual value-added managers from those who play accounting games since you need need cash to make dividend payouts. [gated links here and here. Ed.].

Unfortunately I don’t have links to free versions of the original articles.

Related: Garett Jones,  Redistributing from Capitalists to Workers: An Impossibility Theorem, on why the economically-optimal rate of tax on capital is zero. (Econlog)

 

 

No more paper Internal Revenue Bulletins.  The IRS has discontinued its old paper Internal Revenue Bulletin, where it published tax guidance.  From Announcement 2013-12:

The IRB is available on IRS.gov before printed copies are available. Also, the majority of items (about two-thirds) that appear in the IRB are released with a News Release about a month ahead of when the item appears in the IRB. Since all items in the IRB are available electronically, almost a month in advance of being available in the printed IRB, we are eliminating the printing of paper copies of the IRB, which are distributed directly from the IRS. The cost savings to printing and postage would be $148,000 annually.

It makes sense.  Another bit of my accumulated tax training goes the way of the Dodo.

 

Russ Fox,  If You’re a Sole Proprietor, Get an EIN…Now!.  Otherwise it’s too easy to get your identity stolen.

William Perez,  Minnesota Revenue Department Finds “Unacceptable” Errors in TurboTax.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Explains Delays In Processing Some Returns Claiming Education Credits

Kay Bell,  Federal workers owe $3.5 billion in back taxes; Expect renewal of legislative efforts to fire federally-employed tax debtors.  Some people don’t buy the “better to give than to receive” thing.

Brian Mahany,  IRS Begins Rejecting OVDI Filings – Important News For Fence Sitters

Jack Townsend,  Bank Leumi U.S. Clients Rejected from OVDP

Robert Goulder: Taxation & Morality: Odd Bedfellows (Tax.com)

 

Peter Reilly,  Render Unto Caesar – Mormon Tithe Not A Necessary Expense In IRS Collection Case

Patrick Temple-West,  Tax haven hunter Levin to retire, and more

 

The Critical Question: Who Are Your Tax Policy Friends? (Jim Maule)

Going Concern,  No, We Can’t Help You Pass the Ethics Exam.  When I took it, it was mailed to successful CPA candidates to do at home and mail in.  No wonder there are no ethical problems with our generation.  Oh, wait…

 

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Hoarders, wreckers and the Accumulated Earnings Tax.

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Instapundit notes idiocy in Connecticut:

Solzhenitsyn, who wrote about what happened to "hoarders and wreckers" in the USSR.

Solzhenitsyn, who wrote about what happened to “hoarders and wreckers” in the USSR.

IN SEPTEMBER OF 2010, I WROTE “They’ll be going after ‘hoarders and wreckers’ next.”

And now this:  In Connecticut, a “Hoarder’s Tax.”   “Rep. Betsy Ritter, a Waterford Democrat, not only has sponsored a “combined reporting” bill, but she has also proposed a hoarder’s tax. This would place a levy on liquid assets — companies with a lot of money in the bank — and dedicate the proceeds to job creation programs.”

Gee, I wonder why businesses are fleeing the northeast?

He might be bemused to learn that the federal tax law already has its own “hoarder’s tax”: The 20% “Accumulated Earnings Tax” of Section 531Section 532 explains how it works (my emphasis)

The accumulated earnings tax imposed by section 531  shall apply to every corporation (other than those described in subsection (b)) formed or availed of for the purpose of avoiding the income tax with respect to its shareholders or the shareholders of any other corporation, by permitting earnings and profits to accumulate instead of being divided or distributed.

Needless to say, taxpayers don’t self-assess this.  It’s generally imposed only when the IRS asserts it on audit.  I have only seen the IRS assert the tax once, and I have been in tax practice since 1984.

The tax, little-known outside of tax geek circles, and not well-known among us, goes all the way back to the earliest days of the income tax in 1913.  Political conditions may be coming together to wave this relic around again.  Consider this from influential left-side economist Paul Krugman:

So corporations are taking a much bigger slice of total income — and are showing little inclination either to redistribute that slice back to investors or to invest it in new equipment, software, etc.. Instead, they’re accumulating piles of cash.

So don’t be too surprised if the incoming Treasury Secretary and IRS Commissioner step up enforcement of this penalty tax.  Or, as Instapundit might say, “all is proceeding as I have foreseen.”*

*4th item.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/27/2012: Rocking Sheldon! And billionaires and millionaires

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The Tax Update is in Sheldon, in the Northwest Iowa, helping out at the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School today.

Some of the happy practitioners at today’s Farm and Urban Tax School in Sheldon, Iowa.

Two schools are left: Red Oak and Ames.  Register today!

 

How easy is it for rich folks to avoid higher rates?  Florida Senator and potential presidential candidate Marco Rubio said that tax rate increases would be largely futile.  From Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Thursday there isn’t much point in raising tax rates on the wealthy, because they also have the money to hire people who will help them get out of paying taxes.

“The billionaires and millionaires that are going to be impacted by higher rates, they can afford to hire the best lawyers, lobbyists and accountants in America to figure out how not to pay those higher rates,” Rubio told National Journal’s Major Garrett at The Atlantic Washington Ideas Forum. “The people that are going to get stuck by that bill are the small businesses, the partnerships, the S corporations, that cannot hire the lawyers to get them out of it.”

Is it really possible for “billionaires and millionaires” to get out of taxes through the best efforts of their lawyers?  To some extent.  Greg Mankiw explains how Warren Buffett does it:

1. His company Berkshire Hathaway never pays a dividend but instead retains all earnings.  So the return on this investment is entirely in the form of capital gains.  By not paying dividends, he saves his investors (including himself) from having to immediately pay income tax on this income.

2. Mr Buffett is a long-term investor, so he rarely sells and realizes a capital gain.  His unrealized capital gains are untaxed.

3. He is giving away much of his wealth to charity.  He gets a deduction at the full market value of the stock he donates, most of which is unrealized (and therefore untaxed) capital gains.

All of these are useful only to people who don’t need their cash right away.  If you want to use your cash, these aren’t very useful.  And many of these items are fraught with danger for taxpayers with less pull than Warren.  For example, a closely-held C corporation that pays no dividends runs the risk of being hit with the Accumulated Earnings Tax.  Many other tax-sheltering opportunities have been shut down through various crackdowns on tax shelters over the years, like the passive loss rules.

The real futility of taxing the rich is that it does so little to address the government’s insolvency.  Letting the tax cuts for “the rich” expire only covers about $80 billion of the $1,200 billion annual budget deficit.  The big attempt to tax “the rich” is just a distraction; the rich guy isn’t buying.

 

Tax Prof Poll: Taxes and the Fiscal Cliff (TaxProf)

Joseph Henchman,   Chambliss, Others Distance Themselves from ATR Tax Pledge (Tax Policy Blog)

Patrick Temple-West,  Consensus on increasing tax revenue, a wide gulf on how to do it, and more (Tax Break)

Daniel Shaviro, Broadening the base versus raising the rate

 

I vote yes:  Can We Kill the Death Master File? (Russ Fox). The publication of dead folk’s Social Security numbers is a boon for identity thieves.

TaxGrrrl,  Tax Breaks For Medical Expenses Under ObamaCare.  Hint: they are fewer and smaller.

Paul Neiffer,  2012 May Be Last Year for Section 179 Flexibility.  “What many farmers do not know about is the ability to go back and amend their tax return to change their Section 179 deduction.”

Trish McIntire,  Document Your Holiday Giving.  If you give over $250, no receipt=no deduction.

William Perez,  Tax Tips for Charitable Giving During the Holidays

Anthony Nitti,  Could Tax Savings Expedite Free Agent Baseball Signings?

Jack Townsend,  Swiss Bank Pictet & Cie On DOJ Tax Radar Screen

Robert D. Flach didn’t let Thanksgiving weekend stop his Buzz!

Howard Gleckman, How Can 98 Percent of Us be Middle-Class? (TaxVox)

Angus Young (Wikipedia image)

Kay Bell, More Cyber Monday shoppers this year are paying state sales taxes

News you can use:  Tax Dodger Alert: Your Friend in the Senate (Robert Goulder, Tax.com)

Jeremy Scott,  Why the Finance Committee Needs Angus King. (Tax.com)  I prefer Angus Young.

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