Posts Tagged ‘alternative maximum tax’

Tax Roundup, 12/31/2013: So much for Iowa tax reform. And: last-minute charity!

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

ijlogoThere’s only so much you can do on one day to achieve last-minute tax deductions.  The markets are open, so you can harvest your tax losses.  The post office closes early, so if you want to mail a check for a deductible expense, get down there this morning.  You might want to review all of my 2013 year-end tax tips for some other ideas.

If you are both charitable-minded and deduction-minded, credit-card donations up to midnight tonight work.  Indulge me while I suggest a few good causes that can get you a charitable deduction:

Salvation Army, doing hard work with the homeless and lost and on hand to help at disasters, doing much with little.

Iowa Donor Network, the Iowa organization that gathers and allocates donor organs.

Institute for Justice, the non-profit that helps the little guy fight back against government’s bent on stealing their business or preventing them from making a living.  IJ is the outfit behind the battle against the IRS preparer regulation power-grab — it’s hard to imagine how the IRS would have been stopped without their good work.

The Tax Foundation, fighting the good fight for sound tax policy.

Reason Foundation, supporting liberty against all comers.

Alzheimers Association, fighting an awful disease.

Sertoma, little platoons working to prevent hearing loss through education and awareness.

Cornell College, my undergraduate alma mater.

Southern Illinois University, where I got my accounting degree.

Last but not least, The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, sponsor of the Farm and Urban Tax Schools.

That’s it for our 2013 year-end tax tips, but there’s good stuff all year at the Tax Update!

 

Related:

William Perez, Last Day Deduction Ideas

TaxGrrrl, 13 Dramatic Year End Tax Strategies For 2013   

 

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.

So much for the Iowa alternative maximum tax.  Branstad says he’s “realistic” — abandoning idea of pushing for income tax changes in 2014, reports O. Kay Henderson:

Earlier this month Governor Terry Branstad was considering a plan to let Iowans keep filing their personal income taxes under the current system, or opt for a flatter, simpler system with fewer deductions. Branstad’s now abandoning the idea.

“I’ll be real frank to say that with the present make-up of the senate and particularly with the present chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, I doubt that we’re going to see anything significant on the tax front this year,” Branstad said during an interview with Radio Iowa.

The majority Senate Democrats, led by Joe Bolkcom, are obsessed with sticking it to “the rich,” meaning employers, and the Branstad plan fails to do so sufficiently.  As the Senate can block any tax proposal, there was never much hope for the Branstad plan.

As the Governor’s half-baked plan was going nowhere anyway, perhaps now he can start working for the sort of real income tax reform that is so long overdue in Iowa.  The current system is a rat’s nest of special interest breaks, feel-good provisions, complexity and high rates that pleases only lobbyists and string-pullers.  It discourages small businesses with unforgiving complexity while paying the well-lobbied to be our friends.

Let’s get rid of all of the special deductions for special friends of the politicians, and all of the feel-good deductions, and even the deduction for federal taxes.  Oh, and lets get of the Iowa corporation income tax entirely.  Let’s drastically reduce rates to 4% or less and make Iowa taxes easy to understand and pay.  Governor, embrace the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform plan for all and see if the soak-the-rich crowd really wants to stand up for insiders, lobbyists, complexity, high rates, and high compliance costs.

 

It’s a dishonor just to be nominated, but Russ Fox can only choose one 2013 Tax Offender of the Year.  The recipient worked very hard to earn the title, and is quite deserving.

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Does The Sale Of Property Generate Ordinary Income Or Capital Gain?  It depends on what you sell, and who you sell it to.

 

Scott Hodge,  Out With the Extenders, In With the New Obamacare Taxes (Tax Policy Blog).  In case you were getting excited about a new year.  It lists all of the Lazarus provisions that expire at midnight, and all of the new taxes that start at 12:01.

Kay Bell,  Expiring commuter tax break will cost public transit users

 

Robert D. Flach brings you his last Buzz of 2013!

Jason Dinesen lists his Most-Popular Blog Posts of 2013

News from the Profession.  Count Your Blessings For Not Being on These Horrible Inventory Counts (Going Concern)

 

I will take the rest of the week off to clear my mind for tax season.  Happy New Year, and see you on Monday!

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/5/2013: Branstad floats optional income tax without federal tax deduction. And: is IRS hiding something?

Thursday, December 5th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

Iowa Alternative Maximum Tax proposal revived?  Governor Branstad may push an optional income tax with lower rates and no deduction for federal taxes.  This plan looks like an attempt to improve Iowa’s byzantine income tax without provoking the wrath of Iowans for Tax Relief, the Muscatine-based advocacy group that strongly opposes efforts to do away with the deduction.  KJAN.com reports:

Iowa’s income tax rates higher when compared to most other states because Iowa offers a deduction that’s offered in only five other states. That deduction allows Iowans to subtract their federal income tax liability from their income before calculating their state income taxes.  “We don’t want to erode federal deductability,” Branstad says, “and that’s why we’re saying: ‘Give ‘em the option.’” By giving taxpayers the option to file their income taxes under the current system with that major deduction or under a new system with lower and flatter rates, Branstad might avoid the firestorm he faced from his fellow Republicans in the late 1980s when he proposed doing away with that deduction.

The Governor appears to plan to add a new twist to the plan, reports Kathie Obradovich:

Branstad indicated that he wouldn’t allow Iowans to “game the system” by changing their form every year. That means taxpayers who give up the federal deduction would have to stick with the choice even if the other option would result in lower taxes in a given year.

That means the new system would be a one-way street.  It no longer would be an “alternative maximum tax,” where taxpayers would always compute their tax both with and without the federal deduction and choose the lower amount.  That makes it even worse than the version passed by the Iowa House of Representatives last year, which would have allowed taxpayers to make the choice annually.  Unless the new system provides significantly better results in the great majority of circumstances, most taxpayers would want to retain the option to use the federal deduction.  That would stall the (presumably) desired transition to a simpler system.  Both the Branstad plan and the House plan significantly add to the complexity of the tax law.

While Iowa’s high stated tax rates — individual and corporate — don’t help, the ridiculous complexity of Iowa tax law is the real problem.  Iowa has a bunch of penny-ante credits and deductions that don’t apply for federal purposes.  These are too small to make a significant difference to taxpayers but also too small for the Department of Revenue to police.  There are also dozens of special-interest tax credits and deductions that take dollars from the rest of us on behalf of people with connections at the Statehouse.

It’s not in his nature, but the Governor ought to go bold and embrace the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.  It strips the Iowa tax law to a very few deductions and repeals Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation corporation income tax while drastically lowering personal rates.  The Iowa Senate is unlikely to pass the Governor’s half-baked half-measure anyway; why not change the terms of the debate with a plan that actually makes sense?

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

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher BerginTax Analysts v. IRS: What Are They Hiding? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Back in August, I wrote about the lawsuit Tax Analysts had filed against the IRS seeking documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents being sought were training materials used to instruct and guide IRS personnel in the IRS exempt organization determinations office in Cincinnati. The big story then, and now, was generated by former EO director in the IRS Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division Lois Lerner’s admission that the agency had used inappropriate means to determine which organizations qualified for tax-exempt status as social welfare organizations. The organizations singled out for extra scrutiny were mostly, if not entirely, conservative. Tax Analysts felt compelled to seek relief from the courts because we were getting nowhere with the IRS – other than the big stall – even though it had promised expedited treatment on our original request.

Several months later, the big stall continues — to the point that I have to ask myself whether the IRS just made a stupid mistake in targeting those organizations or whether something much worse is going on. 

They are using the “taxpayer confidentiality” excuse for their standard big stall.  Christopher isn’t buying it:

But I’ll say it again: Training materials, really? Why on earth would the IRS try to keep those secret? You’d think the training manuals would all be in a file cabinet somewhere, which hardly would require a search party of 100 lawyers and a scouring for tax return information.

Could it be that this time something is different? Could there be a smoking gun here? I’m not saying there is. I’m just saying it may be time to start asking that question. Because even for the IRS, this is darned peculiar behavior.

Congress should amend the taxpayer confidentiality rules to keep the IRS from using them as an excuse to hide its own dirty laundry.  It shouldn’t require a federal lawsuit to get the IRS to publicize internal non-taxpayer documents.

 

 

20130121-2Whither the Registered Tax Return Preparer Program?  Robert D. Flach argues that the RTRP designation that was part of the nearly-dead IRS preparer regulation power grab should be administered by the IRS on a voluntary basis.  I disagree.

Robert would like a way to distinguish the better class of “unenrolled” preparers from less-professional seasonal preparers.  I can understand that, but I don’t think that the IRS is the agency that should do this.  It would divert already strained IRS resources to do something the preparer industry could do on its own.  I agree with Jason Dinesen that if preparers want a government designation, they should take the Enrolled Agents exam, which is much more difficult than the RTRP literacy test.  The EA designation is sadly underappreciated in the market, and adding a new IRS-run designation would only make that worse.

 

The IRS reminds us that the “savers credit” can help lower-income taxpayers who contribute to a retirement plan.  This is a non-refundable credit of up to 50% of the amount contributed to IRAs or deferred to a 401(k) plan.  For parents, funding a young adult offspring’s retirement plan contribution is a tax-efficient way to help build a nest egg.

 

Don’t try this with your tax deadlines.   TIGTA: IRS Is Seven Years Past Statutory Deadline for Providing Online Account Access to Taxpayers (TaxProf).  From the TIGTA report:

The RRA 98 required the IRS to develop procedures to allow taxpayers filing returns electronically to review their account online by December 31, 2006. The IRS did not meet this requirement, and we determined that the IRS has not made adequate progress in allowing taxpayers to access tax accounts. Currently, taxpayers cannot review account information electronically.

In fact, the IRS is getting worse, having cut back electronic access for tax professionals.  That makes resolving even a simple IRS notice a tedious multi-week snail-mail slog.

 

Tony Nitti, The Definitive Questions And Answers On The New Net Investment Income Tax [Updated For Final Regulations] 

amazonCara Griffith It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…It’s Amazon Prime Air? (Tax Analysts Blog).  Sales tax by drone.

Alan Cole, Report: Obamacare Premium Subsidies Will Need Fraud Protection (Tax Policy Blog).  No kidding.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 210

 

Kay Bell, Tax e-filing continues to grow, hitting 122 million in 2013

TaxGrrrl, Will Congress Drive Up Gas Taxes In 2014?   

 

Um, because most commuters drive?  Why Does the Tax Code Favor Commuters that Drive? (Tax Justice Blog)

Going Concern, IRS’ Improved e-File System Is a Total Success Except For Two Jerks Who Foiled It

 

Don’t trust tax collectors, if you’re a tax collector:

The former tax collector of Plainville, who is also former treasurer of the Connecticut Tax Collectors Association, was arrested Monday morning and charged with first degree larceny, after being under investigation for possible embezzlement since June.

Debra Guerrette, of Bristol, was placed on administrative leave from Plainville’s Revenue office in June after Bristol police informed the town Guerrette was involved in a criminal investigation.

After an analysis of the financial records for the Connecticut Tax Collectors Association, and also Guerrette’s financial records, police said she had “misappropriated funds in excess of $50,000” between 2008 and 2013, into her personal account.

Will there be a special assessment of the collectors to make up the difference?

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/6/2013: 4.5% Iowa tax? Flat chance. And hidden dangers of an IRS exam.

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130206-1Shock!  David Osterberg doesn’t like the 4.5% flat Iowa Income tax proposal!  State Tax Notes tracked down former Senate Candidate and Cornell College Econ Prof* David Osterberg for his views on the proposal to create a flat 4.5% income tax in Iowa alongside the current income tax.  Not surprisingly, he doesn’t like it ($link):

     The founder and executive director of the Iowa Policy Project said a Republican-sponsored House bill to create a flat personal income tax option would shift more of the tax burden to low-income residents.

     But David Osterberg said he is not too concerned because he doesn’t think the proposal has a shot at passing the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority…The proposal is “part of this ideology that says we somehow have to take  care of the top 1 percent and things will be good,” Osterberg said. “I don’t think low-income people believe that — we sure don’t.”

State Tax Notes also tracked down Tax Foundation Economist Elizabeth Malm:

     “Iowa’s current income tax system has nine brackets, with rates ranging from 0.36 percent of income to 8.98 percent of income,” Malm said in an e-mail to Tax Analysts. “In 2012, this made Iowa the fifth highest top income tax rate in the country, among those states that levy PITs.”

     Without additional information, Malm declined to say whether the plan is regressive. She did say, however, that the proposal would fail to simplify the tax code because it keeps the current system intact.

     “I’m guessing the rationale behind allowing taxpayers to choose between the two systems is to ease concerns that the flat 4.5 rate would hit low-income individuals harder,” Malm said.

Wrong guess.  The rationale is almost surely to avoid provoking the powerful lobby group Iowans for Tax Relief, which holds sacred the current Iowa individual deduction for federal taxes paid.  Proposing the flat tax as an alternative, rather than a replacement, finesses that problem — but at the cost of adding more complexity.  In this form, the flat tax is what I call an “Alternative Maximum Tax.”

*Disclosure: I once borrowed his shotgun at Cornell.  It had dust bunnies in the tubes.

 

David Brunori, Who Pays? Who Cares? You Should (Tax.com):

No matter your views on government, there is no justification for asking the poor to pay more than the rich. I do not favor dramatically increasing the tax burdens on the wealthy, particularly income tax burdens. But there are a lot of policies that can be enacted that could even the playing field. Broader base consumption taxes, less reliance on excise taxes, and larger income exemptions for low wage taxpayers would go a long way.

None of these are incompatible with lower top tax rates.

Tracy Gordon,  The Downside of States as Laboratories for Tax Reform (TaxVox)

 

Needed, but impossible.  Tax Notes has a sad-but-true headline that brilliantly summarizes the state of our national tax policy: Urban Institute Panelists Agree Tax Reform Necessary but Unlikely. ($link)

Linda Beale, More on PTINs for previously unregulated tax return preparers:

We have seen considerable evidence of tax return preparers who do not understand the tax laws or who intentionally misapply them (in the home office deduction, etc.).  It is imperative that those who assist others in preparing tax returns demonstrate minimal competency in the tax law as demonstrated by the qualifying exam.

The “qualifying exam” is open book — really more of a literacy test.  The IRS can make preparers show they can read.  They can’t make them competent.  When you consider the Big 4 tax shelter scandals, and the hopeless complexity of the tax law, it’s funny to say that the problem is really “people who do not understand the tax laws.”

 

Peter Reilly, Future Baseball Commissioner Tackles Tax Laws As Complex As Infield Fly Rule

Tough tax return choice for 2012: Pay more now to save later?  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Blog for Entrepreneurs, discussing whether maximizing 2012 deductions is really a good idea.

Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 12 .  More Kafkaesque obstacles to resolving an identity theft for his client.

William Perez, IRS Provides Further Disaster Relief for Hurricane Sandy

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #112: Super Bowl of Taxes

Jim Maule, Tax Ignorance As Persistent as Death and Taxes

Missouri Tax Guy:  Missouri does not mail  Form 1099-G.  You have to get it online.  One more little blow to tax compliance for small taxpayers.

Trish McIntire, Low Cost Tax Preparation Options

TaxGrrrl,  U.S. Postal Service To Eliminate Saturday Delivery: Will It Save Tax Dollars?  Next they’ll shut down the Pony Express.

Patrick Temple-West, Waiting on the phone for the IRS, and more (Tax Break)

Ellen Kant, William McBride, Super Bowl Tax Bill (Tax Policy Blog)

Russ Fox,  Will the Third Time be the Charm for Appeals?  A case where the “independent” IRS appeals function failed twice.

Howard Gleckman, Can the Income Tax Fund the Government We Want?  (TaxVox).  I can’t speak for “we,” but it could easily cover all of the government I want.

 

The Critical Question: Et Tu, Sarkozy? (David Goulder, Tax.com)

If they can spell their address, tax cheating should be easy for them: Massapequa Restaurant Owners Sentenced for Tax Fraud (Massapequa Patch).

Isn’t that conspiracy?  Tax fraud: We have a plan, authorities say (Myfoxtampabay.com)

Screwed either way.  Taxpayer Sues IRS, Claims Agent Coerced Him Into Having Sex to Avoid Adverse Audit  (TaxProf).

 

But not hotirsagent.com?  I guess there really are stupid easy ways to earn internet money.  A Kansan found one, but then got in trouble by not paying his taxes.  KFDI.com reports:

Dallen Harris, 39, pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion. He reported a taxable income of a little more than $164,000 in 2010, when it was actually more than $1 million. 

Harris’ income came from Internet domain names, according to court ecords from a related civil forfeiture case in federal court. The government is seeking to forfeit Harris’ houses, cars and bank accounts in that case. The domain names included celebritysextape.tv, adultkingdom.net, Porntesters.com, hardcorefilms.tv, celebritynakedpic.com and sextape.com. 

No, I won’t link to any of those.  It doesn’t sound like they need any help generating traffic anyway.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/17/2013: Iowa alternative maximum tax introduced. Also: cash for clunkers, firearms edition!

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Alternative Maximum Tax introduced in Iowa House.  The Republican leadership of the Iowa House of Representatives has introduced a new way to compute Iowa personal income tax.  HF 3 would create an optional “alternative base income tax”at a 4.5% flat rate.   The bill would allow taxpayers to elect to be taxed on their federal Adjusted Gross Income before net operating losses, less a $6,200 standard deduction ($12,400 for joint filers and heads of households).  The only credits allowed would be for estimated taxes and withholding.  Taxpayers could instead continue to follow the existing tax law.

There is an obvious flaw in the statute as drafted: federal AGI includes interest on federal debt, which states aren’t allowed to tax.  Maybe that’s just assumed, but the existing Iowa income tax law specifically excludes U.S. interest.  This tax is different from that proposed by Iowans for Discounted Taxes, which would exempt all investment income from the tax base.

The bill would be a huge step forward for Iowa tax policy if it were enacted as a replacement for Iowa’s current tax, rather than an option.  Eliminating all of the tax credits and special state deductions would greatly simplify everyone’s tax life, and lowering the rate would make Iowa much more attractive to businesses and newcomers.  In this form, though, it’s just another computation, an alternative maximum tax.  It’s like the alternative minimum tax, except you pay the lower tax computed, rather than the higher one.   It was probably drafted this way to avoid a fight over eliminating the current deduction for federal income taxes on Iowa returns.

I will run some numbers to see how the HF 3 tax would compare with taxes computed the current way.  The bill is co-sponsored by 54 representatives, including House Speaker Paulsen, so it’s a given that it will pass the House in some form.  It will be interesting to see whether the Senate, controlled by Democrats, will bring this to a vote.  The Governor has made clear income tax reform isn’t his priority this year.

 

This plan might be half-cocked.  From William McBride at the Tax Policy Blog:

This week Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) proposed an assault weapon buy-back program that would operate through the tax code:

“The SAFER Streets Act creates a $2,000 refundable tax credit ($1,000 for two consecutive years) for an assault weapon owner who turns in their firearm to the state police.”

This assumes the gun manufacturers cannot produce additional guns as
fast as the old ones are destroyed, and that they cannot be produced, at
this rate of production, cheaper than the buy-back price. 

Cash for Clunkers, firearms edition.

Kay Bell,  Guns, ammo, violence and taxes

 

TaxProf, TIGTA: IRS Has 60% Error Rate in Policing Noncash Charitable Contribution Deduction.  I’m sure they’ll do lots better implementing the Affordable Care Act.

Patrick Temple-West,  New Yorkers face higher real estate taxes, and more

Peter Reilly,  Are Tax Protesters Actually Winning ?:

Ms. Curtis lost as badly as it is possible to lose in Tax Court.  There is the 75% fraud penalty and the maximum sanction, $25,000, for frivolous arguments. She still might appeal, though.  Presumably the Circuit will make relatively quick work of that and maybe pile on some more sanctions.  Fine.  Now the IRS has to start trying to collect from her. 

Tax protester arguments can slow down the tax collector, but the tax man wins in the end.

 

Robert D. Flach, THE RETURN OF A HOME OFFICE STANDARD DEDUCTION

Kerry Kerstetter,  New option for Home Office deduction

Jason Dinesen,  How the Fiscal Cliff Deal Affects Teachers

Trish McIntire,  Red Forms

Cara Griffith, Should States Just Enforce Use Tax Collection? (Tax.com)

Russ Fox,  California Supreme Court Takes Gillette Case

Joseph Henchman,  The Al Bundy Tax Rule: New Hampshire Governor Pledges to Veto Beer Tax (Tax.com)

If it’s your identity, pretty bad.  IDENTITY THEFT AND TAX FRAUD – HOW BAD IS IT? (TaxTV.com)

Brian Mahany,  Steelers’ Plaxico Burress Pays Off $98,000 IRS Tax Lien

Christopher Bergin, Everybody’s Gone Surfing (Tax.com)

News you can use: Going Concern’s Guide to a Healthy Busy Season: Because No One Should Die at Work

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