Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Lundeen’

Tax Roundup, 9/30/14: IRS handling of uncollected taxes slammed. And: ISU TaxPlace goes live!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Priorities.  While allowing billions of false refunds to go to two-bit grifters via ID-theft refund fraud, the IRS also manages to not correctly follow up on billions of unpaid assessed taxes, according to a new report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  “Of a stratified sample of 250 cases reviewed, there was no evidence that employees completed all of the required research steps for 57 percent of the cases prior to their closing.”

How much money was potentially involved?  A chart from the report:

20140930-1

This is what happens when the tax law is treated as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, rather than as a simple tax collection and enforcement mechanism. It doesn’t help when successive commissioners are more concerned with expanding the agency’s power and suppressing political opponents than with collecting revenue and properly issuing refunds.

The TaxProf has more.

 

20130114-1TaxPlace goes liveThe ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation has launched TaxPlace:

We are very excited to introduce TaxPlace, a 24-7 resource for tax professionals, especially those preparing farm tax returns. For a limited time, we are offering a yearly subscription for the low introductory price of $150. 

What does that include?

This one-year subscription to TaxPlace entitles you and your staff to one calendar year of unlimited access to all TaxPlace materials and services, including:

A searchable database of timely articles and seminar materials explaining basic, new, and complex tax issues, with a particular emphasis on issues impacting farmers, ranchers, and ag-businesses.

Unlimited replays of recorded seminars and webinars addressing timely and challenging farm and urban tax and estate and business planning concepts.

Access to “Ask a Question,” a personal connection with a professional knowledgeable in farm tax requirements. (“Ask a question” is not a gateway for legal advice and does not substitute for services from a legal or accounting professional.)

Tables, charts, explanations of procedures and forms, and contact information to simplify your interaction with the Internal Revenue Service or state tax departments.

Access to a weekly blog and to future archives of “the Scoop,” a bi-monthly live webinar addressing new tax laws and procedures as they develop and providing attendees with an opportunity to ask questions.

A bargain for $150.

 

TaxGrrrlHow To Get Away With Tax Fraud. No, she hasn’t gone over to the dark side. She is outlining some rookie mistakes made by a Ms. Jackson, who tried to cash a $94 million tax refund check she received. Revenue agents were waiting for her at the grocery store where she tried to cash the check:

Among the basic mistakes TaxGrrrl points out is this:

 Unless you are due a lot of refundable tax credits (more on that later), you’ll want to make sure that your math makes sense. I didn’t see Jackson’s tax return. And I’m not licensed in Georgia. But even I can figure from peeking at the Georgia Department of Revenue’s web site that the highest income tax rate for individuals is 6%. To have paid in $94 million of tax, the amount of her refund claim, you’d have to have earned about $1.56 billion in income – in one year (assuming no carry forward or carry back). That kind of money should have landed Jackson on the newly released Forbes’ 400 Richest Americans list. Spoiler alert: she’s not on the list.

And no, it doesn’t appear that she sandbagged a little too much on her estimated tax payments.  Another basic mistake: real tax thieves prefer direct deposit. But, as a man once said to police here in Des Moines, “You don’t spend your days chasing geniuses, do you?’

 

Peter Reilly, New York Springs Sales Tax Trap On Passive LLC Members. Apparently New York is holding LLC members personally liable for sales taxes owed by the LLC. If the Empire State wants businesses and investors to stay far away, this is a pretty good step. Oddly, S corporation owners don’t have this problem.

 

Fresh Buzz is available from Robert D. Flach, including links to stories on retiree taxation and Roberts side project, The Tax Professional.

Carl Smith discusses The Congressman James Traficant Memorial Code Section at Procedurally Taxing.  Well, if it’s like most code sections, it will outlast all of us.

 

J.D. Tuccille, Yet More IRS Employees Busted for Stealing Taxpayers’ Identities (Reason.com):

Have I mentioned that people signing for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act are supposed to update the government on any major life changes, including marriage status, employment, finances…? Oh wait, yes I have.

I wonder if that information will be better protected.

Remain calm, all is well.

 

20130111-1Andrew Lundeen, Kyle PomerleauEstonia has the Most Competitive Tax System in the OECD. (Tax Policy Blog). The posts tells of a fascinating feature of the Estonian tax law:

Additionally, Estonia only taxes distributed profits and at a 21 percent tax rate. This means that if a business in Estonia earns $100 and pays that $100 to its shareholders, the business would be required to pay a tax of $21 on the distributed profit. Instead, if that business decides to reinvest that $100, the business would not have to pay tax on that $100.

Compare that to the U.S., where the corporations pay tax on income when it is earned, and potentially another tax if earnings are not distributed.  Still another tax is paid when the earnings are distributed; in Estonia, there is no second tax.

If you were designing a tax system to actually make sense, it would look a lot more like the Estonian setup than the U.S. income tax.  You also wouldn’t have the inversion problem people fret about so.

Martin Sullivan, Can Congress Pass Tax Reform That Would Stop Inversions? (Tax Analysts Blog). “Right now the U.S. tax system favors foreign owned corporations over U.S. owned corporations.”

 

Donald Marron, The $300 billion question: How should we budget for federal lending? (TaxVox)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 509

 

Liz Malm, Businesses Paid Nearly $671 Billion in State and Local Taxes Last Year (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Career Corner. Let’s Waste Some Chargeable Hours Comparing Chargeable Hour Goals (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/14/14: Department of Revenue says: no SE Tax, no Iowa gain exclusion on CRP ground. Cash rents also fail.

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140814-1Cash Rent, failure to pay self-employment tax ruled fatal to Iowa capital gain exclusion.  Iowa has an unusual capital gain exemption on sales of farm and business property for taxpayers meeting both a 10-year holding-period requirement and a ten year “material participation” test.  The Iowa Department of Revenue yesterday released three rulings holding that taxpayers failed to meet the second requirement on sales of farm ground.  The material participation rules are for the most part the same as in the federal “passive loss” rules.

Cash rent.  Document 14201019  holds that you don’t “materially participate” if all you do is rent farm ground:

The issue raised in the protest involves whether a capital gain deduction from the sale of farmland was properly disallowed on the Iowa individual income tax return for the 2009 tax year.  The farmland, which was held in the name of two partnerships, West Side Acres and East Side Acres, was involved in a cash rent arrangement.  There is no dispute that the farmland was held for more than ten years, but the Department contended that the ten year material participation test was not met.

The taxpayers claimed they spent more than 100 hours managing their farm rentals, but the Department said that activity didn’t count (my emphasis):

The Department notes that most of the hours spend by protester in the farming operation that was provided in the January 29, 2014 letter related to maintenance of business financial records, including review of property tax estimates and assessments and payment of expenses.  The Stoos decision stated that actions of paying the mortgage, preparing taxes and other financial work is not materially related to the farming operation, and these hours were considered “investor-type” activities which were not part of the day-to-day operation of the farm.  Therefore, those hours do not count toward material participation, and the 100 hour test has not been met by protester.  

This is the result I would have predicted.  Cash rent of farm land is not normally considered  “farming” under the passive loss rules.

binConservation Reserve and Self-employment Tax.  Documents 14201020 and 14201017 deny the capital gain exclusion to two taxpayers because they failed to pay self-employment tax on CRP payments.  The liability of CRP recipients for self-employment tax is controversial; a pending Eighth Circuit case seems likely to hold that the tax doesn’t apply to CRP recipients who do not otherwise farm.

The rulings say that the Department goes by the treatment of the payments reported on the taxpayers returns: if they taxpayer paid SE tax on CRP payments, they are considered to have materially-participated in those years, but not otherwise.  From Document 14201017 (my emphasis)

The Department first notes that the Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Weubker v. Commissioner, 205 F.3d 897 (2000) held that CRP payments were net income from self-employment because they were received in exchange for performing tasks “that are intrinsic to the farming trade or business” such as tilling, seeding, fertilizing and weed control. Subsequently, the Internal Revenue Service issued Notice 2006-108 which states that CRP payments either to a farmer who either personally fulfills the CRP obligations or who isn’t an active farmer and fulfills this obligation through a third party are both includible in self-employment income and are not excludible as rentals from real estate.

Therefore, the Department contends that self-employment tax was clearly due on these CRP payments.

Since protester did not pay self-employment tax on this CRP income, the Department contends that the material participation test was not met. In addition, protester does not meet the retired farmer exception regarding material participation for 5 of the 8 years prior to retirement since self-employment tax was not paid on the CRP acres prior to you receiving social security benefits in 2003. Therefore, the Department contends that you do not meet the qualifications for the capital gain exclusion since you did not materially participate in the CRP activity for ten years.

The liability for SE tax on CRP payments was never as open-and-shut as the Department says. Some commentators have argued that Weubker is wrong, and that CRP, by itself, doesn’t constitute farming (see here and here).  Even so, it is also a stretch to say that the minimal maintenance required on CRP ground rises to the level of “material participation.”

The Department here is saying in effect that they will take your word for it — as shown on your tax filings.  If you paid SE tax on your CRP income, you’re a farmer as far as they are concerned, and you qualify for the exclusion.  Given the stratospheric cost of farm ground nowadays, taxpayers may find it worth paying a little SE tax to qualify for the Iowa gain exclusion.

Related:

Material Participation Basics.

Iowa Capital Gain Deduction: an illustration

 

Canadians born in U.S. sue Ottawa over tax fraud law (TheStar.com):

Canada has violated the charter rights of nearly a million Canadians by agreeing to share their financial details with authorities in the United States, two Ontario women allege in a new lawsuit.

FATCA sponsor Charlie Rangel, D-NY

FATCA sponsor Charlie Rangel, D-NY

They are talking about “FATCA,” the outrageous Congressional overreach into the operations of banks around the world.

Gwen Deegan of Toronto and Ginny Hillis of Windsor, Ont., have launched a claim against the Attorney General of Canada.

In it, they accuse Ottawa of breaching the Constitution by complying with a sweeping new American tax fraud law, known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Under the terms of the legislation that took effect last month, banks must share all personal and joint account details of anyone deemed to be a “U.S. person.” This includes American citizens and people born in the U.S., even those with no existing ties to the country.

I wonder what the reaction in the U.S. would be if, say, Russia demanded the bank account information of every American it said was a “Russian person.”  I don’t think it would be popular. Yet our Congress thinks it is entitled to demand that non-U.S. banks cough up whatever information it feels like asking for.

The response has been to make financial life difficult for Americans overseas, as dealing with U.S. persons becomes more of a hassle than their business is worth.  It also restricts employment opportunities abroad for Americans by making their employment inconvenient.

Charlie Rangel was one of the main sponsors of FATCA.  He would know a little about not paying taxes.

 

20140814-2Paul Neiffer, Sale of Gifted Grain Can Be Tax Free:

When the donee sells this grain, it will be reported as a capital gain.  If time after harvest of the grain and the time of sale is less than a year, it is short-term.  If this time is greater than a year, then it is long-term. 

If the donee is in a low-enough bracket, long-term capital gains are taxed at zero.  But watch out for the “Kiddie Tax.”

 

Jason Dinesen, Proper Documentation of Business Expenses:

In most circumstances, you can prove your expenses even if you don’t have a receipt. But again, I feel that receipts AND other documents are the safest way to go.

Absolutely.  Jason has some tips for keeping track of them.

 

Kay Bell, School’s back. So are some, but not all, education tax breaks

 

Andrew Lundeen, Alan Cole, The Inequality Debate Ignores How Incomes Change Over the Life Cycle (Tax Policy Blog):  “Income data from the IRS and the Census Bureau have their uses, but measuring equality isn’t one of them.”

 

Joseph Thorndike, How ISIS Is Using Taxes to Build a Terrorist State (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxGrrrl, Tax Revenues Still On Pace To Break Records In 2014   

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 462

Career Corner.  Study: Working in a Windowless Cube is Ruining Your Life (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/8/14: Get a Room Edition. And: Koskinen, cronyist.

Friday, August 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Flickr image by Ellenm1 under Creative Commons licenseTax Court: Get a room!  If you spend a lot of time on the road, you may have wondered whether it might make sense to buy a Winnebago instead of hopping between motels.  The Tax Court yesterday weighed in on the side of motels.

A California insurance man with an RV found a market for his wares among his fellow tin-can nomads, as the Judge Wherry explains:

Starting in 2004, petitioners began attending RV rallies not just for pleasure but also for business purposes. At or around the same time, they purchased a 2004 Winnebago RV. We reject petitioners’ contentions that they attended RV rallies solely for business purposes from 2004 but instead find that they had mixed purposes. Petitioners would gather sales leads at every rally. To that end, petitioners had a banner that they attached to their RV advertising Dell Jackson Insurance. Petitioners would set up an information table outside of their RV or outside the clubhouse, if the site had one. If they set up a table by a clubhouse, petitioners moved the banner from the RV to the table. Otherwise, the sign remained on the RV from the time they arrived until the time they left. Petitioners would invite potential customers to come to their RV, and they would sit either outside or inside the RV and discuss the prospective client’s insurance needs. It would often take months, if not years, for a relationship with a potential customer, which could begin with a lead, to develop into an actual sale.

Naturally the salesman deducted expenses of his RV in preparing the Schedule C for his insurance business.  The IRS limited his deductions using Section 280A, which limits business deductions for personal residences.  The Court said that the RV was a house, as far as the tax law is concerned (citations and footnotes omitted, emphasis added):

Generally, “a taxpayer uses the dwelling unit during the taxable year as a residence if he uses such unit (or portion thereof) for personal purposes for a number of days which exceeds the greater of — (A) 14 days, or (B) 10 percent of the number of days during such year for which such unit is rented at a fair rental.” “Dwelling unit” is also a defined term and “includes a house, apartment, condominium, mobile home, boat, or similar property”. Sec. 280A(f)(1)(A). This Court has previously held that a motor home qualifies as a dwelling unit within the meaning of section 280A(f)(1)(A).  Although we use the more modern term throughout this opinion, an RV and a motor home are one and the same thing. Petitioners and counsel used the two terms interchangeably at trial. Accordingly, petitioners’ RV is a dwelling unit for purposes of section 280A. 

The Tax Court said that while the expenses were otherwise legitimate, the Section 280A disallowance of business expenses when a residence, or part of one, isn’t used “exclusively” for business overrides the deductions:

This result may seem harsh, but it is the operation of the statute, which reflects Congress’ desire to prevent taxpayers from deducting personal expenses as business expenses.

While the court admitted the result was harsh to begin with, that didn’t stop it from piling on, adding over $8,000 in “accuracy-related” penalties to the $42,000 in additional taxes assessed by the IRS — another example of the unfortunate tendency of the IRS — with the blessing of the Tax Court — to penalize everything, even when the taxpayer used an apparently reputable preparer.

The moral: RVs may be great for retirement travel, but they aren’t the best thing for business deductions.  If they had rented hotel rooms, the deductions apparently would have been just fine.

Cite: Jackson, T.C. Memo 2014-160

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

So the IRS Commissioner is just fine with cronyism in tax administration.  John Koskinen Indicates IRS Revolving Door Is A Feature Not A Bug (Peter Reilly).  It will be hard to unseat Doug Shulman as the Worst Commissioner Ever, but John Koskinen is giving it the old college try.

 

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Iowa Tuition and Textbook Credit and Back-to-School Shopping

Jack Townsend, It’s So Easy to Say No — The IRS Often Gets to No for Streamlined Transition Relief in OVDP. “The bottom-line is that the IRS is denying the nonwillful certification in far more cases than practitioners thought would be the case.  And, the process of denial is a bit of a black box.”

Leslie Book, Summary Opinions for 7/25/14 (Procedurally Taxing).  A roundup of recent tax procedure happenings.

 

tax fairyKay Bell, FTC sending $16 million to former American Tax Relief clients. Don’t fall for tax relief scams in the first place:

Federal prosecutors first filed charges against ATR in 2010. In August 2012, a federal court entered a partial summary judgment in favor of the FTC, finding that the defendants falsely claimed they already had significantly reduced the tax debts of thousands of people and falsely told individual consumers they qualified for tax relief programs that would significantly reduce their tax debts.

The court issued a $103.3 million judgment against the company.

Outfits like ATR, J.K. Harris, TaxMasters and Roni Deutsch pulled in lots of revenue from taxpayers desperate to believe in the Tax Fairy.  There is no tax fairy.

 

 

It’s Friday, the Iowa State Fair is underway, and Robert D. Flach is buzzing!  So it’s a good day three ways.

20140808-1

 

TaxGrrrl, normally the soul of restraint, lets loose on the inversion diversion in Obama Joins Blame Game As Companies Flee U.S. For Lower Tax Rates:

But to point fingers at lawyers and accountants as if they are holding all the cards is plain wrong. If we want to talk about responsibility, let’s talk about responsibility.

Let’s talk about a bloated Tax Code that just keeps getting bigger. Let’s talk about a global tax system that encourages companies (and people) to flee. Let’s talk about stalled tax reform efforts.

The tax code is the instruction manual for taxpayers, and their lawyers and accountants, for tax compliance.  And now the politicians don’t like what happens when we read and follow instructions.

 

20120702-2Andrew Lundeen, To Stop Inversions, Fix the Tax Code (Tax Policy Blog).  “But the lack of competitiveness created by the corporate tax isn’t the only issue: at its core, the corporate tax is inherently not neutral. It is highly distortive, opaque, and economically damaging tax.”

Christopher Bergin, Beware the Individual Income Tax Inversion (Tax Analysts Blog)  “The truth is that our tax system is in trouble – all of it: the corporate side, the administration side, and the individual side. And that means the country is in trouble.”

Kelly Davis, Tax Policy and the Race for the Governor’s Mansion: Illinois Edition (Tax Justice Bl0g).  Political wrangling in a doomed state.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 456.  The scandal has been Voxplained. Keep calm, all is well.

 

Art appreciation tip: “Like the folks who believe that the limits on maritime jurisdiction, explained by a talking salamander, holds the key to beating a federal criminal charge, the full tapestry of wacko tax fraud theories is a lovely thing to behold….” (Matt Kaiser, Above The Law).  He covers a “sovereign citizen” from Omaha who learned that filing a phony $19 million lien on a judge is perhaps not the optimal way to handle a tax controversy.

Related: TaxProf, Nebraska ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Convicted of Filing False Liens Against Federal Officials and Federal Tax Crimes

 

Adrienne Gonzalez, California Might Ditch the Attest Requirement for CPA Licensure.  I’m sure I would have been a better person if I had to waste two years observing inventories and otherwise bothering real auditors.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/25/14: Check your mailbox edition. And: the Commissioner’s real goal.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Ignore them and they will come anyway.  A Chicagoan tried to avoid IRS pursuit by the simple expedient of not picking up his mail.  The Tax Court told him yesterday that doesn’t work:

 On several occasions the U.S. Postal Service (Postal Service) attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to deliver the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency to petitioner at the address of his Columbus Drive apartment. On at least two occasions the Postal Service left notices of attempted delivery of certified mail at that address. In those notices, the Postal Service informed petitioner that it had certified mail to deliver to him and that he had to sign a receipt for that mail before the Postal Service would deliver it to him.

The taxpayer never got around to doing so. Yet he still wanted to fight the deficiencies in Tax Court:

It is petitioner’s position that he is entitled under section 6330(c)(2)(B) to contest the underlying tax liability for his taxable year 2006. In support of that position, petitioner contends that although respondent mailed to him by certified mail, return receipt requested, the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency that was addressed to his Columbus Drive apartment, he did not receive that notice within the 90-day period during which he could have filed a petition with the Court with respect to that notice. In support of that contention, petitioner relies on his testimony at the partial trial in these cases. 

There’s a 90-day deadline to file with the Tax Court, starting with the receipt of the Notice of Deficiency.  The Tax Court enforces the deadline pretty strictly.  And you can’t extend the deadline just by ignoring your mail:

On the record before us, we hold that petitioner may not decline to retrieve his Postal Service mail, when he was reasonably able and had multiple opportunities to do so, and thereafter successfully contend that he did not receive for purposes of section 6330(c)(2)(B) the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency. On that record, we reject petitioner’s contention that he is entitled under that section to dispute the underlying tax liability for his taxable year 2006.

Nice try.

Cite: Onyango, 142 T.C. No. 24.

 

Paul Neiffer, Is Low Section 179 Causing Low Equipment Sales?

 

Mixed message.   From Tax Analysts ($link): “Taxpayers considering the IRS’s new streamlined filing compliance program need to think carefully about whether their actions were truly non-willful, because a certification that proves untrue could expose them to more charges from the Justice Department, Kathryn Keneally, former assistant attorney general for the DOJ Tax Division, said June 24.”

The Treasury just can’t quite get the hang of this.  What taxpayers need is bright-line guidance that lets them come into compliance, at least below a relatively-generous dollar threshold.  Instead they have to come in with their hands up, while the IRS reserves the right to open fire — to second guess their state of mind.  That’s not necessarily very comforting.

 

 

Rose Mary Woods checks her e-mail in the Nixon administration.

Rose Mary Woods checks her e-mail in the Nixon administration.

Howard GleckmanThe Real IRS Flap Is About Dark Money, Not Emails (TaxVox):

But get past the shouting and two very important issues remain on the table: The first is the IRS has been terribly managed for years and needs to be fixed. It’s easy to forget, but that’s why Koskinen is there.

The second is that the commissioner appears undeterred in his efforts to rewrite the rules for 501(c)(4) non-profits that are engaged in political activities. That seemingly obscure effort will have an enormous impact on future U.S. elections and the balance of political power in the U.S.

This is chilling.  And Mr. Gleckman seems to think it’s just an effort by a disintersted public servant to impose order on chaos:

Koskinen is under great pressure from liberal and conservative groups and from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to abandon the effort. Don’t for a minute think that the House’s proposed $300 million cut in the IRS budget, its endless requests for IRS documents on multiple subjects, and even the email hearings themselves are not in part an effort to sink—or at least slow–these regulations.

Yet, Koskinen has refused to blink.

If you think Koskinen isn’t a partisan operative at the IRS, you haven’t been paying attention.   All of the pressure to “reform” the (c)(4)s has come from the left.  And it’s clear from the Tea Party targeting that the IRS can’t be trusted to regulate political actors evenhandedly.  If Mr. Gleckman is right, Koskinen’s mission is not to help the IRS to recover from its scandalous practices, but to institutionalize them.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 412.  About 40 links today, primarily on Commissioner Koskinen’s appearance before Congressional investigators and related missing e-mail developments.  It’s hard to imagine how this Commissioner could do a worse job at coming clean and improving IRS relationships with GOP congressional appropriators.

Jonathan Adler, IRS agrees to pay non-profit group $50,000 for unauthorized release of tax return.  But nobody will lose their job, and the $50,000 won’t come out of any individual perpetrator’s pocket.  In fact, the leaker gets to maintain his/her anonymity, and presumably employment too.  And even though it was an illegal, and presumably partisan, disclosure of taxpayer information, the Justice Department isn’t going to investigate.

TaxGrrrl, Lois Lerner And The Case Of The Missing Emails.  “Yes, that’s right: the IRS used the same backup strategy for its important data that I used to record my soap operas in college.”

Russ FoxKoskinen Channels His Inner Nixon. “The IRS continues to look hyper-partisan, and that’s not a good thing for anyone.”

The Hill, Archives official: IRS didn’t follow law on missing emails.   But Commissioner Koskinen says no apologies are in order, so stop bothering him.

 

No Walnut STAccounting Today, AICPA Says IRS Voluntary Tax Preparer Certification Program Is Unlawful:

The AICPA’s letter emphasizes the following points:

• First, no statute authorizes the proposed program;

• Second, the program will inevitably be viewed as an end-run around Loving v. IRS, (a federal court ruling rejecting an earlier IRS attempt to regulate tax return preparers);

• Third, the IRS has evidently concluded, in developing the proposed program, that it need not comply with the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. This is incorrect; and

• Finally, the current proposal is arbitrary and capricious because it fails to address the problems presented by unethical tax return preparers, runs counter to evidence presented to the IRS, and will create market confusion.

Not that being illegal will bother them; see above.

 

Arnold Kling, In Our Hands.  Mr. Kling discusses his idea for replacing all means tested welfare programs like the Earned Income Credit with a universal voucher: “Keep in mind that under current policy, many low-income households face effective marginal tax rates of 100 percent or higher. That is, they are better off with something less than full-time, year-round work.”

 

David Brunori, A Bad Law Addressing a Bad Business Tax (Tax Analysts Blog)

Local option business taxes, whether imposed on income, gross receipts, or personal property, are terrible ways to raise revenue. Only 14 states authorize their use, and they raise a paltry sum compared with the property tax or even local option sales and income taxes. Virtually all the public finance experts who have studied the issue denounce their use.

Of course, Iowa has lots of these.

 

20120606-1Sydni Pierce, Congress, Take Note: More States Are Reforming Antiquated Fuel Taxes This Summer (Tax Justice Blog)

Andrew Lundeen, Obamacare Increases Marginal Tax Rate on Labor by Six Percentage Points (Tax Analysts Blog).   “In the case of the Affordable Care act, Mulligan is talking about implicit marginal tax rates, or ‘the extra taxes paid, and subsidies forgone, as the result of working.'”

 

Adrienne Gonzalez, Bernie Madoff’s Former Accountant Pleads Guilty But Clueless (Going Concern).  “Prosecutors say that Konigsberg didn’t intend to help defraud Madoff investors, but knowingly used fraudulently backdated trades provided by Mr. Madoff’s firm as he prepared tax returns for some clients’ investment account.”

 

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Tax Roundup 6/24/14: Koskinen’s political gifts. And: in case you didn’t think Hitler was bad already…

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Just the man to build bridges to Republicans who fund the IRS.  From Bryan Preston, IRS Chief Koskinen Has Donated Big to Democrats Over the Years:

According to the Washington Free Beacon, Koskinen has donated about $100,000 to Democrat candidates and committees since his first donation in 1979. His donor recipients include Gary Hart, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic nominee in each presidential campaign since 1980 (which would even include Walter Mondale, who stood no chance of beating President Ronald Reagan in 1984), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s campaigns. He most recently donated $2,500 to Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) in 2013.

He has given no money to Republicans.

It’s hard to believe how tone-deaf he is to the Tea Party scandal, but this helps explain it.  (Via Instapundit)

 

Jeremy Scott, Lost Lerner E-mails Latest Example of IRS Death Wish (Tax Analysts Blog), my emphasis:

In contrast to their GOP colleagues, Democrats rushed to Koskinen’s defense. That is, perhaps, understandable, even though much of what the IRS has done during this scandal is indefensible. Democrats probably want to defend their president’s pick to head the IRS, and maybe they want to try to change the narrative heading into a potentially disastrous midterm election. But the reality is that the IRS isn’t doing them any favors. There’s only so much incompetence and disingenuous behavior that can be run through a political spin machine. The Democrats’ reflexive defense of Lerner (whose conduct can’t be excused) and their apparent willingness to accept any explanation from Koskinen (who didn’t even try to adequately explain why he hid information on the lost e-mails from February until late June) is baffling. Democrats weakly attempted to paint the GOP as on a witch hunt for a conspiracy, as though the IRS’s mismanagement and appearance of bias weren’t enough to justify congressional inquiry.

The IRS isn’t doing Democratic congresscritters any favors, nor are they doing any for the IRS.  They are just making the IRS look more like a partisan agency, which could cripple tax administration for years.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 411

 

20140507-1Kay Bell, Save space and trees: Digitize your tax records.  That way if you lose them, the IRS will surely understand.

Russ Fox has some valuable information for online gamblers trying to stay FBAR compliant: Online Gambling Addresses (Updated for 2014)

Robert D. Flach has a Tuesday Buzz for you!

Tony Nitti, How State Taxes Could Play A Role In Carmelo Anthony’s Landing Spot.  Nah, state taxes don’t matter…

Peter Reilly, Step Kids Remain Step Kids After Divorce.  So you may still have a dependent, if not a spouse.

Jack Townsend, Comments by IRS Personnel on New Streamlined and OVDP Procedures.  “The new procedures were designed to ‘encourage folks who are considering quiet disclosures to come in with their hands up’ and avoid taxpayers coming into OVDP with the intention to opt out.”

Annette Nellen, Bitcoin Taxation – Clarity and Mystery, “If you are a tax practitioner and don’t think you need to deal with it, I’d be surprised if none of your clients uses bitcoin.”

William Perez, Backup Withholding.

 

Tyler Dennis, The Clinton’s Estate Tax Planning Demonstrates the Arcane Nature of the Estate Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

When the Clintons created the trust in 2011, their property’s assessed value was $1.8 million.  Without a residential trust, the future appreciation between 2011 and 2021 would count against the gift tax. If the property appreciated at a 4% annual rate and reached $2.6 million by 2021, that’s the amount that would count. With the residential trust, though, the Clintons were able to “lock in” the value of the home at its 2011 value of $1.8 million without actually relinquishing the property to the beneficiary of the trust.

Most supporters of higher taxes assume that they won’t have to pay them.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Disbelief, Devolution, and Death Benefits.  The TaxVox headline roundup talks about the Koskinen appearance before the Issa committee, and about how a surprising proportion of new life insurance is taken out on employees.

Andrew Lundeen, The Average U.S. Worker Pays over $16,000 in Income and Payroll Taxes (Tax Policy Blog):

The tax burden is a combination of income taxes at the federal, state, and local levels as well as the employee and the employer payroll taxes. Of the 31.3 percent tax burden, 15.4 percent is due to income taxes and 15.9 percent is due to payroll taxes, over half of which is paid by the employer on the employee’s behalf. (Workers pay the cost of the employer-side payroll taxes through lower wages.) 

Heck of a deal.

 

Stephanie Hoffer, Kuretski, the Tax Court, and the Administrative Procedure Act (Procedurally Taxing).

 

Another great tax planning idea down the tubes.  Kidnapping Prostitutes Is Not a Good Way to Claim Dependents for Tax Purposes (Greg Kyte, Going Concern)

If you didn’t think he was a bad guy already…  Adolf Hitler: Billionaire tax-dodger?

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/12/14: Tax Credits run for governor. And: bad day for IRS in CRP tax case?

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1Crony tax credits have become an issue in Iowa’s race for Governor, reports The Des Moines Register:

The Republican Governors Association is out today with another TV ad attacking Jack Hatch.

The new ad accuses Hatch of sponsoring legislation to increase the availability of development tax credit while applying for tax credits for a real-estate project in Des Moines.

“Jack, isn’t that a conflict of interest?” the narrator asks.

It’s true that Mr. Hatch has been a successful player in the tax credit game.  It may be the merest coincidence that an awful lot of tax credits go to political insiders like Mr. Hatch and the spouse of Governor Branstad’s opponent in his first election.  But that’s not the way to bet.

While I’m all for anything that spotlights the inherent corruption of targeted tax credits, the Republican Governors Association may be inadvertently bringing friendly fire uncomfortably close to its own man.  For starters, the Governor is a five-term incumbent. If the system is set up to be played by political insiders, the Governor has had plenty of time to do something about it.

More importantly, political insiders can benefit richly from crony tax credits without claiming them on their own tax returns.  They benefit by claiming credit for the “jobs” generated by well-connected businesses that play the system to get the tax credits.  The Governor has played this game tirelessly.  Just off the top of my head

The $80 million+ in tax breaks for fertilizer companies.

The sales tax giveaway to the NASCAR track in Newton.

The rich tax breaks for data centers.

MP branstad

Governor Branstad, pre-mustache

In deals like this, the politicians claim credit for the jobs “created,” with no regard whether the lucky recipients of the breaks would have behaved differently without them, or for the jobs lost by other companies who compete with the winners for resources and customers, or for the jobs that would have been created had the funds been left with taxpayers to use without direction from politicians.

So yes, Governor, by all means call down the artillery on crony tax credits.  Just be sure to keep your helmet on.

Related:

The joys of cronyism

LOCAL CPA FIRM VOWS TO SWALLOW PRIDE, ACCEPT $28 MILLION

Governor’s press conference praises construction of newest great pyramids

 

20130114-1Roger McEowen, Eighth Circuit Hears Arguments in CRP Self-Employment Tax Case. “It would appear that the oral argument went well for the taxpayer.” 

Jana Luttenegger,  IRS Releases Taxpayer Bill of Rights.  “ These rights have always existed, but now the IRS has put the rights together in a clear, understandable list to be distributed to taxpayers.”  If they’ve always existed, they sure haven’t always been respected.

Peter Reilly, Your Son The Lawyer Should Not Be Your Exchange Facilitator.  Peter talks about the case I mentioned earlier this week, including another issue I left out.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Reid-Paul “Transportation Funding Plan” is No Plan at All:

Instead of taking the obvious step of fixing the federal gas tax, Reid and Paul propose a repatriation tax holiday, which would give multinational corporations an extremely low tax rate on offshore profits they repatriate (profits they officially bring back to the United States). The idea is that corporations would bring to the United States offshore profits they otherwise would leave abroad, and the federal government could tax those profits (albeit at an extremely low rate) and put the revenue toward the transportation fund.

Yeah, not a real fix.

Scott Hodge, Likely “Solutions” to Highway Trust Fund Shortfall Violate Sound Tax Policy and User-Pays Principle (Tax Policy Blog)

 

No Walnut STAndrew Lundeen, Higher Marginal Tax Rates Won’t Improve the World (Tax Policy Blog). “The Upshot and Dave Chappelle may be right that for someone with a $100 million that next dollar might not means as much as the first dollar. But that money doesn’t sit collecting dust. It is invested in the broader economy.”

Howard Gleckman, Did Multinationals Use a Foreign Earnings Tax Holiday To Burnish Their Financials Rather Than Reduce Taxes? (TaxVox)

Keith Fogg, Supreme Court’s Decision on Monday in Arkison Could Impact Kuretski Case and Constitutionality of the Removal Clause for Tax Court Judges (Procedurally Taxing)

Jack Townsend, BDO Seidman Personnel Sentenced for B******t Tax Shelter Promotion 

Kay Bell, NBA beats NHL in this year’s jock tax championship 

 

TaxGrrrl, Waffle House Refuses To Allow Waitress To Keep $1,000 Tip   

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/3/14: The joys of cronyism. And why Warren’s math is off.

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

20120906-1When states “target” tax breaks, the little guy gets caught in the crossfire.  That’s the conclusion of a terrific new study on why special tax favors to special friends of the government hurt state economies and corrode good government.  The paper, by the free-market think-tank Mercatus Institute, is the best distillation of the case against luring businesses with special tax favors.

The study describes how big companies skillfully play state politicians for subsidies.  It shows how Wal-Mart has received at least 260 special tax breaks worth over $1 billion.  It describes the $370 million in North Carolina subsidies to Apple to create a whopping 50 jobs — $7.4 million each.  These come at the expense of small companies who pay full-ride on their tax bill as they lack the lobbyists and clout to play the system.

It discusses how the only way states can make a case for their special breaks is to ignore opportunity costs.  States assume that money spent to lure a well-connected company would otherwise be buried or something, generating no economic activity.  As the study says, “Labor and capital are scarce resources and they are rarely left idle.”  It’s a point Tax Update readers may be familiar with.

The study notes how the subsidies hurt the companies who don’t get the benefits, even if they are not direct competitors of the corporate welfare recipients: “When new companies receive extra money to invest, they raise the price of capital and drive up wages, which imposes an additional cost on unsubsidized companies in the state.”  This refutes the fallacy that “Smith’s tax credit doesn’t cost Jones a cent.”

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They also point out how targeted tax breaks create a crony culture in statehouses.  The study cites the example of Texas (citations omitted, emphasis added):

As companies direct more of their resources to securing special benefits, they need more people who can lobby or who have other rent-seeking skills.  There is already a whole industry of “location consultants,” some of whom demand a commission of up to 30 percent on the subsidies that they can negotiate with local governments.  Consultant G. Brint Ryan in Texas is a good representative of this industry.  Texas allocates corporate benefits exceeding $19 billion per year, more than any other state.  Ryan realized the profit opportunity in serving as a consultant to companies seeking to obtain these benefits.  He has since secured benefits for ExxonMobil, Samsung, and Wal-Mart, among others.  Ryan also illustrates the importance of having political networks for securing targeted benefits.  In 2012, the Texas legislature set up a commission to evaluate the impact of state investments in development projects.  Ryan, who donated more than $150,000 to the campaign of the state’s lieutenant governor, was appointed to the commission by the lieutenant governor.

The same dynamic is playing out in Iowa, as the economic development bureaucracy has spawned a cottage industry of attorneys and consultants to tap into taxpayer funds.

What should states do?  The report says:

Four policy implications for state governments follow from our analysis:

- Allow for current targeted benefits to expire, and abolish state programs that grant them on a regular basis.

- Make sure that targeted benefits cannot be granted by individual policymakers on an ad hoc or informal basis

- Broadly lower tax rates to encourage company investments and obtain a more efficient allocation of resources.

- Cooperate with other states to form an agreement about dismantling targeted benefits.

Sounds a lot like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Other coverage:

Joe Carter, How Enterprise Zones Lead to Cronyism

Kenric Ward, Study: Cronyism Increasingly Lucrative for Politicians and Businesses

Related:  Governor’s press conference praises construction of newest great pyramids.

 

20140603-1Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: Gas Taxes, NJ Budget Woes, Madison Square Gardens’ Sizable Tax Break

 

Jason Dinesen has Yet Another Post About Regulation of Tax Preparers.  “Preparer regulation is a bad idea. ”

Kay Bell, Tax moves to make in June 2014

Robert D. Flach has your fresh Tuesday Buzz!

 

Andrew Lundeen, The Common Misconception about the Lower Rate on Capital Gains and Dividends (Tax Policy Blog):

What is not easily seen is that the $100 that Mr. Buffett earns in dividends has already been taxed at the corporate level. In fact, Mr. Buffett’s $100 didn’t start at $100, it started as $153.85.

To receive his $100 dividend payment, Mr. Buffett must own shares in a corporation, which we will call Company A. Company A earned $153.85 in profits on Mr. Buffett’s behalf. This $153.85 is then subject to the federal corporate tax of 35 percent, or $53.85.

The corporation pays the $53.85 to the federal government on behalf of Mr. Buffett and then passes the remaining $100 to him in the form of a dividend. This is the $100 we discussed earlier, on which, Mr. Buffett pays $23.80 in dividend taxes.

Warren Buffett knows this.  But raising individual rates helps keep down those small guys whose businesses report their taxes on the owner 1040s — and, incidentally, makes it easier for Warren’s insurance business to sell tax-advantaged products.

 

Jeremy Scott, Camp Waves the White Flag (Tax Analysts Blog). “Camp tried to reform the tax system — and failed.”

Martin Sullivan, Corporate Expatriations: More Deals Are Likely (Tax Analysts Blog).  ” It is unlikely that any known or yet-to-be-made-public deals will be slowed by Democrats’ efforts.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 390

 

TaxGrrrl, John Daly Relied On Tax Records To Figure $90 Million Gambling Losses.  “Despite tens of millions of dollars in gambling losses, Daly doesn’t seem to regret his behavior, saying, ‘I had a lot of fun doing it.'”

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/29/14: Supreme Court ponders crediting city income taxes on state returns. And: more jeers for “voluntary” preparer regulation.

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

supreme courtThe U.S. Supreme Court will decide a case on whether states must allow a credit for taxes paid to municipalities.  The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to hear an appeal of Maryland v. Wynne, where a Maryland court ruled that the state must allow a credit against Maryland taxes for taxes paid in non-Maryland cities by Maryland residents.

State generally allow their residents credits for taxes paid to other states, to the extent the taxes don’t exceed resident-state tax on the same income.  Iowans compute this credit on Form 130.  This keeps residents with out-of-state income from doubling-up their state taxes.  Municipal taxes don’t necessarily get the same treatment.  An Iowa Department of Revenue representative outlined the state’s position:

Iowa Code section 422.8(1), which provides for the out-of-state tax credit, only refers to tax paid to another state or foreign country.  “State” is defined in Iowa Code section 4.1(32) as including the District of Columbia and its territories.  Therefore, based on the Iowa statute, Iowa would take the position that the out-of-state tax credit is not allowed for municipal taxes.

I have no idea how the court will rule on this.  Both Maryland and the Obama administration urged the court to take the case, which might indicate the court is sympathetic to them.  Or it might not.  For its own reasons, the Court may be looking for a vehicle to clarify the law of multistate income tax.

A brief from an organization of municipality attorneys describes the Maryland holding being appealed:

1. First, in order to avoid substantial interference in interstate commerce, the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution requires every state and subdivision thereof to give its residents a full tax credit for all income taxes paid in another state or subdivision; and

2. Second, the receipt of Subchapter S pass-through income in Maryland is “interstate commerce” which is being substantially affected by Maryland’s tax structure, in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause.

Both of those points seem perfectly reasonable to me.  If the court rules against the taxpayer, states may try to raise money be limiting their credit for taxes paid to other states.

In any case, it would be prudent for Iowans who have paid taxes to non-Iowa municipalities to file protective refund claims for open years.  For taxpayers who extended 2010 returns, that year is still open; otherwise, 2011 is the earliest open year.  The court will hear the case in its term beginning in October.

The TaxProf has a coverage roundup.  TaxGrrrl reports in Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Landmark Case On Whether States May Tax Income Earned In Other States, with a good discussion of the history of the case.

 

20130121-2Another supporter of preparer regulation comes out against “voluntary” certification.  The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants came out against the IRS “voluntary” preparer certification system this week.  Now the National Association of Enrolled Agents, which like the AICPA was a fan of the now-defunct IRS mandatory preparer regulation scheme, has also come out against the “voluntary” program proposed by Commissioner Koskinen.  Robert D. Flach reports:

It appears that the main objection of NAEA to the current IRS proposal is the replacement of the original initial competency test used in the pre-Loving mandatory RTRP program with a “50-question ‘knowledge based comprehension test’ to be created by individual CE providers”.

It goes on to say -

“CE by itself, even in combination with a ‘knowledge based comprehension test’, fails to provide a taxpayer with any assurance that the person preparing his or her return is even minimally competent to do so.”

I think this is just another way for the IRS to help its friends at the national tax prep franchises to get something to put on their windows without helping taxpayers.  Considering its limited financial resources, it is absurd for the IRS to be taking on a new program.  Taxpayers can already choose CPAs or Enrolled Agents if they want “certified” preparers, and nothing stops unenrolled preparers from setting up their own system.  You have to have a lot of unwarranted faith in IRS goodwill to believe that the “voluntary” program won’t really be mandatory, as the IRS gives little perks to the “volunteers” and little hassles to everyone else.

 

 

Kay Bell, Actual auto expenses or standard mileage rate? Which business deduction method will cut your taxes more?

William Perez, IRS.gov’s Direct Pay.  “Unlike the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), people using Direct Pay do not need to register to use the service.”

 

20140328-1Russ Fox, Punt Blocked; National Audit Defense Network Heading to ClubFed.

Cara Griffith, How Much Knowledge Is in an Audit Manual? (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Yet while the IRS and several states make their audit manuals available online, other states, including Louisiana, do not. Taxpayers should not have to make a public records request to obtain manuals that will provide guidance on how a state conducts an audit. ”

Leslie Book, TEFRA Outside Basis and Tax Court Jurisdiction (Procedurally Taxing). “Periodically, like a kid forced to eat spinach, I will tackle TEFRA developments.”

Peter Reilly, Z Street Suit On IRS Israel Targeting Can Move Forward. “This lawsuit much like Teapartygate confirms me in my view, that the evaluation of whether an organizations purposes should allow it exempt status is not something that the IRS should be doing.”

Jack Townsend, Zwerner Jury Verdict — FBAR Willfulness for 3 Years

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 385

 

guillotineAndrew Lundeen, France’s 75 Percent Tax Rate Offers a Lesson in Revenue Estimating (Tax Policy Blog):

Since elected, French President Francois Hollande has raised the income tax, corporate tax and VAT. The government forecasted that these tax increases would lead to an increase in revenue of 30 billion euros.

As reported by the BBC, those estimates were off by about half:

“The French government faces a 14bn-euro black hole in its public finances after overestimating tax income for the last financial year.”

You can’t expect people just to stand still for something like that.

 

Adele Morris, Three Options for Better Climate Policy (TaxVox) Carbon Taxes, State carbon taxes, or no carbon tax.

 

Going Concern, IRS Throws Hissy Fit About Not Being Able to Regulate Preparers, Gives Up On Everything.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/28/14: Tax Fairy isn’t handicap-accessible. And: Why you should let your tax guy do the talking.

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


tax fairy
Audit defenders can’t defend themselves.  
There is something deep in our DNA that enables us to believe in the supernatural, at least when it comes to taxes. Otherwise sensible people act as if they believe in a Tax Fairy who can wave a magic wand to make taxes go away.  Operators offer themselves as intermediaries to the tax spirit world, taking real money to generate pretend tax breaks.

It had to take a real leap of faith to pay good money to the National Audit Defense Network.  Members of this Nevada group were convicted in Las Vegas yesterday of tax charges that included an implausible tax credit scheme.  They set up a “shopping” web site called Tax Break 2000 that was inaccessible to handicapped users.  They would then sell Tax Fairy adherents a “modification kit” to make the web site handicap-accessible for $10,475 — 20% down, and the rest payable on a promissory note “when they had no expectation that the customers would make payments on the promissory notes.”  They then told their clients that this generated a $5,000 tax credit.

How many Taxafarieans paid the $10,475 tithe?  According to the indictment, they sold 21,610 kits.  Assuming they collected 20% of the sales price, that grossed them $45,272,950.

Any attempt to commune with the Tax Fairy runs into snags.  The first big snag here was a letter from their own internal “dream team” of tax advisors telling them this wouldn’t work.  The indictment says the NADNers went opinion shopping and found accommodating attorneys who said it might work.  Good enough!

They had more difficulty clearing the next obstacle: a permanent injunction against selling Tax Fairy access.  But that’s the least of their problems now.

This case has attracted a little extra attention because of the involvement of a former NFL punter, who apparently decided to ignore his professional training and go for it.  When trick plays fail, they fail badly, and the participants now may face long prison terms.

And there is no tax fairy.

 

Wind turbineTony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Hot Assets And The Sale Of Partnership Interests

Kay Bell, Federal workers, including members of Congress and Treasury employees, owe Uncle Sam $3.3 billion in back taxes

No.  Does Warren Buffett Practice What He Preaches? (Paul Neiffer)  “The cost to Warren individually of raising his individual income tax bracket by 10% annually may cost him personally a couple of million or less, while his company saves over $400 million in tax by using energy tax credits.  I would make the trade-off any time.”

 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 384

Joseph Thorndike, Bad Ideas Are Like Bad Pennies (Tax Analysts Blog).  He’s talking about private collection of IRS debts.  Considering that the IRS isn’t exactly blemish-free in its debt collection practices, I don’t share the objections to private collection of undisputed tax debts.

Joseph also raises this point: “But it’s also expensive to pander, since every dollar invested in IRS collection can return up to $20 in new revenue.”  I think that’s hugely unlikely as a marginal return, based on what I see in the field and the way the IRS misdeploys resources (preparer regulation, anyone?).

 

Not Senator Wyden

If there is something wrong with our tax exemption, then there is something wrong with America.  I won’t stand here while you badmouth our country!

David Brunori, Taxing Togas and Keggers (Tax Analysts Blog).  “States should consider ending the absurd practice of granting property tax exemptions to charitable organizations.”

Andrew Lundeen, The Economic Effects of Bonus Depreciation (Tax Policy Blog). “Permanently extending bonus depreciation would spur investment, lift wages, grow the economy, and increase federal revenue.”

Howard Gleckman, Turning Carbon Tax Theory Into Reality (TaxVox).  Don’t hold your breath for this to be enacted, even if it would keep that carbon in your lungs.

 

Do you ever wonder why practitioners like to do the talking when the IRS gets involved? Yes, by all means stand up for your rights when dealing with the IRS.  But there’s a line where you should stop.  Going Concern tells us of a Mr. Calcione who went way over the line:

Three days after the agent left the voicemail, Calcione left a couple voicemails of his own. One of the messages contained a threat made by Andrew Calcione that if the agent called him again he would show up at the agent’s home and torture the agent, then rape and kill his wife and injure his daughter while the agent watched, before killing the agent. A second message left by Calcione requested that Calcione disregard the first message, which Calcione said was left in error.

Oh, you didn’ t mean my wife and daughter?  Well, OK, then!

Mr. Calcione was convicted of threatening an IRS agent.  Whatever tax problems he had before, that voice mail made things much, much worse.

Related: Man Convicted Of Threatening To Assault & Kill IRS Agent, Family Over Audit Proceedings  (TaxGrrrl)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/24/14: A(m)way to deduct your car? And: shame on you for doing my bidding!

Thursday, April 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

logoamwCan an Amway distributorship ever be taxed as a legitimate business?   It must be possible, but I’ve yet to see one win in Tax Court.  A case decided this week illustrates common tax problems seen with “downline” folks involved in Amway and other multi-level marketing ventures.

A doctor and his wife got involved with Amway, an MLM operation that sells household, nutritional and cosmetic products.  In addition to the medical practice income, they reported Amway results on a Schedule C.  We can guess from the results how they attracted IRS notice:

20140424-1

The Tax Court case involved their 2009 tax year.  Here are the expenses that went into their 2009 loss:

 

20140424-2

For some reason the IRS questioned the need for $25,000 in vehicle and travel expenses to sell stuff out of their home.  The tax law’s Section 183 “hobby loss” rules prohibit deductions in excess of income if the business isn’t conducted for profit.  The courts have developed a set of factors to evaluate in determining a taxpayer’s intent.  Tax Court Judge Guy went down the list, including:

Manner in Which Petitioners Carried On the Amway Activity

Although petitioners kept records of their Amway expenses, they did not use those records to analyze their business performance or to prepare profit projections, a break-even analysis, or a formal budget. Despite several years of activity during which they realized cumulative net losses of $192,427, petitioners failed to make any meaningful change in their strategy or tactics in an effort to increase the likelihood of earning a profit. On this record, it is a fair inference that petitioners used their records only to compute the amounts of losses attributable to the Amway activity when preparing their tax returns. Considering all the facts and circumstances, we conclude that petitioners did not conduct the Amway activity in a businesslike manner.

And:

Petitioners’ History of Income or Loss

 At the time of trial petitioners had never reported an annual profit in respect of the Amway activity. To the contrary, they reported cumulative net losses of $192,427 from 2005 through 2011. The modest gross receipts that petitioners derived from the activity have been eclipsed by the substantial expenses they incurred over the years. Although petitioners testified that they believe the Amway activity will eventually generate profits, we cannot discern on this record any definitive trend to the upside for petitioners, and there certainly is no indication that they are on their way to the level of profitability that would allow them to recoup the substantial cumulative losses they have incurred to date. In sum, petitioners’ history of consistent and substantial losses is indicative of a lack of profit objective.

I avoid multi-level marketing clients because their “profit” so often comes from putting personal expenses on Schedule C.  It sure seems that way here.

The Tax Court declined to impose penalties, citing taxpayer maintenance of good records and reliance on a CPA to prepare their returns.  Considering that the Tax Court has upheld penalties for taxpayers who are more sympathetic than a doctor deducting his car, it’s somewhat surprising.  It shows that even if you can’t show a profit motive, using  good records and a preparer can at least help avoid penalties.

Cite: Mikhail, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-40

 

For a recent taxpayer victory on a hobby loss case, see Peter Reilly’s Horse Breeder/Lawyer Wins In Tax Court. Was It Worth It? 

 

20120906-1Special favors for special friends. Senate sends governor a bill containing tax break for Knoxville Speedway. (O. Kay Henderson).  Iowa’s long-time sprint-car track gets a special deal to keep sales tax it collects, like the NASCAR track in Iowa.  Meanwhile, everybody else competing for Iowa entertainment dollars has to remit to the state the sales taxes they are required to collect.  Sweet deal, when you have the pull.

 

Iowa WatchdogIowa congressman urged IRS to investigate nonprofits:

Four days after the head of the Internal Revenue Service denied the agency was targeting conservative social welfare organizations applying for tax exempt status, Rep. Bruce Braley signed a letter urging a probe into the political activities of social welfare organizations.

Braley was one of 30 Democratic members of Congress who signed the letter, dated March 26, 2012, to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman urging him to investigate whether “any groups qualifying as social welfare organizations under section 501(c)(4) of the federal tax code are improperly engaged in political campaign activity.”

It’s funny how so many folks who urged the IRS to get all political on their opponents now deny it did any such thing.  Mr. Braley takes a different approach:

In May 2013, Braley called the IRS targeting of conservative groups “shameful,” saying “there is no place for politics at the IRS.”

Shame on you for doing what I told you to do!

 

20140401-1Paul Neiffer, Social Security Drops Efforts To Collect Old Debts From Children of Debtors. Maybe.

Kay Bell, Got debts? They could eat into your tax refund

Keith Fogg, Collection of Restitution Payments by the IRS (Procedurally Taxing)

Jason Dinesen, Is it Okay for Clients to Text a Professional Service Provider?   Not if they don’t have your cell phone number!

Jack Townsend, Crossing the Line in Tax Planning:

I report today on a civil case that shows how a civil dispute can involve a situation that perhaps should have been a criminal case… Essentially, the taxpayers created a paperwork façade to give the appearance of qualifying for the [first-time homebuyer] credit, but the facts outside the paperwork showed that they did not qualify.

You see a lot of that with refundable credits.

 

 

Andrew Lundeen, How High Investment Taxes Contribute to Inequality. (Tax Policy Blog)

William Perez, Tax Reform Act of 2014, Part 6, Retirement Plans

Cara Griffith, Solving the ‘Problem’ of Remote Sales (Tax Analysts Blog). “All things being equal, I would rather enforce the use tax than needlessly broaden the sales and use tax nexus standard.”

Tax Justice Blog, Missouri Lawmakers Relentless in Quest for Tax Cuts for the Wealthy.  In Iowa, we prefer to do favors for the well-connected, rich or poor.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 350.  Includes a link to Bruce Braley Urged IRS to Target Groups Before IRS Targeting Scandal Emerged.

Me: HSA Contribution Max for 2015 $3,350 single, $6,650 family.

KSDK.com: Man swallows 12 gold bars to evade taxes.  Sometimes you can actually feel sorry for the tax collector.

Career Corner.  Judge: Talking dirty not reason enough to lose job (Des Moines Register)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/11/14. Why we extend. And: Tax Doctor, Tax Fairy?

Friday, April 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

4868Some folks just don’t like extensions.  Maybe they want their refund NOW.  Maybe they have never extended their return before, and they think it is somehow against the rules.  Some people believe an extension invites the IRS to come in and audit them.  And some people think they are just so special that they can bring in a complex return missing K-1s on April 10th and the preparers should just drop everything and get them filed somehow.

There isn’t much to do for the last category, except perhaps medication, or a thrashing by a crazed sleep-deprived preparer, but for more sensible folks, a basic understanding of extensions might help.

Extensions aren’t against the rules; the rules specifically provide for them.  Even in simpler times, tax administrators knew that it isn’t always possible for a busy person to put together all of the pieces of a tax return by April 15.

You still should pay up.  While extensions give you more time to file your tax return, they don’t give you extra time to pay.  The tax law asks you to estimate your tax liability and penalizes you  if you don’t have at least 90% of your taxes paid in by the April 15 deadline; the penalty is 1/2 percent per month.

Why bother with an extension if I can’t delay payment?    Probably the most important one is that if you are short of cash, the penalty for late payment on a return that you didn’t bother to extend is 5% per month — ten times the penalty for late payment on an extended return.  It forces you to at least take a stab at guessing your liability, helping you identify what pieces you have to gather to complete your extended return.  It also keeps you in compliance, and once you stop filing on time, it can be a hard habit to break.

But won’t it get me audited?  There’s no evidence that an accurate extended return filed during the extension period is any more likely to be audited than it would be filed on April 15.  The IRS selects returns based on what’s on them, now on whether they are extended.

There’s plenty of evidence that returns with errors are more likely to get extra IRS attention.  A return thrown together at the last minute is more likely to have errors than an extended return done during normal working hours by somebody who’s had some sleep.    For what it’s worth, I have extended my own return every year since 1991 with no IRS examination (knock wood).

Efile logoEfile logoe-file logoHow do I extend?  You file Form 4868 either on paper or electronically, along with any necessary payment, by April 15.  The IRS has more details here. It’s common to pay in enough to also cover your first quarter estimated tax payment with the extension.  It gives you some cushion in case you find more 2013 income while completing your return, and you can apply your return overpayment to your  2014 estimated tax when you do file your 2013 1040.

States have their own rules.  Iowa automatically extends your return without the need to file an extension form if you are at least 90% paid-in by the April 30 due date.  If you need to send them some money to get to 90%, you send it with Form IA 1040-V.

Our series of 2014 Filing Season Tips goes right through April 15.  Check back tomorrow for another one!

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #3: Be Suspicious!

 

tax fairyBelief in the Tax Fairy peaks at tax time.  The Tax Fairy is that magical sprite who will make all of your taxes go away painlessly while your sucker friends still send checks to the tax man.  It’s amazing what Tax Fairy adherents will believe.  Consider a Californian who worked as a software consultant.  He was put in touch with a “Tax Doctor” (my emphasis):

Early in 2006 petitioner’s friends recommended that he talk to the “Tax Doctor Corporation” (Tax Doctor) operated by a person representing himself to be Dr. Lawrence Murray (Murray). Petitioner spoke with Murray and members of Murray’s staff. Petitioner’s discussions with Murray and his staff consisted mostly of “a bit of a sales pitch”. They explained how they would handle his tax return preparation, what the tax savings would be, and the “structure” they would use.

Murray proposed setting up two corporations and preparing petitioner’s individual and corporate Federal income tax returns. Murray explained to petitioner that one corporation would be “operational” and the other would focus on “management”. Petitioner was unsure at trial which corporation was the operations entity and which was the management entity. Under the agreement with Murray petitioner would pay the Tax Doctor, as a fee for setting up the structure, the amount of the tax savings generated by the use of the structure. 

What could go wrong?

His C.P.A. told him that she was willing to incorporate his business activity but she would not do what the Tax Doctor had proposed because it was very aggressive. Petitioner, despite the advice of his C.P.A., decided to accept the proposal of the Tax Doctor.

I don’t need a CPA, I have a Tax Doctor!

Petitioner filed his 2006 Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, showing taxable income of zero. Nev Edel, one of the corporations the Tax Doctor formed for petitioner, filed a Form 1120, U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return, for the fiscal year ending (FYE) November 30, 2007. Nev Edel reported gross receipts of $285,785, total income of $291,669, and total deductions of $295,214. The largest single deduction was $237,600 for “contracted services”. Smoge Corp., the other corporation the Tax Doctor formed for petitioner, filed a 2006 Form 1120S, U.S. Income Tax Return for an S Corporation. Smoge Corp. reported total income of $186,640 and total deductions of $188,644. The largest single deduction was $172,166 for “contracted services”.

Somehow things went awry.

Murray was prosecuted and convicted in 2010 of Federal crimes associated with the preparation of his own returns and the returns of others.

This presumably led to IRS attention to our consultant’s returns, and a big assessment.  The taxpayer tried to avoid penalties because he relied on the Tax Doctor in good faith.  The Tax Court thought otherwise:

The advice of the C.P.A., who had no financial stake in the outcome of petitioner’s return positions, should have put petitioner on notice that additional scrutiny of Murray’s advice was required.

The moral?  If your tax professional, who does this for a living, says something is bogus, they just might be right.  And there is no Tax Fairy.

Cite: Somogyi, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-33.

 

20140411-1William Perez, Six Things to Do Before April 15th

Kay Bell, What are ordinary & necessary business expenses? It depends

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 337.  More a boatload than a smidgen today.

That’s OK, you can just send me a gift card. Christopher Bergin, The Gift That Is Lois Lerner (Tax Analysts Blog):

Something bad happened here. And however bad her behavior, the problem isn’t Lerner. The problem is a culture that allows what she did to continue and that probably allows behavior that’s much, much worse.

Andrew Lundeen, What Could Americans Buy with the $4.5 Trillion They Pay in Taxes? (Tax Policy Blog).  A nice gift card, perhaps.

TaxGrrrl, House Committee Votes To Hold Lerner In Contempt, Others Push For Criminal Prosecution

Joseph Thorndike, How Dave Camp’s Failure Might Be Michael Graetz’s Victory (Tax Analysts Blog)

Peter Reilly, Clergy Out In Force To Defend Their Housing Tax Break   

Sports Corner: David Cay Johnston vs. Tax Girl on Twitter: PLACE YOUR BETS (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/8/14: So what do I do with the K-1? And: they also serve who go away!

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

So the K-1 finally showed up from my partnership or S corporation investment.  Now what?

Remember that the K-1 represents your share of the income and expenses of the partnership/S corporation/trust (henceforth “thing”) that issued it.  Different pieces of income and expense are treated differently on your tax return, and the K-1 tells you where your pieces go.  Sort of.  Before you get started plugging in your numbers, you should answer some questions for yourself.

- Do I “materially participate” in this thing? Your level of participation determines the forms you start with in preparing your returns, whether you can deduct losses, and whether your income from the thing is is subject to the Obamacare 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax.  If you spent more than 500 hours working in the thing, that usually means you materially participate; a more complete discussion of material participation is found here.

- Did the thing lose money?  If it lost money, then you have to clear three hurdles to deduct the losses:

1. You have to have basis.  This starts with your investment in the thing.  If you loaned money directly to the thing, you will get basis for the loan.  If you have a partnership, you will get basis for your share of the partnership debt, shown in part L of your K-1.  S corporation shareholders don’t get basis for their share of the corporation’s debt, even if it is guaranteed by hte shareholder.  Your basis is increased for your share of the thing’s income, and it is reduced for losses and distributions.  If you have no basis, you can’t take losses.

2. Your basis has to be “at-risk.”  This normally means that you are out-of-pocket for the investment.  If your basis comes from borrowed funds, you have to be personally on the hook for the debt — but if you borrowed from somebody with an interest in your thing, you might not be “at-risk” even if you will have to pay up if thing defaults.

If your basis comes from a share of the partnership debt, you are normally considered “at-risk” for debt shown on the “Recourse” and “Qualified Nonrecourse financing” lines on part K of your partnership K-1.  Your at-risk amount is computed on Form 6198,

3. You have to materially participate (see above), or have “passive” income from other activities.  If you don’t materially participate, you need to go to Form 8582 to figure how much, if any, of your loss is deductible this year.

 Got that?  Tomorrow we’ll look at what you have to do after you answer these questions.  Come back every day through April 15 for more !

 

Senator Hubert Houser

Senator Hubert Houser

Legislator of the Century.  Yes, the century is young, but it will be hard to beat the accomplishment of Iowa state senator Hubert Houser.  He went home.  From The Des Moines Register:

At issue is the fact that Houser, a Republican from Carson in southwest Iowa, hasn’t resigned. He has simply stopped coming to the Statehouse, saying he isn’t needed as a minority caucus member and doesn’t have a role in any legislation. He says it’s more important for him to spend time on his family’s farm, where he is expanding the livestock facilities.

Houser was not present in the Senate chamber again on Monday.

Secretary of the Senate Michael Marshall said Monday that Houser is still receiving his annual salary of $25,000.

The coverage implies that Sen. Houser is doing a bad thing.  Considering the dubious accomplishments of the ones that do show up, I can’t agree.  We’d be better off if they all went home.  The legislators should get all of their pay on Day 1 of the session, and they should get docked if it goes past a month.

 

Of course they do.  Iowa House panel OKs $2 million tax break for Knoxville Raceway.  (Des Moines Register)

 

RashiaQueen of IRS tax fraud needs a break.  Rashia Wilson, who famously held up big wads of cash on her Facebook page and taunted the feds to come and get her, is less liquid nowadays, according to a report by tampabay.com:

Busted down to a federal prison in Aliceville, Ala., she earns just $5.25 a month, she declares in newly filed court papers. That’s a problem because Wilson, 28, was ordered to pay a token $25 per calendar quarter toward the $3.1 million in restitution that she owes the IRS for filing false tax returns using stolen identities. She needs money to buy vitamins and hygiene items, too, she says. So she’s asking U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. to suspend restitution payments until after her release date: Jan. 5, 2031. 

Then she’ll really get after it, I’m sure.

 

Peter ReillyNo Money For April 15 1040 Balance Due? Don’t Panic!

Tony Nitti, Where Is Your Tax Home When You Work In A Foreign Land?   

Jason Dinesen, Tax Court Case Involving Radio DJ Strikes Close to Home for Me.  “I used to work in radio. I was the news director at KNOD radio station in Harlan, over in the western part of Iowa.”

I had a brief stint as an unpaid intern for KHAK, a country station in Cedar Rapids, in 1980.  I learned that I have a face for radio and a voice for print.

 

Roger McEowen and Kristine Tidgren, Understand That Easement Agreement Before You Sign It

 

Locust Street, Des Moines

Locust Street, Des Moines

TaxGrrrl, New IRS Commissioner Talks Tax, Scandal and Congress.  She gives him more credit than I do.

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, Americans Pay More in Taxes than on Food, Clothing, and Housing Combined (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, Ethics and Fairness, Growth and the Environment, Retirement and Tax Shelters.  The TaxVox headline roundup ponders, among other things, whether we should subsidize wind turbines forever.

Kay Bell, Energy efficient home improvement tax break might be back

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 334

News you can use. How to Cheat on Your Taxes. (David Cay Johnston, via The Taxprof)

News from the Profession.  According to Research, You Are Fat Because Busy Season (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/7/14: Where’s my K-1? And why you should e-file that extension.

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

1040 2013The deadline for 2013 1040s is a week from tomorrow, so we may as well start our annual Filing Season Tips feature.  

Many folks arrive here with a search engine query that goes something like “why don’t I have my K-1, should the partnership go to jail?”  A quick reminder of what a K-1 does, and why they often arrive late in the tax season.

K-1s come from partnerships, S corporations and trusts.  Partnerships and S corporation businesses don’t pay the tax on their income.  The income is instead taxed on your 1040.  They have to compute their own taxable income first — as you might imagine, a more complex process than doing the average 1040.  They then have to sort the income into a bunch of different bins so that all the pieces end up on the right spot on the owner 1040s.  The K-1 is best understood as the collection bins for your shares of the various pieces of the business’ income and expense items.

Furthermore, many businesses and trusts that issue K-1s are awaiting K-1s of their own.  Even if they have their own tax information ready, if the business is still waiting on a K-1, it can’t issue yours.

But, but! Aren’t K-1s supposed to be out by January 1?  You’re thinking of 1099s.  K-1s are due with the S corporation returns (March 15) or the partnership returns (April 15), but they can be, and often are, extended to as late as September 15 — legally.

So what to do?  If you don’t have your K-1 yet, try to at least get an idea of what the income will be, and extend your own return accordingly.  It’s always better to extend than to amend.

This is the first 2014 filing season tip — come back for one each day through April 15!

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #6: Just Don’t File

 

e-file logoKristy Maitre, IRS Change in Extension Processing Makes E-Filing That Extension Critical.

The campus could take up to 6 weeks to process a [paper] extension, and it will not show up on the transcript until processed. With that time delay, it is helpful to have the acknowledgement of an e-filed extension.

With the delay in processing of the extensions, remember if you file a return within that 6 week timeframe, it may not show the extension on the module, and your client could get a penalty for filing late if there is a balance due. This will also have an impact on refund returns if they are later picked up for audit, a balance due results, and the extension was not processed properly.

And why, if you do paper file, you shouldn’t bundle extensions for your family or clients to save postage.

TaxGrrrl, Not Ready To File Your Taxes? Don’t Stress Out, File For Extension 

William Perez, Federal Tax Relief for Victims of Washington State Mudslide and Flooding

Jana Luttenegger, DIY Will is a ‘Cautionary Tale’ (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “As a result, two of Ann’s nieces received property that it appears clearly from the will and attempted amendment was meant for Ann’s brother instead.”

 

20140321-3Kay Bell, 3 popular refundable tax credits: Are they worth it?  Good question, and no.

Peter Reilly, Easement Valuations Not So Easy Anymore

Keith Fogg, Reliance on Counsel to Avoid Tax Liability.  (Procedurally Taxing).  Not likely to work.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 333.  Featuring the Washington Post “fact checker” calling shenanigans on IRS Commissioner Koskinen for denying that IRS had “targeted” Tea Party groups.  It’s safe to say Mr. Koskinen has botched his entrance.

Andrew Lundeen, Senate Finance Committee Passes $85 Billion Tax Extenders Bill (Tax Policy Blog)

20121120-2Tax Justice Blog, Five Key Tax Facts About Healthcare Reform.  Ones they like that I despise: “Only two percent of Americans will pay the tax penalty for not having insurance and  “95 percent of the tax increases included to pay for health reform apply solely to businesses or married couples making over $250,000 and single people making over $200,000.”

This attitude is exactly what is awful about the TJB mindset.  No matter how fickle, arbitrary,   unworkable or economically harmful a tax is — and the Obamacare taxes are all of those — we’re supposed to be OK with them as long as they apply only to “the rich.”  Carried to the logical conclusion, it would be just fine to execute the 1-percenters, confiscate their property, and sell their families into slavery — it only affects the rich anyway, and they don’t count.

 

Arnold Kling has a little reminder for folks hung up on inequality, quoting Lawrence Kotlikoff:

The US fiscal gap now stands at an estimated $205 trillion, or 10.3 percent of all future US GDP. Closing this gap is imperative, and requires a fiscal adjustment of an immediate and permanent 37 percent reduction in spending (apart from servicing official debt), an immediate and permanent 57 percent increase in all federal taxes, or some combination of the two. The necessary size of this adjustment increases the longer it is put off.

And remember, the rich guy isn’t picking up the tab.

 

O. Kay Henderson, No traction for increasing state gas tax.  Not happening this year, apparently.

 

haroldJennifer Carr at Tax Analysts has a good summary of the research as to the economic effect of state film tax credits:

The film industry and lawmakers doubtless believe that film credits are a great deal for everyone involved — and that would be fantastic if it were true — but the most credible studies don’t reflect that.

Her article (unfortunately available only to State Tax Notes subscribers) discusses the funky analysis that film credit boosters use to justify the subsidies.  The boosters like to overstate the tourism effects of films and assume fantastical “multiplier” effects of film spending.  They also ignore opportunity costs — assuming that if the taxpayer money was not spent on Hollywood, it would just crawl in a hole and die.

 

Career Corner.  Crime May Not Pay But Whistleblowing Certainly Does (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/21/14: Reforming S corporations to a frazzle. And: cleaning up at the laundromat!

Friday, March 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

S-SidewalkThe legislative process has been likened to sausage making.  Sausage doesn’t get more appetizing if you keep looking at it closely over a period of weeks, and neither does the Camp “tax reform” plan.  Andrew Lundeen and Kyle Pomerleau at the Tax Policy Blog today highlight some gristly features of the grand effort by the head GOP taxwriter:

The proposal leaves in place high tax rates for many S corporations, subjects them to additional payroll taxes, creates new distortions between types of industries, and produces two tax rate bubbles.

They note these major S corporation changes:

Creates Different Tax Treatment for Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing Industries

Camp’s tax reform package introduces complication with a new 10 percent surtax for non-manufacturing income. To make things more complicated, the additional 10 percent surtax would be calculated on a different income scale: modified adjusted gross income or MAGI. This essentially creates two side by side tax codes, a la the AMT, and individuals and businesses would have to calculate their AGI for one and their MAGI for the other.

As I noted, it doesn’t simplify the code by getting rid of the economically foolish Section 199 production deduction; it just moves it to a different section.

20140321-1

The Difference between Active and Passive Shareholders

The difference between active and passive shareholders is important for determining the marginal tax rates for S corporations under Chairman Camp’s plan.

That’s true now, but you’d expect a “reform” plan to get rid of this sort of gratuitous and difficult-to-enforce difference.

20140321-2

Changes to Self-Employment Taxes: the 70/30 Split Rule for SECA Taxes

Under current law, the IRS requires business owners to pay themselves a reasonable wage in order to prevent people from gaming this income distinction in order to avoid the extra 15.3 percent payroll tax hit.

Camp’s plan would replace the current reasonable wage standard with a 70/30 split, changing the rules for active shareholders. The rule would require that active shareholders of S corporations report 70 percent of their total earning as wage income.

I think it’s just one step on the way to a 100/0 split.

Tax Rate Bubble

Another element of Camp’s tax plan is the creation marginal tax rate bubbles. This occurs when a marginal tax rate, for example, goes from 10 percent to 15 percent and back down to 10 percent. We have a post that discusses the marginal tax rates under Camp’s plan, which you can find here.

When a “reform” plan comes with so many phase-outs and distortions, it’s not actually reforming anything.  I think the Camp plan will come to be seen as a false move and a lost opportunity.

 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): K Is For Keogh Plans   

20140321-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 316

William Perez, Average Sales Tax Rates by State: 2014, highlighting a Tax Policy Blog analysis.

Annette Nellen, Revenues versus tax collections.  “A recent blog post on LinkedIn’s Sales and Use Tax Legislative Updates included a comment from B.J. Pritchett suggesting that what governments collect in taxes should not be called “revenues” because it is not from selling goods and services.”

Tax Justice BlogState News Quick Hits: Don’t Expect Much from Congress.  Always a good idea.

Kay Bell, Senate Finance plans tax extenders vote for week of March 31.  She links to an article quoting a Senate Finance spokeswoman as saying “No decisions have been made on the content of the measure or the timing for a committee session and vote.”

Howard Gleckman, Fiscal Reality Check: Will Congress Pay for the Tax Extenders and the Doc Fix?  Extenders themselves are a scam.  Congress passes them over and over a year at a time so they can pretend that they cost less than they do — funky accounting that would get a public company CFO jail time, but standard procedure in Congress.

 

Jack Townsend, U.S. Attorney Enabler Sentenced for Assisting Offshore Evasion 

 

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Insurance Regulatory Law.  The Cavalcade is a venerable roundup of insurance and risk-management posts.  Hank Stern’s contribution, an interview with Neal Halder of Principal Financial Group about their “accelerated underwriting” process for life insurance, is a great read.

Jason Dinesen, Fair Warning: More Baseball Posts to Pop Up this Year.  That’s a good thing.

 

20140321-4Think he reported this income?  Man With Deep Pockets Busted Stealing a Lot of Laundry Money (Going Concern):

Just how many loads of laundry could one do with $460,000 in stolen quarters?

That’s probably not the question asked by public works inspector Thomas Rica, who pleaded guilty this week to stealing that much in quarters from the meter collection room of the New Jersey town for which he worked.

At the laundromats I used back in school, that would have been nearly enough quarters to get your clothes dry.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/6/14: My lips are sealed edition. And: more budget!

Thursday, March 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner still isn’t talking.  That would seem to make for a dull hearing of the House Committee investigating the harassment of Tea Party organizations by the IRS, but there was some interest.  From the Wall Street Journal:

A House hearing on the Internal Revenue Service scandal ended in acrimony, as the ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) accused Republicans of a “one-sided investigation” and GOP members walked out.

Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) ended the hearing after the lone witness, former IRS official Lois Lerner, declined to answer several of his questions, citing her Fifth Amendment privilege.

Yes, everyone is entitled to the protection of the Constitution, but those of us not sitting on a jury are also entitled to draw our own conclusions.  When the key figure in the scandal fears honest testimony will incriminate herself, you can be forgiven for questioning the President’s assertion that there is “not even a smidgen of corruption” involved.

Take it away, GoGos:

 

Althouse, After Lois Lerner re-asserts the 5th, Cummings yells at Issa and Issa cuts the microphone.  “Issa is closing down the meeting, Cummings asserts what he calls a “procedural question” that’s really a political scolding, and Issa cuts the microphone and walks out. It’s pretty unpleasant.”  Video provided.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 301

TaxGrrrl, Former IRS Official Refuses To Testify Again, Lawyer Blasts “Partisan” Hearing.

Kay Bell, Tempers flare at IRS hearing. Reality show, anyone?

Peter Reilly, Lois Lerner Takes The Fifth Again – Political Theater?:

There are two narratives about this whole mess.  One is that there was something of a left wing conspiracy inside the IRS to pick on the political activity of organizations that were not supposed to be mainly political, which hurt those groups in their effort to prevent the President from being re-elected.  My blogging buddy, Joe Kristan, supports that theory having grown up in Chicago, where all sorts of enforcement is politically motivated.The other narrative is that the whole thing is a phony scandal.  I think that I am the only person left who has looked at this without fully making up his mind.

As Peter notes, I think the science is settled.

 

William Perez, Health Savings Accounts Provide a Tax-Deductible Way to Save for Medical Expenses

 

Economic supergenius

Smidgenless.

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, The Tax Changes in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget (Tax Policy Blog):

He proposes to expand the child tax credit and the EITC, two of the largest family tax benefits. His budget also proposes to alter retirement plans and create an auto-enrollment IRA program. In order to pay for these expansions, his budget will raise taxes on high-income earners through a series of changes to tax expenditures, most notably placing a cap on the value of itemized deductions.

It will never be enough.  The rich guy isn’t buying.

Renu Zaretsky, Obama’s 2015 Budget Hits Capitol Hill (TaxVox)

Tony Nitti, Tax Aspects Of The President’s FY 2015 Budget . “…in simple terms, the President’s proposal would add a(nother) alternative minimum tax calculation to the current individual income tax regime.”

Paul Neiffer, How Much Longer for Section 1031 Exchanges?  ”  Most likely, nothing will happen this year, but in 2015, watch out.”

 

Cara Griffith, California Needs a Dose of Sunshine (Tax Policy Blog):

This issue arose after references to two forms were noticed in an FTB multistate audit technique manual

 By not disclosing forms like this, the FTB is enabling its auditors to take inconsistent positions regarding similarly situated taxpayers. If that’s the case, any guidance the FTB puts out on its application of the unitary business principle is meaningless.

When you have to disclose the standards you apply, you risk being held to them.

 

News from the Profession.  The Latest New Jersey CPA Magazine Cover is a Little Freaky (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/27/14: Doomed Tax Reform Frenzy Edition.

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

President Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
When I think of income tax reform, I think big.  I think of massive elimination of tax deductionPresident Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.s, with great big rate reductions as consolation for taxpayers that lose their breaks.  I look for elimination of alternative ways of tracking income and deductions, with the idea that one way that everyone can understand is better than special breaks for different industries.  I look to eliminate double taxation of income everywhere, including elimination of capital gain taxes and integration of the corporate and individual systems.

By these standards, the tax reform plan put forth by Dave Camp, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is a disappointment.  While it would make many simplifying changes to the tax law while rates, it would leave behind a system that would still be very recognizable to a Rip Van Taxman who fell asleep in 1993.  It prunes tax complexity, but it doesn’t begin to clear the forest.

Still, politics being what it is, trimming the weed sanctuary is probably the best we can expect.  Maybe better than we can expect.

 

Tony Nitti has already posted detailed walk-throughs of the individual and business parts of the proposal, so there’s no point in me repeating his work.  Instead I will list some of the bigger changes proposed, with my commentary.  I don’t expect anything like the Camp plan to be enacted during the current administration, but I think it gives us an idea of the kinds of changes that could happen after 2016, if the stars align.

Individual Rates.  The bill would have a three-bracket tax system: 10%, 25%, and 35%.  The 35% bracket would replace the current 39.6% bracket, and would only apply to income other than “qualifying domestic manufacturing income.”  Lowering rates is fine, but this would retain the stupid difference between manufacturing income and other income embodied in the current Section 199 deduction.  It’s a complex and economically illiterate break for a favored class of income paid for by higher rates on all other income.

Capital gains and dividends would be taxed as ordinary income, but only after a 40% exclusion.  That would be a 21% net rate on 35% taxable income. (Initially I said 14%, math is hard).

Against the forces that have risen on K Street, there is no victory.

Against the power that has risen on K Street, there is no victory.

Deductions would be trimmed back.  The maximum home mortgage interest debt allowed for deductions would be $500,000, instead of the current $1.1 million.  Medical deductions would go away.  Standard deductions would increase to $11,000 for individuals and $22,000 for joint filers.  Many itemized deductions would reduce taxes only at the 25% rate, rather than the 35% top rate.  Charitable deductions would be simplified, but only deductible to the extent they exceed 2% of AGI.  The deduction for state and local taxes would be eliminated.

The increase in the standard deduction is an excellent idea.  I’m fine with reducing the mortgage interest deduction.   The limiting of deductions to the 25% rate is pointless revenue-raising complexity.  The elimination of the medical deduction will be a real burden on people in skilled nursing care; they are the people who generally can take this deduction.  Taxing them while they burn through their assets paying nursing home costs  will only put them into title 19 that much sooner.

While I am sympathetic with the policy reasons for not allowing a deduction for state and local taxes, those reasons don’t apply to taxes arising from pass-through business income.  State taxes are a cost of doing business for those folks, and should be deductible accordingly.

Alternative Minimum Tax would go away.  About time.

Corporate rates.  The proposal replaces the current multi-rate corporate tax with a flat 25% rate.  Excellent idea, as far as it goes, but it is flawed by the 35% individual top rate; it provides a motivation to game income between the individual and corporate system.

The proposal eliminates a number of energy credits while retaining the research credit.  I think that it would be better to get rid of the research credit and lower rates.  I think the IRS is no more capable of identifying and rewarding research than it is of fairly administering political distinctions.  Unfortunately, the credit seems to be a sacred cow among taxwriters.

Incredibly, the Camp corporate system gets rid of the Section 199 deduction while retaining a similar concept for individual rates.  Here it doesn’t get rid of pointless and economically foolish complexity; it just moves it around in the code.

LIFO inventories go away under the proposal.  As this comes up every proposal, it’s going to happen sometime.

Carried interests become taxable as ordinary income.  This is more complexity, apparently a sop to populist rhetoric.

Pass-throughs would be tweaked.  S corporation elections would be easier to make, and could be delayed until return time.  Built-in gains would only be taxable in the first five years after an S corporation election, instead of ten years.  Basis adjustments on partnership interest transactions would be mandatory, instead of elective.

Fixed assets would have mixed treatment.  While the Secti0n 179 deduction would permanently go to $250,000, depreciation would go to a system more like the pre-1986 ACRS system than the current MACRS system.

20120702-2Cash basis accounting would be more widely available, and fully available to Farmers and sole proprietors.  This is a step in the wrong direction.  Advocates of cash accounting say that it provides “simplicity,” implying that poor farmers just can’t handle inventory accounting.  Meanwhile these “poor” bumpkins play this system like a fiddle, manipulating cash method accounting to achieve results that are only available through fraud to the rest of us.  Modern farm operations with GPS, custom planting and nutrient plans, and multi-million dollar asset bases are as able to handle accrual accounting as any other business of similar size.

There’s plenty more to the plan, but you get the idea.  I find it disappointing that they don’t replace the current system of C and S corporations with a single system with full dividend deductibility.  I find the treatment of preferences and tax credit subsidies half-hearted.  I think there should be fewer deductions, fewer credits, and a much bigger standard deduction.  That’s why I’d never get elected to anything, I suppose.

The TaxProf rounds up coverage of the proposal.  Other coverage:

Peter Reilly, The Only Comment On Camp Tax Proposal You Need To Read – And Some Others

Paul Neiffer, Tax Reform – Part ?????!!!!!  “Since this is a mid-term election year, it has little chance of passing this year, but it is important to note possible changes that Congress is pondering.”

Annette Nellen, Congressman Camp’s Tax Reform Act of 2014 Discussion Draft

Leslie Book, Quick Thoughts on Procedural Aspects of Camp’s Tax Code Overhaul Proposal and the Spate of Important Interest Cases (Procedurally Taxing)

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats and Tax Reform: Can’t Do It With ‘Em, Can’t Do It Without ‘Em (Tax Analysts Blog).  “If you’re a left-leaning populist, what’s not to like?  Well, at least one big thing: The bill doesn’t raise taxes.”

TaxGrrrl, Camp’s Tax Proposal: The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All The Lawyers 

Kyle Pomerleau, Andrew Lundeen, The Basics of Chairman Camp’s Tax Reform Plan (Tax Policy Blog).  “We’ll have more analysis on the plan soon – it will take us days to get through the 979 pages of legislative text – but in the meantime, here are the basics.”  They note that the plan uses tax benefit phase-outs based on income — a bad idea that creates hidden tax brackets.

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Reform: one foot in front of the other (TaxVox)

 

Other Things:

William Perez, Last Year’s State Tax Refund Might Be Taxable

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Depreciation 

Trish McIntire, Brokerage Statements.  “Actually, my problem is clients who don’t bring in the whole statement.”

 

Jack Townsend, Wow! Ty Warner Is Ty Warner is Not Quite the Innocent Abroad 

Janet Novack, Senate Offshore Tax Cheating Report Skewers Credit Suisse And U.S. Justice Department 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 294.  I note that Lois Lerner won’t testify without being immunized from prosecution.  “Not a smidgeon” of wrongdoing, indeed.

 

Finally, Seven People Who Have a Worse Busy Season Than You, from Going Concern.  That’ll cheer you right up.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/21/14: Weaponizing the IRS. And: whither Section 179?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

The new, “weaponized” IRS is a focus of Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, in a USA Today Column:

Since then, of course, the new “weaponized IRS” has, in fact, come to be seen as illegitimate by many more Americans. I suspect that, over time, this loss of moral legitimacy will cause many to base their tax strategies on what they think they can get away with, not on what they’re entitled to. And when they hear of someone being audited, many Americans will ask not “what did he do wrong?” but “who in government did he offend?”

This is particularly true since the Obama administration is currently changing IRS rules to muzzle Tea Partiers.

While I don’t think it’s that bad yet, it’s headed that way if things don’t change.  And, as Glenn points out, it’s not changing:

Meanwhile, the person chosen to “investigate” the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups in 2010-2012 is Barbara Bosserman, a “long-time Obama campaign donor.” So the IRS’s credibility is in no danger of being rebuilt any time soon.

I think this is a terrible and shortsighted mistake by the Administration.  So much of its agenda, especially Obamacare, depends on effective IRS administration, but as the recent budget agreement proved, the GOP isn’t going to fund the IRS when it thinks that’s the same as funding the opposition.

The USA Today piece makes broader points about the effect of the loss of faith in civil servants as apolitical technocrats; read the whole thing.

Via the TaxProf.

Andrew Lundeen at Tax Policy Blog has two new posts on tax reform.  In Tax Reform Should Simplify the Code and Grow the Economy, he says:

We need to eliminate the biases in the code against savings and investment, so individuals have the incentive to add back to the economy, and businesses have the capital to buy new machines, structures, and equipment – all the things that give workers the ability to be more productive and earn higher wages. And we need a tax code that is simple and understandable, so taxpayers know exactly what they pay and why. 

Max Baucus

Max Baucus

We’ve been going the wrong way now for 27 years.  In Responses to Senator Baucus’s Staff Discussion Drafts, he curbs his enthusiasm for the tax reform options offered by outgoing Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus:

Generally speaking, we found that the tax reform proposals in these drafts go in the wrong direction. Our modeling shows that they damage economic growth, hurt investment, and, in many instances, violate the principles of sound tax policy: simplicity, transparency, neutrality, and stability.

The post links to a point-by-point examination of the Baucus proposals.

 

 

TaxProf, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the IRS:

This past year, much ado was made about the so-called “IRS-Gate” and concerns that the Obama administration may have used the agency to target Tea Party and other right wing groups. … [W]hat often is not stated during the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend is that King, early in his leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was routinely subjected to IRS audits of his individual accounts, SCLC accounts as well as accounts of his lawyers, first starting during the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower and continuing through the Kennedy administration.

If you audit me, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine…

Kay Bell, IRS abuse of power, now and in MLK’s day. “Overall, the IRS is paying for its operational indiscretions by receiving less money and more restrictions on how it does spend what funds it has.”

 

Paul Neiffer, Section 179 Update (or Not):

 Here are my official updated odds on when we might know what the actual 2014 Section 179 amounts will be:

By Memorial Day 10 Billion to 1

By Labor Day 10 Million to 1

By the November Mid-Term elections 500 to 1

Between the November Mid-Term Elections and December 15, 2014 25 to 1

After December 15, 2014 and before January 1, 2015 1 to 1

After December 31, 2014 5 to 1

I give about 5 to 1 odds in favor of the current Sec. 179 deduction being extended to $500,000 for 2014, and I think that Paul is right that it is most likely to occur during the lame-duck session.  I think odds are about 50-50 on an extension of 50% bonus depreciation. It’s too bad the Feds have closed Intrade, as this would be a betting market I would like to follow.

 

HelmsleyTaxTrials, Leona Helmsley, Angry Employees Strike Back:

Their mistreatment of employees and squabbles over bills are the stuff of legend and left prosecutors rife with eager witnesses when it came time for trial.

Helmsley was just as arrogant about her taxes, famously telling her housekeeper: “We don’t pay taxes, only the little people pay taxes.”  Helmsley participated in several schemes to avoid paying millions of dollar in income and sales taxes.  

Sometimes that sort of thing comes back and bites you; read the post to see how it bit Helmsley.

 

William Perez on an important topic: Tips for Securely Sending Tax Documents To Your Accountant.  First, don’t send anything with your Social Security Number in an unencrypted email.  Like many firms, Roth & Company offers a secure upload platform to send sensitive information.  If your tax firm has one, use it.  They are the safest way to transmit confidential information and files.

 

Phil Hodgen wonders whether there is a Delay in approving renunciations at State Department?  It’s harder to shoot jaywalkers when they are running away.

Missouri Tax Guy goes back to basics with An Introduction to the Double-Entry Bookkeeping System.  Just remember, Debits are on the door side.

Andrew Mitchel has posted a New Resource Page: 2013 Developments in U.S. International Tax

 

Kay Bell, $4 billion more tax breaks for Boeing from Washington State. Taxing you to give money to folks with good lobbyists.

Jim Maule is appropriately annoyed by the use of the term “IRS Code.”  It’s the Internal Revenue Code, and it’s written by Congress, not the IRS.  Remember that when you vote.

Keith Fogg, Qualified Offers – Is it meaningless to offer what you think a case is worth? (Procedurally Taxing)

Jack Townsend, The New Provision for Tax Restitution and Ex Post Facto

 

The Critical Question: Is Kent Hovind A Tax Protester?  It doesn’t seem like a more promising career path for him than his forays into evolutionary biology.

TaxGrrrl, Hot Tub Tax Machine: News Anchor Takes Plea In Scandal.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/17/14: Envy as a principle of tax policy. And: my maybe webinar!

Friday, January 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

taxanalystslogoJoseph Thorndike, the tax historian at Tax Analysts, asks: What if the Income Tax Is All About Envy? Would That Be So Bad?.

The short answer: yes, it would.  The primary purpose of a tax is to fund the operations of the government.  Asking the tax to do anything else makes it worse at its main job, while imposing wealth-destroying distortions on the economy.  Also, as we noted the other day, increasing taxes on “the rich” has coincided with an increase in inequality.  It’s not clear at all that taxes at any non-catastrophic level can “help” inequality.

But its a slow news day, so let’s spend a little time on a longer answer.  Joseph thinks that inequality on its own is bad, even when “the poor” are well-off in real, but not relative, terms:

In other words, even if a rising tide lifts all boats, the relative size of everybody’s boat still matters. If some boats are much bigger than others, then a society is vulnerable to political instability.

Now, you can object that all the people with little boats are just feeling envious. But that doesn’t make the envy disappear; moral indignation may be satisfying, but it’s not a particularly effective means of keeping the peace. What’s needed, if you’re trying to fend off revolution, is some sort of actual policy response to feelings of relative deprivation.

I think Joseph greatly overstates the risk of well-fed people rising up against their neighbors just because they have nicer cars and houses.  People with something to lose tend to be risk-averse, and few things are riskier than revolution.   Still, that’s not something I can empirically demonstrate.

Equality in action in the Soviet Union on the Belomor Canal

Equality in action in the Soviet Union on the Belomor Canal

One thing that is indisputable is that catastrophe happens when a government makes “equality” its driving principle.  It was tried extensively in the 20th century, and tens of millions became equally dead as a result.  Given that history, equality as an end in itself has no moral force.

In our current politics, inequality is the cynical rallying cry of a President who lives in a mansion and plays golf at exclusive resorts pretty much every week.  He presides over a listless economy, enormous deficits,  and a health reform plan that is a debacle.  He’s out of ideas, so he’s reduced to saying it’s the rich guy’s fault.  Given the approval ratings he’s getting out of it, revolution seems a long way off.

 

Scott Hodge and Andrew Lundeen, High Income Taxpayers Earn the Majority of All Pass-Through Business Income (Tax Policy Blog).  They make a point that can’t be repeated too often:

It is often said that raising top tax rates will have little effect on business activity because only 2 percent of taxpayers with business income will be impacted. However, the more economically meaningful statistic is how much overall business income will be taxed at the highest rates. In 2011, the vast majority (70 percent) of pass-through business income was reported by taxpayers earning more than $200,000. Millionaire tax returns earned 34 percent of all private business income while taxpayers with incomes below $100,000 earned just 14 percent.

20140117-3

Indulging in envy-driven rate increases on “the rich” means weakening businesses and their ability to hire and grow — reducing opportunities for their would-be employees in the name of “equality.”

 

Perspective.  The brilliant Arnold Kling quotes Laurence Kotlicoff on the U.S. Budget:

In a podcast with Russ Roberts, he says,

I think we are probably in worse fiscal shape and any developed country. The reason, Russ, is we’ve been piling up debts for over 6 decades; and when I say ‘we’ I’m referring to Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses. And we’ve been hiding them. We’ve been keeping them off the books and using economic labels, words, to pretend that they are not real liabilities of the government…we have all these obligations to something like 30-40 million current retirees and close to 80 million baby boomers who are about to start collecting Social Security benefits if they haven’t already. All those obligations are not reported as part of the government’s debt, so we are missing those off-the-book obligations.

But the real economic emergency is inequality. Or austerity. Or something.

Of course, that “something” is probably those  Tea Party extremists who actually want the government to live within its means.  How dare they.

 

Kay Bell, Filing patience can prevent a big tax mistake.  Hurrying your refund by taking out a refund anticipation loan can be an expensive mistake.

Russ Fox, We Will Soon be Able to Efile Past Due Individual Tax Returns.  Good news.  While everybody should file on time, not everybody does, and anything that helps non-filers come in from the cold is a good thing.

 

20130114-1Programming Note:  I am scheduled to participate in a Tax Update Webinar Monday sponsored by the Iowa Bar Association from noon to 1:45 pm.  Registration information is here — $40 to get a great start on your 2014 CPE/CLE.  Other speakers are Roger McEowen of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, and Kristy Maitre, Iowa’s IRS Stakeholder Liason.

While I hope to be there, I can’t guarantee it.  I am on federal jury standby this month, and I won’t know until after 5 p.m. tonight whether I will be hanging out in the jury room at the Des Moines Federal Courthouse instead of at the webinar.  They haven’t needed me these first two weeks, but I suppose past performance is no guarantee of future results here.  If I am on jury duty, the Tax Update may go quiet for awhile.

Update, 1/18: not called for a jury next week, so I will be on!

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Free File To Open January 17, Two Weeks Before Tax Season Officially Opens 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 253.  He quotes an op-ed by an attorney for the Tea Party outfits, who says: “Let’s all be very clear: The FBI did not conduct an “investigation” into the IRS scandal.”  Of course.  Lookouts don’t investigate.

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

 

News from the Profession.  Life at Deloitte May or May Not Involve Time Spent on Your Knees (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/8/2014: Instructions for the Net Investment Income Tax! And new foreign account reporting rules.

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140108-1Almost four years after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the IRS has issued draft instructions for the act’s “Net Investment Income Tax” form, Form 8960 — which itself has only been issued as a draft so far.  With work already underway on many returns subject to this tax, especially trust returns, the timing is lame.  But this is one aspect of Obamacare that isn’t going to get punted, so we will have to go to war with the forms we have.

The draft instructions provide worksheets for some of the more baroque computations that will be needed to complete the form, including the net loss computation and the allocation of itemized deductions to net investment income.  Still, much of the work will have to be done off-the-forms on preparer worksheets applying the regulations.  Tony Nitti says:

That is my big takeaway from the instructions – there’s no faking it. When we saw that this new, complex area of the law would ultimately be computed on a one-page form, we anticipated that the meat of the computation would be done off-form in worksheets provided by the instructions. And that’s exactly what happened. But that shifts the onus back to us as tax advisors to make sure our inputs are correct, which means we must understand the nuances of the final regulations.

Based on my review of the instructions, it will be virtually impossible for a tax advisor to accurately compute, for example, the Net Gains and Losses worksheet without a solid understanding of the types of gains and losses the final regulations contemplate being included in and excluded from net investment income.

As with the rest of the ACA, what could possibly go wrong?

 

Russ Fox, FBAR Changes for 2014

First, Form TD F 90-22.1 is no more. The FBAR has a new form number, Form 114.

Second, as of last July the FBAR must be electronically filed. The good news is that as of last October, your tax accountant can file the form for you as long as you complete Form 114a.

Also, notes Russ, the filing requirement now kicks in when the balance of all foreign accounts together exceeds $10,000.  It used to be account-by-account.

 

William Perez offers Resources for Preparing Form 1099-MISC for Small Businesses

Kay Bell says it’s Time to get organized for your 2014 tax filing tasks

Paul Neiffer advises us to Decant a Trust – Not Wine.

 

David Brunori on the unwisdom of subjecting business inputs to sales tax:

Indeed, virtually every state tax commission that has studied this issue has concluded that business inputs should be exempt from tax. Why? When you tax business purchases, the tax becomes part of the cost of doing business, and companies try very hard to pass those costs on to consumers. Two bad things then happen. First, consumers unwittingly pay the tax in the form of higher prices. It is a hidden tax and a most cynical way of financing government. Second, consumers often pay sales tax on the tax embedded in the retail price of the goods they purchase. So we are actually taxing a tax. This “cascading” amounts to awful tax policy.

But, as David points out, that doesn’t stop the demagogues:

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to talk to a group of legislators about sales tax policy. I was asked if I had any ideas for reform. I mentioned the common ideas of broadening the base by taxing services and remote sales, and lowering rates. I also said that states should exempt business purchases from the sales tax. One legislator looked at me like I had three heads and asked, “Do you mean letting corporations off the hook for sales taxes?” He asked where the justice was in a system that would make poor working families pay sales tax but let multinational companies go free.

Not all that different from the Iowa Senate’s approach to income taxes.

 

Andrew Lundeen, The Top 1 Percent Pays More in Taxes than the Bottom 90 Percent (Tax Policy Blog):

An interesting piece of information from the chart below is that after the 01/03 Bush tax cuts, often claimed to be a tax cut for the rich, the tax burden of the top 1 percent actually increased significantly.

Top 1 pays more than bottom 90

No matter how much you jack up taxes on the “top 1%,” the same people always will say “the rich” aren’t paying “their fair share” and need to indulge in some “shared sacrifice.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Taxing Bitcoin (TaxVox)

What if bitcoin is a currency for tax purposes, the same as, say a euro? In that case, profits from sales would be taxed as ordinary income, with a top rate of 39.6 percent, though all losses could offset other income.

Either way, the mere act of buying something [with Bitcoins] would likely be a taxable event.

Tax Justice Blog, GE Just Lost a Tax Break – and Congress Will Probably Fix That.  That’s what fixers do.

Jack Townsend, Prosecuting the Banks: Does the U.S. Prefer Foreign Banks to U.S. Banks?

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 244

Programming note: I will be doing a tax update program sponsored by the Institute for Management Accountants over the Iowa Cable Network tomorrow evening at 6:00 p.m.  It’s a chance to get your continuing education for 2014 off to a roaring start.  I figure on talking about an hour, with an emphasis on the new Net Investment Income regulations and other 2013 changes we will see this filing season.  I’ll also cover some of the more interesting cases and rulings of the last year.

In case you were wondering, our friends at Going Concern explain How To Tell if Your Accounting Firm is Really a Car Wash

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Tax Roundup, 11/22/13: Baucus proposes end of depreciation as we know it; also targets LIFO, cash-method farming.

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Max Baucus

Max Baucus

Baucus aims at LIFO, depreciation.  Senator Max Baucus has issued a tax reform proposal that slows depreciation and eliminates LIFO.  While it is a long way from becoming law — and certainly won’t become law in its current form — it will help shape the next round of tax reform.  Some key points:

-Depreciation for non-real estate assets would be computed not asset by assets, but in “pools,” with a set percentage of the amount of assets in each pool deducted during the year.  If the pool goes negative with dispositions, income is recognized.  There would be four “pools” with varying recovery percentages.

- Buildings would be depreciated under current rules, but over 43 years.

- The annual Section 179 limit would be $1 million, but with a phaseout starting at $2 million of assets placed in service.

- Research expenses would be capitalized and amortized over five years.

- LIFO would be repealed.

- Advertising costs would only be half deductible currently with the rest amortized over 5 years.

- Farmers would lose their exemption from accrual-basis accounting.

I think this goes the wrong way, adding complexity and lengthening lives.  I would prefer more immediate expensing.  LIFO repeal, and maybe the farm rule,  are the only proposals that seem to actually simplify anything.  The rest seem like high-toned revenue grabs.  If the revenue all goes to reduce rates, that wouldn’t be so bad, but I doubt that’s the idea.

 

Victor Fleischer, Tax Proposal for an Economy No Longer Rooted in Manufacturing:

The Baucus proposal aims to make the tax system match economic reality, removing the tax distortions from the equation. It would group tangible assets into just four different pools, with a fixed percentage of cost recovery applied to the tax basis of each pool each year, ranging from 38 percent for short-lived assets to 5 percent for certain long-lived assets.

It would be hard to make the case for giving the priority to tangible assets, and yet that is precisely what current law does by allowing rapid depreciation. At a minimum, the tax depreciation system should strive for neutrality and not discourage investment in intangibles and human capital.

That’s true.  Yet it’s hard to see how the Baucus proposal to require R&D costs to be amortized over five years, or the proposal to require 20-year amortization of intangibles instead of the current 15 years, encourages investments in intangibles and human capital.

Via Lynnley Browning’s Twitter feed.

The TaxProf has a roundup of the plan:  Senate Finance Committee Releases Depreciation and Accounting Tax Reform Plan 

William Perez, Draft Tax Reform Proposals from the Senate Finance Committee

Paul Neiffer, MAJOR Farm Tax Law Changes Proposed by Senate

Leslie Book, Senator Baucus Releases Proposals to Reform Administration of Tax Laws (Procedurally Taxing.

 

St. Louis loses another preparer.  From a Department of Justice Press Release:

A federal district judge in St. Louis has permanently barred defendants Joseph Burns, Joseph Thomas and International Tax Service Inc. from preparing federal tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today…

According to the complaint, the defendants repeatedly fabricated expenses and deductions on customers’ returns and falsely claimed head of household status for customers who were married in order to illegally understate their customers’ federal tax liabilities and to obtain fraudulent tax refunds. The complaint also alleged that the defendants falsely claimed that some of their customers earned income from businesses that the defendants fabricated or increased the amount of business income their customers earned in order to illegally claim the maximum earned income tax credit on customers’ returns.

The IRS has certainly given their clients’ returns a good going over.  That’s the risk of going with a preparer whose results are too good to be true.

 

Scott Hodge, Andrew Lundeen, America Has Become a Nation of Dual-Income Working Couples (Tax Policy Blog)

20131122-1

Though its a brave man who tells the stay-at-home she’s not “working” after a day spent between taking care of an elderly parent and little kids.

 

Jason Dinesen,  Life After DOMA: What if You Amend One Year But Not the Next?

TaxGrrrl, When Mom and Dad Move In: The ‘Granny-Flat Tax Exemption’ For the Sandwich Generation 

Jana Luttenegger, Electronic Signatures, What’s Next? (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  E-filing of wills?

Phil Hodgen, U.S. brokerage accounts after you expatriate

Russ Fox, It’s All Greek to Me. Don’t gamble in Greece, seems to be the point.

 

20121120-2Kay Bell, Ways & Means’ tax plays in GOP anti-Obamacare game plan

Howard Gleckman,  How Washington May Turn June Into Fiscal February (TaxVox).  Yes they’ll be running out of our money again soon.

Christopher Bergin, The End of the Era of Multinationals (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, Scott Walker’s Tax Record Will Be on the Wisconsin Ballot Next Year.  Shockingly, TJB doesn’t like Walker.

Tony Nitti, International Tax Reform For Dummies 

Visit Robert D. Flach for fresh Friday Buzz!

 

News from the Profession: New Audit Associate Looking For Prank Ideas, Possibly a New Job in Near Future (Going Concern)

Oh, one more thing: Magnus!

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