Posts Tagged ‘Anthony Nitti’

Tax Roundup, 9/30/15: Taking from rich doesn’t give to the poor; state incentives favor the big.

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Today we have two instances where policy tanks that I usually disagree with make important tax policy points.

TPC logoFirst, The center-left Tax Policy Center, a project of the Brookings Institution (which I castigate below), makes an important observation about the overrated problem of income inequality in their paper, Would a significant increase in the top income tax rate substantially alter income inequality? The summary (my emphasis):

The high level of income inequality in the United States is at the forefront of policy attention. This paper focuses on one potential policy response: an increase in the top personal income tax rate. We conduct a simulation analysis using the Tax Policy Center (TPC) microsimulation model to determine how much of a reduction in income inequality would be achieved from increasing the top individual tax rate to as much as 50 percent. We calculate the resulting change in income inequality assuming an explicit redistribution of all new revenue to households in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. The resulting effects on overall income inequality are exceedingly modest.

I have zero hope that politicians will heed this. Just because you take from the rich doesn’t mean it goes to the poor. It goes to the well-connected, as in the next item.

Second, the not-so-center-left Good Jobs First takes the side of the angels in the battle against state tax incentives, with a survey of small businesses called In Search of a Level Playing Field:

A national survey of leaders of small business organizations reveals that they overwhelmingly believe that state economic development incentives favor big businesses, that states are overspending on large individual deals, and that state incentive programs are not effectively meeting the needs of small businesses seeking to grow. 

I think they have this exactly right. It’s not start-ups that get the big deals from the legislature and the Economic Development bureaucrats. It’s the well-connected and wealthy companies that know how to work the system. The rest of us get to pay for it.




Jason Dinesen, The Iowa School Tuition Organization Tax Credit. “Iowa offers dozens of obscure tax credits. The one I get asked about most is the tax credit available for donations to a ‘school tuition organization’ or STO.”

Kay Bell, Maryland issuing court-ordered county tax credit refunds. If you don’t want to repay illegal taxes, don’t collect illegal taxes.

Russ Fox, How to Wynne Your Money Back in Maryland

Paul Neiffer, IRS Provides List of Counties Eligible For Additional Extension on Livestock Replacement

Jim Maule, Taxation of Prizes, Question Two. He quotes a post from a sweepstakes message board:

 I won concert VIP tickets, there is no value on the tickets, so I can’t sell them. If no value is on them, why am I paying taxes on them? 

Mr. Maule explains that there is a value. If there isn’t, then why didn’t the winner give them away?





InsureBlog, Yes, The New York Obamacare Co-op [squandered*] $340 Million. *The actual headline uses a more colorful term.

Robert Wood, Hillary Backs Cadillac Tax Repeal


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 874. Today’s edition features IRS agents abusing their power on everyday taxpayers. But we can trust them to regulate their tax preparer adversaries, right?

Arnold Kling, Hypocrisy and Cowardice at Brookings. Arnold addresses the firing by the Brookings Institution of Robert Litan, a scholar accused by Senator Elizabeth Warren of “writing a research paper to benefit his corporate patrons.” He is appalled:

1. Robert Litan is one of the most decent individuals in the whole economics profession.

2. Giving Litan’s scalp (sorry for the pun) to Elizabeth Warren does nothing to bolster the integrity of Brookings. It amounts to speaking cowardice to power.

There’s more. The episode is appalling, and it shows the totalitarian tendencies that are barely beneath the surface of Senator Warren’s populism.




Alan Cole, Donald Trump’s Tax Plan Will Not Be Revenue-Neutral Under Any Circumstances (Tax Policy Blog)

Jeremy Scott, Trump’s Tax Plan Is Pretty Much GOP Orthodoxy (Tax Analysts Blog)

Matt Gardner, How Donald Trump’s Carried Interest Tax Hike Masks a Massive Tax Cut for Wealthy Money Managers (Tax Justice Blog)

Peter Reilly, Trump Tax Plan Would Increase Deficit By Over $10 Trillion

Tony Nitti, Love Trump, Hate Romney, But Their Tax Plans Are One And The Same

Renu Zaretsky, Thirty days, goodbye September, shutdown talks—maybe in December. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers shutdown politics, plans to use reconciliation procedures to pass bills repealing pieces of Obamacare, and tax Trumpalism.


See you at Hoyt Sherman Place tonight!



Tax Roundup, 9/28/15. IRS logic: A and B are part of set X. A is part of Set X, so B isn’t. And: Blood Moon!

Monday, September 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

On further review, it’s silly. I’ve had a weekend to think about last weeks IRS “Action on Decision” to continue trying to collect self-employment tax on Conservation Reserve Program payments in the Eighth Circuit. It’s a poke in the eye of the court, and one that will probably not help the IRS when it inevitably has to defend itself before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The gist of the IRS position is that because legislation was enacted in 2008 that specifically stated that CRP payments are payments for renting real estate, and therefore, not self-employment income, to taxpayers collecting Social Security, they suddenly become self-employment income to everyone else.

The Eighth Circuit majority ruled in Morehouse that CRP payments to non-farmers pre-2007 were real estate rentals. Logically, saying that a subset of those payments are real estate rentals shouldn’t by itself make other payments something else. But that’s what the IRS argues.

Unfortunately, the IRS has now made uncertain a seemingly-settled area of the tax law. They did so by taking a position that, if taken by a taxpayer, might trigger negligence penalties. It really is another example of the need for a “Sauce for the Gander” rule that would make the IRS liable to taxpayers for penalties for faulty IRS positions in the same way taxpayers have to pay penalties for bad positions to the IRS.

Prior Coverage at IRS: Post-2007 CRP payments remain self-employment income unless you collect Social Security.


Scott Sumner has posted an outstanding set of tax policy observations: Our bizarre system of taxing capital (Econlog). You really should read the whole thing, but I’ll give you a taste:

It’s difficult to think of a more bizarre and foolish policy than the practice of taxing capital. Consider:

1. If it were appropriate to pay taxes on capital gains, why wouldn’t it be appropriate to pay negative taxes on capital losses? Economic theories tend to be symmetrical. And yet capital losses do not result in negative taxes, except in certain limited cases. And why only those cases?

2. Economic theory suggests that two people with essentially identical economic outcomes should pay identical taxes. But consider two people who both bought 1000 shares of Apple stock for $50/share at the beginning of the year. One sold the shares on November 9th at $100 and bought them back 5 minutes later at the same price. Both held 1000 Apple shares at year-end. To an economist those two outcomes are essentially identical. But one person must pay a large tax on capital gains, while the other does not. Why?

A fan of capital gain taxes would say that just means we should tax unrealized capital gains. Mr. Sumner is not such a fan:

A simpler and fairer solution would be to abolish all taxes on capital, and start over.

But because that would help “the rich,” it isn’t happening. Nothing is too stupid or counterproductive to do to them.


"Blod moon" photos by Jose Guerrero, taken in Columbia. Used by permission.

“Blood moon” photos by Jose Guerrero, taken in Colombia. Used by permission.



A client should not take the finished returns from his/her tax professional and just sign and mail without actually looking at them. The client should carefully review all the forms and schedules that make up the returns before signing the return, and ask the preparer if there is something that he/she does not understand.

And that is the problem with clients who wait until the very last minute — I mean October 15, when no further extensions are available — to finish their tax information. They obviously aren’t going to give the return a good review when they have to immediately sign the e-file authorization or run it to the post office. But if there is something seriously wrong, the IRS isn’t going to take “I didn’t have time to review before filing” as an excuse.


Kay Bell, Electric vehicle tax credits favor the wealthy. You don’t see many Teslas, or for that matter Chevy Volts, in poor neighborhoods.

Paul Neiffer, Involuntary Conversion of Livestock. “If a farmer sells livestock because of consequences of a drought, the payment of income tax on the taxable gain from the sale may be postponed.”

Jason Dinesen, How to Calculate an RMD. If you don’t start withdrawing from your IRA when you hit 70 1/2, the penalties pile up.

Jim Maule, Taxation of Prizes, Question One. “So a person wins a prize, tells the company awarding it that the winner cannot accept it because it will be taxed, creating a liquidity problem, and the company spokesperson says, in effect, ‘Not a problem, it’s not in cash, we won’t send a Form 1099.'”

Peter Reilly, A Slick Estate Planning Trick And Intimations Of Mortality. “The Tax Court decision in the case of Jean Steinberg is a great example of planners taking a rule that is meant to prevent taxpayers from getting away with something and using it to, well, get away with something.”

Russ Fox, Neymar Tax Evasion Investigation Continues; Judge Freezes $48 Million of Assets. Considering how impossible Brazil’s tax system is, it would be surprising if somebody there weren’t guilty of a tax crime.


brazil chart 2


Tony Nitti, House Bill Would Give Tax Deduction, Credit In Exchange For Learning Science And Math. The tax law. Is there anything it can’t do?


Jack Townsend, GE Asks the Supreme Court to Screw Up Again to Bless a BS* Tax Shelter. *Expletive deleted.

Leslie Book, Fifth Circuit Tackles Intersection of TAO Rules and Statutes of Limitation (Procedurally Taxing). “Earlier this week in Rothkamm v US, the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion that considered whether a wife’s application for a Taxpayer Assistance Order (TAO) concerning a recovery of funds levied from her bank account to satisfy her husband’s tax debt tolled the nine-month wrongful levy statute of limitations.”




David Brunori on historic preservation credits ($link): “Nothing says boondoggle like giving rich folks tax dollars to fancy up old buildings.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 870Day 871Day 872. Including musings about how the IRS gagged on Tea Party gnats but swallows Clinton Foundation camels.

Scott Greenberg, Senate Democrats’ Bill Would Overhaul the Treatment of Energy in the Tax Code (Tax Policy Blog):

Currently, nearly every source of energy is subsidized to some extent by the federal government. This means that the U.S. economy is more energy-heavy than it would be under normal market conditions, leading to an inefficient allocation of resources. The Senate Democrats’ bill would continue to heavily subsidize energy production in the United States.

In general, tax expenditures, such as energy subsidies, leave the federal government with less revenue, requiring higher tax rates overall on individuals and businesses.

Anybody who thinks Congress will wisely allocate these subsidies to create our optimal energy use mix for the country hasn’t been paying attention in recent decades.

Renu Zaretsky, A Resignation, and… Resignation. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the implications of Speaker Boehner’s resignation, a politician promising more tax credits! and the sublime awfulness of trying to pay business taxes in Brazil.


News from the Professon. Deloitte Dabbles in Orwellian Tracking Devices (Greg Kyte, Going Concern). “The gadget looks and works like what you would expect if an ID badge had sex with an iPhone.”



Tax Roundup, 9/24/15: Small partnership, big late-filing penalties. And: tax tips from the Duke and the Yogi.

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150813-1Didn’t file that 1065? The penalties can add up, even for small partnerships. Congress decided a few years ago that late-filed partnership returns could be an IRS profit center. They imposed a penalty of $195 per partner for returns filed even one day late — a penalty repeated for each additional month the return is late. Needless to say, a ten-person partnership can rack up a big bill.

When Congress enacted that penalty, it left in place an escape hatch. Back in 1984, the IRS issued a ruling providing a standard exemption from the late filing penalty for “small partnerships.” Rev. Proc. 84-35 allows partnerships composed only of individuals with straight-up allocations of income and loss to be excused from the late filing penalty. But there’s a catch: the penalties are excused only:

…provided that the partnership, or any of the partners, establishes, if so requested by the Internal Revenue Service, that all partners have fully reported their shares of the income, deductions, and credits of the partnership on their timely filed income tax returns.

A Federal Court in South Dakota this week ruled that this catch means a late-filing small partnership is at the mercy of its least responsible partner to avoid penalties. One late-filing partner can cause penalties for the whole partnership.

Battle Flat, LLC filed its 2007 and 2007 Form 1065s over six months late. It requested a penalty waiver based on Rev. Proc. 84-35. Unfortunately, none of the six partners filed a timely 1040 for 2007, and three of them also filed their 2008 returns late — four years late in one case. The IRS denied the penalty relief because the partnership was unable to demonstrate “that all partners have fully reported their shares of the income, deductions, and credits of the partnership on their timely filed income tax returns.”

The partnership argued that the requirement for timely-filed partner returns isn’t a requirement that the statute allows. On brief, the partnership argues:

Congress did not impose or even mention an intent to require that each individual partner’s (sic) must timely file his or her individual return in order for the partnership to qualify for a “reasonable cause” forgiveness of a late filing penalty. But, the IRS has engrafted such a requirement in Revenue Procedure 84-35.

20140321-4The IRS disagrees, and so does the Federal Judge (citations and footnotes omitted, emphasis added):

The IRS’ position is persuasive. Although § 6698 does not expressly impose a timeliness requirement by which partners in a “small” partnership must file their personal income tax return in lieu of filing a partnership tax return, this is exactly the type of interpretative question left to the discretion of the IRS in implementing our nation’s tax laws. The IRS’ interpretation that partners in a “small” partnership timely file their personal income tax returns is reasonable and is a highly practical aid in its assessment of the tax consequences of a partnership for a given year and on a year-over-year basis. IRS’ interpretation is consistent with the legislative history of § 9968 in that it strains credulity to characterize a personal income tax return filed years after the reporting deadline as an adequate, full reporting of each partner’s share of the partnership’s income and deductions.

Conversely, Battle Flat’s interpretation that § 9968’s “reasonable cause” exception is satisfied so long as the partners in a “small” partnership file their personal income tax returns at some unspecified future date is unreasonable. The interpretation would result in a system where the tax consequences of a “small” partnership would go unassessed for years at a time. Furthermore, under Battle Flat’s interpretation, the IRS would be required to track the status of each partner’s personal income tax return until every partner’s tax return was received before it could accurately calculate the annual tax consequences of the partnership.

At least one commentator appears to argue that small partnerships are excused from annual 1065 filing requirements. That’s not how the judge ruled in this case. While this case may be appealed, partners should consider this a warning that the IRS and at least one federal judge aren’t on board with a blanket filing exemption for small partnerships. Considering how fast that $195 per partner, per month penalty can add up, filing timely 1065s for small partnerships seems like a prudent bet.

Cite: Battle Flat, LLC (USDC-SD, No. 5:13-5070-JLV)

Related: Roger McEowen, The Small Partnership Exception – A Possible Way to Avoid Failure to File Penalities, but Not Complexity


Liz Malm, Does Your State Levy a Capital Stock Tax? (Tax Policy Blog):


“In broad economic terms, capital stock taxes (referred to as franchise taxes in many states) are destructive because they disincentivize the accumulation of additional wealth, or capital, which distorts the size of firms.”



If you receive a balance due notice from the IRS or a state tax agency DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY PAY THE AMOUNT REQUESTED!

In my 40+ years of preparing tax returns I have found that more often than not (actually in my experience it is more like 75% of the time) a balance due notice from “Sam” or your state is wrong. And, again in my experience, notices from a state tax agency (at least when it comes to NJ and NY) are wrong more than ones from the IRS.

Robert speaks wisely. As scammers are getting more sophisticated — sometimes even mailing authentic-looking “IRS notices” — this advice becomes even more important.


Jason Dinesen, When Do I Have to Take My RMD? If you don’t start withdrawing from your retirement accounts on time, penalties can be ugly.

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: Drop In Property Value Does Not Create Deductible Loss. You usually have to sell out, as a real estate investor  learned the hard way this week in tax court.


TaxGrrrl, Profiting From Star Wars, Michael Jackson & Taylor Swift Memorabilia: There’s A Tax On That

Russ Fox, Are Turf Rebates Taxable?

Robert Wood, Why Churches Are The Gold Standard Of Tax-Exempt Organizations


Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for the Week Ending 8/21/15. It’s the Procedurally Taxing roundup of recent developments in the tax procedure world.

Kay Bell, How charitable are you and your neighbors? “Overall, ALEC’s analysis found that for every 1 percent increase in a state’s total tax burden, there is a 1.16 percent decrease in the state’s rate of charitable giving.”

Peter Reilly, Yogi Berra’s Sayings Worked Their Way Into Tax Decisions.



Renu Zaretsky, A lawmaker’s work is never done. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup ranges from Russian tax revenue problems to improper EITC credits, plus much more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 868


He was a quiet guy, but he seemed a little odd. Peculiar Man Indicted for Tax Evasion (Kansas City InfoZine). “Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Peculiar, Missouri, resident has been indicted by a federal grand jury for tax evasion.”



Tax Roundup, 9/22/15: A resounding call to document your mileage. And: preparer regulation, IRS service, lots more!

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


No Walnut STYou know you’re having a bad day in Tax Court when:

After concessions, the remaining issue relating to deductions claimed on petitioner’s Schedule A is whether she is entitled to deduct an additional $1,616 of mileage expense that she claimed as part of her unreimbursed employee business expense deduction. The answer is a resounding no.

I’m pretty sure that the Tax Court judges never read their opinions out loud, so I don’t think it was literally resounding. Still, it’s fun to imagine Judge Marvel calling the court into session, calling out a booming “NO!” and then adjourning.

The “no” may hae been resounding because of a little error the Judge detected in the taxpayer’s evidence. The taxpayer claimed mileage deductions for going between work locations. Travel expenses have to meet the special substantiation requirements of Sec. 274(d), where the taxpayer maintains evidence, such as calendars or mileage logs, to prove the deduction. This taxpayer went through a lot of effort generating a log from her work history. However…

Petitioner testified at length regarding how she prepared the reconstructed log. She testified under oath that she had worked for both ATC and MSN throughout 2007 and carefully explained her work assignments for each employer, including her work assignments for ATC from January through September 2007. Unfortunately for petitioner, the document that ATC provided to her summarizing her work history with ATC shows that she did not start her employment at ATC until October 2007. That document demolished any credibility that petitioner’s reconstructed log and her sworn testimony might otherwise have had. [emphasis added]

The Moral? No matter how much effort goes into reconstructing your unreimbursed work mileage, it doesn’t help you if you didn’t actually have the job.

Cite: Spjute, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-58




Bryan Camp has a long piece in Tax Notes today ($link) arguing that the IRS can and should “cut and paste” its way into a new preparer regulation regime. I won’t argue the legalisms, though I think if the IRS thought it plausible, it would have tried it already.

I will point out that in an article with 101 footnotes, there is no discussion of additional costs to the taxpayers, or whether the benefits exceed those costs. He discusses evidence that “unregulated” preparers make more errors, and he assumes that regulation will fix the problem. That’s not necessarily so. It’s hard to imagine the perfunctory examination and CPE requirements of the old RTRP program would improved preparation. You can make somebody take a test, but you can’t make them competent.

Mr. Camp also ignores the unintended but predictable effects of the inevitably-increased price of preparation on the quality of tax returns received by IRS. If prep price goes up, more taxpayers will do their own returns, almost certainly at a higher error rate than from paid-for preparation. Other taxpayers will drop out of the system rather than pay higher prep costs.

In short, regulation advocates assume regulation will solve the problems of inaccurate returns. That’s unproven but unlikely. It is likely, though, that it will increase taxpayer costs and push customers away from paid preparers, which creates a new set of problems.

Related: Leslie Book, AICPA Defends CPA Turf and Challenges IRS Efforts to Regulate Unenrolled Preparers (Procedurally Taxing)


buzz20140909Robert D. Flach has fresh Buzz today, with links ranging from silly tax proposals to silly home office deductions.

Paul Neiffer, What About Those AFRs? “Periodically I will get a question from a client asking me ‘How much interest they have to charge on a loan to their child or some other related party?’. ”

Kay Bell, Meet Obamacare deadlines or pay the higher tax price. “If you don’t file last year’s return, you won’t be able to claim an advance premium tax credit to help you pay for your 2016 Obamacare coverage.”

William Perez, What Tax Documents to Bring to Your Accountant?


Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Making Sense Of Partnership Book-Ups. A primer on adjusting capital accounts to reflect the price paid when partners enter or leave a partnership.

Russ Fox, We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Phone Calls.

So let’s translate this into reality. In the 2013 fiscal year, 22,363,345 phone calls were attempted to various IRS toll-free lines; 15,609,615 were answered (69.8%). In the 2015 fiscal year, 22,013,468 phone calls were attempted to various IRS toll-free lines; 8,277,064 were answered (37.6%). As for the time on hold allegedly decreasing to 23.5 minutes, perhaps that’s after excluding all the time some of the 7 million people who called but whose calls were dropped or who hung up spent on the phone.

I think the IRS cuts in customer service are a sort of “Washington Monument Strategy” of cutting the most visible and useful aspects of taxpayer service to pressure Congress into providing more funds. I’ll believe the IRS is serious about its customer service issues when the IRS takes its 200 employees who spend all of their time doing Treasury Employee Union work and puts them on the phones.

Robert Wood, Let’s Tax Churches. I’m sure that won’t be controversial…

Peter Reilly, The Tax Code Explained & Why It Matters In This Presidential Race (No, It’s Not 70K Pages)

Jack Townsend, Wyly Brothers Seek Bankruptcy Relief from Disgorgement Order from Offshore Shenanigans




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 866

Martin Sullivan, Donald Buffett? (Tax Analysts Blog). Looking for tax wisdom in all the wrong places.

Renu Zaretsky, Inversions, Schools, and Supermarkets. Today’s TaxVox roundup covers the ground from tax increases in Chicago to tax favors for supermarkets in Baltimore.


Sebastian Johnson, Progressive Era Reform Can Be Anything But Progressive (Tax Justice Blog). “Supermajority requirements and tax and spending limits, two frequently proposed ballot measures, are not designed to promote the well-being of states.”

The point isn’t the well being of the state; it’s the well-being of the citizens.


News from the Profession. Accountant Hiding on the Appalachian Trail Has the Mugshot to Prove It (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “If you were an accountant accused of making off with about $9 million of your employer’s money, I can think of few places better to hide than the wilderness.”



Tax Roundup, 9/10/15: True crime edition; or, how to get the IRS to pay attention.

Thursday, September 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_0603How to make sure the IRS comes looking for your tax fraud. A Minnesota man will have 6 years to ponder mistakes he made diverting employment and excise taxes he owed to finance good times. From

Fifty-seven-year-old Bartolemoea Montanari, formerly of Bayport, was sentenced Wednesday. Montanari was also ordered to pay mandatory restitution of $100,000 and, additionally, to pay more than $1.5 million as a special assessment for the taxes, interest and penalties owed.

According to court documents, from 2009 until January 2012, Montanari willfully evaded the payment of employment and excise taxes owed by him and the three businesses he controlled: St. Croix Development, Emlyn Coal Processing, and Montie’s Resources.

He was convicted on the three counts of an indictment accusing him of diverting funds to a shell company from his legitimate businesses, and then withdrawing funds from the shell company to finance, well, stuff:

During sentencing, the judge noted Montanari used the money he stole to finance an “incredibly flamboyant lifestyle,” that this was “not a single error of judgment,” and that Montanari had “many chances” to correct his behavior, but did not. 

The indictment says the lifestyle included a $1.4 million home in Tennessee and “numerous personal vehicles.”

The defendant would seem to have made two mistakes to help ensure that the IRS would come snooping. First would be the “incredibly flamboyant lifestyle.” Taxgrrrl notes a Pennsylvania tax investigation apparently started when federal agents noticed a fancy house from the air. If the feds don’t notice themselves, envious or annoyed neighbors or associates might bring their questions about a flamboyant lifestyle to their attention.

More importantly, he failed to pay over employment taxes. His employees certainly  wouldn’t have failed to report their W-2 wages and claim their refunds. Despite its information processing shortcomings, the IRS can and does notice that. The main difference between committing employment tax fraud and confessing to it is the amount of work the IRS has to do before pressing charges.




Speaking of foolproof crimes: Hot Lotto rigger sentenced to 10 years (Des Moines Register). The case involved an alleged inside job by an IT professional at the Multi-State Lottery:

The case has enthralled Iowans and gained national attention since late December 2011, when a New York attorney tried to claim — just hours before it would expire — a Hot Lotto ticket worth $14.3 million on behalf of a trust incorporated in Belize. The identity of the original ticket purchaser was a mystery.

Authorities with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation began looking into Tipton after several people identified him as the hooded man in a video showing the ticket being purchased at a Des Moines QuikTrip. At the time, Tipton was the information security director for the Urbandale-based Multi-State Lottery Association that provides games such as Hot Lotto to lotteries nationwide.

[Assistant Attorney General] Sand told jurors at trial that Tipton installed a self-deleting software program, called a rootkit, onto lottery drawing computers to manipulate the outcome of a Dec. 29, 2010, draw. Tipton then filtered the winning ticket he bought through a friend, Robert Clark Rhodes II, from Texas in an attempt to claim the money, Sand said.

There’s a reason lottery workers aren’t allowed to play the lottery. The lawyer and Belize trust didn’t help the whole thing slip by unnoticed.


Tony Nitti, How To Talk About The Yahoo Spin-Off Without embarrassing Yourself. A walk through the mysteries of tax-free corporate separations.

Russ Fox, IRS Removes Social Security Number from Some Notices But…:

The reason for this is the problem of identity theft. And I give kudos to the IRS for this. Unfortunately, the IRS hasn’t executed this that well.

Today I opened an IRS notice that was sent to a client. The good: The social security number in the header had only the last four digits. The bad: Right below the header the IRS put in a bar code–presumably to make processing of the return mail easier. Below the bar code in relatively small print (but easily readable by me, and I wear glasses) was the deciphering of the code. Of course, it contained the social security number.

The IRS, protecting your identity since 1913.

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Will Obamacare Tax Your Home Sale?

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Forget Those Fuel Tax Credits. “Most farmers obtain dyed diesel without having to paying federal and in most cases state excise taxes.  However, there can be many other uses on the farm that will allow a farmer to claim a fuel tax credit on Form 4136.”

Kay Bell, Tax diplomas, computer games and soap operas. “Will informing folks about the role of taxes in their countries, especially starting at an early age, help create more tax responsible citizens?”

Jim Maule, It’s a Failure of Some Sort, But It’s Not a Tax Failure. The professor reminds us not to believe everything you read on the internet.






TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 854

Howard Gleckman, Jeb Bush’s Tax Plan: High Marks for Transparency But Key Questions Remain (TaxVox). “At first glance, GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s tax reform plan is a standard lower-the-rates, broaden-the-base overhaul of the revenue code. But a closer look shows a something-for-everyone stew filled with interesting ingredients—most basic GOP fare but seasoned with a few surprising ideas.”


Well, it’s not my thing, but if it’s for the kids…  Let’s Get High for the Children (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog):

Every proposal, like the one in Arizona, calls for dedicating marijuana tax revenue to schools, which is a terrible idea. Perhaps everyone will be stoned and won’t care, but aren’t schools important enough to pay for with real, broad-based taxes on income, sales, or property?

Politicians might look for a way to legalize slavery if they thought it would give them more revenue.

Joseph Henchman, Colorado Suspends Marijuana Tax for One Day on September 16 (Tax Policy Blog).


News from the Profession. Rihanna and 50 Cent Need New Accountants (Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 9/9/15: Meredith HQ stays in Iowa despite taxes. And: Walter Mitty, Chiropractor — not Ghostbuster.

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan



A part of the Meredith campus in Downtown Des Moines.

Meredith Corporation will keep its headquarters in Des Moines, reports the Des Moines Register. The Des Moines-based media company yesterday announced its acquisition by Media General, a Virginia-based company. From the Register report:

Virginia-based Media General will acquire Meredith in a cash-and-stock sale, forming a new company — Meredith Media General — that will combine Meredith’s list of women-focused magazines and 17 local TV stations with Media General’s 71 TV stations and digital media assets.

“We have our corporate headquarters in Des Moines, my management team … we all live in Des Moines, our staff are in Des Moines. We will continue to be in Des Moines,” Lacy said. He will serve as CEO and president of the new company.

Meredith Media General will be incorporated in Virginia, but have corporate offices in both Richmond, Va., and Des Moines.

It’s an interesting compromise. With the CEO of the combined company already located in Des Moines, it’s unsurprising that he will run things from here, everything else being equal.

Yet not everything is equal. Des Moines is an expensive place tax-wise to run a corporate headquarters, according to the Tax Foundation’s Location Matters report. Iowa is the 4th most expensive state in which to locate a corporate headquarters, while Virginia is the 12th cheapest. 20150901-1

Fortunately for Des Moines, non-tax factors apparently outweighed the tax issues. These might include the in-place infrastructure for Meredith’s publishing arm, including Better Homes and Gardens and Martha Stewart Living. Still, those 900 Des Moines Meredith jobs might be more secure with a better tax environment. Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, anyone?


Tony Nitti, Child’s Unauthorized Incorporation Of Father’s Business Proves Costly In Tax Court. “Raising kids comes with some well-known hazards: sleepless nights, spit-up stained clothes, and of course, the occasional flailing elbow to the genitalia. What you probably don’t anticipate upon the miracle of childbirth, however, is that one day your kid will take it upon himself to incorporate your business via the internet, costing you tens of thousands in tax deductions.”

Robert D. Flach, THE NATP TAX FORUM AND EXPO IN PHILADELPHIA – PART I. “The one thing that is missing from the NATP Tax Forum offering is the IRS perspective.”

Kay Bell, Tax scam callers now spoofing telephone numbers

TaxGrrrl, IRS To Refuse Checks Greater Than $100 Million Beginning In 2016


Scott Greenberg, The Carried Interest Debate is Mostly Overblown (Tax Policy Blog). Mostly? Almost entirely.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 854

Career Corner. 5 Ways Accountants Can Protect Themselves from the Accountapocalypse (Chris Hooper, Going Concern)




Who knew being a Chiropractor could be so exciting? James Thurber created the character Walter Mitty, “… a meek, mild man with a vivid fantasy life: in a few dozen paragraphs he imagines himself a wartime pilot, an emergency-room surgeon, and a devil-may-care killer.”

A Minnesota chiropractor, a Mr. Laudon, seems to have reprised the Mitty role on his tax return. If his Tax Court testimony is to believed, chiropractic practice can be pretty exciting. From the Tax Court:

He said that his patients often called him a psychiatrist, chauffeur, physician, peace officer, or even a pheasant hunter.2 Some of Laudon’s stated reasons for making these trips strain credibility: for example, driving to a “schizophrenic” patient who was — on more than one occasion — “running scared of demons” down a rural Minnesota highway, or driving to a patient’s home in a Minneapolis suburb — expensing 261 miles — because he had received a call from police that she had overdosed on OxyContin prescribed by her physician. Laudon claimed to have driven hundreds of miles per day — sometimes without a valid license — to see patients, but several of these trips were for medical procedures he was not licensed to perform.

Laudon contends that the Commissioner failed to classify certain deposits as nontaxable, including insurance payments for damage to several vehicles, one of which was involved in a “high speed police chase” with a man “high on meth and cocaine.”

IMG_1583Note that footnote 2, we’ll get to that in a minute. I never knew that a chiropractor could have such an exciting life. Law enforcement, mental health, high-speed chases — even exorcism, it seems.  Is there anything he couldn’t do? Well, back to footnote 2:

But not a ghostbuster. The Commissioner rhetorically asserted that some of Laudon’s trips might have made more sense if he was claiming to be a ghostbuster. Laudon then disclaimed any employment as a ghostbuster. In his reply brief the Commissioner conceded that Laudon was not “employed or under contract to perform work as a ghostbuster during the tax years at issue in this case.” We therefore need make no finding on the existence of a market for “supernatural elimination” in west-central Minnesota. See “Ghostbusters” (Columbia Pictures 1984).

In case you couldn’t tell, this is a Judge Holmes opinion.

Walter Mitty’s dreams didn’t go well, as his fantasy life had him in front of a fantasy firing squad. Things went badly for our chiropractor too. The court found both his documentation and his credibility lacking, including this about his mileage logs:

Laudon claimed to have driven hundreds of miles per day — sometimes without a valid license — to see patients, but several of these trips were for medical procedures he was not licensed to perform. Even his testimony about multiple entries in the logs where he wrote “DUI” was not credible: He claimed that these were not references to being stopped by police while under the influence, or driving while his license was suspended, but instead were his misspellings of a patient named “Dewey” — a supposed patient of his. He testified that he took one business trip to pick up a patient left stranded due to a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. And he even testified about trips he made to test his patients’ urine:

    Absolutely we do * * * [test urine]. It’s part of the — I believe it’s Federal, you know, that they have — we have to abide by that. It’s specific gravity. You’re basically, looking for sugar, let alone height, weight, blood pressure. Make sure they’re not drunk, doing illegal drugs.

We find Laudon not credible in his testimony regarding his business mileage, and this finding affects our views of his testimony’s credibility on every other issue in the case.

The taxpayer reported taxable losses from 2007-2009 ranging from $60,000 to $84,000. That alone is a challenge to credibility. The IRS added $346,000 to his income for the three years, and the Tax Court upheld the IRS with only minor changes. Among the disallowed expenses were “a Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and numerous pieces of hair-salon equipment.” So, a barber, too.

The Moral? There might be more to that mild-mannered chiropractor than you imagined. But if there is, he needs to keep good records when the IRS comes calling.

Cite: Laudon, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-54

Russ Fox is also on the case: Ghost Hunter, Pheasant Hunter, or Deduction Hunter: No Matter, He Loses at Tax Court




Tax Roundup, 9/8/15: One Week to the 15th. And: First-world tax payment problems.

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150803-1September 15 is one week away. If you have extended partnership, corporation or trust returns, time is running short. There are many reasons to file on time:

  • Tax elections made on a late return, including automatic accounting method changes, may not count. With all of the “repair regulation” method changes this year, that could be a big deal.
  • If you owe money, late filing turns a 1/2% per month late-payment penalty into a 5% per month (up to 25%) late filing penalty.
  • If you have a pass-through entity, late-filing triggers a $195 per K-1 per month penalty.

Remember to e-file, or to document timely paper filing via Certified Mail, return receipt requested, or with a shipping bill from an authorized private delivery service.


Gretchen TegelerDART: A property tax funded amenity ( Disturbing trends on the inability of the Des Moines-area public transportation service to cover its operations through fares: does appear the service expansions are generating more ridership  However, as was noted last year, property taxes are basically covering the cost of these additional riders. Total operating revenue was 10.1 percent below projections for the year that closed June 30th, 2015; with fixed route operating revenue being 8.65% percent short of budget.

The overall trends have not changed much from a year ago. Total operating revenue is still less than it was four years ago despite substantial service expansions and improvements since that time. Basically, as it weighs future improvements for DART, the community will need to decide if it is willing to continue to raise property taxes to fund them.

The post includes this chart:


That doesn’t include the cost of the recently-completed $18 million Palace of Transit.


TaxGrrrl, Mega-Mansion Attracts Notice By Feds, Results In Criminal Charges:

According to local sources, federal agents flying in and out of Pittsburgh noticed the size and scope of a mansion belonging to Joe Nocito, Sr., and started asking questions. Those questions eventually led to a guilty plea last week from Ann E. Harris, the personal assistant, secretary and bookkeeper for Nocito, in a tax evasion scheme thought to involve as much as $250 million.

If you are a tax evader, it’s unwise to flaunt your wealth, especially to the point of attracting attention from passing aircraft. But maybe that would take the fun out of the thing.




Russ Fox, The Family that Commits Tax Evasion Together Goes to ClubFed Together. “This is yet another reminder for everyone who uses a payroll service to join EFTPS and make sure your payroll deposits are being made. Trust but verify is excellent practice in payroll.”

Kay Bell, Labor Day tax tip: Union dues might be tax deductible

Scott Greenberg, This Labor Day, How High is the Tax Burden on American Labor? (Tax Policy Blog). “In 2014, the average wage worker saw his or her labor income decrease by 31.5 percent due to federal, state, and local taxes, according to the OECD.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Excluding Gain On Sale Of Home, And Recognizing Gain On Repossession

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Tax Implications of the Unlicensed Daycare Provider

Jim Maule, “Who Knows Taxes Better Than Me?” Professor Maule notes that Donald Trump’s understanding of tax law and economics might not be all that Mr. Trump thinks it is.

Peter Reilly, From Russia With Built In Losses. “There is a certain irony to the whole thing as it seems like financiers were too focused on looting the US treasury with phony shelters to see the probably larger upside of distressed Russian assets.”

Robert D. Flach, DONALD TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT IS A LOT LIKE OBAMACARE, That isn’t meant as a compliment.




Leslie Book, Tax Court Opinion Reaffirming Validity of Regulations Addressing Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Illustrates Chevron Application (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, IRS Gets Tax Data From India As Black Money Hunt Hits Americans Too

Jack Townsend, IRS and DOJ Tax Conferences Before Indictment. That doesn’t sound like fun at all.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 849850851852


Renu Zaretsky, Deals, Dreams, and Data. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the ground from A (Amazon’s sweet Illinois tax credit deal and Apple’s Irish strategy) to Zaretsky.

Cara Griffith, Why Is It So Hard to Find Information on the Sharing of Taxpayer Information? (Tax Analysts Blog). “Taxpayers are expected to blindly provide massive amounts of information to tax authorities, but are then not allowed to know the process through which one state or municipality shares information with another.”


I’ll make sure not to have this problem when I file in April:

Effective January 1, 2016, the IRS will not accept any payment greater than $99,999,999.00. Two or more checks will be required, or we recommend that the taxpayers use Fed Wire to make their payments.

If I did owe more than $100 million, I would be tempted to write one of the checks for $99,999,999.01, just to see if they are serious. Not to give away my income secrets, but I’m pretty sure my 2015 taxable income will spare me the temptation.

Cite: Announcement 2015-23.



Tax Roundup, 8/28/15: Reverse Danegeld. And: stealing a Congressional tax refund!

Friday, August 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy stu_spivack under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy stu_spivack under Creative Commons license

May I have another Danish? It’s a lot less fun to be a Dane than it might have been 1,000 years ago. Back then, cowering kings paid a Danegeld, a payment to keep the fearsome Danish Vikings away. From Wikipedia:

The Danegeld (/ˈdn.ɡɛld/;[1] “Danish tax”, literally “Dane tribute”) was a tax raised to pay tribute to the Viking raiders to save a land from being ravaged. 

Now the money is going the other way, it appears, because the Danish tax agency is outdoing the IRS in sending money to thieves, no questions asked. reports Danes stunned by €800mn tax fraud:

Criminals have duped Denmark’s tax authority into incorrectly refunding €830 million in the past three years, by filling out an online form for tax refunds under double taxation agreements.

The fraud was alerted to police on Wednesday (26 August) and appears to be the country’s biggest tax scam ever, with little chance for the state to recover the money.

They apparently made it easy:

With most of Danish taxes administrated online, it was easy for the fraudsters to fill in the one-page, so-called 06.020 form on the tax authority’s homepage and then claim refunds for taxes paid on stock revenues from Danish companies held by foreign companies.

The fraud would have been easily revealed if the tax authority cross-checked the ownership of shares with Danish companies.

Denmark has about 5 million people, so it’s as though the scammers had taken $185 from every Dane. That would translate to about a $55 billion theft loss in the U.S. Actual annual losses from U.S. tax refund fraud are estimated to run in the neighborhood of $5-6 billion annually.

Being better than Denmark doesn’t seem to comfort one congressman very much. Deseret News reports Congressman Jason Chaffetz is victim of tax return scam:

Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is using the incident to add fuel to his call for the firing of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

The congressman asked President Barack Obama last month to remove Koskinen, saying he has obstructed congressional investigations into the treatment of conservative groups. Chaffetz said not only has Koskinen ignored a congressional subpoena but has shown an inability to manage a large organization and protect sensitive data.

“There has to be a better, smarter way to authenticate who somebody is. Social Security numbers are floating out there everywhere,” the congressman said.

While the refund fraud debacle started before Koskinen became IRS Commissioner, he sure hasn’t gotten it under control.


A loss in the Iowa tax policy world: Co-founder of Iowans for Tax Relief dies.

buzz20150827Friday Buzz! from Robert D. Flach, rounding up stories from the tax uses of capital losses to catching up on retirement savings.

Russ Fox, Will the Last One Out Turn the Lights Off? “Nearly four years ago my business–and the one whole employee in the Bronze Golden State (me)–left for Nevada because sometimes silver is better than gold.” And their politicians are primed to make California taxes worse still.

Annette Nellen, Sales tax on short-term rentals? Maybe! “The ease of listing your home, vacation property or a room on Airbnb or similar web platform has turned a lot of individuals into landlords.”

Paul Neiffer, Midwest Cropland Values Continue to Drop

Kay Bell, Still waiting for tax extenders. Is money the holdup?

Jim Maule, Traffic Ticket Fines Based on Income? “So my bottom line is, yes, conceptually it is an interesting idea with some valid arguments in support, and with some valid arguments in opposition. But when I turn to practical reality, a benchmark too often overlooked, the answer for me is clearly, ‘No, it’s not worth it.'”

Keith Fogg, Quiet the Title before You Sell (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Under Obamacare, Does Everyone Drive A Cadillac?. That’s nothing. Under President Vermin Supreme, everyone gets a pony.

Me, Who should own the bricks?. My latest at, the Des Moines Business Record’s business professionals’ blog, discusses the problems of structuring ownership of business real estate.




Scott Greenberg, Here’s How Much Taxes on the Rich Rose in 2013 (Tax Policy Blog):

So, in 2012, the wealthy had higher-than-usual levels of capital gains income. Therefore, because capital gains are taxed at a lower rate, overall tax rates on high-income Americans were lower than usual in 2012. In 2013, because high-income Americans had much less income from capital gains, their effective tax rates rose significantly.

But some people, including those in the White House now, never beleive the rates are high enough.


Howard Gleckman, CBO Sees a Big Increase in Individual Income Tax Revenues Over the Next Decade. They’ll always want more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 841


News from the Profession. CohnReznick’s Golf Event Won’t Solve Gender Inequality (Greg Kyte, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 8/27/15: Iowa cheap for the factory, costly for the headquarters. And: Instant Tax indictments.

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

All the state taxes. The Tax Foundation has issued its 2015 Location Matters report, “a comparative analysis of state tax costs on business.” It provides a summary of the costs of operating different kinds of business, state by state, with wonderful charts like this one for Iowa:

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

This chart seems to show that Iowa is relatively easy on manufacturing, but a very expensive place for a service business or a distribution center — with an effective state and local rate of around 40% for distribution facilities. It also shows that the corporation income tax really only clobbers retailers and corporate headquarters.

The charts really get interesting when you compare states. Let’s turn to our neighbors in South Dakota:


Source: The Tax Foundation

While most industries fare much better in South Dakota than in Iowa, capital-intensive manufacturers — especially new ones — do a little worse. This is because South Dakota has a higher sales tax, and, presumably, because of the presence of Iowa’s tax incentives for new manufacturers. Once you settle in, there is little difference.

Here’s what the report says about Iowa (my emphasis):

Despite having the highest top corporate income tax rate in the nation at 12.0 percent, Iowa’s mature capital-intensive manufacturing firm experiences the lowest effective tax burden in the nation at 3.9 percent, due in large part to Iowa’s single sales factor apportionment formula and the lack of a throwback rule, which have the effect of exempting nearly all of a firm’s income from in-state taxation. The operation also experiences a relatively low property tax burden due to the lack of property taxes on equipment and inventory.

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

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

Iowa offers a 50 percent deduction for federal income taxes paid, which helps mitigate the burden of the state’s high corporate and individual income taxes but is also responsible for those high rates.

In addition to its favorable apportionment factors for businesses selling goods out of state, Iowa’s benefits-based sourcing rules work to the advantage of Iowa-based firms selling services out of state. However, effective property tax rates can be exceedingly high for some firms—nearly double the national average for mature distribution centers, for instance—greatly increasing overall tax costs. Qualifying new firms (the manufacturing operations and the distribution center) receive a full abatement of the property tax on improvements for three years, though the abatement does not cover taxes on the value of the land itself.

Manufacturing machinery and research and development (R&D) equipment are exempt from the state sales tax, and the R&D facility receives other incentives as well. Iowa also offers generous investment and job creation tax incentives to new firms, though due to the state’s high tax rates, most new firms continue to experience above-average tax burdens.

This offers some lessons for Iowa’s ongoing tax reform debate:

– The Iowa Corporation Income Tax, where it isn’t futile, is a job killer, making it very expensive to locate a corporate headquarters here.

– Iowa’s vaunted tax incentives benefit the lucky and the well connected, while stifling start ups: “most new firms continue to experience above-average tax burdens.”

– Despite the recently enacted property tax reforms, Iowa’s real estate taxes still are a big cost for Iowa businesses.

The full report can be found here.


Can Iowa tax reform happen?

Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan




Instant tax unhappinessThe tax prep franchise outfit Instant Tax Service had a colorful history before it was ordered to close by a federal judge. It was notorious for “paystub” returns, prepared to claim refunds for a mostly low-income clientele before they got their W-2s. That’s something preparers aren’t supposed to do.

Yesterday things got worse for the owners of Instant Tax Service with an indictment on tax charges. A Department of Justice Press Release lists some of the allegations (my emphasis):

From about January 2004 through November 2012, Ogbazion and Wade executed a scheme to obstruct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), wherein numerous ITS franchises filed false federal income tax returns without valid Forms W-2 and without the permission of their taxpayer clients.  The false returns included false and inflated sole proprietorship Schedule C income in an attempt to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Over the course of several years, Ogbazion also instructed an ITS employee to electronically file large volumes of unsigned tax returns on the first day of the “tax filing season,” then falsely backdated customer filing authorizations.  In an attempt to obstruct IRS civil compliance audits, ITS maintained and filed false documents with the IRS, including fabricated Forms W-2 created by ITS employees using tax preparation software, and forged client signatures on various false IRS forms.

Earned income tax credit skeptics are often scolded that the 25% rate of improper payments isn’t all due to fraud; it’s because taxes are hard and all. Taxes are hard, but if there isn’t massive fraud, it’s not for lack of trying. Rather than trying to run a welfare system through the tax code, we should be looking at a universal benefit along the lines proposed by Arnold Kling.


Arnold Kling, The EITC in Practice

Tax Update, Helping the poor by increasing their marginal tax rate., H&R Block snuck language into a Senate bill to make taxes more confusing for poor people (Via the TaxProf).

H&R Block’s entire business model is premised on taxes being confusing and hard to file.

Well, that and promoting IRS preparer regulation to put competitors out of business.

Robert Wood, Trump Firing H&R Block Could Actually Help Immigrants




Jason Dinesen, Things a Business Owner Needs to Know Before Hiring Employees


Tony Nitti, 2013 Tax Changes Raised The Tax Bill On The Wealthiest 2 Percent By $60 Billion. “Whether an additional $60 billion in revenue is enough to satisfy the current administration remains to be seen.” No, we already know it won’t.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 840. More about Toby Miles. Meanwhile, Commissioner Koskinen dismisses the revelations of Lois Lerner’s canine email address under the “old news” ploy, and tells Tax Analysts ($link) that even though she hates Republicans and Tea Partiers, Lerner’s team was fair and square in dealing with their exemption applications.

Kay Bell, Lois Lerner used her dog’s email to conduct IRS business


Joseph Thorndike, When it Comes to Taxes, Americans Are of Two Minds – or Three, or Five or Eight. “While trying to make sense of Donald Trump’s statements on tax policy, I was struck by their disparate quality; to call them random is to exaggerate their coherence.”


Tax Roundup, 8/26/15: The Twins defeat the IRS, so IRS may try to change the rules. Also: EITC fraud, and more!

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150826-2The Minnesota Twins have won five in a row. Six, if you count a recent IRS victory by the family that owns the ballclub. It is recounted by Ashlea Ebeling, Estate Of Late Minnesota Twins Owner Carl Pohlad Settles With IRS (via the TaxProf):

The main issue in the estate tax case was how to value Pohlad’s stake in the Minnesota Twins at the time of Pohlad’s death in January 2009 (he was 93). The Pohlad estate valued it as just $24 million for tax purposes, while IRS auditors pegged it at $293 million. Pohlad used typical wealth transfer techniques to limit estate taxes: splitting ownership and control of assets to theoretically reduce what an unrelated buyer would pay for them. 

But the administration doesn’t approve of valuing split interests based on their actual value:

Estate planning with family entities (family limited partnerships and limited liability companies) and the accompanying availability of valuation discounts is in the spotlight. Advisors have been warning clients all summer that the Treasury Department may be coming out with proposed regulations curtailing discounts by next month, and that the new rules could be effective immediately.

That will surely lead to litigation, as it isn’t clear the IRS has that power. It does add great uncertainty to succession planning, which is uncertain enough to begin with.




The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports on tax preparers indicted on allegations of earned income tax credit fraud. The charges say the operators of a business known as Tax King are alleged to have:

…trained Tax King employees how to falsify certain information to maximize returns.

Clients, for example, were allegedly encouraged to fill in false business information in order to qualify for earned income credits. They were allegedly also instructed to submit false education expenses, as well as inaccurate information regarding fuel taxes in order to qualify for tax credits.

Up to 25% of earned income tax credits are paid “improperly.” We are regularly assured that “improperly” doesn’t mean “fraudulently.” Taxes are hard, and all that. Well, if they aren’t stolen, it’s not for lack of effort.


William Perez, What to Do if You Contributed Too Much to Your Roth IRA. “There are four ways to fix this problem that are all pretty straightforward.”

TaxGrrrl, Making Sure You Eat: Paying Yourself As A Small Business Owner

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Understanding Partnership Distributions, Part II –The Mixing Bowl Rules. “If a partner contributes property with a built-in gain or loss to a partnership and the partnership later distributes the property to a partner other than the contributing partner within seven years of the contribution, the contributing partner recognizes gain or loss equal to the built-in gain or loss…”

Kay Bell, NRA lawsuit takes aim at Seattle’s new gun and ammo taxes. A “gun violence” tax on guns and ammo makes as much sense as “drunk driving tax” on all alcohol purchases. It doesn’t tax what it purports to tax.

Peter Reilly, About That Kenneth Copeland Mansion You Saw On John Oliver. On abusive parsonage allowances.

Carl Smith, Tenth Circuit Hook Opinion: Interest and Penalties Must Also Be Paid to Satisfy Flora Full Payment Rule (Procedurally Taxing).  You can’t sue for a refund of a tax you haven’t paid.

Jack Townsend, Category 2 Banks under DOJ Swiss Bank NPA Program. A listing of the Swiss banks that have cut deals with the U.S. tax authorities.



Scott Greenberg, Four Tax Takeaways from the Most Recent CBO Report (Tax Policy Blog).

Over the last fifty years, on average, the federal government has collected 17.4% of GDP in revenues. Yet over the next ten years, the federal government is expected to take in 18.3% of GDP in revenues, nearly a whole percentage point higher than the historical average. The CBO forecasts that, in 2016, the federal government will collect 18.9% of GDP in taxes, higher than any year since 2000.

I don’t think that’s a good thing.


Howard Gleckman, Should College Endowments Be Taxed? (TaxVox).

But why not just make the endowments taxable and use some of the huge revenue windfall to boost tuition assistance and other supports for those students who really need it?

Maybe taxing amounts that aren’t used to reduce tuition. A rich university shouldn’t be saddling its students with debt — or asking for more federal subsidies — while its money managers are living high.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 839. Toby Miles figures prominently.

Robert Wood, IRS Reveals Lois Lerner’s Secret Email Account Named For Her Dog.


The dangers of premature tweeting:


Oops. An hour later, the Dow closed down another 204 points.


Jim Maule, A Rudeness Tax?:

Modern American tax policy, which is in tatters, is of such a wrecked nature that it is only a matter of time before someone proposes a refundable politeness credit. The form would be fun, would it not? “How many times during 2017 did you hold a door open for another person?” Even better, the audits and the Tax Court litigation.

Prof. Maule is right: not every problem is a tax problem. Yet the politicians propose a tax solution for every problem anyway.



Tax Roundup, 8/19/15: Even if it faxes, it’s still a printer in Iowa. And: the rich guy still isn’t buying.

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150813-1All for one, one for all. Iowa has a sales tax exclusion for “Computers used in processing or storage of data or information by an insurance company, financial institution, or commercial enterprise.” But what is a computer anymore, now that everything has a computer in it?

Last week Iowa released a ruling (Document 15300028) holding that Principal Financial Group’s all-in-one devices count as computers and are exempt from sales tax. From the ruling:

The protest was filed due to the Department’s partial denial of a refund claim which involved, among other issues, several multi-function devices which provide copy, print, scan, and fax services.  Your position is that because the multi-function devices are connected to your company’s computers and used in the manner described that these devices qualify as exempt computer peripheral equipment under Iowa’s statutes and administrative code…

Rule IAC 701—18.58(1), which was written, in part, to implement that code section, defines computers as the following:

…stored program processing equipment and all devices fastened to it by means of signal cables or any communication medium that serves the function of a signal cable. Nonexclusive examples of devices fastened by a signal cable or other communication medium are terminals, printers, display units, card readers, tape readers, document sorters, optical readers, and card or tape punchers.

The Department of Revenue had argued that copiers and fax machines don’t qualify, and these functions disqualified the multi-function devices. Principal brought its considerable in-house tax expertise to bear:

However, since the filing date of the protest, you have provided the auditor with the “click count” information for each individual multi-function device included in the refund claim.  This documentation verifies that each unit individually qualifies for exemption because the majority of the usage for each of the devices is for exempt printing and scanning. 

Attached to the protest as Exhibit B was a summary schedule in which you determined that 96.67% of the usage of the devices was for exempt purposes.  This percentage was utilized by Principal to determine the amount of tax under protest ($145,134.80).  However, because each device qualified for exemption, the purchase prices of these units are fully exempt from Iowa sales tax.  Therefore, the Department will refund 100% of the sales tax paid on the purchases of these devices. 

So after a struggle, the Department settles on the right legal answer. The policy answer is only half-right, though. All business inputs should be exempt from sales tax, regardless of whether they are hooked up to a computer.

I rarely fax or copy anything anymore, and I think that this is true nowadays for most businesses. It could say something about how they do things at the Iowa Department of Revenue that they assumed otherwise. In any case, this ruling tells us that fax and copy capability doesn’t make an otherwise exempt scanner/printer subject to sales tax for an Iowa business.




Megan McArdle discusses presidential candidate Scott Walker’s Obamacare replacement (my emphasis):

In this debate, you can see the shape of where our politics may go over the next 20 years. Many Republicans would like a much smaller entitlement state; some Democrats would like a much bigger one, with Sweden-style universal coverage of virtually everything, crib to grave. Neither one is going to get what they want, because Americans are not prepared to give up their Social Security checks, or 60 percent of their paychecks either — and no, there is not enough money to fund these ambitions, or even our existing entitlements, by simply taxing “the rich.”

The discussion is becoming more urgent, as Obamacare as it stands is not working well; the big premium increases and the struggles of the “cooperatives” us that. It could be harder to fix the health insurance market than it was to wreck it in the first place.




Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz on Wednesday, covering the tax blog ground from property taxes to the Get Transcript data breach.

Tony Nitti, Tax Court Reminds Us That You Should Never Toy Around With Your Retirement Account:

Section 72 clearly mandates that annuity income is ordinary income, rather than capital gains. Thus, it is immaterial whether, as the taxpayer asserted, the annuity generated most of its income in the form of capital gains. Because once the annuity distributed the cash generated from those capital gains on to the taxpayer, the tax law required it to be treated as ordinary income.



Jason Dinesen, Why is Self-Employment Tax Based on 92.35% of Self-Employment Income?

William Perez, These 6 states will waive penalties if you pay off your back taxes.

Paul Neiffer, Highway Use Tax Return Due August 31, 2015

Jim Maule, More Tax Fraud in the People’s Court. “It was an attempt to change a non-deductible cost of a boat into a business deduction.”

Kay Bell, A-list performers would get tax credit for New Jersey shows.

Republican Sen. Tom Kean, Jr. this week renewed a push for his bill that would provide a tax break for so-called A-list performers in the Garden State.

Not every problem is a tax problem. Especially this one.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 832.




David Brunori, Retroactive Tax Laws Are Just Wrong (Tax Analysts Blog):

There are two fundamental problems with changing the rules retroactively. First, it is patently unfair. People who follow the rules should not be penalized later. We would never stand for it in the criminal context. Why should we accept it for taxes? Second, retroactively changing the rules undermines confidence in the tax system. Most people try to do the right thing. Often they spend a lot of money paying lawyers and accountants to guide them to the right result. The good taxpayers might not be diligent in following the rules if those rules might change.

It’s harder to justify spending money on tax compliance when it doesn’t do any good.


Howard Gleckman, New Rules Will Require States to Be More Transparent About Tax Subsidies (TaxVox): “While local governments have complained that the new rules will be complicated and burdensome, it is frankly a scandal that governments have been able to keep these subsidies under wraps for so long.”


News from the Profession. Only 20% of Companies Using Creative Accounting to Its Full Potential (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “…it’s not technically fraud”



Tax Roundup, 8/12/15: Bad news: blogging doesn’t make your vacation deductible. And more great stuff!

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


Accounting Today visitors: the due date post is here.

Road Trip! I had a great time on vacation last month, but it would have been sweeter if I could figure out a way to deduct it. Maybe if I mentioned it here at the Tax Update Blog? Alas, a Tax Court case this week thwarts my cunning scheme.

The Tax Court takes up the story:

In June 2008 petitioner’s adventure began. Over the next 5-1/2 months, petitioner made his way across the continents of Europe and Africa and even made a foray into the Middle East.

Throughout his journey petitioner updated his blog with anecdotes and pictures from his travels. While petitioner included details about some of the sites he saw, places he stayed, and food he ate, many of his explanations do not give enough details for a reader to find the specific site, lodgings, or restaurant described. For example in petitioner’s Paris blog entry he states: “[W]e hit up The [sic] BEST ice cream in Europe. * * * there are a couple of places that serve it and pricing is much higher at one (the ‘tourist’ one as Jeff put it) than at the other one. We walked past the tourist one, which had a huge crowd and walked down the street about half a block to the other one.” Petitioner does not give any more details about where in Paris the best ice cream in Europe can be found.

Petitioner did keep copies of all his receipts, flight confirmations, lodging confirmations, tour confirmations, rail passes, shuttle confirmations, bank statements, tour vouchers, credit card statements, and other miscellaneous receipts from the trip.

The problem wasn’t so much the recordkeeping, then, but the business plan:

Petitioner realized as he traveled, and even more so after he returned to the United States, that the market was already saturated with international backpacking blogs and that his plan for generating income through affiliate sales from his blog would not be profitable. Petitioner then shifted his focus to writing books about his travels and the insights he gained while traveling.

One way to ease the pain of a bad business plan is to deduct the losses:

Petitioner timely filed his 2008 Federal income tax return (return). He listed “world travel guide” as his principal business on the Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business, attached to the return. On the Schedule C, petitioner did not report any business gross receipts or gross income. He claimed total expenses of and reported a net business loss of $39,138. As part of his net business loss, petitioner claimed deductions for travel expenses of $19,347, deductible meals and entertainment expenses of $6,314, and other expenses of $5,431.

The IRS threw a wrench in this part of the business plan by disallowing the loss under the Section 183 “hobby loss rules.” These rules disallow losses on business activities not really entered into for profit. The Tax Court reviewed nine factors that are used to distinguish a real business from a hobby, and found against the taxpayer (my emphasis::

Petitioner did not maintain any books or records for the activity. He had no written business plan and no estimate as to when his Web site would be operational, when his books would be published, or when he would begin to earn income from the activity. Although petitioner documented and retained receipts for his travel-related expenses, merely maintaining receipts is not enough to indicate a profit motive…

Furthermore, petitioner did not investigate the activity before embarking on his trip. Petitioner incurred over $39,000 in expenses before doing any research into the activity’s profitability. This is an indication that the activity was not engaged in for profit.

My favorite part of the opinion is this footnote, where the court tells us what a “blog” is:

“Blog” is a truncation of the expression “Web log”, which is a regularly updated Web site or Web page written in an informal or conversational style and typically run by an individual or small group.

So now we know.

The Moral? Travel may be broadening, and fun, but not necessarily deductible. Before spending $39,000 on it, you might want to figure out how to earn it back first.

Cite: Pingel, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-48.




Tony Nitti, Teacher Fails To Qualify As Real Estate Professional: Who Can Pass The “More Than Half” Test?. Tony discusses the case we covered here yesterday.

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Use Your Product When Preparing a Tax Return. I think it depends a lot on the product, but Paul gets more specific in the text: “…it is apparent that you should not be using marijuana when preparing your income tax return.”

Jack Townsend, Two U.S. Return Preparer Enablers Sentenced for Offshore Account Conspiracy.

Russ Fox, There’s Innocent FBAR Violations, and There’s This. But jailing an occasional real tax violator doesn’t justify shooting jaywalkers.


Robert Nadler, Spousal Abuse Continues to Provide a Powerful Basis for Innocent Spouse Relief (Procedurally Taxing).

Robert Wood, Trump, Taxes, Tampons, And Snoop Dogg

TaxGrrrl, Defendants Sentenced For Stealing 9,000 Identities, Including Army Soldiers


David Brunori, Taxing Beer (Tax Analysts Blog):

The lowest excise tax rates are in Wyoming, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Oregon. To put it in context, Tennessee taxes beer at $1.29 a gallon. Wyoming’s tax is $0.02 a gallon. Buy your beer in Cheyenne.

I wonder if Jack Daniels has an effective lobby in the Tennessee statehouse.




Joseph Henchman, Ten Years of the North Carolina Lottery (and Why It’s In Part a Tax) (Tax Policy Blog):

The Lottery was set up ten years ago as a state enterprise to generate revenue for education programs. 50 percent of gross sales are paid out as prizes, 7 percent paid to retailers as a commission, 8 percent to pay for operations (including advertising, which cannot exceed 1 percent of total revenues), and 35 percent to the state for education funding. Additionally, winners pay income tax on their prizes. The odds are not great – table games in casinos have much better odds – but the Lottery has no real competition as it is state-sanctioned.

Think of it as a tax on people who are bad at math.


Howard Gleckman, Clinton Would Tinker With, Not Rewrite, the Tax Code. (TaxVox). And what the tax law really needs is more tinkering, right?

Kay Bell, Is Obamacare headed back to the Supreme Court yet again? I think Justice Roberts has made it clear that he will find a way to protect the mess from all challenges.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 825. Today the Prof links to Peter Reilly’s concession that just maybe Lois Lerner ran a biased shop.


News from the Profession. New Study Validates Old Accountant Joke (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 8/11/15: Extreme Time Management fails in Tax Court. And: the rise of scam-by-mail.

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150811-1Dedication. The tax law “passive loss” rules generally treat real estate rental as automatically passive. If losses are passive, they can’t be deducted until either the taxpayer has passive income or the taxpayer sell the “passive activity” (think about that phrase for a minute).

There are two exceptions to this “per-se passive” rule. One rule allows up to $25,000 in rental losses to “active” real estate owners, but this phases out between $100,000 and $150,000 in adjusted gross income. The other exception applies to “materially participating real estate professionals.”

It’s hard to qualify as a real estate pro. There are two big hurdles:

– You have to spend at least 750 hours in a year working on real estate activities in which you have an ownership interest, and

– You have to spend more time in your real estate activities than in your other work or business activities.

The second condition is a tough hurdle for taxpayers with full-time jobs outside of real estate to clear, as a Los Angeles teacher learned yesterday in Tax Court. The teacher presented logs to the court to show that he spent more time on his real estate than on his teaching job. This from the Tax Court decision gives you an idea how that went (my emphasis):

In addition to the obvious understatement in the logs of hours petitioner spent as a teacher for each year in issue, the reliability of the logs is also called into question by what appear to be exaggerated amounts of time shown for relatively routine, recurring events, such as check writing. During petitioner’s cross-examination respondent’s counsel pointed out numerous instances of entries showing one to several hours for such activities. The Court does not exist in a vacuum, and we cannot divorce ourselves from our own experiences of daily life, such as the time it takes to review a mortgage statement and/or bill and pay the item by check. We reject petitioner’s claim that the dozens, if not hundreds, of checks that he wrote over the years in issue each took at least an hour to prepare.

Other entries pointed out by respondent’s counsel during petitioner’s cross-examination add to our concerns. Rather than point out each one, however, suffice it to note the following exchange during petitioner’s cross-examination after respondent’s counsel totaled the hours shown in the logs for time spent on various activities on a particular day:

MR. RICHMOND [respondent’s counsel]: And on November 30th [2007], you worked a 25-hour day on your rental properties?

WITNESS [petitioner]: Well, I guess it was a big day.

MR. RICHMOND: I guess it was.

So the Tax Court has something against the time-traveler-American community?

Decision for IRS.

The moral? A long-ago and now deceased big-firm partner/boss once told me “you can create hours with a pencil.” While that may be valid in big-firm public accounting, it doesn’t work so well in Tax Court.

Cite: Escalate, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-47




Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz, including this wise advice:

For years I have also been telling you that whenever you receive any correspondence from the IRS or a state tax agency give it to your tax preparer immediately. Do not send any money to anyone without first checking with your tax pro.

It appears scammers are starting to use the postal service, so watch out.


Russ Fox, Up In Smoke…Again. Tax life is hard for Marijuana businesses, even legal ones.

Tony Nitti, Ninth Circuit: Unmarried Cohabitants Each Entitled To Deduct Interest On $1,100,000 Mortgage Limit

Robert Wood, New IRS Guidance Suggests Obamacare 40% Cadillac Tax Could Get Even Worse

Keith Fogg, Ninth Circuit Reverses Tax Court on Qualified Offer Case and Holds That a Concession is not a Settlement (Procedurally Taxing)

Jim Maule, This Tax Change Will Help But It Won’t End the Problem. Thoughts on the new partnership return due dates.

Jason Dinesen, The Jason Dinesen Plan for Preparer Regulation. “Which begs the question of why they need a regulatory program — mandatory or voluntary — at all.”

Kay Bell, Cleveland to take Ohio jock tax ruling to U.S. Supreme Court

William Perez, Communicate Effectively with Your Tax Preparer




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 824

Jeremy Scott, Jeb Bush’s Troubling Reversal on Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog).

Career Corner. Why You Should (and Shouldn’t) Accept a Full-Time Offer From a Public Accounting Firm (Amber Setter, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 8/7/15: Iowa sales tax takes a holiday, and other brutal assaults on reason.

Friday, August 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150807-1Today is the firm field day. Once again my proposal for an all-office open chess tournament failed to win support, so it’s golf again.

The annual Iowa sales tax holiday for clothing and footwear is today and tomorrow. Details from the Iowa Department of Revenue:

-Exemption period: from 12:01 a.m., August 7, 2015, through midnight, August 8, 2015.

-No sales tax, including local option sales tax, will be collected on sales of an article of clothing or footwear having a selling price less than $100.00.

-The exemption does not apply in any way to the price of an item selling for $100.00 or more

-The exemption applies to each article priced under $100.00 regardless of how many items are sold on the same invoice to a customer

“Clothing” means…

-any article of wearing apparel and typical footwear intended to be worn on or about the human body.

“Clothing” does not include…

-watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas, handkerchiefs, sporting equipment, skis, swim fins, roller blades, skates, and any special clothing or footwear designed primarily for athletic activity or protective use and not usually considered appropriate for everyday wear.

Sales tax holidays are a bad policy, for reasons explained well by Joseph Henchman and Liz Malm, including this:

Political gimmicks like sales tax holidays distract policymakers and taxpayers from genuine, permanent tax relief. If a state must offer a “holiday” from its tax system, it is a sign that the state’s tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, then they should cut the sales tax rate year-round

The Federation of Tax Administrators has a complete list of sales tax holidays for 2015. Mississippi and Louisiana have holidays for firearms purchases September 4-6, so you can dress up in Iowa and drive south to do your weapons shopping in Iowa style.

Related: Kay Bell, 13 state sales tax holidays on tap this weekend


Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz, including a special offer on THE NEW SCHEDULE C NOTEBOOK, his tax Baedeker for the sole proprietor.

William Perez, Changes in Tax Deadlines to Take Effect in 2017 (Plus Deadlines for 2015 and 2016)

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: LLC

Keith Fogg, The Room of Lies (Procedurally Taxing). No, it’s not about debate settings, Congress or the White House Press Briefing Room. It’s about the process the government uses in deciding whether to appeal tax cases.

Robert Wood, Mo’ Indictments For Mo’ Money Taxes, 20 Years Prison Possible. “Indeed, the fallout for innocent taxpayers patronizing a tax preparation shop that is in trouble can be far-reaching.”  Yes, that’s why taxpayers should be wary of a shop that seems to always get bigger refunds than anyone else.

Tony Nitti, If You Hired Mo’ Money Taxes To Prepare Your Return, You Continue To Have Mo’ Problems.  “The most institutionally corrupt organization south of the New England Patriots…”

TaxGrrrl Live-blogged the GOP presidential debate last night. As the political season seems to be fully underway, it’s time to express my joy of the season, best stated by Arnold Kling:

To me, political campaigns are not sacred events, to be eagerly anticipated and avidly followed. They are brutal assaults on reason. I look forward to election season about as much as a gulf coast resident looks forward to hurricane season.

And reason never comes out well in the contest.


Renu Zaretsky, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers international tax reform, gas taxes, and sales tax holidays.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 820. Lots of reaction to the Senate Finance report on the scandal.

Peter Reilly, IRS Scandal – Blame It All On Lois Lerner And Move On?

Joseph Thorndike, Clinton Should Keep It Simple and Just Propose Repealing the Capital Gains Preference (Tax Analysts). No, no, no. She should keep it simple and propose repealing the capital gain tax.


Career Corner. The “I’m Leaving” Conversation (Green Dot Peon, Going Concern).


Tax Roundup, 8/5/15: Steal employment taxes? YOLO! And: what are your state’s real pension liabilities?

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150805-1Living it up now, dealing with the prison time later. The few times I have seen taxpayers get behind on payroll taxes, it has been a case of a struggling business choosing to pay vendors with money withheld from employees for taxes. It’s an unwise move; the tax law makes “responsible persons” personally liable for unpaid employment taxes, even (especially) if the business shuts down. Still, I can sympathize with these folks even though they are making bad decisions.

But there is another class of employment tax non-payers. For shorthand, I’ll call them the “YOLO” employers. A Kansas City business owner falls into this category, if a Justice Department Press Release is to be believed (my emphasis):

Joseph Patrick Balano, 54, of Kansas City, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to the charge contained in a Jan. 7, 2014, federal indictment.

By pleading guilty today, Balano admitted that he withheld employment taxes from his employees, but instead of paying over those taxes to the government, Balano kept most of those taxes for his own personal use. Balano used the money to finance his own personal expenses and expenses for family members, including gambling, mortgage payments (residence and lake house) and car payments.

Payroll tax theft is a pretty hopeless crime. It’s not like the IRS will fail to notice, and it you are living high on the stolen funds, criminal investigators are likely to step in. It’s only a matter of time.

Yet you only live once, and who knows what tomorrow brings? These thieves spend the money now on the good life, and maybe the sweet meteor of death will end the whole world come before the prison term starts. Winning!




Gretchen Tegeler, How much indebtedness does Iowa really have? (

Statewide, the total net pension liability for the two largest systems, the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS) and the Municipal Fire and Police Retirement System of Iowa (MFPRSI) is $4.3 billion, representing 32.4 percent more than the total of all other outstanding debt for governments in these systems.  In other words, if we thought we had $13.4 billion in total debt, we really have 32.4 percent more than that. 

But it’s worse than that. This assumes annual investment returns for pension funds of 7.5%. Under a more realistic 6.5% return, the debt goes up 63.5% over what has been disclosed.

Public defined benefit plans are a lie. Using improbable actuarial assumptions, and sometimes by just not making plan contributions, politicians either lie to taxpayers about how much current services cost, or to public employees about how much they can expect at retirement, or both.

Wall Street Journal, New Rule to Lift Veil on Tax Breaks (Via TaxProf). “The rule approved Monday by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, the municipal equivalent of the board that sets the standards for corporate reporting, will require government officials to show the value of property, sales and income taxes that have been waived under agreements with companies or other taxpayers.”


Kay Bell, Form 1098-T will be needed to claim education tax breaks

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Net Income/Net Loss. “Net income is what’s left after expenses. If you spent more than you took in, you have a net loss.”

Jim Maule, Mileage-Based Road Fee Inching Ahead.


Tony Nitti, In 2016 Election, Candidate’s Tax Returns Simply Don’t Matter. Ultimately a very depressing viewpoint, if you read the whole thing.

Alan Cole, The Details of Hillary Clinton’s Capital Gains Tax Proposal (Tax Policy Blog). “Tax structures that discourage realizations are prone to a ‘lock-in’ effect, where investors cannot reallocate to more productive investments or rebalance their portfolios to mitigate risk, because of the tax implications. The Wall Street Journal was critical of the proposal on these grounds.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 818

Renu Zaretsky, On Carbon, Soda, and the Safety Net. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup mentions the tax implications of the administration’s carbon reduction power grab, among other things.




Tax Roundup, 7/1/15: Trilobite deduction becomes extinct in Tax Court. And: Indiana throwback thrown out.

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan


20150701-1The trilobites roamed the oceans for about 270 million yearsbut a charitable donation of fossils of these ancient arthropods failed to survive a single IRS exam. While scientists still ponder what may have caused these rulers of the seas to vanish, there is no doubt about what doomed the charitable deduction.

The fossils were donated by a California veterinarian, a Dr. Isaacs. He donated four fossilized trilobites to the California Academy of Sciences in 2006 and another 8 in 2007, claiming charitable deductions of $136,500 and $109,800.

When you donate appreciated long-term capital gain property to charity, you are allowed to deduct the fair market value of the property without ever including the appreciation in income — an excellent tax result. Because there is obvious abuse potential in this tax break, Congress has imposed strict valuation documentation rules on contributions of assets other than marketable securities if the claimed deduction exceeds $5,000. The Tax Court explains (citations omitted):

First, for all contributions of $250 or more, a taxpayer generally must obtain a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the donee…

Second, for noncash contributions in excess of $500, a taxpayer must maintain reliable written records with respect to each donated item.

Third, for noncash contributions of property with a claimed value of $5,000 or more, a taxpayer must — in addition to satisfying both sets of requirements described above — obtain a “qualified appraisal” of the donated item(s) and attach to his tax return a fully completed appraisal summary on Form 8283.  Generally, an appraisal is “qualified” if it (1) is prepared no more than 60 days before the contribution date by a “qualified appraiser”, and (2) incorporates specified information, including a statement that the appraisal was prepared for income tax purposes, a description of the valuation method used to determine the contributed property’s fair market value, and a description of the specific basis for the valuation.

It’s not three strikes and you’re out; failing any of these requirement kills your deduction. Yet our veterinarian whiffed on all three requirements, according to the Tax Court. Regarding the appraisal, the court says:

Both of Dr. Isaacs’ Forms 8283 bear the signature “Jeffrey R. Marshall” in Part III, “Declaration of Appraiser”. Dr. Isaacs called Jeffrey Robert Marshall as a witness at trial. The Court accepted Mr. Marshall as an expert in the valuation of fossils over respondent’s objection.4

Mr. Marshall identified the signature on Dr. Isaacs’ 2006 Form 8283 as his own. He did not, however, recall signing it. He likewise identified his signature on Dr. Isaacs’ 2007 Form 8283 but could not recall signing the form.

Mr. Marshall similarly identified his signature on two letters, dated December 31, 2006 and 2007, that purported to be appraisals of the fossils Dr. Isaacs donated to CAS in 2006 and 2007. But Mr. Marshall did not write or even recognize the letters, and as Dr. Isaacs offered no testimony from any other expert as to the letters’ author, we did not admit them into evidence.

Courtesy the mad LOLscientist under Creative Commons license

Flickr image Courtesy the mad LOLscientist under Creative Commons license

It’s a bad sign when your appraiser denies doing an appraisal. I hope the appraisal fee wasn’t high.

Although he sought to introduce purported appraisals signed by Jeffrey Marshall, whom the Court accepted as an expert in fossil valuation, Mr. Marshall denied that he had written these purported appraisals, and we did not admit them into evidence. We need not decide whether Mr. Marshall was a “qualified appraiser” within the meaning of the regulations because, even if he was, Dr. Isaacs introduced no evidence that Mr. Marshall rendered any appraisals of the donated fossils for him. Dr. Isaacs offered no evidence of any other appraisals of the donated fossils that could satisfy the statutory requirement.

Even if the appraisals had been accepted, the Tax Court said the deduction failed for lack of a contemporaneous acknowledgement meeting tax law requirements (my emphasis):

Jean F. DeMouthe, on behalf of CAS, acknowledged Dr. Isaacs’ contributions in writing, and these letters, each dated for the date on which Dr. Isaacs made the contribution acknowledged therein, were contemporaneous as required by section 170(f)(8)(A) and (C). Under section 170(f)(8)(B)(ii), however, the letters could suffice as contemporaneous written acknowledgments only if they stated whether CAS had provided any goods or services in exchange. Neither letter includes such a statement.

Taxpayer loses.

The Moral? When deducting charitable donations, details matter a lot. If you give cash or property for which you will claim a deduction over $250, make sure the charity acknowledges the gift with the magic words saying no goods or services were received in exchange for the gift. And if you are donating property for a donation over $5,000, get your tax advisor involved early to make sure the paperwork and appraisals are done properly and your deductions don’t go the way of the trilobite.

Cite: IsaacsT.C. Memo 2015-121.




Ben Bristor, Scott Drenkard, Indiana Tackles Throwback Rule and Personal Property Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

While Indiana has one of the lowest corporate tax burdens in the country, the throwback rule very frequently complicates corporate income taxation. In the process of trying to capture nowhere income, multiple states can claim the right to tax the same income, creating more complexity for tax authorities and businesses. By eliminating the rule, Indiana lawmakers have made a major improvement in the state’s tax treatment of corporations.

Good news for taxpayers with Indiana manufacturing operations.


David Brunori, Lessons on How Not to Run Your Government (Tax Analysts Blog):

A very knowledgeable person told me that Brownback set efforts to reduce taxes back 10 years. No one wants to be like Kansas. Liberals might celebrate that outcome — but folks who genuinely believe in more limited government and lower tax burdens will rue the Kansas experiment.

Why would you want to give more power to government when it can even screw up a tax cut?


Paul Neiffer, It Pays to Follow the Rules. “The bottom line is that sophisticated estate plans require taxpayers to follow the rules and as indicated by the Webber case, most of them fail at this and sometimes it can cost a lot of money (in Mr. Webber’s case the cost was close to $1 million).”

Robert Wood, Offshore Accounts? Choose OVDP Or Streamlined Despite FATCA

Russ Fox, Mr. Hyatt Goes to Washington…Again. “As you may remember, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled last September that the FTB committed fraud against Mr. Hyatt (false representation and intentional infliction of emotional distress), but threw out most of the Mr. Hyatt’s other claims.”





Joseph Thorndike, Jeb Bush Takes a Page From Richard Nixon by Disclosing Personal Tax Returns (Tax Analysts Blog). “As Richard Nixon discovered 63 years ago, financial disclosure can be embarrassing but it’s also good politics.”

Richard Phillips, Chris Christie’s Long History of Opposition to Progressive Tax Policy. (Tax Justice Blog). Considering how high and awful taxes are in New Jersey, I would expect the Tax Justice people to like him more.

Tony Nitti, Expiration Of Bush Tax Cuts Cost Jeb Bush $500,000 In 2013

Kay Bell, Which candidate’s tax return do you most want to see?


Len Burman, The Uneasy Case for a Financial Transaction Tax (TaxVox). When finance markets are global, these taxes are a great way to run financial businesses out while collecting very little tax. Still, Mr. Burman musters faint praise: “An FTT is far from an ideal tax. But compared with other plausible ways of raising new revenue, it doesn’t look so bad.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 783


News from the Profession. Accounting Professor Who Specialized in Ethics Cheated on Lots of His Papers (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). I wonder if this is the inventor of the take-home ethics exam.



Tax Roundup, 6/29/15: Congratulations, newlyweds, here’s your tax bill! And windy subsidies, IRS stonewalling, more.

Monday, June 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Welcome to the marriage penalty. The Supreme Court has spread Iowa marriage law nationwide. That means more same-sex couples will tie the knot and learn about the sometimes surprising tax results of matrimony. In general, if only one member of the couple has income, it’s a good tax deal, but not so much for two-earner couples. The weird complexity of the tax law means there are lots of exceptions.

The Tax Foundation has an excellent summary of these issues, Understanding the Marriage Penalty and Marriage Bonus. It includes this wonderful piece of abstract art illustrating how marriage can help and hurt a couple’s federal income tax liability:

Marriage penalty tax foundation chart


The chart has two axes: the percentage of income earned by each spouse, and the income level. Blue is good, red is bad. If combined income is just short of $100,00, it’s all good, but there is lots of room for tax pain at the top and bottom of the income spectrum for married couples.

Other coverage:

Jason Dinesen, Tax Implications of Friday’s Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage:

This ruling should not have an impact on federal tax returns because couples in same-gender marriages have been able to file as married on their federal tax returns since 2013. This ruling affects state tax returns in states that had bans against same-gender marriage.

Jason, an Iowa enrolled agent, was an early expert in same-sex marriage compliance.


TaxProf Blog Op-Ed By David Herzig: The Tax Implications Of Today’s Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision (TaxProf) “Same-sex couples will now be able to inherit, file joint state tax returns, possess hospital visitation rights and all other state marriage rights as heterosexual married couples.”

Kay Bell, Marriage equality means tweaks to tax code, tax forms. “Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee, is already working on getting the new nomenclature on the books.”

TaxGrrrl, SCOTUS Legalizes Same Sex Marriage But Questions Remain For Religious Groups & Tax Exempts


Wind turbineWindy Subsidy Signed. Governor Branstad has signed HF 645, which establishes a tax credit for wind energy. The credit is 50% of the similar federal credit, up to $5,000. It takes effect retroactively to 2014, giving a windfall to people who bought qualifying systems already. It will do nothing for the environment, but it will do wonders for companies selling wind energy systems.




Christopher Bergin, Why We Just Sued the IRS – Again (Tax Analysts Blog):

For more than two years the IRS has played its old game of hide the ball regarding requests to release Lois Lerner’s e-mails — e-mails that would teach us a lot about what actually went on during the exempt organization scandal. Many of those requests came from the United States Congress: the elected officials who control the IRS budget. The IRS’s stalling tactics have run the gamut from eye-rollingly comical to downright disturbing.

Through this and and other worrisome developments, one thing is clear: the IRS is now in desperate trouble. Most of that trouble it created itself. It would be unfair to call them the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, because when it comes to shooting itself in the foot the IRS is an expert marksman. The IRS is an agency whose initial reaction to almost anything is secrecy.

The IRS needs a big culture change, one starting with a new Commissioner.




Associated Press, Ex-Rep. Mel Reynolds indicted on tax charges. Can you believe a Chicago politician who would sleep with a 16-year old campaign worker would also cheat on his taxes?


Russ Fox, A Peabody, Massachusetts Tax Preparer Gives an Unwitting Endorsement for EFTPS:

Mr. Ginsberg operated a traditional payroll service. It’s fairly easy to check on your payroll company if you use such a service: Enroll in EFTPS. Using EFTPS you can verify that your payroll company is making the payroll deposits they say they are. That’s a good idea–trust but verify. The DOJ Press release notes:

To cover up his scheme, Ginsberg falsified his clients’ tax returns, which he was hired to prepare, indicating that the clients’ payroll taxes had been paid in full, when they had not. When asked by clients about their mysterious IRS debts, Ginsberg gave them a litany of false excuses, including blaming the IRS and his own staff.

None of those excuses work hold up with EFTPS. Today, payroll tax deposits with the IRS are all made electronically. Is it possible for one to get messed up? Yes, but it’s very unlikely. Indeed, most payroll companies just make sure the deposits are made from your payroll bank account.

If you outsource your payroll tax, insource regular visits to EFTPS to make sure your payments are made.


Peter Reilly, SpongeBob SquarePants In A Tax Case!

Tony Nitti, Sloppy Drafting Saves Obamacare – Supreme Court Upholds Tax Subsidies For All. I think it was more sloppy judging than sloppy drafting that did the trick.

Keith Fogg, Aging Offers in Compromise into Acceptance (Procedurally Taxing).

Jack Townsend, Rand Paul and Expatriates to Sue IRS and Treasury Over FBAR and FATCA. They want both to be declared unconstitutional. Unfortunately, it seems like a anything the IRS wants is constitutional anymore.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 779Day 780Day 781. Still trying to shake out the “lost” emails after 781 days. You’d think they were stalling or something. And efforts to impeach Commissioner Koskinen. It’s not going to happen, but if he had any shame, he would have resigned long ago.

Richard Auxier, Michigan, out of ideas, might ask poor to pick up transportation tab (TaxVox).





The pledge, the brainchild of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is a terrible idea for several reasons. First, no leader should promise never to raise taxes because, frankly, there are times when it is necessary. Over 50 Kansas legislators and Brownback, who have signed the pledge, found that out last week. I agree with Norquist philosophically; less government is good. But the pledge only leads to more debt at the federal level and gimmicks in state governments.

David Brunori, Tax Analysts ($link)


Career Corner. EY Employee Has Eaten So Many Hours, He’s Gone on Hunger Strike (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 6/24/15: New obscure dumb forms we choose to do together. And: Wine and Taxes!

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150528-1There’s a new stupid form in town. The Commerce Department this year springs a new form on people with interests in foreign businesses. Form BE-10 was originally due May 31, but the system for filing it crashed, leading to a new June 30 deadline.

BE-10 is a survey, not a tax form. The survey is done every five years, and formerly was required only when you were contacted by the Commerce Department. Now everyone with a 10% or more “direct or indirect” interest in a foreign business is supposed to file it. From Accounting Today:

The form is mainly intended for businesses with foreign investments. Originally individuals only had a filing requirement if they were directly contacted by the bureau, but last November, the government amended its regulations to require any U.S. person who had at least a 10 percent direct or indirect interest in a foreign business enterprise at any time during the U.S. person’s fiscal year to file the Form BE-10. A U.S. person includes individuals, trusts, estates, corporations and partnerships.

“With many of our clients fighting the IRS over FBAR penalties, we err on the side of filing whenever the government requests a U.S. person to file an international information report,” said Carolyn Turnbull, international tax services director at Vestal & Wiler CPAs in Orlando, Fla.

Penalties for failure to file the form range from $2,500 to $25,000. Even worse, individuals who willfully fail to file the form can face fines of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for a maximum of one year, or both.

$2,500 to $25,000 for not filling out a stupid survey. Remember, government is simply a word for the things we decide to do together, like clobber each other with big fines for obscure paperwork violations.

Robert Wood has more.




Kay Bell, Uncle Sam demands foreign bank account filing by June 30. The $10,000 threshold — and the whole FBAR regime, in fact — is absurd. Like so many regulations, it ensnares otherwise innocent people for paperwork violations while doing next to nothing to affect criminals, who don’t much care about getting the paperwork right.

Robert Wood, Offshore Banks Reveal Account Data, As IRS Amnesty For Many Involves 50% Penalty. Some amnesty.

Russ Fox, FBAR Due in One Week:

Because of the Hom decision of last year, we now must again report foreign online gambling accounts. That’s basically all online gambling sites except the legal sites in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. I maintain a list of online gambling sites and their mailing addresses here.

Russ performs a valuable public service with this address list.



Samantha Jordan, Scott Drenkard, How High are Wine Taxes in Your State? (Tax Policy Blog). In Iowa, pretty dang high:


Considering it’s burgeoning wine industry, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been more effort to bring Iowa’s wine tax down. And some of the new Iowa wine isn’t half bad.


Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 11: Meet the “Single Penalty”

Peter Reilly, Chief Counsel Gives Narrow Scope To Partnership Liability Regulations. “Note, here, that the taxpayers were insolvent and the field is being told to look harder for a possibly larger assessment.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Navigating The Multiple Definitions Of Nonrecourse And Recourse Liabilities


Carl Smith, Does Rev. Proc. 99-21 Validly Restrict Proof of Financial Disability, for Purposes of Extending the Refund Claim SOL, to Letters From Doctors of Medicine or Osteopathy? Part 1.

TaxGrrrl, Nevada Pops New Tax On Burning Man, iHeartRadio, Other Music Festivals


David Brunori, Rand Paul’s Tax Ideas Are Worth Serious Consideration (Tax Analysts Blog). 

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a GOP presidential candidate, released his tax plan last week. As expected, some commentators piled on criticism. Howard Gleckman of the Urban Institute said Paul was trying to use the tax proposal to “fundamentally restructure the federal government as we know it.” Bob McIntyre, the director of Citizens for Tax Justice, said Paul’s plan would cost $15 trillion over 10 years. Other, less informed folks resorted to calling Paul names.

This criticism from liberals is neither unexpected nor irrational. These are folks who like to see more government spending and revenue raising. Paul is a small government Republican. Of course he wants to see less government and taxes. So it’s not surprising that his tax plan would, in a vacuum, lose the government money. The Tax Foundation says the cost would be $3 trillion over 10 years on a static basis. But that assumes Paul will keep spending at current levels. I suspect that if he became president, he’d support spending cuts equal to or greater than the cost of his tax plan.

I certainly would.




Howard Gleckman, CBO Has No Idea What Repeal of the ACA Means for the Economy or the Deficit (TaxVox). No more idea than when they said the ACA wouldn’t increase the deficit back when it was enacted.


Ethan Greene, Alaska Ends Film Tax Credit Program (Tax Policy Blog). States are beginning to realize that they are being had by the film industry.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 776:

In the continuing saga of the IRS, the Department of Justice, and their efforts to hide evidence and obstruct justice to protect Lois Lerner and the administration’s targeting of its political opposition, the IRS now claims that thousands of emails found on backup tapes Commissioner Koskinen told Congress did not exist are not IRS records, the IRS has no control over them, and they can’t produce them. 

The IRS has done nothing but obstruct and stonewall. If a taxpayer treated an IRS exam the way the IRS has treated this investigation, they’d be inviting the criminal agents in.


News from the Profession. Life at Deloitte Includes Slow Days (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 6/17/15: Revenues: every business should have them! And: tax abuse of accidental Americans.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


dontwalk4A picture of a bad deduction. Early in my career a practitioner confided to me that every 1040 should have a Schedule C, the 1040 report of business income, so that taxpayers could write-off personal expenses. That’s never been the actual tax law, but too many taxpayers believe otherwise.

The actual tax law is that you can’t deduct as business expenses costs without an intent to actually make money. Iowa has been independently enforcing this rule, known informally as the “hobby loss” rule. A newly-released protest resolution has an example of a Schedule C business that may not have been conducted with adequate vigor:

The Business Activity Questionnaire you completed indicated that you spent 8-10 hours per year on the business. That is less than one hour per month. This hardly seems reasonable to have for a successful business. An average photoshoot can last longer than 1 hour including let up and tear down and then most photographers spend additional time editing or developing the photos.

What made the state suspicious? From the protest response (my emphasis)

There is no evidence that the taxpayer has ever been successful in this business. With the exception of 2014, there is no record indicating that you filed a sales tax return or a schedule C showing any receipts since your permit was issued. 

One of the most important parts of a real business is revenue. You could look it up. If you have none, it may be hard to convince the revenue agent you are serious.

You receive some income from other sources, and the losses you report from this activity does lower your income, in some years enough to make you exempt from tax. 

That can be a clincher. If you have “business losses” that never end, but they save you taxes on other income, that’s a likely sign that your real “business” is reducing your taxes.

Cite: Iowa Document Reference 15201018


20140815-2William Perez, People Unaware of Their American Citizenship are Being Fined for Not Filing US Tax Returns:

“[The] typical [client I’m] seeing now,” reveals Virginia LaTorre Jeker, a tax attorney in Dubai, is “someone who [was] either born in the US and left as young child, or who has [an] American parent from whom they have acquired citizenship.

The individual will always have another nationality, typically from a Middle Eastern country which they consider as their true home. Most times, these individuals will never have filed a US tax return since they were unaware they had any US tax obligations.”

If you think this sounds insane, you are right. No other country does anything like this.

Robert Wood, FBARs For Foreign Accounts Are Due June 30. Should You File For The First Time? “You don’t want to ignore a filing obligation now that you know about FBARs. But one should consider where you are going long term with your issues, how quickly you plan to act, and whether you have good and accurate information to file now.”


Kay Bell, U.K. pays a record amount for tax cheat tips

Jim Maule, How Does a Politician Fix a Tax Law The Politician Doesn’t Understand? Well, they’re obviously perfectly willing to enact tax laws they don’t understand in the first place. Yet for all the demonstrated incompetence of politicians, Prof. Maule wants to put more things under their control.

TaxGrrrl, Banks Quick To Turn Over ‘Abandoned’ Assets To Revenue-Hungry States:

Originally accounts were typically considered abandoned only if they went untouched for decades. But revenue-hungry states have been dramatically shortening that “dormancy” period to get their hands on this booty. 

Because the state politicians want the money don’t trust the private sector to take care of their customers, and they are looking out for you!

Peter Reilly, Campaigning For Bishopric Not A Valid Exempt Purpose – Kent Hovind Update. It’s not? I guess I can skip my mitre-measuring session.




Robert D. Flach, FOUR REASONS TO REMOVE THE EITC FROM THE TAX CODE: “Probably the most important reason – Tax credits, especially refundable credits, are a magnet for tax fraud.” That’s exactly right.

Rachel Rubenstein, Reflections on the General State of Tax-related Identity Theft (Procedurally Taxing). “From 2004 to 2013, the NTA identified tax-related identity theft as one of the “‘Most Serious Problems” faced by taxpayers in nearly every annual report submitted to Congress here.”

David Brunori, The Revolt of the Corporations (Tax Analysts Blog). “The message is clear: Businesses have options and will move to sunnier tax climates.”

Howard Gleckman, The House GOP’s Internal Battle Over Online Sales Taxes (TaxVox).

Tony Nitti, Donald Trump Announces Bid For Presidency: What Is His Tax Plan? And who cares?




Alan Cole, IGM Panel: Real Income Growth is Understated (Tax Policy Blog):

The IGM Forum, a University of Chicago project that surveys academic economists on issues, last month found that economists broadly agree that real median income numbers understate real growth in standards of living.

I think that has to be true. Don Boudreaux likes to compare items in old Sears catalogs with their modern counterparts to show how much better — and cheaper, in terms of hours of work needed to pay for them — the modern goods are:

The list is long of consumer goods that ordinary Americans today can easily afford but that were unavailable commercially to even the wealthiest Americans in the 1950s. This list includes digital cameras, lightweight waterproof sportswear, high-definition televisions, recorded Hollywood movies to play at home, MP3 players, personal computers, cellphones, soft contact lenses, and GPS devices.

We take for granted everyday things, like the internet, flight, automobiles, paved roads between cities, that the richest men of 200 years ago did without.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 769

News from the Profession. Counteroffers Rarely Work for Employees Jumping Ship (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 6/8/15: Hush money edition. And: IRA invests in IRA owner’s business, disaster ensues.

Monday, June 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
"Dennis Hastert 109th pictorial photo" by United States Congress - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“Dennis Hastert 109th pictorial photo” by United States Congress – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The TaxProf and I are cited in a New York Times article on the tax implications of former House Speaker Hastert’s hush money scandal: If Hastert Was Extorted, He Could Deduct Some Losses From His Taxes.

Mr. Hastert has been indicted on charges of “structuring” deposits to avoid reporting rules as part of a plan to pay for silence from “Individual A” for alleged sexual contact pre-Congress. From the article:

While extortion payments would be taxable for Individual A, they would actually be partly deductible for Mr. Hastert, said Paul Caron, a tax law professor at Pepperdine University. It’s right there in I.R.S. Publication 17, Chapter 25: You get to deduct losses because of theft, to the extent those losses exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. Blackmail and extortion count as theft.

But to claim the deduction, Mr. Hastert would have to convince the I.R.S. or a court he had been extorted, which could be difficult.

”Sometimes judges will find a way to disallow deductions for what they find unsavory behavior,” said Joe Kristan, a tax accountant with the Roth C.P.A. firm. He noted a case in which a divided Ninth Circuit panel denied a tax deduction for extortion to a man who said he paid hush money to his mistress.

For the record, I have no personal experience in deducting extortion and hush money payments.

Related: Jack Townsend, Article on Structuring to Avoid Bank Currency Reporting Requirements, on the structuring charges of the Hastert case.


No Walnut STTaxpayer’s IRA-owned corporation leads to tax disaster. The Eighth Circuit appeals court has upheld horrendous tax penalties against a taxpayer who had an IRA capitalize his business as an investor.

A Mr. Ellis rolled his 401(k) plan into an IRA, which invested about $310,000 in CST, a C corporation. CST started an auto dealership and employed Mr. Ellis as General Manager. That led to unfortunate tax results. From the court opinion (my emphasis):

The tax court properly found that Mr. Ellis engaged in a prohibited transaction by directing CST to pay him a salary in 2005. The record establishes that Mr. Ellis caused his IRA to invest a substantial majority of its value in CST with the understanding that he would receive compensation for his services as general manager. By directing CST to pay him wages from funds that the company received almost exclusively from his IRA, Mr. Ellis engaged in the indirect transfer of the income and assets of the IRA for his own benefit and indirectly dealt with such income and assets for his own interest or his own account. See 26 U.S.C. § 4975(c)(1)(D), (E); 29 C.F.R. § 2509.75-2(c) (“[I]f a transaction between a party in interest and a plan would be a prohibited transaction, then such a transaction between a party in interest and such corporation . . . will ordinarily be a prohibited transaction if the plan may, by itself, require the corporation . . . to engage in such transaction.”)

While the investment itself wasn’t ruled a prohibited transaction, things got messy once the IRA-owned corporation started paying Mr. Ellis a salary — an “indirect transfer” occurred.

The consequences? The prohibited transaction terminated the IRA. That means the whole value of the IRA became taxable income, with no cash made available to cover the taxes. With penalties, the bill will exceed $160,000.

The Moral? Direct business investments from IRAs are dynamite. If you must use retirement plan funds for a business start-up, it may be wiser to take a taxable withdrawal and use the after-tax funds to make the investment. If there is any way to fund it without retirement plan funds, that would be wiser still.

Cite: Ellis, CA-8, No. 14-1310 

Prior coverage here.


20150528-1Margaret Van Houten, Legislature Passes Bill Affecting Iowa Trusts and Estates (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “Beginning on July 1, 2016, a step grandchild will no longer be subject to Iowa Inheritance Tax.  Currently, direct ancestors and descendants, including stepchildren, were exempt from the tax, while step grandchildren were grouped with other individuals, such as siblings, nieces and nephews and unrelated individuals and were subject to the tax.”

TaxGrrrl, The Not So Skinny On National Doughnut Day. That’s every day!

Jason Dinesen, Breakeven Analysis for Small Businesses — Service Providers and Not-for-Profits

Annette Nellen, More on marijuana businesses and tax ethics. “Despite state actions, the production, sale and use of marijuana is a crime under federal law. Thus, for licensed practitioners, there is concern about ethical violations of helping someone commit a crime.”

Kay Bell, H&R Block explores virtual tax preparation.

Peter Reilly, A New York Day Is Like A New York Minute At Least For Taxes:

In the case of John and Janine Zanetti, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division agreed with the Commissioner of Taxation and Finance that a New York day can be less than 24 hours.  The point of the decision was to determine whether the Zanettis had spent enough time in New York to be considered statutory residents for the year 2006.


Jim Maule asks Is the Federal Income Tax Progressive? He focuses on the “low” federal effective rate on the “Top .001%.” Of course, the reason people get to those rates is normally because of a one-time event, typically the sale of a corporation, that is taxed at long-term capital gain rates. Such taxpayers are normally at that income level only once in their life. Of course, Prof. Maule ignores the built-in double tax hidden in these figures.

Leslie Book, DC Circuit Criticizes Government in Case Alleging an Israel Special Policy for Tax Exemptions (Procedurally Taxing). “As IRS has increased responsibility beyond its paramount mission of collecting revenues, the historical reasons for the discretion IRS has exercised have lessened.”

Robert Wood, Are On Demand Workers Independent Contractors In Name Only?

Tony Nitti, Put It On The Card! Congressman Proposes To Make Credit Card Debt Forgiveness Tax Free

Russ Fox, Another Las Vegas Preparer Gets In Trouble Over the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. “I’d say it was something in the water but Las Vegas is in a desert.”




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 758Day 759Day 760. The IRS treatment of the Tea Partiers is compared and contrasted with that of the Clinton Foundation.


Arnold Kling, Payroll Taxes in Europe. ” I find it hard to reconcile Germany’s relatively low unemployment rate with this high payroll tax rate.”

David Henderson responds:

I don’t find it hard to reconcile the two. The reason: Germany has had high payroll tax rates for a long time–for decades, actually. So real wages have had a long time to adjust.

I understand this as saying the total employment cost is about the same, but the employee gets less of it.


Kyle Pomerleau, CRS Outlines Four Important Aspects of the EITC. “The EITC enjoys bipartisan support among lawmakers. This is due to the fact it both reduces poverty among families with children and has a positive impact on the labor force for certain individuals. Yet, the EITC is not without its flaws. It’s benefit phase-out has a negative impact on the labor force and it suffers from high error rate and overpayment.”

Richard Auxier, Choose your tax system: progressive vs. regressive (TaxVox). A critique of the “Fair Tax” and other national sales tax proposals.


News from the Profession. Pope Figured The Lord’s Work Could Use a Good Auditor (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)