Posts Tagged ‘Anthony Nitti’

Tax Roundup, 2/8/16: When your password is a key for thieves. And: More Tax Credits!

Monday, February 8th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20150910-2You need more than one password. Another home tax software company reports that its customers may have had their data stolen. Marketwatch.com reports:

In its letter to affected customers, TaxSlayer said it became aware Jan. 13 that hackers had accessed some of its customers’ accounts. The illegal access took place between Oct.10, 2015, and Dec. 21, 2015.

The letter said an “unauthorized third party may have obtained access to any information you included in a tax return or draft tax return saved on TaxSlayer, including your name and address, your Social Security number, the Social Security numbers of your dependents, and other data contained on your 2014 tax return.”

In its statement, TaxSlayer said it doesn’t believe its own systems were breached. Instead, “user credentials, stolen from other sources, were then used to misrepresent our customers and therefore access our program.”

They’re saying that they got passwords from another site and tried them on TaxSlayer, and they worked. That kind of breach is on the user, not the software company.

Reusing passwords is poor data security hygiene. McAfee Software offers some great tips for good passwords. The tips include a list of things people do that make them vulnerable to data theft, including:

Reuse of passwords across multiple sites: Reusing passwords for email, banking, and social media accounts can lead to identity theft. Two recent breaches revealed a password reuse rate of 31% among victims.

If you use different passwords for your different important accounts, one data breach won’t expose your entire financial life.

Related: TaxSlayer data breach is the 3rd tax software-related security issue so far this filing season (Kay Bell)

 

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Brent Willett, Iowa’s next economic frontier (IowaBiz.com). An unintended but useful followup to my IowaBiz post on Friday on the unwisdom of targeted tax credits, the post boosts a proposed new tax credit that I criticized by name. The post touts a new report promising “Fifty thousand jobs” to Iowa if we just enact a new “Bio-Based Chemicals” tax credit.

The post neatly checks off several items I note in my post:

Might these special favors be better for the economy than some farmer or small business who buys a new tractor or machine? You could make that case, but it would be plausible only if these favors were enacted by a process where the state looked at the vast menu of possible industries to support and carefully evaluated which ones were more persuasive. That never happens. Instead, the credits follow the path of the notorious Iowa film industry credits, where an industry gets some legislators and business boosters excited and builds support — sometimes with “studies” funded by booster groups. There is no evaluation of the opportunity costs, of whether the funds would be better used elsewhere.

No comparison to other industry opportunities? Check. Studies funded by booster groups? Check. Ignoring opportunity costs? Check.

I encourage your to read the Willett post and ponder why a government subsidy is needed if the industry is such a slam-dunk.  Also, consider whether you would get the same article by substituting other industries for bio-chemicals in the post.

 

 

Andrew Mitchel: New Expatriate Record for 2015 – Nearly 4,300 Expatriations:

2015 expatriations

“The escalation of offshore penalties over the last 20 years is likely contributing to the increased incidence of expatriation.”

Related: Record Numbers Renounce Their U.S. Citizenship (Robert Wood)

 

Jason Dinesen, Lots and Lots of Scam E-mails this Year. Jason posts many helpful examples. Be very skeptical of emails you don’t expect, and delete any purporting to come from IRS.

Annette Nellen, Ideas for Retirement Savings Reform. “One overall reform Irecommend is to change the focus of retirement plans from the employer to the employee, making them truly portable from job to job and if in employee or contractor status or both.”

Jim Maule, The Biggest Tax Refund?. Overwithholding will do the trick.

Leslie Book, The Limits of the “One Inspection” of Taxpayers’ Books and Records Rule (Procedurally Taxing). “One limitation on IRS powers is the Code itself, as Section 7605(b) provides that ‘only one inspection of a taxpayer’s books of account shall be made for each taxable year unless ․ the [Treasury] Secretary ․ notifies the taxpayer in writing that an additional inspection is necessary.'”

Robert D. Flach, TAX GUIDE FOR NEW HOMEOWNERS

Russ Fox, It Was Only a 13.33% Kickback. A police chief breaks the tax law.

TaxGrrrl, So About Those Cam Newton ‘Sunday Giveaway’ Game Balls…

 

Only the form of your destructor. What Would Be At Stake In A Trump v. Sanders Election? How About $24 Trillion in Tax Revenue (Tony Nitti).

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1003Day 1004Day 1005

Scott Greenberg, White House Calls for Targeting the Cadillac Tax by Location:

Why would the White House propose changes that would weaken the Cadillac Tax – a central part of the administration’s most significant policy achievement? In fact, these changes might be necessary to secure the continued existence of the tax. The White House has been fighting a losing battle to defend the Cadillac Tax, and these proposed changes may placate some of the tax’s opponents, particularly employers in states with high healthcare costs.

We must destroy the Cadillac Tax to save the Cadillac Tax!

Renu Zaretsky, Budget Hearings, Saving, and Entertaining (TaxVox). “There is almost always something perfunctory about the last budget of an outgoing president, but this year’s will generate even less interest than usual. In the ultimate insult, the GOP-run congressional budget committees won’t even invite White House officials to describe their fiscal plan.” And lots more in today’s TaxVox headline roundup.

I reject this false choice. Kentucky Can Attract Tourists Who Like Bible More Than Bourbon Without Violating First Amendment  (Peter Reilly)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/1/2016: Caucus day, and other plagues.

Monday, February 1st, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20160131-1Is there such a thing as snow locusts? Today is the last day Iowa will be plagued by presidential candidates and their relentless ads and emails. Tonight, blizzard and winter storm warnings across the state.

Lots of things go into choosing a candidate. We kid ourselves if we think it is all rational. Many voters put as much thought into their political preferences as they do into choosing a favorite sports team. Most voters are much more informed about their sports teams than their votes.

But Tax Update readers are different!  You especially want to know about candidate tax policies. Fortunately, the Tax Foundation has an excellent Comparison of Presidential Tax Plans and Their Economic Effects. I like this chart they provide:

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You’ll notice that only one plan is projected to have positive economic effects while reducing the budget deficit over 10 years. I like that one.

 

Other Caucus-related links:

Tax Policy Center Major candidate tax proposals, a center-left analysis.

TaxProf, Clinton (47%), Sanders (54%) Propose Highest Capital Gain Tax Rates (Now 24%) In History

Tyler Cowen, My favorite things Iowa (Marginal Revolution). “The bottom line: Who would have thought ‘jazz musician’ would be the strongest category here?” Speak for yourself, buddy!

 

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Russ Fox, The Liberty to Commit Tax Fraud:

This story does show two things. First, requiring every tax professional to obtain a license won’t stop tax fraud. The alleged fraud here was started by an individual with a PTIN, someone who assuredly could obtain the former RTRP designation or the current AFSP “seal of approval.” Second, the Department of Justice news release notes, “In the past decade, the Tax Division has obtained injunctions against hundreds of unscrupulous tax preparers.” This is absolutely true, and the DOJ should be commended for their work. It also shows that licensing every tax professional isn’t needed to get rid of unscrupulous ones.

Amen.

William Perez, When Does an 83(b) Election Make Sense? 

Paul Neiffer, Pre-1977 Purchases May Get 100% Step-up or Not! Involving old joint interests in property.

Kay Bell, W-2, 1099 forms delivery deadline is here

Jack Townsend, 60 Minutes Exposé on Money Laundering Into the U.S.

Jason Dinesen, Not All Donations to Charity Are Deductible. Time, for example.

Kristine Tidgren, Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit Gets More Complicated (AgDocket)

Peter Reilly, NorCal Tea Party Patriots V IRS – Grassroots Or Astroturf?

Leslie Book, Migraine Caused by Improper IRS Collection Action During Bankruptcy Stay Triggers Damages for Emotional Distress

Robert Wood, Worst Lottery To Win Is IRS Audit Lottery, So Decrease Your Odds

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Tax Forms 2016: 1098-T, Tuition Statement

Tony Nitti, IRS Rules On Whether Trade-In Of Private Jet Qualifies For A Tax-Free Like-Kind Exchange

Happy Blogiversary! to Hank Stern for 10 years of Insureblog.

 

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Matt Gardner, International Speedway Reaps Benefits of Revived “NASCAR Tax Break” (Tax Justice Blog). In which the Tax Justice people sctually make a lot of sense: “In the context of our growing budget deficits, the annual cost of the NASCAR giveaway is a drop in the bucket at less than $20 million, making it a small part of the $680 billion extenders package. But because its benefits are narrowly focused on a few privileged companies, the damaging effects of this tax break go way beyond its fiscal cost.”

Donald Marron, What Should We Do with the Money from Taxing “Bads”? (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 996Day 997, Day 998. Day 997 links to  IRS’s New Ethics Chief Once Ordered Records Be Illegally Destroyed. These are the people who think they need to regulate tax preparers to keep us in line.

 

Scott Drenkard, David Bowie: Tax Planning Hero (Tax Policy Blog). “Taxes really matter, especially for an artist like Bowie who had a lot of options for where to reside and earn income.”

Robert D. Flach, THE TWELVE DAYS OF TAX SEASON

 

Finally, in honor of the Iowa Caucuses I quote the great Arnold Kling, who captures my feelings about these proceedings perfectly:

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.

Only the beginning of a wise and profound post. Read it all.

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Tax Roundup, 1/21/16: Defying Governor, House conformity bill includes $500,000 Section 179 limit.

Thursday, January 21st, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20151118-1Reason to hope, reasons to despair. The Iowa House Ways and Means Chairman introduced a “code conformity” bill yesterday (HSB 535) that includes the federal $500,000 Section 179 limit. This defies the wishes of Governor Branstad, who says the state can’t afford the expanded deduction. He would only allow a $25,000 deduction for asset purchases that would otherwise have to be capitalized and depreciated.

The bill, as expected, does not adopt bonus depreciation for Iowa.

The Section 179 conformity proposal is is good news. It appears that Ways and Means Republicans sense that their business and farm constituents won’t appreciate a big tax increase, especially in a year that looks like it will be a down year around the state. Now attention will turn to the Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Gronstal controls what legislation reaches the floor. If he supports the legislation, it is likely to pass. The Governor would probably be able to kill it with a veto, but would he?

That brings up my first reason to despair. Unless the Governor backs down or some compromise is reached, the conformity bill is likely to be delayed. Affected taxpayers will have to wait to file their 2015 Iowa returns until they know what the tax law is; if they guess wrong, they will incur the expense of amending their returns. It compresses the filing season into an ever-narrower window and delays refunds.

The biggest issue is likely to be the budget impact. While I haven’t seen a current figure, last year’s Section 179 conformity bill was estimated to reduce state revenues by $88.5 million.

capitol burning 10904I certainly have a list of possible pay-fors, starting with the newest proposed credit, a $10 million  “renewable biochemical tax credit” (SSB 3001). It is refundable, meaning it isn’t just a tax reduction, but an actual cash subsidy to taxpayers whose credit exceeds their Iowa tax. That easily could happen, as it is based on pounds of qualifying stuff produced. It will only go to taxpayers who “enter into an agreement” with the economic development administration. In other words, for insiders who know where to pull strings.

And here is another reason to despair. It appears this new boondoggle is going to slide right on through. From the Des Moines Register (my emphasis):

More than a dozen lobbyists representing businesses, farm organizations, economic development groups and other expressed support, and there was no opposition. Gov. Terry Branstad has listed renewable chemical manufacturing tax credits as a key item in his 2016 legislative agenda.

Under the bill, the maximum amount of state tax credits available annually to any one business for the production of renewable chemicals would be either $1 million or $500,000, depending how long the company has operated in Iowa.

Even Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), who has in the past voted against corporate welfare tax credits, is on board with this one.

It will be very difficult to get the Governor to go along with the higher Section 179 limits without spending or tax credit cuts to offset the revenue loss. The Governor seems dead set against cutting cronyist tax credits. If the legislature agrees with him, Section 179 has a very difficult fight this session. Failure to adopt the federal Section 179 limit would represent a triumph of a handful of insiders over the businesses and farms in every county that would have their taxes increased to pay for subsidies.

 

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Iowa increases security to prevent tax fraud (thegazette.com):

The Iowa Department of Revenue has upped its security game after seeing more than 10,000 fraudulent tax returns last year.

This tax season, the agency will use technology to better track fraudsters, validate bank accounts before making direct deposits and share information with the IRS, other states, software providers and banks.

The story says Iowa stopped $11.6 million in fake refund claims last year on 10,600 fraudulent returns.

 

Hank Stern, O’Care in Real Life (InsureBlog):

So, one of my small group clients just lost the last person on his group plan. It had gotten so expensive that no one could really afford to stay on it. Shopping around didn’t help: everything we looked at was at least as expensive for comparable benefits. And the plan was pretty much bare-bones, not a lot of fat to trim.

Tom has been a client – and friend – for almost 30 years. A small business owner, he was proud to be able to offer his employees coverage. Now that’s gone.

He said “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” He didn’t say you could afford it.

Kristine Tidgren, Farm Lease Questions Often Arise This Time of Year (Ag Docket)

Robert D. Flach, A VERY IMPORTANT REMINDER. “Don’t listen to a broker, a banker, an insurance salesman, or your Uncle Charlie!   You wouldn’t ask your butcher for a medical opinion, so why would you accept tax advice from your MD?”

Keith Fogg, Public Policy Cases Accepted by the Taxpayer Advocate Service (Procedurally Taxing). “If you have an issue that raises policy issues for a group of taxpayers, you can bring this to the attention of the NTA in hopes that it will make the policy list and open the doors to TAS assistance.”

Paul Neiffer, Top 10 Reasons You Might Need Accrual Accounting. “Although this list is designed to be humorous, the reality is that all farmers should consider using accrual accounting to manage their farm operation.”

Kay Bell, Smooth tax season start? Not for some TaxAct users. “Just a few days before the filing season and Free File opened for business, the tax software manufacturer sent a letter to about 450 customers, notifying them of a data breach.”

Jack Townsend, Should Proof of No Tax Evaded Be Admissible as Defense in Crime Not Requiring Tax Evaded as an Element

 

Tony Nitti, An Ode To Tax Season: How To Bid Farewell To Your Family.

Tax season is here. Tax season is the worst. But don’t just abandon your family for the next three months with no explanation; make them aware of the series of mistakes that were set into motion long ago that led you to this self-imposed hell. And tell them with rhymes! 

That may be why my grown kid is a musician, and the high schooler wants to be one.

 

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David Brunori, Good Government Developments in the Tax World (Tax Analysts Blog). No Iowa items make the list.

David Henderson, The Economics of the Cadillac Health Care Tax, Part IPart II. “But now that I have done a more careful analysis with some plausible numbers, I am seriously undecided.”

Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Hatch To Introduce Corporate Integration Plan (Tax Policy Blog). “Not only does the double tax on equity investment increase the cost of capital, it creates economic distortions. The most obvious one is the distortion towards debt-financed investments.”

Renu Zaretsky, Market Woes and the Price of Breaks. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers stupid things from proposed financial transaction taxes to the ongoing Kansas budget and tax policy disaster.

 

Robert Wood, IRS Wipes Another Hard Drive Defying Court Order…But You Must Keep Tax Records. Darn right, peasant!

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 987.

 

Career Corner. Stop Doing Other People’s Work Because It Saves Time (Leona May, Going Concern). A classic symptom of Senior Accountant’s Disease.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/18/15: Popular wisdom and tax rates. And more Monday goodness!

Monday, January 18th, 2016 by Joe Kristan
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Math is hard.

Vox Populi. It’s a slow tax news day, with schools and government offices closed and e-filing not beginning until tomorrow. That enabled me to spend a little time with Peter Reilly’s coverage of Disparate Tax Views At Opening Of Bernie Sanders Worcester Office. Peter chatted up Sanders volunteers about their views on the proper top marginal tax rates. He was surprised by his first conversation:

Deb Bock, my first victim, said 15%.  I hadn’t gotten into the listening groove yet so I failed to hide my shock and asked her why she wasn’t backing Ben Carson – “Because he is an idiot.”

Those of us who live in the tax world can easily forget how poor the knowledge of actual tax law, including rates, is among the general public. The Tax Foundation has printed some fascinating surveys about what people think tax rates should be. Here is some information from their 2009 survey, the most recent available on the Tax Foundation website. It shows that Peter’s friend Ms. Bock is close to the  consensus view of what the effective combined federal, state and local effective rate on taxable income should be: 15.6%:

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Source: Tax Foundation

Of course, effective rates are much higher than this, as The Tax Foundation explains in its 2015 Tax Freedom Day explanation:

In 2015, Americans will pay $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or 31 percent of national income.

That’s just about twice the average effective rate that people think should apply. Because the tax law is very progressive, many taxpayers pay a much higher percentage.

Still, politicians like Mr. Sanders continue to get votes by convincing us that taxes are too low. Of course, they do so by telling people that those taxes will be paid by somebody else.

Related:

Tony Nitti, Bernie Sanders Releases Tax Plan, Nation’s Rich Recoil In Horror. “Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders took a break from yelling at clouds long enough to release his tax plan today, and it’s, how should I put this…aggressive.”

Me, The rich guy can’t pick up the tab.

 

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Kyle Pomerleau, Congressman Nunes Introduces Business Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog):

Details of the plan:

-Cutting the corporate income tax to 25 percent;

-Limiting the top tax rate on non-corporate business income to 25 percent;

-Allowing businesses to deduct investment costs when they occur (full expensing);

 

-Eliminating most business tax credits and many deductions;

 

-Moving to a territorial tax system like most developed nations;

 

-No longer letting nonfinancial businesses deduct interest costs but no longer taxing them on interest receipts;

 

-Applying the same tax-rate limitation to individuals’ interest income as now applies to their capital gains and dividend income; and

 

-Eliminating the individual and corporate alternative minimum taxes (AMTs).

This would be a big improvement.

 

Russ Fox, Those “Extra Services” Were Great for Business. A massage business.

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Wrap-up Post

Robert D. Flach, COME IN TO THE OFFICE AND WALK OUT WITH CASH!

Kay Bell, Finding a charity to volunteer with on MLK Day 2016

Jack Townsend, Prosecuting Corporate Employees and Officers, with Focus on Swiss Banks. “Corporations cannot go to jail; individuals can.”

Jim Maule, Birthdays in the Tax Law (and Obituaries?).

Actually, the tax law uses the phrases “attain the age of” and “attain age” far more often that its occasional use of the word “birthday” but few of us talk about “attaining an age” when we are conversing about the anniversaries of our arrival on the planet.

When was the last time you ever said “attain” out loud?

Robert Wood, IRS Lax Controls Enable Targeting Based On Religion + Politics, Claims Report

 

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Len Burman, Ted Cruz’s Business Flat Tax is a VAT. “It’s also important to point out—as Cruz did in the debate—that his plan also repeals the payroll and corporate income tax.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 982Day 983Day 984.

Tax Justice Blog, Obama Policies Curbed Tax Break for 400 Richest Americans; Choice of Next President Will Reverse or Continue This Shift. Once again Tax Justice Blog entirely misses the point that it’s never the same 400 people who pay tax in any given year.

Career Corner. Let’s Review: Side Gigs, Email, Lunches and Logos (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/13/16: Considering the “small partnership exception.” And lots more!

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 by Joe Kristan
Today in Helsinki. Photo: Sini Hämäläinen

Today in Helsinki. Photo: Sini Hämäläinen

Small partnerships, big risks. A venerable voice in Iowa tax, Neil Harl, has for some time touted the “small partnership exception” as a way for partnerships with 10 or fewer members to avoid filing tax returns, and the operation of the partnership rules in general. A version of it appeared at Tax Analysts yesterday ($link), where he argues that a tax case defeat for a non-filing small partnership does not call his argument into question. Non-subscribers can read his basic argument here.

I find it unconvincing as a legal matter. Dr. Harl’s argument is that a provision that applies by its terms to the Code subchapter covering how partnership examinations are conducted (“For purposes of this subchapter,” meaning Chapter 63, Subchaper C) creates a blanket exemption to the filing requirement imposed in a different part of the code (Chapter 61, Subchapter A). Time has resolved the argument after 2017 as the Code section Dr. Harl relies on has been repealed effective in 2018.

1065 2015 cornerStill, even assuming Dr. Harl is correct on the law, he is unconvincing on the practicalities. Dr. Harl himself says that partnership failure to file penalties are proper unless “all partners have fully reported their shares of the income, deductions, and credits of the partnership on their timely filed income tax returns.”

That puts any managing partner at the mercy of his least responsible partner. There’s no practical way to force a partner to file. In a ten-person partnership, one non-filing partner triggers $1,950 in monthly failure to file penalties. That’s a big risk for a partner to take on just to save filing a return, and it was a losing bet for the South Dakota Battle Flats partnership.

Dr. Harl summarizes the advantages he sees in his approach (my emphasis):

The availability of the exception generally means a lower annual cost for income tax return preparation and freedom from the onerous penalties for failure to file a timely or complete Form 1065, not to mention the advantage of sidestepping the complex rules that apply to partnerships generally such as the depreciation rules applicable to partnerships after transfer of depreciable assets to the partnership.

The Battle Flats case disposes of the “freedom from onerous penalties” bit. As far as return prep costs, Dr Harl himself notes that the income of a small partnership has to be reported somehow:

So how do the small partnerships report their income? The statute is not clear on that point but the definition of “partner” implies that each partner is to take into account the “partnership items” which would include income, gains, losses and credits. Those items would be reported on Schedule C, F or E as would be appropriate for that partner.

That means the partnership has to provide each partner with the income from operations sorted in a way that enables the partner to properly file their 1040s. That’s exactly what Form 1065 and its Schedule K-1 do. Either you prepare a homemade document to do what the K-1 does, or you do a K-1. It’s hard to see why it’s cheaper to design a homemade K-1 than to use the one the IRS provides.

Tax pro Chris Hesse responds to Dr. Harl in the comments to his Tax Analysts piece:

Readers who carefully read Rev. Proc. 84-35 will conclude that Dr. Harl’s position is not sustainable. Those who follow Dr. Harl’s path will find themselves not only subject to the penalties for late filing, but incurring the professional costs of defending a losing argument. Advisors should counsel that it is less costly to comply.

I think that’s correct.  Even if you are convinced that Dr. Harl has the law right, I don’t see why it makes sense for a partnership to place its tax compliance, and the risk of severe non-filing penalties, in the hands of its least responsible partner.

Related: Roger McEowen, IRS Guidance on Reasonable Cause Exception to Penalties for Failure to File Partnership Return Upheld.

 

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Kristine Tidgren, DMWW Court Certifies Questions to Iowa Supreme Court (AgDocket). Developments in the Des Moines Water Works environmental lawsuit against upstream farming counties.

William Perez, New Rules for Deducting Repairs and Maintenance

Tony Nitti, IRS Continues To Whipsaw Taxpayers: Sales Of Land Generate Ordinary Income, Capital Loss

Robert D. Flach recaps THE FAMOUS STATE TAX SEMINAR last weekend in New Jersey.

 

Jim Maule offers Another Reason Tax Professors Don’t Need to Invent Hypotheticals. If you made up a case like the real one he discusses, everyone would say it was too far-fetched.

Question, answered:

Peter Reilly, How To Cash Your Powerball Winning Ticket Anonymously.

Robert Wood, Copy Hillary Clinton: Transfer Powerball Tickets Now Before Win, Avoid Taxes.

TaxGrrrl liveblogged the State of the Union. State Of The Union 2016 – LIVE. That’s dedication.

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David Brunori, Montana’s School Credit Is Unconstitutional, but Not for Obvious Reasons (Tax Analysts)

Joseph Henchman, Pretend You Won the Powerball. What Taxes Do You Owe? (Tax Policy Blog).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 979

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Hikes, Relief, Dedication, and Resurrection. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers State of the Union tax talk, campaign tax proposals, and lots more.

 

Career Corner: Let’s Get Worked Up About: Email Pet Peeves (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Hey, Caleb sent me one yesterday!

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Tax Roundup, 1/7/16: Taxpayer Advocate report describes IRS “pay to play” plans. And: IRS nixes plan to make charities collect tax ID numbers.

Thursday, January 7th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20150107-2Have you heard about the IRS “Future State Plan?” Or “CONOPS?” Me neither.

The latest annual Taxpayer Advocate Report to Congress is the first I’ve heard about this mostly-secret IRS initiative. The report explains (my emphasis):

During the past year-and-a-half, the IRS has devoted significant resources to creating a “future state” plan that details how the agency will operate in five years. The plan is explained and developed in a document known as a Concept of Operations (CONOPS). There are many positive components of the plan, including the goal of creating online taxpayer accounts through which taxpayers will be able to obtain information and interact with the IRS.

However, the CONOPS also raise significant questions and concerns. Implicit in the plan — and explicit in internal discussion — is an intention on the part of the IRS to substantially reduce telephone and face-to-face interaction with taxpayers. The IRS is hoping that taxpayer interactions with the IRS through online accounts will address a high percentage of taxpayer needs. It is also developing plans to enable third parties like tax return preparers and tax software companies to do more to assist taxpayers for whom online accounts are insufficient — an approach that will increase compliance costs for millions of taxpayers.

Nina Olson, Taxpayer Advocate

Nina Olson, Taxpayer Advocate

The IRS, as usual, is cooking this all up in secret, with only well-connected insiders in on the plan. Tax Analysts describes the report ($link):

A major concern is the aura of secrecy around the CONOPS documents. Despite the fact that the IRS is conducting internal discussions about its “future state” plans, Olson’s report says the Service has repeatedly declared CONOPS data elements and documents “official use only” and not for public dissemination. “Never before has the IRS made this assertion in so many instances,” the TAS report says. One area where the IRS has shared its CONOPS plans — the Large Business and International Division — caters to a group of taxpayers that can afford to “pay to play,” the TAS said, while future service plans remain under wraps for the roughly 150 million individual taxpayers and 54 million small business taxpayers.

If you look at it from the viewpoint of most taxpayers, this plan seems incomprehensible. But if you believe that the IRS is really trying to serve the interests of the national tax prep franchise outfits, national accounting firms, and the biggest law firms, it completely makes sense.  It actually fits in well with the IRS preparer regulation efforts to eliminate competition for the national tax prep firms — a regulation effort that the Taxpayer Advocate still regrettably and unwisely supports. Those who are drafting the new taxpayer service labyrinth can be expected get nice raises by going out into the tax industry to help their new employers navigate through it.

Related: Leslie Book, The National Taxpayer Releases Annual Report to Congress (Procedurally Taxing); Accounting Today, Taxpayer Advocate Concerned about IRS Plans for ‘Pay to Play’ Taxpayer Service,

 

Another IRS screw-up averted. I just received a Tax Analysts breaking news email saying:

The IRS has withdrawn proposed regulations that would implement the statutory exception to the contemporaneous written acknowledgement requirement for substantiating charitable contribution deductions of $250 or more.

These rules would have required donors to provide charities with their social security numbers — a horrible idea in the identity theft era. Expect the IRS to try to sneak them back in when they think people aren’t looking.

 

Nicole Kaeding, American Migration in 2015 (Tax Policy Blog).
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Four of the ten states with the most inbound migration have no personal income tax. Most of the states where the population is fleeing have very hign income taxes, including Illlinois, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. To be fair, high-tax Vermont seems to be attracting people, probably from dysfunctional New York.

This won’t help inbound migration. Illinois Announces Plans To Delay Tax Refunds Through March (TaxGrrrl)

Kay Bell, Delayed state tax refunds in Illinois, Louisiana & Utah because of tougher tax identity theft procedures. And because Illinois is broke.

Robert Wood, Obama Executive Action? Tax Hikes Could Be Next. “President Obama has stretched executive authority with immigration and gun law changes. And he is “very interested” in executive action on taxes too.”

Jack Townsend, Government Asserts Wylys’ Fraud in Bankruptcy Court. It’s a multibillion dollar tax case involving offshore trusts and a “blame the tax pro” defense. Mr. Townsend goes deep on the cases being made by both sides.

Paul Neiffer, “BIG” Might Not Be a Problem. Paul discusses the now-permanent five year “recognition period” for S corporation built-in gains.

William Perez lists Tax Deadlines for 2016

Robert D. Flach posts MY ANNUAL POST FOR JOURNALISTS AND BLOGGERS, reminding us all that he doesn’t care for conflating “tax professional” with “CPA.”

Peter Reilly, No Foreign Income Tax Exclusion For Army Civilian In Afghanistan

Tony Nitti, Love In The 21st Century: Bad Breakup Leads To Form 1099, Lawsuit. I’m not a trained relationship professional, but I think its safe to observe that issuing a 1099 to your ex-girlfriend burns all the bridges.

 

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Megan McArdle, Closing Tax ‘Loopholes’ Would Choke the Middle Class. “If you want to pay for any major new program by “closing the loopholes,” it is these loopholes that you will need to close, because the amount of revenue raised by, say, doing away with carried interest treatment of sweat equity partnership stakes works out to a rounding error on the federal budget.”

David Brunori, Taxing Guns Is Just Wrong (Tax Analysts Blog). “The fact is that a gun tax will have no effect on gun violence.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 973. A dispatch from the denialist front.

 

News from the Profession. #BusySeason Has Arrived (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/6/16: Oh, I meant that other year. And: IRS won’t rule on truck rehab “glider kits.”

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20160106-1Better increase their budget. The IRS provides a special “Identity Protection Personal Identification Number,” or “IP-PIN,” to identity theft victims to help them with future tax filings. The IP-PIN lets them tell the IRS that the return being filed is being filed by the real taxpayers, rather than by some grifter in Tampa (Florida) or St. Petersburg (Russia).

Now, after the IRS has already screwed up things for innocent taxpayers by sending their refunds to thieves, they have added insult to the injury. TaxGrrrl reports IRS Sends IP PIN Letters With Wrong Tax Year, Stresses It Will Not Affect Returns Filed In 2016.

Letters sending out IP PINs for the 2016 filing season (for the 2015 tax year) were mailed out at the end of December 2015 (but dated January 4, 2016) marked with the incorrect year. The letter, also referred to as a CP01A Notice, incorrectly indicates the IP PIN issued is to be used for filing your 2014 tax return when the number is actually to be used for your 2015 tax return. 

The IRS isn’t sending correction letters.

The funny thing: the IRS gets really mad if impatient taxpayers use forms for the wrong year and cross off the year at the top of the form, writing in the right year. Do as we say, not as we do…

Related:

IRS Notice on Your Identity Protection PIN.

Russ Fox, IRS Errs on Identity Theft PIN Letters. “One would think that the IRS proofed important letters and notices before they’re finalized.”

 

ice truck“Glider kit” guidance grounded. The IRS will decline to issue rulings on whether the excise tax on over-the-road tractors applies when a new cab, chassis, frame and axle — a “glider kit” is applied to an old engine and power train. Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Section 4052(f)(1) provides that if a modification to the chassis or body doesn’t exceed 75 percent of the retail price of a comparable new chassis or body, then it won’t incur the section 4051 tax. The IRS decided that it will not rule on whether a modification using a glider kit qualifies for the 75 percent exception under section 4052(f)(1).

A more recent legal memorandum (ILM 201403014) makes clear that the IRS has evolved its thinking on the issue, determining that when an outfitter combines an old engine and transmission with a new cab, chassis frame, and axles, the excise tax applies and the exception isn’t applicable. It also explains that taxpayers must include a 4 percent markup in the price of the refurbished truck for purposes of computing the tax, minus the value of used components if they’re customer provided.

The article adds:

The Iowa Motor Truck Association, in an alert (http://goo.gl/IXnYaS) issued to its members following the release of ILM 201403014, also warned that “the memo probably indicates that IRS auditors will now be more aggressive about glider-kit transactions, and that at least some transactions that have been regarded as exempt may turn out not to be.”

This is obviously a big deal to dealers and their customers. It’s terrible that the IRS is making this sort of policy by internal memos rather than through published guidance, leaving taxpayers hanging.

 

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Megan McArdle has some wise thoughts on the tax law in Why We Fear the IRS (my emphasis):

Legal complexity does not accumulate linearly; it accumulates exponentially. When you have one law on the books, and you add a second, the new law may (or may not) have some unexpected interaction with the old law. This would be one complexity point for regulators to manage. But with each new law, the number of potential interactions grows quickly, until it passes the ability of any layman to grasp it (and eventually, surpasses the professionals as well, which is why they’re increasingly specialized in narrow areas). We are long past that point with the tax code.

That’s a point universally ignored by politicians who use the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. A Swiss Army Knife the size of a railcar is interesting, but it’s not much good as a knife.

Her post also covers important ground on why the tax law has gotten so bad. Recommended.

 

Paul Neiffer, Is Section 179 a Ticking Tax Time Bomb?. The ability to deduct up to $500,000 in new equipment may have unintended consequences:

On the face, this sounds like a great tax deduction for farmers, however, with continued low commodity prices, might this be a ticking tax time bomb for many farmers.  This is due to a farmer having to liquidate some farm equipment due to the bank requiring additional liquidity be put into the farm operation or perhaps the farmer has lost some ground and no longer needs the equipment.   This sale of equipment causes the Section 179 to be “recaptured” as ordinary income and since the farmer probably does not have sufficient liquidity to prepay additional farm expenses, causes the farmer to be in a high tax bracket.  This leads to a large tax bill which then requires the farmer to sell additional equipment or grain to cover the tax bill.  This is especially harsh when the equipment was financed 100%.

In theory, the tax savings from the original deduction should be available to cover that tax bill, but if you are having to liquidate to pay the bank, the savings have already been spent on other things.

 

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Robert D. Flach, THE PATH ACT OF 2015 AND TAX PLANNING FOR 2016

William Perez, What Is the Alternative Minimum Tax? “Essentially, this is a tax based on a person’s adjusted gross income if they aren’t itemizers.”

Kay Bell, Seattle gun & ammo taxes drive gun seller out of town.  The criminals, they get to stay.

Jason Dinesen, What is Form 1023-EZ? “Form 1023-EZ is a new IRS form used by some not-for-profits to apply for tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) organization.”

Jim Maule, Is This Proposed Tax Necessary or Even Sensible?:

Several days ago, in a New York Times editorial, Max Frankel proposed “a relatively simple new tax – officially called a user fee – “ based on “the grandeur of each lofty view” from the apartments being built in very tall luxury skyscrapers along the southern edge of Central Park. He suggested it could informally be called a “window tax” and he suggested various dollar amounts for windows and doors based on height, the existence or absence of obstructions, and the nature of what can be seen.

Gee, what could go wrong? A little history shows some problems with Mr. Frankel’s proposal:

The window tax was a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. It was a significant social, cultural, and architectural force in England, France and Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries. To avoid the tax some houses from the period can be seen to have bricked-up window-spaces (ready to be glazed or reglazed at a later date).

Prof. Maule rightly criticizes the proposal.

 

Robert Wood, As Offshore Banks Agree To U.S. Tax Evasion Deal, Account Holders Must Deal With IRS. Betting on foreign bank secrecy is a bet against the odds.

Keith Fogg, Fulfilling the Requirements of Section 6751 When the IRS Imposes a Penalty (Procedurally Taxing). “In Legg v. Commissioner, the Tax Court issued a division opinion concerning this little known provision that serves as a gatekeeper to the assertion of many penalties.”

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Sorts Out Basis On Russian Fast Food Merger. “The IRS can argue that what you said you did – the form – is not what actually happened – the substance.  You can’t generally do that yourself, because you got to choose the form, so you are stuck with it.”

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Renu Zaretsky, The Case of Tax Scams, Private Debt Collectors, and Wishful Thinking (TaxVox). “There is one way Congress could make tax compliance and collection easier and tax avoidance harder, while improving the public’s perception of the IRS. It could simplify the tax code. Unfortunately, that’s a call Congress has not chosen to make.”

Stephen J. Entin, Michael Schuyler, Are Dividend Taxes Harmless? Don’t Bet On It!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 972

 

Career Corner. New Year’s Resolutions That Will Make Busy Season Less Awful (Leona May, Going Concern). It’s hard to argue with “Stop stealing co-workers’ lunches”

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/5/16: Start your year-end planning today! And: private tax audits for fun and profit!

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1182Welcome to 2016. We’ve just finished another round of 2015 year-end planning. It’s too soon for most of us to be working on our 2015 filings, given the need for 1099s, W-2s, K-1s, etc. But it is a good time to start getting things in order for 2016.

Too many people want to know the last day they can do something for their tax planning. It’s better to worry about the first day to do something. Many tax moves are best done at the beginning of the year. If you fund a tax-deferred account at the beginning of the year, you start sheltering the investment income from taxes 15 1/2 months sooner than somebody who waits until the end of the year.

Here are a few 2016 tax planning moves you can make right now:

Fund an IRA. You can fund a 2016 IRA to the extent of the lesser of your 2016 earned income or $5,500 – or $6,500 if you are going to be 50 years old by year-end. You don’t have to wait until you have earned that $5,500 or $6,500; if you are still working, you’ll get there. And don’t forget a spousal IRA, same limits.

Health Savings Accounts for 2016 can be funded up to $6,750, or $7,750 if you will reach age 55 by year-end.

A 55 year-old working couple with a high-deductible health plan can stash $20,750 in tax-deferred IRAs and HSAs today and shift the earnings on those funds to the non-taxable category now, instead of waiting until April 2017. Not only do they start their tax savings right away, but they aren’t tempted to spend that money between now and then.

While Section 529 plans can’t generate deductions like HSAs and traditional IRAs, they do shelter investment earnings like HSAs and IRAs, and they have more flexible contribution limits. The IRS explains:

Contributions can not exceed the amount necessary to provide for the qualified education expenses of the beneficiary. If you contribute to a 529 plan, however, be aware that there may be gift tax consequences if your contributions, plus any other gifts, to a particular beneficiary exceed $14,000 during the year.

Taxpayers filing in Iowa can deduct their contributions to the College Savings Iowa Section 529 plan up to $3,188 per beneficiary, per donor on their Iowa income tax return. A married couple funding plans for their two children can therefore deduct up to $12,752 in 2016 CSI contributions.

So start that 2016 year-end planning right away!

 

Tax Analysts reports ($link) that a Chicago Whistleblower Has Filed 938 FCA Tax Cases, Attorney Says. It quotes the director of the Illinois Department of Revenue, Connie Beard, talking about False Claims Act lawsuit trolling:

Beard told the lawmakers that the suits “are not true whistleblower lawsuits,” wherein an insider who has knowledge of a company’s fraudulent behavior seeks to report it to the state. “These are lawsuits that simply accuse business taxpayers, big and small, of incorrectly collecting and reporting tax,” she said.

As if Illinois wasn’t hopeless enough.

 

nytchart20151229-7Scott Hodge, IRS “Fortunate 400” Report Shows Evidence of Significant Income Shifting to Avoid Fiscal Cliff Tax Rate Hikes (Tax Policy blog). They show how taxpayers shifted income to beat the 2013 tax hikes:

Finally, we get to the bottom line and can see that taxable income declined 23 percent in 2013 to $85 billion from $111 billion in 2012.

So what explains this? Well, the more interesting narrative to come out of the IRS report is the evidence of income shifting in 2012 as the 400 wealthiest taxpayers anticipated the eventual tax increases on personal and investment income that would result from the fiscal cliff tax legislation.

Nearly all the major sources of income for these 400 taxpayers were up significantly in 2012 compared to 2011, as they pulled income from the future into a lower-tax year…

The lesson here is that high-income taxpayers have considerable flexibility as to how and when they report income. Headlines reporting that the rich are paying higher average tax rates as a result of the fiscal cliff deal don’t really tell the whole story.

People aren’t stupid. If they have a choice between recognizing income in a low-tax or a high-tax year, a sensible person picks the low-tax one. As the biggest source of income of the “400” is capital gains, there was a lot of pressure to beat the 2013 rate hikes from 15% to 23.8%.

Related coverage here.

 

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Robert D. Flach gets 2016 started with a bang Buzz! A tremendous link fest to start they year.

William Perez, How Soon Can We Begin Filing Tax Returns?

Andrew Mitchel, Flowchart – Section 267(a)(2) & (3) Related Party Matching Rules (International Tax Blog). Andrew’s charts are a wonderful resource.

Annette NellenTop Ten Items of Tax Policy Interest for 2015 – #10. The “gig economy.”

Kay Bell, 2016’s first tax tip: Filing season starts on Jan. 19

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: LLC. “LLCs provide legal protection much like a corporation, but LLCs are easier to form and are generally easier to administer.”

Jack Townsend, Judge Criticizes Prosecutor’s Use of Language Directing Secrecy for Receipt of Grand Jury Subpoena. “I hope that all readers of this blog know that grand jury proceedings are generally secret and the grand jurors and government actors in the process must keep them secret.  FRCrP 6(e)(2), here.  But the obligation of secrecy is not imposed on witnesses before the grand jury.”

Jim Maule, Taking (Tax Breaks) Without Giving (What Was Promised). “Too many tax breaks are handed out in exchange for promises by the recipients to do something beneficial for the community at large.” Once the politicians issue the press release and cut the ribbon, they have what they want, and they don’t much care what happens next.

Peter Reilly, Family Partnership Valuation Discounts Approved By Tax Court. A big year-end Tax Court case is discussed.

Leslie Book, NY Times Article Today Highlights Why People Pay Taxes as Well as Some of My Favorite PT Posts of 2015 (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, 2016 Brings IRS Power Over Passports, Use Of Private Debt Collectors

TaxGrrrl, 100 Things You Absolutely Need To Know About Money Before You’re 35

Tony Nitti, Ben Carson Releases Tax Plan, Promises End To Mortgage Interest, Charitable Contribution Deductions.

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 967Day 968Day 969Day 970Day 971.

Howard Gleckman, What Can Congress and President Obama Accomplish in 2016? Pray they don’t define “accomplish” the same way.

2015 top news from the profession. Going Concern Editor’s Picks for 2015: Relationships at Work, Bad Auditing, Women in Accounting and More (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

Russ Fox, My Day on Jury Duty. Congratulations to Russ on getting it out of the way January 4.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/23/15: The wisdom, or not, of paying taxes by year-end. And: Deep thoughts at Think Progress.

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

dimeIs it wise to prepay deductible taxes? Paying 4th quarter estimated taxes before December 31 is a standard piece of the year-end tax planning toolkit. Sometimes taxpayers go further and pay in December all of their taxes that would be due in the following April. Is it wise to pay all of your taxes 3 1/2 months early to move a deduction up a year?

The first question you have to answer, with regard to payments of state and local taxes deductible on your federal return, is whether you will be paying alternative minimum tax this year or next year. For example, a taxpayer with an unusual lump of income this year who waits until next year to pay state taxes may trigger AMT next year, wasting those state tax deductions. On the other side of the coin, taxpayers who are in AMT this year get no value from prepaying deductible taxes, so they might as well put the money to work until the taxes are due.

If the taxes are just as deductible in either year, it’s a time value of money question. What is the present value of spending a dollar now to get a fraction of that back as a tax benefit a year earlier? I’ve run some numbers, using the top Iowa marginal tax rate and the rates at the different federal brackets:

2015 year-end payments pv2

This shows a benefit at all brackets from prepaying estimates due in January, but prepaying taxes due in April only makes sense at higher brackets, and it never works to prepay September property taxes in the prior year if AMT is not a factor.

This is another installment of our 2015 year-end planning tips series

 

Think Progress is an openly partisan agitation outfit, so we shouldn’t expect it to know much about taxes. Still, it is a regular source of talking points for a certain breed of politicians who promise to spend everything on everyone, all to be paid for by someone else. That makes it worthwhile to occasionally correct it for saying something half-baked like this (my emphasis):

There may be some truth to the, as no one has accused Apple of doing anything illegal. But while Cook has advocated for lowering the corporate tax rate and closing loopholes, corporate taxes are already a shrinking portion of the government’s revenue, getting replaced instead by payroll taxes paid by working people.

Yes, corporate taxes are a shrinking portion of government revenue. But it’s not because the corporate tax law has suddenly become lax. It’s because most businesses are no longer taxable as corporations in the first place.

entity forms chart

Source: Tax Foundation

The 1986 tax reforms made it sensible for most closely-held businesses to be partnerships or S corporations. Unlike C corporations, which pay corporation taxes, these “pass-through entities” don’t pay taxes; instead, the income is reported on their owners’ 1040s.

Think Progress says the C corporation taxes are being replaced by “payroll taxes on working people.” That’s demonstrably wrong. C corporation taxes are being supplanted by business taxes paid on 1040s, which are generally paid at high tax brackets. Perhaps Think Progress has developed a strange new respect for hard-working high-bracket individuals.

Tax foundation Distribution of Federal Taxes in 2014

Chart Courtesy Tax Foundation

Cracking down on C corporations, as Think Progress advocates, will do nothing but confirm the trend away from C corporation taxation. I suppose then they’ll just continue the beatings until morale improves.

Related: Individual Tax Rates Also Impact Business Activity Due to High Number of Pass-Throughs (Scott Hodge, Alex Raut)

 

WOWT.com, Former Omaha IRS Agent Arrested for Tax Fraud Scheme. And yet we are told that these people need to regulate preparers to stop tax fraud.

 

Jared Walczak, States Lag Behind Federal Government on Small Business Expensing (Tax Policy Blog). “Forty-five states and the District of Columbia allow first-year expensing of small business capital investment under Section 179. Of those, thirty-four states are in conformity with the now-permanent $500,000 federal expensing level.”

William Perez, How Do You Claim a Sales Tax Deduction on Your Federal Taxes?

Annette Nellen, Top Ten Items of Tax Policy Interest for 2015 – #3. Thoughts on the Quill decision.

Kay Bell, Home energy tax breaks are extended, just in time for the arrival of, for many, an unusually warm winter

Jack Townsend, U.S. Taxpayer Seeks Declaratory Judgment that Goevernment Must Prove Willfulness for the FBAR Willful Penalty by Clear and Convincing Evidence. Given the stakes, it seems only fair, but the IRS prefers to be able to cause financial ruin with cloudy and unconvincing evidence.

 

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Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Taxpayer Identity Theft, Part 2

Jim Maule asks Is the Soda Tax a Revenue Grab or a Worthwhile Health Benefit? I say its a revenue grab combined with moral preening.

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for November (Procedurally Taxing). A roundup of tax procedure headlines.

Robert Wood, 5 Things To Know About Year-End’s Massive Tax Bill

TaxGrrrl, Real Housewife Teresa Giudice Released From Federal Prison

Tony Nitti, Moving? Don’t Forget The Tax Deduction. “At 23 years old I packed up my life, and in a move made popular by members of the witness protection program, fled New Jersey for the quiet of the Colorado mountains.”

Robert D. Flach talks about priorities in A YEAR-END TAX QUESTION FROM A CLIENT

 

Cheer up! Social Security is Still Going Broke (Arnold Kling)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 958

Howard Gleckman, Trump Would Slash Taxes for the Top 0.1 Percent By An Average of $1.3 Million, Add Nearly $10 Trillion to the Debt (TaxVox)

 

Thanks a bunch, Prof. Avi-Yonah. CBS News:  Vanguard Investors, Your Fund Fees Could Quadruple If Michigan Tax Prof Reuven Avi-Yonah Is Right (TaxProf). A great example of how with a little corporation-bashing, busybody do-gooders would screw millions of small investors.

 

Holiday Giving News from the Profession. This Flask-Calculator Is the Perfect Gift for the Accountant Who Drinks Everything (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/22/15: If you want a 2015 qualified plan, time to fly! And lots more.

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
The view from Tax Update world headquaters yesterday.

The view from Tax Update world headquaters yesterday.

10 days to get a qualified plan in place. Some of the best deductions for sole proprietors and one-owner corporations are found in the tax law’s “qualified plan” rules. A payment to a qualified pension or profit-sharing plan is deductible now, grows tax free, and is only taxable on retirement. For one-employee companies, it’s a deduction for taking money from one pocket and putting it in another.

One of the best of these opportunities is the “Solo 401(k),” which allows a deduction of up to $53,000 for contributions to a solo owner-employee’s retirement plan. But there’s one little catch: the plan has to be in place by December 31 of this year to allow a 2015 deduction.

If that sort of deduction sounds attractive, you should consult a qualified plan professional. Some brokerage houses can steer you the right way, as can the Vanguard mutual fund company.

Remember, though, that once money is in a qualified plan, expect it to stay there. Early withdrawals face a 10% penalty, as well as income tax liability. 401(k) plans generally can’t be investors in or lenders to the plan owner’s business. There are annual compliance costs that inevitably reduce the tax benefits. Still, for an annual deduction that size, some inconvenience can be tolerated.

This is the second installment of our 2015 year-end planning tips series. Collect them all!

 

Kay Bell, Upcoming filing season will start on time: Jan. 19, 2016. Almost none of my clients are ready by then. While I’m glad that the season isn’t delayed by a failure to pass an extender bill, I think identity theft requires a later start to issuing tax refunds. They shouldn’t be processed until W-2 and 1099 information is in the IRS system – preferably with special W-2 codes like those the IRS is experimenting with this season to catch fraudulent claims. 

Of course, that means the government will sit on overpayments longer. That should be addressed by changing the “I got a big refund!” culture. That could be done by lowering to 75% the amount of taxes that have to be paid in by April 15 to avoid a penalty and by changing the withholding tables to make refunds less likely.

 

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Robert D. Flach comes through with a “meaty” Christmas Week Buzz, with lots of Extender bill discussion and a hint of perhaps the most unusual Christmas Eve tradition ever.

Tony Nitti, Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015: #4 – Who Can Qualify As A Real Estate Pro?

Russ Fox, Are Tips (Gratuities) at the Poker Table Deductible? “As long as the tip is reasonable, it’s clear that a professional poker player can deduct the tip as a business expense.” You’ll have to read the post to see whether it works for amateurs.

William Perez, All About the Earned Income Tax Credit. “The easiest way to find out if you qualify for the earned income credit is to use an application found on the IRS Web site called the EITC Assistant.”

Andrew Mitchel offers a True / False Quiz on FAST Act Passport Revocation Provisions

Hank Stern, Major O’Care Disappointment (Insureblog). “Now that the (disastrous) first phase of the 2016 Open Enrollment season is behind us, lets’ take a look at what a huge disappointment it was.”

Carlton Smith, Tilden v. Comm’r: Postal Service Tracking Data Determines Timeliness of Tax Court Petition (Procedurally Taxing)

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2015: PACT For Animals

 

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Scott Greenberg, Fact-checking Hillary Clinton on Millionaires’ Taxes (Tax Policy Blog). “There are very few millionaires in the U.S. that pay “10 percent to nothing” in taxes.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 957. Today’s link goes to a Washington Post story that says “There is no love lost between Republicans in Congress and the Internal Revenue Service, whether it’s their dislike for the tax code, the current tax commissioner or their fury at the agency’s treatment a few years ago of conservative groups.” If you want to see increases in the IRS budget, you want Commissioner Koskinen to resign.

Howard Gleckman presents The TaxVox Lump of Coal Awards for the Ten Worst Tax Ideas of 2015. While I might quibble with one or two of the choices, it’s a strong list. For example:

8. Tax credits for what ails you. Hillary Clinton has taken a page out of Bill Clinton’s fiscal playbook: Identify a kitchen table problem and propose a modest tax subsidy to relieve the pain. She has tax credits for families burdened by the high costs of education, caring for aging parents, and high medical costs. And she’s proposed another credit to encourage employers to give workers a stake in their companies. My TPC colleague Gene Steuerle has a name for this: tax deform.

It’s more than a federal problem, for sure.

 

Matt Gardner, What Apple’s Tim Cook Gets Wrong About Its Tax Avoidance (Tax Justice Blog). Mr. Cook has the temerity to think that he has a duty to shareholders, instead of to grasping politicians.

 

Career Corner (or, News from the Profession). Former EY Employee Who Liked Secretly Filming People in the Bathroom Given Four Years to Think About His Choices (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/21/15: Winter’s here, along with a new tax law. Fixed-asset planning time!

Monday, December 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20151211-1It’s the darkest day of the year, but with the signing of the Extender Bill, H.R. 2029, we are no longer in the dark for year-end fixed asset tax planning. The “PATH” act has some important fixed-asset provisions:

A permanent (and inflation-indexed) $500,000 annual limit for Section 179 deductions. This provision lets qualifying taxpayers deduct currently fixed asset costs that would otherwise have to be capitalized and depreciated over multiple years.

“Bonus Depreciation” is extended through 2019. This provision allows taxpayers to deduct 50% of the cost of depreciable property in the first depreciable year, with the remaining cost depreciated over the property’s normal tax life. Unlike Section 179, it cannot be taken for used property, but unlike Section 179, it can be used to generate net operating losses.

-15-year depreciation is made permanent for “Qualified Leasehold Improvement Property , Qualified Restaurant Buildings and Improvements, and Qualified Retail Improvements. These rules enable taxpayers to depreciate these items over 15 years, rather than the usual 39 year life for commercial buildings.

In theory, this provides a great opportunity to knock down your 2015 tax bill with last-minute purchases of fixed assets. But there’s a catch. It’s not enough to buy and pay for new fixed assets to deduct them this year. They also have to be “placed in service” by year end. From the IRS publication on depreciation:

You place property in service when it is ready and available for a specific use, whether in a business activity, an income-producing activity, a tax-exempt activity, or a personal activity. Even if you are not using the property, it is in service when it is ready and available for its specific use.

Example 1.

Donald Steep bought a machine for his business. The machine was delivered last year. However, it was not installed and operational until this year. It is considered placed in service this year. If the machine had been ready and available for use when it was delivered, it would be considered placed in service last year even if it was not actually used until this year.

It’s not enough to have a new machine in crates on the loading dock. It has to be set up and ready to go. If you are buying a farm building, having it in pieces waiting for assembly doesn’t get you there.

That’s why year-end purchase of vehicles and farm equipment are popular. Once they arrive, they are pretty much ready to go. But you have to actually take delivery. “On order” isn’t enough. And remember that there are limits on the amount of Section 179 deduction and depreciation for passenger vehicles.

This is the first installment of our 2015 year-end planning tips series

 

6th avenue 1910

 

Russ Fox, Once Again, the IRS Doesn’t Start by Calling You:

My mother received a phone call on Saturday morning at 6 am from “Agent Smith” of the IRS demanding immediate payment of her taxes or she would find herself “thrown in jail.” Yes, the scamsters are still out there.

Now imagine you’re a senior citizen, and you get a phone call waking you up telling you to pay the IRS or you’ll find yourself in prison. It doesn’t take a genius to know that these scamsters can intimidate their victims.

Remember, if the caller demanding payment and saying the police are coming says he’s from IRS, he’s not from IRS.

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: Luring Pigs To Untimely Demise With Kool-Aid Counts As Material Participation. Sooey!

Robert D. Flach, THERE IS STILL TIME TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A “QCD” FOR 2015!

 

Paul Neiffer, Wind Energy Credits Extended and Phased-Out

Annette Nellen is counting down the “Top Ten Items of Tax Policy Interest for 2015.” #1 is non-tax bills used to change the tax law; #2 is IRS Funding Challenges. Anybody who is serious about improving IRS funding should be demanding the resignation of Commissioner Koskinen. Nobody’s going to trust him with extra funding.

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Insolvency and Canceled Debt: Make Sure You Can Prove It!

Jim Maule, Winning Back Your Tax Payments. “A reader made me aware of a recent suggestion that every taxpayer who files a timely and honest tax return, along with timely payment, be entered into a lottery.” It a way, that’s already true.

Leslie Book, Extenders Bill Gives IRS Additional Powers to Impose Penalties on Preparers and Disallow Refundable Credits (Procedurally Taxing). “Under the new law,  the accuracy-related penalty can be applied to any part of a reduced refundable credit subject to deficiency procedures.”

Peter Reilly, Bernie Sanders And The 90% Income Tax Rate That He Does Not Call For. ” Bernie Sanders wants us to have an economy like it was in the sixties and early seventies, when a summer of hard work could pay a year’s tuition and there were plenty of factory jobs that would support a family.” Maybe Bernie should reconsider his nostalgia.

Robert Wood, New Law Says Money For Wrongful Convictions Is Tax Free

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2015: Wounded Warrior Project

Kay Bell gets into the holiday spirit with Christmas gifts for tax and financial geeks

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 954Day 955Day 956. Coverage of the limits on IRS power included in the extender and omnibus legislation.

Alex Tabarrok, Subsidies Increase Tuition, Part XIV (Marginal Revolution):

Remarkably, so much of the subsidy is translated into higher tuition that enrollment doesn’t increase! What does happen is that students take on more debt, which many of them can’t pay.

So naturally the Extenders bill made the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent.

Jared Walczak, The Opening Salvo of 2016’s Soda Tax Battle (Tax Policy Blog). “Soda taxes are poised to be on the agenda in many cities in 2016, an effort spearheaded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.” I propose a tax on people who can’t mind their own business.

Renu Zaretsky, Promises, Hopes, and Complaints. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers Hillary promises, Nevada trolling for ribbon-cuttings with taxpayer money, and Apple’s CEO tax code thoughts: “He wants changes to the US tax code, which ‘was made for the Industrial Age, not the Digital Age… It’s backwards. It’s awful for America.'”

 

News from the Profession. Let’s Help Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen With His First Tweet (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/16/15: Extender deal! Permanent R&D, $500,000 Sec. 179 limit; Bonus depreciation extended through 2019.

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150915-1It looks like we get a year off the extender watch. While normal people were asleep, someone posted the text of an extender bill agreement on the House Ways and Means Committee website. The bill would permanently several key provisions that have been only enacted for a year or two at a time up until now. It extends a few other of the Lazarus provisions through 2020, and the rest through 2016.

House Speaker Ryan requires that a bill be available for three days prior to a vote, which means the House won’t send anything to the Senate until at least Friday. The Hill reports that it’s not clear how the votes will fall, but the bill is expected to pass.

The provisions to be enacted permanently, retroactive to the beginning of 2015, include, among others:

-The $500,000 Section 179 deduction limit

-The five-year “recognition period” for built-in gains taxes for C corporations electing to be S corporations.

-The ability of IRAs of taxpayers reaching age 70 1/2 to make $100,000 annual charitable contributions that will not be included in the IRA holders income.

-The 100% exclusion for gains on certain original issue C corporation stock held for five years.

-The research credit.

-The alternative deduction for state and local sales taxes.

Other provisions to be made permanent include special breaks for conservation easements, the deduction for state and local taxes, and the above-the-line deduction for out-of-pocket educator expenses.

To get the Democratic leadership to sign off on the deal, Republican negotiators agreed to make permanent the child tax credit, the enhanced earned income tax credit, and the “American Opportunity Tax Credit” for college costs.

50% bonus depreciation is to be extended from the beginning of 2015 through 2019, along with the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Also enacted through 2019 is the “New Markets Tax Credit,” a great geyser of corporate welfare.

Wind turbineI count 29 other provisions extended through 2016. The credits for biodiesel, renewable diesel, wind energy and residential solar are among these, along with the exclusion for qualified mortgage forgiveness and the above-the-line deduction for qualified college costs. These shorter-lived extenders also include special interest confections such as the 7-year depreciable life for speedways and special film expensing rules. I don’t know whether any extenders missed the cut.

There’s more than extenders here. This thing has 233 pages of stuff, much of which has nothing to do with extenders. A few of the major items I note at first glance are:

-A moratorium on the Obamacare medical device tax.

-Acceleration of the deadline for filing W-2s with the government to January 31, from the current February 28 deadline for paper copies and March 31 for electronic filers. This is to make it easier to match refund claims to W-2s before refunds are issued.

-Exclusion from income for payments made to wrongfully-incarcerated individuals.

-Allowing the purchase of computers for students as a qualified Section 529 plan expenditure, effective for 2015.

-A new charitable deduction for contributions to “agricultural research organizations.”

-Restrictions on tax-free REIT spin-offs.

-New restrictions on the ability to qualify as a tax-exempt small insurance company.

-Technical amendments to the new partnership audit rules.

Flickr image courtesy dave_7 under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy dave_7 under Creative Commons license.

While the tax bill doesn’t include a delay on the ACA “Cadillac tax” on high cost health insurance, The Hill reports that such a delay is included in the “Omnibus” spending bill that was also agreed to yesterday.

One item I hoped to find, but didn’t, is a provision providing relief to the ridiculous Obamacare $100 per day, per employee penalty for non-integrated health reimbursement plans. Also absent is any of the long-overdue penalty relief for non-willful compliance failures for owners of foreign bank accounts and foreign assets.

Failure remains an option. Something could happen in Congress to, or the President could stop the bill with a veto threat. Still, I expect the thing to pass as-is.

Other coverage:

Tony Nitti, Permanent R&D Credit, Increased Section 179 Expensing Highlight Tentative Deal On Tax Extenders.

Wall Street Journal, Congressional Leaders Reach Sweeping Deal on Tax and Spending Legislation

New York Times, House Reaches Accord on Spending and Tax Cuts

 

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Russ Fox, That’s A Lot of Roast Beef Sandwiches. “Nick’s Famous Roast Beef is in Beverly, Massachusetts. You can get a roast beef sandwich for $4.50 to $6.95, definitely a reasonable price. The Department of Justice is alleging that one reason the prices are low is that the owners skimmed $6 million from the business to lower their taxes.”

Robert D. Flach, YEAR-END AND HOLIDAY CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS – PART II

Paul Neiffer, Iowa Land Values Drop 3.9% from 2014

Kay Bell, GOP presidential candidates’ final 2015 debate tonight. Written yesterday, of course.

William Perez, How Dividends Are Taxed and Reported on Tax Returns

Robert Wood, Why You Should Never Ask, ‘Where’s My IRS Form 1099?’

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 951. The Wall Street Journal notes the risk of political targeting in the proposed IRS rules requiring donors to supply social security numbers.

Harvey Galper, Why You Should Pay Attention to the Presidential Candidates’ Tax Proposals (TaxVox)

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Tax Roundup, 12/8/15: Extenders, fourth and long. Also: No Iowa tax reform expected in 2016. And: Finland!

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150811-1Time to punt? Congressional taxwriters may be on the verge of giving up on passing any permanent extensions of the perpetually-expiring tax provisions this year. It is reported they may go for a two-year extension this week. Tax Analysts reports on comments from House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady ($link):

House Ways and Means Republicans are expected to introduce a two-year tax extenders bill as talks continue on a permanent extenders package without a clear solution, committee Chair Kevin Brady, R-Texas, told reporters on December 7.

“The clock is ticking. We are not going to let the extenders fail before we leave town,” Brady said. Republicans want to make sure they are ready this week with a “fallback” if an agreement isn’t reached between the parties, he said earlier.

They are scheduled to adjourn and leave town Friday, so things will need to happen quickly. The story reports that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch expects the House to pass a two-year extension.

They had been working to permanently extend at least the research credit and the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, but the Democratic negotiators insistence on expansion of the earned income credit as part of any deal may doom the permanent effort.

Some of the Lazarus provisions that died at the end of 2014 and need to be extended to be available for 2015 filings include:

-The $500,000 limit for Section 179 deductions for otherwise capitalized capital expenditures. The limit will otherwise be $25,000.

-The research credit.

-Bonus depreciation

-The ability to roll up to $100,000 from an IRA directly to charity without it going through the 1040 first.

The full list is here.

Failure, of course, remains an option. The pre-recess crush makes getting anything done uncertain. House Majority Leader McCarthy is quoted as saying that he has a “fear” that the extenders won’t pass. In that case, we may have a retroactive package passed in January, delaying filing season, or no extender bill at all.

Related: Kay Bell, Uncle Sam faces another shutdown if Congress doesn’t reach spending agreement by Dec. 11

 

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No Iowa Tax Reform again this year. That’s the word from the Iowa Taxpayers Association annual legislative forum, reports the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier:

At the Iowa Taxpayers Association’s annual legislative leadership forum, held Friday at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Democratic and Republican leaders said there is not sufficient state revenue to support new tax breaks or policy changes that would remove money from the budget pie.

“Obviously, when you’re working on tight budget margins, the opportunity for tax reform becomes increasingly difficult,” said Rep. Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights, the new House Majority Leader.

“I’m just going to be very frank: I don’t see this session producing any tax policy changes,” Jochum said. “In terms of any big, new policy changes in taxes … I truly do not see any of that happening.”

That’s no surprise. The continuing split of control between the parties, the resulting ability of either side to veto any tax reform efforts, and seemingly irreconcilable views on tax policy would probably doom any tax reform effort regardless of the budget numbers. The best we can hope is that work continues behind the scenes for when the political climate for tax reform improves. The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan is ready whenever they are.

 

buzz20150804Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz, with links including discussion of the futility of regulating the law-abiding to stop the crooks, a lesson with broad application.

Paul Neiffer, Additional De-Minimis Election Update. “Therefore, if a sole proprietor farmer or rancher purchases a large amount of assets that individually cost less than $2,500 AND these assets are likely to appreciate in value, it may be better to not make the de-minimis election for that year.”

Tony Nitti, Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015: #5- The Role Partnership Liabilities In Foreclosures,

Robert Wood, IRS Private Debt Collectors Are Now Legal: 10 Things You Should Know

TaxGrrrl, Wal-Mart Sues Puerto Rico Over ‘Astonishing And Unsustainable’ Tax Increase. To go with astonishing and unsustainable government spending.

Leslie Book, Summons Enforcement For Undisclosed Offshore Accounts: The I Don’t Have Em Defense Is Not an Easy One to Win

Jack Townsend, New Transportion Bill, FAST, Adds Some Tax Provisions

Of course it does. State Wants Its Share Of The Sharing Economy (Peter Reilly) “This appears to be one of the rare instances where I am providing you breaking news on a matter otherwise neglected by the tax blogosphere.” Au contraire, Pierre Peter!

 

20150731-1Finland is considering replacing its vaunted welfare regime with a guaranteed annual income;

The Finnish government is currently drawing up plans to introduce a national basic income. A final proposal won’t be presented until November 2016, but if all goes to schedule, Finland will scrap all existing benefits and instead hand out €800 ($870) per month—to everyone.

This would deal with the problem of high implicit marginal tax rates that make it too expensive for low-income Finns to go to work — a problem that also exists in the U.S., as Arnold Kling and others have noted.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the proposal is meant to tackle unemployment. Finland’s unemployment rate is at a 15-year high, at 9.53% and a basic income would allow people to take on low-paying jobs without personal cost. At the moment, a temporary job results in lower welfare benefits, which can lead to an overall drop in income.

Related: Tyler Cowen, A guaranteed annual income for Finland?Arnold Kling, Libertarian Scandinavian Welfare State?

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 943. Paul Caron telegraphs an end to this important series. Even when the Tax Prof’s daily coverage ends, the scandal remains unresolved, and Commissioner Koskinen and the administration continue to run out the clock, to the continuing damage of the IRS and to taxpayer service.

Scott Greenberg, A Lesson of Hanukkah: It’s Difficult to Determine Asset Lives: “To spell out the lesson of the story more slowly – the Maccabees came into possession of an asset (a jar of oil). They thought it would lose its value over a certain time period (a single day). However, the asset actually took much longer to depreciate (eight days).”

 

Stop the presses. Donald Trump Tweeted Something About Tax Shelters (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/2/15: A defender of tax credits makes his case. Also: escalating the war on offshore taxpayers.

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

20120906-1Bribe them and they will come. The Atlantic asks Why Are There So Many Data Centers in Iowa?. “When I’ve asked data center operations managers, the answer has varied from approximately forty characteristics to a blunt four: ‘Networks, land, power, and taxes'” By “taxes,” that generally means “tax incentives,” or special breaks unavailable to the rest of us.

In a post at IowaBiz.com, Brent Willett makes an unabashed argument for more of the same in Economic development has an image problem (IowaBiz.com). It’s an interesting piece. Its premise is that people think that special tax deals to lure companies are shady, but that we would feel otherwise if incentive boosters just made a better case.

For an attempt to make the case that incentives are a good thing, the post is  short of actual evidence. It instead makes flat assertions that incentives are necessary and proper, and are obviously good because everybody does them. For example (emphasis in original):

Incentives play a fundamental role in securing job- and wealth-creation projects for communities in every corner of this country and in many countries of the world. This is pure, unadulterated fact.

If it were pure unadulterated fact, you might think that it would be easy to marshal some data that says so. Yet in the only attempt ever made by Iowa to quantify the value of its dozens of tax credit giveaways, by a blue-ribbon committee appointed in the wake of the Iowa Film Tax Credit fiasco, failed to identify a single tax credit that clearly was worth more than it cost.

The two magic words omitted by defenders of tax credits are “opportunity cost.” They point to projects that receive tax credits, assert they would not have happened anyway, and ignore the idea that the money used for the credits would have been used elsewhere. They also ignore the cost to all businesses of the tax law complexity and high rates that inevitably accompany special interest tax breaks.

It’s not just accidental that tax incentives have a bad image. They are like a guy who takes his wife’s purse to the bar to buy drinks for the girls. The girls might accept the free drinks (development success!), but it doesn’t help the person who foots the bill. Nor is it impressive, and any of the girls won over by this tactic aren’t likely to be real prizes. In any case, his image is unlikely to be helped by a better explanation when his wife finds out.

Related: Local CPA Firm vows to swallow pride, accept $28 million

 

Best done by not giving them in the first place. States Can Avoid the Fiscal Risks Tax Incentives Create, Pew Report Says (LexisNexis Legal Newsroom).

Jim Maule, Tax Credit Giveaways Don’t Deserve Credit, “If the Michigan tax credit had done what it was promised to do, the increased tax revenues should have more than offset the cost of the credit. But that hasn’t happened, as evidenced by the budget deficits that were spiraling out of control on account of the tax credit giveaway.”

 

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Andrew Mitchel, The Escalation of Offshore Penalties Over the Last 20 Years. An excellent summary of the unconscionable increase in foot-fault penalties for paperwork violations of foreign reporting rules. He describes the same “violations” taking place in 1995 and now.

In 1995, the individual was only required to file two forms (the FBAR and Form 5471) and would be subject to penalties totaling $2,000. In 2011, the same individual was required to file six forms (the FBAR, Forms 3520, 3520-A, 5471, 8865, 8938) and would be subject to penalties totaling $70,000.

Read the whole thing.

Peter Reilly, IRS Trying To Make It Harder To Qualify As Real Estate Pro. An excellent, in-depth discussion of a taxpayer victory in the eternal IRS war against deducting real estate losses.

William Perez, Tips for Green Card Holders and Immigrants Who are Filing a US Tax Return

Kay Bell, Charitable donation tax deduction rules apply on Giving Tuesday and year-round. A good summary of rules on year-end charitable giving.

Amanda Klopp, A Snow Holiday? Not if the IRS Can Help It. (Procedurally Taaxing).

TaxGrrrl, Congress Moves Towards Granting IRS Authority To License Tax Preparers. “Representatives Diane Black (R-TN) and Pat Meehan (R-PA) have introduced H.R. 4141, the Tax Return Preparer Competency Act.”  When taxwriters demonstrate competency, then they can complain about preparers.

Russ Fox, My Love/Hate Relationship with the FTB. “Yet for all the excellence in how the FTB communicates some of the FTB’s practices leave a lot to be desired.”

Robert D. Flach, NEW JERSEY LLC FAQ

Tony Nitti, Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015: #6 – More Bad News For The Marijuana Industry.

 

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Jeremy Scott, Congress Gives Up on Paying for Extenders . . . And That’s Fine (Tax Analysts Blog). “Taking a few of the most popular extenders off the table by making them permanent would only help with a limited legislative calendar, which could give some juice to tax reform efforts or at least end the silly end-of-the-year, Mock Turtle-like dance Congress has performed for most of the last 30 years.”

Renu Zaretsky, The Case of the Mislabeled ABLE Account (TaxVox). “Here’s the catch: There’s a good chance that by the time she reaches 18 the value of her account will exceed $102,000. If her nest egg tops that amount, the state would suspend her SSI benefits until her account fell below that threshold.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 937.

Richard Phillips, Congress Should Embrace the International Consensus to Crack Down on Corporate Tax Avoidance (Tax Justice Blog). Um, no.

News from the Profession. Tax Nerds Set Record Straight on Tax Code vs. NFL Rulebook Complexity (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/25/15: Don’t bother depreciating things up to $2,500. And: Have a great Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20141226-1$2,500 is the new $500. The IRS yesterday announced (Notice 2015-82) that it was increasing the maximum “safe harbor” expensing amount from $500 per item to $2,500 for taxpayers without an “applicable financial statement” — that is, most taxpayers. Taxpayers with an AFS can elect to expense items up to $5,000. These safe harbors enable taxpayers to not worry about capitalizing and depreciating items up to these amounts.

The new safe harbor takes effect for years starting January 1, 2016 and later.

The safe harbors are authorized by treasury regulations for taxpayers who have in place at the beginning of the tax year “accounting procedures treating as an expense for non-tax purposes” that expense such “per invoice (or per item as substantiated by invoice)” So make sure you write down somewhere that you have a policy of expensing everything up to $2,500 before December 31.

This is a good, if small, step towards allowing taxpayers to expense capital costs. I object to the “applicable financial statement” requirement for the $5,000 amount, as the tax law shouldn’t care whether you have a CPA-certified audit or that you have to report your financials to a government agency, but at least this closes the gap some.   I should be happy, I suppose, that it gives my auditing brethren a small sales tool.

Related: Russ Fox, IRS Increases De Minimis Expense Threshold to $2,500 from $500 for 2016 OnwardTony Nitti, IRS: Taxpayers May Immediately Deduct The Purchase Of Assets Costing Less Than $2,500.

 

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William Perez, Year End Tax Planning Ideas for Self Employed Persons.

Robert Wood, Passports Required For Domestic Travel In 2016, But IRS Can Revoke Passports For Taxes. Giving IRS control over passports is a horrible idea. They make so many errors, and the errors can be so hard to fix.

Robert D. Flach, MORTGAGE INTEREST LIMITATIONS. “But the Court of Appeals ruled that [unmarried] co-owners of one primary residence can each claim mortgage interest on up to $1 Million in acquisition debt and $100,000 of home equity debt.”

 

Annette Nellen, Sales Tax as a Penalty? “A proposed California initiative may surprise you.  It calls for a 1000% sales tax on ‘political advertisements.'”

Kay Bell, IRS should focus tax audit efforts on richer taxpayers. Willie Sutton might agree. 

Paul Neiffer, FAFSA Reporting Changes. “The Department of Education has issued new rules that make this process be much less of a hassle; however, you have to wait until 2017 to take advantage of it.  Beginning in that year, your required FAFSA income tax return will be a whole year in arrears.” About time.

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Home Offices, Principal Place of Business, and Mileage Deductions

Carl Smith, New, Additional Proposed Innocent Spouse Regulations Issued (Part 1), (Part 2) (Procedurally Taxing)

TaxGrrrl, Don’t Try This At Home: Avoid These 10 Money Missteps That Landed Reality TV Stars In Trouble.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 930. Today’s link on the “investigation” of the scandal by the Justice Department.

 

Scott Hodge, The Simple Solution to the Pfizer Deal: Cut the Rate and Move to a Territorial Tax System (Tax Policy Blog). So, you could actually do something like this that makes sense, or you could listen to….

Richard Phillips, Congress Must Act Now to Stop Pfizer and Other Companies from Inverting (Tax Justice Blog). The “continue the beatings until morale improves” approach.

News from the Profession. A Surprising Number of Accountants Think Accountants Are Incredibly Corrupt (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

Programming Note: The Tax Update will be taking the rest of the week off to celebrate Thanksgiving. I am thankful for the many fine tax bloggers I get to read when putting the Tax Roundups together, and I am especially thankful for those of you who stop by to read the Tax Update. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and maybe start with Jim Maule’s holiday musings: Thanks Again! “For as long as I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been sharing a Thanksgiving post to express my gratitude for a variety of people, events, and things.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/24/15: Another Kansas medical practice ESOP blows up. And: tax credits for everything!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20151124-1When you fund an employee stock ownership plan, be sure you have an employee. Another strange ESOP failure out of Kansas emerged from the Tax Court yesterday. A Wichita doctor, whom we will call Dr. F, funded an ESOP for his practice with over $400,000 in 2004, supposedly rolled over from his IRA. But, according to the tax court, the doctor wasn’t qualified to participate, and there was no evidence of a rollover. From the Tax Court (emphasis added, citations omitted, doctor’s name shortened by me):

Dr. F. received no compensation from, and was not employed by, petitioner in 2004 or 2005. A total of 53.06 shares of petitioner’s stock was allocated to his account in these years. Respondent determined that these contributions exceeded the section 415(c) limitation because Dr. F. received no compensation from petitioner in 2004 or 2005. Petitioner alleges that the amounts in Dr. F.’s accounts were rollover contributions from Dr. F.’s individual retirement account and should not be considered for purposes of section 415(c).

In order for a distribution to be considered a rollover contribution, the entire amount received must be paid into a qualified trust for the distributee’s benefit no later than the 60th day after the day that the distribution is received. Petitioner has not provided evidence that a valid rollover took place. Further, because the ESOP trust did not have a bank or brokerage account from May 13, 2004, through December 31, 2009, it was not possible for the distribution from Dr. F.’s individual retirement account to have been paid into an account held by the ESOP trust.

Details, details. But details are everything. The IRS cited multiple reasons for the ESOP revocation, and as the court notes, “Any one of the reasons cited in the final revocation letter would be sufficient alone to cause the ESOP and the ESOP trust to fail…” The ESOP also failed to get a qualified appraisal.

This is the second physician ESOP out of Kansas to fail this year in Tax Court. Iowa has long been the capital of flaky ESOPs, but Kansas seems ready to challenge our dubious supremacy. In fairness, though, the trustee of both ESOPs appears to operate out of Northeast Iowa, so we’re keeping our hand in the game.

The Moral? ESOPs are useful for limited purposes, primarily as a succession vehicle for a closely-held business, but they are complex and dangerous, requiring meticulous compliance to avoid catastrophe. They are a poor tax shelter for a closely-held business when the owner wants to maintain control.

Cite: Fleming Cardiovascular PA, T.C. Memo. 2015-224

 

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Joseph Thorndike, Tax Credits Are Easy – And a Loser’s Game for Liberals (Tax Analysts Blog):

Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign is still churning out tax proposals at a furious pace. Over the weekend, she proposed a new credit for caretakers—intended, according to her campaign, to “provide support for the millions of families paying for, coordinating, or providing care for aging or disabled family members.”

That sounds great – just like every other tax break Clinton has suggested in the past several months. After all, caring for family members can be hard, and it’s often expensive. Caretakers could definitely use a hand.

But is the tax system the best way to provide it? Probably not.

Home caregivers are wonderful people. But Mr. Thorndike notes the problems with such feel-good credits:

Using tax incentives as a form of hidden spending merely serves to further erode support for more direct forms of government action. Small-bore tax breaks breed more small-bore tax breaks. But they don’t foster any serious rethinking of the role of government.

Nor do they produce meaningful results, even for the narrow problems they target.

There’s another argument that the tax-credits-for-everything crowd glosses over. Each feel-good credit throws another social program to an IRS that is collapsing under its current workload. They can’t really want IRS agents evaluating at-home care, yet it’s baked into that cake. If you don’t audit a lucrative tax credit, it becomes a fraud magnet. So IRS, meet Grandma.

 

Howard Gleckman, Clinton’s Caregiver Credit Adds To Her List of Tax Breaks, Sharpens Her Contrast With The GOP. “The likely Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, would aggressively use the tax code to achieve social and economic goals, cut taxes on many middle-income people, and raise taxes on high-income households. Every Republican presidential hopeful would eliminate most existing tax subsidies, lower rates, and give big tax cuts to those with high-incomes.”

 

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Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz! Lots of links, and spicy observations on the use of the tax law to run social programs.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Reminding You That The Gain On That Sale Of Stock May Be Tax Free. “C corporations are like pit bulls and prostate exams — they carry quite the stigma,  but they’re not nearly as bad as they’re made out to be.”

TaxGrrrl, Guilty On Tax & Conspiracy Counts, Couple Faces New Charges For Revenge. Violating the first rule of holes.

Robert Wood, Al Sharpton’s Charity Hikes His Pay 71%, But Tax Liens, Clinton Imprint Remain.

 

Farley Katz, Joseph Perera, Katy David, Important New Partnership Audit Rules Change Taxation of Partnerships (Procedurally Taxing)

Not only can the partnership owe income tax, the tax will not be based on the income for the year in question, but instead on one or more prior years’ income. Consequently, the economic burden of the tax could be borne by partners who had no interest in the partnership when the income was generated. Conversely, if a partnership overstated its income in a prior year, the benefit of correcting that overstatement will accrue to the current partners, not those who were partners in the earlier year. Finally, if a partnership elects out of the new provisions (assuming it is eligible), the IRS will no longer be able to conduct a centralized audit controlling each partner’s distributive share, but will instead have to audit each partner individually,

Excellent article. These new rules will change the dynamics of partnership exams a great deal when they take effect for 2017 filings.

Jack Townsend, Fifth Circuit Sustains Convictions Despite Trial Judge’s Refusal to Give Proper Cheek Willfulness Instruction

 

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Tyler Cowen, Against a financial transactions tax. He cites a paper documenting that such taxes are unwise:  “This is consistent with earlier findings on Sweden’s transactions tax, and that proposal continues to be one of the more overrated ideas in American Progressive political discourse.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 929

Peter Reilly, Foundation Of Big GOP Donor Loses Tax Court Case Over Political Ads

 

Career Corner. Let’s Discuss: Non-Equity Partners in Accounting Firms (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/20/15: IRS issues workaround for absurdly complex “repair regs.” And: more good ACA news!

Friday, November 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

See update below. 

IMG_1218In a tacit admission that the new repair regs are nightmarishly complex, the IRS has issued a new “safe-harbor” procedure for allocating remodeling costs for restraurants and retail buildings between deductible repair costs and capitalized improvement costs.

Rev. Proc 2015-56 is available to most retail buildings and to restaurants.

(UPDATE: Brian Coddington notes correctly in the comments that this procedure only applies to taxpayers with an “applicable financial statement.” These are SEC statements, audited financial statements, or statements supplied to regulators other than the IRS. This seemingly gratuitous requirement greatly reduces the potential usefulness of this procedure. Why the IRS would restrict simplification to just those taxpayers least likely to need it is beyond me. I missed the applicable financial statement requirement in my initial take on the rule. My apologies, and my thanks to Brian for correcting me. Brian’s comment goes beyond this issue and is worth reading in full.)

It excludes vehicle dealers, gas stations, manufactured home dealers and “nonstore retailers.” It applies to business that own their own buildings and to landlords whose buildings hold qualifying businesses.

Under the procedure, 75% of “qualified remodel-refresh costs” are deductible, with the remaining 25% capitalized. The amount capitalized is depreciated over the life otherwise applied to the building. That generally means a 39-year life, but if the building is “qualified restaurant property” or “qualified retail improvement property,” the life can be as short as 15 years.

At first glance, it seems like a much more useful set of rules than the repair regs we were all fretting about this time last year. The biggest potential downside is that Rev. Proc. 2015-56 requires taxpayers to forego “partial disposition” treatment for buildings covered by the safe harbor. The taxpayer also has to elect “general asset account” depreciation for the building covered by the safe harbor.

The election will be made on Form 3115 as “automatic” accounting method change, as newly-designated automatic change number 222. It is available for years begining on or after January 1, 2014. As automatic changes have to normally be made with a timely-filed return, I don’t think we can change already-filed 2014 filings, but I will be digging into the lengthy procedure, and will amend this as needed as I get to understand it better.

 

The insurance markets aren’t doing what the President told them to do. 

First, Tyler Cowen, Further wounds for Obamacare: “To put it bluntly, I don’t think the mandate part of the bill is working.  These are mostly problems which decay and get worse, not problems which self-correct.”

Next, Megan McArdle, Obamacare Insurers Are Suffering. That Won’t End Well:

What UnitedHealth’s action suggests is that the company is not sure it can make money in this market at any price. Executives seem to be worried about our old enemy, the adverse selection death spiral, where prices go up and healthier customers drop out, which pushes insurers’ costs and customers’ prices up further, until all you’ve got is a handful of very sick people and a huge number of very expensive claims.

She adds:

This was part of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news cycle for Obamacare; as ProPublica journalist Charles Ornstein said on Twitter, “Not since 2013 have I seen such a disastrous stream of bad news headlines for Obamacare in one 24-hour stretch.” Stories included not just UnitedHealth’s dire warnings, but also updates in the ongoing saga of higher premiums, higher deductibles and smaller provider networks that have been coming out since open enrollment began.

I remember when we were told that the ACA would just get more popular over time as we all grew to love its benefits.

 

No, but they do make it easier to jack up tuition and administrative salaries. $23 Billion In Annual Federal Tax Credits For Higher Education Have No Effect On College Attendance (TaxProf). 

 

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Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Quiet Changes to Social Security Could Have Big Impact (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog):

The file and suspend option was and still is used by couples when one spouse, typically the higher earner, files for benefits but then suspends receiving his or her own benefits. This allows the other spouse to file and receive spousal benefits based on the higher earning spouse’s record for a certain number of years while the higher earning spouse delays benefits and earns delayed retirement credits. The result is larger benefits for the higher-earning spouse at age 70, but still allowing the lower-earning spouse to take benefits. This option has been eliminated — though there may still be time to file and suspend in the next 180 days and be grandfathered in for those who are currently eligible to do so.

Jana expects additional guidance soon.

 

Gretchen Tegeler, Many Iowa public employees are better off in retirement than working (IowaBiz.com). In some cases, we’re better off that they’re retired too.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015: #7: Decoding The Mortgage Interest Limitation, “Cohabitation, of course, is not limited to same-sex couples, and so the Ninth Circuit’s decision to allow each taxpayer who co-owns a house to claim an interest deduction on the full $1,100,000 of debt — provided they are not married filing separately — should be a welcome one for many.”

Russ Fox, Update on the Future of Daily Fantasy Sports:

I still think we will end up with a dichotomy within the states. States that are notoriously anti-gambling or have constitutional provisions against gambling (including much of the South: Texas, Florida, and Tennessee; Utah, and Hawaii) will ban DFS, either by Attorney General rulings or by court actions. Other states will regulate DFS. Some states will order the DFS companies to shut down until regulations are in place. A very small number of states will just ignore the issue, and leave DFS in an unregulated state.

A very small number of states realize that fantasy sports aren’t one of the major problems plaguing the republic.

TaxGrrrl, ‘Real Housewives’ Stars Joe & Teresa Giudice Hit With Federal Tax Lien

Robert Wood, More Banks Spill Tax Evasion Secrets To Avoid Criminal Charges, Account Holders Beware. Bank secrecy is pining for the fjords.

 

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Stephen J. Entin, Michael Schuyler, Some Tax Trip-Ups in the Democratic Debate (Tax Policy Blog):

Senator Sanders was asked how high he would raise the top tax rate. He answered, jokingly, that he would boost it a lot, although perhaps not to the 90% top tax rate in the Eisenhower Administration; that he, the Senator, was not as much of a socialist as Eisenhower!  In fact, the top tax rate was 91%…

One result of Ike’s policies was that he presided over three recessions in his eight years in office. Presumably, the Senator would not want to repeat that outcome.

I think Bernie would be willing to take that price to stick it to the man.

William Gale, David John, Two Important New Retirement Savings Initiatives from the Obama Administration (TaxVox) These guys think the MyRA program is important.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 925

 

Peter Reilly, Princeton University Will Have To Prove It Deserves Property Tax Exemption. I’d make them apologize for Woodrow Wilson first.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/12/15: W-2 trumps uncertain memory. And: more debate reaction.

Thursday, November 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Day 4: Ottumwa! The big first week of The  ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools concludes for the Day 1 teaching team of me, Kristy Maitre and Roger McEowen at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa today. The Day 2 team of Paul Neiffer, Dave Repp and Patty Fulton will finish up in Red Oak this morning.

It’s been some driving this week:

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If you missed us, there are still four two-day schools left. We hit Mason City next Monday; Maquoketa November 23; Denison December 7; and Ames December 14. The Ames session is available as a webinar. Register today!

 

Sure enough. Few of us (generally only tax preparers) double-check the income reported on our W-2s. We take the employer’s word for it. So does the IRS. That’s the lesson a Californian learned this week in Tax Court.

The taxpayer faced some extra hurdles in filing his 2010 tax returns, according to the Tax Court:

Petitioner was arrested the second week of January of 2011 and was incarcerated until June 2012. Petitioner’s motorhome and van were seized, and he lost all of his records after his arrest and incarceration.

Petitioner did not file a timely return for 2010. On April 1, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) prepared a substitute for return for 2010 under section 6020(b). The IRS issued a notice of deficiency for 2010 dated July 8, 2013.

Considering the circumstances, you can understand the non-filing, even while realizing he still needed to. But he was nagged by doubts (my emphasis).

As indicated, petitioner conceded all of the income determined in the notice of deficiency with the exception of wage income of $3,767 from Audio Visual Projection Services, Inc., and $404 from Swank Audio Visuals, LLC. These employers issued petitioner 2010 Forms W-2 for the respective amounts. Petitioner explained that because all of his records were lost and his employers often paid him late or not at all, he does not know whether he was paid for all of the work that he performed in 2010.

It’s an interesting defense. He didn’t say he wasn’t paid; he just wasn’t sure. But the court was sure enough (citations omitted, my emphasis):

In unreported income cases, the Commissioner must base the deficiency on some substantive evidence that the taxpayer received the unreported income.  If the Commissioner introduces some evidence that the taxpayer received unreported income, the burden shifts to the taxpayer. The Forms W-2 from Audio Visual Projection Services, Inc., and from Swank Audio Visuals, LLC, are sufficient evidence to shift the burden of proof to petitioner.

We also note that section 6201(d) provides that in any court proceeding, where a taxpayer asserts a reasonable dispute with respect to any item of income reported on an information return and the taxpayer has fully cooperated with the Secretary, the Secretary has the burden of producing reasonable and probative information concerning the deficiency in addition to the information on the return. The key term in the foregoing sentence is “a reasonable dispute.” This Court has concluded that a taxpayer does not raise a reasonable dispute for purposes of section 6201(d) merely by testifying that he is uncertain, cannot remember, or does not know.

Adding insult to uncertain memory, the Tax Court upheld penalties for late filing; being in jail is apparently no excuse.

Cite: McDougall, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-65.

 

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TaxGrrrl bravely live-blogged the GOP debate this week. A handy place to check out what they had to say on taxes.

Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Ted Cruz’s Comment About His Border-Adjusted Tax, Explained (Tax Policy Blog).

Jenice Johnson, Candidates Tax Cuts Unequivocally Skew Toward the Wealthy (Tax Justice Blog). It’s just math. The wealthy pay pretty much all of the taxes, so they will “reap” any tax cuts.

Scott Greenberg, Carson Calls for Eliminating the Mortgage Interest and Charitable Deductions (Tax Policy Blog).

 

Paul Neiffer, When Will We Know Section 179 Amount?. My intrepid tax school colleague ponders the likelihood and timing of the “extender” bill for this year.

Tri-state sales tax webinar! The Iowa Department of Revenue will have a free webinar covering “Sales and Use Tax Basics” for Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska. It’s easy to get nexus for sales tax. There are plenty of Iowa businesses that need to take care of sales taxes elsewhere.

Ying Sa, My IRS is little (IowaBiz.com). “Many immigrant-owned small businesses begin with a focus on just selling. The rest, such as an income statement, balance sheet and tax compliance, is sometimes unknown to them.”

Insureblog, Worse Insurance, Higher Cost. “The fact is, your insurance is going to get worse and you are going to pay more for it.”

Robert D. Flach, QUESTIONS ANSWERED. Robert answers a reader question on deducting state property taxes.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015, #8: Tax-Free Parsonage Allowance Gets A Second Life.

Russ Fox, The Real Winners of the World Series of Poker (2015 Edition). Hint: the winner’s first initial is “I.”

Janet Novack, Here’s How Congress Just Cut Social Security For Baby Boomer Couples. The end of “file and suspend.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 917,

Stuart Gibson, The European Predictability Paradox (Tax Analysts Blog). “Paradox will rule the European tax world, in which certainty will become uncertain and the predictability accorded by advance rulings will become entirely unpredictable.”

Renu Zaretsky, To make money you have to spend money…” Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the Dell-EMC merger, international tax reform hopes, and lots more.

 

News from the Profession. CPAs Admit That They’re Not Good Business People (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/9/15: Waterloo! And Estonia!

Monday, November 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Day 1: Waterloo! The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools are underway! I am on this morning’s panel in beautiful Waterloo, Iowa, with Roger McEowen and Kristy Maitre. Spaces are available for all of the remaining Iowa sessions, so register today! If you can’t make one of the sessions in person, you can attend the December 14 Ames session via webinar.

The November 9 session of the Farm and Urban Tax School in Waterloo is underway!

The November 9 session of the Farm and Urban Tax School in Waterloo is underway!

The early-rising schedule for the drive up here today requires an abbreviated roundup today, so let’s roll.

 

Kyle Pomerleau Estonia’s Growth-Oriented Tax Code. (Tax Policy Blog). It excerpts a speech from the Estonian Ambassador to the U.S.:

The main components of the Estonian tax system have been in place since the beginning of the 1990s. After Estonia regained independence in 1991, the country needed a tax system that was compatible both with the limited experience of the taxpayer who came from the Soviet communist controlled society and effective tax administration. It was essential that the tax system should support economic growth, not impede it. Therefore, a tax system was developed with an emphasis on indirect taxes. To keep the system simple, transparent and easy to use, only a few exceptions were allowed, as at the same time, tax rates were kept rather low.

A cornerstone of Estonia’s fiscal policy was corporate and personal income tax reform, which introduced the proportional, or flat tax rate of 26% in 1992, which has been reduced to 20%. Since 1999, reinvested corporate profits are no longer subject to income tax. Today, Estonian income tax system, with its flat rate of 20%, is considered one of the simplest tax regimes in the world

We could do a lot worse than the Estonian system. We certainly do now.

 

Tony Nitti, Renting Your Home On Airbnb? Be Aware Of The Tax Consequences:

Section 280A of the Internal Revenue Code, which governs the treatment of homes that are used for both personal and rental purposes, is a complicated tangle of definitions, designations, and resulting consequences. But if you’re going to start renting out a property on Airbnb or Craigslist, you’re going to need to know the rules, so let’s take a deep dive into Section 280A and see if we can’t help all of you newly-minted slumlords sort through your tax considerations.

And remember the local lodging tax that may apply.

 

Still plenty of coffee and juice in Waterloo...

Still plenty of coffee and juice in Waterloo…

 

Headline of the Day: Colorado county’s pot tax to pay for higher education (Kay Bell). 

Jason Dinesen, What Is Iowa Alternate Tax?

Peter Reilly, Republicans Want IRS To Target Hillary Clinton:

Given the outrage that Republicans have expressed about the “targeting” of the Tea Party by the IRS, you would think that they would be slow to advocate IRS political targeting.  Apparently  it is more a matter of who’s ox is being gored.

That’s why the party in power may regret the way it has politicized the IRS. It isn’t likely to remain in power forever.

 

Rachel Rubenstein, IRS Announces Procedures for Identity Theft Victims to Request Copies of Fraudulently Filed Tax Returns (Procedurally Taxing).

TaxGrrrl, Austrian Woman Destroys Million Dollar Fortune Rather Than Pay Out Heirs

Robert D. Flach offers A YEAR-END TAX PLANNING TIP on capital gains.

 

...but the breakfast treats are going fast.

…but the breakfast treats are going fast.

 

Russ Fox, Chaka Fattah, Jr. Guilty of Tax and Fraud Charges. “Chaka Fattah Jr., son of Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah Sr. (D-PA), was found guilty on Friday of 22 of 23 tax and fraud charges.”

Jack Townsend, Financial Secrecy in the U.S. – A NonTax Example Illustrating the Law Enforcement Problem:

One of the issues is that opacity of U.S. entity structures.  The beneficial owners of corporations and other entities may simply not be known.  And states permitting such entities to be organized usually do not request any representations of ownership.  So, shady actors can easily fly under the law enforcement — including tax enforcement — radar screen.  Hence, the U.S. may facilitate evasion of other countries’ taxes by offering foreign investors secrecy as to their investments in the U.S.

In the FATCA era, it will be more difficult for us to tell foreign tax collectors that U.S. tax structures are none of their business.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 912Day 913Day 914.

Renu Zaretsky, Repeal, Reform, and Maybe Retaliation. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup topics include efforts to repeal the “Cadillac Tax,” the background of the new Ways and Means Chairman, and allegations of retaliatory audits in New Mexico.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 11/6: Election Day Wrap Up (TAx Justice Blog).
Career Corner. More Accounting Firms Should Let Employees Build Their Own Niche Practices (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/4/15. Taxpayer Advocate: Koskinen demoralizes IRS, IRS breaks law. Koskinen replies: give me more money!

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Nina Olson, Taxpayer Advocate

Nina Olson, Taxpayer Advocate

It’s getting bad when the IRS won’t even talk to its own Taxpayer Advocate. Nina Olson, the head of the IRS Taxpayer Advocate office, ripped the state of the IRS and Commissioner Koskinen’s management in a speech to the AICPA annual tax conference yesterday, Tax Analysts reports  (my emphasis, $link):

Olson said that IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s oft-repeated mantra — that instead of doing more with less in budget-constrained times, the agency was going to do less with less — was demoralizing the IRS workforce and further eroding customer service.

“What my local taxpayer advocates are telling me is that they have never seen so much resistance to their own work” from the IRS, Olson said. She recounted the story of a local TAS employee who asked the IRS in October to release a taxpayer’s refund that had been held up since February. “The response that [TAS] got back was . . . ‘We have thousands of these cases; get in line,’” Olson said, adding that it was the first time she’d heard such a response from the IRS in her 15 years at the TAS.

The feeling at the IRS that there are some jobs it won’t do because Congress didn’t provide funding, Olson said, “works its way down to the employees, so that they feel like, ‘Well, I’m going to do just this, and I’ve got so much work that I’m only going to be able to get this done.'”

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner, but he'd probably do a better job than the one who is.

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner, but he’d probably do a better job than the one who is.

The Taxpayer Advocate Office is “an independent organization within the IRS” charged with helping taxpayers who can’t resolved their problems within the normal IRS bureaucracy. We only call on them out of desperation, when the IRS just refuses to do its job. It’s a bad sign if even the Taxpayer Advocate can’t get the time of day from the regular IRS.

Ms. Olson says the IRS mistreatment of the TAS office has risen to the level of lawbreaking:

Olson also protested that the IRS is refusing to grant her and her staff access to taxpayers’ administrative files unless they sign agreements barring them from sharing any of the files’ information, even with the taxpayer. Olson noted that she is bound by the same privacy laws as other IRS employees and said she is entitled to access under section 6103.

“My position is that the IRS in those instances has violated the law,” Olson said. “And I do not say that lightly.”

You have problems with the IRS breaking the law? Well, to coin a phrase, get in line.

Commissioner Koskinen responded later in a speech to the same group, in which he did what he always does: ask for more money. “Most of Koskinen’s prepared remarks at the conference were a repeat of his concerns about the IRS’s deteriorating budget position.”

But this Commissioner will never get a budget increase out of this Congress. His glib, arrogant and obstructionist response to the Tea Party scandal, full of denials of the existence of information that subsequently surfaced, has destroyed his credibility. There’s no hope that the IRS will get improved funding as long as he is around to spend it.

Other Coverage: 

Russ Fox, Where I Agree (In Part) With IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Commissioner Koskinen is correct. Congress should get off its duff and pass the extender legislation.”

Accounting Today, IRS Commissioner Sees Budget Cuts Hurting Practitioners, Warns of Delayed Tax Season. A story that weirdly downplays and buries the Taxpayer Advocate’s withering criticisms deep in the article.

 

Alan Cole, What Places Benefit Most From the Earned Income Tax Credit? (Tax Policy Blog).

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It looks like the deep south and Indian country have the biggest proportion of EITC recipients.

 

TaxGrrrl, Despite Complaints, Past Failures & Opportunities For Fraud, Congress Pushes Private Tax Collection. I think Kelly is too hard on private tax collection. Plenty of preparers deal safely with confidential tax information every day, and I don’t think there’s something special about IRS employees that makes them automatically trustworthy. I think for uncontested and unpaid tax debts, private collection makes sense, especially when the IRS isn’t even trying to collect.

Robert D. Flach emphatically agrees with Kelly, though: NO! NO! A MILLION TIMES NO!. I guess private tax debt collection is one of those unpopular views I hold, like Waylon > Willie.

 

Wall Street Journal,  IRS Audits of Individuals Drop to 11-Year Low (via the TaxProf, $link).

Kay Bell, Avoid tax turkeys! Check out November Tax Moves

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015: #9 Rental Properties Should Probably Be Rented. “Believe it or not, the IRS doesn’t always require that you rent a home in order to establish that you have converted the home to a for-profit rental activity, but it certainly helps.”

 

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Carl SmithGovernment Inconsistent on Whether Unpublished Tax Court Orders Can Be Cited (Procedurally Taxing). “I’m more a believer in ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander’.”

Renu Zaretsky, The Case of the Questionable Tax Incentive: Women and Retirement Savings (TaxVox). “But from what I can tell, the surest way to increase a woman’s savings is to give her a nice raise… and introduce her to my sister.”

David Brunori, Impeaching the IRS Commissioner Is the Wrong Thing to Do (Tax Analysts Blog). “Koskinen may be guilty of being combative with Congress. He may be guilty of caginess during his testimony. He may be guilty of being a lousy commissioner. But none of those are reasons for impeachment.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 909. Today’s link is to an editorial, Yes, the IRS Chief Has Earned Impeachment. I agree, but I still think it’s an unwise exercise when it has no chance of success. Still, the editorial is a concise summary of how awful Commissioner Koskinen has been.

Jim Maule, Taking and Giving Back. “The NFL and its teams, as well as the other professional sports leagues and franchises, do not need financial assistance from the public.”

 

News from the Profession. Socially Inept Accountant Held Responsible (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Is there another kind?

 

 

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