Whither the extender bill? HR 5771, the bill to extend retroactively through the end of this month the 55 or so tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013, has been “placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.” That means it appears to be proceeding to a vote, though I find nothing on when that will happen. Tax Analysts reports ($link) that outgoing Senate Majority Leader Reid says he will take up the extender bill ” after finishing work on a defense authorization bill and a government funding measure.”
Meanwhile, the President has threatened to veto a separate attempt to permanently extend three charitable breaks in the extender bill, including the break for IRA contributions. While that’s bad for those breaks, it implies that the White House will not oppose HR 5771’s one-year extension.
Because it looks as though the “extender” bill will clear the Senate, taxpayers looking to add fixed assets have extra incentive to get it done this year. The bill extends through 2014 — and only through 2014 — the $500,000 limit on Section 179 deductions and 50% bonus depreciation. These breaks allow taxpayers to deduct over half (bonus depreciation) or all (Section 179) of the cost of fixed assets that are otherwise capitalized, with their deductions spread over 3 to 20 years.
Taxpayers should remember that it’s not enough to order or pay for a new asset by the end of 2014 to qualify for these breaks. The asset has to be “placed in service” by year end.
A Tax Court case from last December drives home the point, where a taxpayer lost an $11 million bonus depreciation deduction in 2003 because an asset bought at year-end wasn’t “placed in service” on time. Judge Holmes takes up the story:
On December 30, 2003, an insurance salesman named Michael Brown1 took ownership of a $22 million plane in Portland, Oregon. He flew from there to Seattle to Chicago — he says for business meetings — and then back to Portland. Brown says these flights put the plane in service in 2003, and entitle him to a giant bonus-depreciation allowance. But a few days later he had the plane flown to a plant in Illinois where it underwent additional modifications that were completed about a month later.
The IRS argued that the need for modifications meant the airplane wasn’t “placed in service” before year end. The taxpayer argued that the airplane was “fully functional” as purchased, and therefore was “placed in service” when acquired and used for its first flight on December 30, 2003. The court agreed with the IRS:
While acknowledging in his briefs that those modifications made the Challenger “more valuable to him” and allowed him to “more comfortably conduct business” as a passenger, he says they have “nothing to do with the Challenger’s assigned function of transporting him for his business.” The problem is that this posttrial framing just doesn’t square with the trial testimony, in which Brown testified that those two modifications were “needed” and “required”. We therefore find that the Challenger simply was not available for its intended use on a regular basis until those modifications were installed in 2004. Brown thus didn’t place the Challenger in service in 2003 and can’t take bonus depreciation on it that year.
A new asset doesn’t actually have to be used during the year to be “placed in service,” but it has to be ready to go. A new machine should be on the floor and hooked up, not just in a crate on the dock, or in a trailer on the way in, if you want to depreciate it. If the new asset is a vehicle, you need to take delivery to get the deduction. If the asset is a farm building, it needs to be assembled and in place, not in boxes on the ground.
The TaxProf reports on a new Treasury Inspector General report, TIGTA: IRS Has 25-30% Error Rate In Refundable Child Tax Credits, Mistakenly Pays $6-7 Billion:
The IRS has continually rated the risk of improper ACTC payments as low. However, TIGTA’s assessment of the potential for ACTC improper payments indicates the ACTC improper payment rate is similar to that of the EITC. Using IRS data, TIGTA estimates the potential ACTC improper payment rate for Fiscal Year 2013 is between 25.2 percent and 30.5 percent, with potential ACTC improper payments totaling between $5.9 billion and $7.1 billion. In addition, IRS enforcement data show the root causes of improper ACTC payments are similar to those of the EITC.
So at least 1/4 of the credit is claimed fraudulently or illegally. This is one of the provisions the President insists be made permanent as a price for permanently extending business provisions. He killed the permanent extender compromise when it didn’t also make the child credit permanent.
Iowa Public Radio reports Grassley Wants Wind Tax Credit to Go Further. He should read Bryan Caplan’s review, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels: We Owe Civilization to Fossil Fuels. “And despite decades of government favoritism, alternative fuels have yet to deliver.”
Peter Reilly, Seventh Circuit Will Not Let Tax Protester Blame His Lawyer For Conviction:
James Stuart thought that Peter Hendrickson had “cracked the code” – the Internal Revenue Code, that is. Joe Kristan would characterize it as finding the tax fairy – that magical sprite who make your taxes go away painlessly while your sucker friends send checks to the tax man.
It’s always fun to be named-checked by a Forbes blogger.
Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Tax Tips for Gifts to Charity (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).
Robert D. Flach, DONOR ADVISED FUNDS. For at least 99.99% of taxpayers, these are far better than setting up a private foundation.
Paul Neiffer, Watch Your Crop Insurance Form 1099s This Year
Brad Ridlehoover, The Grinch That Stole Their Reasonable Cause… (Procedurally Taxing)
TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 580. Lois Lerner appears to have been scheming to sic the Justice Department on the Tea Partiers as early as 2010, according to newly-unearthed e-mails.
Howard Gleckman asks Why Does Congress Pay For Some Tax Cuts and Not Others? (TaxVox). “It can’t be the merits of the recipients. By now, TaxVox readers know that the expired tax breaks included such worthies as preferences for race horse owners, Puerto Rican rum manufacturers, and TV and film producers.”
Eric Cederwall asks What is the Simplest Tax System? (Tax Policy Blog). “Normative economics aside, a per-person tax is one of the most economically efficient taxes for raising revenue.” Not happening, though.
Adrienne Gonzalez, Kids These Days Trust the IRS More Than Olds Do (Going Concern). Like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, they’ll figure it out eventually.