Posts Tagged ‘Branstad tax policy’

Tax Roundup, 12/5/14: Senate just too busy to pass extenders? And: grumbling about incentive tax credits.

Friday, December 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

lizard20140826Is the Senate just too darn busy to vote on the House-passed extender bill? Lame Duck Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says it just might be, says a report in The Hill:

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday night that the Senate might not be able to pass the House tax extenders bill before the end of the year.

“Everyone knows we have to do a spending bill. Everyone knows we have to do a defense bill,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “Everyone knows that we’re trying to do some tax extenders. We’re trying to do that but we’ll see.”

I hope he’s not serious. Given the stakes to individual and business taxpayers and to the IRS this filing season, I think Senator Reid coud fit an up-or-down vote into his busy, busy day.

This passive-aggressive foot-dragging could be an attempt to get some concession out of Senate Republicans while Senator Reid still is majority leader. Perhaps it’s a mere gesture to save face after his humiliation at the hands of the President, who shot down a compromise he had negotiated with House GOP taxwriter Dave Camp. Or maybe it’s just a poke at the GOP, which will take over the Senate next month.

The bill  (HR 5771) would extend 55 provisions that lapsed at the end of 2013 through the end of this month retroactively. The Lazarus Provisions include the $500,000 Section 179 limit, 50% bonus depreciation, the research credit and the five-year limit on built-in gains. It also includes individual provisions like the exclusion for IRA donations for charity and the deduction for educator expenses.

I still expect the Senate to pick up the bill soon. Accounting Today reports that the Senate is likely to vote on the House-passed “Extender” bill as soon as next week. Still, it is an unwelcome turn in the extenders melodrama, leaving taxpayers and the IRS hanging just a little longer.

Prior coverage: House passes extenders; Senate alternative appears dead. And: Gas tax fever!

Paul Neiffer, House Passes HR 5771 Tax Extender Bill

 

20120906-1Will corporate welfare tax incentives be an issue in the next Iowa legislature? A report by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell hints that it might be:

State assistance to attract Google, Microsoft, and Facebook to Iowa is under scrutiny by a statehouse committee.

The panel is looking at tax incentives the state hands out to attract industry, including the big datacenters which are making more than three billion dollars in capital investments in the state.

It appears chief Iowa Senate taxwriter Joe Bolkcom is involved:

“We need a better handle on the money being spent and the jobs being created,” says Iowa City Democrat Joe Bolkcom.

Officials with the Department of Revenue say the companies’ tax records are confidential . Lawmakers may sponsor legislation to get around that.

“Taxpayers have a right to know the exact cost,” Bolkcom says.

That’s the wonder of corporate welfare tax credits. Because tax returns are confidential, we can’t know exactly how much taxpayer money is thrown at any company. All we see are the phot0-ops and ribbon cuttings by the politicians who are being generous with other people’s money.

Senator Bolkcom says Iowa’s tax credits have doubled in four years. That’s true, though they are still below the $342 million record set in fiscal year 2007. The most recent Iowa Tax Credits Contingent Liabilities Report shows $248.5 million tax credits were issued in the last fiscal year.  The report attributes the decline to caps imposed on the credits in the wake of the Film Tax Credit Scandal.  That amount is expected to rise to $402 million for 2016. That compares to $428 million collected by the entire Iowa corporation income tax in 2013, according to this report (page 6).

I have an idea for a compromise. Get rid of Iowa’s highest-in-the world corporation income tax and all of the incentive tax credits. Enact The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform! That should make everyone happy, right?

 

20140826-1Robert D. Flach has some fresh Friday Buzz. It looks like I won’t have my extended comments on his thoughts on tax preparer civil disobedience until next week. Dang extenders.

Keith Fogg, Litigating the Merits of a Trust Fund Recovery Penalty Case in CDP When the Taxpayer Fails to Receive the Notice (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Recovered IRS Emails Can’t Be Revealed Because Of Privacy…That Was Already Breached,

Kay Bell, NYC’s high cigarette tax blamed for Eric Garner’s death.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 575 (TaxProf)

 

Career Corner. Ex-Crazy Eddie CFO’s 10 Tips for Advancing Your Accounting Career (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). Always trust a felon!

Share

Tax Roundup, 12/3/14: House voting on extenders today. Are Senate, White House on board?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130113-3The House will likely pass one-year extender bill today. Will the Senate and White House go along? Multiple reports say that the House of Representatives is expected to approve HR 5771 today, reviving 55 perennially-resurected tax breaks through 2014. The breaks, which include bonus depreciation, the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, and the research credit, all expired at the end of 2013.

While the fate of the bill in the Senate and the White House are not entirely clear, I expect the House bill to pass, given the lack of alternatives.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) used a weekly Senate Democratic luncheon Tuesday to push for an alternative that would extend expiring tax breaks through 2015.

But his Republican counterpart on the committee, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, brushed that aside, saying time was running out. Mr. Hatch—on whom Mr. Wyden frequently relies when crafting deals—came out in favor of the short-term fix, saying the only alternative he would support at this point was the one worked out between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and drew a White House veto threat last week. If the Senate advanced a new version, “there will be no bill” because “the House is going to leave,” Mr. Hatch said.

The full text of Sen. Hatch’s statements can be found here.

The Hill reports that the White House appears ready to go along with the House bill. Given the way the White House threatened a veto of the House-Senate deal that would have extended some of the breaks permanently, I think the lack of a veto threat means the President is likely to sign this version. While there appears to be some unhappiness with the House bill — Senator Grassley is not a fan of the one-year approach —  I expect the lame-duck Senate to pass it anyway. Unfortunately, it’s not clear when the Senate will act.

Congress has for years passed these provisions for one or two years at a time because Congressional budget rules allow them to pretend they are less expensive than they really are. Unfortunately, that often leaves taxpayers uncertain as to what the tax law is for the year until the year is almost over — or, in 2012, until the year was over. That makes it hard to evaluate the economics of important fixed-asset decisions. The abortive House-Senate deal would have ended this game for several key provisions, but the White House chose scoring cheap political points over an improved business tax environment.

Related:

Paul Neiffer, Is an One-Year Extension of Section 179 all we get?!

Howard Gleckman, How To End the Tax Extender Drama: Stop Calling Them Extenders—And Make Congress Pay For Them

Kay Bell, Tax extenders compromise: OK expired breaks for 2014 only

 

20121108-1Peter Reilly, Repair Regs – A Hellish Tax Season And Refunds Of Biblical Magnitude. Peter discusses the need, or not, for massive filing of useless accounting method changes to implement the new “repair regulations.” He also touches on a potential boon for owners of commercial real estate.

Robert D. Flach, TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE 0% TAX RATE

William Perez, What You Need to Know about the Premium Assistance Tax Credit

Russ Fox notes A Rare Piece of Efficiency from the IRS

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #4-IRS Rules on Self-Employment Income Of LLC Members.

 

Robert Wood, What IRS Calls ‘Willful’–Even A Smidgen–Can Mean Penalties Or Jail

TaxGrrrl, Feeling Spendy This Year? ’12 Days Of Christmas’ Slightly More Expensive

 

microsoft-appleSound Advice. David Brunori offers Advice for the New Republican Legislative Majorities (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s full of sound advice, but I especially like this:

Republicans should become the party of virtue, courage, and honesty when it comes to taxes. They should fight crony capitalism, as there is nothing more abhorrent to the free market than the government picking winners and losers. Yet state governments do just that all the time. The proliferation of tax incentives represents horrible tax policy. That politicians can decide economic policy through tax incentives is more akin to a Soviet five-year plan than to Adam Smith’s invisible hand. True conservatives should fight attempts to use tax policy to further economic objectives. Broad-based taxes and low rates will always serve the conservative cause better than the existing nonsensical tax laws. Standing on principle to ensure a broad tax base is hard — and neither party has been able to do it. But it is a stand worth taking.

That would be wonderful advice here in Iowa, but our newly re-elected GOP governor has been up to his mustache in crony tax breaks to chase high-profile businesses. Meanwhile Iowa’s home-grown businesses don’t get the big subsidies. They are dragged down by the highest corporation tax rate in the developed world, baroque complexity, and a bottom-ten business tax environment.

A real pro-business tax reform in Iowa might look something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 573.

 

lizard20140826Leslie BookH&R Block CEO Asks IRS To Make it Harder to Self-Prepare Tax Returns and Why That is Good for the Tax System.  “Yet, as I explain here, I think the changes he proposes would likely be good for the tax system because they could enhance visibility and accountability, principles the IRS should emphasize with issues that tend to have sticky error rates.”

H&R Block has been trying to pad its income for years on the backs of retail taxpayers. Its former CEO authored the illegal tax preparer regulations system the IRS tried to force on the industry — a system that would have run many of Henry and Robert’s competitors out of the buisness. Now they want to force the lowest-income earners through their doors.

I think the right approach to advice from an outfit that so shamelessly promotes its interests at the expense of taxpayers may be to carefully note it, and to do exactly the opposite.

 

Stephen Entin, No Mystery that Investment Slump Hurts Workers, Lowers Productivity and Wages (Tax Policy Blog)

 

News from the Profession. Why Is Everyone in Public Accounting Obsessed with Sports? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 11/10/14: DOL nixes many employer health reimbursement setups. And: Sheldon!

Monday, November 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Good morning from beautiful, if frigid, Sheldon, Iowa, where I am on the Day 1 panel of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. A good crowd has braved the brisk north winds and forecasts of snow — so now it’s up to us to make them glad they did.

20141110-1

 

Elections are over I. Branstad says Iowa road funding a top priority, raising fuel tax on the table (Omaha.com)

Elections are over II. FAQs about Affordable Care Act Implementation (Part XXII) The Department of Labor has issued new guidance on small-employer plan arrangements. The guidance, issued just after the election, puts strict limits on the ability of employers to bypass group plan rules by reimbursing premiums or using Health Reimbursement Arrangements under Section 105. As plans doing that have been marketed to small employers in Iowa and elsewhere, this could be an expensive development for employers; violating these rules carries a $100 per day penalty for each affected employee.

The FAQ discusses premium reimbursement arrangements: (my emphasis):

My employer offers employees cash to reimburse the purchase of an individual market policy. Does this arrangement comply with the market reforms?

No. If the employer uses an arrangement that provides cash reimbursement for the purchase of an individual market policy, the employer’s payment arrangement is part of a plan, fund, or other arrangement established or maintained for the purpose of providing medical care to employees, without regard to whether the employer treats the money as pre-tax or post-tax to the employee. Therefore, the arrangement is group health plan coverage within the meaning of Code section 9832(a), Employee Retirement Income Securi20121120-2ty Act (ERISA) section 733(a) and PHS Act section 2791(a), and is subject to the market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act applicable to group health plans. Such employer health care arrangements cannot be integrated with individual market policies to satisfy the market reforms and, therefore, will violate PHS Act sections 2711 and 2713, among other provisions, which can trigger penalties such as excise taxes under section 4980D of the Code. Under the Departments’ prior published guidance, the cash arrangement fails to comply with the market reforms because the cash payment cannot be integrated with an individual market policy.(6)

This means that employers cannot have employees submit their insurance bills for reimbursement; doing so is considered a disqualified group insurance plan. The closest the employer can do is give an employee a raise without restriction, giving the employee the option of buying insurance.

The FAQ pretty much embalms Sec. 105 plans as substitutes for group plans.

A vendor markets a product to employers claiming that employers can cancel their group policies, set up a Code section 105 reimbursement plan that works with health insurance brokers or agents to help employees select individual insurance policies, and allow eligible employees to access the premium tax credits for Marketplace coverage. Is this permissible?

No. The Departments have been informed that some vendors are marketing such products. However, these arrangements are problematic for several reasons. First, the arrangements described in this Q3 are themselves group health plans and, therefore, employees participating in such arrangements are ineligible for premium tax credits (or cost-sharing reductions) for Marketplace coverage. The mere fact that the employer does not get involved with an employee’s individual selection or purchase of an individual health insurance policy does not prevent the arrangement from being a group health plan. DOL guidance indicates that the existence of a group health plan is based on many facts and circumstances, including the employer’s involvement in the overall scheme and the absence of an unfettered right by the employee to receive the employer contributions in cash.(12)

DOL LogoSecond, as explained in DOL Technical Release 2013-03, IRS Notice 2013-54, and the two IRS FAQs addressing employer health care arrangements referenced earlier, such arrangements are subject to the market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the PHS Act section 2711 prohibition on annual limits and the PHS Act 2713 requirement to provide certain preventive services without cost sharing. Such employer health care arrangements cannot be integrated with individual market policies to satisfy the market reforms and, therefore, will violate PHS Act sections 2711 and 2713, among other provisions, which can trigger penalties such as excise taxes under section 4980D of the Code.

It is difficult to determine the policy reasons behind this. As best I can tell, it seems to be that the DOL wants employees to be covered either under traditional group plans set up under the small business exchanges, or on individual plans purchased through the regular exchanges. Whatever the policy justification, it’s bad news for any employers using such arrangements, as the rules are already in effect for 2014.

Paul Neiffer has more at DOL Plays Hardball (Don’t Shoot the Messenger)!

If you are dealing with any vendor offering Section 105 plans that are attempting to make payment of health insurance premiums for more than one employee deductible by the employer and exempt from payroll taxes, be extremely careful.  As you can see from this Q #3, the DOL takes a dim view of these arrangements.

One last area of concern that was not addressed by the DOL is what happens with S corporation shareholders who have health insurance premiums reimbursed.  Under the self-employed health insurance deduction rules, there is a requirement for reimbursement; under the DOL Q&A, these reimbursements may run afoul of the ACA requirements.  If we get further clarity on this, we will let you know.

I understand this as restricting S corporation 2% owners to group plans, without a reimbursement option, but I suspect clarification is forthcoming.

Additional coverage from ISU-CALT: Updated! Heal.th Reimbursement Plans Not Compliant with ACA Could Mean Exorbitant Penalties.

 

20131111-1

Sheldon scene, 2013. It’s slightly less cold this year.

William Perez, What You Need to Know about Reporting Payments Using Form 1099-MISC

Kay Bell, IRS taxpayer service outlook, short- and long-term, is bleak

Robert Everett JohnsonIRS Seizure of Assets Using Anti-Structuring Laws (Procedurally Taxing). It is a guest post by an attorney for the heroic Institute for Justice, which is defending the Arnolds Park, Iowa resturaunteur whose cash was stolen by the IRS.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Warns Taxpayers To Be Diligent As Identity Thieves Add New Twist To Phone Scam.

Russ Fox, Since the Dead Vote, Why Can’t They Get Tax Exemptions? “Cook County has begun to make sure that seniors are truly alive when taking the exemption.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 550. Todays links hit heavily on the failure of the agency to even look for the missing Lois Lerner e-mails in its servers or backup tapes. Yet Commissioner Koskinen just doesn’t understand why Republican appropriators don’t want to entrust him with a bigger budget.

Career Corner. Gentlemen, If Your Firm Offers Paternity Leave, Take All Of It (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Yes, it gives you lots of time to interview for that new job you’ll be needing.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 9/10/14: Another campaign season, another Iowa tax credit proposal. And: a property tax appeal goes very badly.

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

How Iowa’s tax law gets worse and worse, episode 7,433.  From TheGazette.com (my emphasis):

Gov. Terry Branstad and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, traveled to college campuses Tuesday offering their plan for making higher education affordable and reducing student debt.

The GOP team proposed offering fixed-price degrees or $10,000 bachelors degree for popular major at public universities to cut costs for al limited number of in-state students and tax credits for being volunteers in qualifying community activities during stops at Iowa State University in Ames and Drake University in Des Moines.

Say that again, slowly: “tax credits for being volunteers in qualifying community activities.”  Paid volunteerism.  What a wonderful concept, like non-alcoholic whiskey.

To reduce debt that is among the nation’s highest for college students, Branstad and Reynolds said they would work with the Legislature in 2015 to create a state tax credit that would allow students to reduce debt by participating in volunteer activities within their community through a qualified Student Debt Reduction Organization.

Details and specifics of the tax credit would be worked out so it would encourage community volunteerism while also maintaining the strength of other successful tax credit programs, such as the Student Tuition Organization Tax Credit, [campaign spokesman Tommy] Schultz said.

Bluto20140910It’s something cooked up to sound good in a re-election campaign.  Well, cooked-up may be too strong a term, when it is admittedly only half-baked (details and specifics to be worked out).  You would give the Department of Revenue a new job of supervising “Student Debt Reduction Organizations.” These organizations would be set up by non-profits and government agencies to spend state money.

Can you think of any way this will end well?  Does anyone really think the “volunteer” time will be well used? Or that these local communities will have useful projects for all these “volunteers?”  And does anyone doubt that local politicians will find ways to use these “volunteers” to help them get re-elected?

But it sounds good. “Promote civic involvement.”  And the Iowa tax law gets another barnacle.

Another fallacy of the Governor’s plan: the idea that the reason college isn’t “affordable” because there aren’t enough government programs and tax credits to subsidize it. Yet every few years there is a new subsidy or tax credit, on top of the old ones.   Pell Grants, student loan subsidies, Lifetime Learning Credits, HOPE Credits, American Opportunity Tax Credits, student loan interest deductions…  all touted as making college “more affordable.”  Yet somehow tuition keeps outpacing inflation.  It should be obvious by now that higher education just raises prices to soak up the subsidies.  More subsidies and tax credits are the problem, not the solution.

 

Why you might want to hire somebody to handle your property tax appeal.  From the Des Moines Register:

An Iowa man angry about his property taxes was fatally shot during a public meeting Tuesday after he pulled a gun from a briefcase and pointed it at the county assessor, law enforcement officials said.

Francis Glaser, a former Maquoketa city manager, had become agitated and vocal about his property taxes going up during a weekly meeting of Jackson County’s board of supervisors in Maquoketa, a town about 30 miles south of Dubuque.

It apparently involved a tax incentive.

 

Paul Neiffer, Will Tax Inversion Debate Yield Permanent Section 179

Peter Reilly, Andrew Kay Passes – Helped Accountants Abandon Pencil Pushing:

 I never knew who he was, but the machine that his company made had a profound influence on tax and accounting practice , at least in my neck of the woods.  Mr. Kay was responsible for the Kaypro.

I never used a Kaypro, but I am probably indebted to Mr. Kay. With my penmanship, I could never have survived in accounting without computers.

 

20140910-1Richard Auxier, Nearly All States Play the Lottery, But None Are Big Winners (TaxVox). “Playing the lottery can be fun. But politicians selling lotteries as a panacea for education spending are just as disingenuous as lotto advertisements promising big wins. And states pushing instant and electronic games on their poorest residents are doubling-down on a bad bet.”

Russ Fox, New Jersey Tries Hail Mary on Sports Betting; Will IRS Intercept?

Kay Bell, Will Tax Inversion Debate Yield Permanent Section 179

David Brunori, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Tax Ideas (Tax Analysts Blog)

Matt Gardner, Wisconsin Contemplates Property Tax Shift from Business to Homeowners. (Tax Justice Blog). Business don’t ultimately pay taxes. They merely collect them on behalf of customers, employees and owners.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, New Earnings Stripping Bill is Fundamentally Unserious (Tax Policy Blog).  Of course it is. That doesn’t mean it won’t pass someday.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 489. Today’s roundup includes this from the Washington Post about Commissioner Koskinen’s duplicity in handling the scandal:

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testified this summer that he played no part in spreading word of the agency’s controversial missing e-mails to the Treasury Department or the White House. But one of his closest advisers apparently did.

And he wonders why Congress doesn’t want to give him all the money he asks for.

 

Career Corner.  How Failing the CPA Exam Might Actually Help You Succeed (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

Share

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

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sales tax giveaway to the NASCAR track in Newton.

The rich tax breaks for data centers.

MP branstad

Governor Branstad, pre-mustache

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

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

Related:

The joys of cronyism

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

Governor’s press conference praises construction of newest great pyramids

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Yeah, not a real fix.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 5/16/14: Iowa Alt Max Tax resurfaces. And: Alimony madness.

Friday, May 16th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

The Iowa Alternative Maximum Tax Trial Balloon rises again.  From O. Kay Henderson, ‘Flat tax’ likely on GOP legislators’ agenda in 2015:

The top Republican in the Iowa House says if Republicans win statehouse majorities in the House and the Senate this November, one item on his wish list for 2015 is a “flat” state income tax. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, spoke early this morning at a breakfast meeting of central Iowa Republicans.

Paulsen and his fellow House Republicans endorsed a “flat” tax proposal last year, but it was not considered in the Democratically-led Iowa Senate. The proposal would have allowed Iowans to continue filing their income taxes under the current system or choose the alternative of a 4.5 percent flat tax on their income, with no deductions.

I call this an “alternative maximum tax” because taxpayers will compute the tax both ways and pay the smaller number.  That contrasts with the alternative minimum tax, where you compute taxes two ways and pay the higher amount.  It has the obvious drawback of adding a new layer of complexity to the current baroque Iowa income tax.

20120906-1The proposal is likely an attempt to enact a lower rate system in a way that doesn’t upset fans of Iowa’s deduction for federal income taxes — particularly the influential Iowans for Tax Relief.  Because the deduction would rarely provide a better result than the alt max tax, support for the old system would wither away, maybe.

I’m probably too much of a tax geek to read the politics correctly, but I’m not convinced adding a new computation to the Iowa 1040 will fire up the electorate.  I think something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be easier to run on.  Eliminate all the crony tax credits and well-intended but futile tax breaks.  Get rid of the job-killing, worst-in-the-nation Iowa corporation income tax.   Drastically lower rates, increase the standard deduction, and limit the role of the income tax to funding the government.   This would get my vote anyway, and it would at least be awkward to argue instead for the current system that sends millions to some of Iowa’s biggest corporations as subsidies on the backs of you, me and small businesses.

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

 

I always thought enforcing the tax rules for alimony would be about the easiest job the IRS could have.  When you pay alimony, you get an above-the-line deduction, but only if you list the name and social security number of the recipient ex-spouse.  Just match the deduction with the income and generate notices when they don’t match.

This information systems problem is apparently too much for the IRS.  Peter Reilly reports:

According to the TIGTA report there were 567,887 Forms 1040 for 2010 that had alimony deductions.  The total claimed was $10 Billion.  When they compared the corresponding returns that should have recorded the income, there were discrepancies on 266,190 returns including 122,870 returns that had no alimony income at all reported.  There were nearly 25,000 returns where the income recognized was greater than the deduction claimed which produced a bit of an offset ($75 million).  On net, deductions exceeded income by $2.3 billion.  In her piece “Alimony Tax Gap is $1.7 BillionAshlea Ebeling goes into more details on the report, so I’m going to get a little more into what I see as the big picture here.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of the IRS, over my career I had developed a grudging respect for the organization’s competence and professionalism.  That’s been mostly drawn down over the last few years.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, A Warning About the IRS That We Should Heed (Tax Analysts Blog):

As I wrote almost a year ago, the IRS is in trouble. Punishing it will do no more good than ignoring what has happened over the last year. The former seems to be the plan of House Republicans; the latter appears to be the White House plan. We need to fix it, and that is harder than either of the above two approaches.

This is correct.  Unfortunately, the IRS became a partisan organization in the Tea Party scandal, and it’s proposed 501(c)(4) regulations only make that official.  The impasse won’t be broken until the IRS does something to reassure Republican congresscritters.  Withdrawing the proposed rules is probably a necessary start.

 

Kay Bell, Johnny Football’s Texas residency can cut his NFL income tax.

Lyman Stone, The Facts on Interstate Migration: Part Five (Tax Policy Blog):

On the whole, these high-inward migration states tend to have lower tax burdens. North Carolina and Idaho have periodically had higher than average tax burdens, but most, like Tennessee and Nevada, have consistently low tax burdens. Again, this doesn’t conclusively prove that taxes drive migration, as no doubt other living costs are lower in these states too: but it does suggest that taxes cannot be discounted out of hand.

 

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Asset

TaxGrrrl, Tesla Continues To Roll Out Tax Strategies For Consumers .  An auto company with a marketing pitch built around tax credits seems like a bad thing to me.

Stop by Robert D. Flach’s Place for a solid Friday morning Buzz!

 

20140516-1

 

Howard Gleckman, Are Multinationals Getting Tired of Waiting for Corporate Tax Reform? (TaxVox).  They seem to be taking a do-it-yourself approach more and more.

Tax Justice Blog, States Can Make Tax Systems Fairer By Expanding or Enacting EITC.  I think this is wrong, at least the way the earned income tax credit works now.  Arnold Kling has a much-more promising proposal that would replace the EITC and other means-tested welfare programs.

Kyle Pomerleau, Flawed Buffett Rule Reintroduced in Senate (Tax Justice Blog).  Of course, that’s the only kind.

 

Cara Griffith, In Search of a Little Guidance (Tax Analysts Blog). “If informal guidance is the only guidance available to practitioners and taxpayers, can they rely on it?”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 372.  Guess what?  It wasn’t just a few rogues in Cincinnati.

 

News from the Profession.  Alleged “Touch It For a Buck” Creeper CPA Got His License Revoked For Felony Creepiness (Going Concern).

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 5/14/14: Earned income credits, still busted. And: extenders advance.

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

Nope.  Still busted.  From WashingtonExaminer.com comes an update on what some call America’s most successful anti-poverty program:

The Treasury Department has released its latest report  on the fight against widespread fraud in the Earned Income Tax Credit program. The problem is, fraud is still winning. And there’s not even much of a fight.

“The Internal Revenue Service continues to make little progress in reducing improper payments of Earned Income Tax Credits,” a press release from Treasury’s inspector general for Tax Administration says. “The IRS estimates that 22 to 26 percent of EITC payments were issued improperly in Fiscal Year 2013. The dollar value of these improper payments was estimated to be between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion.”

Wait.  Didn’t the President sign a bill in 2010 to fix all this?

The new report found that the IRS is simply ignoring the requirements of a law called the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act, signed by President Obama in 2010, which requires the IRS to set fraud-control targets and keep improper payments below ten percent of all Earned Income Tax Credit payouts.

Whatever the EITC does to help the working poor, it is a boon to the Grifter-American community.  Fraudulent EITC claims are a staple of ID theft fraud and low-tech tax cheating in general.

It’s worth noting that the high rate of improper EITC payouts has not gone down in spite of the ever-increasing IRS requirements for preparers who issue returns claiming the credits.  This should give pause to folks who think IRS preparer regulations will stop fraud, though it won’t.

It’s also notable that Iowa recently increased its piggyback EITC to 15% of the federal credit — increasing the annual cost of the credit by an estimated $35 million.  Assuming Iowans are just as honest as other Americans, that means about $8 million of additional stimulus to the Iowa grifter economy.

Finally, the phase-out of the EITC functions as a hidden high marginal tax rate on the program’s intended beneficiaries, the working poor.  The effective marginal rate in Iowa exceeds 50% at some income levels.  Combined with other income-based phase-outs, the EITC becomes a poverty trap.

 

Related: Arnold Kling,  SNEP and the EITC. “My priors, which I think are supported by the research cited by Salam, is that trying to use a program like the EITC for social engineering is a mug’s game.”

 

 

Extenders advance in Senate.  Tax Analysts reports ($link)

Legislation that would extend for two years nearly all the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013 cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate May 13.

Senators voted 96 to 3 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 3474, a bill to exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate employees with healthcare coverage through the Veterans Benefits Administration or through the military healthcare program TRICARE.

The bill is the legislative vehicle for the tax extenders. It will be amended to include the text of the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act of 2014 (S. 2260) and likely that of the Tax Technical Corrections Act of 2014 (S. 2261), both of which the Senate Finance Committee passed April 3 via voice vote.

The bill that passes will probably look much like the Senate bill.  The House has advanced bills to make some of the perpetually-expiring provisions permanent, but the President, pretending that they won’t get passed every year anyway, says permanent extension is fiscally irresponsible.

Among the provisions to be extended yet again, mostly through 2015, are the research credit, new markets credits, wind and biofuel credits, bonus depreciation, and increased Sec. 179 deductions.  The five-year built-in gain tax recognition period is also extended through 2015.

Related: TaxGrrrl, Senate Moves Forward To Extend Tax Breaks For 2014

 

20120906-1O. Kay HendersonKnoxville Raceway ceremony for state tax break of up to $2 million:

Governor Terry Branstad went to Knoxville today to sign a bill into law that gives the Knoxville Raceway a state tax break to help finance improvements at the track.

“This is a great facility,” Branstad told Radio Iowa during a telephone interview right after the event. “Last year, in 2013, they attracted 211,000 visitors, so it’s a big tourism attraction and it’s a good investment and it’s great for the state to partner with the community for a project of this magnitude.”

Here’s how that partnership works: the racetrack will charge sales tax to its customers, and keep the money.  Only two other businesses are special enough to get this sweet deal.  Tough luck for the rest of us who don’t have the good connections and lobbyists.

 

Walnut st flowersJana Luttenegger, Updated E-Filing Requirements for Tax Preparers (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “The handbook is not exactly clear.

Jason Dinesen, Things Tax Preparers Say: S-Corporation Compensation.  “But too many business owners — and their accountants — treat S-corps like a magic wand that can just make taxes disappear completely.”

Kay Bell, IRS fight to regulate tax preparers officially over…for now

Peter Reilly, Can Somebody Explain Tax Shelters To Thomas Piketty?  In the unlikely event that the Piketty recommendations are ever enacted, Peter notes that “there will be a renaissance of shelter activity.”  Peter provides a “Cliff Notes” summary of this year’s big forgettable book I’ll never read, which I appreciate.  Also: Peter uses the tax-law-as-Swiss Army Knife analogy that I am so fond of.

Robert D. Flach, STILL MORE CLIENTS SCREWED BY THE TAX CODE.  “The list of taxpayers screwed by our current Tax Code is not a short one.  Today I add taxpayers with gambling winnings.”

 

20130110-2Howard Gleckman, How “Dead Men” Fiscal Policy Is Paralyzing Government (TaxVox).  He reviews a new book, Dead Men Ruling, by Gene Steurle:

“We are left with a budget for a declining nation,” Gene writes, “that invests ever-less in our future…and a broken government that presides over archaic, inefficient, and inequitable spending and tax programs.”

All this has happened due to a confluence of two unhappy trends: The first is what the late conservative writer Jude Wanniski memorably described almost four decades ago as the “Two-Santa Theory.”

The Santas are the two parties, each of whom pick our pockets to fill our stockings.

 

Alan Cole, The Simple Case for Tax Neutrality (Tax Policy Blog).  “When states give preferential rates of sales tax to certain goods, the most visible result is the legal bonanza that follows from trying to re-categorize goods into the preferred groupings. ”

David Brunori, Repealing the Property Tax Is an Asinine Idea (Tax Analysts Blog). “Public finance experts are almost unanimous in their belief that the property tax is the ideal way to fund local government services… Most importantly, the property tax ensures local political control.”

William McBride, What is Investment and How Do We Get More of It? (Tax Policy Blog).  “Full expensing for all investment, according to our analysis, would increase the capital stock by 16 percent and grow GDP by more than 5 percent.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 370

News from the Profession.  AICPA Tackling the Important Issue of Male CPAs Wanting It All (Going Concern). 

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 4/29/14: Funding what we do anyway edition. And: the real IRS crisis.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Remember, Iowa 1040s are due tomorrow!  They extend automatically, with no need to file an extension, to October 30 if you have at least 90% of your 2013 tax paid in.  If you need to pay in some more, use Iowa 1040-V.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

O. Kay Henderson reports on a New state tax break proposed for Iowa parents who adopt:

The legislature has voted to establish a new tax credit for Iowa parents who adopt a child. If the governor signs the bill into law, Iowans could claim a credit of up to $2500 per child for adoption-related expenses.

The bill would allow the credit for expenses like legal fees and the medical bills for the birth mother.

So the legislature is boldly addressing the lack of available parents wanting to adopt children by subsidizing the process.  Except there is no lack of willing prospective adoptive parents.  In fact, the high cost of adoptions is largely driven by the lack of U.S. babies available, forcing parents wanting to adopt to pursue expensive overseas adoptions.

Adoptive parents do a wonderful thing, taking a stranger’s child into their house as their own.  But all good things don’t necessarily need their own tax break.  This break pays people to do what they are already doing.  If the tax law needs to encourage something, is this the most important thing to do?  Should it instead encourage something people wouldn’t do otherwise?  Should people choose what to do without tax law involvement?  Is it really worth making the Department of Revenue an overseer of the adoption process?  Nobody cares, apparently, as HF 2468 flew through the Iowa Senate 48-0, and the Iowa House, 95-1.  Governor Branstad will come out against farmers before he vetoes this one.

 

I’m sure they are.  Iowa Renewable Fuels Group Pleased With Biofuels Bill Approval. More special favors for special friends.

 

A scene from the heydey of Iowa energy independence.

A scene from the heydey of Iowa energy independence.

 

Kay Bell, Maryland pays $11.5 million to keep House of Cards.  Some people never learn.

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Janet NovackThere’s A Crisis At The IRS And It’s Not What You Think:

The IRS is, however, an insular, often tone deaf and sometimes bumbling bureaucracy which is being starved of the resources it needs to do its job.  Since 2010, its Congressional appropriations have fallen 7% —-and that’s in nominal dollars, before any adjustment for inflation. During the same period, its appropriations funded workforce has shrunk by 10%, with enforcement staff down 15%, according to numbers Congress’ Government Accountability Office released last week. Meanwhile, the tax agency’s workload has increased with the explosion of identity theft tax refund fraud; a 4% growth in returns filed; and new laws to administer, including the Affordable Care Act  (a.k.a. Obamacare).

That is precisely true.  It’s also mostly the agency’s own fault.   The agency been shown to have used its powers against political opponents of the administration.  It refuses to back off of proposed regulations that would make its political role permanent.  Until it swears off that approach, it can only expect short funding.  The House GOP would be fools to fund an agency dedicated to the other party.  Untill Commissioner Koskinen can rise above pro-administration partisanship and pull the proposed regulations, the agency will continue to be shorted.

 

Annals of Public Service.  Rep. Grimm charged with tax fraud, says he won’t quit (USA Today):

Republican Rep. Michael Grimm was indicted Monday on federal charges of tax evasion and perjury for allegedly hiding more than $1 million in revenue from a New York City restaurant he owned where, prosecutors said, he also hired undocumented immigrants.

Grimm, a former FBI agent who has been under federal investigation regarding campaign contributions, said he is the victim of a “political witch hunt” and said he would not resign his seat.

While you can’t rule out a political explanation, the man is a politician, so the charges are at least plausible.  If it is an unsupported political prosecution, that will become apparent quickly.

Even if the charges are supported, that doesn’t rule out political bias.  After all, Democrat Charlie Rangel was never indicted, in spite of failing to pay his taxes for years.  That’s why arguments that the Tea Party persecution was OK, because some Tea Party groups didn’t qualify for exempt status, are unconvincing.  When a law is enforced only against opponents,  it is a gross injustice, even if the selective enforcement catches some actual violators.

 

IMG_1944Peter Reilly, Tax Court Denies Amway Losses – Again.  Peter ponders the Amway couple I discussed last week.  Peter has actually attended an Amway presentation, and he explains how the program works – or doesn’t.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Tax Planning For Mergers And Acquisitions, Part II.  This post discusses the tax-free kind.

TaxGrrrl, Let’s Go Places: Toyota Workers Could Save Big Tax Dollars With Move.  Food for thought for those who think state taxes are irrelevant.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 355

Tyler Cowen, Accounting for U.S. Earnings and Wealth Inequality.  “So much of the current Piketty debate is simply forgetting that…science exists and has already offered a wide range of insights on these topics, as well as having rendered some of the more extreme claims unlikely.”

Richard Borean, Does a Flat Income Tax Create Income Inequality? (Tax Policy Blog).  Short answer: no.

20140429-1

 

Jeremy ScottThe Most Expensive Extenders (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Temporary tax policy is generally bad, but temporary policy that is designed to encourage long-term investment decisions is even worse. ”

 

It’s Tuesday!  That makes it Robert D. Flach Buzzday!

 

Russ Fox, It’s Probably Not Good for Your Case When the Court Considers Sanctioning Your Attorney.  When  your lawyer angers the judge, he may not be helping.

News from the Profession.  This Off-Kilter Accounting Firm Just Launched a New Website Begging to Be Judged (Going Concern)

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 4/28/14: No connection found for Iowa broadband credit. And: it can take a long time to recover from tax season.

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20120906-1
Truly we live in the age of wonders.  
A new set of economic development tax credits made it to the floor of the Iowa House on a Friday — and failed.  It’s a wonder that they actually showed up on a Friday — and to reject corporate welfare, to boot.

Before we get excited, it would be wrong to believe that the Iowa General Assembly has suddenly come to its senses about tax incentives.  It appears that many of the “no” votes on HF 2472 were from people who felt it wasn’t a big enough giveaway, reports the Des Moines Register:

Democratic leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, said his members voted against the bill because they felt it didn’t go far enough in incentivizing and stimulating the expansion of high-speed Internet service.

Governer Branstad was unhappy:

“Rather than coming together to pass common sense legislation to increase broadband access in rural Iowa, Iowa House Democrats have turned their backs on rural Iowans and those who are under served,” Branstad said. “Today, the Iowa House Democrats played the worst of political cards; the Washington, D.C., hand of ignoring what is in the best interest of the taxpayers for political purposes.”

But nine Republicans also voted no in the 44-51 vote against the bill: Heartsill (Marion), Mawell (Poweshiek), Pettengill (Benson), Salmon (Black Hawk), Shaw (Pocahontas), Sheetas (Appanoose), Upmeyer (Cerro Gordo), Vander Linden (Mahaska), and Watts (Dallas).  If four of them had voted with the Governor, the bill would have passed.   The Des Moines Register didn’t bother to ask the Republicans why they voted no, but O. Kay Henderson did:

Representative Guy Vander Linden of Oskaloosa was among the nine Republicans who voted no.

“The ‘Connect Iowa’ bill, in my mind, doesn’t connect any Iowan, let alone every Iowan,” Vander Linden said.

Vander Linden faulted the bill for the way it handed out tax breaks to companies.

“We don’t say they need to meet any requirements in terms of our capacity, speed — anything. All we say is: “If you will put broadband infrastructure in place in any unserved or underserved area…we’ll give you all these benefits,” Vander Linden said. “That, to me, sounds like a blank check that I’m not willing to sign up to.”

Lack of standards and accountability hasn’t stopped tax credit giveaways before.  And they actually worked on a Friday, too. Yes, it truly is an age of wonders.

 

20140307-1Jason Dinesen, I Get Very Sad When a Client Gets Involved in Multi-Level Marketing.:

The reason I get sad nothing to do with taxes or fears that the client will be over-aggressive with deductions.

The reason I get sad is: so few of them actually make money.

 

Russ Fox, Your Dependents do have to be Your Dependents…

Kay Bell, Storm season 2014 arrives with a vengeance. Disaster victims should seek tax recovery help after the skies clear

TaxGrrrl, Now That Tax Day Has Passed, How Long Should You Keep Those Tax & Financial Records? 

Paul Neiffer, Are You Still Running Windows XP?! I finally upgraded to Windows 8.1 at home this weekend — a virtual machine on an iMac running Parallels Desktop.  It was the smoothest Windows installation I’ve ever done — it actually went without a hitch the first time through.

 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 354

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Shelters, Tax Fights, and One Way to Reform a Zombie.  The TaxVox headline roundup includes an update on House taxwriter plans to work on an “extenders” bill this week.

Tax Justice Blog, Lawmakers Will Move Tuesday to Approve Hundreds of Billions in Business Tax Breaks — and Still No Help for the Unemployed.

William McBride, Corporate Exits Accelerating, Taking Jobs with Them (Tax Policy Bl0g).  Rates matter.

 

IMG_2493U.S. residents must pay U.S. tax, regardless of celestial citizenship.  A Minnesota couple hasn’t gotten the message, according to PioneerPress.com:

Living in the “Kingdom of Heaven” will not get you out of paying taxes, according to federal prosecutors.

On Tuesday, Tami Mae May, 55, was indicted in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis on 15 counts of filing fraudulent tax returns and a single count of obstruction of due administration of internal revenue laws, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Through 2013, she claimed “zero income,” signed under altered certifications, said both she and her husband were not citizens of the United States but were instead permanent residents of the “Kingdom of Heaven,” and reported false withholdings in an attempt to claim “hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent … refunds,” the U.S. attorney’s office said. 

I need to research where the Bible says you can recover cash from the IRS as a result of a divine passport.

 

20140330-1Practitioners everywhere are putting their lives together after another tax season.  Yes, it’s rough, but it’s unlikely you will still be sorting out this tax season two years from now, like an Iowa woman who is just getting her 2012 tax season put to bed.

Here’s what this North Liberty tax practitioner faced in 2012:

The co-owner of a local tax service has been accused of using more than $22,000 from the business’s savings account to cover her credit card bills and her husband was arrested for allegedly causing a drunken disturbance at a local elementary school.

According to an Iowa City police criminal complaint, an investigator met with a co-owner of C & M Tax Service. The other co-owner is 31-year-old Melissa M. Frost of North Liberty.

But it was worse than that:

Police said Frost’s husband, 33-year-old Cory A. Frost was also arrested on Friday. Cory Frost went to North Bend Elementary in North Liberty at 2:45 p.m. to confront an employee there concerning a “situation with his wife,” according to North Liberty police Lt. Diane Venega. It is unclear if that situation is related to Melissa Frost’s arrest.

[…]

When police found Frost, he smelled of alcohol and appeared to be intoxicated. Police said Frost had a blood-alcohol content of .204 percent. He was previously convicted of public intoxication.

KCRG provides an update:

A North Liberty woman accused of stealing money from her own business entered an Alford plea as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

Melissa Frost, 34, entered the pleas on two separate counts of tampering with records last week, according to online court records. Under the Alford Plea, Frost admits no guilt but acknowledges there is likely enough evidence to convict her.

As part of the deal, Frost received a sentence of probation and deferred judgement, which means she could have the conviction expunged from her record if she fulfills the terms of her probation.

So however bad your tax season was, this is a reminder that somebody, somewhere, probably had it worse.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 1/13/14: They’re back edition. And: tax fairy doesn’t show up at appeals court.

Monday, January 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20130117-1
The 2014 session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly begins today.
 It doesn’t look like much tax legislation will pass.

The Governor abandoned a plan to allow taxpayers to choose between the current byzantine Iowa income tax and a lower-rate version with fewer deductions and no deduction for federal taxes paid even before the session started.  He instead will focus on lame feel-good initiatives in an election year, reports Omaha.com:

Gov. Terry Branstad is set to unveil his agenda Tuesday during the Condition of the State address. He said his priorities will include expanding broadband Internet access, fighting school bullying and curtailing student loan debt.

The Governor’s opposition will block any tax reform that isn’t sufficiently punitive to the “rich” — which means any reform worthy of the name.  They will try to change some of Iowa’s worst corporate welfare giveaways, reports the Des Moines Register, but the Governor, an inveterate smokestack chaser and ribbon-cutter, can be expected block any restrictions on using your money to lure and subsidize your competitors.

Meanwhile, trial balloons about increasing the gas tax have already deflated.  That means we can expect a quiet session on the tax front, and a continuation of Iowa’s insanely complex and worthless tax system for another year.  But if they change their minds and want to do something useful, it’s always a good time to talk about The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

tax fairyTax Fairy seeker loses appeal.  A South Dakota surgeon who looked across the ocean for the Tax Fairy found only grief — and the grief wasn’t alleviated on appeals.  The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld the conviction that led to a five-year sentence for Dr. Edward Picardi.

The doctor used a scheme where he “leased” his medical services to an offshore company he controlled to artificially reduce his income by stashing earnings in offshore accounts.  The scheme was promoted to him by an attorney-CPA who has been acquitted of criminal charges in another employee leasing case.

Other taxpayers have avoided fraud penalties from employee-leasing to offshore entities (see here), but not taxes and penalties.  When the best you can say about a tax plan is that you avoided fraud penalties, it’s not much of a plan.  There is no tax fairy.

Prior coverage here.

 

Kay Bell has Important January tax dates, deadlines

 

Lyman Stone, Should Nebraska Follow the Example of Illinois or Indiana?  “The case of Illinois is a great example of how higher taxes can contribute to a worsening business climate, which leads to less jobs.”

Annette Nellen, Marijuana and the Tax Law.  Despite appearances, there is no evidence the lawmakers are smoking something when they write tax laws.

TaxGrrrl, Top 10 Most Litigated Tax Issues.  Number one is penalties.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 249

Robert D. Flach offers a SPECIAL OFFER FOR ITEMIZERS!

 

TaxTrials, Famous Fridays: Wesley Snipes, A Lesson in Listening to Bad Advice.  Did he ever.

 

The Critical Question: Massages May Feel Nice, But Can You Deduct Them at the Poker Table? (Russ Fox)

News from the Profession: KPMG Upgrades Its Female Interns From Necklaces to Camisoles  (Going Concern)

 

Share

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

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reason Foundation, supporting liberty against all comers.

Alzheimers Association, fighting an awful disease.

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

Cornell College, my undergraduate alma mater.

Southern Illinois University, where I got my accounting degree.

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

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

 

Related:

William Perez, Last Day Deduction Ideas

TaxGrrrl, 13 Dramatic Year End Tax Strategies For 2013   

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Jason Dinesen lists his Most-Popular Blog Posts of 2013

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

 

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

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 12/6/2013: Fools Gold Edition. And: corporations can have their identity stolen too!

Friday, December 6th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


20131206-1
We’ve all had narrow misses with bad ideas.  For example, the general manager of the Yankees and Red Sox owner went out drinking and negotiated a trade of Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio, only to call it off in the light of day.  Think of the time you almost went into business with your brother-in-law.  Fortunately, we usually think better of it in time to avoid disaster.

Not Robert Kahre.  He got this great idea to pay employees in gold and silver coins, which are worth far more than their original face value, while reporting the income and paying taxes at the face value.

Kahre met John Nelson (Nelson), who authored books and taught classes about the IRS and the monetary system, and Nelson’s ideas influenced Kahre to develop the payment system at issue.

According to Kahre, he developed his gold payroll system because the United States government had debauched the national currency and utilized inflation to confiscate the wealth of U.S. citizens. Kahre relied on court cases and the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985 that approved gold coins as legal tender. Kahre devised the independent contractor agreements to reflect that the IRS was a foreign agent for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In Kahre’s view, by collecting taxes for the IRS, employers illegally served as foreign agents for the World Bank and IMF. Kahre relied on several federal statutes, regulations, and “Presidential Documents” in the process of developing his payroll system to avoid the collection of taxes on behalf of foreign agents.

How do you suppose that worked out?  Well, the above description comes from a federal appeals court decision upholding a 190-month prison sentence for Mr. Kahre, if that’s any indication.   More from the decision:

Appellants contend that the district court erred in denying their motions to dismiss the indictments because they did not know that their use of gold and silver coins for payroll payments was illegal under the tax laws. Appellants specifically maintain that the district court’s tax valuation predicated on the fair market value of the gold and silver coins unfairly imputed criminal intent to their unknowing actions.

A footnote helps show why the court wasn’t persuaded (citations omitted, emphasis added.):

Appellants contend that gold and silver coins are statutorily valued at face value. However, this appeal does not really concern the statutory value of gold and silver coins when utilized as legal tender. Instead, this appeal addresses Appellants’ payment of wages in gold and silver coins in a scheme to avoid payroll taxes, as evidenced by the facts that Kahre’s employees were required to immediately return the coins for cash and, that if an employee retained the coins, his wages were reduced by the fair market value of the coins.

Oops.

The moral?  The tax law isn’t required to believe every ridiculous thing you read, and there is no Tax Fairy.

Cite: Kahre, CA-9, NO. 09-10471

 

TIGTAIt’s not just individual identity theft.  TIGTA: IRS Issues $2.3 Billion/Year in Fraudulent Tax Refunds Based on Phony Employer Identification Numbers. (TaxProf). Considering this, and the identity theft epidemic, and their worsening taxpayer service, their wish to devote resources to regulating preparers is hard to take.

 

Now there’s a shocker.  Democrats, liberals pan Gov. Terry Branstad’s flat tax idea (Jason Noble).  If you can’t get the cooperation you need to pass even a half-way plan, you can at least change the terms of the debate by going bold.

 

Jason Dinesen, Stock Losses and Taxes:

Beware of “wash sales.”  A wash sale occurs when you sell stock at a loss and then buy the same stock within 30 days before or after the sale.  (Example:  you sell Stock A at a loss on August 1 and then re-purchase Stock A on August 15.  This is a wash sale and the August 1 loss is not currently deductible but instead adjusts the basis of the stock you purchased on August 15.)

Year-end loss sales are a common tax planning move, but you need to be willing to do without the shares for 30 days.

 

Kay Bell,  Low corporate tax rates don’t guarantee more jobs.  No, but you won’t convince anybody that high corporate taxes help.’

Kyle Pomerleau, New Report on Corporate Income Taxes and Employment Doesn’t Come Close (Tax Policy Blog).  “Their conclusion is akin to blindly picking two jellybeans from a bag of 1,000, getting two red ones, and then concluding that the rest of the jellybeans in the bag must be red.”

 

Dueling cronyism.  Missouri Lawmakers to Washington: We’ll See Your $8.7 Billion, And… (Tax Justice Blog)

William Perez,  Year End Deduction Strategies for the Self Employed

 Andrew Mitchel,  New Resource Page: Monetary Penalties for Failure to File Common U.S. International Tax Forms.  They’re quite ugly.

 

Elaine Maag,  Analyzing Taxes and Transfers Together (TaxVox)

Keith Fogg,  What is a return – the long slow fight in the bankruptcy courts (Procedurally Taxing)

Jack Townsend,  Economic Substance Uncertainty in Civil Cases

Tax Trials, Supreme Court Adopts IRS Position on Jurisdiction and Application of Partnership Penalties

 

Courtesy Gateway Pundit.

Courtesy Gateway Pundit.

Fiduciary Income Tax Blog,  Valuation of Indirect Ownership Through a Trust

Brian Strahle,  UDITPA REWRITE NECESSARY, BUT WILL STATES LISTEN?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 211

 

Robert D. Flach has a meaty Friday Buzz!

TaxGrrrl,  Flushing Out The Toilet Paper Tax Exemption   

News from the Profession.  Former CPA and Procrastinator Ordered By the State to Get Around to Removing “CPA” From All Her Stuff (Going Concern)

 

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

 

 

 

Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 210

 

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

TaxGrrrl, Will Congress Drive Up Gas Taxes In 2014?   

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 12/3/2013: Tax Court says no vesting, no K-1. And: gas tax fever!

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Who pays, partner?  A Tax Court decision yesterday held that an executive of a partnership holding a non-vested capital interest should not be considered a “partner” for allocation of taxable income and loss before the interest vests.

The taxpayer was an executive of Crescent Holdings, LLC, a Georgia real estate partnership.  According to the Tax Court, he received a 2% capital interest in the partnership that was subject to forfeiture if he failed to stay in the job for three years.  He resigned before the interest vested, so he got nothing.  The partnership had allocated income to him on a K-1 for the period up to his resignation — and gave him some cash to pay taxes on the income —  but he argued that because he was non-vested, he shouldn’t receive any K-1 allocation.

Tax Court Judge Ruwe agreed:

Since petitioner forfeited his right to the 2% interest before it substantially vested, he never owned the interest. Petitioner never received any of the economic benefits from the undistributed partnership income allocations to the 2% interest. Requiring petitioner to recognize the partnership allocations in his income is inconsistent with the fact that he received no economic benefit from the allocations.

“His” 2% was allocable instead to other partners.

Non-vested stock or partnership interests subject to “a substantial risk of forfeiture” are not includible in income until the forfeiture risk lapses, unless the taxpayer makes a timely Section 83(b) election to include the value in income on receipt in spite of the risk.

This decision tells partnerships preparing 2012 returns that they shouldn’t allocate taxable income to partners with unvested interests.  I suspect some partners and partnerships may file amended returns for open years as a result.  It’s not entirely clear, but I read the opinion as saying that a timely Section 83(b) election would change this result.

Cite: Crescent Holdings LLC et al. v. Commissioner; 141 T.C. No. 15

 

Because he really, really wants the money.  Branstad declines to issue gas-tax veto threat (Iowa Farmer Today):

“The goal would be over the next couple of months: Does a consensus develop around something or not? And, I guess time will tell whether that happens,” Branstad said. If an agreement emerges, he said he would include a recommendation on how to address a projected annual shortfall of $215 million for critical road and bridge repair needs during his Condition of the State address Jan. 14.

The “shortfall for critical road and bridge repair” has become a mantra at the statehouse, which means they really want to get into your wallets some more.  The $215 million number comes from an Iowa Department of Transportation report.  No politicians seem willing to challenge a self-serving number from the agency that would benefit from more transportation money.  Compared to other states, Iowa isn’t doing so bad.  For example from the most reason Reason Foundation survey of state highway conditions:

Iowa Highways 2009

Many states are getting less gas revenue from gas taxes as cars become more efficient.  There is a case that some adjustment of the tax makes sense.  Still, Iowa is 17th nationally in per-mile spending, and it doesn’t seem like we are doing badly compared to the rest of the country.  And no matter how much they jack up the gas tax, I suspect they’ll continue to tell us we have crumbling infrastructure anyway.

 

Seventh Circuit: Inherited IRA not exempt from creditor claims. That’s a different result that would apply to bankrupt’s own IRA.  Cite: Clarke, CA-7, Nos. 1241 and 12-1255.

 

Tony Nitti, Final Net Investment Income Regulations: Self-Charged Interest, Net Operating Losses, And More

Paul Neiffer,  Bonus Payments Are Ordinary Income – Not Capital Gains. A Tax Court case involving an upfront oil and gas lease bonus payment.

 

nfl logoJeremy Scott, NFL Encourages Localities in Race to the Bottom (Tax Analysts Blog)  So does NASCAR.

William McBride, Baucus Offers Ways to Pay for a Lower Corporate Tax Rate (Tax Policy Blog)

The shopping season that never ends.  Shopping for Tax Extenders (Clint Stretch, Tax Analysts Blog) “Of the 55 tax provisions that will expire at the end of the year, all but a few have expired before. Taxpayers will have to be satisfied with retroactive reinstatement again.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 208

 

 

Robert D. Flach has your Tuesday Buzz!

Kay Bell, States still getting stiffed on sales taxes on Cyber Monday

Celebrate!  Cyber Monday: It’s The Most Wonderful Tax Evasion Day Of The Year!  (TaxGrrrl)

Going Concern: According To This Paper, It Takes Cojones To Commit Fraud

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 11/19/13: Sub-zero edition! And the dark side of non-recourse debt forgiveness.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2

Tax Court says you can’t go below zero.  At least not in computing penalties.

A taxpayer filed a return showing no tax, but claiming refundable tax credits that generated a refund of $7,327.  That’s why refundable credits are such a sweet deal — you can get a refund of taxes without ever paying them through withholding or estimated taxes.  They are really a form of welfare.

The IRS issued the refund as claimed, but then thought better of it.  The IRS recomputation was that the taxpayer should have showed a positive tax balance of $144.  That meant the taxpayer was supposed to repay the $7,327 refundable credit plus the $144 tax due, for a total of $7,471.  The IRS assessed the difference, plus a 20% penalty on the $7,471 “underpayment.”  The taxpayer didn’t think refunding the refundable credit counted as an “underpayment, and the case went to Tax Court.

The tax imposes an “accuracy related” penalty on deficiencies, based on how much the taxpayer underpays the “tax required to be shown on the return.”  The IRS said the underpayment was the whole $7,471.  The Tax Court said that refundable credits can’t take the tax below zero for this purpose, so the “underpayment” is only $144 for computing the penalty.

 

This seems wrong.  Refundable credit fraud — especially Earned Income Tax fraud — is a multi-billion-dollar problem.  If there is no monetary penalty for claiming bogus credits, the only deterrent for gaming the system is criminal penalties, and given the limits on the IRS ability to prosecute EITC fraud, it’s an empty threat.

The Tax Court seems to agree:

We note that our conclusion breaks the historical link between the definitions of a deficiency and an underpayment; however, it was Congress that made that break.

If the case holds up on appeal, Congressional action is all that can fix it.

Cite: Rand, 141 T.C. No. 12.

 

Peter Reilly, IRS Letter To Senator Boxer On Short Sales Not Good News For Everybody

I hate to spoil a nice celebration, but I am going to risk it.  The position that the IRS outlined in the ruling is probably good news for most people affected by it.  It may not be good news for everybody, though.  In order to understand why you have to understand the IRS reasoning.  Here is the deal.  When debt is secured by property, it is either recourse or non-recourse…

The effect of that section is to make just about all California home mortgages non-recourse…  There are various exceptions to recognizing debt discharge income, such as the insolvency exception.  These will no longer be available.  

When you give up a house for non-recourse debt, you are considered to sell it for that amount.  That can be a bad thing.   If you don’t qualify for the residential gain exclusion — say, because you haven’t used it as a residence long enough to qualify, or you bought the house to rent — you can have taxable gain, no cash, and no available debt forgiveness exclusion.

 

The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

 

Alan Cole, High Implicit Marginal Tax Rates Make Life Difficult for the Poor (Tax Policy Blog):

The CBO did a great study on this a year ago. It found that the implicit marginal tax rates on some poor folk are frequently above 50%, and sometimes above 80%. That is to say, that when they figure out how to increase their income by a $100, they lose $50 or more in new taxes or lost benefits. 

That’s exactly the sort perverse effect that results from the increase in Iowa’s earned income tax credit, which by itself can put low income taxpayers in a 50%+ bracket.  Take away other benefits and you can see how it could get to 80% or more.

 

Sioux City Journal, Branstad declines to issue a gas tax veto threat.  Probably because he’d like a higher gas tax, even though he likes being re-elected too much to push for one.

 

Ben Harris,  Sorting Through The Property Tax Burden (TaxVox):

Using self-reported American Community Survey data, we find that residential property taxes tend to be close to $1,000 per year, with a small share of households paying substantially more, especially in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and New Hampshire. In recent years, 48 percent of homeowners paid between $750 and $1,750 in property taxes. About one-third—31 percent—paid less than $750 and 21 percent paid more than $1,750.  Just 3 percent paid more than $4,000, with a miniscule share of homeowners (0.2 percent) paying more than $8,000. 

That seems low, but my clients probably aren’t a representative sample.

 

Jason Dinesen, Missouri Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage

 

Kay Bell, Missouri recognizes same-sex marriages for tax filing only20130121-2TaxGrrrl, Black Market Tax Preparers Continue To Defy IRS :

The solution for tax preparers who didn’t want to register and pay the fee? They simply don’t sign the returns.

And yes, that’s against the rules. But a number of paid tax preparers do it anyway. They are referred to in the business as “black market preparers” or sometimes, “ghost” tax preparers.

And that will happen no matter what regulations the IRS imposes on honest preparers.

 

William Perez, Tax Provisions Expiring at the End of 2013

Tony Nitti, House Republicans Put Tax Reform On Hold To Revel In Obamacare Struggles

I really don’t expect to receive tips from clients–it’s not the norm for tax preparation. I definitely don’t expect to receive $1,458,905 in such gratuities.  

I can’t say I expect that either.  But I would be OK with it!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 194

Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz!

 

The Critical Question: Are Jamaican Credit Unions The Next Tax Haven?  (Brian Mahany)

AOL? Prodigy? Attorney’s License to Practice Law Is Suspended for Failing to Maintain an Email Account  (TaxProf)

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 7/24/2013: Iowa corporate tax cuts? And a Carbondale caper.

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Todd Dorman, Another view on corporate income tax cuts:

I wrote yesterday about Gov. Terry Branstad’s call for corporate income taxes, and how I’d be OK with a deal that cuts rates but also eliminates credits/loopholes.

Mike Owen, executive director of the Iowa Policy Project (congrats on the recent promotion) took some issue with my conclusions in an email…

You might not be surprised that the Iowa Policy Project thinks there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation corporation tax rate, and that taxes should be higher.  You may also know how I feel about that.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Another Understatement of the Corporate Tax Rate:

The U.S. News and World Report published an article today titled “The Global Race to the Bottom in Corporate Taxes.” …

It also outlines the vast complexity of the tax system. According to one tax advisory cited in the article, his firm’s clients are “horrified by complexity and cost of filing their taxes in the U.S.”

20130724-1

Welcome to the U.S.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Wealth Taxes to Cure Inequality? How About Tax Reform Instead.  (Tax Analysts Blog).  How about questioning whether inequality is something that needs a “cure,” or even can be cured?  Then ask whether the tax law is safe and effective medicine.  I’d argue no.

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 76

David Brunori, Don’t Cheat the Tax Man (wink, wink) ITax Analysts Blog):

What the nanny staters in Washington don’t understand is that prohibition, whether direct or indirect through the tax laws, doesn’t work. It did not work for alcohol. It did not work for marijuana. It will not work for cigarettes. Prohibition does not work because free men and women want to make their own decision about what they drink, smoke, eat, etc.  And they act rationally.

If only legislation did so.

 

Jason Dinesen, When Do Dependents Have to File a Tax Return?

Robert D. Flach, THE BIGGEST LOSER, on the tax laws mistreatment of gambling income.

The new Cavalcade of Risk is up!  For your insurance and risk-management reading pleasure.  Don’t miss Hank Stern’s Scamster Tricks.

Jack Townsend, Taxpayer’s Counsel Attending IRS CI Interviews of Third Party Witness

Howard Gleckman, The OECD’s International Tax Plan: The First Step on a Long Road (TaxVox)

Tax Justice Blog, New CTJ Report: Reforming Individual Income Tax Expenditures

TaxGrrrl, Remembering The ‘Hot Dog Tax’ On National Hot Dog Day

Me, Man who supported someone else’s kid gets attaboy, but no tax credit.

 

They really don’t want this guy to set up shop again.  A July 23 press release from the Department of Justice says:

The Justice Department announced today that it has asked a federal court to bar Ronald Manis of Carbondale, Ill., from preparing tax returns for others.  The civil injunction suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, alleges that Manis routinely prepares federal tax returns for individuals and corporations improperly claiming deductions that result in his customers understating their federal tax liabilities.

Nothing extraordinary there, other than that there would be anything untowards happening in Carbondale.  But further down in the press release there’s this (my emphasis):

In September 2011, Manis pleaded guilty to willfully failing to file his own federal income tax returns for 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, and was sentenced to three months in prison. According to the government complaint, Manis was released from federal prison on July 20, 2013.

They don’t seem to want to let him participate in the upcoming tax season at all.

Share

Tax Roundup, 5/23/2013: Iowa property taxes improve, income tax gets worse. Plus: more Apple bites.

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

The Iowa General Assembly nears the end of its annual rampage.  While it finally did something to improve a bad commercial property tax system, it managed to make an already awful income tax a little worse.

The Iowa Senate cleared a property tax plan (SF 295) yesterday to reduce commercial property assessments by 10%, with additional property tax credits for smaller businesses.  Unfortunately, the price was to more than double Iowa’s version of the fraud-plagued Earned Income Tax Credit and, it appears, to clutter up the 1040 with additional petty tax credits — those these provisions are apparently part of a separate bill.

As if that weren’t enough abuse to the income tax, the Senate also increased Iowa’s tax credit corporate welfare budget by $50 million  (HF 620) by increasing the amount of tax credits that the economic development bureacracy can hand out.  They sweetened the corporate welfare pot by enabling the diversion of employee withholding to local crony capitalist slush funds economic development funds.

Another bill, HF 625, increased the popular school tuition credit, a poor substitute for true school choice.

While the politicians will pat themselves vigorously on the back, the net result isn’t very exciting.  Yes, lower rates for commercial property are needed.  But now Iowa’s dysfunctional income tax is larded with even more corrupt special interest favors, which will make it that much harder to ever enact a system that makes sense for taxpayers without lobbyists and connections.

Related:

David Brunori, Soviets Run Mississippi, Planned Economies and All (Tax Analysts Bl0g)

The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 14

Going Concern, Lois Lerner Knows What You People Are Thinking

 

Andrew Lundeen, Apple’s Appearance before the Senate Clarifies the Need for Comprehensive Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog):

Our average combined rate of 39.1 percent is the highest in the industrialized world. In an increasingly globalized world, this matters more today than it did the last time we reformed the code in 1986. Today the U.S. has to compete with countries around the globe who are constantly improving their tax codes. When the U.S. fails to do so itself, American consumers, workers, and shareholders lose out.

Kyle Pomerleau, Another Perspective on the Apple Hearing (Tax Policy Blog):

Politicians created the current corporate tax system and the current system is broken. If you are going to set out a menu of options for corporations to reduce their tax burden, don’t be surprised or upset that corporations take advantage of them.

Indeed.

 

Linda Beale, Citizen for Tax Justice’s Bob McIntyre on Apple’s offshore profit-hoarding.

 

Robert D. Flach, A KIND OF CATCH-22  On the compliance burden of the fraud-ridden Earned Income Tax Credit.

Tax Trials, See You on Tuesday: IRS Furloughs Impact Certain Filing Deadlines & Services

Kay Bell, IRS offices will be closed Friday, May 24. Plan accordingly

Jack Townsend, Tax Perjury and FBAR Charges Related to Illegal Income Fake Art Case

 

Cara Griffith, A Missed Opportunity in Texas (Tax Analysts Blog)  An attempt to enact an independent tax court in Texas fails:

“The importance of an independent tax tribunal is well documented in the pages of tax journals and even mainstream media outlets.” 

Iowa has nothing like an independent tax appeals process.

Me, Playing with fire: Using an IRA to finance your business.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 5/21/2013: thief subsidy edition. And why the IRS scandal is so depressing.

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Iowa’s elected leadership has come up with a deal to bring down Iowa’s high commercial property taxes in exchange for an increase in Iowa’s earned income tax credit.  The Democrats who control the Senate have long been pushing for an increase in the EITC, and this seemed like an obvious compromise from early in the session.  There will be much rejoicing if the deal gets completed, as appears likely; property tax reform has been the Governor’s highest legislative priority.

It’s too bad that the cost of a sensible property tax is a big increase in a program that is a poverty trap for honest taxpayers and a pinata for thieves.  The phase-outs of the EITC result in shockingly-high marginal tax rates on each additional dollar earned by relatively low-income taxpayers.

The EITC  is refundable, which means it is really a welfare program run through tax returns.  About 25% of the EITC is claimed “improperly,” which is a nice way to say it’s stolen.  The annual cost of the Iowa EITC boost is estimated at $35 million, so the price of fixing a broken commercial property tax regime is an $8 million annual thief subsidy.  So while the politicians celebrate their great compromise, Iowa’s petty thieves also have occasion to raise a glass, filled by you.

 

TaxProf,  Supreme Court Unanimously Reverses Third Circuit, Says PPL Can Claim Foreign Tax Credit for U.K. Windfall Tax and Avi-Yonah and Christians on Yesterday’s PPL Decision.

 

Jeremy Scott, Rand Paul’s Claim of “Written Policy” Seems Like GOP Overreach

It is unlikely that Republicans will find Paul’s smoking gun, but the IRS scandal is almost certainly the result of political bias on some level.  It is hard to believe that a group of officials would innocently pick terms like “Tea Party,” “patriot,” and “9/12” to single out organizations for additional scrutiny.  It would be incredible to find such disinterested tone-deafness even in the most politically insulated of civil servants (and the IRS is far from insulated).

I doubt the White House left fingerprints on IRS efforts to harass political opponents (though it didn’t lift a finger to stop it).   That leads to an even more depressing possibility: that the IRS went out its way to beat up on the President’s opponents on its own.  Nobody blew the whistle.  That means IRS management is so corrupt and political that it would go after the administration’s political opponents with only a wink and a nudge.  And anybody who doesn’t think this was politically-motivated is kidding themselves.

James Taranto puts it well:

And the IRS scandal was a subversion of democracy on a massive scale. The most fearsome and coercive arm of the administrative state embarked on a systematic effort to suppress citizen dissent against the party in power. Thomas Friedman is famous for musing that he wishes America could  be China for a day. It turns out we’ve been China for a while.

 

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

Megan McArdle, Yes, What Happened at the IRS is a Scandal

Russ Fox, The IRS Scandal Reaches the White House

TaxGrrrl, IRS Hearing Marks End Of Their Worst.Week.Ever But Congress Signals More Hearings Are On The Way

Kay Bell, House and Senate committee hearings on IRS screening of Tea Party tax-exempt applications set for May 21 & 22

ViralRead, Report: Head of IRS Employees Union Met With President Obama the Day Before Tea Party Targeting Began

The Other McCain, Portrait of a Thug: IRS Union Boss

 

Peter Reilly, Bank Cannot Issue 1099-C And Subsequently Try To Collect

Jason Dinesen, Same-Sex Marriage, Community Property, And Multi-State Income — Part 3

Fiduciary Income Tax Blog, Passive Income: Good or Bad?

 

Paul Neiffer,  A Farmland REIT is Now Publicly Traded

Stephanie Fitch, 5 Questions Congress Should Ask Obama Commerce Nominee Penny Pritzker

William Perez,  IRS Offices to be Closed on May 24

Linda Beale, How Apple avoids US taxes with shell games

 

Going Concern,  Last Year Was a Very Unfortunate One to Be Wealthy and French, Even By French Standards.  When marginal rates exceed 100%, you know a country is off the rails.

Robert D. Flach has a new Tuesday Buzz up!

The Critical Question: NFL Linebacker James Harrison Spends More On Massage Than You Did On Your House. But Can He Deduct It?  (Tony Nitti)

 

Share

Legislature carves new special favors, does nothing for the rest of us.

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's tax law were a car, it would look like this.

Iowa House approves two new bumper stickers for this car.

The Iowa House of Representatives advanced two corporate welfare provisions  yesterday.

SF 433 makes it easier for businesses with “pilot projects” to keep employee withholding under a “target jobs withholding tax credit” program.  It never says what exactly the “pilot projects” are supposed to prove — maybe if you divert employee withholding to the employer, they like that?  This additional clutter to Iowa’s already byzantine tax law passed 97-2, opposed only by Bruce Hunter (D., Des Moines), and Charles Isenhart (D., Dubuque).

Gazette.com reports on the vote:

Legislation aimed at helping some Iowa border communities compete with neighboring states is on its way to the governor.

The targeted jobs program allows qualifying businesses to apply for state withholding tax credits if they plan to relocate or expand in Iowa, provided they are creating or retaining jobs.

“Creating or retaining” jobs?  Doesn’t that happen whenever you hire someone?  If you want Iowa to “compete” with neighboring states, make the whole tax law competitive.  It’s not just border cities who suffer from a bottom-tier business tax climate.

 

SF 436 expands the amount of Historic Rehab Credits available, increasing the distortion of property markets by subsidy, generally for the benefit of the well-connected developers who know how to play the game.  This one passed 97-2, with only Rep. Hunter and Rick Olson (D., Polk) voting no.

As for actual good policy — simplifying the law, lowering rates, and doing something for people without lobbyists — nothing.  The closest thing to it this session, the flat Alternative Maximum Tax (HF 478), is dying in the Senate.  So once again it looks like the legislature will go home having only added more barnacles to the Iowa income tax.

 

Share

State gives Facebook $18 million for 31 jobs.

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

The politicians are tripping all over themselves to claim credit for Facebook’s new server farm in Altoona.  From The Des Moines Register:

The Iowa Economic Development Authority board today approved $18 million in tax credits for Facebook’s $300 million data center in Altoona.

“Welcome, Facebook,” said board member Pete Brownell. The data center project has been referred to as Siculus Inc. in state documents.

Debi Durham, the state’s economic development director, said she expected that Facebook’s investment would grow to a billion dollars within five or six years.

“It’s good to be friends with Facebook,” she said. Gov. Terry Branstad said Facebook is “about as high-profile a company as it gets.”

The “high profile” bit tells you why politicians love “targeted” tax credits.  It gives them an excuse to call a press conference and cut a ribbon, claiming credit for the project like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise.  It’s more fun than facing the fact that real economic growth doesn’t come from photo ops.  It doesn’t come from paying $580,000 to a wealthy company for each “job” it brings.

Ultimately economic growth comes from making Iowa an attractive place for low-glamor businesses to set up and expand without having to hire lobbyists and tax consultants to tap the corporate welfare keg.  It comes from incremental hiring and location decisions that involve no politicians.  It calls for discarding high-profile corporate welfare in favor of a simple low-rate system that’s friendly even for obscure businesses — like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

To put things into perspective: our firm, Roth & Company, has “created” more jobs, at higher pay rates, than Facebook’s 31 promised jobs.   Where’s our $18 million?

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

 

Share