Posts Tagged ‘Cara Griffith’

Tax Roundup, 4/10/14: Still plenty of time for an IRA! And Iowa Tax Freedom Day looms.

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

IRAWhen the tax deadline is looming, taxpayers looking for the Tax Fairy to wish away their tax problems often overlook the old-fashioned IRA.  You can still make 2013 IRA contributions through April 15.  An Individual Retirement Account contribution may be able to score you a 2013 deduction (or even a tax credit) for 2013; even if you don’t qualify for current tax savings, they are a nice and cheap way to build-up tax-sheltered savings.

IRAs come in two flavors: “traditional” and “Roth.”  Traditional IRAs build up their income tax-free, but earnings on them are taxable when they come out.  If you meet certain conditions, your traditional IRAs come with sprinkles: – a tax deduction.  If you don’t get the deduction going in, your principal is tax-free going out.

Roth IRAs never offer a deduction, but they leave a sweeter aftertaste: if you hold them long enough, income on Roth IRA assets is never taxed.  And unlike traditional IRAs, you are never forced to start withdrawing funds from the IRA, so the tax-free build-up can go on indefinitely.

Both traditional and Roth IRAs require you to have wage or self-employment net income.  The limits for contributions are the lesser of your taxable compensation or $5,500 ($6,500 if you were 50 by December 31, 2013).  You can contribute to a traditional IRA at any income level, but deductions phase out at higher income levels if you (or your spouse) are covered by a retirement plan at work.  The availability of Roth IRA contributions phases out at higher income levels regardless of whether you participate in another retirement plan.

One very useful way to use Roth IRAs is for teenagers and young adults.  A parent can fund a Roth IRA for them based on part-time job income — no matter what parent income is.  This starts a tax-free retirement fund for the young earner at a very age, giving the power of compound interest lots of time to do its magic.  And from what I’ve seen, parental Roth funding is much appreciated by the recipients.

While time is short, you can still fund a 2013 IRA if you make your contribution no later than April 15.  You can set one up at your friendly community bank or online with a mutual fund company on you lunch hour.  No, it probably won’t make your 2013 taxes go away, but it can be a nice step towards financial security for you or your kids.

This is the latest of our 2014 Filing Season Tips — a new one every day thorugh April 15!

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #4: Honey, You Don’t Exist!: “Perhaps it’s something in the water, but this year Aaron and I have seen multiple cases of individuals who have ignored that marriage license and filed as single if married.”

 

Kyle Pomerleau, When is My State’s Tax Freedom Day?  (Tax Policy Bl0g) Iowa’s is this Sunday.

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Kristy Maitre, How to Report National Mortgage Settlement Payments

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): X Is For XD   

Paul Neiffer, Trusts Can Get You in Trouble

Jason Dinesen, Tax Court Case Involving Radio DJ Strikes Close to Home for Me, Part 2 

 

Hey, preparers: are you ready to trust the IRS to regulate your livelihood?  A Week Before Tax Day, IRS Misses Crucial Windows XP Deadline (Washington Post, via the TaxProf)

Kay Bell, Computer problems for IRS, Canadian tax agency

 

20140401-1Alan Cole, Mainstream Economics Support Low Taxes on Capital Income (Tax Policy Bl0g): “The overwhelming bulk of the evidence is that taxes have a negative effect on economic growth, and that the effect is particularly strong on tax bases that include capital income.”  But, the rich!  Inequality!

Donald Marron, Seven Tax Issues Facing Small Business (TaxVox): “America’s tax system is needlessly complex, economically harmful, and often unfair.”

Cara Griffith, Guidance Today, Gone Tomorrow (Tax Analysts Blog).  ”A recent Arkansas court opinion points out what might be a troubling trend in state taxation: the inability of taxpayers to rely on administrative guidance because the state can retract or supersede it on a moment’s notice.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 336.  It was a big day, with evidence that Lois Lerner was working behind the scenes with the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee to harass the opposition.

Tax Justice Blog, Is the Obama Administration Blocking International Efforts to Address Corporate Tax Avoidance? 

William Perez, Tax Reform Act of 2014, Part 4, Tax Credits

 

Hank Stern, The ObamaTax Domino Effect.  ”While we’ve all seen the horrendous rate increases caused by the ObamaTax (including on our 1040′s), thee are other victims.”

“Pro-business” isn’t “pro-market,” a distinction utterly lost on Iowa officials.

David Brunori: I’ll Raise a Glass to Lower Booze Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog) ”Jack Daniels is not bourbon, by the way, but Tennessee whiskey. There is apparently a difference, but frankly, after the first glass, I can never tell.”

Next: legislators are terrible at legislating.  GAO Went Undercover to Discover Tax Preparers Are Terrible at Tax Preparing (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/3/14: Iowa Tax Burden ranks 29th. And: Koskinen doesn’t seem to get it.

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The Tax Foundation yesterday released its annual ranking of “State-Local Tax Burdens.”  Iowa came in at 29th highest.

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The Tax Foundation explains:

For each state, we compute this measure of tax burden by totaling the amount of state and local taxes paid by state residents to both their own and other governments and then divide these totals by each state’s total income. We not only make this calculation for the most recent year, but also for earlier years due to the fact that income and tax revenue data are periodically revised by government agencies.

In this annual study, our goal is to move the focus from the tax collector (how much revenue is collected) to the taxpayer (how much income is foregone). 

This ranking differs from the Tax Foundation’s State Business Climate Index, where Iowa ranks a dismal 40th in business tax congeniality.  While the two sets of rankings have different purposes, together they tell us that Iowa’s tax system is very poorly designed.  It collects a middling amount of revenue with a system of very high rates, a boatload of preferences for the well-connected, and baroque complexity.  You could collect the same revenue with a much simpler system with lower rates, and without the inherent corruption of special breaks for special friends of the politicians.  That’s the approach of The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Corporate welfare watch:

Senator fumes at idea to cancel tax credit (Des Moines Register)

IOWA SPEEDWAY: Governor Signs NASCAR Tax Break Bill (WHOtv.com)

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Koskinen bemoans IRS funding, but doesn’t commit to taking the obvious step to restore it.  IRS Commissioner John Koskinen gave a little speech yesterday at the National Press Club.  He pointed out how the IRS is being given massive new responsibilities for running Obamacare and implementing FATCA, but faces funding cuts.  What he didn’t point out was that the GOP-controlled house isn’t likely to change that as long as it thinks the IRS is acting as an arm of the other party.  He defended the plodding IRS response to Congressional investigators in the Tea Party matter, and he offered what looks to me like a defense of the new Section 501(c)(4) rules proposed by the prior Commisioner:

While I was not involved in the issuance of this draft proposal, because it happened before I was confirmed as Commissioner, I believe it is extremely important to make this area of regulation as clear as possible. Not only does that help the IRS properly enforce the law, but clearer regulations will also give a better roadmap to applicants, and will help those that already have 501(c)(4) status properly administer their organizations without unnecessary fears of losing their tax-exempt status.

That’s too cute.  The provisions of the proposal mirror the rules overturned by the Supreme Court in Citizens United, including a rule preventing any political activity in the run-up to an election.  These items show that the current rules are an attempt to get around the Supreme Court to restrict political speech.   That’s why they are poison to the Tea Party set.

Either he doesn’t get it, or he pretends not to.  If the Commissioner wants to restore trust, the minimum he needs to do is to withdraw the proposed rules and start over, and to stop slow walking the investigation.  Until he does, it’s futile to expect the GOP-controlled House to give him more funding.  He’s quickly running out of time to do so.

Update: Washington Post gives Koskinen 3 Pinoccios: IRS chief: No ‘targeting’ of tea party groups, just ‘inappropriate criteria’     (Via Instapundit)

 

20140321-3TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): S Is For Student Loans 

Kay Bell, 7 tax tasks to take care of by April 15

Annette Nellen, Filing season and rental activities

William Perez, Tax Reform Act of 2014, Part 3, Deductions

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 03/28/14, a roundup of tax procedure news, with a much-appreciated mention of the Tax Update post on the recent case on trusts and material participation.

Jim Maule, Tax Court and Eleventh Circuit Disagree on Interpretation of Section 36 Language.  I think the couple got a raw deal, but I’m sure glad the first-time homebuyer credit has gone away.

 

taxanalystslogoCara Griffith, Proceeding Cautiously With a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (Tax Analysts Blog):

The IRS is already struggling with administering our tax system. Perhaps issues of funding and employee training should be addressed before delving into a taxpayer bill of rights.

I disagree.  Rights come before enforcement.  We can start by a sauce-for-the-gander rule that requires the IRS to pay penalties it asserts to taxpayers if the taxpayers win on the contested issue.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Expirations, Compliance and Corporations.  The TaxVox headline roundup talks about Commissioner Koskinen’s speech and the status of the expiring provisions.

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #8: Nevada Corporations.  ”Now, if you’re planning on moving to Nevada incorporating in the Silver State can be a very good idea (as I know). But thinking you’re going to avoid California taxes just because you’re a Nevada corporation is, well, bozo.”

News from the Profession.  Sweatshop Saturdays: Rethinking Where We Work (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/27/14: NASCAR subsidy heads to Governor. And lots more!

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1Don’t worry, our subsidies are carefully crafted to only help Iowans, and only for a limited time.  Until it’s slightly inconvenient.

When they built the big new racetrack in Newton, they had a unique deal: the track got to keep the sales tax it collected.  The deal was crafted to require the track be partly owned by Iowans, and that it would expire at the end of 2015.

Then NASCAR bought the track.  NASCAR is controlled by a wealthy North Carolina family , with nary an Iowan.  No problem!  The Iowa House sent a bill to the Governor yesterday (SF 2341) repealing the Iowa ownership rule and extending the subsidy through 2025.

The stories in Radio Iowa and the Des Moines Register only quoted the giveaway’s supporters.  For example:

Representative Tom Sands, a Republican from Wapello, said it’s a “performance based” tax break because NASCAR won’t get the rebate unless there are on-site sales.

“One of the questions might be: ‘What kind of return do we, taxpayers, get in the state of Iowa?’ And I drive on Interstate 80 twice every week like many of you do coming to Des Moines and have seen the construction that has happened around that Speedway just since it’s been there,” Sands said, “and we’ve got probably lots more of that we can expect into the future.”

The answer to that is: what makes this private business more worthy to keep its sales taxes than anyone else?  It’s a special deal that every other Iowa business competing for leisure dollars doesn’t get.  It’s the government allocating capital, and if anybody thinks the state is good at that, I’d like my Mercedes, please.

While this corporate welfare passed, at least some legislators are starting to wonder about this sort of thing.  14 representatives joined 9 state senators in opposing the bill.  When the Iowa Film Tax Credit passed, there were only three lonely opponents.  The 14 representatives who stood up for the rest of us: Baudler (R, Adair), Fisher (R, Tama), Heddens (D, Story), Highfill (R, Polk), Hunter (D, Polk), Jorgensen (R, Woodbury), Klein (R, Washington), Olson (D, Polk), Pettengill (R, Benton), Rayhons (R, Hancock), Salmon (R, Black Hawk), Schultz (R, Crawford), Shaw (R, Pocahontas) and Wessel-Kroeschell (D, Story).  Maybe we have the makings of a bi-partisan anti-giveaway coalition.

 

20120702-2Jason Dinesen, Iowa Tax Treatment of an Installment Sale of Farmland By a Non-Resident.  ”The capital gain is recognized in the year of the sale and is taxable in Iowa. But what about the yearly interest income the taxpayer receives on the contract going forward?”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): N Is For Name Change   

Paul Neiffer, Painful Form 8879 Process is on its Way.  The IRS, which has forced us to go to e-filing, now plans to make it a time-consuming nightmare for practitioners and clients because of the IRS failure to prevent identity theft.

Tax Trials, U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Sixth Circuit on FICA Withholding for Severance Payments

Margaret Van Houten, Digital Assets Development: IRS Characterizes Bitcoin as Property, Not Currency

William Perez, Tax Reform Act of 2014, Part 2, Income

 

Illinois sealLiz MalmHow much business income would be impacted by Illinois House Speaker Madigan’s Millionaire Tax?

These data indicate that:

  • 54 percent of total partnership and S corporation taxable income in Illinois would be impacted by Speaker’s Madigan’s millionaire surcharge. That’s almost $10 billion of business income.

  • 6 percent of sole proprietorships AGI would be impacted. Important to note here is that not all sole proprietorships earn small amounts of income. Over three thousand would be hit by the millionaire tax, impacting $674 million of income.

  • Taken together, this indicates that 36 percent of pass-through business income is earned at firms with AGI with $1 million or more.

I don’t think this will end well for Illinois.  When you soak “the rich,” you soak employers.  When states do this, it’s easy to escape.

 

Christopher Bergin, Good Grief! Tax Analysts v. Internal Revenue Service (Tax Analysts Blogs)

I have been involved in two Tax Analysts FOIA lawsuits against the IRS. Neither one of them should have gone to federal judges. But the IRS’s secrecy, paranoia, and belief that it has the absolute right to hide information drives it in this area. This lawsuit was a waste of time and money – against an agency that argues that it doesn’t have enough of either — over documents that should have been public from the beginning.

I’m left to quote Charlie Brown: Good grief! What an agency.

Commissioner Koskinen’s pokey response to Congressional document requests needs to be considered in this context.  The IRS has not earned the benefit of the doubt.

Kay Bell, IRS chief Koskinen spars with House Oversight panel

 

Greg Mankiw, Not Class Warfare, Optimal Taxation:

Today’s column by Paul Krugman is classic Paul: It takes a policy favored by the right, attributes the most vile motives to those who advance the policy, and ignores all the reasonable arguments in favor of it.

In this case, the issue is the reduction in capital taxes during the George W. Bush administration. Paul says that the goal here was “defending the oligarchy’s interests.”

Note that when Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, he campaigned on only a small increase in the tax rate on dividends and capital gains. He did not suggest raising the rate on this income to the rate on ordinary income. Is this because Barack Obama also favors the oligarchy, or is it because his advisers also understood the case against high capital taxation?

Oligarchists everywhere.

 

20140327-1Leigh Osofsky, When Can Concentrating Enforcement Resources Increase Compliance? (Procedurally Taxing)

Cara Griffith, Taxing Streaming Video (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 322

Renu Zaretsky, Friendly or Penalty? Taxes on Married Couples, Businesses, and the Uninsured (TaxV0x).  Rounding up the tax headlines.

Jack Townsend, Scope and Limitations of this Blog: It Is a Tax Crimes Blog, not a Tax Crimes Policy Blog.  ”I conceive my blog as a forum to discuss the law as it is, including how it develops.  It is not a tax policy blog addressing issues of what the law ought to be.”

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #9: 300 Million Witnesses Can’t be Right.  Richard Hatch is not widely considered a tax role model.

News from the Profession.  Frustrated EY Employee Vandalizes Office Breakroom in Protest Over March Madness Blocking (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/20/14: An optional mandate? And: baseball-tax convergence!

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


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Is the Obamacare individual mandate penalty now optional?  
 A couple of weeks ago the Wall Street Journal editorial page published ObamaCare’s Secret Mandate Exemption; HHS quietly repeals the individual purchase rule for two more years.  That’s a pretty bold statement, especially because the Administration has adamantly rejected calls for a delay in the individual mandate, after having delayed the business mandate twice.  If there is no mandate, Obamacare will likely lead to huge losses for insurers (to be subsidized by taxpayers), who need the forced patronage of the healthy to cover the sick that they can no longer exclude or charge risk-adjusted premiums.  Did they really do that and not tell anyone?

Here’s what WSJ says happened:

But amid the post-rollout political backlash, last week the agency created a new category: Now all you need to do is fill out a form attesting that your plan was cancelled and that you “believe that the plan options available in the [ObamaCare] Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy” or “you consider other available policies unaffordable.”

This lax standard—no formula or hard test beyond a person’s belief—at least ostensibly requires proof such as an insurer termination notice. But people can also qualify for hardships for the unspecified nonreason that “you experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance,” which only requires “documentation if possible.” And yet another waiver is available to those who say they are merely unable to afford coverage, regardless of their prior insurance. In a word, these shifting legal benchmarks offer an exemption to everyone who conceivably wants one.

Did this really happen? The IRS has just issued Tax Tip 2014-04, The Individual Shared Responsibility Payment – An Overview.  It says:

You may be exempt from the requirement to maintain qualified coverage if you:

  • Have no affordable coverage options because the minimum amount you must pay for the annual premiums is more than eight percent of your household income,

  • Have a gap in coverage for less than three consecutive months, or

  • Qualify for an exemption for one of several other reasons, including having a hardship that prevents you from obtaining coverage, or belonging to a group explicitly exempt from the requirement.

So what kind of “hardship” would that involve?  The list of eligible hardships at Healthcare.gov provides a long list of qualifying hardships, including “You recently experienced the death of a close family member.”  I’m sure you can come up with one, but if that doesn’t work, try “You experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance.”  Like, “Healthcare.gov” crashed, for example?  It’s your word against — whose?

So how do you claim “hardship?”  The first way is “You can claim these exemptions when you fill out your 2014 federal tax return, which is due in April 2015.”   

So somebody fills out the form and finds out the government wants hundreds of dollars in penalties for not buying insurance.  I bet they’ll come up with either a loss in the family or a hardship in a hurry.  There will be tens of thousands of these.  The IRS can’t possibly police this.

It appears the Wall Street Journal is on to something.  Considering the high cost of policies on the exchanges, a struggling young single really would incur hardship buying mandated coverage.  And if you feel it’s a hardship, they are practically inviting you to opt out.  It’s hard to see this ending well.

This also poses ethical issues for practitioners, which I’ll address another time.

 

IRS Bars Appraisers from Valuing Facade Easements for Federal Tax Purposes for Five Years (IRS Press Release):

The appraisers prepared reports valuing facade easements donated over several tax years. On behalf of each donating taxpayer, an appraiser completed Part III, Declaration of Appraiser, of Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, certifying that the appraiser did not fraudulently or falsely overstate the value of such facade easement. In valuing the facade easements, the appraisers applied a flat percentage diminution, generally 15 percent, to the fair market values of the underlying properties prior to the easement’s donation.

There’s a lot of interesting things here.  For example, they never mention the name of the appraiser group.  It would seem like that would be useful information to taxpayers.  Sometimes people who seem to be barred from a line of work apparently neglect to mention that to prospective clients.

It also shows that you can’t count on a too-good-to-be-true result just because a lot of other people have gotten it.  They just might not have been caught yet.  You can be sure the IRS is working its way down the appraisal group’s client list.

 

Principal Park, as seen from my office window.

Principal Park, as seen from my office window.

Baseball-Tax Convergence.  Over at Cubs Fan site Bleacher Nation, Proprietor Brett yesterday posted The Chicago Cubs Financial Story: the Payroll, the Debt, and the Syncing of Baseball and Business Plans.  A lawyer by training, Brett digs deep into the leverage partnership deal where the Ricketts family bought the Cubs in a way structured to defer taxes to the Tribune Company:

In a leveraged partnership, a “seller” partners with a “buyer” to form a new entity, which takes on the assets and distributes cash to the “seller.” In its formation, the partnership takes on a great deal of debt, which is guaranteed by the seller. Doing so allows the “seller” to receive the cash distribution, and defer the taxes associated with the sale of the asset. 

At least that’s the idea. Brett notes that the IRS doesn’t have to agree, and that they didn’t when the Trib tried a similar trick when it sold Newsday.  After tax season, and after I wander down to Principal Park for the noon I-Cubs game on April 16, I’ll try to explain this.

 

Tony Nitti, What Are The Penalties For Failing To File Your Tax Return On Time? .  A lot more than failing to pay.  It’s worth getting that extension in, even if you can’t pay right now.

Kay Bell, Missing your 2010 tax refund? Claim deadline is 4-15-2014

William Perez, Tax Reform Act of 2014, Part 1, Tax Rates

Russ Fox, IRS Releases New Forms W-8BEN and W-8ECI.  Important if you find you are doing business with an offshore payee.

Iowa Public Radio, State Tax Laws ‘A Mess’ For Same-Sex Couples And Employers.  That’s where specialists like Jason Dinesen can really help.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 315

Bloomberg, Buffett Cuts Tax Bill, Tells Others Not to Complain.  He’s tired of hearing you complain about subsidizing him, peasant. (Via TaxProf)

Chris Sanchirico, As American as Apple Inc. (TaxVox).  A complaint that Apple doesn’t voluntarily increase its own taxes.

ThinkAdvisor offers 8 Tax Evaders Who Should’ve Known Better — public servants biting the hand that feeds them.

 

Scott Drenkard, Richard Borean, Cigarette Smuggling Across the States (Tax Policy Blog) “Smuggled cigarettes make up substantial portions of cigarette consumption in many states, and greater than 25 percent of consumption in twelve states.”

 

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Almost one in five Iowa smokes are smuggled.

 

Cara Griffith, City of Tacoma Considers Contingent-Fee Auditors (Tax Analysts Bl0g) It’s a bad idea, but it’s hard to see where it’s any different from red-light cameras, where the camera companies collect a bounty of their own.

TaxGrrrl, 10 Tips For Making The Most Of March Madness  My strategy is to ignore it.

 

The Critical Question. Can the IRS Tell a Good Story? (Susan Morse, Procedurally Taxing)

 

 

20130419-1You lied to the IRS all these years, but you’re telling me the truth?  Sometimes business owners get away with tax evasion for years.  Then they try to sell their business.

A Henderson, Nevada auto body shop owner decided it was time to cash out.  KTNV reports:

Robert E. D’Errico, 64, was sentenced Wednesday morning to six-months in federal prison for tax evasion.

According to the plea agreement, D’Errico owned Sunset Collision Center in Henderson. In 2009, he began listing the business for sale on small business listing sites and with small business brokers. D’Errico stated in his listings that, “Seller states that his discretionary take-home cash is $150,000 per year and has receipts to prove it.”

When contacted by a potential buyer, D’Errico re-iterated, “Seller’s discretionary cash take home beyond stated net income is approx. $150,000 avg. per year and is verifiable with receipts.”

During a meeting with a potential buyer, D’Errico stated he stopped accepting checks and was taking cash deductibles from customers, as well as selling excess inventory for cash. 

Either the “potential buyer” ratted him out, or he was an IRS secret shopper.  The IRS got a search warrant, found the real ledgers, and things got ugly.  

Tax returns are sometimes the only financial statements a small business has.  Buyers naturally want to see them, and it can be awkward trying to convince a buyer that they aren’t the “real” financial statements.  But it can get a lot more awkward than that.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/13/14: Looming Payday Edition. And: incentives galore!

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130104-1Deduction day looms.   March 15 is the deadline for calendar-year corporate return filings and payments.  It’s also an important deadline for accrual-basis taxpayers for another reason:  compensation accrued at year-end by a calendar-year accrual-basis taxpayer has to be paid by March 15 of the following year to be deductible in the year accrued.

As every first-year accounting student learns, accrual accounting tries to match expenses with the period in which the income is earned.  If a bonus is based on calendar-year sales or profits, it normally can’t be paid until after year-end, when the numbers are sorted out; still, the bonus is related to those sales, so accrual accounting counts the expense against that year’s income.

The tax law has many limits on accrual accounting.  For example, accrued expenses to “related parties,” typically owners and their families, can’t be deducted until the expenses are actually paid.  The tax law gives accrual businesses 2 1/2 months after year-end to pay accrued compensation to non-related employees.  Otherwise, the deduction is deferred until the year in which the employee is paid.

Does the compensation have to be paid by Saturday, or can I wait until Monday?  The tax law provides that when tax returns are due on a weekend, the deadline is extended to the following monday.  That’s why 2013 calendar-year corporation returns  are due March 17, 2014 – March 15 is on Saturday this year.

But the IRS says that doesn’t work for compensation.  Rev. Rul. 83-116 holds that it only applies to “acts required to be performed in connection with the determination, collection, or refund of taxes”  – things like filing returns.  So, according to IRS, the March 15 deadline still stands for payment 0f 2013 accrued compensation.  It’s not clear that the IRS would win in court on this — they have lost on a similar issue — but you don’t want to be the test case.  If you want to deduct 2013 accrued compensation on your 2013 return, pay it by Saturday.

 

 

haroldIncentives!  Coralville Likely on the Hook for Large Chunk of Von Maur Taxes.  Coralville marches to the beat of its own drummer, who apparently is heavily medicated.

Hey, let’s pay $34 million to build a Des Moines Convention Hotel!  Brian Gongol reports “The city financed the hotel to help spur convention business…but now it’s in danger of losing money.”  You don’t say.

Tax Justice Blog, Film Tax Credit Arms Race Continues: “Saying “no” to Hollywood can be a difficult thing for states, but here are a few examples of lawmakers and other stakeholders questioning the dubious merits of these credits within the last few weeks”.

Good.  Iowa doesn’t seem to have been badly hurt since it turned from subsidizing filmmakers to jailing them.

Related: Robert Wood, Film Taxes Ensnares Beckhams, Bob Geldof, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Annie Lennox & More

 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): F Is For Foreign Tax Credit.  ”For many taxpayers, it’s more advantageous to claim income taxes you paid or accrued during the year to a foreign country or U.S. possession as a credit than as a deduction.”

William Perez, Chart: Total Refundable Credits from 1990 to 2011.  There are more of them now.

Peter Reilly, Hedge Fund, TEFRA And Community Property Give Woman Tax Nightmare

Russ Fox, The IRS Needs Volunteers for the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

 

Cara Griffith, States’ Perspectives on Federal Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog)

Joseph Henchman, Nebraska Legislators Approve Inflation Indexing But Drop Major Tax Overhaul (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Mike Lee’s Tax Plan: An Intriguing Idea That Would Add $2.4 Trillion to the Deficit (TaxVox)

Kay Bell, House panel finally looking at Internet sales tax legislation

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 308

News from the Profession.  Tweeting a Lot About Audit Stuff Can Get You a Job at Deloitte.  (Going Concern)

 

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

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

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

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

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

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

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

Take it away, GoGos:

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 301

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

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

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

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

As Peter notes, I think the science is settled.

 

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

 

Economic supergenius

Smidgenless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/21/14: Last-day out edition. And: another Iowa top-ten finish!

Friday, February 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Today’s the last day of this season’s only extended road trip, so here are a few items to travel with.

Another top-ten finish for Iowa.  In “How High are Capital Gains Tax Rates in Your State?“ Kyle Pomerleau and Richard Borean at Tax Policy Blog rank state burdens on capital gains.  Iowa’s 29.6% combined federal and state capital gain rate is ninth (California’s 33% is the worst).

20140221-1

Like so many things about Iowa taxes, it’s complicated.  Some taxpayers — those who meet both a ten-year holding period and ten-year material participation test — can sell some assets (but not stock or partnership interests) and have a zero Iowa capital gain rate.  Those who aren’t so blessed by the legislature get socked.

 

TaxGrrrl is back after the Forbes hack attack with IRS Reveals Dirty Dozen Scams For 2014.  Identity theft tops the list.  Take common-sense steps to protect yourself.  Never send your Social Security Number or similar tax information in an unencrypted email, for example.  If you need to get documents with confidential information to your preparer electronically, use a secure file transfer site.

Cara Griffith ponders What Triggers a Sales and Use Tax Audit? at Tax Analysts Blog.

Christopher Bergin says Progressivity Does Not Equal Equality (Tax Analysts Blog).  ”I still support a progressive tax system, just not as a method of addressing income inequality.”

There’s no evidence that an income tax system with rates short of ridiculous can affect “equality,” however you want to measure it.  In fact, the fretted-over rise in inequality has coincided with a shift in taxes to “the rich.”

Top 1 pays more than bottom 90

If you seriously tried to use the tax system to level income differences, the best you would get would be achievement of inequality by means of mass poverty.

 

Howard Gleckman, How 19 Million Uninsured Tax Filers Could Get ACA Coverage.  (TaxVox).  He pushes the awful idea of dumping responsibility for enrolling people in the misbegotten Obamacare system on tax preparers.  It’s as bad an idea as giving responsibility for administering the healthcare  system to the IRS.  Preparers have more than enough complexity and difficulty to deal with as it is.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 288

Tony Nitti, Kevin Durant Calls Foul On Tax Preparer Over Improper Deductions.  Funny, he didn’t seem to mind them when he signed the returns.  It never pays for preparers to curry favor with clients by using bogus deductions.  The same client who happily cashes the big refund check will throw you to the wolves in a heartbeat.

Kay Bell, Offshore account owners more likely to confess Swiss holdings

 

20140221-2Tax Justice Blog, Bipartisan Rush to Win Gold Medal in Tax Gimmickry: “A lot of gimmicky bills are proposed each Congressional session, but few are quite as ridiculous as the proposal by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate to create a new federal income tax break for the cash bonuses received by U.S. Olympic medalists.”

I have to disagree.  Many proposals are every bit as ridiculous, unfortunately, including a lot that have been enacted.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/30/14: Gas tax increase advances. And: IRS starts to accept 1040s, but not issuing refunds yet.

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

They’re still trying to increase Iowa’s gas tax, reports William Petroski of the Des Moines Register:

An Iowa House subcommittee voted 5-0 today to approve a 10-cent increase in the state’s gasoline tax, although the proposal still faces steep odds of winning final approval this session.

The bill, managed by Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, would raise the fuel tax by three cents the first year, an additional three cents and following year, and four cents the third year. When fully implemented, the tax increase would generate $230 million annually for city, county and state roads.

It’s always hard to increase taxes in an election year.  There is a good argument that gas taxes are the way to pay for roads, and that Iowa’s tax needs updating, but so far Iowa’s road spending is in line with most other states, and the talk of a “crisis” isn’t convincing everyone.

 

Iowa Farmer Today, Little action expected on taxes in Legislature.  It quotes my co-presenter at the Farm and Urban Tax Schools, Roger McEowen:

McEowen, head of the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (CALT) at Iowa State University, says it is always possible the state might do something to clean up its tax code, but it appears unlikely this year.

“Frankly, I don’t think anything important is going to happen on taxes, not in this legislative session,” he says.

It is a sentiment echoed by many other legislative observers.

Like me.

 

 

20130419-1TaxGrrrl, IRS Accepting Returns As Part Of Test Program, Not Issuing Refunds Early

Trish McIntire, Yes, You Have to Wait.  If you haven’t received your W-2, you can’t file using your last 2013 pay stub.

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Firefighter/EMS Tax Credit.  A $50 spiff to volunteer firefighters and EMS people. One more feel-good provision that clutters up the tax law but is too small to enforce.

Brian Strahle, SALT PRACTICES: WHAT PEOPLE THINK, BUT DO NOT SAY.  ”SALT” is “State And Local Taxes.”

Paul Neiffer looks at the predictably expensive and absurd farm bill: How To Make an Extra $100 Per Acre!  It brings to mind the old joke:  ”How did the farmer double his income?  He bought a second mailbox.”

Related: Billionaires Received Millions From Taxpayer Farm Subsidies: Analysis (Huffington Post)

William Perez, Earned Income Credit Recipients by State

 

 

Phil Hodgen, How Many Appointments in Buenos Aires to Expatriate?  The State Department doesn’t always make it easy to shed U.S. citizenship.

Brian Strahle, FATCA and Unintended Consequences.  A story of an American in Switzerland who is losing the ability to commit personal finance because of this anti-”fatcat” legislation.

 

taxanalystslogoDavid Brunori, A Sales Tax Conundrum (Tax Analysts Blog):

The sales tax has been a blessing and a curse. One of its great virtues is that it is collected by the vendor, which then remits it to the state. Neither the taxpayer nor the tax agency has much to do except pay and collect. The vendor does the work. The success of the sales tax for the last 90 years is largely attributable to vendor collection. But if the vendor doesn’t collect and remit the appropriate tax, it is liable for the amounts. The vendor will have to pay the unremitted tax and could face severe penalties and even criminal charges.

So if a vendor is unsure about the status of an item it’s selling, it will collect the tax. Better to collect and remit tax not owed than to face the consequences of a mistake.

David notes that online vendors will have to deal with many states, with very confusing rules, and that over-collection of sales taxes is the inevitable result.  Not that the states mind.

Cara Griffith wonders, Are State Tax Authorities Hiding the Ball? (Tax Analysts Blog).  ”I’ve noticed an emerging trend in some state departments of revenue – a move toward secret law. In a time when transparency has become a buzzword, some revenue departments are doing what they can to avoid transparency.”

 

William McBride, State of the Union: Corporations Continue to Flee (Tax Policy Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, Why the Business Tax Reform Proposal in Obama’s SOTU Is Not as Great as It Sounds

Kay Bell, Taxes touched on lightly in State of Union via EITC, MyRA

Joseph Thorndike, The War on Wealth Is Not New.  (Tax Analysts Blog).  True.  And it has always been dishonest, disgraceful, corrupt, and impoverishing.

 

The Critical Question.  What Happens When You Mix a Seedy Strip Club, an Unsophisticated Taxpayer and the Tax Court? (Going Concern).  I’m sure if it was one of those real elegant and distinguished strip clubs, there wouldn’t have been a problem…

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/23/2014: Ideas edition. And: why are we taxing pot?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Bad idea.  Refundable tax credits are the favorite kind of credit for tax fraudsters because they generate tax refunds even when there is no tax paid or withheld.  The earned income tax credit is refundable, and that feature has something to do with 20-25% of the credits issued annually being improper.

An intrepid group of Iowa legislators isn’t letting that stop them.  They have introduced HF 2027 to create a new refundable tax credit in Iowa — a piggyback credit equal to 25% of the als0-refundable (and fraud-ridden) American Opportunity Tax Credit.

The AOTC is based on a percentage of tuition paid for the first four years of college.  It phases out at higher income levels.

Politicians can’t resist using the tax law to pass out political favors.  But even the best-intended ones make the tax law more complicated and, by creating a class with something to lose, they make it that much harder to reform.  When there already countless tuition aid programs, not to mention state-funded colleges and universities, it’s unwise to just throw in one more program willy-nilly.

 

Good idea.  Republican Party to vote for repeal of U.S. anti-tax dodging law (Patrick Temple-West).  

Approved in 2010 after a tax-avoidance scandal involving a Swiss bank, FATCA requires most foreign banks and investment funds to report to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service information about U.S. customers’ accounts worth $50,000 or more.

Criticized by banks, libertarians and some Americans living abroad as a costly and unneeded government overreach, FATCA is on the books, but its effective date has been delayed repeatedly, with enforcement now set to start on July 1.

I hate the headline on the article.  I would have written it “Republican Party to vote to decriminalize personal finance for Americans abroad.”  FATCA makes outrageous demands of non-U.S. institutions that have made Americans unwelcome at many foreign banks.

Related: Republicans Target FATCA As Another Windmill to Attack  (Jack Townsend)

 

haroldWorse idea: film tax credits.

Accounting Web, Film Credits: Your Tax Dollars at Work Making Movies:

Actor/director Ben Affleck told the Los Angeles Times he’s filming part of Live by Night in Georgia, a state that is popular for its film credit availability.

“It comes down to the fact that you have X amount of money to make your movie in a business where the margins are really thin,” he said.

Understood – but there’s a disconnect here. Affleck and his fellow actor/director, Matt Damon, both advocate and participate in using film credits to reduce taxes so they can make their movies. But both are also on record saying, because they are wealthy, their taxes should be raised.

What’s wrong with this “picture?”

Why is the film business, of all businesses with thin margins, entitled to special breaks?  Because politicians are suckers for celebrities.

Joseph Henchman, The Economist Reviews State Film Tax Credit Programs (Tax Policy Blog):

The report notes that it’s getting tougher to compete with Louisiana’s 30 percent refundable credit or New York’s $420 million annual budget to subsidize film and TV, and that independent analyses find these do little on net for job creation or economic growth.

But you can’t forget the intangibles!  As a Des Moines columnist breathlessly reported at the high point of the Iowa film credit looting spree:

But some benefits can’t just be measured on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The movies provide employment to local actors, construction crews, artists, caterers, drivers and a host of others. They expose non-Iowans to what the state has to offer. More intangible is the benefit of interactions in a state that can be cut off from the trends and centers of power. Not to mention the excitement factor. We’ve relied on caucuses every four years to bring action and celebrities to town. Now, sightings are anytime, any place.

Fortunately, Iowa is sadder but wiser now.

 

20130916-1Russ Fox, More Work for Tax Professionals: Submission IDs for Efiled Returns:

In the past, the taxpayer signs the 8879, the tax professional signs it and files it away. Now, the taxpayer signs it, the tax professional signs it, and the return is filed. Once the IRS accepts the return, the software company will assign the Submission Identification Number (SID) to the return. The tax professional must either print another copy of the Form 8879 (this one would have the SID on it) and attach it to the Form 8879, print a copy of Form 9325 (Acknowledgement and General Information for Taxpayers Who File Returns Electronically), or the tax professional must write the SID on the original 8879.

It doesn’t seem like much, but that extra minute for every tax return probably equates to an additional 500 minutes of time if you efile 500 returns in a tax season.

And anybody who’s been around a tax prep office during tax season knows there aren’t all that many extra minutes lying around.

 

TaxGrrrl, 11 Questions To Ask When Hiring A Tax Preparer .  A good list.

Leslie Book, The Ban on Claiming the EITC: A Problematic Penalty (Procedurally Taxing).  ”We have not addressed the special EITC ban that arises when a taxpayer inappropriately claims the EITC.   The following gives some context, with a focus on the two-year ban for reckless or intentional (but not fraudulent) errors.”

William Perez, Which Tax Form to File?

 

Peter Reilly, Is Tax Court Rebelling Against Supreme Court?  Short answer: no.

Tyler Cowen, Income inequality is not as extreme as many citizens think.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 259

Cara Griffith, When State Taxes and Interstate Compacts Collide (Tax Analysts Blog).  ”But states can’t have their cake and eat it too; a compact cannot be both binding and offer states significant choices on whether to follow its terms.”

Tax Justice Blog calls the IRS budget cut The Dumbest Spending Cut in the New Budget Deal.  It’s bad policy, but it’s asking a lot of Congressional Republicans to fund an organ of their opposition.

 

20130607-2Because they can.  Why Exactly Are We Taxing Pot? (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog):

But I must ask: What is the rationale for imposing special taxes on marijuana? Excise taxes are appropriate to pay for externalities – the costs to society of using the product that are not borne by the market. But it is unclear what, if any, externalities are created by smoking pot.

Economic development in the Doritos aisle?

 

Kay Bell, IRS audit results in $862,000 lawsuit award for taxpayer.  Because he tripped over a phone cord.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/16/14: Bill would widen Iowa 10-year gain break. And: Obamacare tax credits survive challenge.

Thursday, January 16th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20130117-1
Iowa Capital Gains Exclusion for stock sales?  
The first income tax bill in the hopper in this session of the Iowa General Assembly is HSB 502, which would expand the current tax break for extra-long term capital gains to stock and partnership interest sales.

Iowa currently allows taxpayers to exclude some capital gains from income when the taxpayer meets each of two 10-year requirements:

- They have to have held the property for at least ten years, and

- They have to have materially participated in the business for at least ten years. Material participation is determined under the federal passive activity rules.

If those requirements are met, a taxpayer can exclude gain on the sale of “substantially all of the assets” of a business, or on the sale of real estate used in the business.  But unless the gain is recognized in a corporate liquidation following an asset sale, stock gains aren’t eligible for the break.  Gains on the sale of partnership interests are never excluded

HSB 502 would extend the break to a sales of “substantially all of the taxpayer’s stock or equity interest in the business, whether the business is held as a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, joint venture, trust, limited liability company, or another business entity.”

The provision makes sense to the extent that such a break shouldn’t be dependent on the way you organize your business.  What doesn’t make sense is the way the exclusion is limited by the ten-year material participation requirement.  There is a strong economic case to not tax capital gains at all, but I can’t think of any reason that case is affected by material participation.

The biggest argument against the exclusion is that it is a carve-out of the income tax base for a very limited class of taxpayers that adds to the complexity of the Iowa income tax.  I would favor a broader, or even complete, capital gain exclusion.  I would also be OK with taxing all capital gains in exchange for repeal of the corporation income tax and reduction of the individual rate to under 4% as part of the Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

The bill has been referred to a subcommittee of the Iowa House Ways and Means Committee.  While I expect no major tax legislation to move this year, limited provisions like this could advance.

Related: Iowa Capital Gain Deduction: an illustration

 

20121120-2TaxGrrrl, Another Legal Threat To Obamacare Shot Down In Federal Court:

When the Regulations were published, those refundable tax credits which were intended for participants in state exchanges were extended to those individuals under the federal exchanges. The plaintiffs filed suit, arguing that making the credits available to those on the federal exchanges was beyond the scope of the law. The plaintiffs sought, through the lawsuit, to prohibit the IRS from enforcing the Regulations as written.

The D.C. U.S. District Court upheld the regulations yesterday on summary judgement.  An appeal to the D.C. Circuit is likely.

 

 David Henderson quotes economist John Cochrane:

Our current tax code is a chaotic mess and an invitation to cronyism, lobbying, and special breaks. The right thing is to scrap it. Taxes should raise money for the government in the least distortionary way possible. Don’t try to mix the tax code with income transfers or support for alternative energy, farmers, mortgages, and the housing industry, and so on. Like roughly every other economist, I support a two-page tax code, something like a consumption tax. Do government transfers, subsidies, and redistribution in a politically accountable and economically efficient way, through on-budget spending.

But that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

So wise, and, sadly, so true.  Mr. Cochran has a lot of wise things to say; read the whole thing.  Lynne Kiesling passes on more Cochrane wisdom in Cochrane on ACA’s unravelling: parallels to electricity.

 

Robert D. Flach, TWO RECENT TAX POSTS WORTH DISCUSSING.  ”The idiots in Congress must understand that the purpose of the Tax Code is to raise the money needed to run the government – PERIOD.”

Trish McIntire talks about Choosing A Tax Pro.  ”Just because your previous preparer did something a certain way doesn’t mean that another preparer will run their office the same.”

William Perez, Free Tax Preparation Services

 

HarvestHarvest
harvest
Paul Neiffer, Grain Gifts – How Are They Taxed?:

Since there is no cost allocated to the grain that is gifted, there is no charitable deduction to report.  Rather, since you are reducing your schedule F income by the amount of grain given, this essentially results in your charitable deduction.  You are not allowed to deduct both on schedule F and on schedule A.

Only one deduction counts.

 

Jason Dinesen, Got 1099s to Issue?:

A 1099 may need to be issued if:

  1. You paid $600 or more in total to any 1 person during the year for services provided to your business. This also applies to payments made to businesses organized as partnerships. However, a 1099 does NOT need issued for payments made to a corporation. Payments made to an LLC may or may not require a 1099, depending on how the LLC is taxed.

  2. You paid $600 or more in total to a law firm during the year, regardless of how the law firm is organized. In other words, even if the law firm is a corporation, you would need to issue it a 1099 if you paid the firm $600 or more.

  3. You paid $600 or more in rental or lease payments to an unincorporated person or partnership during the year (similar rules as listed under item #1).

And the deadline is looming.

 

Jack Townsend, Switzerland’s Quixotic Efforts to Close the Stable Door After the Horse Has Left the Barn.  Consider Swiss bank secrecy most sincerely dead.

 

20130419-1Kay Bell, IRS’ fiscal year 2014 budget takes a big hit

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 252

TaxTrials, Wesley Snipes, A Lesson in Listening to Bad Advice

Keith Fogg, Forum Shopping in the Tax Court – Small Tax Case Procedure and the Rand Decision. (Procedurally Taxing).  Issues when a tax deficiency results solely from refundable tax credits.

Tax Justice Blog, What to Watch for in 2014 State Tax Policy

Scott Drenkard, Open Sky Policy Institute: “Illinois is not an Example for Other States”.  Not exactly going out on a limb, but worth noting.

Roberton Williams, Tax Complications for Same-Sex Couples in Utah (and Elsewhere) (TaxVox)

Cara Griffith, Is Connecticut Ignoring Supreme Court Precedent? (Tax Analysts Blog).  Who do they think they are anyway — Iowa?

 

News from the Profession: How To Not Tick Off Your Public Accounting Colleagues Without Being a Clown About It (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/9/2014: She stole from me! And gave it to my kids! And: $10 pizza and tax show!

Thursday, January 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2It’s a rare thief that applies her ill-gotten gains to pay for college for the victim’s children.  But a Texan filed a tax return claiming just that, and it ended up in a Tax Court case decided yesterday.

The taxpayer divorced Wife #1 in March 2005, marrying Wife #2 in May 2005.  The second marriage went downhill quickly, with ending in an August 8 2006 divorce.

In the summer of 2006, the taxpayer asked Wife #1 to help him with some personal issues, including an alcohol problem and financial issues arising from the divorce.  Somewhere along the way, $120,000 was transferred to Uniform Transfers to Minors Act account for the children of the marriage to Wife #1 under signature authority granted by the taxpayer to Wife #1.  Judge Cohen explains:

Petitioner expressed to [Wife #1] that he intended that the money be used for expenses related to their children’s education. During this conversation, petitioner also discussed his upcoming divorce from [Wife #2]. Petitioner suggested to [Wife #1], and later represented to an Internal Revenue Service agent, that he wanted to preclude {Wife #2′s] access to the funds.

The funds ended up being spent on for their kids’ schooling, but eventually the taxpayer had other needs:

In September 2008, petitioner was having financial difficulties. He attempted to obtain funds from the accounts that [Wife #1] had set up. He advised [Wife #1} that the $120,000 transferred to her in 2006 should have been put in revocable trusts rather than in the childrens' educational accounts.
 On June 19, 2009, petitioner filed a civil lawsuit against [Wife #1] related to the $120,000 transferred to the UTMA and section 529 accounts for their children and other matters. [Wife #1] asserted counterclaims in the lawsuit. In early 2010, the parties to the lawsuit entered into a settlement agreement. In the settlement agreement, petitioner and [Wife #1] acknowledged that the education accounts were the property of their children. [Wife #1] agreed to provide to petitioner biannual financial information related to the UTMA accounts. Petitioner and [Wife #1] released all claims against each other in the settlement agreement.

The judge weighed the word of the two spouses, and came down on the side of the one who hadn’t been to rehab:

We understand that former spouses are not objective witnesses in many instances, but we must reach a decision based on which version is more probable and which party has the burden of proof. In this instance, considering primarily the passage of time between the transaction and petitioner’s expressions of disagreement with [Wife #1]‘s handling of the transaction and the absence of contemporaneous corroboration of petitioner’s intentions, we conclude that the burden of proof has not shifted and that petitioner has not proven that a theft occurred.

The Moral?  It isn’t considered standard financial procedure to give your ex-spouse signature authority over your finances.  If you do, you should probably document it very carefully.  If you don’t like the results, it might be hard to convince the IRS and a judge that you’ve been wronged.

Cite: West, T.C. Memo 2014-2.

 

Iowa Businesses!  The deadline for claiming the commercial property tax credit enacted last year is January 15!  Details at the Iowa Department of Revenue.

 

TaxGrrrl, Filing Your Taxes Early? IRS Will Not Process Returns Before Opening Day.  And don’t try to file until you have your W-2s and 1099s.

William Perez, Requesting Form W-9 from Independent Contractors

Robert D. Flach ponders A VOLUNTARY RTRP DESIGNATION!  I don’t care for the idea, for the reasons Jason Dinesen explains, but would be fine with preparers banding together to develop their own privately-administered standards.  I have no faith in the IRS doing so fairly or effectively.

Scott Hodge, The Number of Millionaire Tax Returns Fluctuates Every Year (Tax Policy Blog)

million-dollar filers

And the population of the million-dollar filers turns over a lot.

Cara Griffith, The Recurring Question of Corporate Disclosure (Tax Analysts Blog):

My general objection to requiring the disclosure of corporate tax return information is that it seems unnecessary. State tax authorities and economic development commissions are already receiving a substantial amount of information about corporate taxpayers. They have the ability to do any type of analysis they choose. Given that the information is already available to those who can properly analyze it, why is it necessary to make it public?

Why not instead develop a database of which tax incentives are available, who has received them, and the benefits they provide? 

Excellent idea.

Tax Justice Blog, Will Basic Constitutional Rights Be the Next Casualty of Kansas’ Supply-Side Experiment?  Hard to see where that happens in this post.

Kay Bell, LBJ’s war on poverty, aided by the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Too bad 20-25% of it gets stolen or misapplied.

EITC error chart

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 245

 

Des Moinesiacs, listen up!  From Kathryn Smith at IMA:

Please join us for the annual ICN broadcast sponsored by the North Central Regional Council of Institute of Management Accountants on January 9, 2014.  Our speaker will Joe Kristan.  Mr. Kristan will be presenting the 2013 Income Tax Update.  If you have not heard Joe before you are in for a treat.  Joe mixes a little humor with a rather dry subject.  We will start broadcasting at 6:00 p.m. and be joined by locations in Dubuque, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Grinnell and Davenport.  This is one meeting you won’t want to miss.  Join the Des Moines Chapter at 5:30 p.m. for pizza and pop.  Cost is $10.

It’s at Iowa Public Television, 6450 Corporate Drive, Johnston.  And rest assured, if you do this stuff for a living, it’s not a dry subject!

Career Corner: I’ll Take “Things That Are Worse Than Failing The CPA Exam” For $500, Alex (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/6/2014: Start this year’s year-end planning now! And lots more.

Monday, January 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140106-1I’m back.  It was good to take a little time off after year-end planning season and before the 2013 return season starts.  But now that it’s 12 below with howling winds, I might as well be at the office.

It was sort of a busman’s holiday, though, as I got an early start on my 2014 year-end tax planning.   While December year-end planning is important, it’s asking a lot of one month to do the work of all 12.  You can do some important tax planning in January that will pay off all year long.  For example:

- You can fund your 2014 Individual Retirement Account right now.  If you are married, you can also fund your spousal IRA.  The maximum contribution is $5,500, or $6,500 if you will reach at least age 50 by December 31, 2014.

- You can fund your 2014 Health Savings Account today too.  The HSA limit for taxpayers with a high-deductible plan and family coverage is $6,550 this year; for a single plan, the limit is $3,300.  You need to have a qualifying high-deductible insurance policy, but if you do, you can deduct your contribution and withdraw funds for tax-deductible expenses tax-free.  If you leave the funds in, they accumulate tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free later for qualifying health costs.  If you stay too healthy to use the funds on medical care, withdrawals are taxed much like IRA withdrawals.

Using spousal IRAs and an HSA, a 50-year old with family coverage can tuck away a combined $19,550 right now and have it earn interest or dividends tax free right away — 15 1/2 months sooner than if you wait until April 15, 2015, the last day you can make these contributions.  And by saving it now, you won’t be tempted to spend it later in the year.

A few other things that you can do right away to get some of your 2014 year-end planning out of the way:

- If you care about estate planning, nothing keeps you from making the $14,000 maximum 2014 exempt gift to your preferred family donees right now.

- Make sure you’ve maxed out your 2014 401(k) deferral with your HR people — or at the very least, be sure you are deferring as much as you can get your employer to match.

- If you are an Iowan with kids, you can make a 2014 College Savings Iowa contribution that you can deduct on your 2014 Iowa 1040.  The maximum deductible contribution is $3,098 per donor, per beneficiary, so a married couple with two kids can put away $12,392 right now.  The Iowa tax benefit works like an 8.98% bonus to you for putting money in your college savings pocket.

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 242: Lois Lerner Is 2013 Tax Person of the Year.  The TaxProf provides access to a Tax Analysts piece that says:

     While many of the Service’s problems were not necessarily its own fault, the exempt organization scandal was an almost entirely self-inflicted wound. No one personifies that scandal more than Lois Lerner.

Lerner ignited a political and media firestorm when she confessed in May that the exempt organizations unit of the IRS Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division inappropriately handled many Tea Party groups’ exemption applications.

The now former exempt organizations director’s admission and subsequent refusal to testify before Congress contributed to her becoming the public face of the scandal. Although Lerner does not bear sole responsibility for the IRS’s missteps in processing conservative groups’ exemption applications, the publicity of her role in one of the year’s biggest news stories earns her the distinction of being Tax Notes’ 2013 Person of the Year. 

And in spite of much wishful thinking, it is a scandal.

It’s worth noting that Tax Analysts gives an honorable mention to Dan Alban, the Institute for Justice attorney behind the District Court defeat for the IRS preparer regulation power grab.

 

1040 2013William Perez, How Soon Can a Person File Their 2013 Tax Return?: “The Internal Revenue Service plans to begin processing personal tax returns on Friday, January 31, 2014, for the tax year 2013 (IR-2013-100).”  But don’t even try to get it done until you have your W-2s and 1099s all in hand.

Jana Luttenegger, Reinstating Tax-Exempt Organizations  (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). She explains new IRS procedures for organizations that have lost their exemption by failing to file annual reports with the IRS.

Kay BellSocial Security taxable earnings cap in 2014 is $117,000. Thousands have already hit that tax limit.

Jason Dinesen, Small Business Planning: Got Your Financial Statements and Budget Done Yet?

Paul Neiffer, Remember Your Simplified Home Office Deduction

TaxGrrrl, What You Need To Know About Taxes In 2014: Expired Tax Breaks, Obamacare Penalties & More.

Russ Fox, 1099 Time.  A look at who has to issue information returns, and who gets them.

 

Robert D. Flach poses AN ETHICAL, AND PERHAPS LEGAL, DILEMMA:

Beginning with the 2014 Form 1040, am I legally, or ethically, required to assess my client a penalty for not having health insurance coverage?  Or can I, as I do with the penalty for underpayment of estimated tax, ignore the issue and leave it to the IRS to determine if a penalty is appropriate?  Will I face a potential preparer penalty if I ignore the issue?

It’s a good question.  I suspect they plan to make us ask the question, under the same sort of rules that make preparers unpaid social workers for the earned income tax credit.  I don’t expect to ever have to ask the question, though, as I think this dilemma will resolve itself by an indefinite delay, and eventual repeal, of the individual mandate as Obamacare falls apart.

 

David Brunori, State Tax Reform Advice for 2014 – Think About Spending (Tax Analysts Blog). Sometimes I think that’s all they think about.  But hear David out:

But in thinking about tax reform efforts in the past year, I am more convinced than ever that our refusal to rethink the size of government makes fixing problems with the tax code impossible. Here is what we know. Cutting government programs is difficult because each program has a constituency that will fight like a gladiator to protect its access to public money. So when the topic of tax reform comes up, conservatives and liberals vow to find a fix that will neither raise nor decrease spending. But we also know that politicians – the majority anyway – generally hate raising taxes. This reflects the fact that most of their constituents hate the idea of paying more taxes. But the costs of government continue to increase. And that leads to worse tax policy as states look to gimmicks, excises, gambling, and other junk ways of collecting revenue. It also ensures that some horrible tax policies are never fixed.

If the government dialed back spending to population-and-inflation adjusted 1990 numbers, I don’t think mass famines would result.

Scott Hodge, Despite Rising Inequality, Tax Code is at Most Progressive in Decades (Tax Policy Blog). I’m not sure “despite” is the right word here.

Annette Nellen, Continued bonus depreciation or tax reform?

Cara Griffith, Cyclists: The Next Great Source of Tax Revenue? (Tax Analysts Blog):

 While I strongly believe taxes should not be used to encourage or discourage behavior, the effect of requiring cyclists to register their bikes is not the big problem with these types of proposals. The real problem is that they don’t raise any revenue. Dowell’s suggestion that a bike registration fee would raise some $10 million for the city of Chicago is a pipe dream. Almost every cent would be used simply to administer the program.

From the interests of the bureaucrats proposing the program, just funding new patronage jobs is a perfectly acceptable result.

Howard Gleckman, Time To Park The Commuter Tax Subsidy (TaxVox)

Peter Reilly, Are IRS Property Seizures The Stuff Of Reality TV?   Now there’s some grim viewing.

The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation has a shiny new look at its website.

Tony Nitti, Yes Virginia, There Is A Tax Extender Bill In Congress.

The Critical Question: If You Won the Lottery Tomorrow, Would You Still Go to Work? (Going Concern).  Only to clean out my desk, and laugh.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/27/2013: Should you prepay your taxes for the deduction?

Friday, December 27th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20111040logoIs it worth paying taxes early to get a deduction early?   Many more taxpayers will have to ask that question this year for the unfortunate reason that the increase in the top regular rate to 39.6% makes their regular tax higher than the alternative minimum tax.  While it’s cold consolation, you can use your deduction for state tax payments when you aren’t subject to AMT.

First you have to make sure you can use the deduction at all.  You can’t use a deduction for taxes paid on your federal return if you don’t itemize, or if you are subject to AMT.  If you pass these tests, then you should ponder if you are going to be in a much higher bracket next year.  Assuming that you are in the same bracket for both years, and that no change in the tax law will affect your deduction, it’s a time-value-of-money question.

The charts below show the tax benefit of prepaying $1,000 of state and local taxes at the federal tax brackets. The first bracket shown is the top Iowa rate, to enable Iowans to determine the value of prepaying federal taxes.  It shows the present value at several key payment dates:

 

January 15: Federal fourth quarter 2013 payments are due

January 31: due date of Iowa fourth quarter estimated taxes.

March 1: due date of first Iowa property tax installment.

April 15: due date of most state individual tax returns.

April 30: due date of Iowa individual tax returns.

September 1: due date of second Iowa property tax installment.

pv tax prepayment3

If the benefit is in green, prepayment makes sense.  If it is red, the time value lost by paying early exceeds the benefit of accelerating the deduction by a year, assuming that the benefit will arrive on April 15.

This chart is only accurate assuming all of its underlying assumptions are met, so use it with caution.   It does illustrate that prepaying January taxes usually makes sense, but prepaying September taxes seldom does.

Come back tomorrow for another installment of our 2013 year-end tax tips series!

 

Howard Gleckman, Finance Chairman In-Waiting Ron Wyden Is A Tax Reformer (TaxVox):

The 64-year-old Wyden, who has a history of proposing creative, ambitious, and sometimes controversial ideas, initially sponsored a tax code overhaul in 2010 with former GOP senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. After Gregg retired, Wyden found another GOP cosponsor in Dan Coates of Indiana. Wyden-Coates follows the broad outline of the original Wyden-Gregg plan.

For individuals, it would set three rates—15-25-35. The top bracket would kick in at $140,000 for couples filing jointly. It would repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, nearly triple the standard deduction, and create a 35 percent exclusion for long-term capital gains and dividends (equal to a rate of 22.75 percent for top-bracket taxpayers). It would eliminate the tax advantages of many employee benefits–but not employer-sponsored health insurance–and simplify tax-preferred savings.

While the plan would preserve most other individual tax preferences, the very large standard deduction would sharply limit the number of taxpayers who take them (even today, fewer than one-third itemize).

Wyden-Coates would cut the corporate rate to 24 percent from 35 percent.

I can think of a better tax reform, but Wyden-Coates would be a huge improvement over what we have.

 

taxanalystslogoCara Griffith, Enabling an Informed Debate (Tax Analysts Blog):

A transparent tax system, in which there are no “secret tax laws,” is a better tax system in that taxpayers more clearly understand the laws they are required to comply with, tax officials can more easily administer the law, and both sides can engage in a more informed debate about tax policy.

I would add that the transparency should extend to subsidies, like Economic development tax credits, that are run through state tax returns.

 

Jason Dinesen, Capital Losses and Tax Planning 

Kay Bell,  Valuing your tax-deductible donations of household goods

Jim Maule, How to Lose a Charitable Contribution Deduction.  If you leave an anonymous gold coin or jewelry piece in a Salvation Army kettle, it does no good on your 1040.

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving: Ride For Reading   “Our featured charity, Ride for Reading, delivers books to children in underserved communities… by bicycle!”

 

 

TaxProf, Court: Home Depot Cannot Use Out-of-State IP Affiliate to Shift Income From Arizona,  Don’t expect state courts to uphold tricks that reduce state revenue.

Arnold Kling describes Two Views of Obamacare, and explains how it is far from a “market approach.”

 

20120514-1The flip side of the “Facebook stock option loophole”: Mark Zuckerberg’s $2 Billion Tax Bill (TaxProf).  People who complain about the deduction for stock option compensation never mention that the same amount is income to the option holders, usually at higher rates.

 

 

Memory Lane beckons at Robert D. Flach’s place with 2013: THE YEAR IN TAXES – PART ONE:

Perhaps tied for the top tax story of the year (with the death of DOMA, which I will discuss later) is the David-versus-Goliath victory of three independent tax return preparers who felt the cost of the IRS mandatory RTRP tax preparer regulation regime, especially the annual CPE requirement, was “prohibitive” for their small practices and joined with the Institute for Justice to challenge the licensing program in federal court in Loving v IRS.

Go, David!

 

The Critical Question: Did Tenth Circuit Help KPMG Weasel Out Of Liability To Buy.com Founder?  (Peter Reilly)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/19/2013: Government finally to stop promoting identity theft. And more year-end tips!

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

DMFGovernment shuts down identity theft enabling operation: its own.  The budget compromise headed to the President’s death places new restrictions on the Social Security Death Master File.  While prized by genealogists for their work, it’s prized even more by thieves, who use the information on it to snap up fraudulent tax refunds in the names of the dead.  It’s been a multi-billion dollar problem for years.

The person who stole the identity of the late husband of Jason Dinesen’s client almost certainly did so using DMF information, stealing unknown amounts from the government and disrupting the client’s tax life for years.

Bloomberg Business explains the new restrictions:

The legislation would exempt the records from the federal Freedom of Information Act and give the Commerce Department 90 days to set up a process to certify legitimate users. The public would have access to the data three years after an individual’s death.

The language in the bill was taken from a Senate Finance Committee draft from which lawmakers had asked for comment by mid-January, said Alane Dent, vice president for taxes and retirement security at the American Council of Life Insurers.

While the restrictions seem long overdue, not everyone is happy about them, aside from identity thieves.  Newsweek reports:

“Closing the Death Master File is ludicrous,” said Melinde Lutz Byrne, one of the nation’s top genealogists and part of a small group of forensic researchers at Boston University. They have banded together and for two years have fought similar proposals in Texas and Florida to block public access to the Death Master File.

“It is my opinion that the science of it all has bypassed our elected representatives and even the courts,” she said.

It’s a trade-off, but I think preventing fraud deserves priority here.  Still, the objectors are right about this:

“The IRS is handing out money like candy – and nobody wants to acknowledge it,” said Sharon Sergeant, a forensic researcher, technologist and tax-software programmer who strongly supports the Boston University group. “Why isn’t it checking to make sure dead people aren’t getting tax returns? Somebody who reads the obituaries and makes up a social security number the right way, according to the algorithm, can file a tax return and get a payment. It’s got nothing to do with the Death Master File. It has everything to do with the IRS not doing its job.”

But The Worst Commissioner Ever felt it was more important to expand power over preparers than to stop the thieves.

 

2013 year-end tip: Donate your appreciated stock now!  The tax law allows you to claim a full-value charitable deduction for donating appreciated long-term capital gain securities that are publicly-traded.  It’s a tax-efficient way to donate, as you get the full deduction without ever paying tax on the appreciation.

But there is a hitch: you have to get the stock to your favorite charity’s brokerage account by December 31 to get the deduction.  That can take time, especially when dealing with less-sophisticated smaller charities.  If you want a 2013 deduction, start by contacting the charity and learning how they want you to get the securities to them by year-end. Remind the charity that they need to provide you a written acknowledgement of the gift.  And make sure your own broker knows the transfer has to be completed this year.

Come back tomorrow for another 2013 year-end tax tip!

 

20120906-1Just bluffing.  ”Archer Daniels Midland Co. decided Wednesday to set up its new international headquarters in Chicago even after it failed in its bid for millions of dollars in state tax breaks.”  Next time our politicians claim to have “created jobs” by giving away your money, remember that they are giving their friends money to do things they would be doing anyway.

 

 

Cara Griffith, The Tax Reform Debate…for a Limited Few in Wisconsin (Tax Analysts Blog):

What was advertised as an “outstanding opportunity for the hardworking taxpayers” to engage in discussions about tax reform are also closed to the public…

Making tax proposals available to the public and opening up a dialogue with affected taxpayers can be eye-opening for people who will eventually have to develop and administer the proposal. If tax legislation is enacted, those who wrote the legislation, those who will enforce it, and those who will be affected by it should all understand what the legislation was designed to do. 

Politicians and their friends don’t like company.

 

Christopher Bergin, Transparency Is in Our DNA (Tax Analysts Blog):

Tax Analysts is involved in litigation in the commonwealth of Kentucky to get its Department of Revenue to begin releasing redacted copies of final letter rulings. The agency is resisting that, which is why we are in court.

Bureaucrats and their friends don’t like company either.

 

Chris Stephens, Pressure Mounts Against “Jock Tax” in Tennessee (Tax Policy Blog):

For example, a player at the NBA league minimum of $500,000 who is paid per game would make about $6,097 per game. If the player plays only one game in Tennessee he would pay a tax of $2,500 for that game, which is a tax rate of 41 percent. It is also worth noting that the player would also pay approximately 40 percent in federal income taxes, potentially leaving almost nothing in take home pay.

The states that want to pick the stars’ pockets forget that not everybody is paid like LeBron.  Unfortunately, the federal proposal to prevent state income taxation of employees only in-state for a few days doesn’t cover athletes or entertainers, treating the couch-surfing musician the same as Peyton Manning.

 

20111040logoTaxGrrrl, IRS Finally Announces Start Date To 2014 Tax Filing Season  Filing season starts January 31.

Paul Neiffer,  Tax Filing Begins January 31, 2014

Jason Dinesen, Six Things I’m Talking to My Small Business Clients About at Year-End (Part 1)   

Tony Nitti, With Tax Break Set To Expire, Partnerships Should Consider Converting To C Corporations Before Year End.  This is a 100% exemption on gains for C corporation stock received on original issue held for at least five years.

Kay Bell,  Homeownership tax breaks to take in December

Robert D. Flach, WHAT’S NEW FOR NEW YORK INCOME TAXES FOR 2013

Margaret Van Houten, How to Maintain Records for your Digital Assets  (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

 

Janet Novack, Minus Taxes And Hype, $636 Million Jackpot Shrinks To $206 Million — Or Less 

Jim Maule, Let’s Not Extend The Practice of Tax Extenders.  Agreed.

Stephen Olsen, The “IRS Investigations” Scam.  A client he helped through the OVDI “amnesty” program gets targeting by a scammer.  Troubling.

Jack Townsend, Judge Rakoff Speaks on the Dearth of Prosecutions from the Financial Crisis   He quotes the judge: “But if, by contrast, the Great Recession was in material part the product of intentional fraud, the failure to prosecute those responsible must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years.”

It’s at least as much political fraud as financial fraud, but political fraud is never prosecuted.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Murray-Ryan Budget Deal Avoids Government Shut down but Does Not Close a Single Tax Loophole, Leaves Many Problems in Place

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 224

 

News from the Profession: Future CPA Seeking the Best CPA Review Course Someone Else’s Money Can Buy (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/12/13: Take the $20 million edition. And: Grassley says extenders will pass in 2014.

Thursday, December 12th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

20131212-1Next time, take the cash.  A corporation decided a tax deduction from walking away from securities it had paid $98.6 million for would be worth more than the $20 million in cash it had been offered for them.  The Tax Court yesterday told them that they made a big mistake.

Gold Kist, Inc. bought the securities issued by Southern States Cooperative, Inc. and Southern States Capital Trust in 1999.  The issuers offered to redeem the securities from Gold Kist in 2004 for $20 million.  (Gold Kist was later acquired by Pilgrims Pride Corp, which inherited Gold Kist’s tax history.)

Gold Kist believed that it would get an ordinary loss deduction if it simply abandoned the securities, vs. a capital loss on the sale.  Ordinary losses are fully deductible, while corporate capital losses are only deductible against capital gains, and they expire after five years.    A $98.6 million ordinary loss would be worth about $34.5 million in tax savings, which would be worth more than $20 million cash and a capital loss, which can only offset capital gains, and only those incurred in the nine-year period beginning in the third tax year before the loss.

Unfortunately, the Tax Court found a flaw in the plan: Sec. 1234A.  It reads:

§ 1234A – Gains or losses from certain terminations
Gain or loss attributable to the cancellation, lapse, expiration, or other termination of—

(1) a right or obligation (other than a securities futures contract, as defined in section 1234B) with respect to property which is (or on acquisition would be) a capital asset in the hands of the taxpayer, or

(2) a section 1256 contract (as defined in section 1256) not described in paragraph (1) which is a capital asset in the hands of the taxpayer,

shall be treated as gain or loss from the sale of a capital asset. The preceding sentence shall not apply to the retirement of any debt instrument (whether or not through a trust or other participation arrangement).

The taxpayer said that Sec. 1234A didn’t apply, according to the court:

Petitioner’s primary position is that the phrase “right or obligation with respect to property” means a contractual and other derivative right or obligation with respect to property and not the inherent property rights and obligations arising from the ownership of the property. We disagree.

The taxpayer said the legislative history of the section supported their argument.  The Tax Court thought otherwise:

In our view Congress extended the application of section 1234A to terminations of all rights and obligations with respect to property that is a capital asset in the hands of the taxpayer or would be if acquired by the taxpayer, including not only derivative contract rights but also property rights arising from the ownership of the property. 

The taxpayer also said that if that’s what Congress meant, the IRS would have revised Rev. Rul. 93-80, which allows an ordinary loss on certain abandonments of partnership interests.  The Tax Court responded:

The ruling makes clear that, if a provision of the Code requires the transaction to be treated as a sale or exchange, such as when there is a deemed distribution attributable to the reduction in the partner’s share of partnership liabilities pursuant to section 752(b), the partner’s loss is capital. Rev. Rul. 93-80, supra, was issued four years before section 1234A was amended in 1997 to apply to all property that is (or would be if acquired) a capital asset in the hands of the taxpayer. As we previously stated, the Commissioner is not required to assert a particular position as soon as the statute authorizes such an interpretation, whether that position is taken in a regulation or in a revenue ruling. 

So it’s a capital loss only for the taxpayer.

Presumably the Gold Kist board didn’t decide to go for the ordinary loss on its own.  Somewhere along the way a tax advisor told them that this would work.  That person can’t be very happy today for advising the client to walk away from $20 million in cash.

Cite: Pilgrim’s Pride Corp, 141 TC No. 17.

 

Grassley-090507-18363- 0032Quad City Times reports Grassley predicts tax credits extensions, but not until 2014:

 There won’t be any extension before Christmas, Grassley predicted, but not because of political opposition to the credits. Based on past performance, he said, Congress will return after the New Year and approve four dozen or more tax credits.

“There are a lot of economic interests” represented in the tax credits, he said. Those interest groups collectively “put a lot of pressure on Congress to re-institute the credits.”

The delay, Grassley said, can be attributed to the ongoing discussion about “massive tax reform.”

Senator Grassley has more insight about what will happen than I do, but I can”t share his faith that the lobbyists will overcome Congressional dysfunction.  I had hoped any extenders would be included in the budget deal announced this week, and they weren’t.

Actually, I would prefer that the extenders not be extended at all rather than passed temporarily once again.   The whole process of passing temporary tax breaks is a brazen accounting lie.  Congressional budget rules score temporary provisions as if they will really expire, even when they have been extended every time they expire.  Once again, behavior that would lead to prison in the private sector is just another day in Congress.

 

Roberton Williams, Budget Deal Doesn’t Raise Taxes But Many Will Still Pay More:

The budget deal announced Tuesday wouldn’t raise taxes—members of Congress can vote for it without violating their no-tax pledges. But the plan will collect billions of dollars in new revenue by boosting fees and increasing workers’ contributions to the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). To people paying them, those higher fees and payments will feel a lot like tax hikes. 

 

David Brunori, States Should Just Say No to Boeing (Tax Analysts Blog):

Boeing is acting rationally — politicians are willing to give things away, and Boeing is willing to accept those things. But politicians should try saying no once in a while. Maybe we would respect them a little more.

Well, it would be hard to respect them less.

 

 

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

William McBride, Obama: Cut the Corporate Tax Rate to Help the Poor (Tax Policy Blog):

Indeed, cutting the corporate tax rate is probably the best way to increase hiring and grow wages. The President cited no studies to support this, because it is not really in dispute among economists. So why not cut the corporate rate, period, without any conditions or offsetting corporate tax increases elsewhere?

Corporate rate cuts would be a good thing, but don’t forget that most business income nowadays is reported on individual returns.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Congress Is Making a Bad Deal on the Budget, but One Republican Has a Better Idea (Tax Analysts Blog)

It’s amazing what passes for success in Washington these days. Budget negotiators on Capitol Hill have delivered a non-disaster, cobbling together a pathetic half-measure that pleases no one and accomplishes almost nothing.

True, it allows Democrats and Republicans to avoid abject failure, which is no small thing, given recent history. These days, just keeping the wheels from flying off qualifies as statesmanship.

Considering what happens when Congress “accomplishes” something (Obamacare, anyone?), let us praise them for doing as little as possible.

 

Robert D. Flach has wise counsel for clients:  PUT IT IN WRITING.

So if you have a tax question you want to ask your preparer, instead of picking up the phone submit the question in an email, with all the pertinent facts.  And if you receive a notice from the IRS or your state, mail it to your tax pro immediately.

Yes.

 

William Perez, Donating Appreciated Securities to Charity as a Year-End Tax Strategy

Paul Neiffer, Is it Time for an IC-DISC.  If you produce for export, an IC-DISC can turn some ordinary income into dividend income, taxed at a lower rate.

Tony Nitti, IRS The Latest To Send Manny Pacquiao To The Mat: Boxer Reportedly Owes $18 Million

Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Baucus’s Plan for Cost Recovery Heads in the Wrong Direction

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 217

Cara Griffith, Improving the Transparency of New York’s Tax Collection Process (Tax Analysts Blog)

Jack Townsend, Are Brady Violations Epidemic?  A federal appeals judge says prosecutors routinely withhold evidence that would help defendants.

 

News from the Profession: The PCAOB Is Grateful To The PCAOB For the PCAOB’s Work (Going Concern)

 

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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?

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/2/2013: Remember the January 15 property tax credit deadline! And: final 3.8% tax regs.

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1There’s a new deadline this year for Iowa business owners with real property.   Iowa business owners have a January 15, 2014 deadline to apply for the business property tax credit enacted in this year’s legislative session.  Many have yet to apply, reports gazette.com:

Commercial property owners have been slow to apply for a new property tax credit designed to give a little boost to small businesses.

Most business owners who own the property in which the business operates are eligible for the Iowa Business Property Tax Credit.

A $50 million pool of money is available for the first year of the new tax credit. The state legislature included the credit in an historic property tax relief bill signed into law on June 12.

“It is important they get them in now so we can process them,” said Cedar Rapids City Assessor Scott Labus.

Businesses can find the form online here.  It should be filed with the local county assessor’s office. The gazette.com article says the maximum credit for the coming assessment year is $523.

 

Paul Neiffer,  Final Net Investment Income Regs Have Good News For Farmers:

In Final Regulations issued earlier this week, the IRS changed their interpretation of this rule and have now indicated that any self-rented real estate or rental real estate that has been properly grouped with a material participation entity will not be subject to the tax.  In even better news, any gain from selling this type of property will also be exempt from the tax.

Good news not just for farmers, but for any business where the owners rent property to a corporation they control.

 

Tony Nitti, IRS Issues Final Net Investment Income Tax Regulations: A First Look And More   It was a dirty trick to issue them over Thanksgiving, when I wasn’t watching.   I will be posting on some key issues.

 

20130419-1Illinois storm victims get filing relief (IRS news release):

The President has declared the counties of Champaign, Douglas, Fayette, Grundy, Jasper, La Salle, Massac, Pope, Tazewell, Vermilion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, Will and Woodford a federal disaster area. Individuals who reside or have a business in these counties may qualify for tax relief.

The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after Nov. 17, and on or before Feb. 28, 2014, have been postponed to Feb. 28, 2014.

The IRS is also waiving the failure-to-deposit penalties for employment and excise tax deposits due on or after Nov. 17, and on or before Dec. 2, as long as the deposits are made by Dec. 2, 2013.

You don’t have to be damaged to qualify, you just have to be located in the affected area.

 

No, that’s not the real threat.  The Muscatine Journal mistakes the painkiller for the ailment:

Tax breaks for wind-power producers are set to expire in a little more than a month, threatening hundreds of manufacturing and energy jobs in the state if nothing is done.

In Iowa, much of the attention has focused on the federal Renewable Fuel Standard in which the federal government guarantees a market for biofuels. But for Iowa’s turbine manufacturers and power companies, it’s the federal production tax credit that takes precedence.

It’s not the loss of the tax credits that threatens these industries.  It’s their inability to survive without subsidies or, in the case of ethanol makers, their inability to sell their product unless people are forced by law to buy it.  The subsidies only dull the recipients awareness of their real ailment.

 

David Brunori, Confusing Tax Cuts with Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog):

But increasing or decreasing tax burdens should not be confused with tax reform. Tax reform should mean something. I define tax reform as meaningful changes to the tax system that comport with the general notions of sound tax policy. The goal should be to make the system fairer, neutral, more efficient, and more stable. The changes should also increase economic development and job growth. And they should ensure that the government raises enough revenue to meet the public service demands of the citizenry. Changing the rates or tinkering at the margins is not reform.

Nor is giving tax spiffs to influential or sympathetic constituencies, but that’s been the Iowa way for some time now.

 

20120529-2Lyman Stone, Missouri Considering “Massive” Incentives for Boeing (Tax Policy Blog):

This is bad tax policy in spades. Governor Nixon rejected a flawed, but still broad, tax cut on the grounds that taxes don’t matter much for businesses, but government services do. Now Missouri policymakers may try to attract one specific company with a “massive” and narrowly-targeted tax break, despite lack of evidence that incentives lead to economic growth, and ample evidence that they create problems.

It’s all about directing funds to insiders with good lobbyists.

 

Cara Griffith, A Change of Culture (Tax Analysts Blog).  She talks about the natural tendency of tax authorities to conceal information and make tax practice an insiders’ game.  She notes that North Carolina doesn’t release private rulings and hasn’t updated public corporate directives since April 2012.  Iowa is better, but they haven’t updated their “What’s new” website since August.

 

William Perez, Updated Form W-9.  With the additional rules of FATCA piled on top of existing foreign withholding rules, you should make sure to get a W-9 from your vendors, depositors and ownership groups.

 

Jason Dinesen reminds us of the Iowa Insurance Premium Deduction

Trish McIntire reminds us that Refund Advances are really expensive loans.

Robert D. Flach, TO PER DIEM OR NOT TO PER DIEM – THAT IS THE QUESTION.

 

Kay Bell offers some Tax-saving moves to make by Dec. 31, 2013

Howard Gleckman,  Obama Will Try to Clarify the Role of Tax-Exempt Groups in Politics.  Your new role in furthering public debate?  Shut up!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 207

Tax Justice Blog: This Holiday, The Tax Justice Team Is Thankful For…  In other words, watch your wallets, folks.

The Critical Question: Do We Need A Clergy Tax Simplification Act Of 2014?    (Peter Reilly)

Going Concern, 10 Things Accounting Professionals Should Be Thankful For This Year

TaxGrrrl, This Man’s Nuts: Plan To Sell Testicle For New Car Is Taxable   As if there weren’t enough non-tax arguments against this plan.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/21/13: Would you trust a state legislator to spend your $54?

Thursday, November 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

I’m on the road today, so we’ll make this quick.

Sen. Bolkcom

Sen. Bolkcom

I can spend your $54 better than you can.  The Des Moines Register reports Iowans can get $54 tax credit; some want it used for roads,  The “some” definitely include politicians:

Many Iowans will be eligible for a new $54 tax credit when they file 2013 taxes, according to a calculation from the Department of Revenue, but a key Democratic senator says the money would be better spent fixing crumbling roads and bridges.

State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, chairman of the Iowa Senate’s tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said Wednesday that Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has failed to provide leadership to establish new sources of critically needed road construction revenue.

“Critically needed?”  Maybe not.  I doubt if the Grand Avenue Bridge to Eternity would have been done faster if they had just spent more money on it.  In any case, the politicians’ need for cash is elastic and infinite, no matter how much they have to start with.  It bugs them when they already have your money, like the $54, and they have to give it back.

 

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, The U.S. Ranks Poorly on Cost Recovery (Tax Policy Blog):

 It is common knowledge that the United States has the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world, but it is less well known that our cost recovery system ranks poorly as well.

Currently, the U.S. tax code only allows businesses to recover an average of 62.4% of a capital investment (investments in machinery, industrial buildings, intangibles, etc.). This is lower than the average capital allowance of 66.5% across the OECD…

Ideally, businesses should be able to recovery 100 percent of their investment costs. We could achieve this by shifting to a system of full expensing (which allows complete write off of capital expenses in the first year) or introducing a system of Neutral Cost Recovery (which indexes the investment write-offs for inflation and a real discount rate).

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I’d be happy if they’d just stop changing the rules every year.

 

Going Concern,  Baucus Proposal Would Give ‘Legal Authority’ to Regulate Tax Preparers.  Buried in with a bunch of other stuff, as expected.  If Sen. Baucus would look in the mirror, he’d see where the real problem with  the tax system is.  Maybe that’s why he wants to regulate preparers instead.

Cara Griffith, Hitting the Jackpot (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, Why Everyone Is Unhappy with Senator Baucus’s Proposal for Taxing Multinational Corporations

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 196

Jack Townsend, Fourth Circuit Reverse Tax Obstruction Conviction Because of Bad Instruction and Affirms Denial of Good Faith Instruction for False Claim Conviction.  Even tax protesters are entitled to good jury instructions.

Kay Bell, Mo’ Money tax franchisee gets 20 months in jail for tax fraud.

 

Best spam commenter name ever: “2011 Energy Tax Credits Day Diet Plan When Weight Loss” posted a spam to my spam box this morning.  I look forward to learning more about that plan. 

 

And the muskrats are furious.  Sentenced to 6 months, Beavers still swaggering (Chicago Tribune)

More tomorrow!

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/31/13: A scary Iowa tax proposal, just in time for Halloween!

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

hatchJack Hatch’s income tax plan would raise taxes on all but very small businesses.  

It’s all in the spin.  My headline is just as accurate as the headline in the Des Moines Register on the tax plan announced by Senator Jack Hatch, a Democratic candidate for Iowa Governor.  The Register’s article, though, spins the way the candidate would like: “Jack Hatch’s income tax plan would give break to all but most wealthy Iowans.”  From the article:

Hatch’s plan would get rid of federal deductibility, which allows taxpayers to deduct federal taxes from their state return. His plan would also raise filing thresholds. It would raise the per-child tax credit from $40 to $500. Married couples who are both employed would get a new $1,000 a year tax credit.

And Iowa’s eight rates and brackets, which range from 0.36 percent to 8.98 percent, would be reduced to four.

The top rate would fall slightly to 8.8 percent, although the income at which that rate begins would be raised by 26 percent, according to an analysis of Hatch’s plan by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. The lowest rate would be 3 percent.

Taxes would go up for Iowans who make an adjusted gross income above $200,000, the Legislative Services Agency analysis says. The wealthiest taxpayers would see a small drop in the highest marginal tax rate, but their taxes would go up because they’d lose federal deductibility.

There are two things I hate about this plan and the way it is covered.  First, it makes no mention that a tax on “the wealthy” is really a tax on business.  Most business income is now reported on individual returns:

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

And 72% of that is reported by taxpayers with AGI over $200,000:

20131031-2

Cutting through the soak-the-rich stuff, what he’s really proposing is a great big tax increase on business.  How that helps Iowa’s economy isn’t explained — I suppose because it doesn’t.

The other part I hate is the whole idea that hurting “the rich” on behalf of “the middle class” is presumed to be just fine.   Heck, let’s go shoplifting at Wal-Mart, they have plenty of money — and it’s for the middle class!

 

I suppose I couldn’t expect Sen. Hatch to embrace the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.  I suspect it makes too much sense for any politician to embrace it.

 

This would be a good thing for Iowa: The Benefits of Independent Tax Tribunals (Cara Griffith, Tax Analysts Blog):

States are increasingly turning to independent tax tribunals. Most states now have either a judicial-branch tax court or an administrative-level tax tribunal that is independent of the state’s tax authority. Taxpayers and practitioners have pressed states for independent decision-making bodies for several reasons, including that the judges or administrative law judges who write decisions are impartial and knowledgeable in tax issues and that the opinions should more consistently and transparently apply the tax law because they will be published. 

Iowa, unfortunately, has only administrative tribunals and regular courts.  The judges know little about taxes, especially income taxes, and tend to defer to the State, even when it tortures law and logic.

 

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.

TaxProf, NY Times: The Marginal Tax Rate Mess.  Even the New York Times is noticing the high implicit marginal tax rates on means-tested welfare programs, like the earned income tax credit:

As a result of losing eligibility for means-tested benefits, low-income and middle-income families sometimes experience much higher marginal effective tax rates (sometimes exceeding 90 percent) than those at the top of the income distribution. Phase-outs for any one program may not be large, but participation in several programs creates a cumulative effect. 

They “help the poor,” as long as they stay that way.

 

 

 

 

59pdhyef59pdhyefJoseph Henchman, Remembering the Deceased Iowa Pumpkin Tax You Helped End (Tax Policy Blog).

59pdhyefTaxGrrrl,  Social Security Benefits Will Not Keep Pace With Tax Contributions In 2014 

59pdhyef

Jana Luttenegger, Social Security Benefits to Increase in 2014 (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Robert D. Flach,  HAPPY HALLOWEEN – SOME TREATS FROM THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

Phil Hodgen, Chapter 3 – Paperwork for Expatriates and Covered Expatriates

Kay Bell, Colorado taxpayer group files lawsuit to overturn candy tax

Me, IRA is to startup funding as dynamite is to kindling.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.

 

Christopher Bergin, What’s a UDITPA? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Andrew Lundeen, Scott Hodge,  The Income Tax Code Is More Progressive than It Was 20 Years Ago (Tax policy Blog).  ”The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay a greater share of the income tax burden than the bottom 90 percent combined, which totals more than 120 million taxpayers. In 2010, the top 1 percent of taxpayers—which totals roughly 1.4 million taxpayers—paid about 37 percent of all income taxes.”

Tax Justice Blog, Bruce Bartlett Is Wrong: New Conclusions on the Corporate Income Tax Change Nothing.  Nothing ever changes at TJB!

Government officials defend increased funding for their agencies.  Iowa police chiefs defend traffic cameras (KWWL.com)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/24/13: Payroll tax grief in Cedar Rapids. Also: suits, geeks, and Obamacare.

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

bureauofprisonsNever borrow withheld taxes. A little story out of Cedar Rapids this morning has a big lesson for business owners: Former owner of Cedar Rapids security firm sentenced on tax charge (Dar Danielson, Radio Iowa).  In its entirety:

A former eastern Iowa business owner will spend over two years in prison on a tax violation. Forty-six-year-old Eric Holub of Clarence pled guilty to failing to forward withholding taxes he took out of his employee’s checks to the IRS.

Holub admitted to failing to send $460,000 in withholding taxes from January 2008 to December of 2009 for Premier Security, a private business he owned in Cedar Rapids. Holub was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years supervised release.

Two paragraphs – just enough to tell an alert reader a story of financial catastrophe.    Court documents tell a bit more of the defendant’s story.  He had to use a public defender, so he’s broke.  He’s married with six kids, three under 10.  Even though he’s going away for 2 1/2 years, he still has to pay the IRS $438,426.17 somehow.  Small wonder he’s being treated for depression.

What we don’t learn is why he didn’t pay over his payroll taxes.  I handled payroll in the early days of our firm, and there were times when it sure would have been handy to not remit the payroll taxes right away, given other pressing cash needs.  Maybe cash was tight, and it seemed like a good way to pay vendors.  Maybe he figured he’d get caught up someday, but when the IRS didn’t react immediately, catching up seemed like it wasn’t so important.

In any case, it’s a huge mistake to not remit payroll taxes on time.  Penalties start running up immediately, and bankruptcy or using a corporation will not make the liability go away.  And more and more, the government isn’t satisfied the with getting the cash; they want jail time too.  30 months plus principal, interest and penalties for “borrowing” payroll taxes makes car title loans look like a bargain.

Links:

Indictment

Judgement

 

20130320-1Iowa R.V. Owners come in from the cold.  Iowa’s amnesty for R.V. owners who had skipped Iowa registration fees by registering their vehicles in Montana ended yesterday with “dozens” of settlements and “just over $100,000″ in fees collected, reports the Des Moines Register.  The idea that you could use a Montana LLC to skip registration fees in Iowa never seemed remotely plausible to me, but people will believe just about anything if it might save them a few bucks.

 

 

Arnold Kling, The Obamacare Suits/Geeks Divide:

In response to the WaPo story, I wrote a letter to the editor, which they published (mine is the third letter on this page). This is not a technical screw-up, and it will not be fixed by technical people. It is an organizational screw-up. And until that is recognized, it probably will get worse. I write,

In my experience, communication failures between technical staff and management reflect an atmosphere of fear and lack of mutual respect.

I call this the suits-geeks divide. I saw it during the financial crisis, when it was evident that many mortgage credit-risk geeks warned of problems at their firms but management went out of the way not to listen. Merrill Lynch and Freddie Mac were particularly well-documented cases.  

It’s starting to look like a delay of the individual mandate — the key tax provision that holds Obamacare together — is inevitable.   It may take some time yet for the administration to swallow this bitter pill, just after they shut down the government rather than accept a GOP-sponsored delay.

 

Megan McArdle,  Why Obamacare Is Like Three Mile Island. “All the pieces are interdependent, so a failure in one part is apt to cascade throughout the market. This is not a system where you want to start pulling out one piece to see how well the rest can get along without it.”

 

Des Moines Register, Lawmakers are warned of unfunded liabilities in pensions:

Iowa’s public employee pension funds face billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities, and tough scrutiny is needed to ensure taxpayers and public employees are protected, state lawmakers were told Wednesday.

Public defined benefit plans are lies.  The only question is whether the beneficiaries are being lied to with promises that won’t be kept, or the taxpayers are being lied to by politicians hiding the real cost of government payroll.  Probably both.

20130419-1TaxGrrrl,  IRS Issues More Guidance On Post-Shutdown Operations 

Kay Bell, IRS seeks volunteers for tax-exempt advisory panel.  I bet they get some Tea Party applicants.

 

William Gale,  The Illogic of the McConnell Debt Limit Rule (TaxVox)

TaxProf, TIGTA: Hundreds of Employees of IRS Contractors Owe Millions in Taxes

Dan Mitchell, Welfare Fraud Is another Reason to Replace the IRS with a Flat Tax.  More on the TIGTA EITC report we mentioned yesterday.

William McBride,  Ripe for Reform: Improper EITC Payments Exceed $11 Billion per Year (Tax Policy Blog)

Tax Justice Blog,  Illinois Ruling Strengthens Case for a Federal Solution to Online Tax Collection

Cara Griffith, In Defense of State Treasurers (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

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