Posts Tagged ‘Cara Griffith’

Tax Roundup, 5/14/15: Snowbird fails to melt Iowa Department of Revenue opposition to gain exclusion. And many links!

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

Programming note: No posting tomorrow. See you Monday!

 

Iowa's business tax climate, illustrated

Materially-participating in winter

Snowbird loses “material participation” Iowa capital gain exclusion argument. A taxpayer who claimed the unusual Iowa exclusion on very-long-term capital gains failed to convince the Department of Revenue that he “materially participated” in the activity for the minimum of ten years required to qualify for the exclusion.

Iowa allows taxpayers to exclude certain long-term gains from their Iowa taxable income if they meet two requirements:

– They have held the property for ten years, and

– they “materially participated” in the business sold (or in the business holding real property sold) in the ten years preceding the sale.

The “material participation” rule follows the federal “passive activity” material participation definitions. This usually is based on time spent in the activity. Farmers who materially participate in five of the last eight years before they start drawing Social Security payments are considered to materially participate in the farming activity forever. Other taxpayers who retire after working in a business generally are considered to “materially participate” for five years after retirement.

The Iowa ruling letter gives sketchy facts, but it does note (my emphasis):

In determining material participation, only the 10 calendar years immediately prior to the sale are considered and the determination of the participation is limited to that property which is sold.  Both the Department’s rule and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) require material participation to be regular, continuous, and substantial.  The fact that you wintered in Florida lends serious doubt as to the regular part of that requirement.  Additionally, your daughter was paid for management services.  Rule 701 IAC 40.38(1)(e)(7) states in part, “Management activities of a taxpayer are not considered for purposes of determining if there was material participation if either of the following applies: any person other than the taxpayer is compensated for management services, or any person provides more hours of management services than the taxpayer.”

The letter goes on to say that it’s up to the taxpayer to prove participation, and the taxpayer failed to provide logs, calendars or other evidence that he worked sufficient hours to meet the material participation tests.

The moral? If you want to claim material participation, and you have stepped away from the business, it’s important to keep good records of your participation. The state may not be inclined to take your word for it.

Cite:  Document Reference: 15201008

Related:

Material Participation Basics

IOWA’S SUPER-LONG TERM CAPITAL GAINS DEDUCTION: IF YOU QUIT, DON’T WAIT TOO LONG TO RETIRE

 

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Kay Bell, Don’t ignore that IRS letter and nine other tax notice tips

Robert Wood, Facts About FATCA, America’s Global Disclosure Law. “If you think money anywhere can escape the IRS, think again.”

Jim Maule, When Do Relationships End for Federal Income Tax Purposes?:

The taxpayer argued that the child remains her foster child because they continued their relationship and hold each other out as parent and child. The Tax Court, however, determined that the taxpayer’s guardianship terminated in 2004 when the child attained majority. At that point, the child no longer could be said to be someone who “is placed” with the taxpayer.

Interesting.

 

Robert D. Flach, NO INCOME IS TAXED ALONE

Andrew Mitchel has a new Flowchart – Taxation of Pension Distributions Under UK – US Income Tax Treaty

 

Cara Griffith, Learn to Love the Property Tax — It’s Not So Bad (Tax Analysts Blog):

Despite its bad reputation, the property tax has numerous benefits. For local governments, the tax provides a relatively stable source of revenue. Local governments also have a fairly high collection success rate. Many property owners have escrow accounts through their mortgage companies, which collect tax monthly and remit it at the appropriate time. Because of that, and the fact that the property tax is attached to something physical, it is hard to avoid or evade.

It’s hard to beat the property tax for funding local services. When the politically-influential carve themselves out of it with TIFs or special exemptions (e.g., special agricultural assessment rules), those that are left footing the bill are understandably unhappy.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Wishes, Dreams, and Bittersweet Denials Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers thoughts on the effect of reduced refunds on this spring’s retail sales, the failure of a proposed soda tax in California, and the need for more IRS authority to fix bad EITC claims.

Alan Cole, NFIB Survey: Taxes a Top Problem for Business (Tax Policy Blog).

Carl Smith, IRS Plays Cat and Mouse With Tax Court on Its Constitutional Status (Procedurally Taxing).

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Joseph Thorndike, Even Under a Flat Tax, Learn to Love Those Loopholes, Because They’re Here to Stay (Tax Analysts Blog). “Once you win the battle, you have to keep fighting it over and over again.”

Greg Mankiw, Why I invest in index funds. “For investors, 2014 was the sixth consecutive year that hedge funds have fallen short of stock market performance, returning only 3 percent on average.”

Hank Stern, Cover Cali sputtering. (InsureBlog). “The Golden State’s health exchange (Covered California) continues to burn through tax-payer dollars at an alarming rate.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 735

 

Career Corner. Should CPAs Consider an MBA? (Paul Gillis, Going Concern). Not to fix your car, no.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/11/15: Returned, recovering, and ranting! Sales taxes, tax credits for special friends pondered by Iowa legislature.

Monday, May 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

IMG_0983I am back from overseas, and somewhat recovered from a nasty bug that hit me just before it was time to come home. So much to catch up on — if I don’t link your post today, I might get it later this week, as I dig out.

I was saddened to learn that the Iowa legislature is still in session. David Brunori reports ($link) on a proposal to allow Des Moines to vote on increasing its own sales tax without participation of its neighbors:

Iowa Rep. Tom Sands (R), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, has introduced legislation that would allow greater Des Moines communities to ask voters to approve a 1 percent local option sales tax. I have written about this issue a lot over the years. The reality is that while there are sound reasons for imposing a local option sales tax, the problems far outweigh the benefits.

When Des Moines adopts this tax, the folks who shop in the city will pay. But many of them don’t live within the city limits. It will be people in the surrounding suburbs and rural areas who pay some of the tax. That’s great for Des Moines, but not so good for other jurisdictions. I am unsure why a legislator from a rural area — or even an area without significant retail — would support this measure. Their citizens will pay but won’t see the benefits.

Well, it’s just another example of the delight Des Moines politicians take in picking the pockets of non-voters (Exhibit A: freeway speed cameras). But remembering the result of the last sales tax increase vote in the area — crushed by a 85% “no” vote — I don’t think the municipal highwaymen should count their sales tax loot just yet.

 

Politicians call for more subsidies for their well-connected friends, from your pockets. Iowa leaders call for biochemical tax credits for ethanol, biodiesel (Sioux City Journal).

 

Andrew Lundeen, Pass-through Businesses Employ Most of the Private Sector Workforce (Tax Policy Blog).

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“Pass-though” businesses are those taxed on owner 1040s. When you tax high income individuals, there is no escaping that you are reducing funds available for the nations principal employers to hire and expand.

 

William Perez, Your Guide to the 6 Types of Business for Federal Tax Purposes. “Entrepreneurs can set up their small business as a sole proprietorship, corporation, S-corporation, partnership, non-profit organization, Limited Liability Company, Limited Liability Partnership, and in some states a Professional Limited Liability Company/Partnership.”

Jason Dinesen, Why Make Estimated Tax Payments, Part 1. “People who are new to self-employment are often confused about what estimated tax payments are and why they might need to make these payments.”

Kay Bell, A Mother’s Day tax gift: 10 child care tax credit tips

TaxGrrrl, 11 Things I’ve Learned About Tax From My Mom

Leslie Book, On Mother’s Day Cowan Case Highlights Unfairness of Family Status Tax Rules

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Get Too Greedy! And however greedy you get, you need to follow the appraisal rules if you want to deduct a property donation.

Jack Townsend discusses a Sentencing for Failure to Pay Over Trust Fund Taxes. If you don’t remit withheld payroll taxes, thinking that you are just “borrowing” it, your “interest” might include prison time.

Peter Reilly, Home Schooling Contingency Does Not Kill Alimony Deduction

Robert D. Flach, WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN WRITING TO THE IRS. Not a speedy resolution.

 

 

Andrew Mitchel, The Exodus Continues (2015 1st Quarter Published Expatriates).

We began tracking expatriations in late 2009 because we anticipated that the number of expatriations would increase as a result of changes in U.S. tax laws and due to “saber rattling” by the IRS about the imposition of potential penalties in the wake of the UBS scandal.  Our prediction has been accurate.

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

 

Robert Wood, New Un-American Record: Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

Me, An obscure tax deadline that could cost you big. A discussion of the looming FBAR deadline.

 

 

Kristine Tidgren, Minnesota Producers Impacted by Avian Flu Granted Extra Time to File and Pay Taxes (ISU-CALT Ag Docket)

Hank Stern at Insureblog notes that May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month. Given the stakes, and the relatively low price, it’s shocking that 57% of working adults have no coverage.

Annette Nellen, Narrow exemptions cause inefficiency, inequity and complexity – HR 867 and S. 1179. But they are such a great way to get lobbyists to come to your summer golf fund-raisers.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 732. “Every time we turn around we get more emails.” Two years, and Commissioner Koskinen is still tired of your complaining.

Russ Fox,730:

The IRS’s budget isn’t going to be increased until the root cause of the IRS scandal is known. That’s a fact. It’s now been over 730 days (Monday will be day 732) that the scandal has been ongoing. If a Republican wins the White House in 2016, we’ll likely know what happened by day 1460. Otherwise, who knows.

The day Commissioner Koskinen resigns is the first day the IRS might start to figure it out.

 

Cara Griffith, Learn to Love the Property Tax — It’s Not So Bad (Tax Analysts Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Congress Has Not Passed A 2016 Budget. It Has Only Begun The Process.

 

Career Corner. The Monthly Close: White Collar Crime Should Be a Fun and Scary Surprise (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/12/2015: Tails and legs: Tax Court says that by any name, refundable tax credits are income.

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2Yesterday the Tax Court ruled that refundable business incentive tax credits issued by New York generate taxable income. Judge Holmes made the decision entertaining. Well, except maybe for the taxpayer who lost.

Credits works differently from deductions. A $100 tax credit reduces your tax by $100, while a $100 deduction reduces the tax of a taxpayer in the 25% bracket by only $25. When a credit is “refundable,” if it exceeds the tax you would otherwise owe, the government sends you a check for the excess. The federal Earned Income Tax Credit is the most common example. Iowa has several such credits, including its EITC and its research credit for business.

New York also uses refundable credits. Judge Holmes sets the stage (all emphasis is mine):

New York State uses extremely targeted tax credits as an incentive for extremely targeted economic development in extremely targeted locations. Those who receive these credits may be extremely benefited — even if they do not owe any state income tax, New York calls the credits overpayments of income tax and makes them refundable. David and Tami Maines say that none of the credits should be taxable because New York labels them “overpayments” of past state income tax, and they never claimed prior deductions for state income tax. The Commissioner disagrees and argues that these refundable credits are, in substance even if not in name, cash subsidies to private enterprise — and just another form of taxable income.

The taxpayer said that because New York called the refundable amount of the credits “overpayments,” they were like withholding:

So the key question in this case becomes whether a federal court applying federal law has to go along with New York’s definition.

The Maineses understand the importance of this question, and they argue that if New York State tax law calls these payments “overpayments” we have no power to call them something different. They point to cases like Aquilino v. United States, 363 U.S. 509, 513 (1960) (quoting United States v. Bess, 357 U.S. 51, 55 (1958)), where the Supreme Court held that Federal tax law “‘creates no property rights but merely attaches consequences, federally defined, to rights created under state law.”‘

Judge Holmes is unconvinced (my emphasis):

The Commissioner does not challenge these cases. And he also agrees that New York law labels the credits as “income tax credits,” and excesses or surpluses as “overpayments” of state income tax for state-tax purposes. But is a state’s legal label for a state-created right binding on the federal government? Here begins the disagreement. The Maineses contend that New York’s tax-law label of these excess EZ Credits as overpayments is a legal interest that binds the Commissioner and us when we analyze their taxability Lincolnunder federal law. The Commissioner warns that if this were true, a state could undermine federal tax law simply by including certain descriptive language in its statute. To use Lincoln’s famous example, if New York called a tail a leg, we’d have to conclude that a dog has five legs in New York as a matter of federal law. See George W. Julian, “Lincoln and the Proclamation of Emancipation,” in Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (Allen Thorndike Rice, ed., Harper & Bros. Publishers 1909), 227, 242 (1885), available at https://archive.org/details/cu31924012928937.

We have to side with the Commissioner (and Lincoln) on this one: “Calling the tail a leg would not make it a leg.” Id. Our precedents establish that a particular label given to a legal relationship or transaction under state law is not necessarily controlling for federal tax purposes.

The taxpayer advanced a more novel argument:

The Maineses also contend that their credits are excludable from their taxable income as welfare. The Commissioner has long held that certain payments from social-benefit programs that promote the general welfare are not includible in gross income.

I’ve called such credits “Corporate welfare” at least once or twice myself. But calling a tail a leg, or corporate welfare, doesn’t make it welfare for tax exclusion purposes:

Critics of programs like New York’s might call them “corporate welfare.” But that’s just a metaphor — the credits that New York gave to the Maineses were not conditioned on their showing need, which means they do not qualify for exclusion from taxable income under the general-welfare exception. See also, e.g., Rev. Rul. 2005-46 (holding that state grants for expenses incurred by businesses that agree to operate in disaster areas are not excludable under the general-welfare exclusion).

We therefore hold that portions of the excess EZ Investment and Wage Credits that do not just reduce state-tax liability but are actually refundable are taxable income.

New York FlagOne interesting thing about the New York credits at issue is that they can either be refunded, at the cost of a loss of some of the credits, or carried forward in full at the taxpayers option. In a footnote, Judge Holmes says that while the taxpayer has the option of whether to claim the refund, there is no option on when it affects taxable income:

Recall that whether or not the Maineses choose to receive the refundable portion of the credit, they are in constructive receipt of it and therefore must include it in their gross income.

This is a full-dress “reported” Tax Court decision, which means it is meant to guide future litigation in this area. A footnote in the decision says there are 10 other related New York cases pending. It has obvious implications for the Iowa research credit and historical building credits, which are refundable. There are many other such refundable tax credits in other states.  I never doubted that such credits were taxable “accessions to wealth,” and the Tax Court feels the same way.

Cite: Maines, 144 T.C. No. 8.

 

The Des Moines Register reports Lawmaker proposes end to Iowa taxes on pensions:

Sen. Roby Smith, a Republican, has introduced Senate File 277, which would phase out taxes on retirement income over five years, starting in fiscal year 2017. The measure is co-sponsored by 23 Republican senators. He said that during his re-election campaign last fall, one of the common complaints he heard from older Iowa voters was the need to pay taxes on retirement income.

Let me register my complaint about having to pay taxes on income while I’m working. Can I get an exemption?

IMG_1284This sort of carve-out is a classic example of how the tax law goes bad. High rates make people motivated to carve out breaks for themselves. It works especially well if those seeking the breaks are organized and have time to spare to press their case, like retired folks.

But giving tax breaks just by virtue of age or working status is the wrong way to go. If a retired person is poor, reduce his taxes to take his poverty into account (the tax law already does so in a number of ways). But if he is wealthy and retired, why should he get a better deal than a less-wealthy person who still trudges to work every day? In terms of wealth, the elderly are better off than the not-so-elderly, as a group.

It would be much better for the legislature to cut the rates for everyone, get rid of special carve outs for the politically influential, and help the poor, of whatever age, with a reasonable exemption for low-income taxpayers.

 

Jason Dinesen asks Why Do Unethical Clients Bother Working With Tax and Accounting Pros?:

I asked one of my peers about this and he said it’s because that type of person likes to feel important. They “have an accountant” and they can brag about it to their friends.

It’s an excellent question. My answer is that they feel they are buying excuses. If they get caught, they will immediately blame the accountant.

Robert Wood, Former NFL Player & 2 Others Get Jail & $35M Restitution For Tax Break Scheme:

The evidence at trial established that through NADN, the defendants promoted and sold a product called Tax Break 2000. Tax Break 2000 purported to be an online shopping website. The defendants falsely and fraudulently told customers that buying the product would allow them to claim legitimate income tax credits and deductions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by modifying the website each customer was provided to make it accessible to the disabled.

If the stupidity of the tax scheme were a factor in sentencing, they’d have faced a firing squad.

 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): Early Distributions

Cara Griffith, Will There Be an Increase in State Transfer Pricing Audits? (Tax Analysts Blog). “States have not, however, been particularly successful in challenging the arm’s-length pricing of intercompany transactions”

 

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Kay Bell, Senate tax writers want public suggestions for tax reform

Stephen Entin, Tax Indexing Turns 30 (Tax Policy Blog)

William Gale, Rubio-Lee Hints at Tax Reform’s Troubling Direction (TaxVox).

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 672. The state continues its efforts to criminalize opposition.

Tax Analysts ($link), IRS Stops Providing Exemption Letters to Press. Given the stellar performance of the IRS Exempt Organizations division, what’s not to trust?

 

Adrienne Gonzalez wonders What Are the Accounting Profession’s Darkest Secrets? (Going Concern). Other than the ritual human sacrifice?

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/6/15: Crime Watch Edition. Rashia, still 21.

Friday, March 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

It’s the time of the year when exasperated taxpayers and preparers are tempted to say, “bugger all this, I’m going to go for the gusto and cheat on my taxes!” That’s when it’s useful to look in on an old friend of the Tax Update to see how well that’s going.

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

Let’s look in on Rashia Wilson, who proclaimed herself (on Facebook!) the “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud.” Her reign was cut short by federal identity theft tax refund charges, resulting in a 21-year sentence. And with federal sentences, you have to serve at least 90% of the time.

Ms. Wilson naturally was unhappy with this judicial lèse-majesté, so she appealed, citing procedural irregularities. The trial judge was ordered to reconsider. On further review, the call on the field stands. 21 years.  Robert Wood has more.

Iowa has tax ID fraud too. While South Florida may be the kingdom of tax refund fraud, it has colonies everywhere. Even in Iowa: Cedar Rapids woman charged with filing false tax returns (KWWL.com):

The United States Department of Justice says 33-year-old Gwendolyn Murray is charged with twelve counts of filing false claims for tax refunds, seven counts of theft of government property, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.­ The indictment containing the charges was unsealed on Tuesday.

It is alleged that Murray filed 12 fraudulent tax returns in 2012 and 2013 using other people’s names. She received refunds on seven of those tax returns. The court also alleges that Murray stole the identities of two people.

It’s good to prosecute ID thieves, but it’s far better to keep them from thieving. It’s eye-opening that 7 of the 12 alleged attempts allegedly succeeded. Criminals aren’t known for their impulse control or their ability to anticipate long-term consequences. If they see somebody get a bunch of cash just from keying in some numbers on a computer, they’re going to want some of that bling themselves, and they aren’t going to ponder the likelihood of a prison sentence first.  The IRS is pretty much leaving the door unlocked and the cash register open.

 

Megan McArdle says the culture of “getting a big refund” is part of the problem in Fewer Tax Refunds, Fewer Scams:

If all returns were submitted at the same time, and refunds were held until they could be cross-checked against the IRS’s copies of W-2s and 1099s, then this sort of fraud wouldn’t work very well; the IRS would know it had two returns and could start the process of figuring out which one was fraudulent before it mailed the check. But we love our early refunds, and people often count on getting that check as early as possible.

She offers wise advice:

However, there’s one thing you personally can do to fight tax fraud, and that’s make sure that you don’t give the government more money than you have to. You should never get excited about a tax refund; all it means is that you gave the government a substantial interest-free loan by withholding too much tax throughout the year. You should aim for your refund to be as small as possible — ideally, zero.

A system that sends $21 billion annually to fraudsters — and that number is rising rapidly — can’t continue forever. Part of this will be a technological fix.  My wife can’t buy a dress at Nordstrom in Chicago without triggering phone calls from two credit card companies.  Meanwhile, the IRS happily wires wads of cash to Rashia. One would hope the IRS could learn something from Visa and Discover.

But the IRS is bad at technology, so part of the fix will have to be slower (and ideally, smaller) refunds. This could include lower penalty thresholds for underpayments so that taxpayers will be more willing to risk owing a bit on April 15 — perhaps combined with withholding tables that leave taxpayers owing a bit, rather than getting refunds.

 

What else can you do to protect yourself? 

  • Be careful with your tax information. Never divulge your bank account or credit card info to strangers over the phone.
  • Assume any unexpected call from a tax agency is a scam.
  • Don’t send copies of 1099s and W-2s as e-mail attachments to your preparer, and don’t email a pdf of your 1040 to a loan officer. That leaves your information exposed.
  • When you transmit confidential information, use strong encryption, or better yet upload it via a secure file transfer site, like the FileDrop system we use at Roth & Company.

 

 

20150105-2Peter Reilly, IRS Grossly Unqualified To Make Determinations About Software Related Exempt Applications. The IRS is grossly unqualified for any number of things that Congress gives it to do. Just a very few that come immediately to mind:

– Determining what is “qualified research” for the research credit.

– Determining the energy properties of “green fuels” for the biofuel subsidies.

– Running the nation’s healthcare insurance finance system.

– Policing political speech by tax-exempt organizations.

An outfit that can’t keep two-bit grifters from cashing in billions in tax refunds annually shouldn’t be looking for new things to do.

 

Kay Bell, Tax identity thief mistakenly sends fake refund to real filer. The police don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

Jack Townsend, More on Light Sentencing for Offshore Account Tax Crimes.

 

Russ Fox provides a valuable service with Online Gambling Addresses Updated for 2015. Taxpayers with offshore online gambling accounts are required to report them on the “FBAR” report of foreign financial accounts (Form 114). The FBAR requires a street address for the account, and these can be hard to find for gambling websites.

William Perez offers advice on how to Communicate Effectively with Your Tax Preparer. We aren’t always the best company this time of year. Come prepared, be efficient, and you can leave our office before we do something bizarre. Other than what we do for a living, of course.

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 3: Big Changes in 1917

Jim Maule, The IRS and the Taxpayer: Both Wrong. “The taxpayer argued that because the distribution from the IRA was less than the his investment in the IRA, it should be treated as a return of investment. The IRS argued that the entire distribution should be included in the taxpayer’s gross income. The Tax Court concluded that both the taxpayer and the IRS were wrong.”

 

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Kyle Pomerleau, The Rubio-Lee Plan Would be Good for Everyone, Especially Low Income Earners (Tax Policy Blog):

If you take all the pieces of the Rubio-Lee tax plan together, it actually produces the largest increase in after-tax income for the lowest income earners, not the highest.

According to our analysis, the bottom decile of taxpayers will see an increase in after-tax income of 44.2 percent, a percentage increase in income nearly four times larger than the top 1 percent’s increase in after-tax income. But the plan doesn’t just increase the after-tax income of the top and the bottom. All taxpayers will see higher after-tax incomes due to this plan.

The Rubio-Lee plan, with its elimination of the double corporate tax and its business rate reductions, is the most promising tax reform plan to surface in a long time. But its opponents can never see wisdom in anything that benefits “the rich,” even when it benefits everyone else.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Expensive Plans, ACA Developments, and Exercises in Futility. Today’s TaxVox roundup has links to folks hating on Rubio-Lee, Spanish film tax credits, and more.

Patrick Smith, Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing Case May Have Great Significance in Anti-Injunction Act Cases (Procedurally Taxing)

 

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Spring will come!

 

 

Cara Griffith, The Use of Big Data in Auditing (Tax Analysts Blog). “For state auditors, big data (like other types of data) could be used to better evaluate and select taxpayers for audit.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, 666

 

Why would he want a job with less power? Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson To Run For President. Yes, Of The United States (Tony Nitti)

Culture Corner. A Tax Shelter Board Game Is a Thing That Exists (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/26/15: Fifth circuit bails out abandonment. And: gas up before Sunday, Iowa!

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Fill ’em up Saturday. Iowa’s Governor Branstad signed a 10-cent per gallon gas tax boost into law yesterday. It takes effect Sunday.

Somewhat related: Replacing the Gas Tax with a Mileage-Based Tax (Kyle Pomerleau, Tax Policy Blog).

 

20131212-1Taxpayer wins $20 million bet. Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation had an offer to sell securities for $20 million. It had a $98.6 million cost in the securities, so it wasn’t a great return, but $20 million is still better than nothing. Well, maybe not.

The taxpayer determined to abandon the securities in the belief that the result would be a $98.6 million ordinary loss — generating a tax savings of around $34.5 million. That seemed like a better deal than taking the cash, because the $78.6 million loss would then be a corporate capital loss — deductible only against capital gains, and expiring after five years.

In December 2012 the Tax Court said that Pilgrims Pride made a losing bet, ruling that Section 1234A made the loss a capital loss. Now the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the taxpayer made the right bet, reversing the Tax Court:

The primary question in this case is whether § 1234A(1) applies to a taxpayer’s abandonment of a capital asset. The answer is no. By its plain terms, § 1234A(1) applies to the termination of rights or obligations with respect to capital assets (e.g. derivative or contractual rights to buy or sell capital assets). It does not apply to the termination of ownership of the capital asset itself. Applied to the facts of this case, Pilgrim’s Pride abandoned the Securities, not a “right or obligation . . . with respect to” the Securities.

Taxpayers outside the Fifth Circuit still need to be aware that the Tax Court says abandonment doesn’t turn capital losses into ordinary income, but in the right circumstances, it may still be worth a try. In the Fifth Circuit, abandon with, well, abandon.

I find this from the Fifth Circuit opinion interesting, if not necessarily true:

Congress does not legislate in logic puzzles, and we do not “tag Congress with an extravagant preference for the opaque when the use of a clear adjective or noun would have worked nicely.”

Logic puzzles seem to be pretty common in the tax law. Look at the ACA, which provides a $100 per-day, per-employee penalty for Section 105 plans, while Section 105 itself still rewards employees who participate in these plans with a tax benefit. That puzzles me. But I digress.

When the Tax Court first ruled in this case, I wrote:

Presumably the Gold Kist [a company that ended up owning Pilgrim’s Pride] 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.

That’s one tax advisor who had an excellent day yesterday.

Cite: Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, CA-5, No. 14-60295

Other coverage: Fifth Circuit Reverses Tax Court, Allows $98 Million Deduction To Pilgrim’s Pride (Tony Nitti)

 

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Jason Dinesen ponders What to Do with a K-1 with a Fiscal Year End

Russ Fox, Taxes Impacting the Giants. “There’s an obvious implication here: the big spending Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees have inflated their salaries to cover high state taxes.”

TaxGrrrl, Looking For Your Refund? Need To Ask A Question? Finding Answers At IRS.

Peter Reilly, IRS Denies 501(c)(3) Exemption To Booster Club Due To Inurement. Quoting the IRS denial letter:

However, the money that they make in your name does not go into your general budget. Rather, you keep an accounting of how much revenue each member brings in and permit each member to apply that revenue to the cost of athletic competitions for their children.

Peter explains why that doesn’t work.

 

Kay Bell, More forgiving IRS to waive some bad 1095-A tax penalties

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 658. Today’s big story is the $129,000 on bonuses paid to Lois Lerner while Tea Party applications for exemption languished. I’m sure there’s no connection.

Alan Cole, Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together on Corporate Integration (Tax Policy Blog):

The reason that the traditional American C corporation is in decline is that it has faces multi-part tax, with two successive rounds of taxation for the owners. In contrast, the pass-through structure faces only one. That is why American businesses, when possible, are choosing this tax structure. It is now the dominant legal structure for businesses in America. In that structure, the owners of the corporation simply pay ordinary income tax on all the corporation’s income.

The path ahead to fundamental tax reform almost necessarily must lead through corporate integration. Fortunately, my colleague Kyle Pomerleau has done the research that ties this all together. He has found out how some other countries – like Australia and Estonia – have gone about tying together their corporate taxes and their shareholder taxes into one neat single layer.

So simple it just might work!

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Matt Gardner asks whether Goldman Sachs is Too Big to Pay Its Fair Share of Taxes? (Tax Justice Blog).

 

Cara Griffith, The Pinnacle of Secret Law (Tax Analysts Blog). ” That the Colorado Court of Appeals would seek to shield from public view most of the opinions it issues is appalling.”

Richard Auxier, GOP Governors Flirt with Tax Hikes but Still Wedded to Income Tax Cuts (TaxVox). Governor Branstad went boldly beyond flirting yesterday. Does signing the gas tax boost make Governor Branstad an unfaithful husband?

 

Caleb Newquist, Supreme Court Unhooks Fisherman From Conviction Under SOX Anti-Shredding Provision (Going Concern). “Please practice catch and release.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/5/2015: Conformity bill passes Iowa Senate with Sec. 179, but without Bonus. And: buy Maserati, or pay tax?

Thursday, February 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Iowa Senate passes conformity bill. The Iowa Senate sent the 2015 “code conformity” bill (SF 126) to the House yesterday on a 49-0 vote. The bill, conforms Iowa’s 2014 tax law to reflect December’s “extender” legislation, including the $500,000 “Section 179″ deduction, but not including bonus depreciation.

The House could vote on the bill as early as today, though it’s not on this morning’s House debate calendar. Still, with the bill out of the Senate, it seems like a sure thing, even if it has to wait until next week.

ice truck

 

There may have been a flaw in the planThe former owner of Arrow Trucking Company pleaded guilty yesterday to tax charges connected with the 2010 failure of the company.

The “information” containing the charges outlines an energetic looting of the company that brought in a host of helpers — and potential informants. For example:

In about September 2009, a conspirator asked an Arrow Trucking Company employee to have a telephonic communication with a representative of Transportation Alliance Bank with respect to an audit and to falsely verify the authenticity of fraudulent invoices.

Well, that’s one witness right there. And here’s another.

In about December 2009, a conspirator asked an Arrow Trucking Company employee to have a telephonic communication with a representative of Transportation Alliance Bank with respect to an audit and to falsely verify the authenticity of fraudulent invoices.

Well, no harm no foul — they had pretty much made sure the IRS would catch up with them, if the information is to be believed. They failed to file the federal Form 941 payroll tax returns for 2009, or to remit the payroll taxes for those quarters. That’s a sure way to attract IRS attention. And once the IRS started sniffing around, they left a lot of clues for the IRS in the alternative uses they made of the withheld taxes. These other things included payment of $20,000 in company funds to an ex-wife. But that didn’t mean the next ex was slighted:

During the year 2009, Arrow Trucking Company funds were used to make payments to The Events Company for a conspirators wedding.

They should have been able to leave the wedding in style:

During 2009, Arrow Trucking Company Funds were used to make payments related to a Bentley automobile for the benefit of a conspirator.

Or maybe, honey, we want something a little sportier:

During 2009, Arrow Trucking Company Funds were used to make payments related to a Maserati automobile for the benefit of a conspirator.

It all seems like fun and games, but that fun led to this:

In December 2009, the carrier left hundreds of its drivers stranded on highways across the United States after a Utah bank voided company fuel cards.

Between halting payroll tax returns, using company funds for lavish toys, and getting employees to lie for them, they pretty much made sure the feds would visit, belt and suspenders. The IRS audit program for businesses is designed to find such things, but it sounds like they left a pretty easy trail to follow.

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Peter Reilly, Mr. Koskinen’s Last Chance To End The Form 3115 Madness:

Here is the crisis.  Some very smart people with a lot of influence in the tax industry are telling all the rest of us the following story.  You know those new regulations are telling you to change your accounting methods.  Even if you look at what you’ve done over the years and decide that there is no income or expense to be picked up it is still an accounting method change.  Given all the new concepts you could not possibly have been using those methods.  So if your client has any sort of a trade or business, there are one or more Forms 3115 that have to be filed. 

If he was as keen on preserving limited IRS resources as he keeps telling Congress, he would announce that taxpayers could adopt the new accounting methods without a 3115 by attaching an election to their return, if they prefer it that way. That would save forests, and enormous amounts of IRS storage space.  But if he were serious about maximizing agency resources, he also wouldn’t allow 200 IRS employees to collect government checks for union work, and he wouldn’t divert IRS resources into a “voluntary” preparer regulation scheme.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 637. This edition links to a Bloomberg piece about the Commissioner’s recent Senate testimony: IRS Chief: I Don’t Want to Be Seen As Influencing 2016. I take that as meaning he wouldn’t mind influencing  the elections; he just doesn’t want to be seen doing so.

 

Robert Wood, Coming Soon: No Travel Or Passport If You Owe IRS. What could go wrong?

 

Kay Bell, Seven tax extenders approved by Ways & Means Committee. Similar to the permanent extenders that passed the house and died last year, they can be seen as a counter to the President’s tax proposals in his budget.

Robert Goulder, Smart Tax Reform: Parity for Passthroughs (Tax Analysts Blog):

An obvious difficulty in business-only tax reform is devising a means to level the playing field between corporate and noncorporate entities. The overwhelming majority of commercial enterprises in the United States (roughly 90 percent) are not organized as corporations. They take alternate forms such as S corporations, partnerships, LLCs, or sole proprietorships. The primary difference, of course, is the lack of entity-level taxation for noncorporate businesses.

Unless you hate pass-throughs, as the administration seems to.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, The President Proposes Changing the International Tax System for Corporations (Tax Policy Blog)

 

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Cara Griffith, Texas Comptroller to Look to Legislature for Guidance on Taxing Aircraft (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tracy Gordon, A Fuller Accounting of How State and Local Governments Fared in the Great Recession (TaxVox).

 

News from the Profession. Let’s Catch This PwC Partner Up on the Fun Stuff She Missed Over the Last 20 Years (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/15/15: Taxpayer Advocate rips offshore account enforcement, recommends fixes to Congress.

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today Readershere is the post on the 2015 Iowa legislative session outlook.

 

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Still shooting jaywalkers. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson has submitted her Annual Report to Congress, and she rips the IRS offshore compliance program. Among the “most serious problems” noted in the report is “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs Undermined the Law and Violate Taxpayer Rights.”

The report says the IRS routinely stretches the penalties for “willful” violations of foreign reporting requirements to inadvertent violations, interprets its own guidelines whimsically and unfairly, and makes a practice of hammering small violators disproportionately.  The report also criticizes the IRS practice of denying relief for taxpayers who came in from the cold early when it later started applying reduced penalties.

The report includes one awful example of the IRS treating an apartment owned by the taxpayer as a foreign financial account for purposes of computing the penalty for late reporting:

Example : An IRS employee took the position that a taxpayer’s foreign apartment must be included in the “offshore penalty” base solely because the taxpayer filed returns reporting income from the apartment between two and fifteen months late—after receipt of foreign information reporting documents relating to inherited property. The employee concluded the delay in filing returns meant that the apartment was related to tax noncompliance. Under the 2011 OVDI FAQ 35, “[t]he offshore penalty is intended to apply to all of the taxpayer’s offshore holdings that are related in any way to tax noncompliance.” FAQ 35 defines tax noncompliance as follows:

“Tax noncompliance includes failure to report income from the assets, as well as failure to pay U.S. tax that was due with respect to the funds used to acquire the asset.”

The taxpayer timely overpaid her taxes and reported the income from the apartment (albeit on late-filed returns), and the apartment was not acquired with untaxed funds. Thus, the IRS employee’s unreviewable determination to include the apartment in the offshore penalty base appears to contradict FAQ 35.

This indicates an IRS practice of shooting jaywalkers so that it can slap real international tax cheats on the wrists. Especially unrepresented jaywalkers:

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These penalties – $2,202 average penalty for an average $268 tax understatement for the smallest accounts – are unconscionable. I defy anyone to say otherwise. Well, anyone who doesn’t work for IRS.

It also indicates that taxpayers who oped out of the voluntary disclosure program got better results — which is a harsh indictment of the way the “voluntary” program treats taxpayers.

The report does praise recent changes to IRS practice, but slams the IRS for not applying them retroactively.  The report also recommends that Congress ease up on offshore penalties, including eliminating the penalties when the taxpayer resides in the same country as the foreign account. This would be incredibly useful, eliminating the penalty for committing personal finance while living abroad.

I would go further and make the U.S. tax system territorial for non-residents, to eliminate absurd spectacles like the IRS going after the U.S.-born Mayor of London for capital gains on the sale of his home in London.

Related coverage: 

Robert Wood, National Taxpayer Advocate Slams IRS Offshore Programs & FBAR Penalties, Demands Change

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayer Advocate IDs Most Serious Problems For Taxpayers: Unacceptably Low Levels Of Service Tops List

 

20150115-2Kay Bell, It’s a new year, but time for final 2014 estimated tax payment

Russ Fox, Waiting for Godot. ” If you’re going to call the IRS, expect very lengthy hold times; yesterday I was on hold for 101 minutes before speaking with an IRS representative. I expect the hold times to get far worse as we head into Tax Season.”

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About EAs, #5: EAs are the Only Pros Required to Take Tax CPE.

Robert D. Flach, WTF IS AN EA?  Wednesday Tax Forum is an EA?

Tim Todd, Unsubordinated Mortgage Prevents Charitable Deduction for Conservation Easement

Iowa Public Radio, Tax Time Gets New Ritual: Proof Of Health Insurance.

 

Alan Cole, Financial Transactions Are A Very Poor Tax Base (Tax Policy Blog):

Simply put, financial transactions are a very poor tax base. For one thing, it results in “pyramiding:” taxing the same economic activity many times. For another, economists generally think of trades as highly-valuable activity that benefits both parties, given that they both agreed to the deal. Taxing trade itself results in a kind of “lock-in” effect where people hold on to the things they have, whether or not they’re the best people to actually be holding on to them.

He also notes the social value of the ability to easily sell financial assets, one that would be damaged by a transaction tax.

Howard Gleckman, Gale and DeLong Debate: Is the Budget Deficit Even a Problem? (TaxVox).

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Cara Griffith, Illinois Lawsuit Challenges Tax Credit Program for Encouraging Job Retention (Tax Analysts Blog). “But the interesting question this lawsuit raises is whether job creation and job retention should be treated as equal for purposes of a tax credit.” Yes, they should all get no tax credits.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 1/12: When Your Mouth Writes a Check Your State Can’t Cash (Tax Justice Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 616

Career Corner. The Happiest Lawyers Are Tax Lawyers  (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/9/15: Senators: preparers aren’t doing a good enough job on the tax law we’ve butchered.

Friday, January 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
wyden

Senator Wyden

Senators get behind IRS preparer regulation power grab. Accounting Today reports:

Two Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have introduced legislation to regulate paid tax preparers in response to the federal court decision that found the Internal Revenue Service had exceeded its statutory authority in regulating preparers.

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Senator Ben Cardin, D-Md., unveiled legislation Thursday that provides the Treasury Department and the IRS explicit authority to regulate paid tax return preparers. Wyden chaired the committee until control of the Senate changed after last November’s elections.

They call their yet unnumbered bill the “Taxpayer Protection and Preparer Proficiency Act of 2015.” A better name would be “A Bill to Boost the Revenue of the Major Franchise Tax Preparation Outfits.”

Whatever idealistic motives might be behind this bill (though I don’t give senators the benefit of the doubt for a second), the effect will be to protect and enhance the market share of the national tax prep firms. It was no coincidence that the overturned IRS preparer regulation program was drafted by a former H&R Block executive who came out the other side of the revolving door as a Treasury employee.

Regulation always favors the big. The national firms can spread the costs of compliance over a much bigger base of work, while a sole practitioner has to be her own regulation compliance department. A paperwork hangup or computer burp in the preparer regulation database can wreck a year’s business for a sole practitioner, but wouldn’t stop H&R Block or Liberty Tax for a moment.

It is argued that such regulation is needed to protect us from incompetents by imposing a “competency test.” As the test administered under the abortive IRS regulation program was more a literacy test than a competency test, this is hard to credit.  And anybody who has practiced in a regulated profession like accounting or law knows that while you can make someone pass a test, you can’t make him competent.

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

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

The list of bills introduced this week in Congress in today’s Tax Notes shows what the real tax prep problem is: Congresscritters like Senator Wyden. In addition to his preparer bill, the Senator introduced a bill:

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a tax incentive to individuals teaching in elementary and secondary schools located in rural or high unemployment areas and to individuals who achieve certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and for other purposes. 

This is just one more example of legislators using the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. As the knife gets more unwieldy with every new gadget added to it, the tax law gets a little less better at collecting revenue with every new program added to it. Picture a Swiss Army Knife the size of a railcar.

 

And it’s not like Congress isn’t already doing enough for the national tax prep outfits, as Megan McArdle explains in Latest Tax Season Headache? Obamacare:

There’s been a lot of talk about the “hidden taxes” in the Affordable Care Act, but here’s one I hadn’t thought of before or seen mentioned anywhere: the sudden need for folks with simple tax returns to avail themselves of the services of a paid professional. If you have no income outside a modest salary, and not much in the way of potential deductions such as huge mortgage interest or state tax bills, then there was really no reason to use a tax preparer. Even the mathematically challenged should, with the aid of a calculator, be able to fill out their 1040EZ forms just fine. But Obamacare has introduced a significant level of complexity into the taxes of lower-middle-class wage earners.

That’s true. And a lot of folks who have used preparers will find their costs going up to pay for the extra work that will be required.

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Kay Bell, IRS contacts tax preparers about filing mistakes; Thousands warned of Schedule C business income & child tax credit errors. Funny, I thought preparers weren’t regulated at all.

Jason Dinesen, The IRS’s Preparer Directory Will Be Bad News for Enrolled Agents. EAs have less lobbying clout than CPAs or the national tax prep outfits, and it shows.

 

Paul Neiffer, Should I File By March 1? “Therefore, if your tax for 2013 was very low and your tax for this year will be very high, talk this over with your tax advisor to see if it makes sense to pay an estimated tax payment on January 15 and wait until April 15 to make the final payment.”

Remember, only farmers get this break, and many are finding that the need to wait on K-1s from other investments makes filing a correct March 1 return impossible.

William Perez, Tips for a Tax-Efficient Divorce, Plus a List of What to Do First. From what I’ve seen, it’s even more tax-efficient to stay married.

In spite of the cold, we can count on Robert D. Flach for a fresh Friday Buzz roundup of news from around the tax blog world.

 

20130130-4Tim Worstall, Tax Avoidance And Tax Evasion Are To The Benefit Of Us All, picking up on David Henderson’s post that we mentioned earlier this week:

The crucial point is really how one views the activities of government. And there’s two views that seem to be held. One that I regard as hopelessly naive and simplistic, the second something very much closer to reality. That first is that all of the things that government does for us are beneficial to us and that limiting what it does do harms us all. The second is that some parts of what government does are things which both must be done and can only be done by government, but that a rather large part of what it attempts to do shouldn’t be done at all, whether by government or not.

I think this point is correct, though I’m sure Jim Maule would disagree with vigor. I also agree with this point that he quotes: “Government maximizes revenues; it does not levy revenues only to produce genuine public goods.” I also believe tax avoidance and evasion can serve as a check on overreach, but I suspect it only works in pretty bad situations.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 610

Renu Zaretsky, Taxes: To Be Considered, Rejected, or Collected. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the upcoming federal budget proposal, Cadillac taxes on health plans, and an “impossible dream” bill that purports to both abolish the imcome tax and balance the budget.

 

IMG_2535Cara Griffith, Mississippi Needs a Dose of Transparency (Tax Analysts Blog). “The Mississippi Department of Revenue does not publish opinions and decisions resulting from its audit appeals process, even though it may use those opinions and decisions as precedent.”

I notice Iowa hasn’t published any new rulings in two months now.

Liz Malm, Taxplainer: The State and Local Tax Impact of the Keystone Pipeline. “According to the analysis, property taxes collected during construction would amount to just under $4 million and would be spread out over seven counties in the three impacted states. ”

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 1/8: All Eyes on the Governors (Tax Justice Blog)

 

Career Corner. Make the Best of Busy Season, You Big Babies (Amber Setter, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/29/14: Why AMT matters in year-end planning. And: Laffering it up.

Monday, December 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors! Click here to find the capital gains planning item from “In the Blogs.”

IMG_1944How AMT can make prepaying state and local taxes a false move. Prepaying state and local taxes is a venerable year-end tax planning move. It can also be a costly one, thanks to the Alternative Minimum Tax. If you are in AMT this year — perhaps thanks to a big non-recurring capital gain — but you won’t be next year, prepaying your state and local taxes might result in your taxes actually being much higher over the two-year period.

An example involving a fictional Iowa married couple shows how this works. The couple has one earner with $150,000 in self-employment earnings in 2014 and 2015. In 2014 the couple generates $300,000 in a one-time capital gain.

If the couple prepays their 2014 state tax on the capital gain, they get a federal tax benefit of precisely zero in 2014; the capital gain causes them to be in AMT whatever they do because the capital gain rates are the same for AMT and regular tax.

In 2015, the couple has no AMT on their $150,000 of self-employment income. Nor do they have AMT even after paying both their 2014 Iowa balance due and their 2015 Iowa estimates. My projection software comes up with these numbers (yes, oversimplified, but the concepts hold):

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This shows that prepaying the taxes would be a $6,043 mistake for the couple.

There are cases where prepaying state taxes makes sense. There are also cases where AMT makes doing so a blunder. Make sure you run the numbers before you mail that check.

 

In case you missed it over the holidays, central Iowa’s only SHOP marketplace insurance provider was taken over by Iowa’s insurance regulators last week.  Read about it here.

 

Younkers ruins 20140610William Perez offers A First Look at ABLE Savings Accounts. These accounts, included in this month’s “extender” bill, allow Section 529-like benefits for accounts set up to pay disability costs.

Robert D. Flach, THE CLOCK IS TICKING. For 2014 Qualified Charitable Distributions from IRAs.

Mitch Maahs, Summary of the Tax Extenders in the Tax Increase Prevention Act (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, Look out for phishing scam from fake Treasury Secretary

Jack Townsend, Tax Return Preparers Convicted of Conspiracy and Failure to File FBARs. They chose badly.

Cara Griffith, Crowdfunding and State Taxation (Tax Analysts Blog). Is Kickstarter funding taxable income or taxable sales?

Tim Todd, 4th Cir. Rejects Conservation Easement with Substitution Provision

Peter Reilly, Phantom Mares And Real Trucks Don’t Make For A Winning Horse Loss Tax Case. Plus, it’s really hard to find good phantom breeding studs.

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Renu Zaretsky, Will Tax Reforming Be Forgot and Never Brought to Mind? This TaxVox headline roundup covers the Kansas struggles with careless tax reform, among other things.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 599

 

Stephen MooreThe Laffer Curve turns 40: the legacy of a controversial idea:

To punctuate his point, he grabbed a pen and a cloth cocktail napkin and drew a chart showing that when tax rates get too high, they penalize work and investment and can actually lead to revenue losses for the government. Four years later, that napkin became immortalized as “the Laffer Curve”…

Laffer Curve, via Wikipedia

Laffer Curve, via Wikipedia

The idea that tax rates can become so high that they actually reduce net revenue shouldn’t be controversial. If you have a 100% tax rate on an activity, you will avoid that activity, or at least letting the government know about it. Of course, a zero rate will also generate no tax revenue. The revenue-maximizing rate is somewhere in between.

Unfortunately, some people on the right have taken this point and jumped to the conclusion that tax cuts will always cause such increased taxable activity that tax revenues will increase. That’s as much a fallacy as left-side assumptions that increasing taxes can never be economically-harmful or revenue-reducing.

The real issues should be identifying the point at which the harms to economic activity and to revenues occur. It seems likely that the economically-damaging rate is lower than the revenue-maximizing rate, as Megan McArdle discusses here. These points have to differ for different kinds of tax. A 30% income tax rate might not be very destructive to economic activity, but a 30% sales tax would hurt, and a 30% gross receipts tax would be ruinous. The results also differ for state and federal taxes, given how much easier it is for activity to to move between states than between countries.

All this, of course, ignores the obvious question of how much revenue the government needs in the first place. I would argue that a well-run government limited to its proper sphere wouldn’t have to ask these questions all the time.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/18/14: Year-end planning and relatives. And: when will the President sign the extenders?

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

When will he sign? Now that Congress has finally sent the extender Bill, HR 5771, to the President, the “expired provisions” require only his signature. When will that happen? I have no idea. There is nothing at Whitehouse.gov about it. But everyone says he’ll sign. It would be the practical joke of the year if he didn’t.

 


IMG_1944Beware t
he relative! The tax law generally assumes that when related parties do business together, they’re up to no good somehow. That’s why the law has so many provisions that deny or delay tax benefits when relatives are involved.

For example, Code Section 267 only allows a deduction to a related party “as of the day as of which such amount is includible in the gross income of the person to whom the payment is made.” That’s no problem if the “related party” is on the accrual method, because they will be accruing the income at the same time you accrue the expense. But if the related party is a cash-basis taxpayer, you have to pay this year to get a deduction this year.

But who is related? It’s more complicated than you might think. For purposes of year-end deductions,  owners of more than 50% of C corporation stock, and their families (siblings, spouses, ancestors and descendants) are related.  Families are usually considered as a single owner for the 50% test.

For pass-through entities — partnerships and S corporations — any owner is a related party, along with members of owners families and anybody related to the family members.

 

Seventh Avenue, Des Moines, this morning.William Perez, Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014. “A quick summary of the tax changes included in the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014.”

Kay Bell, Tax filing projections for the 2015 season and beyond

Peter Reilly looks back on his idiosyncratic tax coverage this year. Everything from atheist parsonages to Dr. Dino. Peter covers a lot of stuff that I wish I did, in a lot more depth than I could.

Jason Dinesen, A Brief History of Marriage in the Tax Code: Part 1, In the Beginning

Robert D. Flach, THERE ARE A LOT MORE THAN 20 REALLY STUPID THINGS IN THE US TAX CODE! “The one and only purpose of the federal income tax is to raise the money necessary to run the government. Period.”

Me, Year-end business deductions: the two-minute drill. My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professionals’ Blog. “While you add up the score in April, December is when you run the two-minute drill.”

 

20130419-1Robert Wood, 8 Savvy Tax Tips & Extenders For Year-End

Tim Todd, 5th Cir. Affirms IRS’s Adjustment Outside Limitations Period for Improper Installment Sale of Partnership Interest.

Keith Fogg, Collection Due Process Determination and Decision Letters Redux (Procedurally Taxing)

Jack Townsend, Plea in Corporate Corruption Case with Tax Charge. Kickbacks kick back.

Gavin Ekins, The IRS’s Long Reach Doesn’t Just Apply to Corporations (Tax Policy Blog). The post describes some of the ridiculous hoops Americans abroad have to jump through to comply with the tax law, and observes:

Are Americans alone in this onerous system? Unfortunately, they are. Only one other country taxes its citizens is this manner. Eritrea, the small country on the northern border of Ethiopia, is the only other country which taxes its citizens who live and work abroad, but unlike the U.S., they have a reduced flat rate for those citizens and none of the reporting burden.  

The results range from annoyance to financial disaster for the absurd crime of committing personal finance while abroad.

Renu Zaretsky, They Saved the Must-Pass for Last. The TaxVox headline roundup provides a good summary of the passage of the extender bill; it also talks about state gas tax moves.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 588

 

20141218-1Cara Griffith, A Champion for Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog). “New York enacted a comprehensive tax reform package designed to improve the competitiveness of the state’s tax code by merging the bank tax into the corporate franchise tax, adopting single-sales-factor apportionment with market-based sourcing, broadening the corporate tax base, and lowering the rate.”

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 12/10: The Best Laid Plans (and Reports) (Tax Justice Blog)

 

Daniel Shaviro,  Evaluating the Case for 1986-Style Corporate Tax Reform, (TaxAnalysts, available via the TaxProf)

 

Career Corner. My Firm Holiday Party is a Teaching Moment For What Not to Do at a Firm Holiday Party (Leona May, Going Concern)

 

News from the Profession. Former Stillwater mayor charged with aiding tax fraud (MPRnews.org):

A former mayor of Stillwater was charged in federal court Wednesday with helping two Minnesota brothers keep millions of dollars in taxes from the state and federal governments.

Ken Harycki, a certified public accountant, knowingly prepared false tax forms for twin brothers Thurlee and Roylee Belfrey and their health care companies, according to charges filed in U.S. District Court.

CPAs, you must only use your powers for good.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/4/14: House passes extenders; Senate alternative appears dead. And: Gas tax fever!

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors: Click here for the Lincoln year-end planning link.

lazarus risingHouse passes extenders; Senate action not yet slated. The House of Representatives yesterday revived the Lazarus provisions of the tax law, passing HR 5771 on a 378-46 vote.

The bill now moves to the Senate, which has not yet scheduled a vote. The Hill reports that Senate Democrats have given up on promoting a competing bill, which probably means they will go along with the House bill. While the President has not said he would sign the House bill, he hasn’t threatened a veto; that probably means he will go along.

The expired tax provisions revived by the bill include the $500,000 Section 179 limit, 50% bonus depreciation, the research credit, and the five-year built-in gain period for S corporations. They also include crony subsidies like energy production credits and accelerated depreciation for racetracks. A compromise plan to extend some of the provisions permanently collapsed when the President threatened to veto it.

The house-passed bill only extends the tax breaks that expired at the end of last year through the end of this month. That means the new Congress will have to do this again in 2015. Let’s hope they get an earlier start than they did this year.

Related:

Wall Street Journal, House Approves Temporary Tax Breaks

Accounting Today, House Passes $42 Billion Plan to Revive U.S. Tax Breaks for 2014

 

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.

Gas Tax Fever! The Greater Des Moines Partnership unveiled its legislative agenda yesterday. While it has a few good ideas, like reviewing Iowa’s pension plans for soundness, its priorities are crony-capitalist items like support for economic development tax credits and “public-private partnerships.” Its weak tax reform plank supports the Alternative Maximum Tax, which would allow individuals to choose an optional low-rate, broad base system. You’ll look in vain for anything specific to improve Iowa’s bottom-ten business tax climate — just a general call for lower rates. That may be because many large corporations have learned to use Iowa’s rats nest of special interest breaks and crony tax credits to their advantage.

The agenda also includes support for an increase in the gas tax to fund road projects.  That plank has some policy logic behind it, but it also is a tough sell. Caffeinated Thoughts reports that Iowans for Tax Relief has already come out against it. ITR opposition makes it hard for many GOP legislators to support the increase. Maybe that’s why the Sioux City Journal is reporting “Iowa legislative leaders murky on gas tax increase

 

Robert D. Flach, IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO – H&R BLOCK CEO ALLEGEDLY CARES ABOUT EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE TAX ADMINISTRATION. “Here is what is a good idea for proper efficient and effective tax administration – remove the Earned Income Credit, and all other government social welfare and other benefit programs, from the Tax Code.” Amen, Brother Robert.

 

Jason Dinesen, who is a pioneer in the taxation of same-sex married couples, offers A Brief History of Marriage in the Tax Code: Introduction

Paul Neiffer, Irrigation Systems – Is that 7 or 15 Years?  Depends on whether it’s buried.

Tony Nitti, Sorry Mr. Ryan, But Corporate-Only Tax Reform Doesn’t Work. Somebody tell the President.

Kay Bell, Spend down your flexible spending account by Dec. 31

Jeff Stimpson, In the Blogs: Start Your Engines (Accounting Today)

 

Mark J. PerryTop 400 taxpayers paid almost as much in federal income taxes in 2010 as the entire bottom 50%:

top 400 bottom 50

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 574.  Yes, there are thousands of e-mails that may show the IRS improperly accessed confidential taxpayer records. Releasing them might violate taxpayer confidentiality, so they stay secret. How convenient.

The return confidentiality rules should be amended so that those abusing them can’t also hide behind them.

20140729-1Alan Cole, Bonus Depreciation is a Step Towards Fair Tax Accounting (Tax Policy Blog).

Elaine Maag, Why the More Generous Child and Earned Income Tax Credits Should Be Made Permanent (TaxVox). Because we like having 20% of it wasted or stolen?

Tax Justice Blog, Dave Camp’s Reform Plan Should Not Be the Starting Point for the Tax Debate.

 

Cara Griffith, Transparency Concerns Linger in Washington State (Tax Analysts Blog) Cockroaches and administrators tend to prefer darkness.

 

Career Corner. Protip for Future CPAs: Forging Signatures on Your Work Experience Form is Dumb (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/1/14: Abe Lincoln’s year-end tax wisdom. And: Oh, THOSE e-mails!

Monday, December 1st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors, here is your film tax credit link: Report from the Battle of Scottsdale.

 

Lincoln“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.” Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech.

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving. Now it’s December, which means it’s time to begin serious tax planning. President Lincoln’s timeless observation applies very much to year-end tax planning.

To do any tax planning, you have to know where you stand before making any year-end tax planning moves. You need to see where your income, deductions and tax payments are likely to be if you do nothing before year-end — in other words, you need to project your 2014 tax return.  You also need to make your best guess at your 2015 taxes.

If you try to do tax planning tricks without doing a projection, you can actually make things worse. For example, if you prepay state and local taxes in 2014, and you are subject to alternative minimum tax in 2014, you accomplish nothing. If you are also not subject to AMT in 2015, you’ve actually increased your tax bill over the two-year period.

The best way to start your projection is with a copy of your 2013 return. Identify income and expense items that are likely to be different in 2014 and 2015. Then review your pay stub and for income and withholding and see where you are likely to end up for the year on those items.  If you have a business, you need to forecast your income at year end. The you know where you are and whither you are tending, and you and your tax advisor can better judge what to do and how to do it.

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 571. It seems the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found Lois Lerner’s missing e-mails on backup tapes that Commissioner Koskinen said didn’t exist. Commissioner Koskinen’s effort to find the missing e-mails rivals O.J. Simpson’s search for the real killer.

Robert W. Wood, In ‘Lost’ Trove Of IRS Emails, 2,500 May Link White House To Confidential Taxpayer Data.

 

TaxGrrrl’s Interview with Commissioner Koskinen: Miserable, Awful & Delayed: Commissioner, Tax Advocate Talk 2015 Tax Season:

Already, the Commissioner is anticipating that the IRS will only be able to answer about 53% of calls – after a wait time of about 34 minutes – for the upcoming fiscal year. That’s just about half – but, the Commissioner confirms, “It could be worse.”

 

But the Commissioner still thinks he has the spare resources for a “voluntary” preparer regulation scheme.

Russ Fox, One Ringy Dingy, Two Ringy Dingies… “Yes, I was on hold for two hours today on the IRS Practitioner Priority Service before my call was picked up.”  Good thing his call was a priority, then.

 

Tony Nitti, The Four Tax Breaks (And Two Senators) That Killed The Tax Extender Deal. The immigration action is also implicated.

Robert D. Flach, OOPS – THEY DID IT AGAIN! “Well, it is December. And the idiots in Congress have not yet dealt with the issue of the ‘tax extenders’.”

Kyle Pomerleau, Why Not Just Get Rid of Them All? (Tax Policy Blog). “While most tax extenders are wasteful, there are a few that are worth keeping and would actually be part of a flat tax.”

 

20140814-1Kristine Tidgren offers A Few Year-End Tax Planning Tips for Farmers.

Alan Perez, Tax Planning for Clergy. The post includes a nice checklist for clergy tax planning.

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: How to Properly Calculate Taxability of a Federal Refund on Your Iowa Tax Return

Peter Reilly, Motocross Racing With Tax Deductible Dollars Works This Time

Keith Fogg, IRS Makes Novel Use Of Outside Contractors—To Audit Microsoft (Procedurally Taxing):

The IRS has changed the regulation concerning who can participate in an examination to include private contractors.  It has hired a private law firm as an expert.  Microsoft appears to be the first examination using private contractors to become public.  The issue deserves attention in order to determine if this represents a new and better way to examine complex returns or a capitulation of what was previously considered a governmental function.

I’m still waiting for the people who got all upset about the IRS using private collection agencies to say something about this.

 

Jeff Stimpson of Accounting Today has posted his “In the Blogs” roundup for the week. Lots of good tax links.

Annette Nellen discusses Inflation adjustments in the tax law. “Our federal income tax is not consistent regarding the need to prevent bracket creep for all taxpayers.”

Kay Bell, IRS’ positive public perception picking up a bit. It would be hard to make it sink lower.

Jack Townsend notes the WAPO Article on Expatriate Taxation – The Mayor of London.

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Cheap liquor likely to remain a focus for alcoholics. Nonresident Income Taxes Likely to Remain a Focus for State Tax Authorities (Cara Griffith, Tax Analysts Blog). The post discusses states aggressive assessment of non-residents who sneeze near state lines, and the so-far failed push for Congress to provide uniform rules.

Alan Cole, Confusing Income with Taxable Income (Tax Policy Blog): “The rest of America is quite a bit richer, and quite a bit better at earning capital income, than Wonkblog gives it credit for.”

Joseph Thorndike, The Best Hopeless Idea in Washington (Tax Analysts Blog). That would be a carbon tax.

Norton Francis, What Falling Oil Prices Will Mean for State Budgets (TaxVox)

 

No Takers for the Brown house. The IRS can’t seem to unload property seized from Ed and Elaine Brown after their armed tax protest standoff. It seems buyers want some assurance that they won’t be killed by stray booby-traps.

Career Corner, So You Failed the CPA Exam Before the Holidays, Now What? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/20/14: ACA and filing season pessimism revisited.

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: The Tax Update will take tomorrow off. I will be in Phoenix tomorrow on a panel on state film tax credits sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislators.  The panel will include, among others, Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation. Normal programming resumes Monday.

 

guillotineACA frenzy! Thanks to a kind Twitter mention from Megan McArdle (who you really should follow at @asymmetricinfo), my Tuesday post on ACA and filing-season dread made it to a wider audience than usual, including the readers of Real Clear Politics. A cousin who I normally only see at family weddings and funerals saw it and sent me a note (Hi, Bob!), so I know it really got around.

It has also generated questions in the comments and the Twitterverse that are worth addressing. We’ll start with this from Alan in the comments:

In a few months when people receive their W2’s they will get a real shock when all the employer paid share of the company paid share of health care plan is included in their gross pay and now they must pay taxes on all that extra income.

Obamacare is ugly, but it isn’t that ugly. While many (but not all) employers will disclose the cost of coverage on W-2 box 12 (code DD), it will not be included in W-2 Box 1, “taxable wages.” From IRS.gov, Employer-Provided Health Coverage Informational Reporting Requirements: Questions and Answers:

Q1. Does the cost of an employee’s health care benefits shown on the Form W-2 mean that the benefits are taxable to the employee?

A. No. There is nothing about the reporting requirement that causes or will cause excludable employer-provided health coverage to become taxable. The purpose of the reporting requirement is to provide employees useful and comparable consumer information on the cost of their health care coverage.

20121120-2From Ms. McArdle on Twitter:

Any chance it won’t be that bad?

I suppose that depends on what “that bad” means. Blood seeping from the walls, shape-shifting brain-eaters from Planet Zargon, cats and dogs living together– probably not that bad. But there’s still plenty of bad to go around. The things that worry me:

– Many taxpayers will not have the information handy to determine their health insurance status for all 12-months of 2014. Only those who buy insurance on the exchanges will have Form 1095, the information return on insurance status.  Others are supposed to get information from employers, but they are likely to lose track of it, especially this first year.

– Lacking any matching documents, taxpayers will be tempted to claim coverage where there is none, or maybe wasn’t for part of the year, to avoid penalties. There won’t be an easy way to verify this. Preparers will either have to take taxpayers at their word or send them back for proof (or, inadvertently, to another preparer). It’s always bad when taxpayers feel they should lie to preparers. Yet as the IRS will often have no way to detect false claims of coverage, they will feel like chumps for telling the truth.

– Taxpayers with penalties for non-coverage will be irate when they find they get no refund. As Ms. McArdle wisely put it, “I do not have hard figures on this, but my basic experience in personal finance and tax reporting suggests that approximately zero percent of those affected will be expecting the havoc it will wreak on their tax refund.” Experience shows that the taxpayer’s first instinct is that the preparer screwed up.

– It will be even worse when we have to tell people to repay advance health-care tax credits paid to insurers to lower consumer out-of-pocket costs. This can happen when actual taxable income exceeds the amounts estimated when coverage was obtained on the exchanges. As the taxpayer never “saw the money” — it was paid to the insurer, not to the taxpayer directly — she may not be easily convinced that she has an excess benefit to repay.

20140521-1– Preparers haven’t had to deal with this before. Any new tax provision has a learning curve, and this is a complicated one that will apply to almost everyone. In many cases, preparers will mess up, being human. Getting it right will take extra time that is hard to come by during tax season.

– This doesn’t even touch the problems that many small employers are going to be dealing with as they realize their Section 105 individual coverage premium reimbursement plans, and their cafeteria plans funding premium payments on individual policies obtained by employees, are considered non-compliant under the ACA “market reforms.” At $100 per employee, per day, the penalties could be ruinous. While taxpayers are encouraged to report the penalties on Form 8928 and zero them out with a “reasonable cause” claim, we don’t know yet how generous the IRS will be in granting reasonable cause relief. Figuring out what to do here will be time-consuming and nerve-wracking for taxpayers and preparers, unless the IRS issues a blanket penalty waiver for 2014 (as it should).

On top of all this, we will probably have another late “extender” bill like we had two seasons ago, which made for an awful tax season by itself. Maybe things will go well this season, but so many things seem likely to go wrong that it’s hard to be optimistic.

 

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #6-The IRS (Finally) Figures Out The Real Estate Professional Rules. It’s an excellent lesson on the tax rules covering “real estate professionals” and passive losses — and by extension, the 3.8% net investment income tax.

TaxGrrrl, Al Sharpton Denounces Claims He Owes Millions In Taxes To IRS, New York.

Jack Townsend, Another UBS/Wegelin Related Indictment in SDNY

Peter Reilly, Kent Hovind And Creation Science Evangelism – How Not To Run A Ministry. When it gets you imprisoned, you may well be doing it wrong.

Kay Bell, Former GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan to head House tax panel

Jason Dinesen, I Don’t Have Time to Write Grant Proposals or Meet with Donors … But Give Me Money Anyway!  OK, then…

20141120-1

Work proceeds in clearing the ruins of the Younkers department store, which burned in March.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 560.

Cara Griffith, Bad News for State Public Pension Plans (Tax Analysts Blog). “New research has come out revealing the level at which state public pension plans are underfunded, and it’s not good news.”

The denial of reality in administering public pensions is amazing. Public defined benefit plans are a lie. Either the public is being lied to about how much current public services cost, or current employees are being lied to about their retirement benefits. Maybe both.

 

20140910-1Alan Cole, Extenders and the Opportunity for Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog):

The Examiner characterizes many of the extenders as “repugnant carve-outs.” This is undeniably true, but it is also the case that some – but not all – of the tax extenders are genuinely good policy. Particularly, Bonus Depreciation and Section 179 are important for moving the tax code towards proper treatment of new investment.

In any case, the current system of pretending tax provisions are “temporary” to hide their true cost is dishonest and should end.

Renu Zaretsky, “Dead Reform Walking:” On Fairness, Immigration, and Spending. The TaxVox headline roundup covers developments in the Marketplace Fairness Act, extenders and immigration, among other things.

 

News from the Profession. KPMG Gives the Department of Homeland Security a Clean Audit Opinion Because of Course They Did (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). “I don’t know about you but I feel safer already.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/23/14: Iowa Tax Crime Edition. And: USPS > Stamps.com, in Tax Court.

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Tax crime happens in Iowa too. While Iowa doesn’t seem to get the same attention from tax prosecutors as some other places, tax evasion can get Iowans the same prison time as anyone else. Two Iowa entrepreneurs are learning that lesson now.

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

The operator of a venerable Des Moines pharmacy and soda fountain apparently will plead guilty to tax evasion on charges arising out of back-door sales of hydrocodone pills, according to reports.  The Des Moines Register article on the plea deal provides insight on how the charges against pharmacist Mark Graziano came about, and on the inherent dangers of tax crime:

The allegations came to light after admitted drug user Kirby Small called state regulators in 2011 and told them Graziano and Enloe were selling wholesale quantities of hydrocodone pills out of Bauder’s back door. State agents raided the business in 2012, and the Iowa Board of Pharmacy filed administrative charges against Graziano and the pharmacy. Federal officials filed criminal charges last spring.

Small, in an interview Tuesday, said that he called the pharmacy board because he was angry at Enloe, who had been a longtime friend. Enloe and Graziano had been selling Small pills, but cut him off over money issues, Small said. Then Enloe called Small’s probation officer and said that Small had been taking drugs, Small said. So Small decided to get back at them.

“You call the cops on an east-sider, what do you expect?” he said, chuckling.

The pharmacy is on the west side, for the record.

Tax crimes by businesses are almost impossible to commit without somebody besides the perpetrator finding out. Those who pay employees in cash to avoid payroll taxes create a potential informant with every new hire. Those who ask for cash payment for sales, as illegal drug sellers normally do, create a potential informant with every new customer. And if the customer falls behind on payments, it is unwise for someone committing crimes to summon the authorities.

The reports say Mr. Graziano is likely to receive a 24-37 month sentence.

 

20141023-1Stripped-down gross incomeA Northwest Iowa entrepreneur will go to prison for 33 months on charges of evading over $214,000 in taxes, reports the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:

Veronica Fairchild, 42, collected $1.1 million between 2005 and 2008, mostly from a wealthy client named David Karlen.

She declared only 45 percent of that money as income on her tax returns for those years, which she didn’t file until 2010. The remaining $643,648 was declared as a gift.

At her trial in June, Karlen testified that he’d paid Fairchild to dance, and later for sex. He claimed to have paid between $1,000 and $5,000 for a variety of sexual acts.

Ms. Fairchild, who reportedly owns a strip club in Okoboji, Iowa, denies sleeping with Mr. Karlen:

She said Karlen invented the stories about sexual encounters to cover for his failure to pay taxes on the monetary gifts.

The jury apparently concluded that that payments were for something other than disinterested generousity.

 

On the lighter sidethe usual suspects showed up at a Des Moines Burger King to protest the Kingdom’s proposed merger with Canadian donut empire Tim Hortons. The Des Moines Register reports:

About 15 Iowans rallied outside of a Des Moines Burger King Tuesday to protest the company’s plans to move its headquarters to Canada.

“About” 15? For a crowd that size, I think greater precision is possible. It would have been about 16 if Ed Fallon weren’t traveling. If you missed the rally, you can show your support by asking for large fries with your next Whopper.

 

20130415-1USPS > Stamps.comThe Tax Court ruled against a man who used Stamps.com on March 3 to buy postage to mail his Tax Court Petition on the March 3 filing deadline. The postal service postmark was March 4, and the court said that was the controlling date.  From the case:

In support of his argument petitioner provided a statement by the third party who prepared the petition for mailing and then delivered it to the post office. In her statement the third party describes how on Monday, March 3, 2014, after being “given documents to mail”, she printed postage using Stamps.com software, added extra postage for certified mail, and then took the petition to the U.S. Post Office in Bountiful, Utah, for deposit into the mail. The third party candidly states that in order to “avoid[ ] the long lines” at the post office, she dropped the petition off without having a certified mail receipt stamped by a Postal Service employee and that as a consequence “the sender has no documentation showing * * * [the post office] received the certified package” on March 3, 2014.

The moral? When your down to a mailing deadline, take no shortcuts. Go Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, and get the hand-stampted postmark — even if you have to wait in line.  If the line is really too long, use a Designated Private Delivery Service and get a timely shipping receipt. I bet the “third party” wishes she had done so.

Cite: Sanchez, T.C. Memo 2014-223.

 

Joseph Thorndike, What if Congress Raised Taxes and Nobody Cared – Or Even Noticed? (Tax Analysts Blog). I think Joseph is operating from a false premise:

In 2011 and 2012, Congress cut the Social Security payroll tax by two points. More specifically, lawmakers reduced the portion of the tax levied on employees from 6.2 percent of taxable wages to 4.2 percent. (The portion paid by employers remained at 6.2 percent; most economists believe that this other half of the tax is also ultimately borne by workers in the form of lower wages.)

The payroll tax cut was explicitly designed to be temporary – a one-year shot in the arm for the struggling economy. After a year, lawmakers agreed to extend the cut for another 12 months. But on January 1, 2013, the payroll cut expired, and workers began paying the full 6.2 percent again.

And hardly anybody noticed.

Trust me, people noticed. I got the phone calls.

 

20141023-2Robert D. Flach, THIS JUST IN – SOCIAL SECURITY COLA INCREASE FOR 2015

Me, FICA Max increases to $118,500 for 2015

Jason Dinesen, Meet Joe the Window Washer. Joe will be used for life lessons in small business tax compliance.

Jack Townsend, Blog on the Disqualification of Some Canadian “Snowbirds” from Streamlined Treatment

 

Cara Griffith, Drop Shipping Is Popular With Retailers, but Can Create Tax Challenges (Tax Analysts Blog). “From a sales and use tax perspective, if the retailer has nexus with a particular state or is voluntarily registered in the state where the sale took place, the retailer is required to collect sales tax on the transaction with the customer. Conversely, if neither the retailer nor the shipper has nexus with the state in which the sale took place, neither can be required to collect sales tax.”

Peter Reilly, National Organization For Marriage – No Recovery Of Attorney Fees In Case Against IRS

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 532

Richard Phillips, New Movie Aims to Scare Public by Depicting IRS as Jack-Booted Thugs (Tax Justice Blog) Not to defend the movie (which Peter Reilly watched so I don’t have to), but it’s not always easy to portray the IRS as, say, unicorn nurses.

Career Corner. Let’s End the Big 4 or Bust Myth Once and For All (Tony Nitti, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 10/9/14: Tax-exempt now, tax-exempt forever! And: Real Housewife, real plea deal.

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

Accounting Today visitors, click here for the pile of clothes.

 

20120511-2Maybe somebody has tried this before, but as far as I know, this is a new bad idea.  Mr. Lundy, a Florida man, received a non-taxable disability settlement. The IRS didn’t dispute that the settlement was exempt. But then things went to another level.  Tax Court Judge Armen explains (my emphasis):

Rather, petitioners contend that they invested Mr. Lundy’s disability retirement income (which respondent does not challenge as nontaxable) in Mrs. Lundy’s sole proprietorship and that, as a consequence, income generated by that proprietorship is nontaxable. Or, in petitioners’ words: “[A]ny thing we funded with those funds were completely tax free also.”

interesting argument. Once you get a tax-free dollar, anything that grows from that dollar is tax-free forever. That would be awesome. You could invest in municipal bonds, and then anything you buy with the exempt interest would be tax-free too!  If only it worked that way…

Alas, it doesn’t.  Judge Armen elaborates:

In arguing as they do, petitioners fail to distinguish between an item that is excludable from income and the income that such an item may produce once it is invested. Many items are statutorily excluded from gross income. For example, gross income does not include the value of property acquired by gift or inheritance. Sec. 102(a). In contrast, income generated from property acquired by gift or inheritance does not come within such statutory exclusion.

Dang.

Cite: Lundby, T.C. Memo 2014-209.

 

Russ Fox, It’s Not As If Anything Is Happening Right After This…:

And there is. For reasons that only the bureaucrats at the IRS can fathom, every year over Columbus Day weekend the IRS shuts down their computer systems. This includes processing of returns and IRS e-services.

Well, it’s not like there’s a deadline coming up or anything. Oh, wait…

 

The “Real Housewives” casting department apparently didn’t test reading comprehension. TaxGrrrl reports: Real Housewives’ Teresa Giudice Claims She Didn’t Know That Jail Was A Possibility:

The sentence came as a shock to Teresa who claimed, in the interview, that her lawyer did not tell her jail time was a possibility under the plea. She said about the plea, “I didn’t fully understand it. I thought my lawyer was going to fight for me. I mean, that’s what lawyers do. I don’t know. That’s why you hire an attorney. You put it in their hands.”

This shows the importance of reading legal documents before you sign them. She signed a plea agreement with the language excerpted here:

20141009-1

I’m not sure how you can sign something that says “the sentencing judge may impose any reasonable sentence up to and including the statutory maximum term” and feel safe. But then again, I’m not a real housewife.

 

harvestPaul Neiffer, Taxable is Taxable -Whether a 1099 or not! “The bottom line is any income received on the farm is taxable income whether there is a form 1099 or not.”

Jack Townsend, IRS Grants Automatic Treaty Relief for Canadian RRSPs and RRIFs

Kay Bell, Don’t overlook tax breaks in your rush to file by Oct. 15

 

Liz Malm, How Does Your State Score on Property Tax Administration? Probably Not Very Well (Tax Policy Blog). Iowa gets a C.

 

Cara Griffith, Is the Maryland Tax Court Hiding Its Opinions? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Here’s the problem: The Maryland Tax Court publishes a small fraction of its decisions online. It published a single decision in 2013 and has yet to publish a decision in 2014. The court has, of course, issued far more decisions; it simply chooses not to make them publicly available. One would presume, then, that the court retains all decisions and that if a taxpayer or practitioner wanted to review those decisions, a copy could be requested. But it is not that simple in Maryland. 
According to the court’s most recent retention schedule, decisions are to be permanently retained and periodically transferred to the Maryland State Archives. In reality, however, the tax court retains them for three years, but then the decisions are “shredded.” They are not sent to the archives.

Strange. If decisions aren’t public, they are of no use for taxpayers and practitioners trying to follow an often uncertain tax law. The shredding can also provide cover for favoritism or incompetence on the bench. Outrageous.

 

Howard Gleckman, Ryan and Lew Both Object to JCT Scoring of Future Tax Reform (TaxVox). “Like a couple of baseball managers working the umpires before a big World Series game, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), who wants to be the next chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, are looking to change the way Congress scores tax reform even before Congress begins a rewrite.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 519.

News from the Profession. Comcast: Let It Be Known That We Did Not Ask PwC to Fire That Guy (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/25/14: Jersey Shore Special! And: does bonus depreciation really work?

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140925-1The IRS just dropped in to see what situation my situation is in. The big tax news today apparently is that some guy from the “Jersey Shore” T.V. show with the nickname “The Situation” is accused of not paying his taxes on $8.9 million of income.

TaxGrrrl reports:

According to the indictment, the feds allege that Mike and his brother, Marc (who is also Mike’s manager) used two companies they controlled, MPS Entertainment, LLC and Situation Nation, Inc., to evade taxation. Both of the companies were set up as S corporations which means that they were passthrough entities: the income and expenses were meant to pass through to the shareholders who were, you guessed it, Mike and Marc. As part of the conspiracy, it’s alleged that the brothers took money out of the companies for personal expenses like “high-end vehicles, purchases of high-end clothing, and personal grooming expenses” but claimed that they were legitimate business expenses. They allegedly also deliberately understated the amount of income received by the companies to their accountants who then passed through the lower income amounts to be reported on individual returns. 

To test your care in reading the story, Tony Nitti offers a quiz.

I have never seen “Jersey Shore,” but I get the impression that the indicted guy wasn’t cast to showcase his intellectual achievements.  It’s not remarkable if he didn’t pay his taxes; it is remarkable that he made almost $9 million in the first place. Easy come, easy go.

 

20140814-1William McBride, New Study Finds Bonus Depreciation Boosts Investment (Tax Policy Blog):

The authors are Eric Zwick, of the University of Chicago, and James Mahon, of Harvard, and they conclude that “bonus depreciation raised eligible investment by 17.3 percent on average between 2001 and 2004 and 29.5 percent between 2008 and 2010.” This is more than double the effect that previous studies have found, which the authors attribute to the fact that previous studies excluded the effects on small and medium-sized firms.

Bonus depreciation — the ability to deduct 50% (formerly 100%) of the cost of new assets that would otherwise have to be depreciated or amortized — expired at the end of 2013. It may be revived retroactively after the elections.

I have my doubts that it makes as much of a difference as the study concludes. Still, when you have bonus depreciation, you give businesses an easy way to control their taxable income at year-end planning time, and in some cases it surely causes purchases that would otherwise be delayed or foregone.

Bonus deprciation has other consequences. By lowering the cost of capital investment it makes it easier to substitute machinery for labor — something minimum wage advocates ignore as they merrily price low-skill people out of the labor market with their good intentions.

 

Jason Dinesen, Things Tax Preparers Say: S-Corporation Compensation (Again!):

S-corporation owner hasn’t been paying himself a salary despite having large corporate net income, and despite taking large withdrawals of money from the corporation. Those withdrawals had always been called “shareholder distributions.”

On the owner’s personal return, all of the corporate net income was reported as ordinary income. He also makes contributions into an IRA.

There is no happy ending here.

 

20130121-2Leslie Book, For Those Keeping Track: Preparers in the Spotlight (Procedurally Taxing):

TIGTA also recently released a report criticizing IRS’s failure to manage the flow of complaints relating to preparer misconduct. The TIGTA report, which did describe some progress IRS has made in its processing and review of potentially misbehaving preparers, also showed that IRS is not fully using the information it has to combat preparer misconduct. Juxtaposing that with the IRS’s efforts to expand its oversight through testing and education does not lead to a pretty picture and opens IRS up to criticism along the lines of the following: IRS has information and powers at its disposal; IRS is failing to use either properly; IRS should at least manage what it has before expanding powers and imposing costs on preparers and taxpayers

Of course, preventing misconduct and incompetence is only a pretext for preparer regulation. The real goal is to increase barriers to entry and the value of the nationwide tax prep chains. After all, they wrote the rules in the first place.

 

Andrew Mitchel, Payments to Foreign Contractor Entities: Form W-8BEN-E. You might need to be withholding from a vendor who gives you you one of these. You should always get a W-9 from your vendors; if they aren’t a U.S. person, they’ll have to give you a W-8 instead, alerting you to a possible withholding liability.

William Perez, What Is Alternative Minimum Tax?

Janet Novack, Retirement Rich List: 314 Have IRAs Averaging $258 Million Each, GAO Estimates. Naturally, the politicians want some of that.

 

20140925-2David Brunori, $1 Billion Is the New Normal in the Incentives World (Tax Analysts Blog) “Nevada is giving $1.3 billion to a company that is essentially owned by a guy worth $12 billion.” And they’re taking it from a lot of Nevadans who aren’t worth $12 billion.

Kay Bell, Amazon tax collection begins Oct. 1 in Maryland & Minnesota

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 9/24: Tax Cuts, Tax Cuts and More Tax Cuts (Tax Justice Blog). To The TJB folks, that’s considered bad news.

Cara Griffith, Taxing the Cloud (Tax Analysts Blog). “Interestingly, of nine states that have recently issued administrative guidance on the taxability of cloud computing services, only two have found the services taxable. The remaining seven have determined cloud computing is not taxable.”


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 504. Today’s scandal roundup features  500 Days After IRS Scandal Broke, Reporter Still Refuses To Pay His Taxes:

500 days later, the IRS still hasn’t produced emails from Lerner and the more than 20 other IRS employees whose computers allegedly crashed, whose Blackberries were thrown away and “upgraded,” and, in Lerner’s case, whose hard drive was “scratched” and destroyed. But we know that Lerner exchanged confidential taxpayer information on conservatives with top White House adviser Jeanne Lambrew during the 2012 election cycle. We know that Lerner and her White House-visiting underling Nikole Flax were involved in a “secret research project” involving conservative donor information that was approved by then-IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller. President Barack Obama first called the whole thing “outrageous.” Then he said there’s “not a smidgen of corruption.”

The reporter who isn’t paying his taxes better be putting the money aside, and then some, as he surely will pay them, with penalties and interest.

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Tax Roundup, 9/18/14: The $14.8 million suitcase squeeze. And: Koskinen visits the Hill.

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy Sascha Kohlmann under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Sascha Kohlmann under Creative Commons license

Accounting Today visitors: click here for the item from the September 17 “In the Blogs.”

When tax-free merger isn’t. Working with family-owned businesses, a common misunderstanding arises: if a deal is tax-free, like an “A” merger or a partnership contribution, there can’t be gift tax, right?  Very wrong, as a New Hampshire couple’s experience in Tax Court shows.

The parents, Mr. and Mrs Cavallero, had a successful S corporation known as Knight Tool Co. Their son Ken set up another business to make liquid dispensing machines, Camelot.  As part of their estate planning, the two companies merged in an income tax-free deal.  From the Tax Court summary:

Ps and their sons merged Knight and Camelot in 1995, and Camelot was the surviving entity. Valuing the two companies in accordance with the advice their professionals had given, Ps accepted a disproportionately low number of shares in the new company and their sons received a disproportionately high number of shares.

It turns out that the estate planners “postulated” a technology transfer earlier in the lives of the companies that would have resulted in most of the value already being in the second generation. One planner explained to a skeptical attorney that “History does not formulate itself, the historian has to give it form without being discouraged by having to squeeze a few embarrassing facts into the suitcase by force.”

The trouble with doing that is that when the latches break, the suitcase spills all over the place. But the planners persisted.  From the Tax Court decision:

As a result of Mr. Hamel’s correspondence campaign, however, the previously separate tracks of advice — one from the accountants at E&Y and Mr. McGillivray, and the other from the attorneys at Hale & Dorr — now came together for the first time. The contradiction was evident to all the professionals: The accountants had assumed no 1987 transfer (and thus believed there was a need for a means to transmit value to the next generation), but the attorneys postulated a 1987 transfer (and subsequent transfers) pursuant to which that value had already been placed in the hands of the next generation. The attorneys eventually prevailed, however, and the accountants acquiesced. Eventually all of the advisers lined up behind Mr. Hamel’s suggestion that a 1987 transfer be memorialized in the affidavits and the confirmatory bill of sale. They provided a draft of the documents, which Mrs. Cavallaro read aloud to Mr. Cavallaro. After they reported a few typographical errors, the attorneys prepared final versions, which Mr. Cavallaro and Ken Cavallaro executed on May 23, 1995.

So in 1995 they executed documents for a 1987 transaction.  What could go wrong? Well, perhaps the IRS could come in and assess $27.7 million in gift taxes, plus fraud penalties.  And they did. The dispute ended up in Tax Court.  The IRS won the main issue — its argument that the valuable technology was not in fact transferred in 1987 — and with that win, predictably also won the battle of appraisers.  The IRS appraiser at trail asserted a $29.6 million gift, which would result in a gift tax of about $14.8 million at 1995 rates. Because of the involvement of the outside experts, the Tax Court declined to uphold penalties.

This shows how important valuation can be even in a “tax-free” deal.  When doing business among family members at different generations in estate planning, you don’t have the conflicting interests that unrelated buyers and sellers have, so you have the possibility of creating a taxable gift if you are careless. It’s natural for family members to believe numbers that help their estate planning, so it’s wise to get an independent appraiser in to provide a reality check.  And if the facts, or values, don’t fit into the suitcase, don’t squeeze; get a bigger suitcase.

Cite: Cavallero, T.C. Memo 2014-189

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Instapundit, IRS COMMISSIONER: Our Story On The IRS Scandal Isn’t Changing. It’s Just, You Know, Evolving Now And Then.  “I’ve taken a dislike to this Koskinen fellow. He seems sleazy even by DC standards.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 497. Mostly coverage of another slippery appearance by Commissioner Koskinen before House investigators.

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: American Opportunity Credit

Kay Bell, Private and often untaxed home rentals under fire

Peter Reilly, Need To Show Rental Effort To Deduct Expenses. “I think the way I would put it is ‘If at first and second and third you don’t succeed, try something different.  Otherwise forget about deducting losses.'”

 

David Brunori, Fairness and the Reality of State Tax Systems (Tax Analysts Blog) “etc. This week WalletHub released a rating of the fairest state and local tax systems… I am not doubting the accuracy of WalletHub’s survey. But the results don’t align with political reality.”

Cara Griffith, Single Sales Factor May Be Inevitable, but Is It Fair? (Tax Analysts):

In the end, if state officials are truly concerned with making their state more attractive to businesses, perhaps they should consider retaining (or returning to) the three factor apportionment method and focus on a less burdensome corporate tax system overall. In the end, if state officials are truly concerned with making their state more attractive to businesses, perhaps they should consider retaining (or returning to) the three factor apportionment method and focus on a less burdensome corporate tax system overall.

No, they are concerned with ribbon cuttings, press releases, and campaign contributions from those seeing tax credits and carveouts.

 

 

20140805-2Renu Zaretsky, A Hail Mary or Two on the Hill.  The TaxVox tax headline roundup covers inflation adjustments and beating up on the NFL with the tax code, among other things.

Alan Cole, Why do I have Four Different Retirement Accounts? (Tax Policy Blog) “Give us one unlimited saving account, tax it properly, like an IRA, and let us use it how we will.”

Russ Fox, Zuckermans Sentenced; No Word on Fido & Lulu “Unfortunately, members of a board of directors must be human: Fido and Lulu don’t qualify.”

Adrienne Gonzalez, Mad Scientist Gets Prison Time for Using His Dog and Cat in a Tax Avoidance Scheme (Going Concern). PETA couldn’t be reached for comment.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/11/14 – Link and run edition.

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120531-2Just links today.

Accounting Today visitors: Go here for the dog/email discussion.

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Commuting Tax Benefits

Peter Reilly, Did Florida County Tax Man For Being Happily Married?

Jason Dinesen, When Does the “1099s to Veterinarians” Rule Start?

Kay Bell, IRS Direct Pay one of many ways to pay estimated taxes.  Remember, third quarter payments are due Monday.

William Perez, Have a Home Office? Here’s How to Deduct It On Your Taxes

 

Cara Griffith, A Win for Transparency (Tax Analysts Blog) ” A Kentucky court has ordered the release of redacted copies of the Department of Revenue’s final letter rulings in a suit Tax Analysts joined seeking release of the documents under the Open Records Act”

Alan Cole, The Estate Tax is a Poor Source for Federal Revenue (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Don’t Count on Much Economic Growth From Individual Tax Reform…Or From Tax Rate Cuts (TaxVox)

 

Russ Fox, Let’s Give Lois Lerner Credit Where Credit Is Due. “It turns out that Ms. Lerner was upset with an unnamed IRS employee who was paid $138,136 a year and was doing ‘nothing.'”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 490

 

The IRS standard.  “Wherever we can, we follow the law.” — IRS Commissioner Koskinen.

Career Corner.  Congratulations, Your Job Has Been Arbritrarily Chosen as One of the Most Underrated of 2014 (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 8/28/14: Frequent flying in the Tax Court. And: you don’t need 50 employees to face Obamacare problems.

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120529-2TaxGrrrl, Tax Court Sides With IRS In Tax Treatment Of Frequent Flyer Miles Issued By Citibank.  TaxGrrrl reports on a case this week where a taxpayer was awarded with “points” for opening a bank account, which could be redeemed for airplane tickets.  A couple who cashed in the points for tickets worth over $600 received a 1099 for them and left it off their 1040.

TaxGrrrl reports:

Thankfully, the Tax Court did draw a distinction between the taxability of “Thank You Points” and frequent flyer miles attributable to business or official travel using Announcement 2002-18 (linked above), wherein the IRS made clear that they would not tax frequent flyer miles attributable to business travel. But that’s where the good news for taxpayers stopped.

TaxGrrrl thinks its a bad result:

In a case of what could be characterized as bad facts making bad law, taxpayers didn’t put up much of an argument for not including the income on the tax return: there was no lengthy brief explaining why it might be excludable. Nor did the IRS say much about the inclusion: they more or less took the position that Citibank’s form was enough to prove income, saying “we give more weight to Citibank’s records.”

The Tax Court made this a “reported” decision, which signals that they will side for the IRS in taxing miles that show up on 1099 information returns.

The tax law certainly allows non-cash transactions to be taxable.  If they didn’t, barter exchanges would rule the world.  It’s also true that at some point trying to tax everything of value doesn’t make sense.  You might value the smile from the cute barista on the skywalk, but that doesn’t mean you should pay tax on the extra value received with your coffee.  The hard part now is knowing when you cross the line.

Cite: Shankar, 143 T.C. 5

 

20121120-2Health Reimbursement Plans a danger under Obamacare.  Health Reimbursement Plans Not Compliant with ACA Could Mean Exorbitant Penalties  (Kristine Tidgren):

As of January 1, 2014, a number of long-time options became illegal under the ACA. Lest employers are tempted to ignore this issue, they should know that offering noncompliant plans subjects them to a possible excise tax of $100 per day per employee per violation. ACA violations are no small matter.

In IRS Notice 2013-54, issued last fall, the Treasury Department and the Department of Labor made clear that such plans are no longer allowed. This prohibition applies to a number of long-used standalone health care reimbursement plans that are not integrated with an ACA-compliant group health care plan. Although some exceptions apply, the ACA has made the following types of reimbursement plans illegal (subjecting their sponsors to the possible $100/day/employee/violation penalty tax):

  • Standalone §105 medical reimbursement plans (including Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs))

  • Employer payment of individual health insurance premiums on a pre-tax basis

  • §125 salary-reduction plans for employee health insurance premiums


If you think that you don’t have to worry about Obamacare because you don’t have 50 employees, think again.


Roger McEowen, Structuring the Business: S Corporation or LLC?.  “But, beyond the requirement to pay reasonable compensation, the S classification provides a means for extracting money out of the business without paying employment taxes – there isn’t any employment tax on distributions (dividends) from the S corporation.”


20130311-1Jason Dinesen, Tax Preparer Ethics: Miscellaneous Deductions:

Is it okay to show the purchase as a miscellaneous deduction if the amount is less than 2% of their income and thus isn’t deductible anyway? That way, the taxpayer sees it on their tax return but technically the government hasn’t been harmed because the amount was too small to actually be deducted. Is this okay?

This can be tempting for a practitioner.  You can “take” a deduction for “subscriptions” that are probably Sports Illustrated and appease a pushy taxpayer without actually reducing taxes.  But Jason makes good points as to why it can make it hard to stop taxpayers from pushing for bogus deductions that actually matter.


Peter Reilly, Bank Out 40 Grand When It Allows Withdrawal Two Hours After IRS Levy.  Oops.

Kay Bell, Be tax smart in combining business and personal travel

Phil Hodgen, Toronto Consulate Wait Times Have Ballooned.  They’re lining up to get out from under U.S. taxation.  Phil offers this advice:

Many of you will want to renounce your U.S. citizenship before year-end. You can go anywhere in the world to do it. Start calling Consulates and Embassies to see what the wait time is.

Our experience is that the Caribbean and Central American countries are often good. Southeast Asia seems to be good as well.

That’s a sad commentary on how we tax Americans abroad.  Congress makes financial life miserable for expats, and then calls them “deserters” for doing something about it.

 

Stephen Olsen, Boeri: Not a citizen, never lived or worked in the US? IRS will still keep your money. (Procedurally Taxing).  Of course they will.  They’re bigger than you.

 

 

Remember, these are the people who think we preparers are out of control and in need of regulation.  IRS Ethics Lawyer Facing Possible Disbarment, Accused of Lying (Washington Times):

A lawyer in the IRS ethics office is facing the possibility of being disbarred, according to records that accuse her of lying to a court-appointed board and hiding what she’d done with money from a settlement that was supposed to go to two medical providers who had treated her client.

Of course, given Commissioner Koskinen’s policy of stonewalling and evasion, she might be just the woman he wants for the job.  (Via TaxProf)

 

 

William McBride, Canada’s Lower Corporate Tax Rate Raises More Tax Revenue (Tax Policy Blog):

The natural question is: How much tax revenue did Canada lose?

Answer: None.

canada corp revenue chart

You shouldn’t assume that the lower rate caused the revenue increases.  Still, when our current rates clearly incentivize tax-saving moves like inversions, you shouldn’t assume rate cuts will be big revenue losers, either.  The revenue-maximizing rate has to be influenced by rates charged in other jurisdictions.

 

Cara Griffith, Is the Dormant Commerce Clause in Jeopardy? (Tax Analysts Blog)  “In matters of state taxation, the dormant commerce clause provides a much stronger defense against discriminatory taxation than the due process clause.”

Kelly Davis, Cumulative Impact of Ohio Tax Changes Revealed (Tax Justice Blog)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 476

 

News from the Profession.  California Board of Accountancy Moves to Stop Incarcerated CPA From Providing Exceptional Client Service in Prison

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/21/14: IRS says saving the company still “passive;” Tax Court says otherwise And: the $105.82 c-note!

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: No Tax Roundup will appear tomorrow, August 22.   I will be up in Ames helping teach the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation class “Affordable Care Act (ACA): What Practitioners Need to Know in the morning.  Webinar registration is closed, but you can still  attend as a walk-in.

 

S imageS imageS-SidewalkYou saved the company.  Big deal.  Apparently pulling the company you started from the brink of failure wasn’t enough to convince the IRS that a taxpayer “materially participated” and could deduct losses on his tax return.

Charles Wade was a founder of Thermoplastic Services, Inc. and Paragon Plastic Sheeting, both S corporations.  After his son Ashley took over daily management of the business, he still owned a significant stake in the company.  He never really retired, though.  From the Tax Court (my emphasis, footnotes omitted in all Tax Court quotes):

With Ashley there to handle day-to-day management, Mr. Wade became more focused on product and customer development. He did not have to live near business operations to perform these duties, so petitioners moved to Navarre, Florida. After the move he continued to make periodic visits to the facilities in Louisiana and regularly spoke on the phone with plant personnel.

In 2008 TSI and Paragon began struggling financially as prices for their products plummeted and revenues declined significantly. Mr. Wade’s involvement in the businesses became crucial during this crisis. To boost employee morale, he made three trips to the companies’ industrial facility in DeQuincy, Louisiana, during which he assured the employees that operations would continue. He also redoubled his research and development efforts to help TSI and Paragon recover from the financial downturn. During this time Mr. Wade invented a new technique for fireproofing polyethylene partitions, and he developed a method for treating plastics that would allow them to destroy common viruses and bacteria on contact. In addition to his research efforts, Mr. Wade ensured the companies’ financial viability by securing a new line of credit. Without Mr. Wade’s involvement in the companies, TSI and Paragon likely would not have survived.

Slacker.  At least according to the IRS, who said that this participation failed to rise to the level of “material participation” and disallowed over $3 million in pass-through losses on Mr. Wade’s return.

The Tax Court took a different view.  Judge Goeke explains :

A taxpayer materially participates in an activity for a given year if, “[b]ased on all of the facts and circumstances * * * the individual participates in the activity on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis during such year.” A taxpayer who participates in the activity for 100 hours or less during the year cannot satisfy this test, and more stringent requirements apply to those who participate in a management or investment capacity.  The record reflects that Mr. Wade spent over 100 hours participating in TSI and Paragon during 2008, and his participation consisted primarily of nonmanagement and noninvestment activities. Ashley managed the day-to-day operations of the companies; Mr. Wade focused more on product development and customer retention.

Although Mr. Wade took a step back when Ashley became involved in the companies’ management, he still played a major role in their 2008 activities. He researched and developed new technology that allowed TSI and Paragon to improve their products. He also secured financing for the companies that allowed them to continue operations, and he visited the industrial facilities throughout the year to meet with employees about their futures. These efforts were continuous,  regular, and substantial during 2008, and we accordingly hold that Mr. Wade materially participated in TSI and Paragon. 

20120801-2It’s notable that the judge did not require Mr. Wade to produce a daily log.  Apparently there was enough testimony and evidence to show that his participation crossed the 100 hour threshold.

The 100 hours might not have been considered enough under some circumstances.  Usually the IRS holds taxpayers to the default 500-hour test for material participation.  This case is unusual in its use of the fall-back 100-hour “facts and circumstances” test. It’s good to see the Tax Court use it, as the IRS seems to think this test never applies.

It’s also interesting that the efforts at “customer retention” were counted.  This could be useful in planning for the 3.8% Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax.  The NIIT taxes “passive” income, defined the same way as the passive loss rules.  A semi-retired S corporation owner who still calls on some of old accounts after turning daily operations over to successors might be able to avoid the NIIT under the logic of this case.  If so, though, it would be wise to keep a calendar to prove it.

Cite: Wade, T.C. Memo. 2014-169

Related:

Russ Fox, A Passive Activity Case Goes to the Taxpayers.  “Hopefully the IRS can get more of these cases right at audit and appeals–they’ll be dealing with many more of these over the coming years.”

Paul Neiffer, More than 100 but Less than 500.  “It is nice to see that a subjective test went in the taxpayer’s favor.”

Material participation basics.

 

How far does $100 go in your city?  Last week the Tax Foundation issued a map showing how far $100 goes in different states.  Now they have issued a new map in The Real Value of $100 in Metropolitan Areas (Tax Policy Bl0g).  It is wonderful — just scroll your cursor over your town.

In Des Moines, $100 is good for $105.82.  In New York, it gets you $81.83.

 

TaxGrrrl, Anna Nicole Smith’s Estate Loses Yet Another Run At The Marshall Fortune

Tony Nitti, Could The IRS Disallow Ice Bucket Challenge Charitable Contributions?  Go ahead, IRS, just try it.  You’re just too popular.

William McBride, Earnings Stripping, Competitiveness, and the Drive to Further Complicate the Corporate Tax (Tax Policy Blog)

Roberton Williams, One Downside Of Inversions: Higher Tax Bills For Stockholders (TaxVox)

Kay Bell, How does the U.S. corporate tax rate compare to other countries?  Poorly.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 469

 

David Brunori, Using Local Cigarette Taxes for Schools Is Silly (Tax Analysts Blog).  Smoke ’em if you got ’em.  For the children!

Cara Griffith, Was Oregon’s Tax Incentive Deal With Intel Unnecessary? (Tax Analysts Blog).  No, it was absolutely necessary to enable the Governor of Oregon to issue this press release and YouTube announcement.  That’s the point, after all.

 

Quotable:

The United States gets little tax from Americans overseas today. Most of them live in high-tax countries and have no U.S. income tax in any event because of FTCs and the section 911 foreign earned income exclusion. But as we all know, Congress couldn’t care less about this subject, and this is all a non-starter. Better to place your money on a genetically modified flying pig.

Robert L. Williams in Tax Analysts ($link)

 

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