Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Bergin’

Tax Roundup, 4/21/14: Clearing the wreckage edition. And: Tax Court penalty abuse.

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140330-2So I took a five-day weekend.  I needed the sleep, and to see something besides the office, my bed, and my commuting route.  So now to clear the debris of the last few weeks from my desk, and my email inbox.

And I come back to see perhaps the dumbest thing ever to come out of the Tax Court.  Janet Novack reports:

“Taxpayers rely on IRS guidance at their own peril,” Judge Joseph W. Nega wrote in an order entered  on April 15th —an order denying a motion that he reconsider his earlier decision to penalize tax lawyer Alvan L. Bobrow for making an IRA rollover move that IRS Publication 590,  Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), says is allowed.

Which is more astounding: he IRS decision to seek penalties against a taxpayer for following IRS guidance, or the Tax Court going along?  A great deal of what we do as professionals, and what taxpayers do, is in reliance on IRS guidance, because often that’s all there is to go on.  If you can get hit with a penalty for following IRS guidance if the IRS changes its mind, we’re all avoiding disaster only as long as the IRS is in a good mood.

This unwittingly goes to the heart of the IRS non-enforcement of the Obamacare employer mandate. The statute provides that the penalty tax on those with 50 or more employees starts this year if they fail to provide specified health insurance.  Nothing in the statute provides otherwise.  The only thing standing between all these employers and massive penalties is IRS guidance — y0u know, the guidance that Judge Nega just said taxpayers rely on “at their own peril.”

The whole Tax Court should reconsider this order.  If they decide that something that stupid really is the law, Congress should reverse with legislation providing that taxpayers relying on written IRS guidance should never be penalized for it.

 

20130419-1Megan McArdle kindly linked to me last week in You Can’t Fight the IRS – specifically, to Tax season tip: when you owe and can’t pay.  She added some thoughtful commentary, including:

 There are basically three types of tax trouble. There is “I was underwithheld at work because my salary changed over the course of the year but didn’t realize it” or “I’m a freelancer or small-business owner, and I forgot to put away enough money for taxes, or I incorrectly estimated what my tax bill would be.” Then there is “I am a small-business owner or otherwise self-employed, and I am on the brink of financial collapse; the money with which I hoped to pay the taxes had to go to keep my creditors (barely) at bay.” And, of course, though I hope this is not you, there is “I have been cheating on my taxes.”

She notes that different troubles require different solutions.

Thanks to her link, and to one from Instapundit to the same post, last week was the busiest around here all year.  My thanks to them, and to everyone who takes the time to link here.  You rock my little world.  If you ever want to link to just a piece of a Tax Roundup, you can do so if it starts in blue bold letters, like the words “Megan McArdle” at the beginning of this segment.

 

While I was too busy to do Tax Roundups at the end of tax season, I missed some excellent Bozo Tax Tips from Russ Fox, including Bozo Tax Tip #1: The Eternal Hobby Loss

 

Greg Mankiw,Transitory Income and the One Percent:

It turns out that 12 percent of the population will find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution for at least one year. What’s more, 39 percent of Americans will spend a year in the top 5 percent of the income distribution, 56 percent will find themselves in the top 10 percent, and a whopping 73 percent will spend a year in the top 20 percent of the income distribution….  

-Quoting a NY Times article by Mark Rank

Occupy… yourselves!

 

Jason Dinesen, Another Tax Season Down — 2014 Tax Season Recap 

Paul Neiffer, Another Tax Season Bites the Dust.  “This year was actually much easier on myself and I think most of my compatriots since we did not have Congress passing a tax bill on the last day of the year to mess up the IRS computers (although the computers have other issues to deal with).”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Reports Tax Filing Numbers As Expected, Issues Statement On Refund Delays 

Robert D. Flach, THAT WAS THE TAX SEASON THAT WAS.  “43 down – 7 to go!”  I hope to stop before 43, myself.  Robert is tougher than I am.

In case you missed it, you can see my April 15 interview with local TV station KCCI here.

 

 

Locust Street, Des Moines

Locust Street, Des Moines

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Tax Planning For Mergers And Acquisitions, Part I.  “…if we spend the time necessary to uncover and understand our clients’ non-tax and tax goals, we will typically find that choosing an ideal transaction structure is largely a process of elimination, and when the dust settles, there will often be only one option that works.”

Peter Reilly, Sawyer Taxi Heirs Midcoast Fortrend Deal – Could Have Been Worse.  It involves a C corporation attempting to have its cake while eating it too, by paying stock-deal tax on an asset sale.

Christopher Bergin, Tax Day – It Just Isn’t Fair (Tax Analysts Blog)  “I suppose the only good news is that in the last several days, there have been dozens of items in the news reporting that the IRS is doing fewer audits.”

Tax Justice Blog, Partners in Crime? New GAO Report Shows that Large Corporate Partnerships Can Operate Without Fear of Audits

Kyle Pomerleau, Why Many People are Wrong about Executive Pay and the Corporate Tax Code.  “A neutral tax code that properly defines business income would place no restriction on how much a business can deduct in compensation.”

Howard Gleckman, If Congress Lets Firms Expense Investments, It Should Take Away Their Interest Deduction.  Fine, if you let them deduct dividends.

 

Going Concern, Utah Man Discovers Liberty Tax Not as Effective as Maury Povich in Determining Paternity.

 

 

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

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

These data indicate that:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Kay Bell, IRS chief Koskinen spars with House Oversight panel

 

Greg Mankiw, Not Class Warfare, Optimal Taxation:

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

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

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

Oligarchists everywhere.

 

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

Cara Griffith, Taxing Streaming Video (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 322

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/14/14: Unhappy with your state revenue exam? Iowans can appeal to the examiner’s boss! And: stealing the wrong identity.

Friday, March 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

How would you feel about going to court and finding out that if you win, the appeal will be heard by your opponent?  That’s pretty much how the Iowa internal tax appeals process works.  And while a reform bill is getting attention in the legislature, that feature isn’t going to change just yet, reports Maria Koklanaris in a State Tax Analysts article

In a letter to legislators, DOR Director Courtney Kay-Decker said the department was able to successfully draft legislation for some of the priorities outlined in the report, including implementing a small claims process and eliminating the State Board of Tax Review for all matters except property tax protests. But she said it could not come up with language this year for what she called her highest priority, which is also the top priority of taxpayers in the eyes of many.
“Most importantly, we were unable to cohesively and comprehensively incorporate the recommendation to remove the Director from the appeals process,” Kay-Decker said in her letter. “This is disappointing as it was perhaps my highest priority.”

The Council on State Taxation gives the current Iowa system failing marks.  From Tax Analysts:

Ferdinand Hogroian, tax and legislative counsel at the Council On State Taxation, said Iowa’s tax appeals process is the only area in which the state earns poor marks in COST’s most recent report on tax administration.  The report specifies the director’s involvement in tax appeals as a major problem.
“Although an Administrative Law Judge of the Department of Inspections and Appeals conducts evidentiary hearings, IA DOR can retain jurisdiction and override,” the report says.

Attorney Bruce Baker, who frequently does battle against the Department of Revenue, points out the obvious problem with the current system: “I’ve often joked that my clients would like to be able to appeal to the chairman of the board.”  But the Department of Revenue will retain that option, at least for now.

While the legislation they are working on (SSB 3203) is an improvement, I still think Iowa needs an independent tax court — perhaps three judges from around the state who will agree to serve as tax judges as part of their caseloads to develop expertise.  It could be modeled on the specialty business litigation court that Iowa is experimenting with.  Now if you leave the current internal Department of Revenue Process — appealable by the Department to the Director of the Department — you litigate before generalists judges who may have never heard a tax case before.  They tend to defer to the Department, even when it seems clear the department is wrong.

 

Paul Neiffer, A Bad Day in Court.  A bookie who tried to hide funds overseas does poorly.

Tony Nitti, Professional Gambler Bets Wrong In Tax Court – Takeout Expenses Are Gambling Losses, Not Business Expenses   

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): G Is For Garnished Wages .  I hope not yours or mine!

Kay Bell, Sorry tax pros, more taxpayers filing on their own.  Taxpayers always have that option, and preparer regulation would drive more taxpayers to do so by increasing the cost of preparers.  Whether that will improve compliance is left as an exercise for the reader.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, It’s Not Just About Lois Lerner (Tax Analysts Blog):

But we need to remind ourselves that there is a lot more potential abuse going on at the IRS than what’s been associated with Lois Lerner. Here are a few examples. I talk to many practitioners who (a) don’t want to be identified, probably for fear of retaliation, and (b) question the independence of the IRS Appeals Office. That is a big problem.

In 2012 a high-ranking IRS executive said in a speech that she believes the government has a higher duty than that of a private litigant. “The government,” the executive said, “represented by the tax administrator, should not pursue a particular outcome and then look for interpretations in the law that support it. The tax administrator should do nothing more or less than find the law and follow it, regardless of outcome. The separation of powers, a bedrock principle of our Constitution, demands it.”

I have a few questions. How many private tax litigators believe that’s actually how the IRS operates? If this noble statement is taken seriously by others in the IRS, why did Tax Analysts have to go to court to get training materials? And why is the IRS being questioned so strongly by Congress on its belief – or, more accurately, the lack thereof – in the bedrock principle of the separation of powers?

The results-driven IRS approach to non-political issues doesn’t lead you to think Lois Lerner was acting with Olympian detachment in the Tea Party scandal.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 309

Len Burman, How the Tax System Could Help the Middle Class (TaxVox)

My most “innovative”—some would say “radical”—policy option would replace across-the-board price indexing, which exists under current law, with indexation that reflects changes in economic inequality.

An awful idea.  The tax code will never “solve” the problem of inequality.  This is a clever-sounding idea that will do nothing but create complexity.

 

Sauce for the gander, indeed.  Identity Thief Sentenced for Filing Tax Returns in the Names of the Attorney General and Others:

A federal judge sentenced Yafait Tadesse to one year and one day in prison for using the identities of over ten individuals, including the Attorney General of the United States, to file false and fraudulent tax returns.

I don’t wish identity theft on anybody, not even a politician.  It can lead to all kinds of expensive and time-consuming inconveniences and embarrassments.  But if it had to happen to someone, why couldn’t it have been Doug Shulman, who let identity theft spin out of control while he pursued his futile and misguided preparer regulation crusade?

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/7/14: Expanded Iowa 10-and-10 capital gain break advances. And: more rave reviews for Camp plan!

Friday, March 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Expansion of Iowa 10-and-10 gain exclusion advances.  The bill to expand the availability of Iowa’s super-long-term capital gain break cleared its first legislative hurdle this week, as a House Ways and Means subcommittee approved H.F. 2129.

Iowa allows an exclusion from state taxable income of certain capital gains when the taxpayer meets both a 10-year material participation test and a ten-year holding period test.  This exclusion is available for liquidating asset sales and the individual tax on corporate liquidations, but is not available if the taxpayer is selling partnership assets or corporation stock to a third party, or for sales of less than “substantially all” of a business.

H.F. 2129 expands the exclusion “to include the sale of all or substantially all of a stock or equity interest in the business, whether the business is held as  a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, joint venture, trust, limited liability company, or other business entity.”

This would be a big change for Iowa entrepreneurs.  Consider how the current law affects a business started by two partners, with one older than the other.  The older partner retires more than ten years and pays full Iowa capital gain tax when he is redeemed out.  A few years later, the younger partner sells the business and retires himself.  The younger guy gets out with no Iowa capital gain tax under current law.  Under H.F. 2129, in contrast the 10-and-10 exemption would be available in both cases.

A “Fiscal Note” prepared by the Legislative Services Agency on the bill provides some statewide numbers:

Using State and federal tax returns of Iowa taxpayers, the Department of Revenue identified 369 tax returns reporting a capital gain for tax year 2012 where the taxpayer had participated in the business for a minimum of 10 years.

The total capital gain identified on those 369 returns that would be eligible under the capital gains exclusion expansion proposed in HF 2129 is $28.0 million.

Is this a good thing?  I think all capital gains should be tax-free, because they represent either a double-tax on the capital invested in them or, worse, a tax on inflation.  Anything that relieves this is arguably a good thing.  Still, it’s a complex carve-out for a limited class of taxpayers, one that creates a lot of errors by taxpayers who take the deduction erroneously or fail to use it when they are eligible; that sort of thing is almost a definition of bad tax policy. The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would provide a much better approach.

 

O. Kay Henderson, Two tax cuts passed in 2013 showing up in February’s state tax report (Radio Iowa).  The increase in the Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit is properly understood as an increase in a welfare program and a poverty trap,  not a tax cut.

 

20140307-1Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Passive Activity/Passive Activity Losses   

William Perez, Need to File a 2010 Tax Return? Deadlines and Resources.  Why 2010?  The statute of limitations for 2010 refunds expires April 15, 2014.

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): C Is For Clothing And Costumes.  Good stuff.    Related: Dress for success, but don’t look to the IRS for any fashion help.

Russ Fox, Your Check Might Not be in the Mail:

I used to live in Orange County, California. Earlier this week a US Postal Service caught fire as it was heading toward an airport after leaving the Santa Ana mail sorting center. So if you mailed something on Monday, March 3rd from ZIP Codes starting with 926, 927, 928, 906, 917 and 918, it might have been burnt to a crisp. All the mail the truck was carrying was destroyed (an estimated 120,000 pieces).

Another argument for electronic filing and payment.

Kay Bell, IRS criminal investigators are putting more tax crooks in jail.  If you are cheating on taxes big-time, you are a lot more likely to get caught than you might think.

 

taxanalystslogoThat means it must be a weekday.  More Arrogance and Secrecy From the IRS  (Christopher Bergin, Tax Analysts Blog):

I don’t know if these apparent political decisions were made by Lerner or others either inside or outside the IRS, because trying to get information out of that agency is like trying to get sweat out of a rock. Over the years, it has fought the silliest things. I’m only half kidding when I say that if you asked the IRS to see the kind of staplers it’s using, it would tell you it doesn’t have staplers.

The IRS will go to great lengths not to be scrutinized. And that breeds an atmosphere of no accountability — which leads to arrogance. We have seen that arrogance consistently throughout the congressional investigations of several IRS officials. And where will it lead us? Not to a good place, especially for those of us getting ready to file our yearly income tax returns. A tax collector that treats its “customers” as guilty until proven innocent is a tax collector out of control. That is precisely what the national taxpayer advocate has been warning about. If IRS officials don’t believe they are accountable to Congress, the rest of us don’t stand a chance.

This is part of an excellent and thoughtful post, written more in sorrow than anger by a long-time observer of the agency; you really should read the whole thing.  I’ll add that all of these seemingly endemic problems in IRS should warn us off the Taxpayer Advocate’s awful idea of giving IRS more control over the tax preparers who help taxpayers deal with the out-of-control agency.

 

Jack Townsend, Fifth Amendment and Immunity in Congressional Hearings.  Good discussion of the law, in spite of his calling the Issa investigations a “witch hunt.”  It’s the job of Congress to oversee federal agencies, especially an agency that has already admitted gross misbehavior here.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 302

 

20130113-3More rave reviews for the Camp “Tax Reform” plan:

William McBride, Camp and Obama Gang up on Savers

Kyle Pomerleau, Are Capital Gains and Dividend Income Tax Rates Really Lower Under the Camp Tax Reform Plan?  “If you take into account all the phase-outs of deductions and benefits in the Camp plan, marginal tax rates on capital gains and dividends are higher than current law at certain income levels.”

Tax Justice Blog, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp Proposes Tax Overhaul that Fails to Raise Revenue, Enhance Fairness, or End Offshore Tax Shelters

 

Roberton Williams, A Web Tool to Calculate ACA Tax Penalties  (TaxVox).  “It is often said the tax is $95, but for many people it will be much more.”

News from the Profession.  Some CPA Exam Candidates Skeptical the Illinois Board of Examiners Can Tell Time (Going Concern)

 

Peter Reilly, Could You Make Tax Protester Theories Work For You?:

If you are willing to entirely discount the quite remote chance of criminal prosecution, it may well be a decent percentage play particularly if you are just about maximizing your current lifestyle rather than accumulating net worth and entirely amoral when it comes to meeting tax obligations…

I still think it is a really terrible idea to enact Hendrickson’s strategy, but that’s just me.

No, it’s not just you, Peter.  And unless your income is generally not subject to third-party reporting like W-2s or 1099s, you will be caught, and then clobbered by back taxes, penalties and interest.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/4/14: Des Moines votes on refunding illegal tax. And: life after football!

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121002-2Des Moines voters decide today whether to approve a legal tax to refund a similar tax imposed illegally.  The Des Moines Register reports:

A special election Tuesday will determine how the city pays back a portion of a franchise fee it illegally collected from 2004 to 2009.

The Iowa Legislature gave Des Moines the authority to temporarily increase its franchise fee — a tax assessed on anyone who connects to electric and natural gas utilities — to pay off the judgment.

However, if voters reject the proposal, city officials will be forced to raise property taxes for at least 20 years in order to issue and pay municipal bonds to cover the court judgment.

When the tax was ruled illegal, the city appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before finally conceding that it would have to issue refunds — incurring enormous legal bills in the process, including a $7 million bill to the winning lawyers on the other side.  From the District Court opinion awarding the fee:

This case has been in our courts since 2004.  To say it was highly contested would be a gross understatement.  The history of this case shows that the City, while it was entitled to do so, erected one barrier after another in an attempt to prevent the class from being successful in obtaining a refund.  Almost without exception, class counsel was successful in dismantling each of those barriers.

It just goes to show that the city will do the right thing, once it has exhausted all appeals.  Maybe next time they won’t be so quick to enact an illegal tax.

The state legislature voted to allow Des Moines to impose the tax legally to repay the illegal tax.  Somehow I doubt the legislature would do a similar favor for taxpayers by letting them, say, legally not pay income tax for a few years to help them repay the taxes they had illegally avoided in prior years.  

 

William Perez, Deducting Work-Related Expenses

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): A is for Affordable Care Act

Leslie Book, EITC Snapshot: Overclaims and Commercial Preparer Usage (Procedurally Taxing).  “In fact, there is a steady decline in the use of paid preparers among EITC claimants, while the rate of paid preparer usage overall has remained fairly steady.”

Another reason why preparer regulation to cut fraud is like pushing on a string.

Jack Townsend, The Scariest Tax Form? Scary Is in the Eye of the Beholder.  I think the article he cites, which chooses Form 5471, makes a good case, considering the almost-automatic $10,000 fine for filing it late.

Kay Bell,  Tax moves to make in March 2014

 

TaxProf, Tax Court Issues 63-Page Opinion Debunking Cracking the Code Book

 

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts Blog is having a tax reform party:

Clint Stretch, 10 Reasons Republicans Should Embrace the Camp Tax Bill.  This is pretty faint praise:  “2. If they want a credible claim that Obama and Democrats are responsible for the failure of tax reform, they must pass a bill in the House.”

Jeremy Scott, Comparing the Camp and Obama Bank Taxes:

Including the bank tax in his plan is one of Camp’s most intriguing decisions, if only because the gain for him isn’t obvious, even after a closer look. The tax doesn’t raise much money. It is very similar to an Obama proposal that congressional Democrats didn’t really like, meaning it doesn’t buy the chair any bipartisan support. And it comes about four years too late to take advantage of widespread public anger at financial institutions. All Camp seems to have accomplished is legitimizing a revenue raiser for future use by the progressive caucus and undermining his own party’s opposition to this kind of tax increase.

Just… brilliant.  I prefer ending the “too big to fail” subsidy directly, if necessary by denying deposit insurance to such institutions.

Martin Sullivan, 25 Interesting Features of Camp’s New Tax Reform Plan.  “Biggest disappointment. Camp and fellow House Republicans all but promised to reduce the top rate to 25 percent. They failed.”

Christopher Bergin, Tax Reform Only a Mother Could Love:

Many political observers think the GOP has a good chance of not only increasing its majority in the House, but also taking the majority in the Senate. I’m among those who believe that the Republicans will shoot themselves in the foot before that happens. I’ll bet there are more than a few Republicans this week who fear that Camp just put a bullet in the chamber.

I think the Camp plan will be quietly forgotten long before November, but there is still plenty of time for the GOP to demonstrate its skills with a Glock 40.

Norton Francis, Camp Tax Reform Would Create New Challenges for States (TaxVox).  The repeal of the deduction for state and local taxes and limits on muni bonds won’t win friends in the state capitals.

 

National Review, via InstapunditThe IRS Is the Problem:

Representative Camp’s thou-shalt-not list is fine so far as it goes, and, unlike the IRS bureaucracy, Congress does have the authority to rewrite the law. But his proposal falls short in that it assumes that the IRS is a proper and desirable regulator of political speech. It is not. It is not even particularly admirable in its execution of its legitimate mission, the collection of revenue: Its employees have committed felonies in releasing the confidential tax information of such political enemies as the National Organization for Marriage and Mitt Romney, and the agency itself has perversely interpreted federal privacy rules as protecting the criminal leakers at the IRS rather than the victims of their crimes. 

Instapundit comments: “Abolish governmental immunity and make them personally liable for damages for misconduct.”  Hard to argue with that; it would be a good addition to my “Sauce For the Gander” reforms.  I still don’t understand why a nonprofit should lose its exempt status for being primarily political.  Isn’t freewheeling debate a good thing?  The IRS certainly hasn’t shown itself a neutral observer here.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 299

 

Scott Drenkard, Johannes Schmidt, Guess Which State Has the Highest Liquor Taxes in the Nation? (Tax Policy Blog).  Think coffee.

 

Preparing for life after football.  Two former members of a Sioux Falls indoor football league team may have to change their post-athletic career plans.  From the Sioux Falls Argus:

A federal grand jury has indicted six people for conspiracy to defraud the United States and aggravated identity theft.

Two of those indicted – Undra Stewart Franks, 27, and Donta Moore, 28 – are former Sioux Falls Storm players.

The new federal indictment says Moore, Franks and the others conspired to defraud victims by using names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth stolen from others to file fraudulent income tax returns that claimed false income tax refunds.

Identity theft isn’t just a Florida thing.  If you deal with Social Security numbers at work, treat them as valuable confidential data — because that’s what they are.  Guard your own identity by never giving out your social security numbers, protecting your bank account info, and being sure never to transmit those things in unencrypted e-mails.  If you need to send documents with that info electronically, use a secure file transfer site, like our rothcpa.filetransfers.net.

 

News from the Profession.  10 People Not Cut Out to Be Partner (Going Concern)

 

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

Friday, February 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Top 1 pays more than bottom 90

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

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 288

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/17/14: Big tax subsidy edition. And: the $70 million doggie treat!

Monday, February 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1Do you think the legislature would approve an $12 million annual subsidy to support the operations of a publicly-traded corporation?  Trick question!  They already have.

The Department of Revenue last week released its listing of claims for the Iowa research credit over $500,000 for 2013.  Unlike the federal credit, the Iowa credit is “refundable” — if the company claiming the credit has less tax due than its credit, the state writes the company a check for the difference.  Of the $58.2 million in credits claimed, about 65% of them exceeded taxes due and were granted as refunds, according to the report.

Two John Deere entities combined to claim over $18 million in credits in 2013; assuming the 65% figure applies to them, that means the got a net $12 million subsidy from Iowa taxpayers.

The Des Moines Register reports:

Twelve of Iowa’s major employers accounted for more than 86 percent of tax credit money awarded for research and development last year, according to a new Revenue Department report.

Companies claimed a total of $53.3 million in credits for research and development in 2013, with 12 companies claiming $46.2 million of that amount. Including individuals who claimed credits, the total rises to $58.2 million.

While recipients of the credits will always argue passionately for their virtues, it’s impossible to justify cash operating subsidies from the state for a dozen well-connected corporations.  The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would benefit all taxpayers, not just those who hire tax credit harvest consultants to get cash for what they would do anyway.

 

Liz Malm, Richard Borean, Lyman Stone, Map, Spirits Excise Tax Rates by State, 2014 (Tax Policy Blog)

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It looks like Iowa hits the sauce pretty hard.

 

Annette Nellen, State income tax filing post-Windsor.

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Enrolled Agent   

Kay Bell, IRS’ first batch of 2014 tax refund checks averages $3,317

 

Russ Fox, Tax on the Run Owners Run to ClubFed:

Here’s a scheme for you: The government has set up this new tax credit worth thousands of dollars. What if we find some impoverished individuals, have them fill out tax returns claiming this credit, and we pocket all that cash? We’ll just phony up some other parts of the return to make it look real. They’ll never catch us!

As an aside, this sort of thing happens with all refundable tax credits. It’s one of the reasons why they attract fraudsters like moths are drawn to bright lights.

Yes, this really happened…except for the part about never being caught.

But even if you catch them, that money is gone.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, To Fix the IRS, You Have to Fund It (Tax Analysts Blog)

This agency is so mismanaged that there may very well be corruption. But I have no proof of that. I do, however, agree with those who are calling for a special prosecutor. Because the way House Democrats are behaving – ignoring that there is any problem at all – is almost scandalous, and what the Obama administration is doing is useless.

And that brings me to the House Republicans. They think it’s a good idea to punish the IRS by cutting its budget. That won’t fix the problem, and it’s the classic cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face move.

We tax practitioners deal with the degrading IRS service levels every day, and it’s clear the IRS should be better funded.  It won’t happen, though, unless the IRS finds a way convince Republican appropriators that it isn’t a political arm of the other party.  Dropping the proposed 501(c)(4) regulations is probably a necessary, though not sufficient, first step.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 284

Tax Justice Blog, Congress Is About to Shower More Tax Breaks on Corporations After Telling the Unemployed to Drop Dead.  Apparently the “extenders” bill is showing some life.

Jack Townsend, Government Files Protective Appeal in Ty Warner Sentencing 

 

Via Wikipedia.

Via Wikipedia.

The $70 million doggie treat.  The greyhound industry is a legacy of the early days of gambling in Iowa, but as opportunities to lose money recreationally have expanded, gamblers have lost interest in the doggies.   Yet state law still requires two casinos to retain their dog tracks.  Now the Des Moines Register reports that the casinos are willing to buy out the dogs for $70 million:

Combined betting on greyhound races in Dubuque and Council Bluffs has dropped from $186 million in 1986 to $5.9 million in 2012, a 97 percent decline. Both dog tracks typically have only a scattering of fans in grandstands that once held thousands of patrons.

The proposed legislation envisions a payment of $10 million annually for seven years for Iowa’s greyhound industry. This would include a total of about $55 million from Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs and about $15 million from the smaller Mystique Casino in Dubuque.

The casinos say they are losing $14 million annually on the dogs.   I would guess that horse racing in Iowa has a similarly hopeless economic model.

Somewhat related: Tyler Cowen, Triply stupid policies.

 

News from the Profession: Just What Every Accountant Wants for Valentine’s, Another Calculator (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/7/14: Love it or leave it edition! And: Coralville tax scam.

Friday, February 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


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Making America a better place to leave.  
2013 Expatriations Increase by 221% (Andrew Mitchel):

We do not believe that the primary reason for the increase in expatriations is for political purposes or for individuals to reduce taxes.  Instead, we believe that there are likely three principal reasons for the recent increases in the number of expatriations:

  1. Increased awareness of the obligation to file U.S. tax returns by U.S. citizens and U.S. tax residents living outside the U.S.;
  2. The ever-increasing burden of complying with U.S. tax laws; and
  3. The fear generated by the potentially bankrupting penalties for failure to file U.S. tax returns when an individual holds substantial non-U.S. assets.

The increase in expatriations may also be partly due to a 2008 change in the expatriation rules.

When a foot-fault can break you, you might not want to play the game anymore.  When they start shooting you for jaywalking, you might not want to be on that street at all.

 

20140106-1It’s never too cold for a tax scam.  From CBS2Iowa.com:

Coralville police say they’re receiving more reports of a telephone tax scam. CBS 2 News first told you about the scam last month. The IRS says the scam targets taxpayers, especially recent immigrants. A caller claims to be an IRS agent and says the victim owes money. The victim is told to repay the money using a preloaded debit card or a wire transfer. If the victim refuses, the caller threatens to arrest or deport them or suspend his or her drivers license. The scammer uses a fake name and fake IRS badge number. The caller has found a way to make caller IDs show the number as the IRS toll-free line. To appear more legitimate, the scammer may also send a fake email or recite part of the victim’s social security number. After threatening the victim, the caller may hang up. A second scammer may later call the victim, pretending to be from the local police department or DMV.

It sounds like the scam described in this IRS web page.  If they haven’t sent you a letter first, the IRS isn’t going to call you.  Nor will they contact you via e-mail.  The IRS gives this advice:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov.  Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Paying taxes you actually owe is enough fun without sending extra to scammers.

 

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Fiduciary Income Tax Blog, 65-Day Rule — 2014:

Fiduciaries of estates and complex trusts have the option to treat certain distributions as having occurred last year. An election can be made with respect to distributions made within 65 days after the end of a tax year. The 65th day of 2014 is Thursday, March 6.

Think of it as a trust mulligan.  With the 3.8% Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax applying at around $12,000 of trust income, many trusts will want to use the 65-day rule to get the income to beneficiaries whose income is under the thresholds.

 

William Perez, Understanding Personal Exemptions

Jason Dinesen, Financing a Small Business: 4 Items to Remember.  “Don’t spend money just to get tax deductions.”

Kay Bell, Federal itemized deduction claims state-by-state

TaxGrrrl, Looking For Your Tax Refund? What You Need To Know So Far For 2014 

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Christopher Bergin, New IRS Commissioner Wants to Move Forward – We Should Let Him (Tax Analysts Blog):

Koskinen needs the time and space to do what everybody agrees must be done: Fix the IRS. The investigations must continue. But the new commissioner needs to move forward as well. That means not avoiding the problems, but going at them in a positive, not in a negative way. That’s what good leaders do. We should give the man a chance to show us he is one.

He could hardly be worse than the last one.

Howard Gleckman, Individual Income Taxes May Soon Generate Half of All Federal Tax Revenue (TaxVox)

CBO explains much of the rise in individual income taxes by expected increases in real incomes produced by a recovering economy, including higher wages, salaries, capital gains, and income to owners of pass-through firms, who report their taxes on their individual returns. CBO also expects a significant increase in distributions from retirement accounts for at least the next few years, driven in part by higher asset values.

Two other reasons: Higher tax rates for upper-income households (including the surtax in the Affordable Care Act) and the phenomenon known as real bracket creep. Tax brackets are adjusted for inflation but not economic growth. For at least the next few years, CBO figures incomes will grow faster than those inflation-adjusted brackets.

Oddly, these projections assume the expiring provisions actually expire.  Not likely.

Joseph Henchman, Response to Jesse Myerson’s Land Tax Idea (Tax Policy Blog).  Nice effort, but I’m not sure you need to respond to somebody who says Communism gets a bad rap.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 274

Jack Townsend, Another Swiss Bank Enabler Indicted in SDNY

J. Richard Harvey, Jr., Surprising Statistics on Corporate Disclosures of Uncertain Tax Positions (UTP) (Procedurally Taxing):

 

The Critical Question: Does the NFL Need a Billion Dollar Subsidy Annually from Taxpayers? (Tax Justice Blog)

Career Corner.  Protip to Government Accountants: If You’re Into Kiddie Porn, You Probably Shouldn’t Watch It At Work (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/3/14: The Fable of the Wife’s Purse and your legislature. And: start with the right name!

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1Why do state legislators enact such dumb laws?  After speaking to a group of State Senate Presidents, David Brunori has some thoughts ($link, unfortunately) on why they persist in enacting special incentive breaks for their special friends:

I said that tax incentives are largely unnecessary because business location decisions are mainly determined by labor costs and access to markets (Boeing proved that to some extent). But several senators quickly asked about industries such as filmmaking or high-tech, in which labor costs and market access aren’t nearly as important: Taxes would matter more, yes? I had to fall back on the “government still shouldn’t be picking winners and losers” argument, which I think is a powerful one. But it doesn’t resonate well with those who pick winners and losers all the time — in all aspects of public policy.

My response would be giving tax breaks to one business or industry means screwing all of your other constituents to pay for it.  It’s like taking your wife’s purse to the bar to buy drinks for the girls — yes, there are winners, but somebody loses too, and even the winners don’t respect you.

I like this “destroy the village to save it” argument:

 One senator asked whether widespread use of tax incentives would eventually make the corporate tax so irrelevant that its repeal would be easy. Again, indignantly, I explained all that is wrong with incentives. The senator said he agreed and was merely pointing out that the widespread use of incentives was a sure way to eliminate the corporate tax.

If that were true, I think we’d have seen at least one corporate tax collapse under the weight of its loopholes.  If any state corporation tax were ripe for collapse, it would be Iowa’s.  It has the highest rate in the nation, but its loopholes and credits make it pretty much useless, raising less than 5% of Iowa’s tax revenue.  Yet it still is going strong.

The best explanation for our bad tax policies are found in the “Public Choice” analysis of public policy pioneered by Gordon Tullock and James Buchanan.  They say that public officials, like everyone else, respond to incentives.  The incentives for legislators and their executive-branch enablers are to give money to well-connected constituents who will reward them with campaign cash.  They understand and appreciate the largesse, and the taxpayers whose pockets are being picked don’t notice the little larcenies that make the largesse possible.

Or, in my Fable of the Wife’s Purse, the girls at the bar know who’s buying, but the wife doesn’t, so the incentives are all in favor of the bar girls.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, The State of Our Union: My, My, My (Tax Analysts Blog):

The only thing new about the myRA is that it’s being done by executive fiat, which makes it lamer still. That leads me to a question: Shouldn’t we have the Treasury Department working on reforming our tax code instead of running around placing fig leaves over tough truths, such as the fact that many of us don’t save enough for retirement? A suggested starting point: Treasury should study why the myriad provisions already in the tax code that are designed to provide incentives to save for retirement aren’t working.

Oh, I’m sure the next tax code change will work so much better than all of them so far.

 

20111040logoWilliam Perez, Getting Your Name Right on the Tax Return:

If a person changed their name last year, now is a good time to check their Social Security card. The name shown on a person’s Social Security card is the name the IRS expects to see on the tax return. If a person’s name has changed, the person will first need to update their name with Social Security before using their new name on their tax return.

This problem comes up every year.  If you get married, or divorced, and you change your name, you need to file under the name that Social Security has if you e-file.  Even if you paper-file, using the “wrong” name can delay your refund.

 

Jason Dinesen,Life After DOMA: Gift Tax

Russ Fox, Tax “Professionals” Behaving Badly.  Russ recaps tax pros gone off the rails.

Annette Nellen passes on Tax mistakes to avoid – WSJ article.  I wonder if the WSJ will follow up with “Tax mistakes to seek.”

Kay Bell, Married couples filing joint returns share all tax liability, too.

 

Scott Drenkard, Indiana House and Senate Pass Business Personal Property Tax Reform.  “Taxes on business personal property are more distortive than other means of collecting revenue.”

Ben Harris, Variation in EITC Take-up, County by County:

The regional variation in the EITC is stark. The counties with the highest share of taxpayers taking up the EITC are overwhelming located in the Southeast. As can be seen in the accompanying map, a large share of counties in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi have over half of their taxpayers claiming the EITC. With few exceptions, almost all counties with high rates of EITC take-up are located in the South.

Half?  Wow.

 

nfl logo

TaxGrrrl, Ads Score Big At Super Bowl And At Tax Time, Too   

Peter Reilly, Flap About NFL Tax Exemption Seems Silly.  Not as silly as Denver’s first play from scrimmage yesterday.

Tony Nitti, Super Bowl Tax Tale Of The Tape: Who Ya’ Got?  “When the party winds down late Sunday night, we’re greeted with the reality that we’re mere hours away from starting another hellacious ‘busy season’ work week, this one with a bit of a hangover.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 270

Jack Townsend, Administration Insists that FATCA Will Not Be Further Delayed.  We must make personal finance a huge hassle for Americans abroad as quickly as possible.

 

On Friday Going Concern wished you a Happy First Day of the Tax Filing Season!

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/10/2014: Taxpayer advocate rips IRS penalties and foreign account enforcement. Also: the Code still stinks!

Friday, January 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

The Taxpayer Advocate’s Annual Report directs some well-deserved fire on two of the worst IRS practices: the penalty-happy approach to examinations and the shoot-the-jaywalkers approach to offshore enforcement.

The report says this about penalties:

The IRS’s decision not to abate inapplicable penalties illustrates its resource-driven approach to them. As we have described in prior reports, the IRS too often proposes accuracy-related penalties automatically when they might potentially apply — before performing a careful analysis of the relevant facts and circumstances — and then burdens taxpayers by requiring them to prove the penalties do not apply.

The IRS should identify and abate all of the accuracy-related penalties that should not apply. It should minimize taxpayer burden when administering the IRC § 6676 penalty (e.g., by not proposing it automatically) and work with the Treasury Department to support a reasonable cause exception.

Amen.  The tax law is hard, and when a taxpayer does what a reasonable person — not a reasonable tax lawyer — should do to pay the right amount, there shouldn’t be an automatic 20% mistake penalty.  Too bad the advocate doesn’t seem to have embraced my “sauce for the gander” penalty, which would make the IRS pay taxpayers the same 20% penalty when the IRS makes an unjustified assessment.

Regarding foreign account enforcement, the report faults the IRS shoot-the-jaywalker approach (my emphasis):

In the 2009 OVD program, the median offshore penalty paid by those with the smallest accounts ($87,145 or less) was nearly six times the tax on their unreported income. Among unrepresented taxpayers with small accounts it was nearly eight times the unpaid tax. The penalty was also disproportionately greater than the amount paid by those with the largest accounts (more than $4.2 million) who paid a median of about three times their unreported tax. When the IRS audited taxpayers who opted out (or were removed), on average, it assessed smaller, but still severe, penalties of nearly 70 percent of the unpaid tax and interest. Given the harsh treatment the IRS applied to benign actors, others have made quiet disclosures by correcting old returns or by complying in future years without subjecting themselves to the lengthy and seemingly-unfair OVD process. Still others have not addressed FBAR compliance problems, and the IRS has not done enough to help them comply.

20121129-1Shooting the jaywalkers so you can slap the bad actors on the wrist.

The IRS should expand the self-correction and settlement options available to benign actors so that they are not pressured to opt out or pay more than they should; do more to educate persons with foreign accounts (e.g., recent immigrants) about the reporting requirements; consolidate and simplify guidance; and reduce duplicative reporting requirements.

The IRS should follow the lead of the states that allow non-resident taxpayers who voluntarily disclose past non-compliance to file and pay five years of prior taxes, with only interest and no penalties — reserving the penalties for those who wait until they are caught.  Tax Analysts quotes one lawyer as saying this would be unfair to the already-wounded jaywalkers:

“It’s very hard to make the program more lenient now without going back and adjusting thousands of [prior] taxpayers’ resolutions since 2009,” he said. That is something the IRS is likely unwilling to do, he added.

Too bad.  That’s exactly what they should do.

 There’s a lot more to the report, including a call for a new taxpayers bill of rights (good) and a renewed call for IRS preparer regulation (a waste of IRS and preparer time).

Related: 

Lynnley  Browning, IRS top cop says the agency is too hard on offshore tax dodgers.  I can’t imagine she wrote that headline.  Any lazy headline writers who call an inadvertent FBAR violator a “tax dodger” should have half their bank account balances seized if they ever forget to report a 1099.

TaxGrrrl, Report To Congress: IRS Is Increasingly Unable To Meet Taxpayer Needs

Jack Townsend,New Taxpayer Advocate Report to Congress Addressing, Inter Alia, OVDI/P Concerns

 

TaxProf, IRS Releases FY2013 2006 Enforcement Stats:

The IRS has released Fiscal Year 2013 Enforcement and Service Results, showing among other things:

  • Individual audit rate:  0.96% (lowest since 2005)

  • Large corporation audit rate: 15.8% (lowest since 2009)

  • Revenue from audits:  $9.8 billion (lowest since 2003)

  • Number of IRS agents:  19,531 (lowest since pre-2000)

  • Conviction rate:  93.1% (highest since pre-2000)

It’s hard to see where the IRS has the resources for making compliant preparers waste their time on preparer regulation busywork.

 

William Perez, Fourth Estimated Tax Payment for 2013 Due on January 15

Paul Neiffer, How Low is Too Low For A Rental Arrangement?  “We had a reader ask the following question: ‘Does leasing cropland to a family member for substantially less than fair market value become “gifting” subject to taxes for value above gifting limit?’”

Jason Dinesen,  Review Your Small Business Operations as Part of Year-End/Year-Beginning Planning

Leslie Book, NTA Annual Report Released (Procedurally Taxing)

 

 

Christopher Bergin, The Tax Code in 2014 – It Still Stinks (Tax Analysts Blog):

I’ve always believed in progressive income taxation. This isn’t it. The conservatives have sold us on the notion that tax is a dirty word, and the liberals have sold us on the notion that class envy is a healthy state of mind.

And that, folks, is why the tax code stinks. And it won’t get any better in the new year.   

There’s more to the stink than that, but it’s a good start.

 

Scott Hodge, Millionaire Taxpayers Tend to be Older.  Well, that’s one good thing about aging, I guess.

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Howard Gleckman, Pay to Extend Unemployment Benefits? Why Not Pay to Extend Temporary Tax Breaks Too?  (TaxVox)

Tax Justice Blog,  Reasons Why Congress Should Allow the Deduction for Tuition to Remain Expired

Kay Bell, Marijuana sales, tax collections good for Colorado coffers.

 

The Newest Cavalcade of Risk is up!  Hank Stern participates with an Overseas ObamaTax Conundrum

 

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

Career Corner: This Year, Resolve to Finally Decide What You Want To Be When You Grow Up in Public Accounting (Going Concern)

 

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

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

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

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

Bloomberg Business explains the new restrictions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

Politicians and their friends don’t like company.

 

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

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

Bureaucrats and their friends don’t like company either.

 

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

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

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

 

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

Paul Neiffer,  Tax Filing Begins January 31, 2014

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

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

Kay Bell,  Homeownership tax breaks to take in December

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 224

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/13/13: Government by Connections edition. And how not to butter up your tax evasion judge.

Friday, December 13th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20121220-120120906-1A Des Moines Register report on the introduction of the new ownership of the Iowa Speedway in Newton tells us how things work in Iowa:

No one needed super sleuth Sherlock Holmes to figure out one of the first priorities of NASCAR as the new owners of Iowa Speedway introduced themselves Thursday during a press conference.

Three Iowa legislators were parked front and center in a reserved seating area. Multiple times during the news conference, officials thanked Sen. Bill Dotzler and Representatives Dan Kelley and Rob Taylor.

When the event sprinted toward its own finish line, only the trio with desks at the statehouse were publicly asked to jump on stage for a photo with new track president Jimmy Small.

So why do our humble public servants get to hang with big NASCAR celebrities?   Because the ownership group that bought the speedway doesn’t qualify for the special corporate welfare that the legislature enacted just for the speedway a few years ago, and they want it re-enacted:

The law, as it stands, requires Iowa-based ownership. So the spigot that delivers that sales tax benefit, which Dotzler estimates at about $4 million to date, is being shut off as NASCAR grabs the steering wheel.

Dotzler promised to reintroduce the measure when the legislative session roars to life on Jan. 13, adding that he would support extending it beyond the original end date of 2016.

Government by special favor.  And who benefits?  NASCAR is a private company owned by a very wealthy family — one that evidently knows how to play the connections game.    Meanwhile the guy running the pizza joint, the real estate office, the implement dealership, he gets a horribly complicated Iowa tax system with high rates to pay for lots of loopholes for other people.  He gets automatic penalties for every honest mistake made in attempting to comply with this byzantine system.  But hey, NASCAR!

The legislature is just too darn busy to find a way to enact a simple tax system with low rates and low compliance costs for everybody.  But they have plenty of time to go to a press conference to sell a special tax break for a single wealthy out-of-state family.  Priorities.

 

William Perez has been cranking out lots of good stuff lately, including today’s Donating an IRA as a Year-End Tax Strategy.

Margaret Van Houten,  Do your Digital Assets have Value? Are they Important? (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  Don’t leave the heirs without the password to your Bitcoin vault.

 

20130419-1Christopher Bergin, Walk the Talk: The IRS Needs a Chief Who Supports Transparency (Tax Analysts Bl0g).  And by that, he means for the IRS, not just for us.

Tax Justice Blog,  New CTJ Report: Congress Should Offset the Cost of the “Tax Extenders,” or Not Enact Them At All.  I like the second alternative best.

Janet Novack,  Congressional Work Undone: Lapse Of Tax Credits Will Hit Job Creators 

Roberton Williams, Where Are Tax Rates Headed? (TaxVox)

 

If you like your kludge, you can keep it.  Obamacare’s Never-Ending Fix-a-Thon (Megan McArdle)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 218.  “IRS Targeting: Round Two; The First Time Around, Targeting Conservatives Was a Secret. Now, Not So Much

Jack Townsend, Judge Rakoff, the Wegelin judge, Is Interviewed on the U.S. Initiative Against Swiss Banks

Phil HodgenRenunciation trends in Auckland “I received an email yesterday from a contact in New Zealand. Renunciations in the Auckland Consulate are apparently way, way up compared to last year.”

Stephen Olsen, Preparer Knappe(s) on the job: Delinquency Penalties, Advisors, and Reasonable Cause (Part 2 — I Finally Get to my point on Thouron). (Procedurally Taxing)

Get your friday Buzz! from Robert D. Flach!

 

ShockerGAO: IRS Lacks Adequate Internal Controls (TaxProf).  Maybe the $5 billion in annual refund fraud tipped them off.

Woo-hoo!  Tax and other fun at deductible office holiday parties (Kay Bell)

News from the Profession.  Aren’t You GLAD For This McGLADrey Holiday Card? (Going Concern)


OtterThe Otter legal strategy.  A tax protester in Texas decided that his already slim chances in federal court would be helped by a really stupid and futile gesture.  It went as you might expect, reports Courthouse News Service:

It took a federal jury just one hour of deliberation to convict a Texas man of hiring a hit man to try to murder the federal judge presiding over his tax-evasion case.

Phillip Monroe Ballard, 72, of Fort Worth, was convicted Wednesday of attempted murder-for-hire, after a two-day trial. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

It’s not the first time a tax protester has tried to improve his case by going after the judge.  If it worked, though, that would have been a first.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 210

 

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

TaxGrrrl, Will Congress Drive Up Gas Taxes In 2014?   

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/22/13: Baucus proposes end of depreciation as we know it; also targets LIFO, cash-method farming.

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Max Baucus

Max Baucus

Baucus aims at LIFO, depreciation.  Senator Max Baucus has issued a tax reform proposal that slows depreciation and eliminates LIFO.  While it is a long way from becoming law — and certainly won’t become law in its current form — it will help shape the next round of tax reform.  Some key points:

-Depreciation for non-real estate assets would be computed not asset by assets, but in “pools,” with a set percentage of the amount of assets in each pool deducted during the year.  If the pool goes negative with dispositions, income is recognized.  There would be four “pools” with varying recovery percentages.

- Buildings would be depreciated under current rules, but over 43 years.

- The annual Section 179 limit would be $1 million, but with a phaseout starting at $2 million of assets placed in service.

- Research expenses would be capitalized and amortized over five years.

- LIFO would be repealed.

- Advertising costs would only be half deductible currently with the rest amortized over 5 years.

- Farmers would lose their exemption from accrual-basis accounting.

I think this goes the wrong way, adding complexity and lengthening lives.  I would prefer more immediate expensing.  LIFO repeal, and maybe the farm rule,  are the only proposals that seem to actually simplify anything.  The rest seem like high-toned revenue grabs.  If the revenue all goes to reduce rates, that wouldn’t be so bad, but I doubt that’s the idea.

 

Victor Fleischer, Tax Proposal for an Economy No Longer Rooted in Manufacturing:

The Baucus proposal aims to make the tax system match economic reality, removing the tax distortions from the equation. It would group tangible assets into just four different pools, with a fixed percentage of cost recovery applied to the tax basis of each pool each year, ranging from 38 percent for short-lived assets to 5 percent for certain long-lived assets.

It would be hard to make the case for giving the priority to tangible assets, and yet that is precisely what current law does by allowing rapid depreciation. At a minimum, the tax depreciation system should strive for neutrality and not discourage investment in intangibles and human capital.

That’s true.  Yet it’s hard to see how the Baucus proposal to require R&D costs to be amortized over five years, or the proposal to require 20-year amortization of intangibles instead of the current 15 years, encourages investments in intangibles and human capital.

Via Lynnley Browning’s Twitter feed.

The TaxProf has a roundup of the plan:  Senate Finance Committee Releases Depreciation and Accounting Tax Reform Plan 

William Perez, Draft Tax Reform Proposals from the Senate Finance Committee

Paul Neiffer, MAJOR Farm Tax Law Changes Proposed by Senate

Leslie Book, Senator Baucus Releases Proposals to Reform Administration of Tax Laws (Procedurally Taxing.

 

St. Louis loses another preparer.  From a Department of Justice Press Release:

A federal district judge in St. Louis has permanently barred defendants Joseph Burns, Joseph Thomas and International Tax Service Inc. from preparing federal tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today…

According to the complaint, the defendants repeatedly fabricated expenses and deductions on customers’ returns and falsely claimed head of household status for customers who were married in order to illegally understate their customers’ federal tax liabilities and to obtain fraudulent tax refunds. The complaint also alleged that the defendants falsely claimed that some of their customers earned income from businesses that the defendants fabricated or increased the amount of business income their customers earned in order to illegally claim the maximum earned income tax credit on customers’ returns.

The IRS has certainly given their clients’ returns a good going over.  That’s the risk of going with a preparer whose results are too good to be true.

 

Scott Hodge, Andrew Lundeen, America Has Become a Nation of Dual-Income Working Couples (Tax Policy Blog)

20131122-1

Though its a brave man who tells the stay-at-home she’s not “working” after a day spent between taking care of an elderly parent and little kids.

 

Jason Dinesen,  Life After DOMA: What if You Amend One Year But Not the Next?

TaxGrrrl, When Mom and Dad Move In: The ‘Granny-Flat Tax Exemption’ For the Sandwich Generation 

Jana Luttenegger, Electronic Signatures, What’s Next? (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  E-filing of wills?

Phil Hodgen, U.S. brokerage accounts after you expatriate

Russ Fox, It’s All Greek to Me. Don’t gamble in Greece, seems to be the point.

 

20121120-2Kay Bell, Ways & Means’ tax plays in GOP anti-Obamacare game plan

Howard Gleckman,  How Washington May Turn June Into Fiscal February (TaxVox).  Yes they’ll be running out of our money again soon.

Christopher Bergin, The End of the Era of Multinationals (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, Scott Walker’s Tax Record Will Be on the Wisconsin Ballot Next Year.  Shockingly, TJB doesn’t like Walker.

Tony Nitti, International Tax Reform For Dummies 

Visit Robert D. Flach for fresh Friday Buzz!

 

News from the Profession: New Audit Associate Looking For Prank Ideas, Possibly a New Job in Near Future (Going Concern)

Oh, one more thing: Magnus!

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Tax Roundup, 11/15/2013: Trains, Zeppelins and Fertilizer edition.

Friday, November 15th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

20121226-1What, no zeppelin port?   A candidate for Iowa governor proposes a gas tax increase for, well, a bunch of stuff, reports QCTimes.com:

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful state Sen. Jack Hatch is proposing to phase in a 10-cent gas tax increase to pay for overdue road and bridge improvements, build passenger rail links, construct flood protection, reduce the backlog of school construction projects and expand broadband service in rural Iowa.

The increase would amount to less than $50 a year for most Iowans, he said.

Infrastructure, in all of its forms, is one of the most basic parts of state and local government, Hatch said Thursday in announcing his Building a Better Iowa infrastructure plan.

The idea of a continuing “infrastructure crisis” is a standard political assertion, even though it isn’t true.   If it were, though, you’d stop the list of crisis projects after “bridge and road improvements.”   The idea that blowing millions to construct an unneeded and money-losing passenger rail system is an infrastructure priority is laughable.  Local school districts can finance improvements whenever their voters think they’re worth a bond issue.  And rural broadband, supplied by the government?  Because satellites don’t cover rural Iowa?

 

20120906-1

Using your wife’s money to buy drinks for your new girlfriends.  Sen. Hatch wants to run against Governor Branstad next November, who has some economic issues of his own.  These are spotlighted by the Governor’s selection as “Politician of the Year” by Site Selection Magazine.

Based on its website, Site Selection Magazine seems to be the trade journal of the little industry of fixers and middlemen who harvest taxpayer money for clients choosing to relocate or expand. Governor Branstad was “honored” for giving over $80 million of tax credits to the Orascom fertilizer plant in Southeast Iowa to build a plant they were probably going to put there anyway.  The credits add up to around $500,000 per “permanent” job.

These sorts of giveaways are great for the companies that can play the system to milk the fisc, but they aren’t so great for the rest of us who pay for them.  They are the government equivalent of the guy who takes his wife’s bar to the bar to buy drinks for the girls.  He may think he’s doing great things, but it’s neither impressive to the girls nor helpful to the wife.

Somebody out there is saying, “but what about the jobs?”  Even if you assume that the spending is responsible for the jobs — a stretch — that money wasn’t just conjured up.  It comes from the rest of us, who would have used it to create jobs through spending or investing.  If you think the state can wisely allocate investment capital, I have a nice film credit program to discuss with you.  You shouldn’t talk about the jobs you attract by giving away money without talking about the jobs that you lost.

 

Arnold Kling, It’s Implementation, Stupid:

The problems with implementation are under-rated and always have been. The Obama Administration has spent 3 years bulldozing the individual market in health insurance. Now, they expect the health insurance companies to rebuild it in 30 days.

This will not end well.  But while I expect enormous changes in the ACA law, given its evident failure, I don’t expect repeal of the new 3.8% net investment income tax or .9% additional medicare tax to happen.  Clearing the wreckage will be expensive.

Des Moines Register,  136 Iowans buy private health plans through online marketplace.  Not looking good.

Why not just kill me now?  Why Not Use Tax Preparers as a Portal to Health Exchanges?  (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox)

 

TaxProf, Number of Taxpayers Who Renounced U.S. Citizenship Skyrockets to All-Time Record High.  This doesn’t strike me as a good thing.

 

Kay Bell,  EITC claim issues prompt IRS letters, visits to tax pros.  If you prepare a lot of EITC claims, your documentation needs to be meticulous.

Jack Townsend, IRS Indian Initiative for Persons Outside OVDP; Also on Quiet Disclosures

Linda Beale, IRS will issue summonses for offshore bank account info

William Perez,  How Much Government Do People Get Compared to How Much Taxes They Pay?

 

TaxGrrrl, Braves New World? Taxpayer Funding Remains A Concern As Atlanta Rushes Towards New Stadium.  If I were an Atlanta taxpayer, I’d be concerned.

Tony Nitti, Did The Sale Of Stan Musial’s Memorabilia Give Rise To A Hefty Tax Bill?   

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Don’t Forget the Facts If You Want to Raise Taxes on the Rich (Tax Policy Blog)

20131030-2

Christopher Bergin, The IRS: A Greek Tragedy (Tax Analysts Blog)  “I mostly also agree with Olson that much of the impairment at the IRS is caused by Congress continuing to force the agency to do more with less.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 190

Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz!

News from the Profession:  Perhaps Comparing the CPA Exam to Actual War Isn’t The Best Idea (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/7/2013: Cold comfort on 3.8% Investment Income Tax guidance. And how big a penalty for not buying unavailable insurance?

Thursday, November 7th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2Well, that’s reassuring.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that David Kirk, an IRS official involved in drafting the final rules on the 3.8% Obamacare “Net Investment Income Tax” that took effect January 1, says the rules are still “in flux” with filing season only two months away:

     As for additional NII tax guidance, Kirk said the final regs will contain “overflow valves, breakers” that will allow the IRS to issue subregulatory guidance to address problems that arise, given that opening a new regulatory project “is a very painful and long process.”

“We’re just going to have to roll this out. We’re going to see how these rules work . . . and there’s always fine-tuning,” Kirk said. 

They’ve had over three years to do this, and now “we’re going to see how these rules work”?  Sounds like another recent Obamacare roll-out.  It makes me really excited about the upcoming filing season.

 

Roberton Williams,  How Big is the Penalty if You Don’t Get Health Insurance? (TaxVox)

The basic penalty is $95 in 2014—if you’re unmarried with no dependents and your income is less than $19,500. If your income is higher, you’ll owe more: 1 percent of the amount by which your income exceeds the sum of a single person’s personal exemption and standard deduction in the federal income tax. That’s $10,000 in 2013. But be warned: Income equals adjusted gross income (AGI—that number on the last line on page 1 of your tax return) plus any tax-exempt interest and excluded income earned abroad. If you make $30,000, your penalty will be $200.

Still with me? Good, because it is about to get more confusing.

If you like the penalty you have, you can keep the penalty you have.  Until next year, anyway.

 

Christopher BerginACA + IRS = Perfect Storm (Tax Analysts Blog)

And what lies ahead? The perfect storm: The IRS and the ACA brought together by a hapless Congress that tasked the nation’s tax collector with administering portions of our new healthcare system.

I can see a day coming when a taxpayer gets a letter from her insurance provider canceling her healthcare coverage and then a letter from the IRS informing her that she owes additional taxes under the ACA. Apparently our government thinks that two nightmare bureaucracies must be better for us than one.

You think this is about “us,” friend?

 

200px-Isleys-mrbiggs-eternal.jpg

Ron Isley is a lot better at music than he is at taxes.  He has served time on federal tax charges, and yesterday he lost a Tax Court bid to get his back taxes reduced under an “offer of compromise” he agreed to, but which the IRS rejected before it became final.  The ruling turns on a lot of technicalities involving the rules for accepting compromises in criminal tax cases.

The Tax Court decision wasn’t a total loss, in that they are allowing Mr. Isley to argue against tax levies and to pursue a compromise of his 2009 and 2010 taxes.

Cite: Isley, 141 TC No. 11.

Prior coverage here.

 

Jason Dinesen,  Life After DOMA: Watch Your Withholding 

Annette Nellen, Many tax questions on same-sex federal tax filings

William Perez, The Additional Medicare Tax, Part 4

Tony Nitti,  On Eve Of Twitter IPO, Misguided Senators (Again) Attack Tax Deduction For Stock Option Compensation  Exercising stock options convert corporation income taxed at 35% to individual income taxed at 40.5%, plus payroll taxes.  And yet the congresscritters act like this is some kind of loophole.

 

Russ Fox congratulates The Real Winners of the 2013 World Series of Poker.  It’s not the guys with the cards in their hands.

Now there’s a business plan!  BlackBerry Pins Recovery Hopes On Rumored $1 Billion In Tax Refunds  (TaxGrrrl)

 

potleafpotleafpotleaf20090722-2.jpgWouldn’t you? Colorado Voters Reject $1 Billion Income Tax Increase (Elizabeth Malm, Tax Policy Blog).

But other taxes…  Coloradans agree to a high tax to get high (Kay Bell)

Tax Justice Blog,  Tax Policy Roundup for the 2013 Election

 

 

 

Phil Hodgen’s Exit Tax Book, Chapter 8 – Taxation of Nongrantor Trust Interests

 

The Critical Question.  Is There One ‘Right’ Apportionment Formula? (Cara Griffith, Tax Analysts Blog): 

It could almost be a case in which one state adopted it on the grounds that it would create jobs and increase investment in the state. Then other states followed suit, not because single-sales-factor apportionment produced more accurate results, but because it was perceived as making a state’s tax laws more competitive or business friendly. But while single-sales-factor apportionment may benefit some businesses, it is far from being universally beneficial for taxpayers. 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.

Iowa was the first state to adopt single-factor apportionment.  It applies to the highest tax rate in the nation, helping make Iowa’s corporation tax both onerous and useless.  A repeal of the corporation income tax would be the best way of making the corporation tax “less burdensome.”

 

Because they may one day make money?  Why Twitter May Have to Pay Income Taxes One Day (Victor Fleisher, via The TaxProf)

 

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

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

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

20131031-2

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/25/13: No production deduction for direct-mailer. And: the brain-damage excuse.

Friday, October 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


199
Direct mail operator fails to qualify for “Domestic Production Activity Deduction.”  
One of the sillier parts of the tax law is the 9% deduction for nothing given to “producers” of manufactured, constructed, raised or mined property.  If all you do is manufacture, you get 9% off the top of your taxable income under Section 199.

In a modern interconnected economy, distinguishing between “manufacturing” and other activities is silly.  The law is made more silly because it has special interest provisions allowing some architects and engineers to take the deduction.  Sure you need them for a construction project, but just try getting a building up without lawyers and accountants, too.

The law’s unwise distinction between “production” activities and other activities encourages taxpayers to try to qualify, and forces the courts to try to draw distinctions.  That happened yesterday when the Tax Court looked at a direct mail operator’s Section 199 deduction.  From the Tax Court opinion:

 During 2005, 2006, and 2007, ADVO distributed direct mail advertising in the United States. Direct mail advertisers such as ADVO distribute advertising material through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to residential recipients, who are the targeted potential customers for the products and services sold by ADVO’s clients, the advertisers. The advertising material can be either “solo direct mail” or “cooperative direct mail”. For solo direct mail, the printed advertising material of a single advertiser is delivered in a stand-alone envelope or as a postcard to a residential recipient. For cooperative direct mail, also known as a shared mail package, the printed advertising material for several different advertisers is consolidated into a single delivery mechanism (such as an envelope or sleeve) and delivered as a single unit to residential recipients.

The court had to go through an elaborate analysis of whether ADVO was a “manufacturer.”  Judge Wherry concluded:

After careful review of all of the aforementioned factors in the light of the specific facts and circumstances of this case, we find that ADVO did not have the benefits and burdens of ownership while the advertising material was printed.

This implies ADVO was a “contract manufacturer,” and that its customers might have qualified.  It also implies that if ADVO had structured its paperwork differently, it might have won.  If this deduction is repealed in return for lower rates for everyone, we’ll all win.

Cite: ADVO, Inc. and Subsidiaries, 141 T.C. No. 9

Related: TREASURY ISSUES ‘PRODUCTION DEDUCTION’ PROPOSED REGULATIONS and LINK TO SECTION 199 POWERPOINT SLIDES

 

Iowa announces business property credit applications open.  From a Department of Revenue Press Release:

Applications for credit against 2013 property tax assessments must be received by the county or city assessor by January 15, 2014.  The actual amount of credit each property unit will receive depends in part upon the total value of all property units and the average consolidated rates in each unit.  The credit calculation is designed to spend ninety-eight percent of the amount appropriated by the Legislature to the Business Property Tax Credit Fund.  For the first year of the credit $50 million was appropriated to the Fund.  The Legislative Services Agency has estimated that the maximum first year credit amount will be approximately $523.

It applies to “certain commercial, industrial, and railroad properties.  More information here.

 

Careful fiscal stewardship.  A judge awarded $7 million in attorney fees for the legal team that forced Des Moines to refund $40 million in illegally-collected taxes.  The city fought the refund to the supreme court, so they incurred hefty legal fees on top of those they are paying for the plaintiffs.   Well done, Des Moines!  It could have been worse, as the attorneys requested twice the amount — and some attorneys in the story linked above think they may get it on appeal.

It will be interesting to see whether this is an issue in next month’s city elections.

 

Andrew Lundeen,  Income Taxes Account for the Largest Share of Federal Revenue (Tax Policy Blog):

20131025-1

 

Paul Neiffer, 180 Months Means 180 Months!:

In Estate of Helen Trombetta vs. Commissioner, the Tax Court essentially ruled creating a grantor trust with retained interests having a term of 180 months, you better make sure you live for at least 181 months if you want to save on estate taxes.

Hang in there, in other words.

 

Jason Dinesen, Insolvency and Canceled Debt: Make Sure You Can Prove It!  You really have to be tapped out to exclude debt-cancellation income from taxes.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 169

Christopher Bergin, Loving You Is Easy (Is It?) (Tax Analysts Blog).  He unwisely thinks IRS regulation of tax preparers will do more good than harm.

Oh, boy.  New Comprehensive Tax Reform Plan from Citizens for Tax Justice (Tax Justice Blog)

Jana Luttenegger, Estate Planning Awareness Week, Oct 20-26 (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, Obamacare to blame for the 2014 tax filing season delay?

Jack Townsend, Switzerland as Club Fed for Swiss Enablers of U.S. Tax Crimes  Given the alternatives, confinement to Switzerland isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

 

Quotable.  David Henderson:

By preventing insurance companies from pricing for pre-existing conditions, Obama has almost destroyed the market for individual insurance. He has taken one of the few parts of the health care that worked pretty well–the market for individual insurance–and badly wounded it. Unless this part of ObamaCare is repealed, we will still have a mess on our hands.    

Sadly, that magical thinking provision will be the hardest to undo.

 

Catch your Friday Buzz from Robert D. Flach!

 

TaxGrrrl,  Vatican Suspends ‘Bishop Of Bling’ Over $40 Million Home Renovation.  How?  “In Germany, churches are largely funded by taxes – there is no direct prohibition between mixing Church and State as there is in the United States.”

 

News from the Profession: McGladrey Tax Associate Opts for Pedantry in His Farewell Email (Going Concern)

 

20131025-2My brain made me do it.  Former football star says brain injury spurred tax evasion.  WFTV.com reports:

That former football star, Freddie Mitchell, hoped an Orlando federal judge would show him mercy Tuesday.

Mitchell, a retired Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, was convicted in an elaborate tax fraud scheme in which he cheated the government out of millions of dollars.

AccountingWeb.com reports that Mr. Mitchell pleaded guilty to help recruit an NBA player for whom a co-conspirator claimed false refunds, which Mr. Mitchell claimed a share.  He allegedly claimed over $2 million in other false refunds through an LLC.

So the brain was damaged enough to commit crime, but not so much that it kept him from a drawn-out plan to defraud people and to use an LLC to do it.  It’s funny how nobody ever blames brain injuries for, say, giving their life savings to charity.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/11/13: Why filing on time matters. And: nope, still closed.

Friday, October 11th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130311-1It’s the last weekend of 1040 season!  Some folks think that happened six months ago, but many of us know that extension season is when you are up against it.  Extended 1040s are due on Tuesday, and anything filed after that is late.  Only people out of the country on a long-term basis might have any more time.

So what’s at stake?  Is it really such a big deal to file your 1040 late?  Especially if you have a refund?

Yes.

First, let’s take a look at the penalties for late filing: five percent of any tax owed, up to 25% of the balance due, and interest on the unpaid balances.

But there are other drawbacks.  You never start the statute of limitations if you don’t file.  That means the IRS has pretty much forever to look at the year you haven’t filed for.

It doesn’t work that way if you have refunds coming.  From IRS Publication 17:

Time for filing a claim for refund. Generally, you must file your claim for a credit or refund within 3 years after the date you filed your original return or within 2 years after the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. Returns filed before the due date (without regard to extensions) are considered filed on the due date (even if the due date was a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday). These time periods are suspended while you are financially disabled, discussed later.

If the last day for claiming a credit or refund is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, you can file the claim on the next business day.

If you do not file a claim within this period, you may not be entitled to a credit or a refund.

So if you don’t file, its two years and out for getting that withholding back.  Each year stands on its own.  If you didn’t file for, say, 2007-2009, and you only owed tax in 2009, you still owe it, but you get no benefit for the 2008 and 2007 refunds you didn’t claim.

So file on time.  If you are missing information, file with what you have and amend later if necessary.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Not filing can quickly become a habit, and it’s often a very expensive one.

Related: Penalties on Late 2012 Tax Payments (William Perez)

 

William McBride,  The Long Goodbye to U.S. Corporations (tax Policy Blog):

If not moving abroad, many U.S. businesses have been moving to the individual tax code, where they are taxed once on profits that are passed-through to owners, rather than twice through the corporate tax and shareholder taxes. The end result is there are now fewer corporations than at any time since the 1970s. The chart below shows standard C corporations peaked in 1986 at 2.6 million, and declined to 1.8 million as of 2008, according to the IRS. Preliminary IRS data indicates the number of C corporations dropped further to 1.6 million as of 2010. The trend shows no sign of slowing down.

20131011-1

 

This has two important implications for tax policy:

1.  Increasing the individual rate means increasing the tax load on business, as more taxes are run through 1040s.

2. While corporate tax reform is important, it misses a lot.

 

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Christopher Bergin, The IRS Is Shut Down – And We Will All Pay (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, Paul Ryan’s Latest Idea: Enact the Spending Cuts Proposed by Obama, Ignore His Revenue Proposals.  I’m good with that.

Janet Novack,  As IRS Shutdown Drags On, Some Taxpayers Face Big Problems:

The IRS has said that once the shutdown was “fully complete” it stopped its computers from automatically generating new liens and levies on taxpayers’ property and that it is now seizing taxpayers’ property in only rare cases. But that’s no help to the taxpayers who had their funds frozen immediately before the shutdown or who were hit by notices that had already been printed and were mailed after the shutdown. 

The government needs to use its money to chase people out of public parks, rather than to free your frozen funds.

 

OK, now I’m feeling the crisis.   No new specialty beers during government shutdown (Kay Bell)

 

Peter Reilly,  Are CVS Stores Actually Good 1031 Targets ?   

Detroit is back! Judge Hands Down Very Nearly The Longest Sentence Ever To Public Official For Corruption And Tax Fraud   (TaxGrrrl)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 155.  This edition features reports that the IRS exchanged confidential taxpayer information with the White House.  Anybody who doesn’t think this is a real scandal should share somebody’s confidential tax information sometime with your favorite Republican official and see what happens.

Jack Townsend, Article on DOJ’s Swiss Bank Initiative.

Leslie Book, Supreme Court: Woods Oral Argument This Week.  “As many tax procedure buffs know, the case presents an opportunity for the Court to decide whether the 40% gross valuation misstatement penalty applies in a variety of tax shelter transactions when partnerships have sought to concede the underlying liability on grounds that do not directly relate to valuation misstatements, such as the at-risk rules or the economic substance doctrine.”

Jim Maule,  Tax Review Board Strips City’s Lap Dance Tax Attempt.

Robert D. Flach brings your Friday Buzz!

 

The Critical Question:  Should We Eliminate the Extraordinary Measures(Donald Marron):

You’ve probably heard that Treasury will hit the debt limit on October 17 and soon thereafter it won’t be able to pay all of America’s bills. That second part is true: Congress needs to act soon—preferably before the 17th—so Treasury doesn’t miss any payments. But the first part isn’t: Treasury actually hit the debt limit way back on May 19.

So how did Treasury keep paying our bills? Extraordinary measures.

Interesting.  It’s fiscal sleight of hand of the sort that would get you or me jailed.

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Tax Roundup, 10/3/2013: Three-day shutdown retroactively responsible for 8-month ID theft refund delay! And… standards!

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Never mind the last eight months, it’s the last three days that are the problem.  KCRG.com reports:  Government Shutdown Holding Up Tax Refund for Local Family:

A Cedar Rapids woman and her family have been waiting for a $3,250 tax refund for 8 months now, and with late bills piling up, she doesn’t know how much longer she can hold out.

The problem is that during a government shutdown, there’s no way for her to contact the Internal Revenue Service to find out where her check is.
The troubles began for Autumn Alicea when she filed for her tax return back in February. A while later, she discovered someone in Florida had stolen her identity. Alicea said it took the IRS several weeks to investigate and verify that she was the real Autumn Alicea. “So they said it would take about 8 weeks to process my return now that they knew the one from Iowa was indeed the valid return, and the one from Florida was not.”

So the shut down for the last three days is responsible for the late refund?  Not likely.  It can take a lot longer than eight weeks for the IRS to get a stolen refund back in the right hands in the best of times.  It took 121 weeks to for Jason Dinesen’s widowed ID theft client to get hers.

It’s fascinating what the government considers “essential.”  Paying people to keep 90-year old veterans away from an unstaffed open-air memorial and to barricade private businesses is “essential,” but getting money it fairly owes to honest taxpayers after carelessly mailing it to two-bit grifters, well, that’s strictly optional.

 

More shutdown coverage:

William Gale, It’s Groundhog Day Over the Debt Ceiling

Christopher Bergin, ‘Your Voice at the IRS’ Silenced (Tax Analysts Blog).  Like I said, interesting priorities.

Kay Bell,  ‘Essential’ Representatives, Senators get paid during shutdown.  If they paid truly essential politicians, the federal payroll would go to about zero.

 

 

20131003-1Casey Mulligan, How ObamaCare Wrecks the Work Ethic (Wall Street Journal)

The chart nearby shows an index of marginal tax rates for non-elderly household heads and spouses with median earnings potential. The index, a population-weighted average over various ages, occupations, employment decisions (full-time, part-time, multiple jobs, etc.) and family sizes, reflects the extra taxes paid and government benefits forgone as a consequence of working.

Like many other “anti-poverty” programs, it fights poverty by punishing efforts to escape poverty.

(Via Greg Mankiw)

David Brunori, State Taxes and the Poor (Tax Analysts Blog): “As importantly, ITEP highlights the problems with states reducing their earned income tax credits”  I think the high implied marginal tax rate of EITC phaseouts on taxpayers trying to escape poverty is underappreciated.

 

TaxProf, IRS Waives Individual Mandate for Americans Living Abroad.  Finally a portion of the tax law where Americans abroad actually get better treatment than the rest of us.

 

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

It’s official.  Beanie Babies Creator Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion (Wall Street Journal).  The article cites Tax Crimes Blog proprietor Jack Townsend: 

An analysis done earlier this year found U.S. courts have been more lenient in cases tied to the government crackdown on secret offshore accounts. The average sentence in criminal offshore cases has been about half as long as in tax shelter schemes, according to a comparison of Internal Revenue Service statistics and data compiled by Houston attorney Jack Townsend, who publishes the Federal Tax Crimes blog. In many cases, judges are also opting for shorter sentences than recommended under federal guidelines.

He will have to pay $53.6 million in FBAR penalties under the plea agreement.

 

Related: Jack Townsend, Ty Warner, Beanie Babies Creator, Pleads Guilty

Slightly related:  Green card received in 2006? Give it up in 2013 (Phil Hodgen)

 

Me, Creativity fails to protect custom homebuilder from capitalizing costs.  Section 263A snags custom homebuilder.

Andrew Lundeen, Blank Slate Tax Reform Could Damage Economic Growth (Tax Policy Blog)

Why partisan tax law enforcement is always a scandal.   Vietnam dissident Le Quoc Quan jailed over tax evasion (BBC).  I think “dissident” is key to understanding the “jailed” part.

Tax Justice Blog,  State News Quick Hits: Andrew Cuomo Loves Tax Cuts, So Does ADM, and More

Cara Griffith, Floating on a State Tax Revenue Bubble (Tax Analysts Blog):

According to a report by Lucy Dadayan and Donald Boyd of the Rockefeller Institute, the record income tax receipts are a “temporary ‘bubble.’” 

Related: Iowa tax revenue up 4.1 percent past three months (Des Moines Register)

 

 

Robert D. Flach,  STANDARDS? DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH:

I had to laugh at the H+R official referring to “the same standards as we do”.  I am not aware of any evidence of such standards.  In fact the evidence is to the contrary.

They have high standards of placing their people in high places in the IRS, at least.

 

Speaking of high standards:

Cop used his job to commit identity theft, feds say. (sun-sentinel.com)

Ex-W. Pa. deputy faces fed tax evasion sentence (AP)

 

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