Posts Tagged ‘David Brunori’

Tax Roundup, 10/22/14: Remembering tax reform.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

19861022President Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986 28 years ago today. In hindsight, the tax law that resulted seems like a beacon of simplicity, with its 28% top rates and its lack of a capital gain differential.

Looking hard at the 1986 Act, we can see some warning signs. It enacted a temporary research credit, setting the stage for the semi-annual parade of expiring provisions. It included the current alternative minimum tax, which adds huge complexity to individual compliance. It had some benefits that phased out based on income, such as passive losses for active renters and for some IRA contributors. But at the time those could be seen as flaws to be fixed. Instead, they were weeds that would be cultivated.

I count 47 “major” post-tax reform tax laws in the Tax Policy Center list. Every one of them has done its part to undo tax reform. Most of them are represented on my souvenir bookshelf, which has tax law summaries going back to 1984. The left half of the top shelf takes us from 1984 through the 1986 reforms. The rest of it is tax reform’s undoing.

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While each law did its little damage to the tax law, I look at President Bush’s signing of the 1990 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act as the moment when things really began to unravel. OBRA increased in the top rate to 31%, uncoupled the capital gain rate from the ordinary income rate, and enacted the foul phaseouts of itemized deductions and the standard deduction that dishonestly increased the top effective rate over the top stated rate.

Three Presidents and dozens of bills later, we have individual rates over 40%, considering phaseouts and the Obamacare surtaxes. We have dozens of regularly expiring provisions that require lobbyists to pay homage to the taxwriters every year or two. We have unprecedented complexity that forces even smart taxpayers with simple financial lives to pay to get their returns done. And we have land mines all over the tax law, including foreign reporting provisions that can impose $10,000 penalties on taxpayers who have paid all of their taxes.

It’s all a depressing story. Still, 1986 did happen. Top rates came down from 50% to 28%. The base was broadened and rates reduced. It happened once, so maybe it can happen again.

 

The internet ate my first shot at this post, so just a very quick roundup today.

 

20141003-2Tony Nitti, IRS Sheds Light On The Use Of The Recurring Item Exception

 

Mitch Maahs, IRS Revises Offshore Voluntary Compliance Programs (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, NY tax scammers copying fake IRS tax call template

Peter Reilly, IRS Collection Action Can Be Delayed For A Long Time

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 531

David Brunori, Tax Ballot Predictions (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tracy Gordon, Bertha and the French Professor: Lessons for Public Private Partnerships (TaxVox)

Richard Borean, Tax Foundation Awards for Outstanding Achievement in State Tax Reform in 2014 (Tax Policy Blog). No Iowans — no surprise.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/20/14: Extension season is over. Now what? And: do your part for Boeing!

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

We are now in the sweet spot of the tax year. We are done with extended 1040s, and it’s too early to get most people to do year-end tax planning. That’s why this is the continuing education season for most of us.

The Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools begin next week. I will be speaking on the Day 1 program for all schools, starting October 28 in Waterloo, Iowa. Tour stops also include Maquoketa, Sheldon, Red Oak, Ottumwa, Mason City, Denison and Ames. Who said public accounting lacks glamour?

Now to get those slides prepared…

 

Government is just a word for things we do together. Like subsidizing big corporations. Using information from Good Jobs First, Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Institute provides a chart of the biggest known recipients of state subsidies:

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Meanwhile, everyone else pays a little higher tax rate to grease Boeing’s landing gear. I believe that the damage caused to the taxpayers who don’t get these subsidies makes losers out of the states that win tax incentive bidding wars.

 

20140805-3Kay Bell, 2014 tax planning starts with your tax bracket

Annette Nellen, Premium Tax Credit Problems, “This is a big deal because the PTC serves to help make health insurance affordable to individuals with income between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line.”

TaxGrrrl, Apple Seeds Perk Wars, Adds Egg Freezing As Employee Benefit.  Is that a tax-free benefit? It makes me wonder about their work-life balance.

Peter Reilly, UnFair: Exposing The IRS – Does Not Make Strong Case Or Decent Documentary. Peter watched the movie so you don’t have to.

Tax Trials, Tax Court Preserves Taxpayer Protections against Arbitrary and Capricious Appeals Rulings

Russ Fox, Copying Steven Martinez’s Idea Is Not a Good Choice. If you think you need to murder nine witnesses to stay out of jail, you probably won’t stay out of jail.

 

 

The Tax Prof reports that Linda Beale will resume tax blogging after going off the air as a result of the death of her husband. My condolences to Linda and her family.

Jim Maule, Putting the Brakes on Tax Breaks. “Never do indirectly through taxes what can and should be done directly.”

 

Andrew Lundeen, Most Common Jobs by Income Bracket (Tax Policy Blog). The professions do well.

Richard Auxier, Ahead of the Midterms, State Economic Trends Present Mixed Signals (TaxVox). “A September Pew Research poll found that while Americans’ assessment of job opportunities had improved, 56 percent reported their family’s income was falling behind the cost of living.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 529

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Quotable. Tax Analysts David Brunori  on a proposed film credit for the music industry in New York ($link):

Like their film equivalents, tax breaks for musicians are bad tax policy. Even if music producers were swayed by taxes, those breaks would be bad policy. Why musicians? Why not cab drivers? Orthodontists? Flamenco dancers? New York lawmakers, many of whom wanted to be Billy Joel growing up, will probably say yes to this terrible idea.

While I have a rooting interest in the music industry, the tax credit idea is awful.

 

News from the Profession. Let’s Watch This Audit Senior Quit His Job in the Most Fabulous Way (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/15/14: Extended return do or die day – tips on timely filing, and why you should do that.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130415-1Friends, it’s deadline day. Extended 1040s are due today for U.S. residents. No second extension is available.

What happens if you don’t file?  Nothing good.  A few of the bad things that can happen:

- If you owe money, you can turn a 1/2% per-month late payment penalty into a 5% per month late-filing penalty.

- If you have an election to make that can only be made on a timely-filed return — for example, an election to defer insurance gains, or to carry forward net operating losses – you lose the chance to make that election forever.

- If your return would include a foreign disclosure, such as a Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets;  a Form 5471, disclosing an interest in a foreign corporation; or a Form 3520 if you have a foreign trust or a gift from a foreign personlate filing can trigger a $10,000 penalty.

- You don’t start the statute of limitations, so the IRS can come after you indefinitely for the tax year.

- Not filing can cause you to lose refunds. If you don’t file, you lose your ability to get a refund of withheld taxes after two years.

Failure to file is habit forming, and it’s a costly habit. Even if you owe and can’t pay, you still should file; you have options when you owe and can’t pay.

e-file logoWith so much on the line, it’s worth a little effort to make sure your last minute return is treated as timely-filed.  E-filing is the best way to ensure timely filing. There’s no worry about lost mail, and you get quick confirmation from the IRS.

If you must paper file, either out of conviction or because you are filing a form that can only be filed on paper, you should send it Certified mail, return receipt requestedGet down to your friendly post office and get the postmark hand stamped. And get there early; they often aren’t so friendly, or willing to hand-stamp your certified mail postmark, if you show up at closing time. And sometimes they consider that to be approximately “after lunch.”

If you can’t make it to the post office before closingall is not lost. You can go to a FedEx store or a UPS store and use a designated private delivery serviceBe sure to use one of the specified services. For example, “UPS Next Day Air” qualifies, but “UPS Ground” does not.  Get a shipping receipt with today’s date. And remember to use the street address for the IRS service center, as private services can’t deliver to the post-office box addresses.

 

Kay Bell, Tax Day 2014, the sequel: Oct. 15 Filing Extension Panic

Jason Dinesen, My Response to the IRS Saying I Can’t Speak On My Own Behalf

Peter Reilly, UnFair – One Night Stand Tonight – Exposing IRS Or Fair Tax Infomercial?

 

Keith Fogg, Picking the Wrong Collection Due Process Notice to Petition (Procedurally Taxing)

TaxGrrrl, Ireland Declares ‘Double Irish’ Tax Scheme Dead

 

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William McBride, U.S. Companies Continue to Flee Uncompetitive U.S. Tax System (Tax Policy Blog)

Matt Gardner, The Inversion Parade Continues: Steris Announces Pretend Move to Britain (Tax Justice Blog)

Howard Gleckman, The Small, Happy World of Supersized IRAs (TaxVox)

Joseph Thorndike, Forget Privacy — It’s Time to Tax Miles, Not Gas (Tax Analysts blog).  How do I put this politely? No, it’s not.

 

David Brunori, Schooling the Governors (Tax Analysts Blog) “Back when my libertarianism was still in the closet, I wrote critically of the Cato report card. I now regret my harsh critiques of the project because I believe Cato does the nation a great service by analyzing, assessing, and rating state executives.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 524

The new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Chatswood ConsultingThe ancient and venerable roundup of insurance and risk management posts has many highlights, including Hank Stern on Ebola and your health coverage.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/8/14: Koskinen warns of another hellish filing season. And: FATCA “tormenting” offshore taxpayers.

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The Younkers Building ruins, morning, March 29, 2014.

The Younkers Building ruins, morning, March 29, 2014.

Here we go again. We know from bitter experience that Congress might cause tax season delays by passing an election-year “extenders” bill at the last minute. IRS Commissioner Koskinen gave official warning yesterday in a letter to the head of the Senate Finance Committee:

This uncertainty, if it persists into December or later, could force the IRS to postpone the opening of the 2015 filing season and delay the processing of tax refunds for millions of taxpayers. Moreover, if Congress enacts any policy changes to the existing extenders or adds new provisions, the IRS would have to reprogram systems and make processing changes, which would result in longer delays. If Congress waits until 2015 and then enacts retroactive tax law changes affecting 2014, the operational and compliance challenges would be even more severe — likely resulting in service disruptions, millions of taxpayers needing to file amended returns, and substantially delayed refunds.

It was just such retroactive changes that made the 2013 filing season so awful. Add the first go round for Obamacare penalty computations on tax returns, and we can look forward to an even more wonderful tax season in 2015.

I predict that we will get a last-minute passage of the Lazarus provisions that keep dying and being resurrected, sometime in December. Of course, it could drag into January again. I expect pretty much all of the expiring provisions, including bonus depreciation, to be included. But I never rule out Congress dropping the ball entirely.

Other coverage: Richard Rubin, IRS Warns of Tax-Filing Season Delays If Congress Stalls 

Joint Committee on Taxation, list of expiring provisions 2013-2024 (pdf).

 

20140815-2Taxpayer Advocate: FATCA “Tormenting” TaxpayersTaxpayer Advocate Nina Olson doesn’t seem to be a fan of FATCA. She spoke to the Financial Markets Association yesterday, and it sounds like she foresees bad things ($link, my emphasis.):

“This is a piece of legislation that is so big and so far-reaching, and [has] so many different moving pieces, and is rolling out in an incremental fashion . . . that you really won’t be able to know what its consequences are, intended or otherwise,” Olson said. “I don’t think we’ll know that for years. And by that point we’ll actually be a little too late to go, ‘Oops, my bad, we shouldn’t have done this,’ and then try to unwind it.”

Wait, this was passed by our duly elected representatives. What could possibly go wrong?

Olson also questioned the penalty regime underlying FATCA. The law provides for a $10,000 penalty for failing to disclose a foreign bank account, and up to $50,000 for failing to disclose after IRS notification, she said. For someone with a $51,000 unreported foreign bank account, that could be a $60,000 penalty.

IRS policy states that penalties should be objectively proportioned to the offense, Olson said. “Putting a $60,000 penalty on someone for failing to report a $51,000 account does not seem to me like a penalty that is proportioned objectively to the offense,” she said.

Olson observed that a similar disproportionality emerged in recent IRS offshore voluntary disclosure initiatives, when the highest proportionate fines fell on the smallest accounts. In 2009 the median unreported balance for the smallest accounts was $44,000, she said. The lowest-balance account holders paid an FBAR penalty almost six times the actual tax due, she said. Yet the top 10 percent, with a median unreported balance of $7 million, paid a penalty roughly half the amount of tax owed, she said.

This is actually in keeping with the longstanding IRS policy of shooting jaywalkers while slapping the real international tax evaders on the wrist.

How could our legislative supergeniuses have come up with such an insane and unfair system? Look at the name of the legislation — “FATCA.” For fat cats, get it? They passed it claiming to be going after fat cats, but drafted it in a way that beats up on everybody working or living abroad attempting to commit personal finance. But because they “intended” to go after fat cats, they absolve themselves of guilt for the collateral damage, the financial devastation of the innocent and unwary, the retirements ruined. And they smear the rare politician who points out the insanity of FATCA with accusations of being soft on tax evasion.

 

canada flagThere was some rare good news on the offshore tax compliance front yesterday when the IRS made it easier to get favored tax treatment on Canadian retirement accounts:  IRS Simplifies Procedures for Favorable Tax Treatment on Canadian Retirement Plans and Annual Reporting Requirements:

The change relates to a longstanding provision in the U.S.-Canada tax treaty that enables U.S. citizens and resident aliens to defer tax on income accruing in their RRSP or RRIF until it is distributed. Otherwise, U.S. tax is due each year on this income, even if it is not distributed.

In the past, however, taxpayers generally would get tax deferral by attaching Form 8891 to their return and choosing this tax treaty benefit, something many eligible taxpayers failed to do. Before today’s change, a primary way to correct this omission and retroactively obtain the treaty benefit was to request a private letter ruling from the IRS, a costly and often time-consuming process.

Many taxpayers also failed to comply with another requirement; namely that they file Form 8891 each year reporting details about each RRSP and RRIF, including contributions made, income earned and distributions made. This requirement applied regardless of whether they chose the special tax treatment. The IRS is eliminating Form 8891, and taxpayers are no longer required to file this form for any year, past or present.

But in case you think the risk of fiscal catastrophe related to Canadian accounts is past, the IRS warns:

The revenue procedure does not modify any other U.S. reporting requirements that may apply under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and section 6038D. See FinCEN Form 114 due by June 30 of each year, and Form 8938 attached to a U.S. income tax return for more information about the reporting requirements under the BSA and section 6038D.

In other words, you can still be assessed a penalty of 50% of the account balance for not filing an FBAR report on the accounts, or a $10,000 penalty for not disclosing a balance on Form 8938 foreign financial asset form. But if you get ruined by these penalties, consider it a sacrifice on the altar of “an improved set of global rules,” you fat cat.

Russ Fox has more: IRS Simplifies Reporting for RRSPs and RRIFs.

 

20141008-1William Perez, Missed the Tax Deadline? Here’s what penalties might apply

Donnie Johnson, Liz Malm, What Does Yesterday’s Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Appeal Denial Mean for Same-Sex Couple Tax Filers? (Tax Policy Blog). Maybe taxpayers in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin could learn from Jason Dinesen’s work here in Iowa.

Kay Bell, Gambling pays out a $38 billion bonus to tax collectors.

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: IRA

KCCI, Pharmacist’s trial has been moved to next year. The owner of Bauder’s Pharmacy, facing tax and other charges arising out of alleged illegal sales of painkillers, is now set to go on trial in February.

 

Howard Gleckman, How Asset Building Tax Subsidies Miss Their Targets (TaxVox):

Nearly one-third of all federal tax expenditures–$384 billion in 2013 alone– is aimed at various forms of asset building, such as retirement savings, higher education, and home ownership. Yet, according to research by several of my Tax Policy Center and Urban Institute colleagues, these tax breaks do little to help low-and middle-income households build wealth.

Gee, you might conclude that maybe not every problem is a tax problem.

 

Two more TaxGrrrl Guest Posts: The IRS’s Uncharitable Treatment Of Charitable Contributions (Andrew VanSingel) and Roadways And Taxes (Charles Horn III).

David Brunori, Last Stand for Soda Taxes — Hopefully (Tax Analysts Blog). “If they can’t get folks in uber-liberal San Francisco and Berkeley to vote for soda taxes, they should just hang up their hats.”

Sebastian Johnson rounds up some more Tax Proposals on the Ballot this Election Season at Tax Justice Blog.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 517

Jeremy Scott, Will the EU Commission Crack Down on Irish Tax Deals? (Tax Analysts Blog).

 

News from the Profession. Some Big 4 Alumni Just Can’t Quit Their Old Firms. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). No problem for me.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/2/14: The IRS helps fulfill a vow of poverty. And: ACA – good in theory?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

tack shelterWe should all face such poverty. A Mississippi orthopedic surgeon has been convicted of tax evasion through an unbelievably hokey dodge.  From a Department of Justice press release:

The evidence at trial showed that Dr. Jackson claimed he had taken a vow of poverty in 2003 with the “Church of Compassionate Service,” an entity located in Utah, claiming that he was therefore exempt from paying any income tax. The evidence proved that he made substantial income practicing medicine but had not filed a tax return or paid any income tax since 2003. It also showed that he used nominee accounts and other devices to conceal his income from the IRS through the “church,” but that in fact 90% of the income was returned to him.

The indictment said Dr. Jackson had taxable income of $823,000 in 2009, but failed to file a return.  He may have had a disturbing lack of faith in his faith-based tax planning, though, as he also was accused of hiding assets by using fake invoices to inflate expenses and by putting his vehicles in “Ministry Vehicle #1 Holdings Trust.”

While the failure of this scheme isn’t remarkable, it is remarkable that somebody smart enough to complete medical school and establish an evidently successful surgical practice would attempt such a ridiculous tax dodge.  After his likely prison term and the probable collection of back taxes and 75% civil fraud penalties, plus interest, the doctor may finally have a chance to fulfill his vow of poverty.

More from Robert Wood: Invent A Church, Skip Taxes, Enrage IRS, Go To Jail

 

train-wreckRobert D. Flach has published his monthly The Tax Professional newsletter for October.  Robert is always entertaining, always intelligent, even if I don’t think he’s always right.

His lead October item is “Obamacare – Good Concept but Bad Legislation:”

The basic concept of Obamacare is a good and valid one – attempting universal health insurance coverage for all Americans without having to resort to UK-like “socialized medicine”. 

He says this “good concept” was just badly executed:

However, for solely political reasons, the Democratic Party wanted a victory for President Obama early in his first term and rushed through poorly conceived legislation that turned out to be a total mess, instead of allowing for sufficient time to properly think through the correct and efficient application of the concept.

Nothing to disagree with in this sentence, but Robert misses the main point.  His flaw is his assumption that it is even possible for any Congress to enact well-conceived legislation to restructure 1/6 of the economy.  While I grant that this legislation is extraordinarily bad, there is no set of 535 humans born wise enough, and with enough information, to design a top-down system for 300 million people with 300 million different needs.  That’s why I can’t agree that this is a “good concept” to begin with.

It would have been far wiser to examine the barriers that the government itself has put in place to affordable health insurance. Obvious problems are the government-imposed restrictions on interstate sales of health insurance and the restriction of tax benefits for health coverage to employer plans. Remove the barriers to developing and marketing insurance, then leave it to consenting adults to decide whether to buy insurance, and to determine what policies they need and are willing to pay for. But because reforming these things would reduce govenment power, not expand it, these fixes don’t have much support among grasping politicians and bureaucrats.

Robert also gives an excellent example of a huge, whimsical inequity in how ACA works.  No doubt the upcoming tax season will teach practitioners everywhere what a “fess,” as Robert would say, we now have.

I will address some other topics in Robert’s October newsletter in future posts; he contains multitudes.

Update: Robert responds.

 

20140513-1Russ Fox, One Good Erasure Deserves Another:

Most of the time, I wouldn’t believe that the IRS would do this. As of 18 months ago, I wouldn’t believe that the IRS would lie to Congress, would target conservative applicants for nonprofit status, and that the hard drive of any computer (or other electronic device) touched by Lois Lerner would be magically erased.

It will take years, and a much better Commissioner, to repair the damage the IRS has done to its own reputation.

TaxGrrrl, Caroline Wozniacki Forgets Her Paycheck, Can’t Skip Out On Taxes. They don’t offer direct deposit for these things?

Roger McEowen, Counties Eligible for Extended Replacement Period for Livestock Sold Due to Drought  (ISU-CALT)

Peter Reilly, Seventh Circuit Allows Do-over On Tax Court Stipulations For Deceived Taxpayers. IRS doesn’t get to benefit from practitioner’s deceit.

Michael Desmond, Is There a Future Role for Circular 230 in the Internal Revenue Service’s Efforts to Improve Tax Compliance? (Tax Procedure Blog).  A good coverage of the flaws in Circular 230 as a regulation tool, but I can’t let this statement go:

The politics of that question extend beyond this posting, but they will have to be addressed if there is to be any comprehensive response, legislative or otherwise, to Loving and the largely unchallenged proposition that paid return preparers should be subject to broader oversight than current law appears to permit.

Don’t take that “largely unchallenged” thing for granted. I challenge it, as do many practitioners. I am unwilling to trust an organization that has shown such bad faith at the highest level to control the livelihood of those of us who have to deal with them.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Let’s Stop Talking About Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog) “Outside wonky policy circles, there is simply no appetite for the real work — and real pain — of genuine tax reform.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 511, Did the IRS leak the Koch Brothers’ returns to the White House? TIGTA ordered to disclose whether this is being investigated.

David Brunori, A Very Good Idea to Curb Incentive Abuse (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s a proposal to ban commissions for helping seek a tax credit. I think that’s inconsistent with the logic of corporate welfare — supposedly you want to spread this wonderful stuff like candy, if you think it works, and commission-collecting middlemen help.  It would be much better to eliminate their product, rather than going after their commissions for selling it.

Cara Griffith, Managing the Tax Consequences of Equity Compensation Awards (Tax Analysts Blog) “Although states have not historically been aggressive in going after nonresident individuals with equity-based compensation awards, that may change.”

Joshua D. McCaherty, Lyman Stone, A Year After $9 Billion Incentive, Boeing Employment in Washington to be Reduced (Tax Policy Blog).  Thanks, chumps!

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

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

TaxGrrrl reports:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

There is no happy ending here.

 

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

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

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

 

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

William Perez, What Is Alternative Minimum Tax?

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

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Tax Roundup, 9/22/14: Lerner speaks, sort of. And: a federal tax amnesty?

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner gives an interview. The former IRS officer at the center of the Tea Party disclosure scandal won’t testify under oath, but she sat down for a two-hour interview with Politico: Exclusive: Lois Lerner Breaks Silence:

And she’s a savvy lawyer: She studiously avoided answering fundamental questions about her role in the IRS scandal that could land her in deeper trouble with Congress. During her POLITICO interview, flanked by her husband, a partner at a national law firm, and two of her personal attorneys, she opened up about her life as a pariah, joked about horrible news photos and advice that she disguise herself with a blond wig, and cried when expressing gratitude for her legal team’s friendship.

It is, of course, a public-relations play, designed to make her look like a misunderstood victim of a partisan witch hunt. But it isn’t an especially impressive effort. From the Politico piece:

Several Lerner allies said she was so focused on enforcement that she failed to see the sensitivity of bringing cases against incumbents running for reelection.

But Republicans continue to point to emails in which Lerner inquired about Crossroads specifically, asking her colleagues why the group hadn’t been audited and suggesting the group’s application should be denied. And just weeks before the tea party news broke, after she had seen a draft of the damning inspector general report, she asked colleagues if internal IRS instant messages are tracked and could be requested by Congress.

A little history sheds some light on her “non-partisan” background:

– Before she worked at the IRS, she worked at the Federal Elections Commission, she attempted to get an Illinois GOP senate candidate to withdraw from public life as the price for ending an FEC investigation. The allegations were later dismissed.

– The IRS Commissioner, Doug Shulman, repeatedly denied there was any targeting before the report. Either he knew better, or as a subordinate, she didn’t pass the word up the chain.

– She was in the middle of the Tea Party efforts at an early date. When the Treasury Inspector General Report was about to open the scandal, she did a modified limited hangout, using a planted question to spin the story as just a Cincinnati rogue agent problem.

– She had a hang-up about the Citizens United decision, and her emails show that she was trying to use the tax law to accomplish what the Supreme Court had forbidden.

– The numbers are glaring, showing that conservative groups got much more scrutiny, and it took much longer for their applications to be approved than liberal groups:

targetingstats

Ms. Lerner has, of course, invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress about her role in the scandal.

Presumably this interview is the start of a P.R. campaign. I don’t think it will work, but it might get her some good press from outlets inclined to dismiss the scandal.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 500. It features Stonewall Koskinen: The IRS Commissioner Was Supposed to Clean Up the Mess. Instead, He’s Running Interference from Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal:

 The only thing Mr. Koskinen has seemed remotely interested in turning around is his agency’s ugly story-line. He has yet to even accept his agency did anything wrong, spending a March hearing arguing that the IRS didn’t engage in “targeting” and claiming the Treasury inspector general agreed. This was so misleading the Washington Post gave Mr. Koskinen “three Pinocchios, ” noting the IG had testified to the exact opposite.

He seems intent on de-throning Doug Shulman as the Worst Commissioner Ever.

 

 

get-outRobert D. Flach asks WHAT ABOUT A FEDERAL TAX AMNESTY?

This would be a one-time only offer. The legislation creating the Federal Tax Amnesty Program could so state by forbidding any future Amnesty programs. Or it could state that the federal government would not be able to institute another Amnesty Program during the twenty years after the end of the current amnesty period.

I have my doubts. One Congress can’t bind another, and if it is popular, the pressure for another amnesty will start building as soon as the first one ends. I also worry about the chump effect – people will feel like chumps for complying, and will convince themselves that if they don’t comply, there will be another amnesty anyway. But I might be convinced otherwise, especially if it were combined with tax reforms that would help prevent the need for another one.

 

Russ Fox, “I’ve tried to tell you the truth every time I’ve been here”. “That quote is from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during his testimony from earlier this week on Capitol Hill. I have a simple question for Commissioner Koskinen: Why doesn’t that quote read, ‘I’ve told you the truth every time I’ve been here?'”

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Childcare Expenses

Jack Townsend, Trial Management of the Cheek Good Faith Defense.  Or as an old lawyer I know calls it, the “good-faith fraud defense.”

Kay Bell, Getting old sucks. We can’t stop Father Time, but we can prepare physically, emotionally and financially. And it still beats the alternative.

 

David Brunori talks about Nevada’s Tesla giveaway in State Tax Notes ($link):

Nevada is giving $1.3 billion to a company that is essentially owned by a guy worth $12 billion. I don’t begrudge Elon Musk his money. On the contrary, I admire his ability to create and accumulate great wealth. I just don’t see the need to give him public money. Assuming you ascribe to the belief that horizontal equity requires that similarly situated taxpayers bear similar burdens, Nevada is giving away public money…

I know that the politics of incentives are impossible to overcome. And I have had numerous readers tell me to give my constant ranting a rest. But the political inevitability of tax incentives does not make them appropriate or good.

Tax credit corporate welfare doesn’t just hurt the states that “lose” the competition to bribe companies like Tesla. It hurts all of the businesses of the “winning” state that have to pay full-freight while brazen and well-connected companies like Tesla pay nothing.

 

20140922-1William Gale, Income Tax Changes and Economic Growth (TaxVox) “While there is no doubt that tax policy influences economic choices, it is by no means obvious on an ex ante basis that tax rate cuts will ultimately lead to a larger economy.”

Joshua McCaherty,  Senator Schumer’s Retroactive Tax Bill (Tax Policy Blog). Part of the inversion diversion.

Ajay Gupta, Renouncing the Dogma of Surrey’s Infallibility (Tax Analysts Blog). Sounds like something involving the Pope and Henry VIII, but it’s really about transfer pricing.

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Workers Comp Resource Center, with posts from around the insurance and risk-management world.

 

News from the Profession. 15 Reasons Why EY’s BuzzFeed Post Is a Bunch of Malarkey (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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

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

Flickr image courtesy Sascha Kohlmann under Creative Commons license

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

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

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

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: American Opportunity Credit

Kay Bell, Private and often untaxed home rentals under fire

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

It apparently involved a tax incentive.

 

Paul Neiffer, Will Tax Inversion Debate Yield Permanent Section 179

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

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

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

 

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

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

Kay Bell, Will Tax Inversion Debate Yield Permanent Section 179

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/4/14: IOU? No basis for you! And: IRS may say TANSTAAFL.

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2Partner IOUs fail to increase basis.  Just like S corporation shareholders, partners in a partnership can only deduct their share of the entity’s losses to the extent they have basis.  Like S corporation owners, partner basis starts with the basis of property and the amount of cash contributed to the partnership; it is increased by the owner’s share of taxable and tax-exempt income, and is reduced by expenses and distributions.

In a Tax Court case yesterday, partners”contributed” IOU from themselves to the partnership, VisionMonitor Software LLC.; the partners then used the amounts of the IOUs as basis for deducting losses.

Unfortunately for the partners, that doesn’t work.  Judge Holmes explains (minor editing by me):

VisionMonitor argues that the notes in this case, like the assumption of debt in Gefen, were necessary to persuade a third party to kick in more funding to a cash-strapped partnership. But unlike the partner in Gefen, neither Mantor nor Smith were guaranteeing a preexisting partnership debt to a third party. And they did not directly assume any of VisionMonitor’s outside liabilities — these notes are their liability to VisionMonitor, not an assumption or guaranty of VisionMonitor’s debt to a third party…  And there’s also no evidence that Mantor or Smith were personally obliged under the VisionMonitor partnership agreement to contribute a fixed amount for a specific, preexisting partnership liability.

Unlike S corporation shareholders, partners can get basis for debt owed by a partnership to third parties — for example, by providing a guarantee to a third-party lender (watch out for the “at-risk” rules).  But the court held that writing an IOU, by itself, doesn’t rise to the level of creating debt basis for the partner:

 Here… the partners each have no adjusted basis in the notes, and until they are paid, the notes are only a contractual obligation to their partnership. Mantor made a payment under his notes only in 2010, and the record has no evidence that Smith ever did. We therefore find that Mantor’s and Smith’s bases in their promissory notes during the 2007 and 2008 tax years were zero and, accordingly, that VisionMonitor’s basis in the contributed notes was also zero.

As it always does, the IRS tried to stick the partners with a 20% “accuracy-related” penalty. Judge Holmes wisely declined, holding that they relied reasonably on oral advice from their tax man, a Mr. Sympson:

We have little problem in finding that VisionMonitor actually relied on Sympson’s advice — his conclusion that the notes were additions to VisionMonitor’s capital (and the capital accounts of Smith and Mantor) was set out on the company’s returns. And we have little trouble in finding that this reliance was in good faith. In a case like this one — where VisionMonitor secured Smith and Mantor’s promises to increase their personal risk alongside their promise to extend their personal credit to the firm’s vendors — advice from a longtime tax adviser that this increased Smith’s and Mantor’s bases would seem reasonable to Mantor.

This is the sort of standard that the Tax Court should apply.  Taxes are hard — that’s why people hire out their tax work.  If they are open with their tax advisor, and they don’t have reason to think the tax advisor is incompetent, they shouldn’t get hammered with penalties just because the advisor makes a mistake. After all, the IRS makes mistakes too.

The Moral: If you want to get basis in your partnership without putting in cash, you need to get third party debt allocated to you in a way that makes you at-risk.  And: when things get complicated, if you are open with your preparer and follow the advice given, IRS penalties are not automatic.

Cite: VisionMonitor Software LLC, T.C. Memo 2014-182.

Related: How much K-1 loss can I deduct? Start with your basis.

 

TANSTAAFL. (There Aint) No Such Thing As A Free Lunch: IRS Mulls Tax On Employee Meals. (TaxGrrrl)  Just because you can make a theoretical argument that something is taxable doesn’t mean you should tax it.

 

20130121-2So you think regulation of preparers by IRS will stop fraud?  IRS Employee Accused Of Tax Fraud.  If they can’t keep themselves honest, they aren’t likely to prevent preparer cheating. Of course, preparer regulation isn’t about stopping fraud or improving tax compliance. It’s about grabbing power and helping well-placed friends.  Russ Fox has more.

 

Jana Luttenegger, Tax Court Ruling on Frequent Flyer Miles as Income (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, Tax differences between home repairs & home improvements.  It can make a big difference when you sell.

Robert D. Flach tells you WHAT TO ASK A TAX PRO

Jack Townsend, Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – Ramblings

 

David Brunori, Business Pays a Lot of State and Local Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

COST recently released its 12th edition of the report. And it continues to influence the state tax debate as much today as it did in 2002. The new report says that businesses paid $671 billion in state and local taxes in 2013, up about 4 percent over the previous year. But business taxes accounted for 45 percent of all state and local taxes.

I note that the amount of tax paid by “business” is deceptive. Businesses do not pay taxes; people pay taxes. And every dime of the $671 billion was paid by some combination of shareholder, owner, employee, customer, or supplier. Those on the left desperately want the burden to fall on shareholders. But there is growing evidence that in a global economy, the burden falls on employees. 

And if it does fall on shareholders, remember that pension funds are also shareholders.

 

20140801-2Lyman Stone, Governor Rick Scott Offers Mixed Bag of Tax Proposals for Florida (Tax Policy Blog). “Governor Scott’s tax proposals offer meaningful improvements in some areas like cell phone and corporate income taxes. But on other issues like the property tax cap, it’s not clear whether or how the plan will work; on sales tax holidays, the proposed “tax cut” would actually make the tax code more complicated and distortionary, while creating little or no economic growth.”

Yes.  Next Question?  Is It Time to Repeal The Corporate Income Tax? (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox) “This view acknowledges that roughly 10 million businesses already have engaged in self-help tax reform by organizing themselves as pass-through firms (where owners at taxed as individuals but bypass the corporate tax entirely).”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 483

 

News from the Profession.  Ladies Still Need Entire Panels Made Up of Dudes to Talk About Ladies in the Profession (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)  “Don’t worry, ladies, the guys are ON IT.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/27/14: Inversions! Fire! Flee! FIRPTA! Edition. And: state credits and the race for Governor.

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140815-2DOOM! PANIC!  Corporate inversions!  DO SOMETHING!  This isn’t the first time politicians have gotten their dresses over their heads in a pseudo-patriotic panic over legal transactions, as Ajay Gupta explains for Tax Analysts ($link):

FIRPTA is a statute conceived in xenophobia and dedicated to the proposition that not all investors are created equal. It is nothing more or less than the embodiment of a congressional desire to limit the grasp of foreign investors on domestic real estate.

“FIRPTA” is the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, and it requires buyers of U.S. real estate to withhold 10% of the gross purchase price paid to non-U.S. sellers.  In practice, it functions as a trap for unwary U.S. buyers who fail to withhold, leaving them liable for the withholding liability on top of their purchase price.  It arose out of the panic over a wave of Japanese purchases of U.S. real estate — a panic that we can now see clearly as madness.  Yet FIRPTA lives on, long after the Japanese moved on to other things.

Things like this tell us that the best way to deal with the current panics, like corporate inversions, is to not “do something” that will surely be half-baked and haunt the tax law forever.

 

Megan McArdle, Burger King and the Whopper About Taxes (my emphasis):

As my colleague Matt points out, most Americans — including a lot of journalists who write about this — seem to be under the misimpression that companies that invert, or people who renounce their citizenship, are doing so to get a lower tax rate on income they earn here. And in a few intellectual-property-based businesses, which can make aggressive use of transfer pricing strategies to declare most of their income in low- or no-tax countries, these complaints have some basis. In most cases, however, including Burger King, they’re doing it because the U.S. inexplicably insists on taking a big chunk off the top of all their foreign income, and making their lives miserable in the process.

But, but, deserters!  Traitors!

 

canada flagIf you are wondering why Burger King might be attracted to Canada,  read How Much Lower are Canada’s Business Taxes? (William McBride, Tax Policy Blog):

First, Canada has a much lower corporate tax rate: 15 percent at the federal level plus another 11 percent on average from provincial corporate taxes. Compare that to the U.S. federal corporate tax rate of 35 percent plus an average state corporate tax rate of about 4 percent.

Second, Canada has a territorial tax system, meaning there is no additional repatriation tax on foreign profits. The U.S. has a worldwide tax system, which applies a repatriation tax to foreign profits when those profits are brought back to the U.S. The repatriation tax is basically the difference between the foreign corporate tax rate and the U.S. corporate tax rate, which is typically more than 10 percent. The average foreign corporate tax rate in the developed world is 25 percent.

Third, the U.S. is not particularly competitive in terms of taxing shareholders. Canada integrates its corporate tax with shareholder taxes to avoid double-taxation. In the U.S. it just piles up, so the integrated corporate tax rate on equity financed investment is over 50 percent.

A corporation pays 35% federal tax on its net income, leaving 65% for the shareholders.  If it gets distributed to a top-bracket taxpayer, it gets hit at 20%, plus the 3.8% Obamacare surtax. That is a combined effective rate of 50.47% — and that’s low, as it doesn’t count phase-outs or state taxes. Yet congresscritters profess astonishment that anybody would find that a problem worth solving.

 

Howard Gleckman, Could The U.S. Fix Taxation of Multinational Corporations With A Sales-Based Formula? (TaxVox) “Instead of focusing on the real disease—an increasingly dysfunctional corporate income tax—we are obsessing over a symptom—firms such as Burger King engaging in self-help reform by relocating their legal residences overseas.”

Joseph Thorndike, Warren Buffett Is a Tax Avoider. Good for Him. (Tax Analysts Blog). Now Mr. communitarian billionaire who wants high taxes for other people is a deserter too.  Is nothing sacred?

 

20140729-2Paul Neiffer,  $563 Cost a Taxpayer $6,320:

If the taxpayers had simply paid the $563 of additional tax owed on the original assessment, that is all they would have been out-of-pocket.  However, when they went to court, the IRS determined that they had made a math error in their original calculation of AMT and reassessed the tax owed from $563 to $6,883 or an increase of $6,320.  Since this calculation was now correct, the Tax Court honored the IRS calculation and suddenly the taxpayers suddenly owed another $6,320 just for going to court.

Oops.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 475.  It links to this from George Will: “The IRS is the most intrusive and potentially punitive institution of the federal government and it is a law enforcement institution and it is off the rails and it is now thoroughly corrupted.”

And the IRS Commissioner thinks all his agency needs is more money.

 

Kay Bell, IRS, betting that expired state and local sales tax deduction will be renewed, hires firm to calculate Schedule A tables

TaxGrrrl, IRS Still Struggling With Tax Treatment Of Immigrants, Changes Rules Again   

Jack Townsend, BASR Briefs On Issue of Unlimited Statute of Limitations for NonTaxpayer Fraud

David Brunori, Repealing the Bad Franchise Tax is a Good Idea (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Eighteen states still impose a franchise tax; they shouldn’t.”

 

MP branstadBy all means, lets make state tax credits an issue.  The Branstad re-election campaign is making a big deal about how his campaign opponent, Jack Hatch, bottled up a GOP bill that would have reduced developer fees in tax credit deals — fees that Mr. Hatch makes a good living collecting.

Senator Hatch could truthfully explain that his committee snuffed every GOP tax bill last session, so that bill didn’t receive special treatment.  Still, it doesn’t look good.

Yet this ignores the real scandal with state incentive credits: they are inherently corrupt.

For starters, the credits for low-income housing and historic rehabilitation go disproportionately to well-connected insiders who know people and know how to pull strings — at the expense of real estate owners without the connections — and arguably at the expense of renters who might benefit more from housing aid not run through developers.

But also that’s true of the other credits.  Special deals go to Microsoft, Google and Facebook because they are big and they know how to play the system.  Tax credits go to big fertilizer companies for doing what they would do anyway, while other poor schmucks without lobbyists and fixers pay full-freight on their income and property taxes.  NASCAR and the Field of Dreams played on glamour and celebrities to keep sales taxes they collect, while other sellers of amusements have to collect the same sales taxes and turn them over to the state.  And Governor Branstad has handed out these tax credits generously.

I’m fine with the Governor’s criticism of Senator Hatch for tax credit deals; I don’t care for them either.  Still, the Governor should keep his old MP helmet handy, because he is calling down fire near his own position.

 

Claire Celsi, PR is like pork scraps and pickle juice (IowaBiz.com).  Sounds yummy.

 

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

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cite: Wade, T.C. Memo. 2014-169

Related:

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

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

Material participation basics.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 469

 

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

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

 

Quotable:

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

Robert L. Williams in Tax Analysts ($link)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/13/14: Tax Fairies in the graveyard? And: another payroll service goes bad.

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Funeral home signOf course cemetery lots are shooting up in value.  People are dying to get in!  Taxpayers seek the Tax Fairy in the strangest places.  The Tax Fairy is the mythical spirit who can make taxes go away magically, for a reasonable price to a tax wizard who claims to be able to summon her.  A Tax Court case yesterday found taxpayers looking for her in cemeteries (Emphasis mine; slightly edited for readability).

Judge Nega’s overview:

Heritage Memorial Park Associates 1995-2, Heritage Memorial Park Associates 1995-3 , and Heritage Memorial Park Associates 1995-4 (collectively, partnerships) are Maryland general partnerships. The partnerships were established to acquire cemetery sites, to hold the sites for over one year, and then to contribute the sites to qualified charitable organizations, with the aim to provide individuals who invested in the partnerships with charitable contribution deductions equal to the appraised values of the sites as of the times of the contributions. Glenn R. Johnston and his colleagues promoted the partnerships to wealthy individuals as a way for them to receive a return of tax benefits in the form of passthrough deductions or losses worth significantly more than the amounts invested. 

What sort of deductions?

…(petitioner) invested $37,500 in each partnership. He made these investments to increase the amounts of his charitable contributions for the subject years and, more particularly, to receive promoted tax benefits worth significantly more than his investments. He expected that his investments would return him tax benefits worth $50,000 for each subject year. 

HMPA 1995-2 claimed the $1,864,850 charitable contribution deduction on that return. Petitioner was allocated $135,127 of that deduction, and petitioners deducted the $135,127 on their 1996 individual return as a charitable contribution. HMPA 1995-2 reported on its 1996 Form 1065 that HMPA 1995-2 had no income or expenses for 1996 (but for the charitable contribution deduction).

So: invest $35,000, deduct $135,000, save (conservatively) 1/3 of $135,000, or $45,000.  What could go wrong?

On September 29, 2005, Mr. Johnston was indicted on (1) one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by selling, claiming, and causing others to sell and claim millions of dollars in false and fraudulent tax deductions for charitable contributions and concealing from the IRS income from the sales of the fraudulent deductions and (2) multiple counts of aiding and assisting in the filing of false returns by investors in the partnerships so that the investors claimed charitable contribution deductions in amounts substantially greater than allowable. These charges involved the partnerships, among one or more other entities. Mr. Johnston pleaded guilty to the first count on April 12, 2007.

Sure, it’s a criminal enterprise, but the deductions are still good, right?  And didn’t the statute run?  Nope.  The court ruled that the IRS met the procedural requirements to keep the statute of limitations open by properly initiating partnership-level proceedings.  The court also ruled that the taxpayer couldn’t claim a business loss for the partnership investments:

tax fairyPetitioners argue secondarily that they may deduct a $37,500 loss for each year as to petitioner’s investments in the partnerships. To that end, petitioners assert, petitioner’s ownership interests in the partnerships were worthless as of the end of the corresponding years in which the partnerships operated, and he knew that the interests were worthless as of those times and abandoned his interests as of those times. Petitioners add that petitioner invested in the partnerships to make a profit and in furtherance of a legislative intent to encourage charitable contributions.

But the court ruled that seeking charitable deductions isn’t a “trade or business,” and that no business loss was available.  $35,000 spent to net a tax savings of nothing.

The Moral?  This thing should never have passed the “too good to be true” test.  The deductions depended on incredible post-contribution appreciation in graves.  Anybody thinking this sort of thing might actually work really needs to get out more.  And there is no tax fairy.

Cite: McElroy, T.C. Memo 2014-163.

Related:  Three Years is the Normal Statute of Limitations, But Not Always (Paul Neiffer).

 

EFTPSAnother payroll service makes off with employers’ payroll tax payments.  From emissourian.com:

 

A Washington man pleaded guilty this week to federal mail fraud and money laundering charges.

Bradley Ferguson, 48, owner of Paymaster Business Solutions in Fenton, is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 6 in U.S. District Court. 

He pleaded guilty to one felony count of mail fraud and one felony count of money laundering before U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber.

Ferguson is accused of withdrawing money from the bank accounts of business clients to pay federal, state and local taxes but did not make the payments, according to a federal grand jury indictment.

While it makes sense for many taxpayers to outsource payroll functions, the tax law still holds the employers responsible for getting withholdings to the IRS.  If you outsource your payroll taxes, you should use Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) online access to make sure your payroll tax remittances are actually hitting your account.  If you use a service that doesn’t allow you to do this — like many “professional employer organizations” who “co-employ” their clients’ workers — you need to make other arrangements, like bonding, to protect yourself.

 

Peter Reilly, Alimony Deduction Requires Good Substantiation.  “It turns out that taxpayers are routinely whipsawing the IRS.”

William Perez, How to Get a Federal Tax Credit for the Cost of Child Care.

Kay Bell, James-Love NBA combo is tax boon to two Cleveland towns.

TaxGrrrl, Think Before You Post: The Dangers Of Seeking Tax Advice On The Internet:

I was pretty shocked at how much information folks were willing to share on the internet about their tax evasion questions, strategies and justifications. Sometimes, these folks are regular forum posters who happily share their location and other identifying information while others clearly try to remain somewhat anonymous.

In case you were wondering, the IRS has internet access.

 

Jason Dinesen, Rare Home Office Deduction Win in Tax Court

Carl Smith, In Some Cases IRS Seeks to Conflict Out Lawyers Who Represented Taxpayers in CDP Hearings (Procedurally Taxing).  CDP stands for “collections due process.”  The IRS is bigger than you, peasant.

 

Tony Nitti, Final IRS Rules On Partnership Technical Terminations Will Surprise Some Tax Pros

 

20140813-1David Brunori: Congress Shouldn’t Make State Tax Systems Worse (Tax Analysts Blog)

As my colleague Maria Koklanaris reported, 29 Democratic members of Congress asked leaders of the California State Legislature to reauthorize and expand the state’s film tax credit. Led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., the federal lawmakers asked California to extend a very bad tax policy, saying that if it doesn’t, film jobs will be lost forever to other states. 

Why film credits? Why not some other industry? Politicians are the worst at determining what’s best for the marketplace. Despite the studies funded by the Motion Picture Association of America that say otherwise, film tax credits don’t work. In virtually every state that has them, there’s no discernible economic effect — that is, the tax giveaway did not result in more economic activity than would have occurred without it.

Iowa has some lessons to teach here.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 461

 

There’s only one left? Owner of the Pickle pleads guilty to federal tax fraud.

Because you invited clients?   PwC’s Bob Moritz on Why You Shouldn’t Miss Your Kid’s Birthday Party for Work (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/11/14: Don’t you dare agree with me edition.

Monday, August 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

microsoft-appleDavid Brunori notes ($link) some odd behavior by Good Jobs First, a left-side outfit that has been on the side of the angels by highlighting the baneful effects of corporate welfare tax incentives.  The American Legislative Exchange Council came out with a report blasting cronyist tax incentives, and rather than embracing the report, Good Jobs First ripped it — because the Koch Brothers are the Devil:

Yet, Good Jobs First slams ALEC because many recipients of tax incentives have close ties to ALEC. But so what? The fact that corporations, including those run by the Koch brothers, provide support to ALEC doesn’t diminish the argument that incentives are terrible.

Weirdly, Good Jobs First primarily blames the recipients of corporate welfare for taking the money, rather than the politicians who give it away:

Moreover, Good Jobs First inexplicably says that ALEC is wrong to blame policymakers rather than the companies that receive incentives. But the blame for those horrible policies rests squarely on the shoulders of lawmakers and governors who perpetuate them. In a world where the government is handing out benefits to anyone who asks, it’s hard to fault the people who line up for the handout. No one has been more critical of tax incentives than I, but I’ve never blamed the corporations. Nor do I blame the army of consultants and lawyers who grease the wheels to make incentives happen. There’s no blame for anyone other than the cowardly politicians from both parties who can’t seem to resist using those nefarious policies.

Precisely correct.  When somebody is handing out free money, it’s hard to turn it down when your competitors are taking all they can.

I have seen smart people I respect do everything short of donning tin-foil hats when talking about the Koch Brothers and their dreadful agenda of influencing the government to leave you alone.  Maybe everyone needs an Emmanuel Goldstein.

Adam Michel, Scott Drenkard, New Report Quantifies “Tax Cronyism” (Tax Policy Blog)

Annette Nellen, What about accountability? California solar energy property.  Green corporate welfare is still corporate welfare.

 

20130121-2Russ Fox, Where Karen Hawkins Disagrees With Me…  The Director of the IRS Office of Preparer Responsibility commented on Russ’ post “The IRS Apparently Thinks They Won the Loving Case.”  Russ replies to the comment:

Ms. Hawkins is technically correct that Judge Boasberg’s order says nothing about the use of an RTRP designation. However, the Order specifically states that the IRS has no authority to create such a regulatory scheme. If there isn’t such a regulation, what’s the use of the designation?

The courts closed the front door to preparer regulation, so the IRS is trying to find an unlocked window.

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Imposes New Limits On Tax Refunds By Direct Deposit.  “Effective for the 2015 tax season, the IRS will limit the number of refunds electronically deposited into a single financial account (such as a savings or checking account) or prepaid debit card to three.”

This seems like a measure that should have been put in place years ago.  The Worst Commissioner Ever apparently had other priorities.

 

Kay Bell, Actor Robert Redford sues NY tax office over $1.6 million bill.  The actor gets dragged into New York via a pass-through entity in which he had an interest — a topic we mentioned last week.

Renu Zaretsky, August Avoidance: Corporate Taxes and Budget Realities.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers inversions, gridlock, and Kansas.

Peter Reilly, Org Tries Exempt Status Multiple Choice – IRS Answers None Of The Above

 

 

20140811-1Ajay Gupta, The Libertarian Case for BEPS (Tax Analysts Blog)  BEPS stands for “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.”

Matt Gardiner, Inversions Aside, Don’t Lose Sight of Other Ways Corps. Are Dodging Taxes (Tax Justice Blog).  Don’t worry, Matt.  If I did, my clients would take their business elsewhere.

Robert D. Flach, HEY MR PRESIDENT – DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER!  “If there is something wrong with the Tax Code do not blame the accountant or tax professional.  We have a moral and ethical responsibility to bring to our clients’ attention all the legal deductions, credits, loopholes, techniques, and strategies that are available to reduce their federal and state tax liabilities to the least possible amounts.”

 

Roger McEowen, Federal Court, Contrary To U.S. Supreme Court, Says ACA Individual Mandate Not a Tax.

Jack Townsend, U.S. Forfeits Over $480 Million Stolen by Former Nigerian Dictator.  The headline is misleading — the U.S. received the cash in a forfeiture — they seized it, rather than forfeiting it.

 

2140731-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 459

Instapundit, GANGSTER GOVERNMENT: Inspectors general say Obama aides obstruct investigations.  The majority of the 78 federal inspectors general took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter saying the Administration is blocking their work as a matter of course.  The IRS stonewalling on the Tea Party scandal is part of the pattern.

 

 

News from the Profession. It’s Completely Understandable Someone Might Sign Over 200 Audit Reports By Mistake (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

You mean they didn’t shift to organic carrot juice?  “From Coke to Coors: A Field Study of a Fat Tax and its Unintended Consequences” (Via Maria Koklanaris at Tax Analysts):

Could taxation of calorie-dense foods such as soft drinks be used to reduce obesity? To address this question, a six-month field experiment was conducted in an American city of 62,000 where half of the 113 households recruited into the study faced a 10% tax on calorie-dense foods and beverages and half did not. The tax resulted in a short-term (1-month) decrease in soft drink purchases, but no decrease over a 3-month or 6-month period. Moreover, in beer-purchasing households, this tax led to increased purchases of beer.

I’m sure the politicians who want to run everyone’s diet will angrily demand higher beer taxes in response.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/6/14: Telemarketing isn’t an airplane. And: inversion hysteria, always in style.

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120529-2Is your airplane any of your business?  The Tax Court yesterday dealt with a problem that will arise a lot as taxpayers struggle with the new 3.8% Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax: what “activities” can be considered to be part of a single business?

The issue comes up because “passive” activities are subject to the tax, while non-passive activities are exempt.  It is especially important when S corporations are involved because their K-1 income is also exempt from the 2,9 Medicare tax and the .9% Obamacare Medicare surtax.  The status of activities as “non-passive” usually depends on the amount of time spent working in the activity; if you can combine activities they are less likely to be passive.

Tax Court Judge Buch outlines yesterday’s case:

 Mr. Williams is an aviation buff who owns a business that is unrelated to aviation. He purchased an airplane that he made available for rent, used for personal purposes, and used in his other business. On the Williams’ joint tax returns, they offset losses related to the ownership of the airplane against their income from the other business. Respondent disallowed those offsets… 

Passive losses cannot offset non-passive income under the 1986 passive loss rules; they carry forward to offset future income until the activity is sold.  Mr. Williams reported the airplane expenses as part of his business of training telemarketers.  The court reviews the rules on combining activities (footnotes omitted; my emphasis):

Section 1.469-4(c), Income Tax Regs., sets rules for determining what constitutes a single “activity”. That regulation provides: “One or more trade or business activities or rental activities may be treated as a single activity if the activities constitute an appropriate economic unit for the measurement of gain or loss for purposes of section 469.” Whether activities constitute an “appropriate economic unit” depends on the facts and circumstances, giving the following five factors the greatest weight:

(i) Similarities and differences in types of trades or businesses;

(ii) The extent of common control;

(iii) The extent of common ownership;

(iv) Geographic location; and

(v) Interdependencies between or among the activities (for example, the extent to which the activities purchase or sell goods between or among themselves, involve products or services that are normally provided together, have the same customers, have the same employees, or are accounted for with a single set of books and records.)

The judge said the airplane wasn’t part of the same “economic unit” as Mr. Williams’ other business, called WPP:

The fact that there was no meaningful interdependence between the ownership of the airplane and the business of WPP is evidenced in part by the fact that Mr. Williams would rent another airplane for travel because he could earn more from renting WPP’s airplane to other pilots or pilot trainees than he would pay if he or WPP rented another airplane for a trip. Further, most of the airplane’s use and income came from renting the airplane outside WPP, which had no effect on the business of WPP. Likewise, there is no indication that the airplane activity depended on WPP; it was only an occasional user of the airplane. There is no evidence that WPP and the airplane activity had any of the same customers or that the two activities were integrated in any meaningful way.

When the airplane activity was separated his other business, Mr. Williams was unable to muster enough hours to reach “material participation,” making the airplane losses passive and non-deductible.

What does this mean in planning for the NIIT?  Taxpayers get to revisit their activity groupings for 2013 and 2014 returns.  Taxpayers with multiple businesses will want to ponder what things they can realistically combine.  Just because you own both businesses doesn’t mean the tax law will consider them an “appropriate economic unit.”

Cite: Williams, T.C. Memo 2014-158

 

20140805-3Paul Neiffer, IRS Provides Two Optional Methods for SE Health Insurance Deduction.

Jack Townsend, Whistleblower Award for FBAR Penalties?

Jason Dinesen, Kudos to NAEA for Promoting EAs.  Not to sound dumb, but isn’t that what the National Association of Enrolled Agents is supposed to do?

Russ Fox, The IRS Apparently Thinks They Won the Loving Case.  “In Loving v. IRS, the IRS was permanently enjoined from the Registered Tax Return Preparer designation. One would think that the IRS would realize this and remove the designation from forms.”

Keith Fogg, How Bankruptcy Can Create a Pyrrhic Victory out of a Tax Court Win (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Peter Reilly, FAIR Tax Abolishes IRS – Then What?  I have long thought the fair tax was half-baked gimmick, deceptively marketed.  If you want to move to a consumption tax, move to a real consumption tax.

Adam Michel, What is the Consumed Income Tax?  (Tax Policy Blog)

 

 

Allison Christians, Regulating Return Preparers: A Global Problem for the IRS:

The problem of regulating all foreigners in service of U.S. citizenship taxation plagues FATCA in the details, and it will plague the project of tax return preparer regulation as well. It won’t be easily solved unless Congress can accept that the universally practiced norm of residency-based taxation is really the only viable option in a globalized world. If not, as the world adjusts to the ongoing expansion of U.S. regulatory power through more — and more complex — financial regulation, everyone will have to accept that virtually every tax move Congress makes has global implications.

Via the TaxProf.

Just what the world needs: more IRS.

 

nra-blue-eagleDavid Brunori, Keep the Inversion Hysteria Out of the States (Tax Analysts Blog).  “A company’s decision to invert is no different from an individual’s decision to live in a state without an income tax or to buy a house rather than rent to take advantage of a tax break.”  But, but, what about your loyalty oath?  You must hate America!  Or, worse, Iowa!

Scott Hodge, More Perspective on Inversions: Not a Threat to the Tax Base but the Face of U.S. Uncompetiveness (Tax Policy Blog)

Bob McIntyre, Statement: Despite Walgreens’ Decision, Emergency Action Is Still Needed to Stop Corporate Inversions (Tax Justice Blog, where inversion hysteria is always in style).

Eric Toder, How Political Gridlock Encourages Tax Avoidance (TaxVox)

 

Joseph Thorndike, The Origination Clause? Let It Go (Tax Analysts Blog).  Since the courts allow the Senate to strip any house bill of its text and replace it with revenue provisions, it’s pretty much dead already.  And that’s a shame.

 

Your legislators at work: 

Chicago lawmaker pleads to misdemeanor; faced 17 felonies. ““I’m sorry I underestimated my taxes.”

Fattah Jr. released on bail following U.S. indictment on theft, fraud and tax-evasion charges.  The son of a Congresscritter has tax issues? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 454

Career Corner.  Career Limiting Moves: A Beginner’s Guide (Leona May, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/4/14: Will 401(k) deferred annuities catch on? And: about those oil industry “subsidies…”

Monday, August 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

I survived the firm golf day and the Iowa sales tax holiday.  Now back to work.

 

20131206-1Howard Gleckman, A New Way to Invest for Old Age, But How Many Will Buy? (TaxVox).

A few weeks ago, with absolutely no fanfare, the Treasury Department announced what could be a major change in the way we save for retirement. It will now permit people to shift a portion of their 401(k)s or IRAs into a deferred annuity that provides a guaranteed stream of income once you reach old age.

The idea has the potential to fix several flaws in today’s defined contribution retirement plans and it could make it easier for many older Americans to pay for long-term care. But it raises two huge questions: Will consumers understand these complex products, and will insurance companies bother to sell them to a mass market?

It’s an interesting experiment.  There seems to be a belief that taxpayers are dying for a return to the 1950s style defined benefit pension plan, and this provides a way to sort of get there.  Insurance companies can certainly find a way to profit from such products, as deferred annuities are a big business.

But the same arguments that financial advisors often make against commercial deferred annuities likely apply here — you get more security, but only at the cost of cutting your insurance company in on your retirement income.  It remains to be seen whether many people will accept that trade-off.

 

Wind turbineWilliam McBride, Oil and Gas Subsidies or Sensible Cost Recovery? (Tax Policy Blog). Supporters of the mandates and massive subsidies or mandates for ethanol, wind and solar power sometimes say they would give up their subsidies happily if the oil industry gives up its own subsidies.  They rarely identify any actual subsidies.  Mr. McBride exposes the weakness of the renewable fans’ arguments (my emphasis):

However, a new report from Taxpayers for Common Sense seems to suggest it’s all the result of “tax subsidies” that allow oil and gas companies to immediately deduct their investment costs. Titled “Effective Tax Rates of Oil and Gas Companies: Cashing in on Special Treatment”, the report finds that the effective federal corporate tax rate for oil and gas companies is 24 percent on average, “considerably less than the statutory rate of 35 percent, thanks to the convoluted system of tax provisions allowing them to avoid and defer federal income taxes.”

First, there is nothing special about a 24 percent effective tax rate. The average for all corporations is about 22 percent, according to the IRS, so if anything oil and gas companies pay an above average tax rate.

Second, the particular “tax subsidy” the report refers to is intangible drilling costs, which as they explain merely allows companies to immediately deduct, i.e. expense, the costs of drilling. That is not a subsidy, it is the proper treatment of a real and legitimate business cost. The corporate tax is a profit tax, and profit equals revenue minus costs. Labor costs are fully and immediately deductible, so why not other costs?

Taxpayers for Common Sense would prefer these companies delay drilling cost deductions for years and years, because otherwise “these companies are financing significant parts of their business with interest-free loans from U.S. taxpayers.” No, in fact it is the government that is getting interest-free loans from businesses by requiring them to delay deductions for legitimate business costs. 

This “subsidy” — a deduction for a business expense, like every other business gets (and rightly so) — pales compared to the requirement that oil companies sell ethanol,  regardless of whether their customers demand it.  It sure doesn’t compare to the actual government checks that are issued to producers of biofuels and wind power.  The renewables industry would be much smaller if it had to play on the “level playing field” it claims to want.

 

Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Advocate Says IRS Issues Too Many FAQs.  “But the overall point is, things like FAQs and news releases are  no substitute for coherent, authoritative guidance.”

Kay Bell, States see electronic cigarettes as a new tax source.  Surprise, surprise.

Peter Reilly, State Fails To Force Electronic Payments On Taxpayer With Hacking Concerns  “Taxpayer refused to pay electronically because if the Pentagon can be hacked, so can Revenue Department. Court voided penalty.”

Keith Fogg, IRS Treatment of Penalties Following a Substitute for Return (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D. Flach has some QUESTIONS ABOUT TAX REFORM

 

taxanalystslogoDavid Brunori, Tax Analysts ($link)

Companies invert because the stupid tax laws provide an incentive to do so. A company’s decision to invert is no different from an individual’s decision to live in a state without an income tax or to buy a house rather than rent to take advantage of a tax break. Yet there are people who actually make the moral and patriotic arguments against inversions. The “it may be legal but that doesn’t make it right” argument is laughable. The patriotic argument — usually made by people who had better things to do than serve their country — is even more laughable. People and companies engage in tax planning because they want to keep more of their money. Invoking the Good Book or channeling Nathan Hale won’t change that.

When they play the “patriotism” card first, they don’t have a good hand.

 

Ajay Gupta, Closed Mind on Open Borders (Tax Analysts Blog):

There is, however, one unquestionable benefit that is properly attributable to an inversion—liberation of cash trapped offshore in controlled foreign corporations. Post-inversion, that money can be moved from a CFC to the new foreign parent, which can then put it to virtually any use, including buying back stock or making other investments in the U.S., without U.S. tax consequences. But for the inversion, any such onshore expenditures would have constituted taxable repatriations.

If you think it’s somehow unpatriotic to use legal means to reduce taxes, I hope you don’t take a $500 charitable deduction for all those clothes you thew away, I mean gave to Goodwill.

 

20140506-1 TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 452

Jack Townsend, Article on British Deal with Swiss to Flush Out Evades and Lost Revenue — Not So Good 

 

You say that like it’s a bad thing.  On Highway Bill, Congress Moves to the Right of Grover Norquist  (Steve Warnhoff, Tax Justice Blog)

Government spending has been cut to the bone.

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/30/14: Iowa Illustrated! And: an unhappy take on IRS offshore account enforcement.

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

iowa-illustrated_Page_01Iowa’s tax system in pictures.  The Tax Foundation yesterday posted “Iowa Illustrated: A Visual Guide to Taxes & the Economy.”  It is a valuable and sobering introduction into Iowa tax policy.  Anybody interested in Iowa’s tax policy mess should start here.

The Tax Foundation summary:

Here are just a few examples of the more than 30 key findings:

  • Iowa relies on federal funding for one-third of its budget
  • Iowa’s sales tax rate has tripled since its creation
  • Iowa’s business taxes rank poorly nationally, and are uncompetitive regionally
  • Iowa has had a net loss of 63,287 people over the last 20 years
  • Effective tax rates in Iowa vary widely across different industries.

By offering a broader perspective of Iowa’s taxes and illustrating some of the lesser-known aspects of Iowa’s business environment, this guide provides the necessary facts for having an honest debate about how to improve the structure of The Hawkeye State’s tax system. 

There’s too much good stuff to summarize, but I will highlight a few items.

This might explain why property tax reform is such a big deal here:

iowa-illustrated_Page_38

 

Raising individual tax rates on “the rich” means taxing employment:

iowa-illustrated_Page_39

 

Despite its highest-in-the-nation corporation tax rate, Iowa’s corporate tax is a sub-par revenue generator:

iowa-illustrated_Page_41

While agriculture is important in Iowa, financial services are a bigger industry:

iowa-illustrated_Page_13

Iowa has a diverse economy, but our tax system still parties like it’s 1983:

iowa-illustrated_Page_40

A lot of the tax receipts go out the back door to the well-connected via tax credits:

iowa-illustrated_Page_42

It’s hard to make a case for the current Iowa tax system.  Maybe the legislature will finally be ready to do something about it next session.  The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be a great place to start.

 

Now to our regular programming:

 

20130419-1Jack TownsendTime for an IRS Ass Kicking? Herein of Lack of Honor and a Dumb Decision in OVDI/P and Streamlined:

So, one could ask, why wouldn’t it be an easy decision for the IRS to let taxpayers in OVDI/P who had not yet signed a Form 906 to proceed fully under Streamlined.  Well, it appears, that the IRS wanted to keep all of the income tax, penalties and interest for closed income tax years and penalties for open years that it was not entitled to, while giving a partial benefit of the Streamlined program (the 5% penalty applied to innocents, many of whom should owe no penalty).  Basically, the IRS wanted something that it was not entitled to. 

Bad faith seems to be a part of the IRS culture in dealing with offshore issues.

 

Peter Reilly, Retailer Can Only Deduct Perks When Redeemed  “I suspect that the accrual is probably not what makes or breaks these programs.”

Jim Maule continued his “Tax Myths” series while I was away.   I like his “The Internal Revenue Code Fills 70,000 Pages” post.

 

David Brunori, Lawyers Whining About Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

For the record, I don’t like taxes. But if you’re going to have a government, you should pay for it the right way. Sales tax should be paid by consumers on all their purchases. Business inputs should never be subject to sales tax. Everyone who has ever studied or even thought about consumption taxes knows that. So it makes sense that legal services should be taxed. Lawyers don’t like that because, well, people might use less of their services. That would be a tragedy beyond comprehension.

Not that I’m in a hurry to charge sales taxes to my individual clients, but David is right on the policy.

 

20140730-1Howard Gleckman, Are Tax Inversions Really Unpatriotic? (TaxVox)  “Selling war material to an enemy or financing a terrorist organization is unpatriotic—and illegal. Using legal avoidance strategies to reduce taxes may be distasteful or unseemly, but it is not unpatriotic.”

Kay Bell, Defense Department workers, some with top security clearance, owed $730 million in back federal taxes.  So tell me again about corporate tax “deserters.”

 

Annette Nellen, IRS Voluntary Preparer Regulation System – Worthwhile? Legal?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 447

 

Because Hollywood needs more taxpayer money!  29 Members of Congress Ask California to Boost Film Tax Credits (Joseph Henchman, Tax Policy Blog).  In a just world, this would automatically cost all 29 of these critters their seats.

 

Rebecca Wilkins, Stop the Bleeding from Inversions before the Corporate Tax Dies (Tax Justice Blog).  Darn, I’ll have to stroll into town for a Band-aid.

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/29/14: Whither Halbig and the ACA. And lots more!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2The Big Tax News while I was on vacation was the Halbig decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  The decision holds invalid the IRS decision allowing tax credit subsidies for policies purchased on federal insurance exchanges.  The impact of the decision was offset by a Fourth Circuit decision the same day coming to the opposite conclusion, but it is still a big deal, especially in light of some subsequent events.

The D.C. circuit has national implications because every taxpayer can come under its jurisdiction by litigating through the Court of Federal Claims.  An alert reader corrects me:

Your post today contains an error.  The  D.C. circuit is not the same as the federal circuit.  The court of federal claims is appealable to the federal circuit. The district court for the D.C. circuit is appealable to the D.C. circuit.  Halbig is a big deal in any event because the dc circuit instructed the district court to vacate the rule.  Vacated means that there is no rule anywhere.  In any event, SCOTUS will make the final call here.

As long as that decision stands — and the IRS will certainly ask the 15-member court to reconsider Halbig, decided by a three-member panel — it threatens not only the tax credits for the 37 states without their own exchanges, but it also invalidates the employer mandate tax in those states and takes much of the bite out of the individual mandate.  The South Carolina Policy Council explains why (my emphasis):

The subsidies are also important for their function as triggers of both the individual and employer mandate portions of the ACA. The ACA imposes a $2,000 per employee penalty for companies with more than 50 employees who do not offer “adequate health insurance” to their workers. This penalty is triggered when an employee accepts an IRS subsidy on a plan purchased through an exchange. If individuals in the 36 states without a state-run exchange are ineligible for subsidies, there will be no trigger to set off the employer mandate.

An absence of subsidies would also allow many people to avoid the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires citizens to maintain health insurance covering certain minimum benefits or pay a fine. This is because the ACA exempts citizens from the individual mandate whose out-of-pocket costs for health insurance exceed 8 percent of their household income. If IRS subsidies are removed, insurance plans offered on exchanges would exceed this cost threshold for many people – thereby providing them an exemption from the mandate.

Flickr image courtesy Tim under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Tim under Creative Commons license

This would devastate the already shaky economics of Obamacare.

The key ruling in Halbig is its finding that statutory language allowing tax credits through exchanges “established by a State” doesn’t cover the federal exchanges that are used in the 36 states without exchanges.   Critics of Halbig say that Congress couldn’t have been that stupid.  For example, Jonathan Gruber, an architect of the ACA, says“Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it`s a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the federal states.”

That assertion has been challenged by a number of observers, notes Megan McArdle.  She cites a January 2012 speech by one Jonathan Gruber, an architect of the ACA:

Only about 10 states have really moved forward aggressively on setting up their exchanges. A number of states have even turned down millions of dollars in federal government grants as a statement of some sort — they don’t support health care reform.

Now, I guess I’m enough of a believer in democracy to think that when the voters in states see that by not setting up an exchange the politicians of a state are costing state residents hundreds and millions and billions of dollars, that they’ll eventually throw the guys out. But I don’t know that for sure. And that is really the ultimate threat, is, will people understand that, gee, if your governor doesn’t set up an exchange, you’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars of tax credits to be delivered to your citizens. [emphasis added] 

The 2012 Jonathan Gruber repeated the story that only state-established exchanges qualify for credits in other forums.   It’s remarkable that two ACA architects named Jonathan Gruber have such divergent views of what the bill does.  It’s even more remarkable that they are the same guy.  This seems like strong support for the D.C. Circuit’s approach.

supreme courtIf the ACA were just another tax bill, it would be pretty easy to predict that the Supreme Court would go with the D.C. Circuit’s approach, based on prior rulings involving statutes that reached results the IRS didn’t care for.  In the Gitlitz case, which arguably provided an unintended windfall for S corporation shareholders when the S corporation incurred non-taxable debt forgiveness income, the Supreme Court said in an 8-1 decision (footnotes and citations omitted, emphasis added):

Second, courts have discussed the policy concern that, if shareholders were permitted to pass through the discharge of indebtedness before reducing any tax attributes, the shareholders would wrongly experience a “double windfall”: They would be exempted from paying taxes on the full amount of the discharge of indebtedness, and they would be able to increase basis and deduct their previously suspended losses.  Because the Code’s plain text permits the taxpayers here to receive these benefits, we need not address this policy concern.

In other words, if Congress doesn’t like what it has done, it’s up to Congress to fix it, not the IRS.  Congress did just that with the Gitlitz result within a year of the decision.

Of course, the ACA isn’t typical tax legislation.  Chief Justice Roberts tied himself in knots to find a way to uphold Obamacare in 2012.  Politics makes it unlikely that the Gitlitz approach will be followed by the left side of the Supreme Court, and who knows how Justice Roberts will rule.  But it does appear at least possible that Halbig will be upheld.

What should taxpayers do?  My thought is to assume the mandates remain in effect and pay tax (or reduce your withholding) accordingly.  Then be prepared to file a refund claim if Halbig is upheld by the Supreme Court.  Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

At least one thoughtful commentator says that ultimately if Halbig is upheld, holdout states will fall into line and establish exchanges.  For the reasons laid out here, I don’t think that will happen, and Congress will be forced to clean up its mess.

 

Paul Neiffer, ACA Subsidies: One Court Strikes Down, Another Upholds

Kristy Maitre, IRS Releases Additional ACA Revenue Procedures and Draft Forms  (ISU-CALT)

 

20140729-2Jason Dinesen, Don’t Be “That” Business Owner.  “I see too many with preconceived notions of what they can “get by with.” I’ve seen and read about too many people whose life got turned upside-down when they ended up NOT “getting by with it” after all.”

Russ Fox,  2:42.  “That’s how long I spent on hold on the IRS Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) yesterday–two hours, forty-two minutes.”   It’s a good thing Practitioners are a “Priority,” or who knows how long he’d have been on hold.

Phil Hodgen, Green card holders, treaty elections, and exit tax

Stephen Olsen, Ct. of Fed. Claims Holds Merger Results in “Same Taxpayer” for Net Zero Interest Rate (Procedurally Taxing)

Peter Reilly wonders if it is Time To Let Kent Hovind Go Home?  Peter thinks the former owner of a theme park based on the idea that hominids and dinosaurs co-existed may have suffered enough for his tax misdeeds.

Robert D. Flach brings the fresh Tuesday Buzz!

Well, these things are never tidi.  Spanish Court Moving Forward With Messi Tax Evasion Case  (TaxGrrrl)

 

taxanalystslogoDavid Brunori, Who Wants to Tax a Millionaire? Lots of People (Tax Analysts Blog).  This is full fo good observations about the unwisdom of states soaking the “rich.”  Highlights include:

States do not (and should not) do a lot of redistributing to the very poor.

When states jack up taxes on the “rich,” the money doesn’t exactly go to people sleeping under bridges, as David explains (my emphasis):

I have written about this before.  I noted that “the real beneficiaries of most government spending, certainly at the state level, never come up. No one ever says that we need higher taxes because my friends in the construction business want new contracts. No one ever says that they want new taxes to expand bloated public employee union bureaucracies. Yes, crony capitalism and union bosses drive most calls for higher taxes.” My right-wing friends often criticize liberals calling for higher marginal taxes as delusional. But they know exactly what they’re doing. Often they want higher taxes just so they can give money to their friends.

The money taken from “the rich” goes to the well-connected.  Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation system fleeces those without pull to pay rich subsidies to well-connected politicians and corporations.  Better to throw out the crony subsidies and lower rates for the rest of us — like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Tax Reform Plan would do.

 

Elaine Maag, The “Helping Working Families Afford Child Care Act” Would Help, but Doesn’t Solve the Timing Mismatch (TaxVox).  “Making the CDCTC refundable and increasing allowable expenses is a huge step in improving child care assistance for low-income families.”

 

20140729-1Joseph Thorndike, The Corporate Income Tax Will Never Be ‘Fixed.’ And That’s OK. (Tax Analysts Blog):

Again, I think the corporate income tax is on the way out. But that’s a long-term problem. It doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel right away. The corporate tax may, as McArdle suggests, be an “insane, unwinnable chess game” pitting lawyers against tax collectors. But for the time being, the game is still worth the candle.

I think Megan McArdle has the better case, that the corporation income tax needs to go away, one way or the other.   I like the idea of doing so via a corporation dividends-paid deduction, combined with an excise tax on dividends for otherwise-exempt stockholders, as a way to get there.

Scott Hodge, More on Inversions and the Effective Tax Rates of Foreign-Owned Firms.   “The administration may want to think twice about taking unilateral action without considering the consequences.”

Clint Stretch, Dreams of Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog).  Patsy Cline is invoked.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 446

 

Greg Kyte, Clarifying Sex and Auditor Independence After the EY and Ventas Affair (Going Concern).  Can an auditor be “independent” while sleeping with a CFO?  Well, auditors are supposed to have hearts of stone…

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/2/14: How to make the least of that office manager job. And: IRS gets around to the obvious!

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20140508-2No office manager is paid enough for this.  
The tax law doesn’t like it at all when an employer withholds payroll taxes from paychecks and fails to pass it on to the IRS.  One tool the IRS uses to encourage compliance is the “responsible person” penalty.  If a person with responsibility for remitting payroll taxes knowingly fails to do so, the IRS can assess that person with a 100% penalty — even if that person didn’t get any of the money.

A Virginia federal district court recently drove that lesson home to a Ms. Horne, an office manager for a medical practice:

A. Responsible Person

Horne was a responsible person for the Company for each quarter of 2006 through 2010. First, Horne was the Company’s Officer Manager throughout that time period. Second, Horne had substantial authority over payroll because she prepared and signed the Company’s payroll checks. Third, because Horne was charged with preparing checks to creditors, she necessarily determined which creditors to pay. Fourth, Horne participated in day-to-day management of the Company, including making decisions about employee compensation, maintaining the Company’s books and records, and preparing financial information to be presented at shareholder meetings. Fifth, at all relevant times, Horne had authority to, and did, sign checks drawn on the Company’s bank account. Sixth, Horne participated in decisions regarding the hiring and firing of employees.

B. Willful Action

From 2006 to 2010, Horne was aware of the Company’s unpaid employment tax liabilities as they accrued. However, she continued to prepare and sign checks to pay other creditors in preference over the United States. Accordingly, the Court finds that Horne acted willfully in failing to pay over to the Service the taxes withheld from the wages of the Company’s employees.

IV. CONCLUSION

For the aforementioned reasons, the Court will GRANT the Motion. Horne is, thus, liable to the United States in the amount of $2,926,809.51, plus statutory interest accruing from December 23, 2013. 

 

It’s hard to save $2.9 million even on the best office manager salary.

Update:  An excellent point made in the comments:  “I feel for anyone placed in the tough position of losing a job to avoid liability for an employer’s inability to pay its tax liability to the IRS, but the 100% penalty imposed by Section 6672 on responsible persons makes it clear that the job is not worth the tax problem arising from a company’s failure to pay its trust fund taxes.”

 

Cite: Miller v. United States et al.; No. 3:13-cv-00728

 

 

20130723-3IRS takes obvious measures to fight refund fraud five years late.  From Tax Analysts ($link)

     Starting in January 2015, the IRS will no longer make direct deposits of more than three tax refunds into one financial account, Commissioner John Koskinen told tax return preparers at the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum in Chicago July 1.

The move is meant to enhance the IRS’s efforts to combat stolen identity refund fraud, Koskinen explained in prepared remarks for his address to the forum.

Any refund after the third will automatically be converted to a paper check and mailed to the address on the tax return, Koskinen told preparers. “We will send out notices to those taxpayers that their refunds are being mailed and they should expect to receive them in about four weeks from the time of mailing,” he said.

That’s a good start.  Perhaps next the IRS can flag multiple refunds being sent to the same address – like the 655 refunds to a single apartment in Lithuania.  Baby steps.  Like this:

The IRS also plans to end the practice of a small number of preparers who serve as banker to their clients or who take fees from the refunds, Koskinen said. “We’ve identified about 4,400 personal accounts held by tax preparers where multiple refunds were deposited,” the commissioner said. “We’re putting a stop to that, too.”

No doubt some of these are full service firms that do your taxes, collect your refund — and spend it for you.

 

William Perez, Divorce and Taxes.  “We take a look at tax planning principles for property settlements, alimony and child support.”

Howard Gleckman, A Payroll Tax Math Error Adds $5 Billion To The Deficit (TaxVox).  “But the current law for the self-employed allows the full deduction of 7.65 percent—not only for earnings below the Social Security cap but, remarkably, even for earnings subject only to the 1.45 percent Medicare tax.”

Kay Bell, State tax law changes — from gas to sales to businesses and even soccer — take effect July 1

 

taxanalystslogoDavid Brunori, A Revenue Department Behaving Badly (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Documents (except for taxpayer information of course) produced by the “government” belong to the citizens.”

Kelly Davis, Kansas: Repercussions of a Failing Experiment (Tax Justice Blog).  “But the Governor’s experiment now appears to be in meltdown mode: revenues for the last two months have come in way under projections and may leave the state short of the cash needed to pay its bills.”

Lyman Stone, Scott Eastman, Liz Emanuel, Tyler Dennis, Courtney Michaluk, Independence Day Brings Fireworks Taxes to Light (Tax Policy Bl0g).  Hey, Iowa, if they aren’t legal, it’s harder to tax them.

Janet Novack, U.S. Taxpayers With Secret Offshore Money Face New Risks And Options 

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Iowa Deduction Finder — Insurance Premium Tax Deduction

Peter Reilly, Military Housing Allowance Much More Limited Than Clergy’s

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces Shorter, Faster Application For Some Tax Exempt Organizations

Robert D. Flach, MORE INFO ON THE NEW IRS ANNUAL FILING SEASON PROGRAM.  “I still think in its current form it is stupid, and that very few tax preparers will actually ‘volunteer’.”

Robert is right.

 

Megan McArdle ponders the version of the email erasure story from Lois Lerner’s attorney:

This weekend, William Taylor III, Lerner’s lawyer, went on television and described Lerner’s experience. Lerner came in one morning in 2011, he said, turned on her computer and got a blue screen.

That interested me, because the description is quite specific. What he seems to be describing is the famed Microsoft Windows “blue screen of death.”

Well, because as I mentioned above, the Blue Screen of Death is an operating system error. The operating system lives on the hard drive. Which raises a question: If Lerner’s hard drive was so thoroughly malfunctioning that no one could even get the data off of it, how was it booting up far enough for the operating system to malfunction?

She comes up with some potential explanations — which mostly assume it didn’t quite happen the way the lawyer describes.

 

20140516-1John Hinderaker,  More on the IRS’s Illegal Destruction of Evidence

True the Vote’s brief points out that the first lawsuit alleging discriminatory targeting of conservative groups was filed by a pro-Israel group called Z Street, Inc., on August 25, 2010. On that date, at the very latest, the IRS had a legal duty to take measures to ensure that no emails, correspondence, memoranda, notes, or other evidence of any sort that could be relevant to the case was lost or destroyed…

But, according to IRS representatives who have testified before Congressional committees, the IRS ignored the law. Instead of making sure that relevant information was preserved, the IRS blithely continued erasing back-up email tapes every 90 days. Further, the IRS continued its policy of assigning each employee a ridiculously small space on an email server, and then authorizing employees (like Lois Lerner) to delete at will to keep space open. And, finally, when Lerner’s hard drive crashed ten months after the Z Street case was commenced, the IRS made no effort to preserve it, but rather, by its own account, recycled the hard drive in a business-as-usual manner.

Don’t try this at home, kids.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 419

 

You should never be to busy to file correct tax returns.  Appeals court upholds Beavers’ tax conviction.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/25/14: Check your mailbox edition. And: the Commissioner’s real goal.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Ignore them and they will come anyway.  A Chicagoan tried to avoid IRS pursuit by the simple expedient of not picking up his mail.  The Tax Court told him yesterday that doesn’t work:

 On several occasions the U.S. Postal Service (Postal Service) attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to deliver the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency to petitioner at the address of his Columbus Drive apartment. On at least two occasions the Postal Service left notices of attempted delivery of certified mail at that address. In those notices, the Postal Service informed petitioner that it had certified mail to deliver to him and that he had to sign a receipt for that mail before the Postal Service would deliver it to him.

The taxpayer never got around to doing so. Yet he still wanted to fight the deficiencies in Tax Court:

It is petitioner’s position that he is entitled under section 6330(c)(2)(B) to contest the underlying tax liability for his taxable year 2006. In support of that position, petitioner contends that although respondent mailed to him by certified mail, return receipt requested, the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency that was addressed to his Columbus Drive apartment, he did not receive that notice within the 90-day period during which he could have filed a petition with the Court with respect to that notice. In support of that contention, petitioner relies on his testimony at the partial trial in these cases. 

There’s a 90-day deadline to file with the Tax Court, starting with the receipt of the Notice of Deficiency.  The Tax Court enforces the deadline pretty strictly.  And you can’t extend the deadline just by ignoring your mail:

On the record before us, we hold that petitioner may not decline to retrieve his Postal Service mail, when he was reasonably able and had multiple opportunities to do so, and thereafter successfully contend that he did not receive for purposes of section 6330(c)(2)(B) the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency. On that record, we reject petitioner’s contention that he is entitled under that section to dispute the underlying tax liability for his taxable year 2006.

Nice try.

Cite: Onyango, 142 T.C. No. 24.

 

Paul Neiffer, Is Low Section 179 Causing Low Equipment Sales?

 

Mixed message.   From Tax Analysts ($link): “Taxpayers considering the IRS’s new streamlined filing compliance program need to think carefully about whether their actions were truly non-willful, because a certification that proves untrue could expose them to more charges from the Justice Department, Kathryn Keneally, former assistant attorney general for the DOJ Tax Division, said June 24.”

The Treasury just can’t quite get the hang of this.  What taxpayers need is bright-line guidance that lets them come into compliance, at least below a relatively-generous dollar threshold.  Instead they have to come in with their hands up, while the IRS reserves the right to open fire — to second guess their state of mind.  That’s not necessarily very comforting.

 

 

Rose Mary Woods checks her e-mail in the Nixon administration.

Rose Mary Woods checks her e-mail in the Nixon administration.

Howard GleckmanThe Real IRS Flap Is About Dark Money, Not Emails (TaxVox):

But get past the shouting and two very important issues remain on the table: The first is the IRS has been terribly managed for years and needs to be fixed. It’s easy to forget, but that’s why Koskinen is there.

The second is that the commissioner appears undeterred in his efforts to rewrite the rules for 501(c)(4) non-profits that are engaged in political activities. That seemingly obscure effort will have an enormous impact on future U.S. elections and the balance of political power in the U.S.

This is chilling.  And Mr. Gleckman seems to think it’s just an effort by a disintersted public servant to impose order on chaos:

Koskinen is under great pressure from liberal and conservative groups and from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to abandon the effort. Don’t for a minute think that the House’s proposed $300 million cut in the IRS budget, its endless requests for IRS documents on multiple subjects, and even the email hearings themselves are not in part an effort to sink—or at least slow–these regulations.

Yet, Koskinen has refused to blink.

If you think Koskinen isn’t a partisan operative at the IRS, you haven’t been paying attention.   All of the pressure to “reform” the (c)(4)s has come from the left.  And it’s clear from the Tea Party targeting that the IRS can’t be trusted to regulate political actors evenhandedly.  If Mr. Gleckman is right, Koskinen’s mission is not to help the IRS to recover from its scandalous practices, but to institutionalize them.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 412.  About 40 links today, primarily on Commissioner Koskinen’s appearance before Congressional investigators and related missing e-mail developments.  It’s hard to imagine how this Commissioner could do a worse job at coming clean and improving IRS relationships with GOP congressional appropriators.

Jonathan Adler, IRS agrees to pay non-profit group $50,000 for unauthorized release of tax return.  But nobody will lose their job, and the $50,000 won’t come out of any individual perpetrator’s pocket.  In fact, the leaker gets to maintain his/her anonymity, and presumably employment too.  And even though it was an illegal, and presumably partisan, disclosure of taxpayer information, the Justice Department isn’t going to investigate.

TaxGrrrl, Lois Lerner And The Case Of The Missing Emails.  “Yes, that’s right: the IRS used the same backup strategy for its important data that I used to record my soap operas in college.”

Russ FoxKoskinen Channels His Inner Nixon. “The IRS continues to look hyper-partisan, and that’s not a good thing for anyone.”

The Hill, Archives official: IRS didn’t follow law on missing emails.   But Commissioner Koskinen says no apologies are in order, so stop bothering him.

 

No Walnut STAccounting Today, AICPA Says IRS Voluntary Tax Preparer Certification Program Is Unlawful:

The AICPA’s letter emphasizes the following points:

• First, no statute authorizes the proposed program;

• Second, the program will inevitably be viewed as an end-run around Loving v. IRS, (a federal court ruling rejecting an earlier IRS attempt to regulate tax return preparers);

• Third, the IRS has evidently concluded, in developing the proposed program, that it need not comply with the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. This is incorrect; and

• Finally, the current proposal is arbitrary and capricious because it fails to address the problems presented by unethical tax return preparers, runs counter to evidence presented to the IRS, and will create market confusion.

Not that being illegal will bother them; see above.

 

Arnold Kling, In Our Hands.  Mr. Kling discusses his idea for replacing all means tested welfare programs like the Earned Income Credit with a universal voucher: “Keep in mind that under current policy, many low-income households face effective marginal tax rates of 100 percent or higher. That is, they are better off with something less than full-time, year-round work.”

 

David Brunori, A Bad Law Addressing a Bad Business Tax (Tax Analysts Blog)

Local option business taxes, whether imposed on income, gross receipts, or personal property, are terrible ways to raise revenue. Only 14 states authorize their use, and they raise a paltry sum compared with the property tax or even local option sales and income taxes. Virtually all the public finance experts who have studied the issue denounce their use.

Of course, Iowa has lots of these.

 

20120606-1Sydni Pierce, Congress, Take Note: More States Are Reforming Antiquated Fuel Taxes This Summer (Tax Justice Blog)

Andrew Lundeen, Obamacare Increases Marginal Tax Rate on Labor by Six Percentage Points (Tax Analysts Blog).   “In the case of the Affordable Care act, Mulligan is talking about implicit marginal tax rates, or ‘the extra taxes paid, and subsidies forgone, as the result of working.'”

 

Adrienne Gonzalez, Bernie Madoff’s Former Accountant Pleads Guilty But Clueless (Going Concern).  “Prosecutors say that Konigsberg didn’t intend to help defraud Madoff investors, but knowingly used fraudulently backdated trades provided by Mr. Madoff’s firm as he prepared tax returns for some clients’ investment account.”

 

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