Posts Tagged ‘David Brunori’

Tax Roundup, 6/4/14: IRS to ease up on FBAR foot-faulters? And: nanny-state taxes!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: The Tax Update will take Thursday and Friday off this week to tend to a family wedding.  We’ll be back as usual Monday.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Maybe we shouldn’t be shooting jaywalkers?  The IRS may be declaring a cease-fire in its long war on inadvertent foreign account violators.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that IRS Commissioner Koskinen told a tax conference that it will be modifying its Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative:

“We are well aware that there are many U.S. citizens who have resided abroad for many years, perhaps even the vast majority of their lives,” Koskinen told a luncheon audience at the 2014 OECD International Tax Conference in Washington. “We have been considering whether these individuals should have an opportunity to come into compliance that doesn’t involve the type of penalties that are appropriate for U.S.-resident taxpayers who were willfully hiding their investments overseas.”

Gee, you think so?  You really think 25%-300% penalties might not be appropriate for the crime of committing personal finance while living abroad?  What could possibly have given him that idea?

     Koskinen also pointed to taxpayers residing in the United States with offshore accounts “whose prior noncompliance clearly did not constitute willful tax evasion but who, to date, have not had a clear way of coming into compliance that doesn’t involve the threat of substantial penalties.”

“We believe that re-striking this balance between enforcement and voluntary compliance is particularly important at this point in time, given that we are nearing July 1, the effective date of FATCA,” Koskinen said. 

One of the things that made Doug Shulman the Worst Commissioner Ever was his brutal treatment of trivial inadvertent offshore paperwork filing violators.  Hopefully his successor will make coming into compliance voluntarily a transparent, predictable process designed primarily to ensure future compliance.  Something like state programs for non-resident non-filers, where taxpayers pay back taxes, if any, and interest for a limited number of open years would make sense  People are understandably reluctant to come into compliance when it can mean financial ruin.

The IRS has not released any details of this kinder, gentler approach, so curb your enthusiasm for now.

Related: IRS Commissioner Koskinen Announces that Changes — Liberalizations — Are In the Offing for OVDP 2012  (Jack Townsend)  “All in all, this is good news, at least from a hope perspective.”

 

20140409-1Robert D Flach offers YET ANOTHER POST CALLING FOR A VOLUNTARY TAX PREPARER DESIGNATION.  Robert makes his case for a “voluntary” designation for preparers who meet some standard.

Robert says something I agree with:

  Having the IRS oversee the designation is not the best idea.  I have suggested that the voluntary RTRP-like designation be administered by an independent industry-based organization like an American Institute of Registered Tax Return Preparers (see “It’s Time for Independent Certification for Tax Preparers“).

If the IRS has nothing to do with it, fine.  If it does, it will inevitably do special favors for its “voluntary” friends and make like difficult for others.

Robert is a little like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, looking for a brain.  The movie quickly makes clear that the Scarecrow already has a perfectly good brain; all he lacks is a diploma.  Robert, a perfectly good (if old-fashioned) preparer, doesn’t need a diploma to save his clients from the Wicked Witch.

 

TaxGrrrl, After TIGTA Report, Expect More Tax Refund Delays,  The IRS is encouraged to expand its refund offset programs.

Paul Neiffer, Portability Revisited. “With the “permanent” changes in the estate tax laws from about 2 years ago, we now have a permanent provision called portability.  This allows for the unused portion of someone’s estate to be “ported” over to the surviving spouse to be used on their final estate tax return.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 391

 

 

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

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

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats Just Love Their Nanny-State Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Tax Foundation recently spotlighted a Democratic tax proposal that gives substance to the name-calling: the Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act, introduced last month by Sens. Tom Harkin, and Richard Blumenthal.

According to its champions, the act would protect children from the predations of junk food purveyors. In particular, it would deny manufacturers any sort of tax deduction “for advertising and marketing directed at children to promote the consumption of food of poor nutritional quality.” It would use the resulting revenue to help fund the Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

That all sounds great. Except for the fact that it’s arbitrary, capricious, and an egregious misuse of tax policy.

The tax law – is there anything it can’t do?

Joseph adds, wisely:

Reasonable people can disagree about what qualifies as a loophole. But by almost any definition, the deduction for advertising junk food is not one.

Once you decide the tax law is a public policy Swiss Army Knife, there’s no logical place to stop.

 

20140411-1Kay Bell, Calories or volume: Which is the better tax on sugary drinks?  Neither.  Some problems just aren’t tax problems.

David Brunori’s righteous anger at taxes on e-cigarettes is now freely available at Tax Analysts Blog: Taxing E-Cigarettes Seems Crazy.  “Yet politicians routinely say that e-cigarettes will lead people to start smoking, or worse — use drugs! Are they daft?”  No, just greedy.

 

Renu Zaretsky, In the Midwest, Across the Pacific, and Down Under.  Tax Custs in Ohio and a rejected tax boost in Missouri are part of the TaxVox headline roundup today.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Will Anti-Tax Yogis Sink Tax-Reform in D.C.?.  If that’s what it takes to get the pic-i-nic basket.

 

This will make the homecoming in 2042 a little less awkward.  WMUR.com reports:

The woman who, along with her husband, held police at bay during a nine-month standoff in 2007 over tax evasion has apologized to the community.

Elaine Brown’s apology appeared in Plain Facts, a monthly publication written by Plainfield residents.

She said she and her husband Ed were trying to advance the “cause of justice.” She went on to say they “failed to take into account the impact we were having on others in the town. We failed to realize the fear, anxiety and impact we were causing these good people.

She was unable to apologize in person because she has been detained — until November 2042, according to the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator.  She should be home in time to invite her neighbors to her 102nd birthday party.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/2/14: Tax moralism and moral panics. And: IRS, abetter of theives, scourge of victims!

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts’ Tax Notes and State Tax Notes are part of my healthy breakfast, and today they are especially delicious.  The only bad part, for me, is that they are subscription publications, making them hard to share in full.  I can give you morsels, though.

Joseph Thorndike has an excellent discussion of the hollow moralism of tax debates, though he ends up defending it.  In the course of discussing an article by Allison Christians on the role of moralism in tax debates, he comes up with gem after gem.  He quotes Learned Hand’s discussion of the issue, which I find conclusive:

Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one’s affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant.

That never stops politicians, as Joseph points out:

     More recently, President Obama’s proposal for a “Buffett rule” clearly falls within that tradition of tax moralism (although in this version of the morality play, the billionaire plays the hero rather than the villain). Like the AMT, the Buffett rule is a rear-guard action to defend the fisc against the predations of aggressive avoiders.

But those sorts of Rube Goldberg tax contraptions are an admission of failure. They take for granted that the existing tax base and its statutory rate structure cannot be defended. But the efficacy of those second-best tax systems — at least when measured in terms of fairness — is anything but self-evident. And their costs in terms of complexity and opacity are substantial. 

If you move away from the law, to a system of “morality” in paying taxes, you lose your way.  Who decides what is moral?  Politicians?  Don’t make me laugh.  It’s hard enough to follow the law, given its ridiculous complexity.  If you then require taxpayers to meet subjective standards of whatever pressure group feels like calling a press conference that day, you make taxes pretty much impossible.

One point not mentioned is the conflicting moral obligations of taxpayers.  A rich individual has moral responsibilities to his children, his business and his own community.  The IRS can’t be the supreme moral agent.  And a corporation has moral and legal obligations to its shareholders, customers and employees that conflict with any “moral” obligation to the fisc.  Given that pensions are mostly invested in corporation stock and bonds, their “moral” obligation to give politicians more money for buying votes is hard to take seriously.

 

e-cigFor dessert, David Brunori chimes in on e-cigarettes and politicians

 I get the rationale for tobacco taxes. You smoke, you get sick, society has to pay for your medical care. That’s consistent with the classic rationale for excise taxes. Those taxes are legitimate only if used to pay for externalities — that is, the societal costs that aren’t borne by the market.

Of course, cigarette taxes in particular have never really been about externalities. If they were, every penny of revenue would go to smoking-related healthcare. Instead, dozens of states earmark some cigarette tax revenue for education (I still can’t believe teachers who rely on cigarette tax revenue for their raises aren’t leaving cartons of Lucky Strikes on their kids’ desks). 

Ah, but giving away cartons of cigarettes on a teacher’s salary?  Of course, my mom was a teacher, and I remember as a kid buying her cigarettes at the store.  But she never shared them, and I never picked up the habit.

David adds:

Taxing e-cigarettes is a money grab. If people use e-cigarettes instead of real cigarettes, the state loses money. The vested interests like the public employee unions and the myriad government contractors can’t have that. But proponents won’t admit the money-grabbing motive.

Iowa, like many other states, is a partner in the tobacco industry as a result of a shakedown settlement agreement with the big tobacco companies.  The industry continues to operate, with the politicians getting a cut of the revenue (nice vice racket you got there, hate to see something bad happen to it).  The moral panic over e-cigarettes is really about protecting this franchise.

 

20130419-1We’ll let them steal your money, and then we’ll punish you for it.  IRS freezes tax ID theft victims’ return – then hits them with late penalties. (Cleveland.com)

Pat Pekarek and her husband, Roger, discovered someone filed taxes using Roger’s Social Security number last year, after the IRS rejected their e-filed joint return.

The Pekareks, who live in Parma Heights, dutifully followed the IRS’ instructions to send their return by mail with documentation proving they were the real Pekareks. The IRS immediately froze their account, along with a credit that Pat Pekarek expected to use toward this year’s taxes.

A year later, the account remains in the IRS deep freeze – along with the credit. And now, even though it was the IRS freeze that kept the credit on ice, the agency is demanding the Pekareks cough up back taxes and pay late penalties.

The IRS has let identity theft get completely out of control, while spending its time and energy trying to regulate law-abiding preparers and harassing uncongenial political groups.  And they’ve managed to neglect and abuse the victims while doing so.  Good thing they are responsible for our health insurance system too.

 

William Perez, Foreign Bank Accounts due June 30th.  New form, and now you have to e-file.

TaxGrrrl, Las Vegas Man Cheated IRS, Taxpayers Using False Home Buyer Credits:  “Refundable credits are traditionally a magnet for fraudulent claims and this one was no different: initial reports indicated that nearly 100,000 refunds were perhaps inappropriately distributed, with $600 million of taxpayer credits labelled “suspicious” in 2009 (despite those numbers, Congress kept extending the credit).”

Jack Townsend, Accountant Sentenced For Tax Crimes; Conduct Included FBAR violations .  “The gravamen of Duban’s conduct is that he assisted the persons related to the automobile dealership in running nondeductible personal expenses through the corporation.”

Scott Schumacher, Winning the He-Said-She-Said Case (Procedurally Taxing)

Tony Nitti, S Corporation Shareholder Must Reduce Basis For Non-Deductible Corporate Loss 

 

20140401-1Lyman Stone, Response to Politico: Taxes and the Texas Miracle (Tax Policy Blog):

But long-term tax policies do matter. Stable, neutral, non-distortionary tax policies, offering low tax rates on broad tax bases, can support economic growth. Firm site selection is one channel, through which taxes affect economic decisions on the margin. There is robust evidence that taxes (while certainly not the only or even the largest factor) do matter for site selection. And, as one of the few site selection variables policymakers can directly control, it makes sense for them to be concerned about the role of taxes.

But not in the form of paying people to be your friends via tax credits.

 

Annette Nellen, Is tax reform on or off? Odd activities in the House last week

Kay Bell, Debate continues about tax havens and punishment fairness

 

Renu Zaretsky, Holes, Holidays, Hurricanes, and Tax Bills (TaxVox).  “The Illinois legislature passed a budget with revenue holes and no spending cuts.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 388

Me, 2 million served.  An arbitrary milestone, achieved!

 

Russ Fox, No, Fido & Lulu Can’t Own Your Business:

All corporations have to have a Board of Directors. That board handles various business items of the corporation. Now, in a tightly controlled corporation you might just have one board member–yourself. But Mr. Zuckerman elected a strategy that I haven’t seen before (and I doubt I’ll see again): He named his pets as board members.

They were probably as independent as any number of human board members.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/28/14: Tax Fairy isn’t handicap-accessible. And: Why you should let your tax guy do the talking.

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


tax fairy
Audit defenders can’t defend themselves.  
There is something deep in our DNA that enables us to believe in the supernatural, at least when it comes to taxes. Otherwise sensible people act as if they believe in a Tax Fairy who can wave a magic wand to make taxes go away.  Operators offer themselves as intermediaries to the tax spirit world, taking real money to generate pretend tax breaks.

It had to take a real leap of faith to pay good money to the National Audit Defense Network.  Members of this Nevada group were convicted in Las Vegas yesterday of tax charges that included an implausible tax credit scheme.  They set up a “shopping” web site called Tax Break 2000 that was inaccessible to handicapped users.  They would then sell Tax Fairy adherents a “modification kit” to make the web site handicap-accessible for $10,475 — 20% down, and the rest payable on a promissory note “when they had no expectation that the customers would make payments on the promissory notes.”  They then told their clients that this generated a $5,000 tax credit.

How many Taxafarieans paid the $10,475 tithe?  According to the indictment, they sold 21,610 kits.  Assuming they collected 20% of the sales price, that grossed them $45,272,950.

Any attempt to commune with the Tax Fairy runs into snags.  The first big snag here was a letter from their own internal “dream team” of tax advisors telling them this wouldn’t work.  The indictment says the NADNers went opinion shopping and found accommodating attorneys who said it might work.  Good enough!

They had more difficulty clearing the next obstacle: a permanent injunction against selling Tax Fairy access.  But that’s the least of their problems now.

This case has attracted a little extra attention because of the involvement of a former NFL punter, who apparently decided to ignore his professional training and go for it.  When trick plays fail, they fail badly, and the participants now may face long prison terms.

And there is no tax fairy.

 

Wind turbineTony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Hot Assets And The Sale Of Partnership Interests

Kay Bell, Federal workers, including members of Congress and Treasury employees, owe Uncle Sam $3.3 billion in back taxes

No.  Does Warren Buffett Practice What He Preaches? (Paul Neiffer)  “The cost to Warren individually of raising his individual income tax bracket by 10% annually may cost him personally a couple of million or less, while his company saves over $400 million in tax by using energy tax credits.  I would make the trade-off any time.”

 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 384

Joseph Thorndike, Bad Ideas Are Like Bad Pennies (Tax Analysts Blog).  He’s talking about private collection of IRS debts.  Considering that the IRS isn’t exactly blemish-free in its debt collection practices, I don’t share the objections to private collection of undisputed tax debts.

Joseph also raises this point: “But it’s also expensive to pander, since every dollar invested in IRS collection can return up to $20 in new revenue.”  I think that’s hugely unlikely as a marginal return, based on what I see in the field and the way the IRS misdeploys resources (preparer regulation, anyone?).

 

Not Senator Wyden

If there is something wrong with our tax exemption, then there is something wrong with America.  I won’t stand here while you badmouth our country!

David Brunori, Taxing Togas and Keggers (Tax Analysts Blog).  “States should consider ending the absurd practice of granting property tax exemptions to charitable organizations.”

Andrew Lundeen, The Economic Effects of Bonus Depreciation (Tax Policy Blog). “Permanently extending bonus depreciation would spur investment, lift wages, grow the economy, and increase federal revenue.”

Howard Gleckman, Turning Carbon Tax Theory Into Reality (TaxVox).  Don’t hold your breath for this to be enacted, even if it would keep that carbon in your lungs.

 

Do you ever wonder why practitioners like to do the talking when the IRS gets involved? Yes, by all means stand up for your rights when dealing with the IRS.  But there’s a line where you should stop.  Going Concern tells us of a Mr. Calcione who went way over the line:

Three days after the agent left the voicemail, Calcione left a couple voicemails of his own. One of the messages contained a threat made by Andrew Calcione that if the agent called him again he would show up at the agent’s home and torture the agent, then rape and kill his wife and injure his daughter while the agent watched, before killing the agent. A second message left by Calcione requested that Calcione disregard the first message, which Calcione said was left in error.

Oh, you didn’ t mean my wife and daughter?  Well, OK, then!

Mr. Calcione was convicted of threatening an IRS agent.  Whatever tax problems he had before, that voice mail made things much, much worse.

Related: Man Convicted Of Threatening To Assault & Kill IRS Agent, Family Over Audit Proceedings  (TaxGrrrl)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 370

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/7/14: How to keep from beating up the poor with high marginal rates? And: priorities!

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

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

Arnold Kling ponders solutions to the hidden high tax rates on the poor in SNEP Solution: Flexible Benefits and Extreme Catastrophic Health Insurance.  The problem arises because many welfare benefits phase out as income rises.  For example, the phase-out of the Earned Income Tax Credit means Iowans who qualify can face a combined federal and state tax rate of over 50% on additional income.  The problem is finding a way to means-test benefits without turning the inevitable reduction of benefits as income rises into a poverty trap.  Some Kling thoughts:

One approach would be to replace all forms of means-tested assistance, including food stamps, housing subsidies, Medicaid, and the EITC, with a single cash benefit. For this purpose, we might also think of unemployment insurance as a means-tested benefit.

The classic approach is the negative income tax. What I would suggest is a modification of the negative income tax, in which recipients are instead given flexdollars. These would be like vouchers or food stamps, in that they can be used only for “merit goods:” food, health care/insurance, housing, and education/training. One way to think of this is that it takes the food stamp concept and broadens it to include the other merit goods.

Flexdollars would start at a high level for households with no income and then fade out at rate of 20 percent of the recipient’s adjusted gross income. This “fade-out” would act as a marginal tax rate on income, so we should be careful not to set the fade-out rate too high.

This would give recipients some power over their benefits, and the ability to choose which ones are more important to them — like normal people do with their earnings.  Unused  flexdollars would go into a savings account, which “could be used for medical emergencies, down payments when buying a home, or to save for retirement.”  This would reduce the incentive for “use it or lose it” spending binges.

Implicit marginal ratesImplicit marginal ratesThis seems like a much more promising approach than the current system with its overlapping benefits and multiple phase-outs that sometimes result in effective marginal rates over 100% for the working poor.   Modifying the income tax to provide a standard deduction up to the amount at which the phase-outs end would complement this system, keeping the income tax from adding a layer of explicit marginal tax rates to the rate implicit in the phase out.

Mr. Kling is a brilliant and underappreciated thinker.  I’m re-reading his Unchecked and Unbalanced, which among other things ponders ways to move decision-making on government services to the household and neighborhood level.

 

O. Kay Henderson, About 91 percent of Iowans e-filed their state income taxes:

A dwindling number of Iowa taxpayers submit paper income tax returns to the State of Iowa. Victoria Daniels of the Iowa Department of Revenue has preliminary results for all but the last three days of the tax season, which ended April 30 for Iowa income taxpayers.

“E-filing is up about 4.1 percent and approximately 91 percent of Iowans, to date, have filed electronically,” Daniels says.

I’ve been a fan of e-filing, but the IRS is doing its best to change my mind.

 

 

20140507-1Paul Neiffer, Payments to Veterinarians Require 1099 (Even If Incorporated)!

Peter Reilly, IRS Cannot Levy Tribal Payments

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 363.  This Washington Post Op-ed linked in today’s scandal roundup gets it right: “The very idea that the administration would protect someone who is hiding behind the fifth when there is not only smoke, but there is actually a clear glow of flames, is insulting.”

Annette Nellen, Taxes and Deficits in the Highway Trust Fund.  “Certainly, if we have more electric cars on the road, which don’t generate anything for the HTF, but still use the roads, a funding mechanism tied only to gasoline purchases is outdated.”

Kay Bell, Home prices, construction outlook up. So are property tax bills

 

Alan Cole, US International Tax System is Fundamentally Unserious (Tax Policy Blog):

The United States is one of the last six remaining countries in the OECD – along with Chile, Ireland, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico – to use a “worldwide” system of corporate taxation. The other twenty-eight countries in the OECD use the much sounder territorial system.

A territorial tax system ends at its country’s borders. In contrast, the United States tries to levy taxes on profits earned in countries other than the United States. The tax system sees an auto assembly plant in Craiova, Romania, built using international funding, staffed by Romanian workers, building a vehicle – the Ford B-Max – that isn’t even sold in the United States – and says “Aha! This is economic activity the United States should be able to tax!”

While it may seem unserious, worldwide taxation is deadly serious to Americans abroad and to U.S. Green Card holders.  Serious, and sometimes catastrophically costly.

 

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts Blog is on an equality kick:

Martin Sullivan, Piketty, Zuckerberg, and a Plan to Tax Wealth That Conservatives Can Support.  “David Miller, a tax attorney at Cadwalader,Wickersham & Taft in New York, has proposed that the federal government tax stock gains of the wealthy whether or not those stocks are sold.”   So they get to deduct losses, too?

David Brunori, Tax Follies in Pursuit of Equality.  “The fact that rich people are rich bugs the heck out of folks on the left.” David points out the folly of a California tax scheme that would try to control CEO compensation by hitting CEOs with punitive California tax rates.  That would make sure no corporate headquarters stay in California.

Joseph Thorndike, Piketty Is Wrong: Americans Don’t Have a ‘Passion for Equality’.  This strikes me as correct.  Patrick Henry said “give me liberty or give me death,” not “Give me liberty or give me equality.”  That contrasts with the “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” of Picketty’s France.

Renu Zaretsky, Retirement, Driving, Greenhouse Gases and Tax Burdens.  The TaxVox tax headline roundup covers a disturbing increase in retirement plan early withdrawal penalties and the Missouri override of its governor’s tax cut veto.

 

Sadly, this may compare favorably with all adults.  According to This FINRA Foundation Quiz, 76% of Millennials Have Absolutely No Clue (Going Concern)

 

Priorities.  From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

George W. Curtis, 77, of Pickett, who practices law in Oshkosh, was charged with willfullly failing to pay taxes he owed for 2007, 2008 and 2009, a period when his law practice generated profits of more than $1 million. Curtis has been designated a “Super Lawyer” several times and has practiced for more than 50 years.

77?  Some people just love the law.  Except maybe not the tax law:

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Jacobs, the prosecutor, said Curtis testified that his income wasn’t steady, that he had to front many expenses, and that he had higher financial priorities at times than paying taxes. In fact, Curtis did file returns that showed his income, but just didn’t pay.

But the government argued Curtis could have paid. During the period he wasn’t, he was paying his wife’s children’s college tuitions and a wedding, a new Lincoln SUV and buying $17,000 on wine.

You need a nice SUV to transport high-class wine.  Have you ever tried to get your wine home in a tax payment?

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/1/14: Iowa remains on top! Oh, that’s bad.

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The Iowa House of Representatives has adjourned for the year.  That makes it official: Iowa will continue to have the highest corporation income tax rate in the U.S. for another year, as shown on this map from The Tax Foundation:

2014 Corporate Income Tax Rates

The U.S has the highest corporation tax rate of all OECD countries, so that means right here in Iowa we have the highest corporation income tax rate in the entire developed world.  That’s true even taking into account Iowa’s 50% deduction for federal corporation tax.  Whoopee.  That must mean that Iowa receives just gushers of corporate cash, right?

Wrong.  The Iowa corporation tax generated $403.6 million net revenue in calendar 2013, amounting to about 5.3% of state tax revenues.  The individual income tax, by contrast, generated $3.45 billion net revenue in the same period. (Figures available here.)

The net is so low because the corporation tax, like the Iowa income tax, is riddled with special credits and deductions for the well-connected and well-lobbied.  Some of the biggest corporations in Iowa pay no tax and, in fact, actually get multi-million dollar checks out of the Department of Revenue.

There’s nothing good about this system.  It’s brutal for small corporations without the lobbyists and pull to land big breaks.  Meanwhile, big corporations use their resources to skip around the tax, or even to profit from it.  The high rates and complexity drives away corporations who don’t want to play the influence game, while luring those who play it like a fiddle.  Far better to wipe out the tax and the accompanying subsidies with something like The Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan!

Related: David Brunori, I Will Ask Again, Why Are We Taxing Corporate Income? (Tax Analysts Blog). “There is an increasingly influential school of thought that says the tax is borne by labor in the form of lower wages.”

 

Peter Reilly, Alimony That Does Not Look Like Alimony.  “So if an agreement says that the payments are to be treated as alimony for tax purposes, that really means nothing.  What matters is whether the requirements are met…”

 


20130114-1Roger McEowen, 
Analyzing Hedging under Obamacare’s Net Investment Income Tax Final Regulations.  “… a sole proprietor farmer’s income from hedging activity, or hedging income of a farming entity structured as pass-through entity is not subject to the NIIT, because the farmer or entity is engaged in the trade or business of farming and not the trade or business of trading in commodities.” 

William Perez, Tax Reform Act of 2014, Part 7, IRS Administrative Proposals Impacting Individuals.

Annette Nellen, How sales tax exemptions can waste one’s time.  “Recent litigation in Missouri over whether converting frozen dough into baked goods is “processing,” such that the electricity used is exempt from sales tax, shows the time and money that can be wasted with pointless rules.”

TaxGrrrl, Considering The Death Penalty: Your Tax Dollars At Work.  It should give pause to those who think the government should be the provider of health care when it can’t even kill somebody well.

Um, to save hundreds of millions of shareholder dollars?  Why Does Pfizer Want to Renounce Its Citizenship? (Tax Justice Blog). 

 

20121004-1Renu Zaretsky, Competition and Tax Reform: A Thorn in Everybody’s Side.  The TaxVox headline roundup.

Kay Bell, Amazon begins collecting sales tax from Florida buyers May 1; Will the online retailing giant lose even more customers?

Stephen Olsen, Did Donald Rumsfeld Just Invalidate His Return?  (Procedurally Taxing) “…he just wanted to be able to understand how his tax bill was computed.  Overall, not an unreasonable position, but perhaps a pipedream.”

Jack Townsend, Another Credit Swiss Related Bank Enabler Pleads Guilty

 

taxanalystslogoCara Griffith, The Problem With Outcome-Based Jurisprudence (Tax Analysts Blog).  ” It is not for the court to worry about how the state will fashion a remedy. Its task is to interpret and enforce the state’s laws and strike down those that are unconstitutional.”

 

The newest Cavalcade of Risk is up!  The roundup of insurance and risk management posts is hosted this time by Rebecca Shafer.  Our old friend Hank Stern contributes with bad news on the ACA computer security front: My Bleeding (404Care.gov) Heart

 

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 357.  For a “phony scandal,” it’s awfully persistent.

 

The soft bigotry of low expectations.  IRS Commish Reminds Senator That Hill Staffers Have Worse Tax Compliance Than IRS Employees (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup: April 30, 2014: Force of nature edition. And: Extenders move in U.S. House.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Iowa 1040s are due today!  If you are 90% paid in, they extend automatically with no filing.  If you need more time and need to pay in something, use IA 1040-V.

 

20130113-3House votes to make permanent six “expiring” provisions.  The House Ways and Means Committee voted to permanently extend six of the perpetually-expiring tax breaks that Congress renews every year or two.  They include:

  • A simplified version of the research credit
  • The five-year built-in gain tax recognition period for S corporations
  • The $500,000 Section 179 deduction limit
  • A provision reducing the net basis reduction for S corporation donations of appreciated property to the basis of the property.

The committee also voted for two international extenders.

The votes were mostly along party lines, which means they are unlikely to be passed in this form by the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Senate Finance Committee has already approved its own temporary extender package, and my guess is the final extenders package will look like the Finance Committee bill.

Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the committee isn’t done with extenders, but it isn’t clear when it will look at Bonus Depreciation.

The “no” votes for the House package objected to the lack of offsets to the revenue “lost” by the package.   I’m less upset.  While I oppose the research credit on principle, these provisions are permanent anyway; the whole “extender” process is a sham, conducted only to pretend that the tax breaks aren’t permanent so they “cost” less under Congressional accounting rules.  It’s the sort of thing that would be a felony in the private sector, but just another day for our leaders.  At least the House bill drops the pretense that these things won’t get passed every time they expire.

 

Additional coverage available at Accounting Today.

Related:

Tax Justice Blog, Rep. Dave Camp’s Latest Tax Gambit Is “Fiscally Irresponsible and Fundamentally Hypocritical”

Clint Stretch, Dreams of Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

 

20130117-1No gas tax boost this year.  Sioux City Journal reports that a last-gasp attempt to boost Iowa gasoline taxes died last night as the General Assembly continues its pre-adjournment frenzy.

 

David Brunori, Sad Pragmatism and Tax Incentives (Tax Analysts Blog).  “If tax incentives are an unavoidable reality, we should make them as transparent and accountable as possible.”  True, but that doesn’t excuse the politicians who take your money and give it to their special friends.

 

The Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation has released its 2014 summer seminar schedule.  It includes a slate of webinars on topics from Ethics to ACA mandates.  There will also be two big out-of-town events, in West Baden Springs, Indiana, and West Yellowstone, Montana.  I’m not able to participate this year, but they are a hoot and a great learning experience.

 

TaxGrrl, Widow Loses House Over $6.30 Tax Bill.  “A Pennsylvania woman has lost her home for little more than the cost of a Starbucks Frappuccino.”  The law in all its majesty.

Kay Bell, File IRS Form 1040X to correct old tax mistakes

Peter Reilly, Graduation Contingency Kills Alimony Deduction.  It’s very easy to screw up an alimony deduction with bells and whistles, as Peter explains.

 

20120531-1Jason Dinesen, Preparer Regulation and Judging Preparers Based on Size of Refund.  “Anyone who’s worked in this business has experienced the irate client who thinks the preparer screwed up because their refund was less than their friend/co-worker/hair dresser, etc.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 356

Jack Townsend, U.S. Congressman Indicted for Tax Related Crime

Joseph Thorndike, Airlines Say Ticket Taxes Would Be More Visible if They Were Better Hidden (Tax Analysts Blog)

Alan Cole, What Gift Cards Can Teach Us About Tax Policy (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, Funding Tax Breaks, the IRS, and Public Pensions, Safety, and Schools.  The TaxVox headline roundup.

 

News from the Profession.  EY Is Tackling the Important Issue of Dudes’ Need for Flexibility (Going Concern)

 

Clear error is a standard used by appellate courts to review some lower court decisions.  A Tax Court case decided by Judge Paris dealing with horse losses yesterday involved purported destruction of records by an old girlfriend.  Here’s where the clear error comes in:

The wrath of a former girlfriend may be a formidable force, but it is not analogous to a hurricane-like natural disaster, and it does not constitute a reasonable cause outside petitioner’s control.

I’ve met Judge Paris, and I strongly suspect she’s never dealt with a bitter former girlfriend. Anyone who has would never have written such a thing.  But as she pointed out that the petitioner provided no evidence that such destruction occurred, so you oughta know that the case probably still is on solid ground.

 

Cite: Roberts, T.C. Memo 2014-74.  Additional coverage from Paul Neiffer, Partial Taxpayer Victory on Horse Farm Case

 

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

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 20140410-1

 

Kristy Maitre, How to Report National Mortgage Settlement Payments

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

Paul Neiffer, Trusts Can Get You in Trouble

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

 

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

Kay Bell, Computer problems for IRS, Canadian tax agency

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/26/14: Using Bitcoins regularly will get you a really long Form 8949. And: underpants!

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


Bitcoin
Bitcoins may act like money, but IRS says they aren’t.  
The IRS yesterday announced how that it will treat Bitcoin “virtual currency” as property, rather than currency, for tax purposes.  Notice 2014-21 lays out the IRS treatment of Bitcoin and similar virtual money.  Some key points:

- As property, gains and losses on Bitcoin are normally capital gains and losses, unless the taxpayer is a dealer in Bitcoins.  That means losses are limited to capital gains plus $3,000 for individuals.  This contrasts with currency transactions, which normally generate ordinary income and loss under Section 988.

– Transactions in virtual currency will normally generate gains and losses:

If the fair market value of property received in exchange for virtual currency exceeds the taxpayer’s adjusted basis of the virtual currency, the taxpayer has taxable gain. The taxpayer has a loss if the fair market value of the property received is less than the adjusted basis of the virtual currency.

That makes using Bitcoins a hassle for taxpayers who try to follow the law.  Everytime you buy something with Bitcoin, you will have a capital gain or loss, depending on fluctuations in the Bitcoin market.  Imagine if you had to record a little capital gain or loss based on the currency markets anytime you bought anything with cash.  If you use Bitcoins every day you’ll have a horrifying Form 8949 to report all of your gains and losses.

– The basis in virtual currency is its value on date of receipt, if you acquire it in a transaction.  That same value is the amount you use to compute income if you are paid in virtual currency

They point out the obvious:  “A taxpayer who receives virtual currency as payment for goods or services must, in computing gross income, include the fair market value of the virtual currency, measured in U.S. dollars, as of the date that the virtual currency was received.” Also, payments in virtual currency are subject to information reporting, same as cash.

– Virtual currency “miners” generate ordinary income.  If they do it as a trade or business, it’s subject to self-employment tax.

The TaxProf has more; Accounting Today also has coverage.  Peter Reilly has Bitcoins Not Tax Fairy Dust – Second Life Still A Tax Haven?, wisely noting that the virtual currency isn’t generated by the Tax Fairy.  And TaxGrrrl weighs in with IRS Says Bitcoin, Other Convertible Virtual Currency To Be Taxed Like Stock .

 

Ashlea Ebeling, Supreme Court Says FICA Tax Due On Severance Pay:

What the Supreme Court decision means for employers is that what had long been the case –severance pay is subject to FICA tax—remains the case. And for employees who are laid off, it means that they will continue to get a little less in “take-home” severance because it’s dinged for their share of FICA tax.

It seemed like a reach to say otherwise, but now it’s not even that.

 

 

A hard-working fictional student.

A hard-working fictional student.

O. Kay Henderson, Legislators ponder tax credit for student loan payments.  A truly awful idea.  This credit doesn’t encourage getting higher education; it encourages borrowing to pay for higher education.  As an unintended but obvious consequence, it discourages saving to pay for college — there’s no tax credit for foregoing current consumption to pay for college later.  It’s stunning that lawmakers actually want to encourage more student debt when many students already are entering a brutal job market with crushing loan obligations.

Joseph Henchman has two posts at Tax Policy Blog that should be read together: Wisconsin Approves Income Tax Reduction, Business Tax Reforms and Who Would Pay a Higher Illinois Income Tax?  Not the folks that move to Wisconsin, for sure.

 

Jason Dinesen, More on the 0.9% Medicare Tax and Iowa Tax Returns

Paul Neiffer, Schedule F Reporting Update:

I got some feedback on my previous post on Tax Reform and low Schedule F reporting of income. Several sources of farm income does not show up on a Schedule F. This includes many common sales of farm assets such as breeding stock and equipment. Most of the expenses associated with this income is deducted on Schedule F, however when these assets are sold, none of the gains appears on Schedule F.  Rather, this income is usually reported on Form 4797.

That still doesn’t change the fact that these simple farmers play the cash method like a violin to achieve tax results other businesses can only dream of.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Demystifying The Deduction Rules For Accrued Liabilities   

William Perez, Identity Theft and Your Income Taxes

Kay Bell, IRS gives Colorado flood victims until Oct. 15 to file 2012 or 2013 tax returns claiming disaster losses

Janet Novack, Gotcha! Tax Court Penalizes IRA Rollover That IRS Publication Says Is Allowed   

 

David Brunori, Hang On to Your Wallets (Tax Analysts Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Dave Camp’s Plan for the Expired Tax Provisions: An Almost-Good Idea (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 321

Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: To Cut or Not to Cut?

 

Joseph ThorndikeRaising Taxes on the Rich Won’t Balance the Budget — But It’s Still Important (Tax Analysts Blog):

 The modern American fiscal state is predicated on a bargain. During World War II, lawmakers were forced to expand the personal income tax to help pay for the fighting. Over the course of just a few years, they added millions of middle-class Americans to the tax rolls for the first time, transforming the income tax from a rich man’s burden to a middle-class millstone. In return, however, these same lawmakers offered the middle class an implicit (and sometimes nearly explicit) guarantee — rich people would be asked to pony up, too.

Cool story.  Let’s see how that works nowadays:

Top 1 pays more than bottom 90

Chart by Tax Foundation

So now the “rich” aren’t paying their “fair share,” they’re picking up most of the tab.  How does it work if you break it down further?

20131030-2

So not only do “the rich” pay their share of the freight, they pay a lot more than their share of earnings.  And when you take government benefits into account, the whole “fair share” argument is tough to support:

givers and takers

Chart by Tax Foundation

I don’t buy Joseph’s “social contract” thinking.  The whole emphasis on inequality being peddled by the administration is a diversion, an attempt to change the subject from the manifest failures of Obamacare and foreign policy blundering.  No matter how hard they hit “the rich,” or how bad doing so is for the overall economy, there is never a point where the politicians will say the rich are being hit enough.

To the extent “inequality” persists, it’s clearly not a direct function of the tax code or government spending.  Politicians, though, find it useful to encourage the belief that they can spend on whatever pleases the crowd by just by making the rich pay their “fair share” — as if they weren’t already.  It’s the flip side of the widespread belief that the government can just balance the budget by cutting foreign aid.   It’s just an attempt to fool the gullible long enough to win another election.

 

Going Concern, Thrift Shops Issue Specific Guidance on Deduction Amounts for Used Underpants.  I didn’t know there was a deduction for toxic waste.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/19/14: Are taxes turning Iowa red? And: Statehouse Update!

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Is Iowa really a red state?  According to personal finance site WalletHub, Iowa is a red state.  But didn’t Iowa vote for Obama the last two elections?  Not that kind of red state.  WalletHub’s map has states with the most burdensome taxes as red states, and those with less burdensome taxes as green:

 

WalletHub

From WalletHub:

 WalletHub analyzed how state and local tax rates compare to the national median in the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.  We compared eight different types of taxation in order to determine:  1) Which states have the highest and lowest tax rates; 2) how those rates compare to the national median; 3) which states offer the most value in terms of low taxation and high cost-of-living adjusted income levels.

WalletHub says Iowans have a tax burden 26% above the national average.  They note, though, that when the rank is adjusted based on our cost of living, Iowa improves 10 places on their rankings.

This is a different measurement than the Tax Foundations well-known Business Tax Climate Indexwhich places Iowa at 11th-worst.  Either way, it’s not a healthy system.  And nothing major is likely to happen to change it anytime soon.  Still, the The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan shows the way!

 

20130117-1Supplies sales tax exemption advances.  The Iowa General Assembly isn’t entirely idle on the tax front.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, as in the House passage yesterday of HF 2443, exempting supplies used in manufacturing from sales tax.  Business inputs in general should not be subject to sales tax, as they are likely to be taxed again when the finished product is sold.

Other than that, there isn’t a lot else to report on the Iowa tax legislative scene.  The speedway tax break remains alive.  The bill to broaden the Iowa capital gain “ten and ten” exclusion hasn’t cleared the committee level.  Silly legislation continues to be introduced, like a 50% state tax credit for payments of principal and interest on student loans (HSB 673).  Let’s encourage crushing student debt burdens!

But sometimes its best when the legislature does nothing.  It’s hard to complain that HF 2770, the bill to pay doctors at their average charge rates with tax credits for “volunteering,” has languished.

 

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

The TaxProf notes the Death of Former IRS Commissioner Randoph Thrower; Was Fired for Refusing President’s Request to Audit His Enemies, quoting a New York Times story:

The end came in January 1971, after Mr. Thrower requested a meeting with the president, hoping to warn him personally about the pressure White House staff members had been placing on the IRS to audit the tax returns of certain individuals. Beginning with antiwar leaders and civil rights figures, the list had grown to include journalists and members of Congress, among them every Democratic senator up for re-election in 1970, Mr. Thrower told investigators years later. He was certain the president was unaware of this and would agree that “any suggestion of the introduction of political influence into the IRS” could damage his presidency, he said.

Mr. Thrower received two responses. The first was a memo from the president’s appointments secretary saying a meeting would not be possible; the second was a phone call from John D. Ehrlichman, the president’s domestic affairs adviser, telling him he was fired.

I’ll just note here that Doug Shulman, worst commissioner ever, left on his own terms.

 

David Brunori, Hawaii Tax Credit Craziness (Tax Analysts Blog):

According to some excellent reporting in the Honolulu Civil Beat, the Legislature is considering a slew of tax incentives to promote manufacturing in the state. Yes, there are those (particularly established manufacturers) who would like to promote something other than tourism, hosting of naval bases, and pineapple production. The main proposal (SB 3082) would provide tax credits for employee training and some equipment purchases. The goal is to turn Hawaii into 1960s Pittsburgh or Flint Mich., in their heyday. I have my doubts. 

I don’t think that really plays to Hawaii’s strengths.

 

20120817-1Howard Gleckman, A Terrible Response to the Internet Tax Mess (TaxVox)

Under the plan, the federal government would let retailers collect tax based on the levy where the seller is located, no matter where the purchaser resides. This would apply to all retailers, as long as they had no physical presence in the consumer’s state.

A firm could base its “home jurisdiction” on the state where it has the most employees, the most physical assets, or the state it designates as its principal place of business for federal tax purposes.

Given the nature of online sellers, changing locations to a no-sales-tax state would be fairly easy.

Interesting.  I wonder if a “universal mail order sales tax rate” might ultimately be the answer.  You could set this universal rate at, say, the average national sales tax rate, collect it from all buyers, and remit it to the delivery state through a clearinghouse run by the state revenue agencies.

 

Paul Neiffer, Cash Rents Equals Extra 3.8% on Sale. “However, once you are done farming and are simply renting the ground to other farmers (including relatives), then the rental income will be subject to the tax and even worse, selling the farmland for a large gain will result in extra tax.”

Jana Luttenegger, Filing From Home, and Health Insurance Reporting on W-2s (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): J Is For Jury Duty Pay   

 

Everything is spinning out of control! Suburban Cleveland Councilman Denies Getting in Brawl With Liberty Tax Sign Spinner (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/12/14: Hundreds of Panthers fear ID-theft. And: more smidgens!

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

uni-logoID Theft may affect 200 University of Northern Iowa employees.  KWWL.com reports:

In February, when the issue was first discovered, about 50 people had reported issues filing their federal income taxes. Now, University officials say 200 employees have come forward, and but not all of those are fraud. Still, that has psychology department secretary Jan Cornelius concerned. She said her social security number was stolen.

The problem was identified by taxpayers whose returns were rejected because somebody else had already filed under their numbers.  You need to be careful with your Social Security Number, and you should never transmit tax documents as unencrypted email attachments.  Use a secure file transfer portal, like Roth & Company’s Filedrop, to send tax files electronically.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

More Smidgens.  The House Oversight Committee investigating the Tea Party Scandal issued a report yesterday blasting the idea that the IRS stall on right-side 501(c)(4) groups was just a non-political coincidence involving bumblers in Cincinnati.  Using IRS documents and e-mails, the report paints a picture of an effort driven by a highly-political bureaucrat to “do something” through IRS regulation to administratively reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  From the report’s conclusion:

Evidence indicates Lerner and her Exempt Organizations unit took a three pronged approach to “do something about it” to “fix the problem”of nonprofit political speech:

1) Scrutiny of new applicants for tax – exempt status (which began as Tea Party targeting);

2) Plans to scrutinize organizations, like those supported by the “Koch Brothers,” that were already acting as 501(c)(4) organizations; and

3)“[O]ff plan” efforts to write new rules cracking down on political activity to replace those that had been in place since 1959. Even without her full testimony, and despite the fact that the IRS has still not turned over many of her e-mails, a political agenda to crack down on tax-exempt organizations comes into focus. Lerner believed the political participation of tax-exempt organizations harmed Democratic candidates, she believed something needed to be done, and she directed action from her unit at the IRS. Compounding the egregiousness of the inappropriate actions, Lerner’s own e-mails showed recognition that she would need to be “cautious” so it would not be a “per se political project.”

Committee Democrats continue to insist that there is no “political motivation,” and no evidence of White House involvement.  To deny that targeting “Tea Party” and “Koch-funded” organizations is political is to insult our intelligence.  As far as White House involvement, the Chicago Way isn’t for the Boss to pick up the phone and call the Cincinnati service center.  The President’s public in-your-face criticism of the Supreme Court for Citizens United at a State-of-the-Union address gave his supporters in the bureaucracy all the guidance they needed.

The TaxProf has a roundup.

 

roses in the snowWilliam Perez, Deductions for Self-Employed Persons.  “Deductions that go on Schedule C reduce both the self-employment tax and the federal income tax.”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): E Is For EE Bonds   

Russ Fox, The Moral Climate may have Changed but the Law Hasn’t. “Thus, until Congress changes the law a professional gambler cannot deduct gambling losses in excess of wins.”

Kay Bell, Beware tax break bait and switch.  “Yes, gifts to your favorite charity can be deducted, but only if you itemize on Schedule A.”

Paul Neiffer, Permanent Means Permanent:

North Dakota law regarding easements is unique.  It appears to be the only state in the country that limits easements to 99 years by law.  Since the Tax Code requires that the conservation easement be of a permanent nature, the Tax Court ruled in favor of the IRS and disallowed all of the easement charitable donations.

Oops.  Still, I think anything “permanent” should be looked at skeptically.  Nobody knows whether it will seem wise to lock up a parcel 100 years from now.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Tackling The Dreaded Section 754 Adjustment   

 

20120906-1David Brunori, Where Is the Outrage? (Tax Analysts Blog):

According to Good Jobs First, there are 514 economic development programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 245,000 awards have been granted under those programs. I ask again, where is the outrage? The system is antithetical to the idea of free markets. A quarter of a million times, state governments decided what is best for producers and consumers. That should make us cringe. First, the government is inefficient at providing public goods, and it is terrible at manipulating the markets for private goods. But more importantly, those 514 economic development programs are almost all the result of insidious cronyism. Narrow business interests manipulate government policymakers, and those interests prosper to the detriment of everyone else. Free markets be damned.

And while I’m looking for outrage, where are the liberals? The 965 companies in the report received over $110 billion of public money. Berkshire Hathaway, a company with $485 billion in assets and $20 billion in profits, received over $1 billion of that money. Its chair, William Buffett, is worth about $58 billion. Buffet, by the way, is still a darling of the left. He has some nerve to call for higher taxes. The billion dollars his companies took would pay for a lot of teachers, healthcare, and other public goods. 

They take just a little bit at a time from all of us so we don’t notice, and they give it in big chunks to their well-connected friends, who certainly do notice.   The report David refers to is here.

 

Joseph Henchman, State Sales Tax Jurisdictions Approach 10,000 (Tax Policy Blog).  Small wonder online sellers don’t want to collect everyone’s sales tax.

Elaine Maag, The Many Moving Parts of Camp’s Tax Reform for Low-Income Families (TaxVox)

 

Joseph Thorndike, The Last Time Everyone Gave Up on Tax Reform, It Actually Happened (Tax Analysts Blog).  But not this time:

Ultimately, Reagan agreed to make tax reform a priority. And his support was crucial. No lawmaker, no matter how exalted, well intentioned, or energetic, can move the ball like a president.

Which is one very important reason why 2014 is different from 1984. President Obama has no discernible interest in fundamental tax reform. So conventional wisdom is right: The Camp tax plan is going nowhere fast.

I think that’s right.

 

All it needs is a little pasta and fresh lemon.  Argentina: Authorities investigate tax evasion via garlic exports through shell companies

Career Corner.  It Is Almost Certain You Will One Day Be Replaced by Machines (Going Concern).  

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/10/14: Sioux City $afety Edition. And: rogue dentistry!

Monday, March 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Sioux City Revenue Camera Windfall.  The Des Moines Register today lists the winners from revenue cameras around the state.  Public safety isn’t up there:

Tickets from automatic traffic cameras totaled $19.7 million for nine Iowa cities during the last fiscal year, but more than 34 percent of that money went to out-of-state vendors.

The summary:

20140310-1

Sioux City benefitted richly from Iowa’s status as the only state allowing revenue cameras on interstate highways:

Iowa is the only state in the country that allows speed cameras to be permanently placed on highways and interstates. The data collected by the DOT shows those cameras are the most lucrative: The two placed in a construction zone on Interstate Highway 29 in Sioux City brought in more than $4.5 million for the fiscal year ending in June.

gatsoThe evident failure of the cameras to stop construction zone speeding tells you how much they help public safety.  If they stopped speeding, there wouldn’t be so much revenue.  Of course, Sioux City also has a big incentive to generously define “construction zones” and leave them in place after construction is completed.  I drove through the I-29 zone on a Sunday night (no ticket for me!);  with no no workers around at the time, the only point of the construction zone speed limits when I drove through was camera revenue.

Some good news from the piece: “The number of red-light cameras nationally is dropping, according to a study by the Reason Foundation, a libertarian-leaning think tank.”  That’s because they’re a crock, a corrupt bargain between the operators and the municipalities, and people hate that.

 

William Perez, Need Extra Time to Finish up Your 2013 Tax Return?:

The IRS will grant a person an additional six months to file their tax return. To request this extra time, file an extension with the IRS on or before the deadline.

Filing an extension provides several benefits. Besides extra time to file the tax return, an extension also provides extra time to fund a self-employed retirement plan and to recharacterize IRA contributions.

And, contrary to myth, it doesn’t increase your chances of getting audited.  In contrast, filing an erroneous return to beat the deadline or get a quicker refund definitely increases your audit risk.

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): D Is For DRIP   

Kay Bell, Daylight Saving Time + gas taxes = boon for tax collectors, but some money-saving options for added daylight drivers 

Janet Novack, Pensions Create Yet Another Tax Trap For U.S. Expatriates

Russ Fox, False Checks, Trusts, and Ignoring Taxes Lead to Real Prison.  Indeed they do.

 

 Joseph Henchman, State Tax Reforms Are More Than Just Revenue Changes (Tax Policy Blog):

But more to the point, we consider 2013 one of the most successful years for tax reform we’ve seen in a while. We saw North Carolina cut its taxes but, more importantly, massively restructure them to become flatter, simpler, and more competitive. The real improvement in North Carolina wasn’t just the amount of taxes (though they did cut taxes, as noted above), but the structure of the tax code.

Beyond North Carolina’s landmark reform, Indiana under Governor Mike Pence (R) also moved to cut its personal income taxes and abolish its death tax. Wisconsin also made significant income tax cuts accompanied by positive structural changes authored by Representative Dale Kooyenga. Even in states that couldn’t achieve such sweeping reforms, valuable progress was made. Arizona implemented an important simplification of its sales tax code. Governor Martinez of New Mexico worked with her legislature to cut her state’s corporate tax. Texas made some positive reforms to its damaging gross receipts tax, the margin tax.

Notice one state missing there?  Anyone?  Iowa?  The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan is ready to go!  How about a 4% top individual rate, repeal of the Iowa corporation tax, and massive simplification — or do you like massive complexity, special favors for special friends, and the nation’s highest stated corporate rate?

 

Eric Todor, Tax Reform’s Quiet Protectionism (TaxVox): “In effect, income from the sale in the United States of goods manufactured overseas by controlled foreign subsidiaries (CFCs) of U.S.-resident multinational companies would be taxed at a higher U.S. rate than other income from the same factory”

 

William Gale, Alan Auerbach, Forgotten but Not Gone: The Long-Term Fiscal Imbalance (TaxVox):

First, ignoring projections for the future, the current debt-GDP ratio is far higher than at any time in U.S. history except for a brief period around World War II. While there is little mystery why the debt-GDP ratio grew substantially over the last six years – largely the recession and, to a smaller extent, countercyclical measures – today’s higher debt-GDP ratio leaves less “fiscal space” for future policy.

Second, while we clearly face no imminent budget crisis, our new projections suggest the 10-year budget outlook remains tenuous and is worse than it was last year, primarily due to changes in economic projections.

And the rich guy can’t pick up the tab.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

George Will, The IRS’s behavior taxes credulity:

Obama breezily says there was nothing more sinister than “boneheaded decisions” by wayward and anonymous IRS underlings. Certainly boneheadedness explains much about this administration. Still, does he consider it interesting that the consequences of IRS boneheadedness were not randomly distributed but thwarted conservatives?

The rules that Obama says befuddled the IRS boneheads — to his benefit — read today exactly as they have read since 1959. For half a century they did not prevent the IRS from processing applications for tax-exempt status in less than three months. Some conservative group should offer $10,000 to anyone who can identify a liberal group that had the experience scores of conservative groups have had — an application delayed more than three years and receipt of an IRS questionnaire containing at least 60 questions.

Believing that there isn’t a “smidgen of corruption” is about as much of an intellectual leap as, say, believing dinosaurs and humans co-existed.

Via Instapundit

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 305

 

Jack Townsend has a List of 14 Swiss Banks Under Criminal Investigation

Quotable: 

Many smart people think preparers should be regulated. I just don’t agree. There is no market failure. If you don’t like your preparer, find another one. Or better yet, write your representative and ask for a tax system that doesn’t require low-income people to pay preparers.

David Brunori, State Tax Notes ($link)

 

I suspect he won’t need a preparer for awhile now.  From Going Concern:

Xzavier allegedly beat up a tax preparer when he found out the woman he was with wouldn’t be getting her refund in cash. After a security guard intervened, he is accused of whipping out his heat and shooting both the guard and two women. A fourth person was grazed by a bullet but not shot.

I’m sure that really helped her get that refund sooner.

 

Crazy news from Canada: Rogue dentist fined $33,000 for unpaid tax; Tung Sheng Wu practised dentistry illegally in the tri-cities and Burnaby

I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen the phrase “rogue dentist” before.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/5/14: President proposes $1 million Sec. 1031 cap. And: other doomed stuff!

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Economic supergenius

0-99, 0-414

The President trotted out his old petty tax increases in his 2015 budget yesterday, and a few new ones.  The  new taxes would go towards, among other spending increases, an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit welfare program for childless taxpayers.

If history is a guide, the Obama budget isn’t going to do well in Congress.  His own party leadership in the Senate has already pledged to pass no budget at all.  When his 2013 budget plan came up for a vote in Congress, it was rejected 99 -0 in the Senate and 414-0 in the House.

Still, it is worth mentioning some of the tax proposals, just so you are aware of them and their low likelihood of passage anytime soon.  Also, in light of the recent Camp “tax reform” proposal, apparently no tax provision is too dumb to get bipartisan consideration, so some of these might even pass someday.

– S corporations: the bill would tax as self-employment income 100% of K-1 income from professional S corporations and partnerships of materially-participating owners.  Businesses covered would include health, law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, investment advice or management, brokerage services, and lobbying.  For some reason, regular compensation would no longer be wages, but would instead be self-employment income.  That would wreak havoc on everybody’s 401(k) and profit-sharing plans.

- Like-kind exchange benefits would be capped at $1 million per taxpayer per year.  That won’t be popular with the real estate industry.

The bill also drags out dozens of the old proposals from his prior budgets, including LIFO repeal, ordinary income treatment for carried interests, capping the value of deductions at 28%, and capping build-ups in retirement plans.  Nothing at all is likely to happen before the next election on these proposals, but as many Obama proposals are also included in some form in the GOP Camp plan, they all have to be considered viable next time a major tax bill shows signs of moving.

The TaxProf has a good link-filled roundup.  The official explanation of the revenue-raisers is here.

Other coverage:

Kay Bell, Obama budget proposes more child care help for younger kids

Leslie Book, President’s Budget Proposes Major Procedural and Administrative Changes (Procedurally Taxing).  “The popular media has generally described the plan overall the way Reuters did in reporting that it ‘stands little or no chance of being approved as is by Congress, where Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, disagree with the president’s policy priorities.'”

 

Des Moines Register, Voters OK increasing franchise fee in Des Moines.  The vote is the result of the city being ordered to repay an illegally-collected utility tax:

The money raised by increasing the franchise fee to 7.5 percent from 5 percent for seven years will be used to pay off about $40 million in bonds issued by the city to pay for the refund and administrative costs.

Among the “administrative costs” is $7 million in legal fees Des Moines was ordered to pay to the winning taxpayer attorneys after a scorched-earth court battle by the city to avoid repaying the illegal tax.  Next time, don’t collect an illegal tax, and pay up if you’re called on it.

 

Alan Cole, True Marginal Tax Rates under Chairman Camp’s Proposal (Tax Policy Blog).  Full of high-income phase-outs, it creates all sorts of goofy marginal rate anomalies:

Marginal Tax Rates Camp Tax Reform

Note the spike in rates at the low-end as a result of the earned-income tax credit phase-out.  That doesn’t even include the effect of the state EITCs that piggyback on the federal credit.  All of this is the opposite of tax reform.  Apparently neither party is ready for reform.

William Gale and Donald Marron, The Macro Effects of Camp’s Tax Reform (TaxVox): “How would Camp’s plan increase growth, and why is the range of estimates so wide?”

 

Paul Neiffer, Additional Tax Reform Items.  “Remember, this is just a proposal and nothing will happen this year.”

Gene Steurle, A Camp-ground for Tax Reformers (TaxVox).

 

20130419-1Russ Fox, Deadlines for Us, but Not for Them:

For practitioners, the current state of the IRS is such that you can expect a lot of delays in responding to notices. Think months instead of weeks. Expect to have to call the IRS to verify that your response was received, and make sure clients are aware that the IRS is moving like molasses rolling uphill. Make sure anything you send is documented: certified mail with proof of receipt if by mail; if faxing, make sure you have the proof of receipt. Given the lengthy delays our clients are going to be in fear for far longer…

For taxpayers, you need to be aware that expediency is not part of today’s IRS. You have to be expedient in responding to notices but don’t expect the IRS to be expedient in getting back to you. Do not worry if it takes a long, long time to resolve something with the IRS. That’s just par for the course today.

Unfortunately, clients generally assume that if the IRS has sent a letter, that means the practitioner screwed up.  Many people, especially old folks, just pay up when they get an IRS notice.

 

William Perez, Tax-Deductible Relocation Expenses

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): B Is For Basis   

David Brunori, Taxing Coca Cola while Exempting Broccoli is Bad Policy Even for Native Americans (Tax Analysts Blog):

 In any event, several newspapers reported that one of the sponsors of the proposal was himself obese. He decided to change his life and lost 100 pounds. And he did it without any tax increases or help from the government.

Like so many reformed smokers/overeaters/drinkers, he has become annoying about it.

Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: State Policy Makers Need a Tax History Lesson

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 300.

 

Cheer up!  Filing Your Tax Return Is Terrible — But It Was Worse 100 Years Ago (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog).

News from the Profession.  The Real Loser at the Oscars This Year Was PwC.  (Going Concern)

20140305-1Jason Dinesen shares his Tax Season Tunes:

Here’s a sampling of other tunes I listen to while working when not getting my Gordon Lightfoot fix:

  • Neil Diamond. Generally not his “famous” songs. I detest — and I mean absolutely revile — “Sweet Caroline,” for example. The original recording is okay, but he’s turned it into a hokey, over-the-top, karaoke show-tune over the last few decades. Blech. I like the more introspective songs like “Shilo,” “If You Know What I Mean,” “Stones,” pretty much anything from his relatively new “12 Songs” and “Home Before Dark” albums,  and a host of other Neil Diamond songs that most people have probably never heard of.

  • An mix of songs that include Billy Joel, pop rock from the 60s and early 70s, Elvis, Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty, AC/DC, Juanes, Bon Jovi, CCR, Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffett.

In case you were wondering, I believe Jason works alone.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/26/14: House tax reform plan expands cash basis, boosts 179 limits. And: $133 million employment tax theft.

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Cash basis expansion, permanent Section 179 increase highlight Camp tax reform plan.  The GOP House tax leadership has released their tax reform draft, nicely rounded-up by the TaxProf.  The plan would lower top individual and corporate rates to 25%, while making big changes in business taxation.

They have released two alternate plans for small business taxation.  One plan would tweak S corporation and partnership taxation, making elections easier and easing S corporation penalty taxes.  The other draft would do away with the current pass-through regimes and replace them with a single pass-through tax system.

The Camp draft would also greatly expand the availability of cash method accounting:

20140226-1

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I do like getting rid of the special rules for farmers and letting everybody have the same opportunity.  I less like the rule giving unlimited cash basis for sole proprietorships, as that would encourage people to keep things on their schedule C for tax reasons even if it is a bad structure otherwise.  Do we really need to preserve cash basis for a $100 million schedule C or Schedule F operation?  If something is that big, the “simplicity” argument doesn’t make sense.

I’m all for getting rid of the Section 263A stuff.

While I doubt that anything will happen with tax reform this year, there is a real possibility that things will start moving after the 2014 elections.

William McBride, Four Things to Look for in Chairman Camp’s Tax Reform Plan (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, McConnell Throws Cold Water on Camp’s Tax Plan (TaxVox)

 

 

EFTPSTexans sentenced in massive PEO employment tax theft.  From Breitbart.com:

Federal prison sentences were recently handed down to three businessmen by Chief District Judge Fred Biery. The three defendants – John Bean, Pat Mire, and Mike Solis – are going to prison for their roles in a $133 million scheme involving numerous co-conspirators. The FBI and IRS conducted the investigations for the case, which is believed to be the largest criminal tax related case ever prosecuted in western Texas.

Bean and Mire both pled guilty to money laundering and mail fraud conspiracy charges. Solis plead guilty only to a mail fraud conspiracy charge.

The defendants admitted that from 2002 to 2008, they stole more than $133 million from clients of several of the Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) that they owned and operated.

PEOs actually report client employees as their own, issuing W-2s and filing employment tax returns.  The danger of PEOs is that employers have no way to be sure their employment taxes are being deposited.  If the PEO is stealing them, the IRS will come back to the employers to collect.

With a non-PEO payroll service, the payroll tax returns are prepared for employers, who issue and sign them.  More importantly, non-PEO employers can go online using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System and verify that their payroll taxes are being paid.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProfThe IRS Scandal, Day 293.  Among the items in his daily scandal roundup is a Wall Street Journal editorial, Liberals vs. the IRS: Even the Left Doesn’t Want the Tax Man Regulating Speech:

In the Nation magazine, Nan Aron of the liberal judicial lobby the Alliance for Justice writes that 501(c)(4)s aren’t merely groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, but are “made up of over 86,000 mostly small organizations nationwide” that are active participants in civic life.

“They weren’t invented in the last election cycle; they’ve been around for generations. Their purpose isn’t to hide donors, it’s to advance policies,” Ms. Aron adds. “These groups are involved in elections, because it’s often impossible to advance a policy cause without being involved in the political process.”

There’s no principle that would justify suppressing political rights of 501(c)(4) outfits that can’t apply equally to other exempt outfits.  Furthermore, there’s no real reason to impose taxes on political outfits.  The answer to speech you don’t like is more speech of your own, not suppressing what you don’t want to hear.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Proposed Rules For Nonprofits Alarm Conservatives and Liberals Alike   

 

IRS fights ID theft with one hand, helps it out with the other.  From PC World:

This tax season you may have more to worry about than how much you owe. A new study from Identity Finder finds the IRS is not properly protecting social security numbers in some tax returns…

The research revealed an alarming failure to safeguard sensitive data. Identity Finder uncovered an estimated 630,000 Social Security numbers exposed online in form 990 tax returns.

The most affected group were tax preparers–many of which used their personal SSN rather than their PTIN (preparer tax identification number). However, directors, trustees, employees, donors, and scholarship recipients were all impacted as well. 

It’s fair to point out that preparers have some responsibilty — they are often including SSNs unnecessarily, especially their own.  But that doesn’t excuse the IRS.

 

uni-logoSome UNI workers filing taxes finding Social Security numbers have been used (WCFcourier.com):

According to UNI officials, more than 20 employees have received “error” messages when filing their individual tax returns online, and their returns were rejected. Others who have yet to file say they called the Internal Revenue Service and found their Social Security numbers had been used. One person reportedly received a refund check at home from the IRS though they hadn’t filed a return yet.

UNI officials are playing down the possibility of identity theft, but that’s how I’d bet.  Any organization that collects social security numbers needs to be very careful with them, restricting access and shredding documents on disposal.

Jack Townsend, Stolen Identity Refund Fraud in the News

 

William Perez, Reporting Social Security Benefits

Kay Bell, Don’t fall prey to the Dirty Dozen tax scams of 2014

David Brunori, Great Opportunity for Tax and Public Finance Students (Tax Analysts Blog). “We are conducting our first student writing competition. You should encourage students who have written quality papers to submit them to studentpapers@tax.org.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/19/14: Irish Democracy on Independence Day Edition.

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

My Poli-sci professors didn’t teach “Irish Democracy“:

More regimes have been brought, piecemeal, to their knees by what was once called ‘Irish Democracy,’ the silent, dogged resistance, withdrawal, and truculence of millions of ordinary people, than by revolutionary vanguards or rioting mobs.

One regime with buckling knees is Iowa’s 76-year ban on fireworks.  From the Des Moines Register:

On Monday, a subcommittee passed Senate Study Bill 3182, which would allow Iowans to shoot off firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and similar devices. The measure, which won approval despite objections from medical groups worried about public safety, now goes to the Iowa Senate State Government Committee.

Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, a professional firefighter who chairs the Senate panel and is sponsoring the legislation, sees the bill as acknowledging reality. Iowa is one of only four states to ban most fireworks but allow sparklers and novelties, including toy snakes and caps used in cap pistols. Selling or firing anything else is a simple misdemeanor that can result in a fine of $250.

Danielson noted that Iowans already have fireworks in their car trunks and in their basements that are purchased in other states, even if they can’t legally explode them.

In other words, Iowans are ignoring the law.  It’s funny that we celebrate U.S. independence via Irish Democracy.  Of course there’s a tax angle:

Collecting tax revenue from legal sales of fireworks has been the crux of the argument in states where laws have recently changed, said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association. 

Count on legislators to do what constituents want when they finally see that there’s revenue to be had.

 

In other Iowa legislative news:

A bill has been introduced to repeal Iowa’s inheritance tax.  S.F. 2222 is an excellent idea that was consigned to its doom by being assigned to a subcommittee of Bolkcom, Bertrand and Quirmbach.

A state general fund spending limitation, with savings assigned to reserve funds and a “personal income tax rate reduction fund,” would be created by S.F. 2220.  I love the idea, but until Iowa’s long term pension funding problem is addressed, it’s all window dressing.

20120906-1A new form of corporate welfare for developers is contemplated in H.F. 2305.  It would create a “workforce housing tax incentives program” whose requirements imply that some lobbyist has specific projects in mind:

First, the housing project must consist of a certain type and number of dwelling units. The project must include, at a minimum, four or more single-family dwelling units, one or more multiple dwelling unit buildings that each contain three or more individual dwelling units, or two or more dwelling units located in the upper story of an existing multi-use building…

Second, the housing project must involve a certain type of development in a certain geographic location. The project may involve the rehabilitation, repair, or redevelopment of any dwelling unit if it occurs at a brownfield or grayfield site, as those terms are defined in the bill, or in a distressed workforce housing community. The project may involve the rehabilitation, repair, or redevelopment anywhere in the state of a dilapidated dwelling unit or a dwelling unit located in the upper story of an existing multi-use building. The project may involve the new construction of a dwelling unit if it is in a distressed workforce housing community, but shall not include the new construction of a multi-use building…

Third, the average dwelling unit cost of a housing project must not exceed $200,000 per dwelling unit, or $250,000 per dwelling unit if the project involves the rehabilitation, repair, redevelopment, or preservation of “eligible property”, which means the same as defined for purposes of the historic preservation and cultural and entertainment district tax credit in Code chapter 404A…

The median price of a home sold in Iowa was $132,453 in 2013.  This bill would subsidize construction of much more expensive dwellings than we already have for “workforce housing.”   That means builders of unsubsidized units would lose out to whoever is behind this credit.  Owners of houses already built will have their values reduced by the addition of subsidized units to the market.  But the Economic Development bureaucrats will have more money to give to their friends.

 

 

David Henderson, Krugman on Supply-Siders and Incentive Effects of Tax Cuts:

This is an interesting admission on Krugman’s part for two reasons. First, he recognizes, as one must, that the Laffer curve exists. Second, he admits that supply-siders don’t kid themselves that we are in the backward-bending portion, the part where an increase in tax rates reduces government revenues and a decrease in tax rates increases government revenues. I so miss the Paul Krugman of the 1990s.

To be honest, some do kid themselves, just as many of their oppenents deny that taxes have any disincentive effects.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Andrew Lundeen, Share of U.S. Corporate Income and Taxes by Size (Tax Policy Blog).  “In 2010, U.S. corporations paid about $223 billion in income taxes on slightly more than $1 trillion in taxable income. However, the vast majority of this income and taxes is attributable to the roughly 2,700 corporations with assets above $2.5 billion.”

 

Jason Dinesen, The Iowa Taxpayers Trust Fund Tax Credit   

Joseph Thorndike, Harry Truman Knew the Truth: IRS Budget Cuts Are Very Expensive (Tax Analysts Blog).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 286

David Brunori, Blaming Big Corporations Is Not the Answer (Tax Analysts Blog) “Following the law is hardly a corrupt activity.”

 

Tax Justice Blog, Tax Preparers Should Be Regulated.  Nonsense based on the unwarranted assumption that the regulations will actually solve anything.

Kay Bell, Guns & taxes converge again, this time in Connecticut, Florida

 

News from the Profession.  The CPA Exam is Broken Into Parts But These Sentences Not So Much (Going Concern)

 

20130316-1Maybe Irish Democracy is better than voting democracy.  From Arnold Kling:

James Lindgren reports,

in 2012 a majority of Democrats (51.6%) cannot correctly answer both that the earth revolves around the Sun and that this takes a year. Republicans fare a bit better, with only 38.9% failing to get both correct.

I file this under “libertarian thought,” because to me it speaks to the issue of how romantic one should be about democratic voting.

Science!

 

Programming Note: I am airborne much of today.  I am improvising the back end of my travel plans to avoid the blizzard of doom slated for Iowa.  In short, no posting is likely tomorrow.  See you Friday!

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/12/14: Lawless and Unregulated edition. And: Lincoln!

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130121-2As we reported yesterday, the IRS preparer-regulation power grab failed in the D.C. Court of Appeals.  The three-judge panel unanimously ruled that “The IRS may not unilaterally expand its authority through such an expansive, atextual, and ahistorical reading” of the law.

One grumpy IRS person told us that we would regret it, that Congress will pass a worse IRS-run preparer regulation regime.  While it’s possible, I don’t think Congress is in any mood to give the IRS more power right now (see TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 279).

It’s a victory for taxpayers, for preparers, and for the rule of law.  One hope it is a good omen for future court decisions on the on-the-fly rewrites of the Obamacare effective dates.

My endzone dance is here.  The Tax Prof has a roundup of coverage, as well as a guest op-ed: Johnson: The D.C. Circuit Rejects the IRS’s Regulation of Tax Return Preparerswhich says “At bottom, Loving stands for the proposition that exigency does not excuse illegality.” 

Other tax bloggers weigh in:

Russ Fox, DC Court of Appeals Rules Against IRS: Loving Decision Upheld.  “The real problem is the huge complexity of the Tax Code, and the biggest villain here is Congress. Rather than regulating tax professionals, we need to regulate (gut) the Tax Code itself.”

Leslie Book, Initial Reactions to the Government’s Loss in Loving (Procedurally Taxing):  “The government may seek to get Supreme Court review of the matter, or may work with Congress to get specific legislative authority. I offer no views on the odds of the government seeking cert, but its sound beating in two opinions leaves the possibility of obtaining cert and a victory in the Supreme Court seemingly small.”

Joseph Henchman, Big Win for Taxpayers: IRS Loses Effort to Expand Power Over Tax Preparers (Tax Policy Blog).  “In May 2013, we filed a brief opposing an IRS appeal of a court decision striking down their regulation of small tax preparers.”  That’s the brief I joined, along with fellow tax bloggers Russ Fox and Jason Dinesen.

Trish McIntire, The IRS Lost!  “I don’t know if there can be any more appeals (not a lawyer) but I bet there will be a tax preparer bill in Congress soon.”

 

20130419-1Paul Neiffer, When Farmers Barter.  While bartering is taxable, Paul muses: “Some of these barter transactions are properly reported, however, my educated guess is that much higher percentage is not.”

William Perez, How to Handle Owing the IRS

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Allocation of Partnership Liabilities “Admit it. Nobody really understands what’s going on in this remote corner of the K-1; typically, most tax preparers just apply the tried-and-true “same as last year” approach to allocating liabilities, and trust that it won’t matter in the end.”  Oh, it does, it does.

Jana Luttenegger, “Extensive Wait Times” Ahead with the IRS (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  And it’s not like they were brief before.

Kay Bell, The pros and cons of tax refunds.  While logically you don’t want to let the taxman sit on your money, clients always seem happiest with a fat refund.  That leads many tax advisors to sandbag a bit on payments.

TaxGrrrl, Yes, Olympic Wins Are Taxable (And Should Stay That Way) 

 

Peter Reilly, Pilot To Black Panther To Pastor Calls For Financial Transparency In Churches 

 

Jack Townsend, Corporate Corruption Case Charged With Swiss Bank Accounts to Hide the Loot 

Tax Trials, The Tax Education of Lauryn Hill

Annette Nellen links to the Video of IRS Commissioner Koskinan on the filing season.

 

The Iowa Department of Revenue has a Facebook page!  It’s a good idea, and they actually answer questions, like this:

 20140212-1

It’s great that they are answering disgruntled taxpayers for everyone to see.  Best thing is that it’s available to anybody, not just Facebookers.  You don’t have to bring yourself to “like” the Department of Revenue to read it.

 

David Brunori, Tax Breaks for Lawyers — No Joke (Tax Analysts Blog):

I read recently in the Kansas City Business Journal that Missouri gave a big law firm $2.8 million in tax incentives to move to Kansas City. I thought there must be some kind of mistake. Certainly, no politician would agree to give citizens’ hard-earned money to lawyers. And certainly, they would not give citizen money to big-firm, wealthy lawyers. But once again, reality trumps good tax policy. The Missouri Department of Economic Development gave the nearly $3 million to attract the international law firm Sedgwick LLP to downtown Kansas City. 

Must be a rough neighborhood if that’s considered an improvement.  Or, more likely, Missouri has completely lost its mind.

 

Tax Justice Blog, The States Taking on Real Tax Reform in 2014.  One blog’s “real tax reform” is another blog’s march to madness.

News from the Profession: Big 4 Dude Says Dudes at His Firm Rewarded For Treating Non-Dudes Like Dudes (Going Concern)

 

LincolnToday is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  He was born 205 years ago today in Kentucky, before anybody thought of an income tax.  His presidency saw the first U.S. federal income tax, passed to finance the Civil War.  The Revenue Act of 1861, Section 49, imposed a flat 3% levy “upon the annual income of every person residing in the United States, whether such income is derived from any kind of property, or from any profession, trade, employment, or vocation carried on in the United States or elsewhere, or from any other source whatever” over $800.  It was replaced by a progressive levy in 1862, with a 3% rote on income over $600, with a 5% rate kicking in at $10,000.

The tax expired under its own terms in 1866, after Lincoln’s death.  Lincoln never came back, but the income tax returned to stay in March 1913.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/5/14: Tax Credits do it all! And: advice from a champion.

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

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

Tax Credits! Is there nothing they can’t do?  Bill offering tax credits to rehab abandoned public buildings advances (Jason Noble, Des Moines Register):

House Study Bill 540 adds abandoned public buildings to the list of properties eligible for tax breaks under the state’s Redevelopment Tax Credits program, meaning businesses or nonprofits could obtain state aid for such projects as they currently can on renovations of industrial or commercial properties.

It’s an idea that Gov. Terry Branstad highlighted in his Condition of the State Address last month, and appears to have bipartisan support.

This is a back-door appropriation to help out school districts and local governments, but running it through tax return hides it from those pesky taxpayers who foot the bill.  As with Congress, the Iowa General Assembly sees the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.

 

20121120-2Arnold Kling exposes the vastness of the Right Wing Conspiracy:

The Congressional Budget Office, a Koch-funded organization known to be affiliated with the Tea Party, writes,

CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.

A conspiracy so vast…

 

James Schneider, guest-posting at Econlog, discusses why we pay our taxes in  The Sucker Tax:

Imagine a state of anarchy (a lack of government not a house full of boys). An evil genius announces that he will impose a sucker tax. Everyone will be taxed ten dollars, and the proceeds will be redistributed back to all the citizens in equal shares without reference to who paid the tax. In a certain sense, this tax maximizes unfairness. It serves no other purpose than to punish people in direct proportion to how much of the tax they paid. To make tax compliers feel even more ridiculous, the evil genius announces that he will make no effort to punish “tax cheats.” A fair outcome of the game requires that there be no suckers. This will occur if everyone evades the tax. However, it will also occur if everyone pays the tax. Under this scenario, you probably wouldn’t pay the tax (even if you believed in fairness) because you would assume that no one else was going to pay the tax.

Now imagine that the evil genius announces that unless everyone pays the tax one person will be punished.

Read the whole thing.  I especially like this: “Compliance does not mean consent.”

 

20121220-3TaxGrrrl, Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Surviving The Winter With Some Tax Help From Uncle Sam

Paul Neiffer considers One Possible Section 179 Strategy. A reader asks Paul, “Should I wait to buy section 179 property until the date 179 property is raised from $25,000 to whatever?”  He has a way for farmers to plan around the uncertainty.

William Perez, Filing Form 1040A May Help Parents Qualify for the Simplified Needs Test.  For college financial aid.

Jason Dinesen asks, Why Doesn’t the IRS Push the EA Designation?:

The IRS already oversees the EA program. There’s no new infrastructure to put in place. No new exams to create. The infrastructure and exams already exist.

Yet throughout the IRS’s ill-fated attempts at creating the “Registered Tax Return Preparer” designation, the IRS rarely mentioned the EA program, except as a side note of “CPAs, EAs and attorneys are exempt from the RTRP testing.”

I think it’s because it would be inconvenient to their efforts to regulate all preparers.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Peter ReillyThe Dog That Did Not Bark – IRS Issues Adverse 501(c)(4) Rulings To Deafening Silence:

An interesting question about the whole scandal narrative is how it would look if it turned out that many of the groups that the IRS “targeted”  were in fact inappropriately claiming 501(c)(4) status.  Tea Party Patriots Inc, for example, spends a lot of energy talking about how all those intrusive questions were harassment, but what if it turns that, in fact, all those phone calls that TPP Inc made telling people that November 2012 was the last chance to stop Obamacare from turning the country into a cradle to grave welfare state could be viewed as political? 

I think Peter is missing the point.  The issue isn’t whether every right-wing group qualified under the standards historically used for 501(c)(4) outfits.  It’s whether the rules were selectively enforced against right-side applicants —  as seems to be the case.   After all, it wouldn’t be OK to examine 1040s of only Republicans even if it turned out some of them were tax cheats.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 272

 

David Brunori, Casino Taxes for Horses or Children? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Horse racing has been a dying sport since Nathan Detroit bet on a horse named Paul Revere in Guys and Dolls. In Pennsylvania, the schools are broke. So naturally, when governments need money, they turn to a moribund pastime to pay the bills. 

For the children!

 

William McBride, New CBO Projections Understate the Average Corporate Tax Rate. “Particularly, the CBO is using as their corporate tax base measure domestic economic profits from the BEA, which includes both C and S corporations, even though S corporations are pass-through entities not subject to the corporate tax.”  Well, that’s just nuts.

Tax Justice Blog, Gas Tax Remains High on Many States’ Agendas for 2014

 

Joseph Thorndike, Debt Limit Debates Are Good for Theater, Not For Policy Reform. (Tax Analysts Blog)

Jack Townsesnd, TRAC Posts Statistics on Criminal Tax Enforcement Related to IRS Referrals   “[A] surge in IRS criminal investigations referred under Obama has fueled an increase in the number of cases prosecuted.”

 

Answering the Critical Question: What Kids Peeing in the Pool Can Teach Us About Tax Compliance (Leslie Book, Procedurally Taxing)

News from the Profession: McGladrey Interns Are Busy Learning Their Colleagues Are Boring, How to Use an Ice Cream Truck (Going Concern)

 

Nice Work, Champ.  It’s funny how hard it can be for some people to heed their own good advice.  Take this North Carolina man:

Prosecutors said Larry Hill, who coined himself “the people’s champ” for his efforts to keep local children out of trouble, didn’t live by his own message and that his case represented “disturbing hypocrisy.”

In a YouTube clip posted in November 2012, Hill says, “I want all my young people to think before you act. Trouble is too easy to get into, and once you get into trouble, you’ll be all by yourself.”

Federal Judge Earl Britt sentenced Hill to 100 months in prison for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and 18 months for filing false tax returns.

If it’s any comfort, Mr. Hill will have plenty of company where he’s going.  But he will have to get used to a more spartan existence:

The judge agreed to the lower sentence of 100 months but said Hill deserved the “most severe punishment to reflect the seriousness of the offense,” pointing out that Hill used much of the money to buy himself expensive jewelry and cars, including a Maserati. The judge also noted that Hill was on supervised release from an insurance fraud prison term when he committed the tax fraud.

That doesn’t make his advice any less sound:

He should follow it sometime.  Russ Fox has more on Mr. Hill.

 

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

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Jason Dinesen,Life After DOMA: Gift Tax

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Half?  Wow.

 

nfl logo

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

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 270

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

 

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

 

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

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

It is a sentiment echoed by many other legislative observers.

Like me.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

William Perez, Earned Income Credit Recipients by State

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

haroldWorse idea: film tax credits.

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

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

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

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

What’s wrong with this “picture?”

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

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

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

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

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

Fortunately, Iowa is sadder but wiser now.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

William Perez, Which Tax Form to File?

 

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 259

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

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

 

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

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

Economic development in the Doritos aisle?

 

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

 

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