Posts Tagged ‘David Brunori’

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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Tax Roundup, 1/15/14: Serving society by shooting jaywalkers, sending billionaires to elementary school.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Don’t forget to mail your 1040 first quarter estimated tax payments today!

 

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

“Society will be best served by allowing him to continue his good works.”  So said Federal Judge Charles Kocaras in sentencing Beanie Baby Billionaire Ty Warner to two years of probation and 500 hours of community service.  Mr. Warner admitted evading taxes on more than $3.3 million in income through the use of Swiss accounts in a plea deal, but his total unpaid taxes was in the neighborhood of $5.6 million, according to Bloomberg News.

So Mr. Beanie Baby gets to do good works.  It’s remarkable, considering the federal sentencing guidelines for a $5 million tax loss start at a 51-month sentence.

Meanwhile, an American woman who has lived her adult life in France is terrified that she will be financially ruined if she starts complying with foreign reporting requirements that she had no idea existed.  A Canadian born of an American parent who has never been to the U.S. faces ruinous penalties because he never filed U.S. tax returns or FBAR reports — it never occurred to him that he might have to file U.S. taxes.  A second-generation American who inherited a foreign bank account from her father faces a minimum of $40,000 in penalties after not paying a whopping $100 in income tax on the account, which she didn’t even know existed.

So society is best served by allowing Mr. Beanie Baby to help out in classrooms, while the IRS quietly imposes outrageous penalties on the innocent conduct of non-billionaires for foot-faulting their paperwork?  I think society would be best served by letting people voluntarily come into compliance without facing financial ruin.  I think society would be best served by not imposing insanely severe penalties for failing to report a Canadian bank account on time when no tax was avoided.  I think society would be best served by not terrorizing Americans abroad for committing personal finance.  But I’m not a federal judge, so my idea of what best serves society doesn’t mean much.

Related:

Jack Townsend, The Beanie Baby Man, The Tax Evader Adult Man, Ty Warner, Gets Probation!  “I do ask the question that comes immediately to mind.  What is it about the very rich that seems to resonate with sentencing judges?”

Janet Novack, No Jail Time For Beanie Babies Billionaire Tax Evader Ty Warner   “Even after those payments, he will still, according to an accounting he gave the government, be worth more than $1.8 billion.”

 

Kyle Pomerleau, IRS Data on Income Shifts Shows Progressivity of Federal Individual Income Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

In 1980, the top 1 percent accounted for 8.46 percent of adjusted gross income and 19.06 percent of income taxes paid: a difference of 10.59 percent. By 2011, their share of income increased to 18.7 and their share of all income taxes paid increased to 35.06; the difference increased to 16.35 percent.

Top 1 pays more than bottom 90

 

So increasing taxes on the rich didn’t make things more “equal.”  How about that.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Howard Gleckman, IRS Gets Hammered in the 2014 Budget Agreement (TaxVox):

The Internal Revenue Service is one of the biggest losers in the 2014 budget deal agreed to last night by House and Senate negotiators. Under the agreement, the service would get just $11.3 billion, which is $526 million below its 2013 budget and $1.7 billion less than President Obama requested. 

Congress uses the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  It has a sprawling portfolio that ranges from energy policy to welfare to health care — responsibilities that dwarf many of the cabinet agencies nominally overseeing those areas.  Yet Congress, while increasing the responsibility of the IRS more and more, is cutting its resources.  That won’t end well.

Yet the IRS in a way has itself to blame.  It’s outrageous politicization under Doug Shulman and the resulting Tea Party harassment have had the predictable effect of making the Republicans consider the IRS a political opponent.  Nobody wants to fund the opposition.  And no, I don’t buy Mr. Gleckman’s line that “…the 501(c)(4) mess was caused in part by a lack of resources.”  If you don’t have resources, you don’t spend extra time singling out certain political views for “special” treatment.”

 

David Brunori, Apple and Wal-Mart Are Perfect Together in a World of Bad Tax Policy (Tax Analysts Blog):

In any event, the purveyors of tomorrow’s technology and cheap toiletries recently got together to lobby for a sales tax holiday in Wisconsin. In that regard at least, Apple and Wal-Mart are very much alike. They favor bad tax policy when it helps their bottom line. 

Of course they do.  The real shame is the legislators who make it happen.

microsoft-apple

 

TaxGrrrl, No Criminal Charges Expected In FBI Investigation Into IRS Scandal

William Perez discusses Prices for Professional Tax Preparation Services.

Kay Bell, California has $16 million in undeliverable 2012 tax refunds

Robert D. Flach, THE FUTURE OF THE RTRP DESIGNATION – THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES:  “To be effective the organization that administers the independent voluntary RTRP credential must have the backing, support, and recognition of the entire industry, and not just one component or organization.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 251

If the sentence is carried out on April 16, it’s cruel and unusual punishment.  Governor Christie Redeems Himself By Signing “CPA Death Penalty” Legislation in New Jersey (Going Concern)

 

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

Monday, January 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Paul Neiffer, Remember Your Simplified Home Office Deduction

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Annette Nellen, Continued bonus depreciation or tax reform?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/18/2013: Have you made your College Savings Iowa gift? And: la loi, c’est IRS!

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


csi logo
Year-end is sneaking up on us.
 So it doesn’t catch us completely unawares, the Tax Update will provide a year-end idea each day through December 31.  Today we pass on a reminder that Iowans can deduct contributions to College Savings Iowa, the state’s Section 529 college savings plan, on their Iowa 1040s — but only if they fund their contributions before year-end.  From the State Treasurer:

Contributions to College Savings Iowa must be made by the end of the year to qualify for the 2013 Iowa state tax deduction. Account holders can deduct up to $3,045 for each open account and can contribute online at www.collegesavingsiowa.com.* Contributions sent by mail must postmark checks by December 31, 2013.

College Savings Iowa lets anyone – parents, grandparents, friends and relatives – invest for college on behalf of a child.  Investors do not need to be a state resident and can withdraw their investments tax-free to pay for qualified higher education expenses including tuition, books, supplies and room and board at any eligible college, university, community college or accredited technical training school in the United Sates or abroad.

It’s a great way to help your kids start out in life without a big student loan.

William Perez is doing yeoman’s work on year-end planning at his place; today he has Donating Cash to Charity at Year-End.  

Kay Bell offers Donating appreciated assets to your favorite charity

 

45R credit chartLa Loi, C’est IRS.  It’s not surprising that the IRS would disregard mere vendor rules when it believes it can pass out tax credits to taxpayers who clearly don’t qualify.  That’s exactly what they did yesterday when they announced that it will allow the (ridiculously complex) Sec. 45R small employer health insurance credit in Washington and Wisconsin in 2014, even though those states won’t have the required “Small Business Health Options Program” exchange in place.

The Code clearly requires allows the credit only to employers buying through the exchange starting in 2014, but the IRS has granted “transition relief” waiving that requirement.  Heck, why not just grant the credit to anybody who just has “health” next year.  You know, as a transition rule.

 

No.  Is Obamacare Really an Improvement on the Status Quo?  (Megan McArdle).  “Bob Laszewski, an insurance industry expert who has become the go-to guy for the news media on the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (because the insurance industry is extremely reluctant to talk), tells the Weekly Standard that he thinks come Jan. 1, more people will have lost private insurance than gained it…”

 

William McBride, Economists Find Eliminating the Corporate Tax Would Raise Welfare (Tax Policy Blog).  That’s why the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan does just that.

 

 

TIGTALeft hand, meet right hand.   The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports “IRS Vendors Owe Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars In Federal Tax Debt“:

Federal law generally prohibits agencies from contracting with businesses that have unpaid Federal tax liabilities.

TIGTA reviewed the IRS’s controls over the integrity and validity of vendors receiving payments from the IRS, including the vendor’s tax compliance and suspension and debarment status. TIGTA also reviewed controls over the IRS’s Vendor Master File (VMF), which contains information about vendors that enables them to do business with the IRS.

The vast majority of vendors that conduct business with the IRS meet their Federal tax obligations. However, TIGTA found that 1,168 IRS vendors (7 percent) had a combined $589 million of Federal tax debt as of July 2012, the most recent data for which information was available at the time TIGTA conducted the review. Few of the vendors had a current tax payment plan.

That means the IRS breaks its own rules in dealing with about one out of 15 of its vendors — another instance where the IRS breaks the rules with no consequence.  A “Sauce for the Gander” rule, one that would penalize IRS personnel who break rules just like they do for taxpayers, might help here.

 

Sometimes the IRS gets it right.  IRS Provided Some Good Tips this Morning (Russ Fox)

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Profits Interests, Capital Interests, And Restricted Property:

 

In Crescent Holdings v. Commissioner 141 T.C. 15 (2013), the Tax Court doled out three lessons every tax advisor con learn from:

 

  1. How to differentiate between a profits interest and a capital interest in a partnership.

  2. Section 83 applies to the grant of a capital interest,

  3. If a capital interested in a partnership has not yet vested under the meaning of Section 83, the recipient should not be allocated any undistributed income from the partnership.

  4. The income allocable to an unvested capital interest granted by a partnership must be allocated to the remaining partners of the partnership.

Good stuff.

 

TaxProf, Billionaires’ Use of Zeroed-Out GRATs Blows $100 Billion Hole in Estate Tax.  Paul Caron quotes a Forbes article.

Jack Townsend, Raoul Weil Has First U.S. Court Appearance

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2013: Sow Much Good

 

 

Robert D. FlachWOULDN’T IT BE NICE.  He discusses the new IRS Commissioner nominee and asks,  “Wouldn’t it be great to have a person who had actually prepared tax returns for a living in the position?”  What, and have somebody who actually knows something?

20131211-1Robert has a thing about the Tea Party, but I suspect even he would Follow the Tea Party on Stadium Financing Issues (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog):

The Atlanta Braves are planning to move their stadium to the suburbs. The Braves blackmailed, threatened, and coerced the backboneless politicians in Cobb County, Ga., to pay for the stadium… As far as I can tell, the only organization to have put up any fight against this insane corporate welfare is the Atlanta Tea Party.”

When the Tea Party movement sticks to the fight for smaller government, there’s a lot to like there.

 

 

Tax Justice Blog, Income Tax Deductions for Sales Taxes: A Step Away from Tax Fairness

Joseph Thorndike, When Is a “Fee” Actually a Tax? When Politicians Say It Isn’t (Tax Analysts Blog)

Peter Reilly,  How To Tax Kody Brown And The Sister Wives And Other Polygamous Families?  He quotes my Twitter feed.  If Peter follows @joebwan, maybe you should too!

 

News From the Profession.  There’s a Hidden Deloitte Auditor in the Airport Cell Phone Crasher Video Making the Rounds (Going Concern)

 

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

Thursday, December 12th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Well, it would be hard to respect them less.

 

 

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Yes.

 

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

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 217

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

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

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/4/2013: Justice Scalia doesn’t believe in the Tax Fairy. And sure, the IRS can run another tax credit!

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

tax fairyThe Supreme Court wrapped a bow around the IRS victories in the turn-of-the-century tax shelter wars by unanimously ruling that the 40% “gross valuation misstatement” penalty applied to a tax understatement caused by the “COBRA” tax shelter.

COBRA relied on contributing long and short currency options to a partnership, but claiming basis for the long position, and ignoring the liability caused by the short position.  The shelter was cooked up in Paul Daugerdas’ tax shelter lab at now-defunct Jenkens & Gilchrist and marketed by Ernst & Young.  The shelter was designed to generate $43.7 million in tax losses for a cash investment of $3.2 million.

COBRA, like so many other shelters of the era,  was ruled a sham and the losses disallowed, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 40% penalty did not apply.  Other circuits ruled that it did, so the Supreme Court took the case to settle the issue.

Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Scalia disposed of the Fifth Circuit’s position (citations omitted, my emphasis):

     In the alternative, Woods argues that any underpayment of tax in this case would be “attributable,” not to the misstatements of outside basis, but rather to the determination that the partnerships were shams — which he describes as an “independent legal ground.”  That is the rationale that the Fifth and Ninth Circuits have adopted for refusing to apply the valuation-misstatement penalty in cases like this, although both courts have voiced doubts about it.

We reject the argument’s premise: The economic substance determination and the basis misstatement are not “independent” of one another. This is not a case where a valuation misstatement is a mere side effect of a sham transaction. Rather, the overstatement of outside basis was the linchpin of the COBRA tax shelter and the mechanism by which Woods and McCombs sought to reduce their taxable income. As Judge Prado observed, in this type of tax shelter, “the basis misstatement and the transaction’s lack of economic substance are inextricably inter twined,” so “attributing the tax underpayment only to the artificiality of the transaction and not to the basis over valuation is making a false distinction.”  In short, the partners underpaid their taxes because they overstated their outside basis, and they overstated their outside basis because the partnerships were shams. We therefore have no difficulty concluding that any underpayment resulting from the COBRA tax shelter is attributable to the partners’ misrepresentation of outside basis (a valuation misstatement). 

tack shelterI see the basis-shifting shelters of the 1990s as elaborate incantations designed to to get the Tax Fairy to magically wish away tax liabilities.  Like any good witch doctor, the shelter designers relied on lots of elaborate hand-waving and dark magic to do their work, and they collected a lot of cash for their work.  But there is no Tax Fairy.  Justice Scalia has let Tax Fairy believers know that pursuing her is not just futile, but potentially very expensive.

 

Cite: United States v. Woods, Sup. Ct. No. 12-562.

The TaxProf has a roundup and an update.  Stephen Olsen weighs in at Procedurally Taxing.

 

 

Blue Book Blues.   One digression by Justice Scalia in Woods is worth a little extra attention.   From the opinion (citations omitted, my emphasis):

Woods contends, however, that a document known as the “Blue Book” compels a different result…Blue Books are prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation as commentaries on recently passed tax laws. They are “written after passage of the legislation and therefore d[o] not inform the decisions of the members of Congress who vot[e] in favor of the [law].” While we have relied on similar documents in the past, …our more recent precedents disapprove of that practice. Of course the Blue Book, like a law review article, may be relevant to the extent it is persuasive.

Back in the early national firm days of my career, one of my bosses was a former national firm lobbyist who was exiled to The Field when a merger with another firm left room in Washington for only one lobbyist in the combined firm.  I remember him telling clients that he could get around unpleasantness in the tax code by arranging for helpful language in the Blue Book.  From what Justice Scalia says, he would have done as well by writing a law review article.

Jack Townsend also noticed this.

 

A new tax credit for the IRS to administer.  What could possibly go wrong?  A lot, as the IRS’s experience with the fraud-ridden refundable credits and ID-theft fraud has shown.  Now a new Treasury Inspector General’s report warns that IRS systems aren’t yet prepared to stop premium tax credit fraud under Obamacare, reports Tax Analysts ($link):

EITC error chart     While the IRS has existing practices to address ACA-related fraud, the agency’s approach is not part of an established fraud mitigation strategy for ACA systems, the report says. The IRS has two systems under development to lessen ACA tax refund fraud risk, but until those systems are completed and tested, “TIGTA remains concerned that the IRS’s existing fraud detection system may not be capable of identifying ACA refund fraud or schemes prior to the issuance of tax return refunds,” it says.

IRS Chief Technology Officer Terence Milholland said in a response included in the report that fraud prevention plans will be put in place as ACA systems are released.

The IRS loses $10 billion annually to Earned Income Tax Credit Fraud alone.  This isn’t reassuring.

 

Paul Neiffer, Losses Can Offset Investment Income:

  1. If you have a net capital loss for the year, the regular tax laws limit this loss to $3,000.  The final regulations allow this up to $3,000 loss to offset other investment income.
  2. If you have a passive loss such as Section 1231 losses, as long as that loss is allowed for regular income tax purposes, you will be allowed to offset that against other investment income.
  3. Finally, if you have a net operating loss carry forward that contains some amount of net investment losses, you will be allowed to use that portion of the NOL to offset other investment income.

A big improvement over the propsed regulations.

 

20120920-3Jason Dinesen,  Same-Sex Marriage, IRAs and After-Tax Basis:

It’s clear that for 2013 and going forward, couples in same-sex marriage will only need to apply “married person” rules to IRAs (and to everything else relating to their taxes).

What’s less clear is what happens with differences between federal and state basis for prior years.

 

Robert D. Flach,  A YEAR END TIP FOR MUTUAL FUND INVESTMENTS.  “If you want to purchase shares in a mutual fund during the fourth quarter of the year, wait until after the capital gain dividend has been issued, and the NAV has dropped, before purchasing the shares.”

 

Janet Novack,  Insurance Agent To Forbes 400 Concedes Understating Taxable Income By $50 Million

David Brunori, Indexing the State Income Tax Brackets Makes Sense (Tax Analysts Blog)

Missouri Rep Paul Curtman (R) wants to index his state’s income tax brackets to inflation. Of all the tax ideas presented this year, this is among the best. Missouri imposes its top rate of 6 percent on all incomes over $9,000. Nine grand was a lot of money in 1931 – and the top tax rate was aimed at the very wealthiest Missourians. But that threshold hasn’t changed since Herbert Hoover was president. 

Or they could just go with one flat rate.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 209

William McBride, Summary of Baucus Discussion Draft to Reform International Business Taxation (Tax Policy Blog)

Kay Bell, Where do your residential property taxes rank nationally? 

Howard Gleckman,  The Supreme Court Opens The Door to Sales Tax Collections by Online Sellers (TaxVox)

They were too busy fighting the shelter wars to notice.  The Cold War Is Over, but No One Told the IRS  (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog)

Career Corner: A Friendly Reminder to Slobbering Drunks: Be Less Slobbery and Drunk at Your Company Holiday Party (Going Concern)

 

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

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Jason Dinesen reminds us of the Iowa Insurance Premium Deduction

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

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

 

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 207

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/20/13: Are reports of the death of Instant Tax Service premature? And: film credits = bait car?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
"Fez" Ogbasion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

“Fez” Ogbazion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

Is Instant Tax Service still dead?  Maybe not, reports TaxGrrrl: In Apparent Defiance Of Court Order, Fourth Largest Tax Biz In Country Preps For Sale :

Within a week of the Order, [founder "Fez"] Ogbazion was said to be engaged in discussions relating to the sale of the company, an activity that would appear to be barred under the injunction. Todd Bryant, General Counsel for ITS Financial, confirmed via email that “[a]n asset sale is being considered.”

It was a puzzle, though, as to who might be interested in purchasing the beleaguered company.

An insider, it turns out.  TaxGrrrl questions whether that will work, given that the court order seems designed to destroy the company and salt the earth so it can never return.  Judge for yourself (my emphasis):

Based on the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED pursuant to I.R.C. §§ 7402 and 7408 that Defendants ITS Financial, LLC, TCA Financial, LLC, Tax Tree, LLC, and Fesum Ogbazion, and their representatives, agents, employees, attorneys, and/or any person or entity acting in active concert or participation with them, are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from directly or indirectly, by use of any means:

A. Operating, or being involved with in any way, any work or business relating in any way to preparation of tax returns; and, accordingly, Defendants ITS Financial, LLC, TCA Financial, LLC, and Tax Tree, LLC shall cease to operate; and Defendant Fesum Ogbazion shall cease operating, or being involved with in any way, any work or business relating in any way to preparation of tax returns;

B. Acting as tax return preparers; and/or acting or operating as a franchisor of businesses relating in any way to preparation of tax returns;

C. Supervising or managing or assisting tax return preparers; and/or owning, operating, or engaging in work or a business relating in any way to preparation of tax returns;

D. Assisting with or directing the preparation or filing of tax returns, amended returns, claims for refund, or other related documents;

E. Representing before the Internal Revenue Service any person or organization whose tax liabilities are under examination or investigation by the IRS;

F. Organizing, promoting, providing, advising or selling any business or work of tax services;

They seem to be looking for a loophole here by selling assets, rather than stock, though the injunction against “selling any business” would seem to cover that.  I suspect the judge will make things clear in the coming days.

Prior coverage: Judge shuts down Instant Tax Service.

 

Instant Tax, meet Mo’ Money.  Owner of St. Louis tax prep franchise gets 20 months for 20130919-2fraud (stltoday.com):

The owner of a Mo’ Money tax preparation franchise in St. Louis was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty in July to conspiracy to commit tax fraud and aiding and abetting the preparation of false tax returns.

Jimi Clark, 57, of Memphis, Tenn., and four employees were arrested and indicted in October 2012 on one felony count each of conspiracy to commit tax fraud. All were accused of falsely claiming educational tax credits on at least 47 tax returns for 2009.

Refundable credits like the American Opportunity Credit and the Earned Income Credit are the fuel for the fraudulent return industry.

 

haroldLyman Stone,  California Film Tax Credit Faces Controversy, Delay (Tax Policy Blog):

 A recent FBI sting in California revealed that state Senator Ron Calderon may have taken up to $60,000 in exchange for pushing to lower eligibility requirements for California’s $100-million-a-year film tax incentive program. This isn’t the first time film incentives have been connected to corruption and scandal. Indeed, a scandal about misallocation of film tax credits ultimately led to the demise of Iowa’s program over the last few years.

Sometimes I think that Iowa’s Film Credit Program was just an elaborate “Bait Car” episode that ultimately didn’t run because the stealing was too easy.

 

Elizabeth MalmMaryland Governor Touts Benefits of Film Tax Credits, Despite Evidence to the Contrary  (Tax Policy Bl0g).  Iowa has stopped giving filmmakers money and is instead giving them time, with no apparent bad economic effects.

Kay Bell, Coast-to-coast concerns about film and TV tax credits

 

David Henderson, Saez You: Income Distribution without Key Components of Income.  It turns out one of the most-cited articles on income inequality leaves out a lot of income, particularly government transfers and welfare benefits.  He notes notes, increased transfers are always advocated as a cure for inequality, and yet by the measuring stick used, it can never “help.”

 

Clint Stretch, Turning Down the Heat on Energy Tax Policy  (Tax Analysts Blog).  He notes the new oil and gas boom, and that “Oil and gas tax incentives are not responsible.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 195

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

Howard Gleckman, Baucus Proposes International Tax Reform But Future Action Remains Uncertain (TaxVox)

According to the plan, passive income from overseas activities would continue to be taxed at U.S. rates. Most income from the sale of goods and services overseas would also be taxed at full U.S. rates. The draft would end the practice of deferral that allows firms to avoid U.S. tax on foreign earnings until they bring those profits home. However, income that is currently parked overseas would be taxed at a 20 percent rate payable over 8 years.

Baucus would move the U.S. closer to a territorial system favored by many multinationals and GOP lawmakers. Under such a system, income is taxed in the jurisdiction where it is earned rather than by the firm’s home country. While the plan does not fix a specific tax rate, staffers say Baucus is aiming to reduce the corporate rate from 35 percent to about 30 percent.

But in the Baucus plan, this shift closer to a territorial tax comes at a price. To limit the ability of multinationals to game the system, the plan would impose a stiff minimum tax on income earned overseas by foreign affiliates of U.S. parent companies.

Reducing the corporate rate is fine, but remember that most business income is taxed on 1040s anymore.

 

Tax Justice Blog,  Statement from CTJ Director Robert McIntyre: Is the Baucus Plan for Multinational Corporations a Prelude to a Middle-Class Tax Increase?

 

Peter Reilly has been playing hooky at the commemoration of yesterday’s 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.  I’m jealous.

The Critical Question: Hasn’t the Government Done Enough to Mess Up Higher Education Finance? (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog)  Well, I’m sure they can always mess it up even more.

News from the Profession. Non-Traditional Holiday Celebrations at Accounting Firms, Care To Add Yours?

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/6/13: Relief for the road warrior? And the futile state corporation income tax

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy Tom Hilton under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Tom Hilton under Creative Commons license

Relief for the traveling employee?  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the “Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2013″ (S. 1645) was introduced yesterday.  The bill would make the tax lives of employers and employees who cross state lines much easier by preventing states from taxing folks, other than athletes and entertainers, who are in a state for less than 30 days.  From the Tax Analysts:

The bill is “a modernization of everything,” Maureen Riehl, vice president of government affairs for the Council On State Taxation, told Tax Analysts. It is “about supporting the mobility of an economy that has people moving around a lot more often than when the income tax laws went into effect in the states back in the ’30s and ’40s,” she said.

Who would oppose such sensible simplification?

The Federation of Tax Administrators does not share Riehl’s enthusiasm. Deputy Director Verenda Smith said the bill “does not strike an appropriate balance between administrative simplification and necessary tax policies.”

Smith took issue with the safe harbor provision, saying the 30-day threshold “is beyond a level necessary to deal with the vast majority of individuals who would be temporarily in a jurisdiction.”

The states want to tax you on their whim if you sneeze in their jurisdiction.

Still, they should have one more threshold: no state tax if you earn less than some threshold amount in a state, maybe $5,000.  That way they can still pick LeBron’s pocket when he comes to town from his tax-free home in Florida, but a carload of struggling musicians couch-surfing from town to town would be saved the hassle of filing a tax return in every state where they have a gig  – or more likely, saved the need to ignore the filing requirement.

 

Peter Reilly,  Mobile Workforce Act Good Idea But May Need More Limits  “Over the years I have studied the rules for what invokes state income tax withholding requirement.  It varies substantially from state to state.”

 

Elizabeth Malm, Richard Borean, Map: Share of State Tax Revenues from Corporate Income Tax (Tax Policy Blog)

 20131106-1

Notice that it’s a relatively paltry part of Iowa tax receipts, even in a good year, and even with the highest rate in the nation.  Better to repeal it as part of the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

David Brunori, Feckless Legislators and Corporate Welfare (Tax Analysts Blog)

If I ran a big corporation in Illinois, I would have my lobbyists asking for tax breaks daily. Why not? The tax incentive racket is a profit center for most corporations in Illinois. Is it blackmail? Sure. But it is cold, calculated, rational blackmail.

…if once you have paid him the Dane-geld

You never get rid of the Dane.

 

Tax Justice Blog,  Let’s Face It: Delaware and Other U.S. States Are Tax Havens

 

Paul Neiffer, Crop Insurance Deferral Options.  “When a crop insurance claim relates directly to a drop in price, those claims cannot be deferred to the next year.”  Paul explains what the choices are if the recovery relates to a yield loss.

Tony Nitti, Shareholder Computes Basis In S Corporation Stock Incorrectly, $1.5 Million Loss Becomes $2 Million Gain

 

Jana Luttenegger, Interactive Form to Assist in Applying for 501(c)(3) Status (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog) 

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.

William Perez, CBO: Marginal Tax Rates Faced by Low- and Moderate-Income Individuals.  Helping the poor stay that way.

Andrew Mitchel, 2014 Inflation Adjustments for Individuals in the International Tax Arena

Roger McEowen, Inflation Adjusted Amounts for 2014

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 181

TaxGrrrl, Bayern Munich Keeps Winning Even As Their Chief Faces Trial For Tax Evasion.

 

Brian Mahany,  More Guidance on Taxation of Same Sex Marriages

Jack Townsend,  Should You Opt Out of OVDI/P?.  He examines Robert Wood’s discussion of opting out of the IRS “amnesty”

Phil Hodgen’s Exit Tax Book: Chapter 7 – Taxation of Deferred Compensation 

 

Joseph Thorndike, Forget Carried Interest–It’s All About Taxing Capital Gains (Tax Analysts Blog).   He’s right when he says “The only issue that really matters is how we tax capital gains.”  Then he goes off the rails in so many ways.  Read Joseph, and then read Steve Landsberg.

 

A Wednesday Buzz from Robert D. Flach!

May you have this problem.  The Tax Treatment of Olympic Gold Medals (TaxProf)

News from the Profession.  Recruiting Season: Salaries and Offers for the Public Accounting Class of 2014 (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/30/2013: Beggars night day edition! And why IRAs are scary as start-up investors.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
MST3K-2 lantern

Stop by for treats tonight. You can find us by Son’s MST3K-themed pumpkin.

The Des Moines area has an unusual tradition for trick-or-treating on October 30, rather than October 31.   On our “Beggars Night,” it’s customary for the little monsters to tell a joke.  A perennial favorite:

What’s a pirate’s favorite restaurant?

Aaaarghh-bys!

So drive carefully tonight!

 

Speaking of scary, think of having your IRA disqualified and taxed currently, with penalties, for engaging in a prohibited transaction.  That’s what happened to a Missouri man in Tax Court yesterday.

The taxpayer, a Mr. Ellis, rolled $320,000 out of his 401(k) and put it into a self-directed IRA.  The IRA than bought 98% of a corporation (an LLC that elected to be taxed as a corporation) to open a used-car lot, where he began working as the general manager.  It went badly.  From the Tax Court opinion:

In essence, Mr. Ellis formulated a plan in which he would use his retirement savings as startup capital for a used car business. Mr. Ellis would operate this business and use it as his primary source of income by paying himself compensation for his role in its day-to-day operation. Mr. Ellis effected this plan by establishing the used car business as an investment of his IRA, attempting to preserve the integrity of the IRA as a qualified retirement plan. However, this is precisely the kind of self-dealing that section 4975 was enacted to prevent.

The result? $163,000 of taxes and penalties on the $320,000 invested in the used car lot — which, of course, may well not be very liquid, seeing that it’s all invested in a closely-held corporation.

This case has an interesting twist to those of us who follow tax cases too closely.  The IRA plan was apparently the work of  a Kansas City law firm whose attempt to make their practice income largely tax-exempt by funneling it through an ESOP-owned S corporation was shot down in Tax Court in 2011.  I’m just guessing here, but the IRS may have taken a look at that firm’s clients after seeing how aggressive the firm was in using retirement plans to shelter business income.

It’s tempting to have your IRA invest directly to avoid the current tax and 10% penalty that can apply to an early withdrawal.  The results, though, can be a lot scarier than any trick-or-treater.

Cite: Ellis, T.C. Memo 2013-245.

 

59pdhyefMore scary.  Econoblogger Arnold Kling has thoughts on whether Healthcare.gov might be saved:

My opinion of the distribution of likely outcomes is that it is bimodal. There is a high probability that the exchanges will be working at the end of November. I think that there is an even higher probability that they will be working never.

The public pledge where the new savior of the site impresses Mr. Kling, but he thinks the design issues might be intractable.

Andrew Lundeen, Scott Hodge,  The Income Tax Burden Is Very Progressive (Tax Policy Blog):

About half of the nation’s income is reported by taxpayers who make less than $100,000, and half is reported by taxpayers who make more. However, taxpayers who make less than $100,000 collectively pay just 18 percent of all income taxes while those who make more pay over 80 percent of all income taxes.

They have a chart, of course:

20131030-2

 

Howard Gleckman, Who Benefits from Muni Bonds? It’s More Complicated Than You Think (TaxVox) “…while most of the benefit of the tax-exemption goes to high-income investors, lower-income households who hold taxable bonds in their 401(k)s also receive some advantage.”

 

But they’re ready to regulate preparers! TIGTA: IRS Cannot Account for 23% of its IT Assets (TaxProf).

 

Jason Dinesen asks Is There a Way to Protect Yourself from Tax Return Identity Theft?   Use common sense — but if someone in your family dies, ID thieves may be able to get government-published information enabling them to steal the deceased’s identity no matter what you do.

TaxGrrrl, Somebody’s Watching Me: IRS Criminal Investigations Ramp Up Efforts To Thwart Tax ID Thefts   

 

David Brunori offers Tax Advice for State Legislators of All Parties (Tax Analysts Blog).  There’s a lot there, including this:

Both parties should also give serious thought to greater reliance on the property tax. Yes, I know people hate that tax. I also know that politicians find it advantageous to attack it. But the property tax revolts of the late 1970s and the 1980s have badly damaged the fiscal structure of state and local governments.

Don’t expect either party to heed the advice.

 

William Perez,  47% of Individual Taxpayers Earn Under $30,000

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 174

High-fiber diet.  Tax identity thief who ate debit card evidence is convicted (Kay Bell)

From Phil Hodgen’s series on expat taxes: Chapter 2 – Are You An Expatriate?

Carlton Smith, Byers v Comm’r – CDP Venue In Courts Of Appeals May Be Upended (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Joseph Thorndike, It’s Time to Give Up on Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog):

Tax reform? Don’t bet on it. Not this year, and probably not next year either. Tax reform, like everything else in Washington, is on hold pending the resolution of a broader, highly polarized debate about the role of government in American society.

 

Robert D. Flach has his Tuesday Buzz on Wednesday this week.

 

 

20131025-237-yard month penalty for former Eagle Mitchell.  The sentence was handed down yesterday in a Florida federal courtroom, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

The former NFL wide-receiver blamed brain injuries suffered on the field after pleading guilty to a plot where he helped convince Milwaukee Bucks player to use a Florida preparer to file a refund claim, which would be split between the NBA player, Mr. Mitchell, and the preparer.  The claim was fraudulent, and the NBA player wasn’t charged.  Mr. Mitchell also allegedly used an LLC to conceal other fraudulent tax claims.  Brain injuries are funny things.

 

News from the Profession: Dancing Accountant Nearly Thrown Out of a Bank For Dancing To “Money, Money, Money”  (Going Concern)

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/23/2013: The Earned income tax credit thief subsidy feature. And: tax season delayed!

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Some smart people are big fans of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Some see it as a way to help the working poor, and some see it as a less destructive way to achieve the goals of minimum wages.

Yesterday the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported that from 21% to 25% of the earned income credit was paid improperly for the most recent fiscal year, and that $110 to $130 billion has been “paid improperly” over the past decade. That’s a nice way of saying “stolen.”

 

EITC error chart

Just because there is a lot of theft doesn’t by itself make a program bad — though that kind of loss rate would bankrupt anybody in the private sector.   Most people would send food to starving people in a war zone knowing that local warlords will be plundering some of it. But a program that comes at the cost of sending $11 billion annually to thieves needs to otherwise be a very good thing.   That’s not so clear with the EITC.

The credit does help the working poor — as long as they stay poor. As they work their way out of poverty, it becomes a trap. The phase-out of the credit imposes a punishing unstated, but very real, marginal tax rate.

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.

The EITC is only one program that does this; all “means-tested” welfare programs do this to some degree. It’s not uncommon for this implicit tax rate to exceed 100% at some income levels.

I don’t know what the right answer is (Arnold Kling has some ideas), but increasing the EITC, like Iowa did this year, isn’t it.

 

Oh, Goody. 2014 Tax Season to Start Later Following Government Closure; IRS Sees Heavy Demand As Operations Resume (IRS Press Release)

The IRS is exploring options to shorten the expected delay and will announce a final decision on the start of the 2014 filing season in December, Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said. The original start date of the 2014 filing season was Jan. 21, and with a one- to two-week delay, the IRS would start accepting and processing 2013 individual tax returns no earlier than Jan. 28 and no later than Feb. 4. 

20131023-1It’s funny how programming IRS computers isn’t “essential,” but barricading open-air monuments is.

Other coverage:

William Perez, IRS Expects to Delay the Start of the 2014 Filing Season

Kay Bell, IRS won’t accept 2013 tax returns until Jan. 28, 2014

Russ Fox, Sigh: 2014 Tax Season to be Delayed up to Two Weeks

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces Delayed Start To 2014 Tax Season   

 

Robert D. Flach, HOW TO DEAL WITH THE IRS AND LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY

Paul Neiffer,  Taxpayers Want Their Cake, Frosting and Candles! Live by the low estate-tax value, die by the low estate-tax value.

Jack Townsend, Has the U.S. Aided International Tax Evasion?

Russ Fox,  Coming Attractions: When the IRS Writes New Law When They’re Not Allowed To.  A federal judge has allowed a suit challenging the IRS unilaterally extending the tax credit for insurance purchased on state-sponsored exchanges to policies sold on federally-run exchanges.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 167

 

President Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.The Tax Policy Blog takes us on a nostalgia tour in  8 Technological Changes Since the 1986 Tax Reform.  Take a trip back to the days of “car phones.”

 

Clint Stretch, Whom Do Tax Reformers Want to Help? (Tax Analysts Blog):

When congressional leaders start talking about tax reform as if it will benefit everyone, someone should be asking: Whom are you trying to help? The answer may be Americans earning more than around $75,000 who have fewer itemized deductions, fewer kids, fewer healthcare benefits, and lower retirement savings than most.

I’m not convinced that’s the right way to look at it.  Getting rid of complexity and lowering rates helps everybody by eliminating dead weight loss and redirecting resources from tax planning and compliance to more useful pursuits.

Andrew Lundeen, A Lot Has Changed in the 27 Years Since the Last Major Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog).  “The amount of credits, loopholes, and deductions has increase by 44 percent, from $844 billion (2013 dollars), to over $1.2 trillion (2013 dollars), with much of that growth coming from the expansion of refundable tax credits.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Congress Shouldn’t Forget About Tax Entitlements In Its Search for Deficit Reduction (TaxVox)

 

Tax Justice Blog,  Governor Scott Walker Appropriates State Budget Surplus for Campaign Season Tax Cut.  In Tax Justice World, returning money taken by force of law to the taxpayers is “appropriating” it.

 

David Brunori, Eliminating the Sales Tax Is a Very Good Idea (Tax Analysts Blog) “But ending a tax that preys on the poor and is increasingly difficult to collect may provide the economic boost Rhode Island needs.”

Brian Strahle, BLAMING THE PLAYERS FOR THE RULES.  “Regardless, most taxpayers are simply trying to comply with the maze and complexity of non-uniform multistate tax laws”

Joseph Thorndike, The Gas Tax Doesn’t Work Because Politicians Broke It (Tax Analysts Blog).  By not raising it, apparently.

 

The Critical Question:  JD Salinger – Was January 27 2010 A Good Day To Die ?  (Peter Reilly)

Career Corner.  First Round Interview Tips for This Fall’s Accounting Recruits (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/17/2013: They’re baa-aak edition. And getting to know CPA firm decisionmakers.

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy dlofink under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy dlofink under Creative Commons license.

The shutdown is over!  The Republic is saved!  That means the IRS can resume sending nonsensical notices and attempting to run the small players out of the tax-prep business.  Audits can resume.  Didn’t you miss them?

It’s all good for the Tax Update, as the Tax Court will resume issuing cases and the IRS will issue new guidance — the grist for this mill.  It will be interesting if we see large batches of cases issued today and early next week, or if the Tax Court really stopped altogether.

Howard Gleckman,  The Un-Default: Congress Has Become A Seinfeld Episode.  That explains why the show was cancelled.  (TaxVox)

TaxGrrrl, IRS To Employees: Let’s Get Back To Work! 

Linda Beale,  Senate passes debt increase/shutdown ending bill

 

Paul Neiffer,  Watch Out for Distributions from Coops:

A qualified distribution is treated as a deduction on the cooperative return and the producer picks up the income amount.  On the contrary, the cooperative does not get a tax deduction when a non-qualified distribution is given and the producer does not pay tax on that amount. 

Extending the dividends-paid deduction for co-ops to all dividends from all corporations is an obvious method of tax reform that nobody but me seems to support.

 

Peter Reilly, Lawyers Hosting Event For Judges Does Not Count As Charity

Jack Townsend,  Supreme Court Denies Certiorari in Coplan

 

20121120-2Kyle Pomerleau, Obamacare’s Shaky Funding Sources (Tax Policy Blog)

These include a new 3.8 percent “unearned income Medicare contribution” (UIMC) and a new tax on “Cadillac” health insurance plans. The income thresholds for the UIMC are not indexed for inflation, so under law most workers would eventually be subject to the tax-over 80 percent of workers within 75 years, according to the Medicare trustees.”

Due to the fact that the income threshold for the new Medicare tax on unearned income will remain static and incomes will continue to rise, more and more people will eventually be hit by this tax. It will no longer be a tax just on the rich.

You can’t fund a mass welfare benefit with a class tax.

 

There’s a new Cavalcade of Risk up at Terms + Conditions!  The Cavalcade is a roundup of insurance and risk management posts.  As you might expect, there’s lots of Obamacare there.  Meanwhile Insureblog has been all over this, including Adventures On The Marketplace, on one man’s attempt to enroll.

Oh, boy.  Happy Centennial, Income Tax! (Benjamin J. Gehlhausen, Tax Policy Blog): “There is nothing simple about a work that approaches 74,000 pages and currently requires 6 billion hours of work by professionals to prepare return forms and comply with tax laws.”

 

20131017-2The Critical Question: Are States Addicted to Revenue from Unclaimed Property? (Cara Griffith, Tax Analysts Blog).  “According to the COST score card, revenue from unclaimed property is the state’s third largest revenue source, generating 16 percent of the general revenue fund in fiscal 2013.”  So they have to modify the old joke about the economist explaining why he left a $20 bill on the ground.  The old punchline is “if that really were money, somebody would have already picked it up.”  The new version is “If it really were lost, the State would have it already.”

 

News you can use.  When Liberals Preach Fairness, Hold On to Your Wallet (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog) “I am sure those hardworking, middle-class wage earners who will pay more are very happy that the bored liberal billionaires are looking out for them.”

TaxProf, Freakonomics: Is Charitable Giving Affected by the Attractiveness of Tax Preparers?  Come on.  If that were true, all of my clients would have contribution carryforwards.

 

News from the profession.  Accounting Career Conundrums: Aspiring CPA Concerned Background Check Will Uncover Revealing Past (Going Concern).  It’s about a former stripper. I suspect she already knows more CPA firm hiring partners than she realizes.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/10/13: Climate change edition. And great moments in web design!

Thursday, October 10th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Iowa has moved out of the bottom 10 in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index for 2014.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that it’s not the result of Iowa’s tax climate improving, but because Connecticut’s got worse.

 

2014 State Business Tax Climate Index

Iowa’s 49th-place rating for Corporation taxes accounts for much of Iowa’s poor showing.  Iowa has the highest stated corporate tax rate, at 12%.  It has a state corporation alternative minimum tax and is full of complexity — yet is so full of loopholes and carve-outs that it generated only around $425 million of Iowa’s $7.8 billion in 2012 tax revenues.  By comparison, Iowa’s (also complex and loophole-ridden) individual income tax generated over $3 billion of that revenue.

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

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

Iowa’s Association of Business and Industry has made improving Iowa’s business tax climate its legislative priority for the upcoming session.  Here’s what I think we need:

- Repeal of the futile Iowa corporation income tax.

- Repeal of every last economic development credit, including the refundable research credit and especially including enterprise zone and similar credits.  No company is so important that it should be receiving cash subsidies in excess of taxes paid to Iowa.

-  Drastic simplification of the Iowa individual tax, including repeal the deduction for federal taxes and of as many special breaks and credits as possible, in exchange for rates of 4% or lower.

In other words, the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.  We can do a lot worse — in fact, we do now.

Related:

Russ FoxThe 2014 State Business Tax Climate Index: Bring Me the Usual Suspects.  “And for those who think that taxes don’t matter, I’m in Nevada as a result of taxes and California’s miserable business climate.”

TaxGrrrl, Go West, Young Man: Best States For Businesses Are In The West

Joseph Hechman and Scott Drenkard, A Response to Matt Yglesias on the 2014 State Business Tax Climate Index (Tax Policy Blog):

There is however a brief blog post by Slate’s Matt Yglesias that went up this morning, which is along the lines of (1) there’s businesses in California and New York, (2) Tax Foundation criticizes California and New York for their tax policy, so therefore (3) taxes don’t affect business and individual location decisions. Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ affiliates have already started spreading around Yglesias’s post on Twitter, and we imagine it will show up in other places.

The answer to this is easy. Those high-tax states also have other non-tax qualities—and often legacy investments and industries—that overcome the obstacle of a broken mess of a tax system for many businesses and individuals.

Taxes aren’t everything, but they’re definitely something.

 

 

The Tax Foundation has helped draft a new tax reform proposal for Nebraska. Some thoughts from David Brunori in A Solid, Albeit Mild, Tax Reform Proposal:

The primary plan is relatively straightforward. It is revenue neutral, reduces personal and corporate income tax rates, reduces incentives, expands the sales tax to more services, and simplifies administration. Moreover, belying the assertion that conservatives hate poor people, it doubles the earned income tax credit, greatly increases the personal exemption, and indexes the tax rates. In other words, the plan is consistent with virtually every notion of sound tax policy. It would make the Nebraska tax system fairer, simpler, and more conducive to retaining people and firms.

I think increases in the earned income credit are unwise because their high hidden marginal rates as taxpayers improve their incomes serve to punish emergence from poverty.  Still, the plan would be a big improvement for Nebraska — and for Iowa, for that matter.

 


Tony Nitti, Custom Homebuilders Are Subject To Section 263A And A Primer On The UNICAP Rules.  “Today is the day we discuss Section 263A, among the more dry topics in the driest area of law known to man”  I covered the case Tony writes about here.

Jason Dinesen, Basics of the Iowa Pension Exclusion

Kay Bell, Avoid common mistakes on your extended Oct. 15 tax filing

Paul Neiffer, Watch our for FBAR.  As Paul points out, you don’t have to be even trying to hide anything from the IRS to get clobbered.

 

 

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Jack Townsend, IRS Information on Operations During Government Shutdown 

William Perez, IRS Shut Down, Week 2


Peter Reilly,  Blame It On the Lawyers – Creating Basis Out Of Thin Air Not The Taxpayer’s Fault   

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 154

Howard Gleckman,  It is Never Good When the U.S. Treasury Gets Compared to Brazil (TaxVox)

Tax Justice Blog, Stop the Presses: Apple Has Not Been Cleared on Tax Avoidance Charges.  So they should seek out new taxes to pay?

Keith Fogg, Vince Fumo: Local Political Corruption Meets Tax Procedure (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Going Concern, The Definitive Guide to Accounting as a Second Career.  Maybe I should consider that.

 

Janet Novack, Dumbest Identity Thief Ever? “He contacts police looking for wallet he lost stuffed with debit cards issued in 13 stolen names.”  Yes, he may be dumb, but what does it say about the IRS that he and other dummies are stealing $5 billion of our money through identity theft fraud annually?

Great moments in web design.  From Instapundit: “HEALTHCARE.GOV NOT ONLY THE WORLD’S WORST WEBSITE, it’s also the world’s most expensive, with a price tag of $634,320,919.”  The Tax Update website cost approximately 1/400,000 of that, and we may have enrolled as many folks in Obamacare as Healthcare.gov has so far.

 

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

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

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

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

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

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

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

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

 

More shutdown coverage:

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

(Via Greg Mankiw)

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

 

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

 

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Speaking of high standards:

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

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

 

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Tax Update, 9/25/2013: Preparer regulation has a bad day in court. And the royal consort clarifies the record.

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


20130121-2
Bad Day for preparer regulation at appeals court? 
Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the judges hearing the IRS appeal of the D.C. District Court’s shutdown of Doug Shulman’s preparer regulation power grab do not appear inclined to reverse it:

The D.C. Circuit during September 24 oral arguments in Loving v. IRS, No. 13-5061 (D.C. Cir. 2013), expressed skepticism that the IRS possesses the statutory authority to implement its tax return preparer program. Stuart J. Bassin of Baker & Hostetler LLP said that the oral arguments did not go well for the government and that it didn’t appear as if the court was “buying what the government was selling.” 

I’ve heard the same thing from two attorneys who attended the session.  Preparers who have followed the story of selective enforcement of tax laws in the Tea Party scandal can’t relish the idea of giving the IRS more control over their practices.  It looks as though we may be spared that, until and unless Congress does something stupid like authorizing such preparer regulation.

Robert D. Flach has more, as does Kay Bell.  I have joined an amicus brief against the preparer regulations in this case.

 

20130925-1Incentives gone wild.  While Iowa’s state-level politicians love taking your money to lure and subsidize your competitors, the politicians in Coralville have taken it to Detroit-like levels, reports IowaWatchdog.org:

The City Council of Coralville has piled up about $280 million in debt in recent years, the highest debt per capita for a city in Iowa.

The $14,511 burden for each of its 19,219 residents is seven times higher than Des Moines or Iowa City. It’s enough to pay for 38 Iowa Hawkeyes football season tickets or three semesters of tuition at the University of Iowa.

Moody’s Investors Service, after having downgraded the city’s debt four times, was, in a recent report, particularly tough on Coralville’s “history of issuing debt of non-essential government purposes, including the construction of a hotel, golf course, performing arts center and brewery, all of which are city owned.”

All in the name of “economic development,” of course.  Or, as the department store ads used to say, the more you spend, the more you save!  Unless you are one of the unlucky owners of the 60% of property in Coralville that isn’t in a tax-priviliged TIF district.

 

Jason Dinesen, IRS Guidance on FICA Refunds for Same-Sex Married Couples   

Jack Townsend,  Government Refusal to Grant Immunity Shifts Burden of Proof to IRS in Tax Court Case.  But he isn’t sure it will do the taxpayer any good.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 139

Tony Nitti,  Understanding The Impact Of Legalized Recreational Marijuana On State Tax Revenue   Well, it might not seem to matter so much.

William Perez,  Average Child Tax Credit by State

William McBride,  America Loses another Fortune 500 Company due to High Corporate Taxes (Tax Policy Blog).  A US company, Applie Materials, Inc., acquires a Japanese company, and they move combined headquarters to… Holland:

 The U.S. and Japan have the highest statutory corporate tax rates in the developed world, and by most measures the highest effective corporate tax rates as well. In contrast, the Netherlands has a statutory corporate tax rate of 25 percent, compared to 39 percent in the U.S. and 37 percent in Japan. The Netherlands also has the most generous capital allowances for plant and machinery in the developed world, which is particularly important for these two manufacturing firms. Lastly, unlike the U.S., which taxes foreign earnings on a worldwide basis, the Netherlands uses a territorial tax system, which largely exempts foreign earnings from domestic taxation.

Howard Gleckman, An Upcoming Debate on Whether Private Equity Should Pay Higher Taxes.  (TaxVox) Yes, this country needs nothing more than lower returns to capital.   Just ask the people at Applied Materials.

 

David Brunori, Marriage and Religious Freedom Act Promotes Neither (Tax Analysts Blog):

The tax laws should be neutral when it comes to politics. Personally, I would end all tax exemptions for all political groups — gay, straight, or in between. The IRS rightfully took considerable heat when it singled out conservative groups for scrutiny. But the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act isn’t the answer.

More legislation seldom is, unless it just repeals old legislation.

 

Is there anything tax law can’t do?  Russians Consider Boosting Divorce Tax, Citing ‘Moral And Demographic Decline’ (TaxGrrrl)

 

Tax Justice Blog,  ITEP Analysis: Cuccinelli Tax Plan Mostly Benefits Wealthy Virginians – and Cuccinelli.  When the rich pay most of the taxes, any tax cut will “disproportionately benefit the wealthy.”

Taking a stand: Does the Economy Need Stimulus or Austerity? Yes. (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog)

 

 

20130717-1The Royal Consort clarifies the record.  TBO.com reports that the partner-in-crime of Rashia Wilson, self-proclaimed “Queen of IRS tax fraud,” wants to set the record straight:

He may have been her partner in crime, joining forces to steal millions from federal taxpayers.

He may have spent time at her house and shared “romantic liaisons.”

But Maurice Larry wants people to know he most definitely was not the boyfriend of Rashia Wilson, Tampa’s notorious self-dubbed Queen of Tax Fraud.

Just a good friend with benefits.

Wilson, who became known for her brazen Facebook postings taunting authorities about the millions she was stealing from taxpayers through stolen identity tax refund fraud, was sentenced in July to 21 years in federal prison.

Larry, who spent $100,000 covering a Camaro in chrome, was sentenced Tuesday to 14 1/2 years in federal prison, a sentence he is to serve at the same time as an 8-year, 5-month sentence he received Monday in another tax refund fraud case.

A chrome Camaro?  I suppose it went well with Ms. Wilson’s platinum hairdo.

 

That means they aren’t eating at the right places.  Deloitte Study: Accountants Don’t Have Fire in Their Bellies (Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/24/2013: The tax fairy is no cheap date. And nice words about my big mouth.

Monday, September 23rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Tax Shelter STARS dims in Claims Court.  The high-priced marketed tax shelter craze that started in the late 1990s by the big national accounting firms and some law firms has produced terrible results in litigation.  The latest failure is the KPMG/Sidley Austin tax shleter “STARS,” which was shot down in the Court of Federal Claims last week.

tax fairyThe shelter was designed to generate foreign tax credits against BB&T Corporation’s U.S. taxes.  While the shelter was put together by some of the biggest names in the tax profession, the judge was unimpressed:

Applying these principles here, the STARS transaction must be seen for what it really is. By creating a trust arrangement with nothing but circular cash flows, and momentarily placing funds in the hands of a U.K. trustee before it is returned, Barclays and BB&T artificially caused a U.K. tax on U.S.-sourced revenue. There was no substantive economic activity occurring in the U.K. to warrant a U.K. tax. Yet, by subjecting the Trust funds to a U.K. tax, Barclays and BB&T were able to share the benefits of foreign tax credits, which resulted in a 51 percent rebate of a Bx payment to BB&T. The surprisingly low interest rate to BB&T on the $1.5 billion Loan, 300 basis points below LIBOR, was made possible solely because of the fruits of the Trust arrangement. In reality, the U.S. Treasury is funding the monetary benefits realized by BB&T, Barclays, and the U.K. Treasury. No aspect of the STARS transaction has any economic reality.

When taxpayers got involved in tax shelters set up by big-name firms, they often did so believing that reliance on well-known national firms will protect them from penalties.  Not here:

KPMG’s overarching advice was that BB&T should engage in an economically meaningless transaction to achieve foreign tax credits for taxes BB&T had not in substance paid. Thus, because KPMG’s advice was based on unreasonable and unsupported assumptions, the Court finds KPMG’s advice unreasonable.

Based on KPMG’s recommendation, BB&T also selected the law firm of Sidley Austin, and in particular, Raymond J. Ruble, to provide tax advice and a formal opinion on STARS… Because Sidley Austin’s tax opinion was premised on the unreasonable and unsupported assumption that technical compliance with U.S. tax law would allow the IRS to give its imprimatur to an economically meaningless transaction, the Court finds Sidley Austin’s advice unreasonable.

So the judge undid $660 million in claimed tax savings and added $112 million in penalties to the bill.

The Moral?  Some of the brightest minds in the tax business thought they had finally found the Tax Fairy, the magical sprite that can make your taxes go away with fancy tax footwork.  They sold their discovery to folks just as eager to believe in the Tax Fairy as they were.  But there is no Tax Fairy.

Cite: Salem Financial, Inc., Ct. Fed. Claims, No. 1:10-cv-00192

Related: Jack Townsend,  Yet Another B***t Tax Shelter Goes Down; BB&T’s Streak on B***t Tax Shelters Continues

 

Iowa: an alcohol-dependent nicotine fiend with a gambling problem. From the Sioux City Journal:

In fiscal 2012, Iowa reaped $710.6 million from so-called “sin taxes.” Although that was 4.8 percent of the state’s total revenues of $14.65 billion, it was far less than the $3.7 billion in individual income taxes and $2.1 billion in sales taxes Iowans paid in fiscal 2011.

Still, it greatly exceeds the net take of Iowa’s complex, high rate and futile corporation income tax, which netted $430.4 million of the state’s $7.42 billion in tax revenues in fiscal 2012.

 

William Perez, Using Tax Refunds to Pay Estimated Taxes.  Applying overpayments to the next year’s estimated taxes is a very useful part of any tax planner’s toolkit.

Phil Hodgen,  Rental Income and Branch Profits Tax. “

Branch profits tax is computed on the corporation’s taxable income. The branch profits tax does not care about your net operating loss.

This means that you can have years where the corporation pays no income tax (because it has a net operating loss from the prior year that eliminates the taxable profit generated in the current year). But the corporation will pay the branch profits tax.

If you deal with offshore corporations with U.S. activity, you should read this.

Russ Fox, The Affordable Care Act and Gamblers: A Bad Bet

 

Janet Novack,  In Reversal, IRS Gives Amnesty To Owners Of Secret Israeli Bank Accounts   

TaxProf,  WSJ: Offshore Accounts: No Place to Hide?.  I think offshore bank secrecy is pretty much done for.

Kay Bell,  7 Internet sales tax principles set for House consideration

Peter Reilly:  TIGTA Finally Stumbles On The Real IRS Scandal   Peter seems to think cronies with undue influence on letter rulings is worth than partisans using the power of the IRS to suppress uncongenial political organizations.

TaxGrrrl,  Government Shutdown 101: What Happens When The Lights Go Off?   

Oh Goody.  Payroll Taxes May Have to Go Up (Andrew Lundeen, Tax Policy Blog).

Elaine Maag,  Senator Lee’s New Reform Plan Focuses on Young Children (TaxVox)

 

A scene from the heydey of Iowa energy independence.

Great moments in energy independence.  Biofuels scam ‘the largest tax fraud scheme in Indiana history’  (Biofuels International)

 

That would do that.  Fraud verdict tarnishes Idaho businesswoman’s bio (SFGate.com)

 

 

News from the profession: Five  Unwritten Rules for Making Partner in a Big 4 Firm (Going Concern).  Spoiler: landing great big audit clients helps a lot.

 

Aw, shucks.  Tax Analysts commenter David Brunori says nice things about me today in State Tax Notes ($link):


Many practitioners are gun-shy when it comes to voicing their opinions on tax policy. They have clients, after all, who might disagree with them. Joe Kristan of Roth CPA, a leading tax and accounting firm in Iowa, is an exception. Kristan, writing for the firm’s blog, routinely speaks truth to power. We here at Tax Analysts appreciate that. 

That’s the nicest way anybody has ever said that I don’t know when to shut up.

Mr. Brunori then discusses my observations of Iowa economic policy director Debi Durham and State Senator Joe Bolkcom:

Durham talks about the tax-incentive imperative, which only the gods of crony capitalism would recognize. But then one would expect a government official who spends her time doling out government welfare to corporations to defend the idea of doling out welfare to corporations. Citing the state’s blue ribbon commission, Kristan pointed out that there is little evidence that tax incentives work.

Kristan has criticized State Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D) for arguing for targeted tax incentives. Targeted incentives violate every notion of sound tax policy and, as Kristan wisely points out, assume the state can wisely allocate investment capital. We need more people who understand how everything works to weigh in on tax policy.

I would be surprised if you could fill a coffee table at the Capitol cafeteria with legislators who could explain the opportunity costs of targeted tax credits.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/18/2013: No, the rich guy still isn’t buying. And non-phony scandals.

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

taxanalystslogoJoseph Thorndike gets a lot wrong in Two Cheers for a Government Shutdown (Tax Analysts Blog), but he gets one important thing exactly right (my emphasis):

 Democrats have been much less willing to defend discretionary government spending — the kind of spending that will grind to a halt during a shutdown. The discretionary portion of the federal budget has been slashed to the bone in recent years, and it’s slated for more slashing in the years ahead.

Those cuts are bad for the country in any number of ways. But until Democrats make the case against them, they’ll keep coming.

And here’s the most important point: Defending the value of discretionary spending also means defending the taxes that pay for it. Yet Democrats have been unwilling to defend taxation for decades. Ronald Reagan really was a transformative president — he changed not only the way Republicans talked about taxes, but the way Democrats talked about them, too.

Democrats have always liked taxing the rich. But for decades, they understood that you couldn’t tax only the rich. Anyone who thinks seriously about solving our long-term budget problems comes to the inescapable conclusion that taxes are going up for everyone. At least they will be going up if we hope to continue with a federal government that looks anything like the one we have today.

20121226-1Democrats have to embrace that fact. They have to defend the value proposition of progressive government, not just the feel-good politics of progressive taxation. 

I don’t buy for a moment that discretionary spending has been “slashed to the bone.”  Just visit your friendly money-bleeding post office, airport TSA line, high-speed rail boondoggle, solar subsidy disaster…  But he is exactly right when he points out that the rich guy isn’t buying.

 

Chart by the Tax Foundation

 

When the “Rogue Agents in Cincinnati” defense of the IRS in the Tea Party scandal was discredited, those attempting to minimize the scandal fell back to new defensive positions:

There is no evidence of partisan bias, and

Progressive groups were targeted too.

These assertions appear in a USA Today Story (via Instapundit), IRS list reveals concerns over Tea Party ‘propaganda’.

 Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about “anti-Obama rhetoric,” inflammatory language and “emotional” statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status.

More than 80% of the organizations on the 2011 “political advocacy case” list were conservative, but the effort to police political activity also ensnared at least 11 liberal groups as of November 2011, including Progressives United, Progress Texas and Delawareans for Social and Economic Justice.

Progressive outfits are unlikely to be caught by a screener looking for “anti-Obama” rhetoric. Given that “over 80%” of the groups picked for extra screening are right-side, it’s hard to accept that there is no political bias in the screening process.  Prior revelations have shown that the few left-side groups that were picked for extra scrutiny got very gentle treatment compared to their right-side counterparts:

7-30-13-irs-targeting-statistics-of-files-produced-by-irs-through-july-29-2-

Nothing phony about this scandal, no matter how much some people devoutly wish otherwise.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 132

Russ Fox,  IRS Scandal: Lerner, Others Re-Enter Spotlight

 

 

Lynnley Browning, Complying With U.S. Tax Evasion Law Is Vexing Foreign Banks (via the TaxProf).   It’s one more reason why foreign banks are closing their doors to U.S. expats, and why Americans abroad are turning in their passports.

 

Paul Neiffer,  IRS Has Two Sets of De Minimis Rules.  He is discussing final regulations issued last week on what purchases need to be capitalized, rather than written off as expenses:

The first set applies to companies with applicable financial statements (i.e. an audit) and allows the company to expense any fixed asset purchase that does not exceed $5,000.  The second set allows any other taxpayer to expense any fixed asset purchase that does not exceed $500.  Personally, I would have hoped this number would be closer to $2,500, but $500 is better than none.

The Regulations also provide for guidance to IRS agents that they can reach an agreement with a taxpayer during audit to use a de minimis number higher than the ceiling in the Regulations.

I think the distinction between audited financial statements is nonsensical, but at least taxpayers know where they stand.

 

Jason Dinesen: Having a Side Business in Multi-Level Marketing Doesn’t Make Personal Expenses Deductible.  It’s amazing how many people believe that it does.

 

Kay Bell,  Tax deadlines extended to Dec. 2 for Colorado flood victims

Tony Nitti, IRS Provides Tax Relief To Victims Of Colorado Storms   

Trish McIntire,  Disasters and Chutes and Ladders

TaxGrrrl,  2014 Tax Brackets, Exemption Amounts Likely To Save Tax Dollars   

William Perez,  Top Tax Rate Paid by Sole Proprietors by State

Brian Mahany,  Do You Have The Right To Rely on IRS Forms? Court Says “Maybe”

David Brunori, The Conundrum of Taxing Lots of Kids (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

20120924-1

Phil Hodgen, Simplicity:

Reaching for $1,000X of tax savings frequently costs you $2,000X in accounting and legal fees to make the IRS all warm and fuzzy on your tax returns. We saw this last week where a prior year tax election was made that saved $5,000 (!) of tax, but so far has cost $40,000 to fix. Not to mention the time distraction for the principal of the venture.

That’s why I don’t care for things like C corporations that try to manipulate their income to use the lower tax rates when income is under $100,000.  You can save maybe a few thousand in taxes if you do it just right, but at the cost of professional fees and management time best spent elsewhere.

 

The Critical Question: Is the Spies Element for Evasion (i) Tax Deficiency or (ii) the Criminal Tax Number? (Jack Townsend)

 

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