Posts Tagged ‘David Henderson’

Tax Roundup, 1/29/14: E-cigarette panic! And: SOTU, SALY.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Jeff Stier, Iowa should tread carefully on e-cigarette rules, on the weird impulse to restrict and tax water vapor:

Restricting the use of e-cigarettes, known as “vaping” for the vapor they emit, would undermine the very goal of this law.

First, it wouldn’t reduce exposure to environmental smoke, better known as second-hand smoke, because there is no smoke. There isn’t even any first-hand smoke.

More important, a ban on vaping in public places would damage public health because it would make e-cigarettes a less convenient alternative to cigarette smoking. It would also send the implicit (and incorrect) message that they are also equally dangerous, not only to the user, but to those exposed to the vapor.

All true.  There are two explanations for the why politicians have their dresses over their heads over what amount to very small room vaporizers.

First, because people vaping look a little like smokers, and smoking is a great sin these days, they must be sinning, and sin must be stopped.  For the children!

The second explanation is more cynical, so it probably is true.  The state has a nicotine addiction.  Iowa collected $227 million in tobacco taxes in 2013.  If smokers use e-cigarettes to quit, that money dries up.  We can’t have that.

 


EITC error chart
Tax Analysts’ 
headline ($link) on its story about the tax proposals in the State of the Union doesn’t exactly scream Hope and Change:  ”Obama Proposes EITC Expansion in State of the Union, Otherwise Reiterates Old Tax Proposals.”

One hopes that Congress will do something to keep 20-25% of the EITC from being issued “improperly” to grifters before it increases the theft pot.  We can expect the President’s other tax proposals to go nowhere, as they went nowhere when he was in better political shape.  The dead-on-arrival proposals include disallowing more of the Section 199 deduction for f0ssil fuels and tax credits to “build fuel infrastructure” and to subsidize alternative fuels.

His budget also provides for a hodgepodge of other tax incentives.  His revenue-raisers include repealing LIFO inventories, slower depreciation for aircraft, changing grantor trust rules so they are treated the same for income and tax purposes, and limiting the size of retirement accounts — all doomed absent an unlikely comprehensive tax reform.

Related:  Tax Policy is MIA in the State of the Union (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox). “The president perfunctorily restated his support for business tax reform but added no new twist to make his plan any more acceptable to congressional Republicans.”

Good Jobs First, a left-side think tank, has released Show us the Subsidized Jobs, a report on state tax incentives.  Iowa only scores 27%, largely because there is no online disclosure of recipients of the Industrial New Jobs Training program and the Iowa New Jobs Tax Credit.  I would give Iowa zero percent, because these hidden subsidies wouldn’t exist in a well designed tax system.  They should be repealed and replaced by the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Broadbandits.  Speaking of corporate welfare, SSB 3319 was introduced yestarday in the Iowa Senate.  Among other ways to pay providers for something they will do anyway if customers want it, the bill includes a 3% credit on the cost of “new installation of broadband infrastructure.”  Just one more step away from simplicity and transparency.

 

20111040logoDavid Henderson, Marginal Tax Rates: Singing Taxman to My Class:

Think about the Beatles’ earnings. Late 1963 was when they first started making real money. Then in 1964, they hit it big. Presumably they didn’t spend it all but started investing, figuring that they would get interest and dividends on their investments. They probably did. But those returns would be taxed at the 95% rate. When would they start noticing this? Probably some time in 1965. Thus the 1966 song. 

And we all know what an economic dynamo the UK was then.

Martin Sullivan, The Obama Administration’s Backdoor Bailout of Puerto Rico (Tax Analysts Blog):

But here’s a little secret that the powers that be inside and outside government don’t want you to know: The Obama administration has already provided a multibillion-dollar bailout to Puerto Rico. Nobody in the major media outlets has noticed because the issue is highly technical.

And because Look!  Justin Bieber!

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Why You Should Never Hold Real Estate In A Corporation? 

William Perez, Filing Requirements for Tax Year 2013

TaxGrrrl, ‘Same Love’ Grammy Wedding: Married Is Married For Tax Purposes

Leslie Book, Corbalis v Commissioner: Tax Court Holds it Has Jurisdiction to Review Interest Suspension Decisions (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Scott Hodge, President Obama Signs Executive Order to Increase Minimum Wages Paid by Federal Contractors (Tax Policy Blog).  Spending our money to show us how generous he is.

Tax Justice Blog, Has the Tax Code Been Used to Reduce Inequality During the Obama Years? Not Really.   They’ve tried, but it doesn’t work.

Jeremy Scott, BEPS Project Should Include Digital Economy Permanent Establishment (Tax Analysts Blog).   Should companies be taxable in a country because they have a “digital permanent establishment”?  I say they shouldn’t be taxed at all.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 265

Jack Townsend, DOJ Tax AAG Keneally Reports on Swiss Banks Joining DOJ Swiss Bank Program

Kay Bell, Mortgage tax break contributes to fading American dream.

 

Robert D. Flach is a sensible man:

I did not watch the State of the Union address last night.  Instead I watched the wonderful film GAMBIT with Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine on TCM.

I ate a delicious dinner and had pie for dessert, with the TV off.  My view of the whole SOTU thing is well-reflected here.

 

Career Corner: You Can Run But You Can’t Hide. Therefore, Sabotage Your Coworkers (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/24/14: Executive stock spiff proposed for Iowa. And: Haiku!

Friday, January 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Legislators propose to exempt employer stock gains from employee Iowa income tax.   S.F. 2043 would exclude from taxation capital gains from stock received by an “employee-owner” of a company “on account of employment” with the corporation, and acquired while the taxpayer was still employed..  While it isn’t entirely clear from the legislation, it would appear to include long or short-term gains, and would include stock acquired by exercise of options or stock bonus plans.  It’s not clear that it would apply to gains on ESOP shares, which are generally issued to owners or redeemed on retirement, but I suspect it would.

It’s an astonishingly broad exclusion.  Once elected, it would apply to stock gifted by the employee-owner to spouses and lineal descendants.  It wouldn’t apply to many family owned companies, because it requires five shareholders, at least two unrelated under IRC Section 318 attribution.  Interestingly, the bill misstates Sec. 318, saying:

Two persons are considered related when, under section 318 of the Internal Revenue Code, one is a person who owns, directly or indirectly, capital stock that if directly owned would be attributed to the other person, or is the brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, or nephew of the other person who owns capital stock either directly or indirectly.

No, that would be Section 267 attribution, and only for pass-throughs.  Section 318 only makes a taxpayer related to:

his spouse (other than a spouse who is legally separated from the individual under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance), and

(ii) his children, grandchildren, and parents. 

No siblings, nieces or nephews to be seen.  If they can’t even read the Code, should they really be messing with the state income tax?

If the Iowa income tax is so awful that we need to carve out a special exemption to executive stockholders to get them to come to Iowa, we should fix it for everyone, not just for them.  Does anybody really doubt that Iowa would be more attractive to business with no corporate income tax and a 4% top individual income tax rate than with the current system plus a new executive spiff?  Come on, legislators:  take the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan off the shelf!

Related: Iowa House advances one-time stock gain bill, on a similar bill introduced last year.

 

David Henderson, Steve Moore’s Alternative Maximum Tax (Econlog).  Governor Branstad floated a plan to allow taxpayers to choose between Iowa’s current baroque income tax and a simpler one with lower rates, before abandoning it prior to the opening of the legislative session.   I thought I was being clever by calling an alternative maximum tax.  David reports that Steve Moore came up with both the idea and the name for a proposal he made for the federal tax system in the 1990s.

I still don’t care for it.  In practice we would be computing the tax both ways and paying the lesser amount.  By adding another computation to the process, it would actually make things harder.  The only way it would work would be if it resulted in lower taxes for everyone; then in a few years they could repeal the regular income tax without anyone noticing.

 

20120531-1The 200th edition of the Cavalcade of Risk is up!  This milestone edition of the long-lived roundup of insurance and risk management posts is at Rootfin.  Congratulations to Hank Stern, the evil genius behind the Cavalcade; he participates in this edition with Hacktastic!, on the security troubles of Healthcare.gov, and government’s efforts to hush them up:

See, the problem isn’t the wide-open portal, it’s the folks trying to alert the folks who run it that there is, in fact, a problem. I’m reminded of a certain Middle East river.

More alarming still, though, is that that it’s not just the state folks yelling “burn the witch:” now the FBI has warned Mr Hermansen to zip his lips. That’ll sure make the problem go away.

Your healthcare is in the very best of hands.

 

Jim Maule, How Not to Compute a Casualty Loss Deduction:

The taxpayer claimed a $12,020 casualty loss deduction on account of the loss of the vehicle. The taxpayer computed the deduction by subtracting the $48,000 from $60,020, the original value of the vehicle. However, the first step in computing the amount of a casualty loss deduction is to subtract the insurance recovery from the difference between the value of the property immediately before the casualty and the value of the property immediately after the casualty, unless the taxpayer chooses to use cost of repairs as a substitute measure, though that was not relevant in this case.  Because the taxpayer did not provide evidence of those values, and because the Tax Court was unwilling to assume that the vehicle’s value immediately before the accident was the same as its value when it was new, it upheld the determination of the IRS that the taxpayer was not entitled to a casualty loss deduction.

The IRS often examines casualty loss deductions, so you need to do your legwork on getting the valuations documented before you file.

 

Jason Dinesen, Small Businesses — Review Those Benefit Programs  “When was the last time your small business reviewed the benefit programs your business offers?”

William Perez weighs in on Finding the Right Tax Professional.

Kay Bell, Tax season is tax scam, tax identity theft season. “If you get any unexpected communication in any form that is purportedly from the IRS, especially at the start of tax season, be wary.”  And they will never initiate contact by phone or email.

Paul Neiffer, Cash Does Not Equal Gain.  You can’t make taxable gain go away by using it to pay off loans.

Trish McIntire, Kansas Taxes – Sneaky Changes.

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

 

Kyle Pomerleau, High-Income Taxpayers Could Face a Top Marginal Tax Rate over 50 percent this Tax Season.  Be glad we don’t take it all, serf!  He computes Iowa’s top combined rate at 47.4%.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, Fortress Secrecy – No News Here (Tax Analysts Blog).

Anyone familiar with my writing knows that I have bent over backwards to give the IRS the benefit of the doubt in this black eye some call the “exemption scandal.” I must admit I’m getting a little tired of bending.

Back in the day, as the saying goes, I often referred to the IRS as Fortress Secrecy, a term meant to describe the agency’s obsession with hiding as much of its operations as it can get away with. I am not a casual observer, and I have never seen things this bad. Everything the IRS has done in addressing the exemption scandal leads to just one conclusion: that this agency now believes it is accountable to no one other than itself.

Because shut up, peasant.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 260

Howard Gleckman, Fiscal Magic: Paying for New Highways by Cutting Corporate Taxes (TaxVox)

 

Frank Agostino, Jairo G. Cano, and Crystal Loyer.  Guest posters at Procedurally Taxing, including the prolific Tax Court litigator Frank Agostino, discuss how IRS rules against giving false testimony bolstered an IRS man’s own case, in Section 1203 to Bolster a Taxpayer’s Credibility at Trial.

Jack Townsend, Required Records IRS Summons Enforced Again

 

News from the Profession.  Pulling Back the Curtain on Making Partner in a Big 4 Firm. Just sell, baby!

TaxGrrrl has Fun With Taxes: Tax Haiku 2014.

I’ll try it.

Here comes tax season

April 15 arrives swiftly

I need a stiff drink.

OK, I’ll keep the day job.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/16/14: Bill would widen Iowa 10-year gain break. And: Obamacare tax credits survive challenge.

Thursday, January 16th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20130117-1
Iowa Capital Gains Exclusion for stock sales?  
The first income tax bill in the hopper in this session of the Iowa General Assembly is HSB 502, which would expand the current tax break for extra-long term capital gains to stock and partnership interest sales.

Iowa currently allows taxpayers to exclude some capital gains from income when the taxpayer meets each of two 10-year requirements:

- They have to have held the property for at least ten years, and

- They have to have materially participated in the business for at least ten years. Material participation is determined under the federal passive activity rules.

If those requirements are met, a taxpayer can exclude gain on the sale of “substantially all of the assets” of a business, or on the sale of real estate used in the business.  But unless the gain is recognized in a corporate liquidation following an asset sale, stock gains aren’t eligible for the break.  Gains on the sale of partnership interests are never excluded

HSB 502 would extend the break to a sales of “substantially all of the taxpayer’s stock or equity interest in the business, whether the business is held as a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, joint venture, trust, limited liability company, or another business entity.”

The provision makes sense to the extent that such a break shouldn’t be dependent on the way you organize your business.  What doesn’t make sense is the way the exclusion is limited by the ten-year material participation requirement.  There is a strong economic case to not tax capital gains at all, but I can’t think of any reason that case is affected by material participation.

The biggest argument against the exclusion is that it is a carve-out of the income tax base for a very limited class of taxpayers that adds to the complexity of the Iowa income tax.  I would favor a broader, or even complete, capital gain exclusion.  I would also be OK with taxing all capital gains in exchange for repeal of the corporation income tax and reduction of the individual rate to under 4% as part of the Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

The bill has been referred to a subcommittee of the Iowa House Ways and Means Committee.  While I expect no major tax legislation to move this year, limited provisions like this could advance.

Related: Iowa Capital Gain Deduction: an illustration

 

20121120-2TaxGrrrl, Another Legal Threat To Obamacare Shot Down In Federal Court:

When the Regulations were published, those refundable tax credits which were intended for participants in state exchanges were extended to those individuals under the federal exchanges. The plaintiffs filed suit, arguing that making the credits available to those on the federal exchanges was beyond the scope of the law. The plaintiffs sought, through the lawsuit, to prohibit the IRS from enforcing the Regulations as written.

The D.C. U.S. District Court upheld the regulations yesterday on summary judgement.  An appeal to the D.C. Circuit is likely.

 

 David Henderson quotes economist John Cochrane:

Our current tax code is a chaotic mess and an invitation to cronyism, lobbying, and special breaks. The right thing is to scrap it. Taxes should raise money for the government in the least distortionary way possible. Don’t try to mix the tax code with income transfers or support for alternative energy, farmers, mortgages, and the housing industry, and so on. Like roughly every other economist, I support a two-page tax code, something like a consumption tax. Do government transfers, subsidies, and redistribution in a politically accountable and economically efficient way, through on-budget spending.

But that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

So wise, and, sadly, so true.  Mr. Cochran has a lot of wise things to say; read the whole thing.  Lynne Kiesling passes on more Cochrane wisdom in Cochrane on ACA’s unravelling: parallels to electricity.

 

Robert D. Flach, TWO RECENT TAX POSTS WORTH DISCUSSING.  ”The idiots in Congress must understand that the purpose of the Tax Code is to raise the money needed to run the government – PERIOD.”

Trish McIntire talks about Choosing A Tax Pro.  ”Just because your previous preparer did something a certain way doesn’t mean that another preparer will run their office the same.”

William Perez, Free Tax Preparation Services

 

HarvestHarvest
harvest
Paul Neiffer, Grain Gifts – How Are They Taxed?:

Since there is no cost allocated to the grain that is gifted, there is no charitable deduction to report.  Rather, since you are reducing your schedule F income by the amount of grain given, this essentially results in your charitable deduction.  You are not allowed to deduct both on schedule F and on schedule A.

Only one deduction counts.

 

Jason Dinesen, Got 1099s to Issue?:

A 1099 may need to be issued if:

  1. You paid $600 or more in total to any 1 person during the year for services provided to your business. This also applies to payments made to businesses organized as partnerships. However, a 1099 does NOT need issued for payments made to a corporation. Payments made to an LLC may or may not require a 1099, depending on how the LLC is taxed.

  2. You paid $600 or more in total to a law firm during the year, regardless of how the law firm is organized. In other words, even if the law firm is a corporation, you would need to issue it a 1099 if you paid the firm $600 or more.

  3. You paid $600 or more in rental or lease payments to an unincorporated person or partnership during the year (similar rules as listed under item #1).

And the deadline is looming.

 

Jack Townsend, Switzerland’s Quixotic Efforts to Close the Stable Door After the Horse Has Left the Barn.  Consider Swiss bank secrecy most sincerely dead.

 

20130419-1Kay Bell, IRS’ fiscal year 2014 budget takes a big hit

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 252

TaxTrials, Wesley Snipes, A Lesson in Listening to Bad Advice

Keith Fogg, Forum Shopping in the Tax Court – Small Tax Case Procedure and the Rand Decision. (Procedurally Taxing).  Issues when a tax deficiency results solely from refundable tax credits.

Tax Justice Blog, What to Watch for in 2014 State Tax Policy

Scott Drenkard, Open Sky Policy Institute: “Illinois is not an Example for Other States”.  Not exactly going out on a limb, but worth noting.

Roberton Williams, Tax Complications for Same-Sex Couples in Utah (and Elsewhere) (TaxVox)

Cara Griffith, Is Connecticut Ignoring Supreme Court Precedent? (Tax Analysts Blog).  Who do they think they are anyway — Iowa?

 

News from the Profession: How To Not Tick Off Your Public Accounting Colleagues Without Being a Clown About It (Going Concern)

 

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

Friday, October 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

20131025-1

 

Paul Neiffer, 180 Months Means 180 Months!:

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

Hang in there, in other words.

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 169

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quotable.  David Henderson:

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

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

 

Catch your Friday Buzz from Robert D. Flach!

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/25/2013: IRS says it was evil to lefties, too. And: RRTP > CPA?

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1The IRS yesterday issued a new internal report showing that the hold-ups on Tea Party exemption applications continued until just now.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

IRS Principal Deputy Commissioner Daniel Werfel told reporters that when he began his 30-day review of the agency’s mishandling of conservative groups’ exemption applications, he discovered that the exempt organizations unit was still using BOLO lists that included inappropriate or questionable criteria.

“BOLO” is “be on the lookout” lists looking for suspicious signs of political activity via the names of the organization.  These lists included “progressive” as a suspicious word, along with some right-side words, but it it appears that the left-side groups were not singled out for the “special” treatment accorded the Tea Party.

There is still a lot we don’t know about how the IRS treated the 501(c)(4) applications.  Unless we find out about left-side applications left to languish for years, like the Tea Party applications, it still doesn’t appear that IRS was evenhandedly evil.  And “they screwed some of us, too” isn’t exactly a ringing defense of the organization.

IRS, Charting a Path Forward at the IRS: Initial Assessment and Plan of Action

Kay Bell, IRS also was on the lookout for progressive tax-exempt groups

Linda Beale, To All Those Right-Wingers Complaining about IRS Targeting–guess what, they used “progressive” to help screen, too!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 47

 

You can’t condition your conservation easement on it being deductible, says the Tax Court. (Graev, 140 T.C. No. 17).  $990,000 deduction fails.

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: Leasehold Interest Exchanged For Fee Interest In Real Estate Does Not Qualify For Section 1031 Treatment,  If your leasehold is less than 30 years, don’t expect it qualify in a swap for a fee interest in real estate.

Jana Luttenegger, Emergency Preparedness includes Safeguarding Records (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “Have you thought about what records could be destroyed if a severe storm damaged your home or business?”

 

Tuesday Buzz from Robert D. FlachIt links to a new post on Robert’s “The Tax Professional” blog, where Robert asserts:

If a CPA were able to earn the designation of RTRP it would clearly identify that individual CPA as being competent and current in 1040 preparation.

False.  The now-dormant RTRP exam was a literacy test that proves tax competency in neither CPAs nor anyone else.  Robert is correct, though, when he says “A CPA is not automatically a 1040 expert, but a specific CPA may be a 1040 expert.”

I do think that CPAs who do tax work tend to be very capable, but so are many non-CPA preparers.  I think the competency curve would look something like this:

20110118-2.png

You should choose your tax preparer not just because of initials; you should find out what kind of work the preparer does.  And check references.

 

Russ Fox, FBAR Deadline Is Now.  If you haven’t sent in your FBAR, Russ shows how to e-file.

Austin John, Maryland Soon to Roll Out the Rain Tax (Tax Policy Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, Governor Cuomo, Meet Governor Brown.  “California Shows that Geographically Targeted Tax Incentives Don’t Work.”   Leave out “geographically” and it’s even better.

 

David Henderson, Atkinson and Krugman on Tax Rates (Econlog).

Jeremy Scott, Can the OECD Be Trusted on Base Erosion? (Tax Analysts)

TaxGrrrl, If It Ain’t About Money (Turns Out It Is): Rapper Fat Joe Headed To Prison For Failure To Pay Taxes

 

Breaking News from 2010:  Tax Return Fraud Spiraling Out of Control (Citizens Against Government Waste).  It’s ID theft fraud, of course.  Too bad Commissioner Shulman was busy regulating preparers and holding up 501(c)(4) applications.

Athletic ability has a weak correlation with financial ability.  Bankruptcy Rates Among Professional Athletes Need to Be Addressed (Jen Carrigan at Missouri Tax Guy)

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/5/2013: IRS line-dancing edition. And stimulus that works!

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

The IRS spent $4.1 million on a single internal conference in Anaheim, reports the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  Sure, it’s easy to mock the IRS for conferences, or for silly dance videos, though I find it reassuring to see that there are people in the IRS who have a sense of humor.

What bothers me is the priorities it shows.  For tax pros in Iowa, the best thing the IRS does is its Practitioner Liaison program.  Not only does our liaison do an excellent job of alerting us to processing problems during filing season and cutting through red tape, but she puts on well-attended and popular conferences that have to help the IRS get better-prepared filings.

Yet the Practitioner Liaison office is continually nickled and dimed.  There is always pressure to limit travel to outlying towns.  Our liaison has had to fill in for other states when their positions have been left vacant.  It just seems wrong that the IRS can find $135,000 for speakers to inspire agents in Anaheim, but not to fill the gas tank of someone in the field in Iowa doing useful and popular work.

It also doesn’t help the argument that the IRS just can’t afford to answer its phones or process exempt organization applications.

David Henderson (Econlog) posts a summary of what $135,000 got for the Anaheim attendees.

Kay Bell, Taxpayers picked up $49 million IRS conference tab over three years, including one that cost $4.1 million alone

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 27

Patrick Temple-West,  IRS scandal prompts hope for tax reform, and more

 

TaxGrrrl has a wonderful story about the beneficiaries of a California jobs tax credit:

This practice made news in the state when a local news crew focused on two strip clubs,   Deja Vu Showgirls of Rancho Cordova and Gold Club Centerfolds, found to have received thousands of dollars in tax breaks – without doing anything different from before. Those clubs benefited from their existing locations and were not lured to the area by the promise of tax incentives; additionally, their hiring practices weren’t influenced at all by the tax breaks. That isn’t the point of the credit, according to Sen. Hill and his supporters.

No, the point of the tax credit is to enable politicians to take credit for “creating jobs” by taking your money and giving it to somebody else.

Longtime readers know that The Tax Update has no use for any “economic development” tax credits.  These credits are generally paying companies to do what they would have done anyway — in this case, to disrobe.   At least these credits went for something people want, and there’s no questioning the stimulative effect.

 

Paul Neiffer, Update on Commodity Gifts

Missouri Tax Guy, Employee vs. Contractor… How to tell.

 

Peter Reilly, California Gets To Snack On Jerome James SuperSonics Salary   If you keep a house in California, don’t be surprised if California thinks you live there.

David Brunori, On its 35th Birthday, Prop 13 Remains Flawed (Tax.com):

But I think Proposition 13 was a horrible policy choice.  It devastated local government autonomy. Local governments in the United States have been the most efficient, effective, and democratically responsive means of providing public services. But that effectiveness is contingent on having an independent source of revenue. When the state finances local
government services, it is almost assured that those services will not be provided at levels demanded by citizens.

Joseph Henchman,   Nevada Approves $20 million/year to Subsidize Film and TV Production.  (Tax Policy Blog) They apparently have enough strip clubs.

Tax Justice Blog,  Brownback’s Kansas is Taking Tax Cuts to Extremes

 

Jack Townsend,  Swiss Enablers Are Worried, As Well They Should Be

Jim Maule, Code-Size Ignorance Knows No Boundaries.  The tax law is enough of a mess without exaggeration.

Robert D. Flach rounds up reaction to his defense of doing returns by hand.

 

Not if you do it right.  IRS Bashing Can Be Fun But Also Expensive (Joseph Thorndike, Tax.com)

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/4/2013: How many seconds of federal spending do you cover? And more debris from the bottom of the Fiscal Cliff.

Friday, January 4th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130104-1Spending, by the numbers.  Local radio guy Brian Gongol asks, Why do we baffle ourselves with huge numbers instead of talking about budgets in per-person terms?  Why, indeed?  You could ask 100 people on the street how much money the government spends and how big the deficit is, and you would be lucky to get the size of the budget within a trillion dollars.  The numbers are hard to comprehend.

The ability of the politicians to get away with talk about “millionaires and billionaires” proves this — a billion is 1,000 million, and while there are likely people on your street with a net worth of $1 million, you probably haven’t met anybody worth $1 billion.  They aren’t remotely the same thing.

In doing year-end tax projections for a client with a once-in-a-lifetime gain from a business sale and a huge resulting tax liability, I wondered how long his enormous (to me) liability would keep the government running.  Dividing the 2012 fiscal year spending of $3.796 trillion by the 31,536,000 seconds in a 365-day year, I figure that the federal blob spends $120,370.37 per second.  The biggest tax liability I’ve ever seen comes well short of funding 2 minutes of government operations.  I probably will never cover a second.  Where do you fit?

 

Fiscal Cliff Webinar!   I will be appearing with Roger McEowen on the “Tax Notes From the Fiscal Cliff” webinar at Noon January 14.  We will be covering the new legislation and the proposed 3.8% “Net Investment Income Tax” regulations.  Register today!

 

The IRS has published new withholding tables for the Fiscal Cliff Legislation (Accounting today)

 

Fiscal Cliff Notes:

Wall Street Journal:  Cliff Fix Hits Small Business; Many Small Entities or Firms May Face Higher Taxes This Year After the Deal

David Henderson, Pssst:  Someone tell the Republicans they won:

So here’s the big news: the anti-tax side won.  Sure, Obama would love
to raise taxes even more, especially on people making between $200K and $450K.  But now he has almost zero leverage to do that. 

I think that’s about right.  And now the President has lost his ability to distract attention from the ongoing fiscal calamity with arm-waving about “millionaires and billionaires.”

Derek Thompson, Sorry, Middle Class: In a Few Years, Your Taxes Will Have to Go Up, Too (via Going Concern).  You know, we could try spending less.  In any case, the rich guy isn’t buying.

Tim Carney: How corporate tax credits got in the ‘cliff’ deal

Katrina Trinko, Hollywood, Electric Scooters Benefit From Tax Breaks in Fiscal Cliff Bill (The Corner)

Brad Plumer, From NASCAR to rum, the 10 weirdest parts of the ‘fiscal cliff’ bill (Wonkblog, via Tyler Cowen).

Chris James, Fiscal Cliff Deal Adjust Capital Gain Rates and Qualified Dividend Rates (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Paul Neiffer, Some More Goodies Buried in the Fine Print

Kay Bell, Redefining ‘wealthy’ for tax purposes

Tax Trials, Fiscal Cliff Legislation – American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012

Patrick Temple-West, Cliff fix hits small business, and more

Nick Kasprak, 2013 Tax Brackets (Tax Policy Blog)

Roberton Williams, TPC Tax Calculator Shows What Avoiding Fiscal Cliff Means for Taxpayers (TaxV0x)

Howard Gleckman,  What the Fiscal Cliff Deal Really Means for Taxes and Spending

TaxProf,  More Fiscal Cliff Tax Commentary

 

In other news…

Jack Townsend, Wegelin & Co. Pleads Guity to Conspiracy

Lynnley Browning, Swiss bank Wegelin to close after guilty plea.  They opened in 1741.

Jason Dinesen, Tax Predictions for 2013

Trish McIntire, Disclosing Prisoner Returns

Taxdood, Intrastate iGaming: Federal Reporting and Withholding Tax Obligations

Robert D. Flach, WTF IS THIS AMT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT?

News you can use: “Have Fun and Don’t Be Bored” (Brian Strahle)

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Tax Roundup, 12/11/2012: Red Oak! And impossible dreams.

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The Tax Update is in Red Oak, Iowa today for the seventh tour date for the Iowa State University Center for Agriculture and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School.  This is our first visit to Red Oak.  From Wikipedia:

Red Oak is a city in and the county seat of Montgomery County, Iowa, United States,[3] located along the East Nishnabotna River. The population was 5,742 in the 2010 census, a decline from the 6,197 population in the 2000 census.[4][5]

..

The community has had a disproportionate number of casualties in the Civil War and World War II.

In the American Civil War, the area provided more Union troops per capita than any other in the state.[10] Company M (which also included residents from Montgomery County had 160 casualties among its 250 members; 52 men were killed in action.[11]

Early World War II battles claimed a disproportionate number of soldiers from Red Oak (although the final casualty statistics tend to disprove the oft-repeated statement that Red Oak suffered more losses per capita than any other American community).[10][12][13] In the Battle of the Kasserine Pass in February 1943, forty-five soldiers from Red Oak alone were captured or killed.[14] At the time more than 100 telegrams arrived in Red Oak saying that its soldiers were missing in action.[15]

Here is the crowd:

 

I can confidently endorse the Red Oak coffee and donuts.  Register now for the last session next Monday in Ames!

 

Eric Toder,  The Coming AMT Debacle. (TaxVox)   If Congress fails to pass an alternative minimum tax “patch,” the AMT is slated to rise drastically for 2012:

Overall, AMT liability will rise from $34 billion to $120 billion. Of that $86 billion increase, new AMT taxpayers will owe $64 billion—an average of about $2,250–while those currently on the tax will pay another $22 billion—an increase of about $5,500 each over the nearly $8,500 average they would pay with a patch.

If you suspect that a tax that affects 32 million households is not limited to the rich, you are right. It is true the enhanced AMT will hit upper middle-income taxpayers the hardest – 98 percent of those with adjusted gross income between $200,000 and $500,000 will pay an average of almost $11,000 in AMT on top of their regular tax liability.

With our political class, failure is always an option. 

 

David Henderson, When Taxes are Cut, What Does Regressive Mean?:

The bottom line is this: Start with any system of progressive taxation, cut everyone’s taxes by the same percent, and you will have implemented, by their standard, a regressive tax cut.

Exactly.  If you only tax rich people, any tax cut “disproportionately benefits the rich.”

Greg MankiwMake Your Own Deficit-Reduction Plan, links to a Wall Street Journal’s interactive graphic featuring deficit reduction options.

Janet Novack, Gucci Match: Fiscal Cliff Tax Fight Pits The 2% Against The 0.1% And The Richest 400

Anthony Nitti,   Here’s Your Update On The Fiscal Cliff Negotiations: Both Parties Agree That the Other Party’s Proposal Stinks.  This time, they’re both right.

 

Paul Neiffer,   Watch Your Timing On Year-End Gifts 

Brian Strahle, D.C. Ruling Presents Franchise Tax Opportunity

Jack Townsend, I Should At Least Mention Stolen Identity Refund Fraud

To dream the impossible dream… Musical theater maven Robert D. Flach tilts at a windmill:

I have a dream that our elected officials in Washington can create a simple and fair Tax Code.
 
I have a dream that our elected officials in Washington are really not just self-centered and self-absorbed idiots.

That’s right up there with my dream of winning the Triple Crown. As a horse.

No, we’ve been trying that for a long time here.  Can tax on witch-doctors cure Swaziland’s fiscal pain? (Nanette Byrnes, Tax Break)

That’ll work:  Alan Simpson goes ‘Gangnam Style’ in deficit reduction video effort  (Kay Bell)

Sacre Bleu!  Gerard Depardieu Leaves France After Tax Increases (Joseph Henchman, Tax Policy Blog)

Robert Goulder,  Timeless Tax Policy & The Other Colbert (Tax.com)

It might someday help him clear the AGI floor for health cost deductions:  Law Student Wins Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for a Year and Wonders: What Are the Tax Consequences? (Tax Prof)

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Tax Roundup, 11/19/2012: Pushing the AMT patch over the Fiscal Cliff. Also: Muscatine!

Monday, November 19th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The Tax Roundup is reporting from Muscatine, Iowa, home of the 900-lb gorilla of Iowa tax policy, Iowans for Tax Relief.  Also a 24/7 WalMart, for business travelers who forget to pack socks.

Roger McEowen and IRS Taxpayer Liason Christy Maitre give the latest scoop on the Fiscal Cliff at the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School, Muscatine session.

Department of We’re Doomed:   The leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee say that they don’t plan to do an “AMT patch” separately from the “fiscal cliff” negotiations for next year.  Absent a patch, the AMT exemption for 2012 will decline drastically, throwing tens of millions of new taxpayers into AMT and increasing the tax bill for some taxpayers by over $8,000.  Tax Analysts reports ($link)

Asked by reporters about the AMT patch, which has caused anxiety for IRS officials preparing for the coming tax return filing season, Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp, R-Mich., responded, “I’m hopeful that we will address AMT by the end of the year.” He added that he doesn’t think a patch will be passed as stand-alone legislation.

Ways and Means ranking minority member Sander M. Levin, D-Mich., also expects the AMT patch and the extenders to be included in a larger deal on the fiscal cliff. “I think it’s preferable for everything to be put into a package. They relate to each other,” he told Tax Analysts.

The IRS warned last week that failure to patch AMT will delay filing season for affected taxpayers to, at best, sometime in March, with punishing big tax bills for millions of unsuspecting taxpayers.  Now Congress ties the immediate catastrophe of not patching the AMT to the impending catastrophe of the scheduled tax  rate increase.   No small failures for these guys.

 

Fiscal Cliff self-help:  Pressure’s on to sell farmland before end of the year (Dan Piller, Des Moines Register:

The clean, placid appearance of post-harvest Iowa farmland appears to be far removed from the messy fog of Congressional politics and the fiscal cliff.

But pressure is intense to sell land before Jan. 1 when, if Congress doesn’t intervene, capital gains taxes will rise from 15 percent to 23.8 percent and deductions on estate taxes will drop from $5 million to $1 million.

Yes, taxes do affect behavior:

“The tax changes are on everybody’s minds. We have a sale every day, except Sundays, between now and Thankgiving,” regional sales manager Sam Kain of Farmers National Co. said before selling 169 acres of Bremer County farmland from the estate of Alvin and Maxine Walther on the day before the election.

“I’ve been in this business for 30 years and I’ve never seen it this busy,” Kain said.

Selling now doesn’t necessarily help with the estate tax problem (unless, improbably, farm prices continue to rise), but it can make a big difference on income taxes.

Related:

Anthony Nitti, 5 Tax Planning Strategies For Dealing With The Additional 3.8% Obamacare Tax On Investment Income

Peter Reilly,   Carbon Tax Getting Serious Consideration As CBO Seeks To Address Regressiveness.  Sorry, the rich guy isn’t buying.

Martin Sullivan,  The Hidden Economic Damage of Deduction Caps (Tax.com)

 

In other news…

Robert D. Flach,  DEDUCTING SANDY-RELATED VOLUNTEER EXPENSES

Because one disaster deserves another.  Hostess bakery’s closure prompts another try at a federal fat tax (Kay Bell)

At least it’s something they’re good at:  As Hostess Folds, Congress Thinks of New Ways To Kill Snack Food Industry (TaxGrrrl)

 

Paul Neiffer,   Don’t Forget The Small Employer Health Care Credit

Brian Strahle,  Take Advantage of Multistate Tax Year-End Issues and Opportunities

Jim Maule,   Taxation of Medical Study Payments

 

Be thankful, it could be worse.

As we wind down for Thanksgiving week, lets give thanks for not being in California.  David Henderson discusses the Golden State’s self-inflicted pending disaster in It’s not Go Galt: It’s Go to Texas:

As I have noted before, the Laffer Curve–the curve that relates tax revenues to tax rates–must be correct.  The relevant question is where we are on the Laffer Curve.  Are we on the part of the curve–the “prohibitive region”–where an increase in marginal tax rates will reduce revenues and a decrease in marginal tax rates will increase revenues?  For the United States, I think the answer is pretty clearly no.

But what about for California?  We are about to have an empirical test.

The Laffer Curve is the idea that there is a revenue maximizing tax rate.  It’s not zero, and it’s not 100%, because people would do very little that would result in a 100% tax.  The maximum rate is different for different taxes  — a gross receipts tax would have a lower revenue-maximizing rate than an income tax because it would not have deductions, for example.  Mr. Henderson says that’s also true for state income taxes:

When state governments increase tax rates, people in those states have a relevant option that is not relevant to a discussion of increases in federal tax rates.  Specifically, they can move to one of the other 49 states.  So a simple estimate of the elasticity of taxable income with respect to marginal tax rates will underestimate the actual elasticity. Some of those other states with lower marginal tax rates on high-income–and that includes virtually all the other states–will be attractive substitutes.  Texas, for example, has no income tax.  Neither do Washington, Florida, and Nevada, to name just 3 others.

That could cause the tax take for California from its new tax increases to be much less than they are hoping for:

Notice one powerful implication of this second reason that makes the analysis quite different from the analysis for federal tax-rate increases.  Whereas when the federal government raises tax rates, any loss in revenue is due mainly to people cutting back on their income somewhat, when a state government raises marginal tax rates, people who move to another state cut the income that the state taxes to zero.

It’s not just a theoretical issue, as Russ Fox reports in  Phoenix Woos California Businesses:

A hint to California: As you continue making the state more and more hostile to businesses, businesses are forced to react.  No business wants to move (it’s expensive and disruptive), but like my business that moved last year, eventually the desert wastes of Las Vegas or Phoenix start looking really attractive.

The California weather’s nice, but not at any price.

 

And Ontario doesn’t even have the nice weather.   The TaxProf,  Tax Consequences of Florida Marlins – Toronto Blue Jays Trade.

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Congress kicks the can for two more months

Monday, December 26th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

The two-month extension of the employee 2-percent cut in the employee Social Security tax rate is now law. (H.R. 3765). In spite of the last-minute massaging to keep payroll systems from failing, it’s still a dog’s breakfast.
The plan extends the 2011′s reduced employee FICA and self-employment tax rates through February. Because payroll systems aren’t programmed to include two different FICA bases in a single year, employee wages in excess of the FICA maximum for two months ($18,350) will be subject to an additional 2% income tax.
This still leaves us problems with managing a 2-month employment tax cut. For instance, payroll processing systems aren’t set up to break out wages for a two-month period for W-2 reporting, as will be required under this new law. It will require some fast programming, a lot of manual work at payroll processors, or, most likely, an extension of the break through 2012.
The politicians who stampeded themselves into this silly legislation can be expected to repeat the stampede in two months to avoid this tax hike. The best we can hope is that they will enact it for the remainder of the year all at once. As with most “temporary” provisions, the politicians have no intention letting it expire. They only make the provisions “temporary” in service of a lie — of a fictional undercounting of the true revenue loss.
Meanwhile, the bill increases the built-in underfunding of Social Security and the uncertainty of public policy — arguably bigger obstacles to the economy than any “stimulus” that will be achieved. And it’s not like the track record of stimulus proponents generates a lot of confidence.


Chart courtesy The Heritage Foundation.
Links:
IRS explanation of new law
TaxProf coverage

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Besides the part about them being insane

Friday, June 17th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

Why 70% rates won’t work.”
Via the TaxProf.
Related: More on Supply-Side Economics, by David Henderson:

The real question is where we are on the Laffer Curve. Larry [Lindsey] did find, by the way, that the cut in the top income tax rate from 70% to 50% did generate higher revenue than otherwise. So the highest-income people were in the prohibitive region of the Laffer Curve.

Some folks still would support the 70% rates even though they reduce tax collections, just because.

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How tax preparer regulation tastes like chicken

Sunday, October 11th, 2009 by Joe Kristan

To see the future of the tax prep industry if the IRS imposes a new testing and certification regime, go to beakfast with Econlog’s David Henderson in Santa Fe, New Mexico (emphasis mine):

I sat with a woman who runs a Mexican restaurant in a small town in Colorado. We talked about various things, including her criticism of “factory farms” that, in her view and that of many others, are producing unhealthy food.

She was telling me about some chickens she had cooked that are from a small farm near Durango. People had commented on the wonderful aroma and flavor and asked what was special about the dish. She answered that it was simply healthily grown chicken. So I asked the woman, “Didn’t it cost a lot more?”
“Yes,” she said, and I was willing to pay that price they were charging, but here’s the problem. It’s illegal for me to use those chickens.”
“Why is it illegal?”, I asked.
“Because,” she answered, “The chicken farmers raise only a few hundred chickens at a time and they have to get USDA certification. Getting that certification is very expensive and it isn’t worth it for them.”
The light bulb went on for me. I pointed out to her that this is an example of what I called, in my 1976 Ph.D. dissertation on why safety legislation for coal mines did little for safety but wiped out thousands of small mines, “economies of scale in compliance.”
She got it and we both agreed that there are market mechanisms for certification and that the USDA is not needed.

Substitute “H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt” for “factory farms” and “IRS” for “USDA,” and that tells you what you need to know about the proposals for stricter preparer regulation. Oh, and substitute stand-alone preparers and small local shops for the chickens.
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