Posts Tagged ‘economic development’

Tax Roundup, 2/11/16: C corporation law firm hammered for bonusing all income. And: PTIN class action certified.

Thursday, February 11th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20150403-3Incorporated professional businesses are darned if they do, darned if they don’t. If they do elect S corporation treatment, the IRS pushes them to treat as much of the business income as possible as salaries, to maximize employment tax receipts. If they don’t, and operate as C corporations, the IRS likes to argue that the salaries are excessive, triggering tax on the “excessive” part at the highest corporation tax rate.

A Tax Court case yesterday reminds us that of these risks, the C corporation has the most to lose. A big Chicago intellectual property firm routinely paid its year-end earnings as bonuses, running its income down to zero. Professional C corporations like to do this because the “personal service corporation” rules deny professional corporations the benefit of the lower corporate tax rates; they pay a flat 35% on dollar one. Any dividends paid are non-deductible and are taxed again at a 20% individual rate.

S corporations typically make the reasonable argument that some of their income is from invested capital and accumulated goodwill, and therefore can properly be treated as corporate distributable earnings – which, incidentally, aren’t subject to FICA or Medicare taxes. The IRS turned this argument against the Chicago firm, arguing that a C corporation law firm with 65 shareholders and 150 attorneys would have such earnings not strictly attributable to the shareholder wage compensation.

The law firm conceded the tax, but argued that it shouldn’t have to pay penalties because it had “substantial authority” for bonusing out all the income. The court found otherwise:

We do not doubt the critical value of the services provided by employees of a professional services firm. Indeed, the employees’ services may be far more important, as a factor of production, than the capital contributed by the firm’s owners. Recognition of those basic economic realities might justify the payment of compensation that constitutes the vast majority of the firm’s profits, after payment of other expenses — as long as the remaining net income still provides an adequate return on invested capital. But petitioner did not have substantial authority for the deduction of amounts paid as compensation that completely eliminated its income and left its shareholder attorneys with no return on their invested capital.

The Moral? Professional corporations should usually be S corporations. The few additional fringe benefits available to C corporations don’t pay for the chance that you will get hit with 35% tax on a big chunk of corporate income.

Cite: Brinks Gilson & Lione A Professional Corporation,  T.C. Memo. 2016-20

 

IRS certifies class action for suit on excessive PTIN fees. Text here. Still pushing back on the IRS preparer regulation power grab.

 

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Is there anything they can’t do? Tax credit could spur biochemical revolution (Sen. Rita Hart, Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa, Des Moines Register). Presumably just like they spurred the Iowa film industry revolution. And who better than statehouse politicians to pick  the next great industry? My thoughts here.

 

Tony Nitti, Just Three Years Later, President Seeks To Expand Obamacare Tax On Business Owners. It’s going nowhere for now, but Tony cautions: “As a reminder, Hillary Clinton has not offered much of a tax plan of her own, and has shown a willingness to leverage off of proposals posited by the President. Which means this might not be the last we see of a mulligan on the net investment income tax.”

Jason Dinesen, Can Married Same-Sex Couples Claim Their Spouse as a Dependent?

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Tax Forms 2016: Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt

Robert Wood, Lawyer Fees Soar To $1,500 An Hour, But Tax Write-Offs Cut It To $900

Kay Bell, Hackers try, but fail, to get into IRS e-filing PIN system

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David Brunori, Base-Broadening and Rate-Lowering Remains a Good Idea (Tax Analysts Blog). “Whether you’re a liberal, a conservative, or a Martian, you must admit that net worth taxes are horrible tax policy.”

Scott Greenberg, More Americans than Ever are Renouncing Their Citizenship, and Taxes are to Blame (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, The White House Quietly Rolls Out Its Last Tax and Budget Plan (TaxVox).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1008

 

Career Corner. Reminder: Don’t Let Inside Information Turn Into a Career Limiting Move (Leona May, Going Concern). “Regardless of how you learn the inside information, don’t trade on it. Regardless of whether or not you’ll explicitly benefit, Don’t share the information -– especially not with your greedy brother-in-law.”

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Tax Roundup, 2/8/16: When your password is a key for thieves. And: More Tax Credits!

Monday, February 8th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20150910-2You need more than one password. Another home tax software company reports that its customers may have had their data stolen. Marketwatch.com reports:

In its letter to affected customers, TaxSlayer said it became aware Jan. 13 that hackers had accessed some of its customers’ accounts. The illegal access took place between Oct.10, 2015, and Dec. 21, 2015.

The letter said an “unauthorized third party may have obtained access to any information you included in a tax return or draft tax return saved on TaxSlayer, including your name and address, your Social Security number, the Social Security numbers of your dependents, and other data contained on your 2014 tax return.”

In its statement, TaxSlayer said it doesn’t believe its own systems were breached. Instead, “user credentials, stolen from other sources, were then used to misrepresent our customers and therefore access our program.”

They’re saying that they got passwords from another site and tried them on TaxSlayer, and they worked. That kind of breach is on the user, not the software company.

Reusing passwords is poor data security hygiene. McAfee Software offers some great tips for good passwords. The tips include a list of things people do that make them vulnerable to data theft, including:

Reuse of passwords across multiple sites: Reusing passwords for email, banking, and social media accounts can lead to identity theft. Two recent breaches revealed a password reuse rate of 31% among victims.

If you use different passwords for your different important accounts, one data breach won’t expose your entire financial life.

Related: TaxSlayer data breach is the 3rd tax software-related security issue so far this filing season (Kay Bell)

 

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Brent Willett, Iowa’s next economic frontier (IowaBiz.com). An unintended but useful followup to my IowaBiz post on Friday on the unwisdom of targeted tax credits, the post boosts a proposed new tax credit that I criticized by name. The post touts a new report promising “Fifty thousand jobs” to Iowa if we just enact a new “Bio-Based Chemicals” tax credit.

The post neatly checks off several items I note in my post:

Might these special favors be better for the economy than some farmer or small business who buys a new tractor or machine? You could make that case, but it would be plausible only if these favors were enacted by a process where the state looked at the vast menu of possible industries to support and carefully evaluated which ones were more persuasive. That never happens. Instead, the credits follow the path of the notorious Iowa film industry credits, where an industry gets some legislators and business boosters excited and builds support — sometimes with “studies” funded by booster groups. There is no evaluation of the opportunity costs, of whether the funds would be better used elsewhere.

No comparison to other industry opportunities? Check. Studies funded by booster groups? Check. Ignoring opportunity costs? Check.

I encourage your to read the Willett post and ponder why a government subsidy is needed if the industry is such a slam-dunk.  Also, consider whether you would get the same article by substituting other industries for bio-chemicals in the post.

 

 

Andrew Mitchel: New Expatriate Record for 2015 – Nearly 4,300 Expatriations:

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“The escalation of offshore penalties over the last 20 years is likely contributing to the increased incidence of expatriation.”

Related: Record Numbers Renounce Their U.S. Citizenship (Robert Wood)

 

Jason Dinesen, Lots and Lots of Scam E-mails this Year. Jason posts many helpful examples. Be very skeptical of emails you don’t expect, and delete any purporting to come from IRS.

Annette Nellen, Ideas for Retirement Savings Reform. “One overall reform Irecommend is to change the focus of retirement plans from the employer to the employee, making them truly portable from job to job and if in employee or contractor status or both.”

Jim Maule, The Biggest Tax Refund?. Overwithholding will do the trick.

Leslie Book, The Limits of the “One Inspection” of Taxpayers’ Books and Records Rule (Procedurally Taxing). “One limitation on IRS powers is the Code itself, as Section 7605(b) provides that ‘only one inspection of a taxpayer’s books of account shall be made for each taxable year unless ․ the [Treasury] Secretary ․ notifies the taxpayer in writing that an additional inspection is necessary.'”

Robert D. Flach, TAX GUIDE FOR NEW HOMEOWNERS

Russ Fox, It Was Only a 13.33% Kickback. A police chief breaks the tax law.

TaxGrrrl, So About Those Cam Newton ‘Sunday Giveaway’ Game Balls…

 

Only the form of your destructor. What Would Be At Stake In A Trump v. Sanders Election? How About $24 Trillion in Tax Revenue (Tony Nitti).

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1003Day 1004Day 1005

Scott Greenberg, White House Calls for Targeting the Cadillac Tax by Location:

Why would the White House propose changes that would weaken the Cadillac Tax – a central part of the administration’s most significant policy achievement? In fact, these changes might be necessary to secure the continued existence of the tax. The White House has been fighting a losing battle to defend the Cadillac Tax, and these proposed changes may placate some of the tax’s opponents, particularly employers in states with high healthcare costs.

We must destroy the Cadillac Tax to save the Cadillac Tax!

Renu Zaretsky, Budget Hearings, Saving, and Entertaining (TaxVox). “There is almost always something perfunctory about the last budget of an outgoing president, but this year’s will generate even less interest than usual. In the ultimate insult, the GOP-run congressional budget committees won’t even invite White House officials to describe their fiscal plan.” And lots more in today’s TaxVox headline roundup.

I reject this false choice. Kentucky Can Attract Tourists Who Like Bible More Than Bourbon Without Violating First Amendment  (Peter Reilly)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/29/16: Iowa House passes $500,000 Section 179, but prospects bleak in Senate. And: Iowa may give guy a break.

Friday, January 29th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors: Click here to go directly to the newsletter link on cheaper returns.

coupling20160129Accelerating to a stop. When a household is short of cash, the family usually spends less. Iowa has a different approach. They pick your pocket.

The Iowa House of Representatives yesterday voted 82-14 to retroactively couple with all of the 2015 federal tax law changes except bonus depreciation (HF 2092, formerly HSB 535). This would allow Iowa businesses to deduct up to $500,000 in annual purchases of otherwise-depreciable fixed assets under Section 179. Governor Branstad’s budget would limit the deduction to $25,000 — an unexpected departure from Iowa law for the past several years and a significant tax increase.

You would think that an overwhelming bipartisan vote in favor of the $500,000 version would foreshadow quick passage by the Senate. Alas, no.

I talked to some legislators yesterday when I participated in the Iowa Society of CPAs annual Day on the Hill. It appears that Governor Branstad and Senate Majority Leader Gronstal have a little bipartisan deal of their own to kill Section 179 coupling.

That’s not how Sen. Gronstal explains it. From the Quad City Times:

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said his majority caucus would consider what the House passed, but he expressed doubt about moving ahead with a concept at variance with the governor given a similar course of action last session for education funded ended with a gubernatorial veto.

“I don’t like doing things that I know will get a certain veto,” Gronstal said. “That doesn’t seem to me to make a lot of sense. The governor doesn’t have this in his budget.”

I came away understanding that the voice of the majority caucus is really the voice of Sen. Gronstal, and that Section 179 coupling will never come up for a vote in the Senate. I assume it is because both the Governor and the Majority Leader want the money for their own priorities: more cronyist tax credits for Gov. Branstad, and more spending for Sen. Gronstal.

That’s a crummy deal for the thousands of small businesses that suddenly will see a big unanticipated tax increase. It also seems like a deal that would be vulnerable to an insiders vs. Main Street challenge. The tax credits that the Governor wants to fund go to a narrow set of taxpayers. For example, in 2014 $42.1 million of refundable research credits went to 16 big taxpayers. That’s almost enough to pay for half of Section 179 coupling $90 million cost by itself.

Here is the complete menu of incentive and economic development tax credits in the Governor’s budget:

Iowa credits fy 2017

The refundable sales tax credit goes largely to the big data center companies Facebook, Microsoft and Google. The Enterprise Zone Housing credit and High Quality Jobs credits are big company credits that you have to through the economic development bureaucracy to cash in on. The rest of the credits are mostly for favored industries who get breaks unavailable to the much larger universe of other businesses that have to pay full freight.

It might still be possible to get the Governor and/or the Majority leader to see things differently. That will require taxpayers and practitioners to convince their legislators that small businesses and farmers shouldn’t have to stand in line behind insiders.

It’s not clear to me what form the extension will take under the Governor’s program. I was unable to confirm whether the Senate will skip 2015 conformity entirely, as outlined in Sen. Anderson’s newsletter. I have inquiries in.

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Des Moines Register, Iowa agrees to review man’s $5,000 tax refund request. Some good news in the story we mentioned yesterday of the retired maintenance man who inadvertently conceded to a $5,000 liability he didn’t owe.

 

It’s serious. You know tax season is truly underway when Robert D. Flach posts his last Buzz roundup before disappearing into his hive to make his artisanal hand-crafted 1040s. Im starting to think Robert isn’t Donald Trump’s biggest fan.

TaxGrrrl live-blogged the GOP debate last night. I just did a drive-by, myself. Literally; I drove past the venue on my way home last night. No, I didn’t have it on the radio.

Robert Wood, What To Do If IRS Form 1099 Reports More Than You Received

Peter Reilly, Tax Foundation Analysis Of Sanders Plan Only Shows Downside. On the plus side, you could worry less about your investments, as you wouldn’t have as many.

Jason Dinesen, Having Negative Taxable Income Doesn’t Mean the Government Pays You Extra

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Scott Greenberg, The Sanders Tax Plan Would Make the U.S. Tax Rate on Capital Gains the Highest in the Developed World (Tax Policy Blog).

Renu Zaretsky, No Trump, No Problem. The TaxVox headline roundup today covers Google’s tax travails, “tampon taxes,” and candidate tax plans.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 995

News from the Profession. Life at EY Involves Food, Technical Difficulties (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/28/16: Iowa Governor reportedly opposes 2015 coupling for anything. And: Ethanol execs accused of payroll tax crimes.

Thursday, January 28th, 2016 by Joe Kristan


couplingNo 2015 coupling at all? 
I had been under the impression that Governor Branstad’s budget proposal would not couple Iowa’s tax law for the $500,000 Section 179 limit or bonus depreciation, but would couple otherwise. A newsletter from Northwest Iowa Senate Republican Bill Anderson says I was mistaken:

Last week we learned Governor Branstad’s budget supports updating Iowa tax law to conform with changes in the Internal Revenue Code that resulted from federal legislation enacted during 2015. With three significant exceptions:

1. No tax year 2015 coupling. Meaning most of the changes are effective for federal tax purposes beginning in tax year 2015, the bill will not incorporate recent federal changes until tax year 2016. (Items that may impact you are: deduction for state and local sales taxes, above the line deduction for teacher classroom expenses ($250), above the line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses, discharge of indebtedness on principal residence excluded from gross income.) The estimated fiscal impact of these changes in total is minimal compared to Section 179.

2. No section 179 expensing for tax year 2015 now or into the future, and

3. No bonus depreciation for now or into the future.

The newsletter also provides some detail of the fiscal impact of coupling:

Estimates project just coupling with Section 179 for one year is an approximate $90 million decrease in FY 2016 budget and a revenue increase in FY 2017 estimated roughly to be more than $20 million

This is a lot of money, but it’s a lot less than the $277.3 million the Governor proposes to spend next year on targeted tax credits. While Section 179 benefits business in every county regardless of whether they hire lobbyists or consultants, the targeted tax credits go to big taxpayers and insiders who know how to work the system. We’ll see which constituency is more important to the General Assembly.

Today is the Iowa Society of CPA’s “Day on the hill.” I will be there pushing for coupling. I will confirm the no-coupling-for 2015 report. I also hope to find out whether Senate Democrats have any interest in Section 179 coupling. The Republican House is expected to pass a bill (HSB 535) with Section 179 coupling (Update, 9:44 am: Full 2015 coupling (except bonus depreciation) passed in the House this morning, 82-14).

Related: Eye on the Legislature 2016.

 

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It’s an awful idea to “borrow” payroll taxes. Iowa Businessmen Indicted for Failing to Pay Employment Taxes (Department of Justice Press Release):

Randy Less, 48, of Hopkinton, Iowa, and Darrell Smith, 59, of Forest City, Iowa, are each charged with multiple counts of willfully failing to truthfully account for, and pay over federal income, social security and Medicare taxes that were withheld from the wages of the employees of Permeate Refining Inc., which was in the business of ethanol production.

According to the allegations in the indictment, Less was the majority owner, a general partner and the general manager of Permeate Refining Inc. in Hopkinton.  In those roles, Less had the responsibility to collect, truthfully account for and pay over to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) federal income, social security and Medicare taxes withheld from the wages of his employees.  From approximately the fourth quarter of 2009 and continuing through the fourth quarter of 2010, Less is alleged to have willfully failed to pay over to the IRS more than $116,000 in withheld taxes.

The indictment further alleges that a company called Algae Energae purchased an ownership interest in Permeate in September 2009.  After that purchase, it is alleged that Smith, a corporate officer and manager of Algae Energae, also had the responsibility to collect, truthfully account for and pay over to the IRS taxes withheld from the wages of Permeate’s employees.  From approximately the first quarter of 2011 and continuing through the third quarter of 2012, both Less and Smith are alleged to have willfully failed to pay over to the IRS more than $307,000 in withheld taxes.

The IRS has resorted increasingly to criminal charges when payroll taxes go unpaid for a long time. While the defendants in this case are presumed innocent unless and until the IRS proves its case in court, the indictment reminds us that failing to remit payroll taxes is serious business. If you find yourself having to choose who to pay, remember that only the tax man has badges and guns, and that their liability doesn’t go away in bankruptcy.

 

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Robert D. Flach, WHO MUST FILE A 2015 TAX RETURN

TaxGrrrl, ‘Bug’ Exposes Uber Driver’s Tax Info, Including Name and Social Security Number

Kay Bell, Uber oops: driver’s tax info exposed on ride share site

Jack Townsend, More on the U.S. as the World’s Tax Haven

 

David Brunori, Most People Lose When Pols Pick Winners and Losers (Tax Analysts Blog). “Tax systems should have as little impact on economic decision-making as possible.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 994

Alan Cole, New CBO Report Shows Declining Share of C Corporations (Tax Policy Blog):

entity filings chart

Some businesses (but not all businesses, just those with a disfavored legal structure) pay a 35% rate at the entity level, followed by taxes of up to 23.8% at the shareholder level. Others, like partnerships and sole proprietorships, have taxes paid by their owners commensurate with their owners’ income in a single layer of taxation. Of course nobody wants to be a C corporation.

And yet certain politicians tell us that we just need to continue the beatings until corporate morale improves.

Renu Zaretsky, When Sharing is Caring… or Scary. Today’s TaxVox roundup covers candidate tax plans, Google and Facebook taxes, and more.

News from the Profession. I Am a Millennial Accountant, and I Hate Accounting (Chris Hooper, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 1/21/16: Defying Governor, House conformity bill includes $500,000 Section 179 limit.

Thursday, January 21st, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20151118-1Reason to hope, reasons to despair. The Iowa House Ways and Means Chairman introduced a “code conformity” bill yesterday (HSB 535) that includes the federal $500,000 Section 179 limit. This defies the wishes of Governor Branstad, who says the state can’t afford the expanded deduction. He would only allow a $25,000 deduction for asset purchases that would otherwise have to be capitalized and depreciated.

The bill, as expected, does not adopt bonus depreciation for Iowa.

The Section 179 conformity proposal is is good news. It appears that Ways and Means Republicans sense that their business and farm constituents won’t appreciate a big tax increase, especially in a year that looks like it will be a down year around the state. Now attention will turn to the Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Gronstal controls what legislation reaches the floor. If he supports the legislation, it is likely to pass. The Governor would probably be able to kill it with a veto, but would he?

That brings up my first reason to despair. Unless the Governor backs down or some compromise is reached, the conformity bill is likely to be delayed. Affected taxpayers will have to wait to file their 2015 Iowa returns until they know what the tax law is; if they guess wrong, they will incur the expense of amending their returns. It compresses the filing season into an ever-narrower window and delays refunds.

The biggest issue is likely to be the budget impact. While I haven’t seen a current figure, last year’s Section 179 conformity bill was estimated to reduce state revenues by $88.5 million.

capitol burning 10904I certainly have a list of possible pay-fors, starting with the newest proposed credit, a $10 million  “renewable biochemical tax credit” (SSB 3001). It is refundable, meaning it isn’t just a tax reduction, but an actual cash subsidy to taxpayers whose credit exceeds their Iowa tax. That easily could happen, as it is based on pounds of qualifying stuff produced. It will only go to taxpayers who “enter into an agreement” with the economic development administration. In other words, for insiders who know where to pull strings.

And here is another reason to despair. It appears this new boondoggle is going to slide right on through. From the Des Moines Register (my emphasis):

More than a dozen lobbyists representing businesses, farm organizations, economic development groups and other expressed support, and there was no opposition. Gov. Terry Branstad has listed renewable chemical manufacturing tax credits as a key item in his 2016 legislative agenda.

Under the bill, the maximum amount of state tax credits available annually to any one business for the production of renewable chemicals would be either $1 million or $500,000, depending how long the company has operated in Iowa.

Even Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), who has in the past voted against corporate welfare tax credits, is on board with this one.

It will be very difficult to get the Governor to go along with the higher Section 179 limits without spending or tax credit cuts to offset the revenue loss. The Governor seems dead set against cutting cronyist tax credits. If the legislature agrees with him, Section 179 has a very difficult fight this session. Failure to adopt the federal Section 179 limit would represent a triumph of a handful of insiders over the businesses and farms in every county that would have their taxes increased to pay for subsidies.

 

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Iowa increases security to prevent tax fraud (thegazette.com):

The Iowa Department of Revenue has upped its security game after seeing more than 10,000 fraudulent tax returns last year.

This tax season, the agency will use technology to better track fraudsters, validate bank accounts before making direct deposits and share information with the IRS, other states, software providers and banks.

The story says Iowa stopped $11.6 million in fake refund claims last year on 10,600 fraudulent returns.

 

Hank Stern, O’Care in Real Life (InsureBlog):

So, one of my small group clients just lost the last person on his group plan. It had gotten so expensive that no one could really afford to stay on it. Shopping around didn’t help: everything we looked at was at least as expensive for comparable benefits. And the plan was pretty much bare-bones, not a lot of fat to trim.

Tom has been a client – and friend – for almost 30 years. A small business owner, he was proud to be able to offer his employees coverage. Now that’s gone.

He said “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” He didn’t say you could afford it.

Kristine Tidgren, Farm Lease Questions Often Arise This Time of Year (Ag Docket)

Robert D. Flach, A VERY IMPORTANT REMINDER. “Don’t listen to a broker, a banker, an insurance salesman, or your Uncle Charlie!   You wouldn’t ask your butcher for a medical opinion, so why would you accept tax advice from your MD?”

Keith Fogg, Public Policy Cases Accepted by the Taxpayer Advocate Service (Procedurally Taxing). “If you have an issue that raises policy issues for a group of taxpayers, you can bring this to the attention of the NTA in hopes that it will make the policy list and open the doors to TAS assistance.”

Paul Neiffer, Top 10 Reasons You Might Need Accrual Accounting. “Although this list is designed to be humorous, the reality is that all farmers should consider using accrual accounting to manage their farm operation.”

Kay Bell, Smooth tax season start? Not for some TaxAct users. “Just a few days before the filing season and Free File opened for business, the tax software manufacturer sent a letter to about 450 customers, notifying them of a data breach.”

Jack Townsend, Should Proof of No Tax Evaded Be Admissible as Defense in Crime Not Requiring Tax Evaded as an Element

 

Tony Nitti, An Ode To Tax Season: How To Bid Farewell To Your Family.

Tax season is here. Tax season is the worst. But don’t just abandon your family for the next three months with no explanation; make them aware of the series of mistakes that were set into motion long ago that led you to this self-imposed hell. And tell them with rhymes! 

That may be why my grown kid is a musician, and the high schooler wants to be one.

 

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David Brunori, Good Government Developments in the Tax World (Tax Analysts Blog). No Iowa items make the list.

David Henderson, The Economics of the Cadillac Health Care Tax, Part IPart II. “But now that I have done a more careful analysis with some plausible numbers, I am seriously undecided.”

Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Hatch To Introduce Corporate Integration Plan (Tax Policy Blog). “Not only does the double tax on equity investment increase the cost of capital, it creates economic distortions. The most obvious one is the distortion towards debt-financed investments.”

Renu Zaretsky, Market Woes and the Price of Breaks. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers stupid things from proposed financial transaction taxes to the ongoing Kansas budget and tax policy disaster.

 

Robert Wood, IRS Wipes Another Hard Drive Defying Court Order…But You Must Keep Tax Records. Darn right, peasant!

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 987.

 

Career Corner. Stop Doing Other People’s Work Because It Saves Time (Leona May, Going Concern). A classic symptom of Senior Accountant’s Disease.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/15/16: Tax credits and their opportunity costs. And: a turnaround in IRS service!

Friday, January 15th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

haroldReport: Tax credit for me would benefit me. Report: Tax credit would help Iowa biochemical industry (Des Moines Register).

The argument that this industry, above the thousands of industries out there, deserves funding at the expense of other businesses in the state, and that Iowa’s elected officials are just the ones to figure that out, is hard to credit. It might almost be plausible if it came at the end of a careful and systematic process where the state looked at all of the possible industries that would be good for the state to have and then carefully selected finalists based on objective and unbiased review.

That never happens.

Instead, the Bio-renewables credit is following a path blazed by the film industry and other credit recipients. Somebody decides a tax credit would be a good thing. It’s never hard to get the industry that would receive the subsidy on board. Local business boosters climb on because they know of a local business that would benefit. They fund studies to prove that this industry offers extraordinary benefits. Economic development officials join in, because that’s what they do. Politicians like giving away money, and soon you have amazing results.

I don’t fault businesses for using state tax credits. If somebody gives you money, you take it. But that doesn’t make it good policy for the rest of us.

There are two little words that credit boosters never bring up: opportunity costs. The money spent on the favored industry isn’t conjured into existence out of thin air. It is taken from somebody else. This year it’s taken from every Iowa business that uses the $500,000 Section 179 limit, which the Governor says the state can no longer afford. There are businesses in every county that will pay higher taxes if Iowa reduces its Section 179 limit to $25,000. Those businesses lose the opportunity to use funds to grow their own businesses and hire their own employees.

If there is to be any benefit here, it’s that it might actually teach the General Assembly about the opportunity costs of benefiting sympathetic industries. Here, it’s the cost of the lost Section 179 benefit to constituents statewide.

Related:

LOCAL CPA FIRM VOWS TO SWALLOW PRIDE, ACCEPT $28 MILLION

List of Iowa incentive tax credits budgeted for 2017.

 

Service: It’s in our nameA new report from the Government Accountability Office documents the decline in IRS service that we’ve all experienced under Turnaround Artist John Koskinen:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provided the lowest level of telephone service during fiscal year 2015 compared to prior years, with only 38 percent of callers who wanted to speak with an IRS assistor able to reach one. This lower level of service occurred despite lower demand from callers seeking live assistance, which has fallen by 6 percent since 2010 to about 51 million callers in 2015. Over the same period, average wait times have almost tripled to over 30 minutes. IRS also struggled to answer correspondence in a timely manner and assistors increasingly either failed to send required correspondence to taxpayers or included inaccurate information in correspondence sent.

The picture they draw isn’t pretty:

 

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When you turn around, it’s important to turn in the right direction.

Related: TaxProf, GAO:  Only 38% Of Taxpayers Who Called IRS Got Through In 2015 (Down From 74% In 2010); Wait Time Increased From 11 To 31 Minutes

 

buzz20150804Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz! He covers ground from choosing a tax professional to extenders to a certain presidential candidate.

William Perez, How to Know if You Should Hire a Tax Attorney

Matthew McKinney, Iowa’s open records law – who, what, when, and why? (IowaBiz.com).

Kay Bell, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie kills film & TV tax credits. Good. 

Jack Townsend, Updated FAQs for SFOP and SDOP Streamlined Processes. “The IRS has updated the FAQs for the Streamlined Domestic and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.”

Leslie Book, State of the Union: Tax Administration a Small But Important Part of the Speech

Robert Wood, Beware: IRS Now Has Six Years To Audit Your Taxes, Up From Three. “The three years is doubled to six if you omitted more than 25% of your income.”

Peter Reilly, Conservation Easement Tax Deductions And Valuation Abuse. “I think this is another instance of what Joe Kristan calls using the Tax Code as the Swiss Utility Knife of public policy.”

 

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Megan McArdle, Gaming of Obamacare Poses a Fatal Threat. “The problem: People signing up during ‘special enrollment’ (the majority of the year that falls outside of the annual open enrollment period) were much sicker, and paying premiums for much less time, than the rest of the exchange population.”

Scott Greenberg, The Cadillac Tax will Now Be Deductible. Here’s What That Means. (Tax Policy Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 981. “Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released two new reports regarding serious flaws in the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) audit selection processes. GAO confirmed that these flaws mean the IRS could continue to unfairly target American taxpayers based on their political beliefs and other First Amendment protected views.”

Robert Goulder, India’s Long Journey to a VAT (Tax Analysts Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, Winners, Losers, and Movers. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers last night’s presidential debate, Missouri earnings taxes, and  innovation boxes.

 

Jim Maule, Powerball, Taxes, and Math:

The expectation that widened my eyes is a meme circulating on facebook, and elsewhere, I suppose, that claims splitting the $1.4 billion evenly among all Americans would give each person $4.33 million. Good grief! This is just so wrong. The responses pointing out the error are themselves amusing, with the best one pointing out that it would generate $4.33 per person, enough to buy a calculator.

This meme:

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This explains more about the political process than I care to contemplate.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/14/16: Branstad budget omits $500,000 Section 179 deduction for Iowa; no 2015 conformity.

Thursday, January 14th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1291Priorities. Governor Branstad yesterday told a business group that he is leaving Section 179 conformity out of the new Iowa state budget. That means Iowans will be unable to claim the $500,000 maximum Section 179 deduction for 2015 returns, assuming the legislature doesn’t override this.

The Governor dropped this little bomb after touting a new $15 million incentive tax credit for “bio-renewable chemical production” to members of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry. He said the new credit will be “revenue neutral,” taking its funding from existing incentive credit programs. (Note: I was there, so this is all firsthand). He said that there just isn’t room for it in the budget.

The Governor has inadvertently highlighted the priorities of a tax policy dedicated to directing economic activity using tax credits. My my count, the Governor budgets $277.3 million in fiscal year 2017 to steer economic activity towards favored activities via tax credits:

Iowa credits fy 2017

Presumably the new bio-renewables credit is buried in here somewhere.

By definition, these credits go to a few lucky taxpayers. The largest one, the refundable research credit, goes overwhelmingly to a few big companies — and mostly as cash grants. The Department of Revenue’s calendar 2014 research credit report showed that $42.1 million of the $56.9 million in credits claimed went to 16 taxpayers. About 2/3 of the 2014 credits were “refunds,” meaning that the credit exceeded the taxpayer’s liability for the year, so the state issued a check for the difference.

20120906-1The Section 179 deduction, by contrast, is available to any non-rental business that buys fixed assets and has taxable income. It requires no negotiation with the Department of Economic Development. It’s available regardless of whether your business is bio-chemical, renewable fuels, or whatever else is the economic development flavor of the month. It’s simple to administer – you just use the number you claim on your federal return. But it has one dreadful flaw: it provides no opportunities for politicians to issue press releases or attend ribbon cuttings.

While I don’t have exact numbers for the tax revenue cost to the state for FY 2017, the Legislative Service Bureau estimated an $88.5 million revenue loss in fiscal year 2015 from the last Section 179 conformity bill.

Of course, all Section 179 revenue losses are a matter of timing. By denying Section 179 deductions, the state has a revenue gain in the first year of the asset’s life, but gives it all back through depreciation over the rest of the asset life. By contrast, tax credits are forever. They never turn around.

There is so much disheartening about this development. Failure to conform on the $500,000 Section 179 limit — after doing so for a number of years — suddenly increases the Iowa tax for thousands of Iowans who purchased equipment in 2015. Because Congress made the Section 179 deduction permanent, it signals that Iowa will permanently de-couple and use its own computation — an inherently bad policy. It requires Iowans to maintain a separate Iowa fixed asset schedule for assets that would otherwise have been written off. And, if the legislature tries to reverse the Governor’s decision, it leaves Iowans uncertain of their 2015 tax law until well into the filing season.

But perhaps most disheartening is the stark way that it shows how Iowa’s tax system, with its high rates and special favors for the well-connected, mistreats the regular taxpayers who are just going about their business, hiring people, and paying their taxes. Lots of taxes.

Related: Hide the spoons, hold your wallets. The General Assembly is back.

 

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Robert D. Flach reports that a certain national tax prep outfit has A NEW GIMMICK.

Robert Wood, Powerball Losers Make Lemonade By Selling Losing Lottery Tickets

Paul Neiffer, Planted Vines and Trees Qualify for Bonus Depreciation

Kay Bell, Final 2015 estimated tax payment is due Friday, Jan. 15

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 980

Cara Griffith, Waiting on the Court to Figure Out How to Tax Remote Sales (Tax Analysts Blog)

Jared Walczak, What Percentage of Lottery Winnings Would Be Withheld in Your State?

Howard Gleckman, Clinton and Sanders Face Off Over Who Should Pay for New Social Programs (TaxVox).

 

Career Corner. An Introvert’s Guide to Surviving Team Lunches (Leona May, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 1/11/2016: Hide the spoons, hold your wallets. The General Assembly is back.

Monday, January 11th, 2016 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

Same recipe, same dish. The 2016 session of the 86th General Assembly of Iowa convenes today. As the membership is about the same as last year’s session, we can expect pretty much the same tax policy results. There will be no fundamental reappraisal of Iowa’s dysfunctional income tax this year. If anything, it might get a little worse.

Iowa’s tax system is a rat’s nest of high rates and complexity, full of special-interest loopholes, feel-good spiffs for sympathetic groups, and subsidies for the well-connected. It’s a great deal for the insiders who can work the system, paid for by high rates on those of us without lobbyists and tax credit consultants.

What Iowa needs is an overhaul that lowers the rates significantly, paying for them by simplifying the rules and swearing off subsidies like the notorious Orascom deal and the now-defunct film tax program. In other words, something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

What Iowa is likely to get is more special interest tax subsidies. In a story about 10 issues likely to spark debate in Iowa Legislature, The Des Moines Register reports:

A host of Iowa business and farm groups are lobbying for state tax credits to attract investment in renewable chemical manufacturing and advanced bio-refining. The goal is to build upon Iowa’s renewable fuels industry. Iowa needs to move swiftly because of competition for businesses looking to invest in the industry, business lobbyists say.

“If we are looking at a game changer for this session, this is it. It is absolutely huge,” said Jay Byers, chief executive officer of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Legislation to provide renewable chemical manufacturing tax credits was approved by the House last session, but failed to pass the Senate.

20120906-1A “game changer?” New tax credits? The dozens of tax credits we already have haven’t done the trick, so we need more?

Think about it. The idea that the state can constructively direct investment capital assumes that the insiders that make up the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the small town politicians who run the state legislature have some unique insight on what the industries of the future are. If so, they should be investing their own money in these “game changers,” because there’s obviously a great profit opportunity to be had. Instead they want to spend your money, and mine, on it. That tells you something important.

Remember, these are the same people who told us it would be a great idea to subsidize Iowa’s film industry with tax credits (page 6 at the link), and that worked out just great.

The only constructive thing likely to come out of the legislature is a “code conformity” bill that updates Iowa’s 2015 income tax rules for the retroactive passage of the federal “extenders” bill in December. The Department of Revenue cautions taxpayers to not file returns using the extended provisions until the conformity bill is passed. The Section 179 deduction, the educator expense deduction, and tax-free IRA gifts are key provisions that are affected. Last year the code conformity bill was one of the first bills passed, in mid-February.

 

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TaxGrrrl, Taxpayers Get A Breather On Passport Requirement For Domestic Travel As REAL ID Requirement Delayed:

The key date to know is January 22, 2018. That’s the date on which air travelers with a driver’s license or identification card issued by a state that does not meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act (unless that state has been granted an extension to comply with the Act) must present an alternative form of identification acceptable to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in order to fly domestic. Acceptable identification would include a passport or passport card, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID.

Congress last year passed a provision allowing IRS to revoke passports for non-payment of taxes. And of course the IRS never makes mistakes.

 

William Perez, How Soon Can We Begin Filing Tax Returns?

Annette Nellen, PATH and Many Tax Changes – PL 114-113

Kay Bell, 24 top taxpayer problems of 2015. “IRS electronic approach to customer service tops National Taxpayer Advocate’s annual list”

Jack Townsend, Hawaii Businessman Sentenced to 46 Months

Peter Reilly, Poor Return Preparation Kills Facade Easement Tax Deduction. “Often the buildings already have so much restriction on them already that promising not to alter them is a little like me renouncing my super powers

Robert D. Flach has thoughts on FINDING A TAX PROFESSIONAL.

Russ Fox, Fraudster Tries Alchemy; Will Have 20 Years to Think That Over:

Joseph Furando of Montvale, New Jersey thought he had the perfect way of performing alchemy. He took biodiesel fuel that wasn’t eligible for two tax credits and magically turned it into biodiesel fuel that was eligible for the tax credits:

Tax Credits, fraudulent? Unthinkable!

 

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Scott Drenkard, Businesses Love Texas, Except this One Tax that Holds the State Back (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu ZaretskyLooking ahead to 2016 and beyond? It’s blurry. (Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the upcoming State of the Union Address, the Taxpayer Advocate report from last week, and more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 977

 

Something to look forward to. Winner Of $1.3 Billion Powerball May Face Suits By Friends, Co-Workers, Family (Robert Wood).

Career Corner. Unhappy Accountants: Go Get a 10% Raise (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/28/15: Harvesting without a combine. And: Tax Credits as a fiscal trap.

Monday, December 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

harvestThe corn’s in, but the harvest isn’t over. The tax law taxes capital gains for almost all individual taxpayers when you sell an appreciated asset, even though it shouldn’t. Still, if you’re like most of us, not everything you buy goes up.

The tax law allows individuals to deduct capital losses when they cash out a money-losing investment, up to the amount of capital gains plus $3,000. That means paying capital gain taxes is optional to the extent you have unrealized capital losses in your taxable portfolio. That’s a silly option to exercise. Here are some thoughts on loss harvesting:

You have to take the loss in a taxable account. A loss in an IRA or 401(k) plan doesn’t help you.

Normally the “trade date” is the effective date for tax purposes, so you can sell a stock as late as December 31 this year and still deduct the loss on your 2015 1040.

If you have a loss on a short sale, the tax law treats it as closing on the settlement date, not the trade date, so you can’t wait until the last minute to close a short sale to get a deduction. (See also Russ Fox, Harvesting Capital Losses: Act Quickly on Shorts!)

You don’t need to overdo it.  You can deduct your capital losses only to the extent of your capital gains, plus $3000.  But if you do overdo it, individual capital losses carry forward indefinitely.

Long-term losses can offset short-term gains, and vice-versa.

Harvesting losses helps taxpayers subject to the Obamacare/ACA Net Investment Income Tax to the extent it helps for regular taxes.

– Watch out for the wash sale rules. If you buy the same stock within the 30 days preceding or following the sale of a loss stock, your loss is disallowed. This is true even if you sell from a taxable account and buy in an IRA, according to the IRS.

See also

This is another installment of our 2015 year-end planning tips series running through December 31. 

Related — weekend tax tips:

Altaring your tax planning

Keep on giving! A high-end tax planning tip.

 

1916 Spaulding by The editors of Horseless Age. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

1916 Spaulding by The editors of Horseless Age. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Tax Credits as a trapThe Sunday Des Moines Register this week told the story of a tax credit deal gone awry, leaving the small college town of Grinnell, Iowa in a financial pickle.

Grinnell once housed Spaulding Manufacturing Company, one of many small early Midwest automakers. The Spaulding story is told in my college buddy Curt McConnell’s fine book, Great Cars of the Great Plains.

There is only one known surviving Spaulding vehicle. It was to be a crown jewel of a transportation museum to be built around the dilapidated remains of the old Spaulding plant. But it hasn’t gone well, according to the Register:

Three years after it opened, the Iowa Transportation Museum has hit a dead end, losing its building to foreclosure and leaving the city of Grinnell on the hook to repay more than $4 million in federal aid for the project.

The museum, which had operated in a renovated portion of the old Spaulding manufacturing plant in downtown Grinnell, closed in October, unable to pay its mortgage to Iowa City’s MidWestOne Bank. The bank even took possession of the museum’s crown jewel, a rare 1913 Spaulding automobile built at the Grinnell plant.

It sounds as though the business plan of attracting auto tourists to Grinnell was hopelessly optimistic, but it was tax credit failure that finished things off:

The museum built its budget around receiving $900,000 in federal historic tax credits that never arrived. A 2012 federal appeals court ruling about a real estate project in New Jersey shook up the market for historic tax credits. A subsequent IRS memo explaining the ruling said, essentially, that investors should not stand to profit from historic tax credits without shouldering some of the risk. As a result, investors backed away from historic tax credit projects.

“That is where things really started to come apart on us, and it was just kind of a chain reaction from there,” Brooke said.

This is where I find myself puzzled. By their terms, federal historic rehab credits have never been transferable. A transferable tax credit can be sold by the original recipient to cash in on a tax break too big to use by itself. Tax credit middlemen tried to make them transferable by setting up “partnership” structures where investors were nominal partners, but really were in it only for the tax credits, with economic gains and losses from the rehab project allocated elsewhere.

To my surprise, the Tax Court had gone along with that structure, but the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed them in Historic Boardwalk Hall LLC (CA-3, No. 11-1832). The court held that because the tax credit investor didn’t share meaningfully in either potential income or loss from the project, it wasn’t a partner eligible for tax credits.

That was the risk I had always seen in these deals, and it came home to Grinnell.

The Moral? When it takes tax credits to make a deal work, it doesn’t really work. It’s just crony capitalism.

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Robert D. Flach has started a new organization, TAX PROFESSIONALS FOR TAX REFORM. “We believe that the one and only purpose of the Tax Code is to raise the money necessary to fund the government.” A worthy cause.

William Perez, Understanding Canceled Debt Income and Taxes

Kay Bell, Uncommon charitable gifts still provide donors the typical tax deduction. A discussion of property donations. “As with all tax deductible donations, you also need to make these more uncommon ones by Dec. 31 in order to claim them on this year’s taxes.”

Paul Neiffer, Farm and Ranch Provided Housing. A partnership, sole proprietor or S corporation cannot provide and deduct employee related housing for any of its owners (unless they own less than 2% AND are not related to any other owners).”

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2015: Fender Music Foundation

 

Seventh Avenue, Des Moines, this morning.

TaxProf, Hemel:  Taxes To Cause Vanguard Fund Fees To ‘Quadruple’? Not So Fast. We know the nosy busybodies would punish Vanguard’s small saver base with higher fees to feed the federal black hole. The only dispute is how much.

Tax Policy Blog, Apple CEO Tim Cook: We Need a Tax Code for the Digital Age. “The solution to ‘profit shifting’ is not a new patch to an already complicated tax code. The solution that the U.S. needs is a comprehensive tax reform that reduces both the corporate tax rate and the complexity of the entire tax code.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 961Day 962Day 963. The Day 961 post notes the obvious problems of giving one of the most aggressively secretive agencies power over passports. Day 962 inadvertently confirms one of the driving forces of the IRS scandal — ongoing bitterness over the Citizens United decision preventing bureaucrats from selectively restricting free speech rights.

Robert Wood, More Calls To Impeach IRS Chief Over Targeting, Bonuses, Obstruction

 

Stuart Gibson, Unlikely New Year’s Resolutions (Tax Analysts Blog). Like these:

-Citizens of Greece: Pay all the taxes they owe.

-Greek tax collectors: Pay all taxes they collect into the Greek treasury.

Unlikely indeed.

 

Peter Reilly, Did You Hear The One About Bernie Sanders And Kent Hovind Walking Into A Tax Blog? Well, Bernie is evidence of the co-existence of dinosaurs and hominids.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/17/15: President supports extenders; bill stops IRS from taxing political donations as gifts. And: More ACA stuff!

Thursday, December 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

whitehouse logoWhite House announces support for extender bill. Things seem to be falling into place for passage of the extender bill with an announcement of support from the White House.

The bill has to pass Congress first, but Tax Analysts reports ($link) that passage is eased by splitting the extender bill from the “omnibus” spending bill:

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said he expects the House to vote on the extenders package on December 17 and an omnibus spending bill, also introduced as an amendment to H.R. 2029, on December 18.  GOP leaders apparently decided to split the bills into two separate amendments to generate enough support for passage in the House. The spending bill may lose votes from conservative Republicans while the tax bill may lose votes from House Democrats. Those concerns are not shared in the Senate, where Democrats like both bills.

Losing votes from House Democrats doesn’t threaten the extender bill, as there are so few of them. So House vote tomorrow.

 

20150925-2Extender bill ends attempts to tax political donations as gifts. Before it was chastened by the Tea Party scandal, the IRS made moves to treat contributions to Sec. 501(c)(4) political organizations as taxable gifts. The legal justification for treating contributions to independent organizations was weak to begin with, but a provision in the extender bill (Sec. 408) settles the issue going forward by explicitly excluding such contributions from gift tax effective for gifts made after enactment.

What about old gifts?

Nothing in the amendment made by subsection (a) shall be construed to create any inference with respect to whether any transfer of property (whether made before, on, or after the date of the enactment of this Act) to an organization described in paragraph (4), (5), or (6) of section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is a transfer of property by gift for purposes of chapter 12 of such Code.

So the IRS could continue to assert its weak position that pre-enactment gifts are taxable. I don’t think they will.

Related: TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 952. Today’s link goes to an op-ed complaining that the extender bill will make it too difficult for the IRS to restrict First Amendment rights by starting gift tax audits of political donors.

 

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IRS addresses more HRA and ACA questions. Yesterday the IRS issued Notice 2015-87, a 31 page bag of buzzwords addressing ACA issues. Disappointingly, the Notice doesn’t back off the extreme position that reimbursement of individual medical insurance premiums paid by employees will normally trigger a $100 per-day, per-employee penalty.

The bill does clarify that “opt-out” payments are normally not subject to the penalty, though they are taken into account to determine the employee cost in calculating whether an employer’s coverage is “affordable” (Q&A 9 of the Notice).

 

Paul Neiffer, Looks Like $500,000 Section 179 is Now Permanent. “One of the key provisions for farmers is to make Section 179 permanent at the $500,000 level.”

Kay Bell, Tax extenders 2015 winners and losers. “It’s a Christmas miracle! Weeks are left in 2015 and Congress has reached a deal on the 50+ tax breaks known as extenders.”

Howard Gleckman, The Hidden Agenda Behind This Year’s Tax Extender Bill (TaxVox):

What is going on here? Why would House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put so much effort into making permanent a package of tax breaks that could be back on the chopping block a year from now?

Like much of what happens in Congress, it’s all about budget accounting. And in this case, it turns out you can buy bigger tax rate cuts by repealing permanent tax breaks than by swapping out temporary versions of the same subsidies.

I’d like to think this is all a 3-D chess play by geniuses to move the country closer to a better tax system, but I have nagging doubts, somehow.

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Casualty and Theft Loss. “A casualty and theft loss is a deduction allowed on tax returns for people who suffer property damage or theft.”

Andy Grewal, The Management Fee Waiver Regulations May Be Doomed (Procedurally Taxing). “Prop. Reg. 1.707-2(b)(i) may reflect a good policy (a debatable point), but it does not square with the law.”

Robert Wood, Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino’s Accountant Admits Tax Fraud Conspiracy. All over America, millions who don’t watch television ask, “who is Michael Sorrentino?”

 

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David Brunori, Some things worth pursuing in 2016 (Tax Analysts Blog). I don’t agrere with his support for the earned income tax credit, but he is correct on the importance of independent state tax tribunals, which Iowa lacks. And I think this is absolutely right:

Oppose tax incentives. I know — incentives are seemingly invulnerable in our political system. But the difficulty of the task should not deter the righteous. Tax incentives violate every principle of sound tax policy. They are unnecessary. They are unfair. Liberals should hate them because they waste money that could be used for schools and healthcare. Conservatives should hate them because they are the antithesis of a free market.

The cronies and insiders partnership of Central Iowa disagrees, which pretty much proves David correct.

 

I’m pretty sure the opposite wouldn’t help. Could Having a ‘Pro-CPA Culture’ Backfire on Accounting Firms Desperate for Talent? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

Today is the big Star Wars release day. Blogger Syd Gernstein explains that WE HAVE TAXES TO THANK FOR STAR WARS:

To summarize briefly: This first episode of Star Wars started with a tax dispute. The “trade federation” did not like the fact that the republic had imposed a tax on its trade routes, and protested the tax by staging a blockade, and ultimately an invasion, of the peaceful planet of Naboo. Dissatisfied with the Republic’s inability to defend the planet, Naboo’s queen—at the urging of the planet’s then-Senator Palpatine—moved for a vote of no confidence in the Galactic Senate’s Chancellor. Palpatine then exploited the sense of sympathy for Naboo to get himself elected as Chancellor. Over the course of the next movies, Palpatine would then, essentially, transform the republic into a dictatorship, declare himself Emperor, convince Anakin Skywalker to become Darth Vader, build a couple Death Stars, and, evidently, abolish the galactic yellowpages, because it otherwise surely would have occurred to Darth Vader to streamline his epic quest to find his son, the “young Skywalker,” by looking under “S.” 

It’s a plot line convoluted enough to be worthy of The Code.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/2/15: A defender of tax credits makes his case. Also: escalating the war on offshore taxpayers.

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

20120906-1Bribe them and they will come. The Atlantic asks Why Are There So Many Data Centers in Iowa?. “When I’ve asked data center operations managers, the answer has varied from approximately forty characteristics to a blunt four: ‘Networks, land, power, and taxes'” By “taxes,” that generally means “tax incentives,” or special breaks unavailable to the rest of us.

In a post at IowaBiz.com, Brent Willett makes an unabashed argument for more of the same in Economic development has an image problem (IowaBiz.com). It’s an interesting piece. Its premise is that people think that special tax deals to lure companies are shady, but that we would feel otherwise if incentive boosters just made a better case.

For an attempt to make the case that incentives are a good thing, the post is  short of actual evidence. It instead makes flat assertions that incentives are necessary and proper, and are obviously good because everybody does them. For example (emphasis in original):

Incentives play a fundamental role in securing job- and wealth-creation projects for communities in every corner of this country and in many countries of the world. This is pure, unadulterated fact.

If it were pure unadulterated fact, you might think that it would be easy to marshal some data that says so. Yet in the only attempt ever made by Iowa to quantify the value of its dozens of tax credit giveaways, by a blue-ribbon committee appointed in the wake of the Iowa Film Tax Credit fiasco, failed to identify a single tax credit that clearly was worth more than it cost.

The two magic words omitted by defenders of tax credits are “opportunity cost.” They point to projects that receive tax credits, assert they would not have happened anyway, and ignore the idea that the money used for the credits would have been used elsewhere. They also ignore the cost to all businesses of the tax law complexity and high rates that inevitably accompany special interest tax breaks.

It’s not just accidental that tax incentives have a bad image. They are like a guy who takes his wife’s purse to the bar to buy drinks for the girls. The girls might accept the free drinks (development success!), but it doesn’t help the person who foots the bill. Nor is it impressive, and any of the girls won over by this tactic aren’t likely to be real prizes. In any case, his image is unlikely to be helped by a better explanation when his wife finds out.

Related: Local CPA Firm vows to swallow pride, accept $28 million

 

Best done by not giving them in the first place. States Can Avoid the Fiscal Risks Tax Incentives Create, Pew Report Says (LexisNexis Legal Newsroom).

Jim Maule, Tax Credit Giveaways Don’t Deserve Credit, “If the Michigan tax credit had done what it was promised to do, the increased tax revenues should have more than offset the cost of the credit. But that hasn’t happened, as evidenced by the budget deficits that were spiraling out of control on account of the tax credit giveaway.”

 

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Andrew Mitchel, The Escalation of Offshore Penalties Over the Last 20 Years. An excellent summary of the unconscionable increase in foot-fault penalties for paperwork violations of foreign reporting rules. He describes the same “violations” taking place in 1995 and now.

In 1995, the individual was only required to file two forms (the FBAR and Form 5471) and would be subject to penalties totaling $2,000. In 2011, the same individual was required to file six forms (the FBAR, Forms 3520, 3520-A, 5471, 8865, 8938) and would be subject to penalties totaling $70,000.

Read the whole thing.

Peter Reilly, IRS Trying To Make It Harder To Qualify As Real Estate Pro. An excellent, in-depth discussion of a taxpayer victory in the eternal IRS war against deducting real estate losses.

William Perez, Tips for Green Card Holders and Immigrants Who are Filing a US Tax Return

Kay Bell, Charitable donation tax deduction rules apply on Giving Tuesday and year-round. A good summary of rules on year-end charitable giving.

Amanda Klopp, A Snow Holiday? Not if the IRS Can Help It. (Procedurally Taaxing).

TaxGrrrl, Congress Moves Towards Granting IRS Authority To License Tax Preparers. “Representatives Diane Black (R-TN) and Pat Meehan (R-PA) have introduced H.R. 4141, the Tax Return Preparer Competency Act.”  When taxwriters demonstrate competency, then they can complain about preparers.

Russ Fox, My Love/Hate Relationship with the FTB. “Yet for all the excellence in how the FTB communicates some of the FTB’s practices leave a lot to be desired.”

Robert D. Flach, NEW JERSEY LLC FAQ

Tony Nitti, Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015: #6 – More Bad News For The Marijuana Industry.

 

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Jeremy Scott, Congress Gives Up on Paying for Extenders . . . And That’s Fine (Tax Analysts Blog). “Taking a few of the most popular extenders off the table by making them permanent would only help with a limited legislative calendar, which could give some juice to tax reform efforts or at least end the silly end-of-the-year, Mock Turtle-like dance Congress has performed for most of the last 30 years.”

Renu Zaretsky, The Case of the Mislabeled ABLE Account (TaxVox). “Here’s the catch: There’s a good chance that by the time she reaches 18 the value of her account will exceed $102,000. If her nest egg tops that amount, the state would suspend her SSI benefits until her account fell below that threshold.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 937.

Richard Phillips, Congress Should Embrace the International Consensus to Crack Down on Corporate Tax Avoidance (Tax Justice Blog). Um, no.

News from the Profession. Tax Nerds Set Record Straight on Tax Code vs. NFL Rulebook Complexity (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/18/15: A 3% Iowa income tax rate? And: Californians, taxes could be worse!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

engageiowalogoNew policy group proposes bold Iowa tax reform. In the wake of another Tax Foundation report showing that Iowa’s business tax policy stinks, there is a new proposal to do something about it. Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Iowa’s nine-bracket personal income tax would be flattened to a single rate of about 3 percent under a proposal from a recently formed Iowa policy group.

Engage Iowa, founded in August by Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, is calling for changes to the state’s income tax code that it says would improve the state’s business climate and reduce the outflow of high-income taxpayers to states such as Texas and South Dakota.

Like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Planthe Engage Iowa paper does not advocate a tax cut. It attempts to come up with a rate and tax structure that raises the same amount of tax as the current Iowa tax system. The paper presents several proposals, including one that uses a 1 percentage point increase in the state sales tax rate to reduce the income tax rate.

The plan has a lot going for it. Its one glaring weakness is its omission of any corporation tax reform. Iowa has the highest corporation tax rate in the country, but one so full of loopholes and corporate welfare tax credits that it generates a relatively paltry amount of revenue for the state. Iowa’s 49th place corporation tax rating in the Tax Foundation State Business Tax Climate Index is a big reason for Iowa’s perennially poor ranking.

Naturally the high-tax, high-complexity lobby is unimpressed by the plan. From TheGazette.com:

Peter Fisher, research director for the left-leaning Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City, on Monday said he applauded Engage Iowa for pointing out that Iowa’s current income tax system is less progressive than it might seem after deductions and credits are factored in. He said the Engage Iowa policy suggestions also might help eliminate “the perception problem” that Iowa has as a higher top income tax rate than it does in practice.

However, Fisher said the Engage Iowa flat tax seems like others of its kind: It lowers taxes for the wealthier and makes up for it with taxes on the lower end of the income earners.

The tax law is a poor vehicle for income redistribution in general, but the state income tax is an awful vehicle in particular, given the ability of high income earners to leave the state. The focus on “the rich” also skates by the reality of who “the rich” are: primarily employers who run their businesses through pass-through entities and pay their business taxes on their 1040s. Bashing “the rich” bashes employment, especially with zero-tax South Dakota right next door.

 

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Russ Fox, Yes, Two States Rank Lower than California. “It’s not all bad news in the Tax Foundation’s 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index for California. You could always be in New York or New Jersey.”

Robert Wood, Man Gets $21.5M Verdict For Door Injury, But IRS Is Biggest Winner. “Damages for physical injuries are tax free, but punitive damages are taxed. For this reason and others, your taxes might be lower if you settle a lawsuit rather than going to verdict.”

 

Mitch Maahs, Report Highlights IRS Shortcomings Preventing Business ID Theft (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “In most cases, an ID thief files a business tax return using an Employer Identification Number (EIN) of an active or inactive business without permission to obtain a fraudulent refund, often claiming extensive refundable tax credits.”

Kay Bell, Tornadoes, other wild November weather: Be ready! “Be ready, on the physical and financial and especially tax fronts, for dangerous weather, this week and any time of the year.”

Janet Novack, After Budget Deal’s Surprise Cuts, Can Boomers Really Count On Social Security? It’s always dangerous to count on a fiscally insane scheme for your retirement security.

Jim Maule, The Fallacy of “Job Creating” Tax Breaks, Yet Again. “Job relocation is not job creation.”

 

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Scott Greenberg, Section 179 Really Does Benefit Small Businesses (Tax Policy Blog). “Ideally, all business investments would be given the same treatment as Section 179 and businesses would be able to deduct all investment costs in the year that they occur. But until the U.S. tax code adopts this ideal, Section 179 remains an important provision that allows some businesses to deduct investment costs as they occur.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 923. And all politicians are honest in Chicago. “President Barack Obama’s public comments appearing to prejudge the outcome of Justice Department investigations don’t affect the decisions in those inquiries, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Tuesday.”

Renu Zaretsky, Budgeting, Wooing, and Taxing. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers highway bill politics and Michigan’s entirely unoriginal idea of bribing companies to lure data centers.

Danshera Cords, Unintentionally Undermining Voluntary Compliance: Balancing Accountability and Budget (Procedurally Taxing). Another call to increase the IRS budget. If you want the IRS budget increased, you want Commissioner Koskinen to resign, because it’s not happening otherwise.

 

Career Corner. The Toll of Travel: An Interview With a Former Big 4 Advisory Road Warrior  (Leona May, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/20/15: Shock! State tax “incentives” favor the big! And: the 1% surprise.

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1Regulation always favors the big. So do state business incentives. Left-side think tank Good Jobs First demonstrates the big-player bias of state “incentive” tax deals in a new report Shortchanging Small Business: How Big Businesses Dominate State Economic Development IncentivesMaria Koklanaris summarizes the report for State Tax Notes ($link):

Using its own databases and other programs, [Good Jobs First] weeded out awards targeting companies of a specific size, focusing only on those purportedly available regardless of company size. Of those “facially neutral” awards, 90 percent of the dollars went to big businesses, the report said.

“The deals, worth more than $3.2 billion, were granted in recent years by programs that on their faces, are equally accessible to small and large companies,” the report said. “Yet big businesses overall were awarded 90 percent of the dollars from the programs analyzed, indicating a profound bias against small businesses.”

While Iowa’s incentives weren’t among those studied, I am confident the exact same thing is true here. It’s the big and well-connected taxpayers who know how to play the system. They can hire the attorneys and accountants to navigate the system, and the lobbyists to make sure the taxpayer money is steered their way. And it’s the big projects — inherently done by big taxpayers — that attract the politicians. You’ve never heard of a Governor calling a press conference for some little business hiring two people.

A real Iowa tax reform, like the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, would get rid of all of these breaks for insiders and lower the rates and compliance costs for everyone.

 

New York Times, What Could Raising Taxes on the 1% Do? Surprising Amounts.

Scott Greenberg, No, Raising Taxes on the 1% Will Not Lead to “Surprising Amounts” of Revenue (Tax Policy Blog):

Let’s say, for instance, that Congress decided to raise the effective tax rate of the 1% by increasing the top rate on ordinary income. Currently, the top tax bracket on ordinary income is 39.6%. How high would Congress have to raise this rate, in order to raise the effective tax rate of the 1% to 45 percent?

According to our estimates, Congress would have to raise the top rate on ordinary income to 74 percent, in order to raise the effective rate of the 1% from 33.4 percent to 45 percent. This would be a rate hike of over 34 percentage points, or an 87 percent increase in the top rate.

Oh, I think the amounts of revenue raised would be surprising, to the Times. And disappointing. As I’ve noted many times, the rich guy isn’t picking up the tab, because he can’t.

 

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TaxGrrrl, 11 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self About Taxes. Plenty of good advice here. It’s all worth reading, but I especially like #7, Planning is important:

Tax planning is important. You should take advantage of tax strategies that can help you lower your tax bill, like seeking out tax credits you might have overlooked or making a contribution to a tax-deferred retirement account. And knowing what’s coming down the pike is also important when it comes to payment: having a good idea of what you might owe and making estimated payments will help you avoid writing a big check at the end (trust me) and possibly being subject to underpayment penalties.

This is true for all taxpayers, but it is especially true for the self-employed, who are much more numerous with the growth of the “gig economy.”

 

buzz20150804Robert D. Flach is up and running with a fresh and pungent Tuesday Buzz roundup. He covers the recent tax season and the right response to callers claiming to be from the IRS demanding payment, among other things.

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: S-Corporation vs. C-Corporation. “The ‘C’ and ‘S’ refer to how that corporation is taxed, not to its legal standing.”

Tony Nitti, Apple To Issue Restricted Stock To Employees: Siri, What Are The Tax Consequences?

Russ Fox, The Future of DFS. “If you watch any sports television, you’ve almost certainly seen commercials for the two leading daily fantasy sports (DFS) sites, DraftKings and FanDuel.”

Robert Wood, Chef Jamie Oliver Calls For Sugar Tax, While Mexico Eyes Soda Tax Cut. We actually already have a pretty high sugar tax.

Keith Fogg, Contesting the Merits of the Underlying Tax in a Collection Due Process Case – A Convoluted Fact Pattern Leads to Wrong Decision (Procedurally Taxing).

Peter Reilly, Massachusetts Hits Staples For $10 Million On Sham Interest Deductions. “This case is a beautiful illustration of my fourth law of tax planning – Execution isn’t everything, but it is a lot.”

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 894. On how the President signals Justice Department investigators to back off.

Brian Doherty, Irwin Schiff, R.I.P. (Reason.com). “He was indeed a jolly warrior for a cause he obviously very sincerely believed in, even when it became completely obvious that the federal government was not going to be daunted by his arguments and indeed was going to keep arresting him for practicing them and advocating them.”

Kay Bell, Infamous tax protester Irwin Schiff has died. “His anti-tax tactics live on, as do penalties for those who insist on using them.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Presidential Candidates, “Free Stuff,” and Pixie Dust (TaxVox):

Even in its early stages, the 2016 presidential race looks like it will be remembered for two depressing superlatives. The candidates will spend more money than ever before, and they will promise more costly give-aways than any politicians in history.

Once again demonstrating the wisdom of Arnold Kling.

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Tax Roundup, 10/2/15: What your Health Savings Account can do that your IRA can’t. And: They don’t stay bought.

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150803-1Your IRA isn’t an HSA. Last week I was asked whether there was a penalty for taking money from an Individual Retirement Account to pay for surgery. I said there was no penalty, but that it was taxable income. The person who asked was surprised and confused, thinking that penalty and taxation are the same thing. They aren’t.

The Tax Court faced a similar question yesterday. A 47 year-old taxpayer took money from her IRA to pay medical expenses for her non-dependent son. The IRS noticed, presumably via a computer match, and assessed her a 10% early withdrawal penalty, as well as regular income tax. Judge Guy explains the issue:

Generally, if a taxpayer receives a distribution from a qualified retirement plan before attaining age 59-1/2, section 72(t) imposes an additional tax equal to 10% of the portion of the distribution which is includible in the taxpayer’s gross income. Sec. 72(t)(1) and (2). The additional tax is intended to discourage taxpayers from taking premature distributions from retirement plans — actions that frustrate public policy encouraging saving for retirement…

Section 72(t)(2)(B) provides an exception to the imposition of additional tax to the extent that retirement plan distributions “do not exceed the amount allowable as a deduction under section 213 to the employee for amounts paid during the taxable year for medical care (determined without regard to whether the employee itemizes deductions for such taxable year).” Section 213 in turn allows as a deduction “the expenses paid during the taxable year, not compensated for by insurance or otherwise, for medical care of the taxpayer, his spouse, or a dependent…

The “dependent” part was bad news:

The record reflects that petitioner did not claim her son as a dependent for the year in issue and fails to demonstrate that her son met the definition of a dependent provided in section 152. Consequently, we conclude that petitioner is not eligible for the exception under section 72(t)(2)(B) — even assuming that she used the funds in question to pay her son’s medical expenses.

But even if she did qualify to avoid the 10% tax (she didn’t), the withdrawal would still have been subject to income tax.

Health Savings Accounts look a lot like IRAs — they allow tax-free build-up, and they can be tapped penalty free like IRAs for retirement income. But HSA funds withdrawn for medical expenses are tax-free — not just penalty free. As with the IRA, though, the medical expenses have to be the taxpayers, the spouse’s, or a dependent’s. This extra flexibility makes HSAs a better savings vehicle than an IRA for those who qualify.

Not everybody qualifies. You need a “high deductible” health insurance policy to qualify for an HSA. For 2015 a “high deductible plan” is one with an annual deductible of at least $1,300 for single coverage and $2,600 for family coverage.  Annual out-of-pocket costs can’t exceed $6,450 for single coverage and $12,900 for family coverage. The 2015 contribution limits are $3,350 for single coverage and $6,650 for family coverage.

Unlike employer “flex-plan” arrangments, there is no “use it or lose it” feature in HSAs. You can accumulate contributions and save them for a year with large medical expenses, or for retirement. You don’t have to withdraw the funds in the same year as the medical expenses, either; if you had medical expenses in year 1, you can wait until year 2 to withdraw the amount and still have it tax-free.

Cite: Ireland, T.C. Summary Opinion 2015-60

Related Links:

IRS publication 969.

Kiplinger, FAQs about Health Savings Accounts.

 

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Maria Koklanaris, ConAgra Foods, Winner of Largest-Ever Nebraska Incentive Package, Moving to Illinois (Tax Analysts, subscriber link):

ConAgra Foods Inc., recipient of the largest tax incentive package ever awarded in Nebraska, announced October 1 that it would move its corporate headquarters from Omaha to Chicago, cutting at least 1,500 jobs in the process.

As I’ve said before, incentive tax credits are like taking your wife’s purse to the bar to buy drinks for the girls. It cheats the person who’s paying, the girls aren’t impressed, and if you leave with one, she’s not the type to be faithful.

 

It’s Friday! It’s Buzz Day for Robert D. Flach. Trumpmania figures prominently.

Jason Dinesen, How to Protect a Deceased Person’s Identity. “Thankfully, Congress has now limited access to the Death Master File, which was the cause of much of the identity theft relating to deceased people.”

Paul Neiffer, Form 1099-G Does Not Always Require Schedule F Reporting. “The key thing to remember is just because USDA or a cooperative issues a Form 1099 does not mean the income has to be fully reported on Schedule F and subject to full self-employment tax.”

Jim Maule, Taxation of Prizes, Question Three. “The question, however, also referred to the local or state sales tax. The awarding of a prize is not a sale, so the sales tax ought not apply.”

Kay Bell, Hurricane Joaquin intensifies, threatens East Coast…maybe. Maybe you should dust off your disaster recovery plan once in awhile.

Leslie Book, Restitution Based Assessment and Tax Return Preparers: An Uneasy Mix (Procedurally Taxing). On the problems the IRS has in getting restitution from crooked preparers.

Robert Wood, Marijuana Goes Native American And Tax Free

 

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David Henderson, via Don Boudreaux:

Herbert Hoover, in the midst of the Great Depression, more than doubled the top [income-tax] rate to 63 percent and increased the bottom rate by more than nine times to 4 percent.  He did this in spite of the fact that raising income tax rates during a depression lengthens the depression.  Franklin Roosevelt carried on Hoover’s policy throughout the 1930s and increased tax rates further.  By 1940, he had raised the top tax rate to 81.1 percent on incomes over $5 million.

Putting the “great” in the Great Depression.

 

Stephen Entin, Expensing: The Right Tax Treatment for All Investment Regardless of Financing Arrangements (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, How Investment Managers (And Maybe You) Would Benefit From Trump’s Tax Plan (TaxVox).

Cara Griffith, Idaho Legislators Shamed Into Good Behavior (Tax Analysts) Politicians, bureaucrats and cockroaches prefer darkness.

Carl Davis, Michigan Becomes the 26th State Where Online Retailers like Amazon Must Collect Sales Tax (Tax Justice Blog).

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 876. Lois Lerner and the Wisconsin witch hunt.

 

The Critical Question. Is Technology Making Accountants Dumb and Lazy? (Chris Hooper, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/1/15: Carried interests are good for you. State tax incentives aren’t.

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Public domain image via WikipediaSympathy for the Devil. The devil is “carried interest” taxation of partnerships interests. Megan McArdle discusses this devilry in Sure, Debate Carried-Interest Taxes. Or Something That Matters.:

It’s fundraising gold for Democrats, and a perennial talking point for liberal columnists: hedge funders pay taxes on some of their income at the lower rate for capital gains, rather than the higher rates assessed on “ordinary income” (read: money you earn by working).

If you only know about it from politicians, you get the idea that the only beneficiaries of the carried interest are hedge fund managers who light their cigars with $100 bills. If you see it in tax practice, though, it looks different.

The “carried interest” is really a profits interest, or a preferential allocation of profits, to an employee or manager of a partnership. A private equity manager might get no current equity in an investment, but a portion of the profits. The same rule lets a partnership give an interest in future earnings to the business’s managers or employees. It’s a partnership version of stock options (options are allowed for partnerships, but the differences between partnership and corporation taxation makes options less attractive in partnerships).

Carried interest opponents find this “abusive” when the business does well and gets sold. The result is a portion of the gain on the sale of the business goes to the managers and employees with carried interests, who may have not put cash into the business. But it’s the same total amount of gain taxed. It’s just that some of it gets allocated from the investors to the managers. The investors are presumably fine with it because they have gain to share — that’s why they cut the managers and employees into the deal in the first place.

But isn’t this abusive because it treats “compensation” as capital gain rather than ordinary? Not really — the investors are forgoing the same ordinary deduction, so the net effect is the same. There’s no conceptual reason why a profits interest — which by definition has no value when granted — can’t generate capital gain. (Of course, I think taxing capital gains in the first place is the real abuse). And in many cases the carry includes an allocation of ordinary business income in tax years prior to the sale, so for that part of the deal, there’s not even a conceptual abuse.

Ms. McArdle is puzzled about the attention the issue gets:

The carried interest issue is thus a convenient way for Democrats making stump speeches to claim that they’re really going to do something about inequality and cronyism, and maybe fund some important new spending on hard-working American families. With the entrance of Jeb Bush and Donald Trump into the arena, it is also a way for Republicans to seem tough on rich special interests while simultaneously proposing tax plans that will help affluent Americans hold on to a lot more of their income and wealth.

As with most Washington Issues, my actual level of concern about carried-interest taxation hovers somewhere between “neighbor’s bathroom grout drama” and “Menudo reunion tour.” Nonetheless, I’m beginning to wish that Congress would get rid of it without demanding anything in return, just to force politicians to talk about something that actually matters.

I’m less willing to just go along. Any “reform” of carried interest will complicate an already byzantine partnership tax law. It will inevitably create traps that will cause tax pain for people just trying to run their business and put beans on the table. At worst, it can become a potential nightmare like the Section 409A rules, which were enacted to punish long-defunct Enron, but which now menace any employees who have a deferred comp deal with their employer.

And of course any carried interest “reform” won’t shut up those who want to jack up taxes on “the rich” for more than a moment before they find another hate totem.

Related, but not agreeing: Peter Reilly, President Obama Could End Special Tax Treatment For Two Twenty Guys

 

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Don Boudreaux, a blogging economics professor, makes a good case against the Export-Import Bank that works just as well against state “economic development” subsidies and tax credits (my emphasis):

Second, subsidies doled out by governments weaken, not strengthen, their economies.  To see why, suppose that other governments conscript all 22-35 year olds within their borders and force these conscripts to work at subsistence wages for the industries located within those countries.  Further suppose that the results are beneficial for corporate shareholders in those countries: their companies export more and rake in higher profits than they would without such conscription.  Should Uncle Sam therefore follow suit? 

Economically, the only difference between export subsidies as they exist today in reality and the above hypothetical is that real-world export subsidies are less extreme than is conscription.  Yet no essential economic difference separates real-world subsidies from such hypothetical conscription: each is a government policy of forcibly seizing resources from some people in order to bloat the purses and wallets of other people.

Substitute “economic development tax credits” for “subsidies” and “other states” for “other countries,” and you have the case against the tax credits paid for by Iowa taxpayers to lure and subsidize their competitors.

 

David Brunori, A Word of Advice for Legislators of All Stripes (Tax Analysts Blog). You should read the whole thing, but I especially like this: “That politicians can impose economic policy through tax incentives is more akin to a Soviet five-year plan than to anything Adam Smith ever said.”

 

Robert D. Flach, IRS UPDATES PER DIEM RATES FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL

Russ Fox, TIGTA: “IRS Can’t Track International Correspondence.” IRS: “So What.” “It turns out that the IRS doesn’t know what happens to much of the mail the agency sends overseas.” And it doesn’t much care.

TaxGrrrl, Government Shutdown Avoided For Now: Funding Bill Only Temporary.

Kay Bell, Federal government funded for 10 more weeks

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 875. Today’s installment features Robert Wood on newly-revealed bonuses to IRS employees:

As you read about bonuses, you might recall other reports saying that 61% of IRS employees caught willfully violating the tax law aren’t fired, but may get promoted.

And people wonder why anyone might not want this organization regulating tax preparers.

 

News from the Profession. Accounting Had a Toxic Culture Before It Was Cool (Leona May, Going Concern). “As ‘The Great Email Chain of 2013’ demonstrates, the public accounting workaholic culture has spawned a whole bunch of work-obsessed, white-collar monsters.”

Well, our little firm isn’t so monstrous. If you feel abused and would like to live in Central Iowa, drop me a line. We might be able to improve things for you.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/30/15: Taking from rich doesn’t give to the poor; state incentives favor the big.

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Today we have two instances where policy tanks that I usually disagree with make important tax policy points.

TPC logoFirst, The center-left Tax Policy Center, a project of the Brookings Institution (which I castigate below), makes an important observation about the overrated problem of income inequality in their paper, Would a significant increase in the top income tax rate substantially alter income inequality? The summary (my emphasis):

The high level of income inequality in the United States is at the forefront of policy attention. This paper focuses on one potential policy response: an increase in the top personal income tax rate. We conduct a simulation analysis using the Tax Policy Center (TPC) microsimulation model to determine how much of a reduction in income inequality would be achieved from increasing the top individual tax rate to as much as 50 percent. We calculate the resulting change in income inequality assuming an explicit redistribution of all new revenue to households in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. The resulting effects on overall income inequality are exceedingly modest.

I have zero hope that politicians will heed this. Just because you take from the rich doesn’t mean it goes to the poor. It goes to the well-connected, as in the next item.

Second, the not-so-center-left Good Jobs First takes the side of the angels in the battle against state tax incentives, with a survey of small businesses called In Search of a Level Playing Field:

A national survey of leaders of small business organizations reveals that they overwhelmingly believe that state economic development incentives favor big businesses, that states are overspending on large individual deals, and that state incentive programs are not effectively meeting the needs of small businesses seeking to grow. 

I think they have this exactly right. It’s not start-ups that get the big deals from the legislature and the Economic Development bureaucrats. It’s the well-connected and wealthy companies that know how to work the system. The rest of us get to pay for it.

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Related: LOCAL CPA FIRM VOWS TO SWALLOW PRIDE, ACCEPT $28 MILLION

 

Jason Dinesen, The Iowa School Tuition Organization Tax Credit. “Iowa offers dozens of obscure tax credits. The one I get asked about most is the tax credit available for donations to a ‘school tuition organization’ or STO.”

Kay Bell, Maryland issuing court-ordered county tax credit refunds. If you don’t want to repay illegal taxes, don’t collect illegal taxes.

Russ Fox, How to Wynne Your Money Back in Maryland

Paul Neiffer, IRS Provides List of Counties Eligible For Additional Extension on Livestock Replacement

Jim Maule, Taxation of Prizes, Question Two. He quotes a post from a sweepstakes message board:

 I won concert VIP tickets, there is no value on the tickets, so I can’t sell them. If no value is on them, why am I paying taxes on them? 

Mr. Maule explains that there is a value. If there isn’t, then why didn’t the winner give them away?

Robert D. Flach, WON’T YOU TAKE THIS ADVICE I HAND YOU LIKE A BROTHER: MY BEST TAX ADVICE FROM OVER 40 YEARS’ EXPERIENCE PREPARING 1040s.

 

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InsureBlog, Yes, The New York Obamacare Co-op [squandered*] $340 Million. *The actual headline uses a more colorful term.

Robert Wood, Hillary Backs Cadillac Tax Repeal

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 874. Today’s edition features IRS agents abusing their power on everyday taxpayers. But we can trust them to regulate their tax preparer adversaries, right?

Arnold Kling, Hypocrisy and Cowardice at Brookings. Arnold addresses the firing by the Brookings Institution of Robert Litan, a scholar accused by Senator Elizabeth Warren of “writing a research paper to benefit his corporate patrons.” He is appalled:

1. Robert Litan is one of the most decent individuals in the whole economics profession.

2. Giving Litan’s scalp (sorry for the pun) to Elizabeth Warren does nothing to bolster the integrity of Brookings. It amounts to speaking cowardice to power.

There’s more. The episode is appalling, and it shows the totalitarian tendencies that are barely beneath the surface of Senator Warren’s populism.

 

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Alan Cole, Donald Trump’s Tax Plan Will Not Be Revenue-Neutral Under Any Circumstances (Tax Policy Blog)

Jeremy Scott, Trump’s Tax Plan Is Pretty Much GOP Orthodoxy (Tax Analysts Blog)

Matt Gardner, How Donald Trump’s Carried Interest Tax Hike Masks a Massive Tax Cut for Wealthy Money Managers (Tax Justice Blog)

Peter Reilly, Trump Tax Plan Would Increase Deficit By Over $10 Trillion

Tony Nitti, Love Trump, Hate Romney, But Their Tax Plans Are One And The Same

Renu Zaretsky, Thirty days, goodbye September, shutdown talks—maybe in December. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers shutdown politics, plans to use reconciliation procedures to pass bills repealing pieces of Obamacare, and tax Trumpalism.

 

See you at Hoyt Sherman Place tonight!

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/1/15: If the taxman takes your car, recode your garage door. And: jobs, $211,111 each.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan
1974 mercedes

A 1974 Mercedes scheduled for IRS auction 8/31/15 at Bama Jammer Storage, Huntsville, AL.

As if having your car seized by the taxman wasn’t bad enough. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, in a report on IRS handling of property seized for tax nonpayment, notes a potential problem if the IRS takes your car:

However, during our discussions with IRS employees involved in the seizure process, we determined that there was no guidance on what actions to take if seized vehicles are equipped with installed navigation or garage door opening systems. Additionally, except for one employee, everyone we spoke with had not considered what actions to take if they seized a vehicle with one of these systems. While we do not have any examples in our case reviews of this situation occurring, it is in the taxpayers’ and Government’s best interest that employees are prepared if seizures involve these types of systems. If these systems are not reset to the original factory settings, there is a risk that the third-party purchaser of the vehicle can gain access to the taxpayer’s personal information or property. For example, the purchaser could use the vehicle navigational equipment to locate a taxpayer’s residence and then use the garage door opener to gain access to the home.

I have to admit, it wouldn’t have occurred to me either. It’s easy to forget that cars are also more and more data systems. Still, computerized data probably wasn’t an issue with the 1974 Mercedes pictured above that was scheduled for auction by the IRS yesterday in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

O. Kay HendersonBranstad defends state tax incentives for new Kum & Go headquarters:

Governor Terry Branstad today called the “Kum & Go” convenience store chain a “great…family-owned”, Iowa-based business and he has no objection to the nearly $19 million in state tax incentives it will get for moving the company headquarters to downtown Des Moines.

The convenience store chain is moving its headquarters about 10 miles from West Des Moines to Downtown Des Moines. It is getting $6.33 for every Iowan for its trouble. I’m sure Kum & Go is a perfectly nice company, and I don’t blame them for taking money the state is giving away, but there are lots of nice employers who don’t get $211,111 in state tax breaks for each new job they create. The unfortunate ones have to pay some of the highest business tax rates in the country to help pay for those who do benefit from tax breaks.

For perspective, check out Jared Walczak, Location Matters: Effective Tax Rates on Corporate Headquarters by State (Tax Policy Blog). “Today we’ll take a look at states’ effective tax rates on new and mature corporate headquarters.”  Have a look:

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For this ranking, Iowa is the fourth worst. Giving millions to one company doesn’t fix it for everyone else.

 

Robert D. Flach has fresh Buzz for us today. Robert buzzes about blog posts he’s found about higher taxes, due dates, and the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans — which seems to be most of them nowadays.

Russ Fox, The Hospital’s Closing; Who Will Notice the Missing Charity Money? Apparently one of the doctors, with unfortunate tax results.

TaxGrrrl asks Which State Has The Highest Property Taxes In America?

Kay Bell, IRS gets so-so rating so far on Yelp. Well, I’d never eat there.

Leslie Book, Legislative Language Directs IRS To Make Self-Prepared EITC Claims More Burdensome (Procedurally Taxing).

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 845. Today the Prof links to Robert Wood’s Court Orders IRS To Reveal White House Requests About Taxpayers. The White House will surely appeal, waiting until the last minute to file for it, and drag the process out as long as possible. This is good news, though: “Finally, though, the court ruled that the IRS cannot hide behind a law used to shield the very misconduct it was enacted to prohibit.”

The stonewalling doesn’t mean there was misconduct. By stonewalling everything, the administration makes it hard to unearth misdeeds; as an added bonus, when a painful and drawn out process finally forces the administration to yeild innocent information, it makes the investigators look silly while sapping their resources.

 

Jeremy Scott, Trump’s Lack of Specifics on Tax Is Hardly Unique (Tax Analysts Blog). ” There are many reasons to dislike Trump and his ill-defined platform (which seems mostly based on nativism and reality-show-style demagoguery), but his lack of policy details at this stage of the game is hardly unique.”

 

News from the Profession. AICPA Lays the Smackdown on Dear Abby (Greg Kyte, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/27/15: Iowa cheap for the factory, costly for the headquarters. And: Instant Tax indictments.

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

All the state taxes. The Tax Foundation has issued its 2015 Location Matters report, “a comparative analysis of state tax costs on business.” It provides a summary of the costs of operating different kinds of business, state by state, with wonderful charts like this one for Iowa:

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

This chart seems to show that Iowa is relatively easy on manufacturing, but a very expensive place for a service business or a distribution center — with an effective state and local rate of around 40% for distribution facilities. It also shows that the corporation income tax really only clobbers retailers and corporate headquarters.

The charts really get interesting when you compare states. Let’s turn to our neighbors in South Dakota:

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Source: The Tax Foundation

While most industries fare much better in South Dakota than in Iowa, capital-intensive manufacturers — especially new ones — do a little worse. This is because South Dakota has a higher sales tax, and, presumably, because of the presence of Iowa’s tax incentives for new manufacturers. Once you settle in, there is little difference.

Here’s what the report says about Iowa (my emphasis):

Despite having the highest top corporate income tax rate in the nation at 12.0 percent, Iowa’s mature capital-intensive manufacturing firm experiences the lowest effective tax burden in the nation at 3.9 percent, due in large part to Iowa’s single sales factor apportionment formula and the lack of a throwback rule, which have the effect of exempting nearly all of a firm’s income from in-state taxation. The operation also experiences a relatively low property tax burden due to the lack of property taxes on equipment and inventory.

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 offers a 50 percent deduction for federal income taxes paid, which helps mitigate the burden of the state’s high corporate and individual income taxes but is also responsible for those high rates.

In addition to its favorable apportionment factors for businesses selling goods out of state, Iowa’s benefits-based sourcing rules work to the advantage of Iowa-based firms selling services out of state. However, effective property tax rates can be exceedingly high for some firms—nearly double the national average for mature distribution centers, for instance—greatly increasing overall tax costs. Qualifying new firms (the manufacturing operations and the distribution center) receive a full abatement of the property tax on improvements for three years, though the abatement does not cover taxes on the value of the land itself.

Manufacturing machinery and research and development (R&D) equipment are exempt from the state sales tax, and the R&D facility receives other incentives as well. Iowa also offers generous investment and job creation tax incentives to new firms, though due to the state’s high tax rates, most new firms continue to experience above-average tax burdens.

This offers some lessons for Iowa’s ongoing tax reform debate:

– The Iowa Corporation Income Tax, where it isn’t futile, is a job killer, making it very expensive to locate a corporate headquarters here.

– Iowa’s vaunted tax incentives benefit the lucky and the well connected, while stifling start ups: “most new firms continue to experience above-average tax burdens.”

– Despite the recently enacted property tax reforms, Iowa’s real estate taxes still are a big cost for Iowa businesses.

The full report can be found here.

Related:

Can Iowa tax reform happen?

Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan

 

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Instant tax unhappinessThe tax prep franchise outfit Instant Tax Service had a colorful history before it was ordered to close by a federal judge. It was notorious for “paystub” returns, prepared to claim refunds for a mostly low-income clientele before they got their W-2s. That’s something preparers aren’t supposed to do.

Yesterday things got worse for the owners of Instant Tax Service with an indictment on tax charges. A Department of Justice Press Release lists some of the allegations (my emphasis):

From about January 2004 through November 2012, Ogbazion and Wade executed a scheme to obstruct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), wherein numerous ITS franchises filed false federal income tax returns without valid Forms W-2 and without the permission of their taxpayer clients.  The false returns included false and inflated sole proprietorship Schedule C income in an attempt to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Over the course of several years, Ogbazion also instructed an ITS employee to electronically file large volumes of unsigned tax returns on the first day of the “tax filing season,” then falsely backdated customer filing authorizations.  In an attempt to obstruct IRS civil compliance audits, ITS maintained and filed false documents with the IRS, including fabricated Forms W-2 created by ITS employees using tax preparation software, and forged client signatures on various false IRS forms.

Earned income tax credit skeptics are often scolded that the 25% rate of improper payments isn’t all due to fraud; it’s because taxes are hard and all. Taxes are hard, but if there isn’t massive fraud, it’s not for lack of trying. Rather than trying to run a welfare system through the tax code, we should be looking at a universal benefit along the lines proposed by Arnold Kling.

Related:

Arnold Kling, The EITC in Practice

Tax Update, Helping the poor by increasing their marginal tax rate.

 

Vox.com, H&R Block snuck language into a Senate bill to make taxes more confusing for poor people (Via the TaxProf).

H&R Block’s entire business model is premised on taxes being confusing and hard to file.

Well, that and promoting IRS preparer regulation to put competitors out of business.

Robert Wood, Trump Firing H&R Block Could Actually Help Immigrants

 

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Jason Dinesen, Things a Business Owner Needs to Know Before Hiring Employees

Robert D. Flach, WHAT DEDUCTIONS WOULD YOU KEEP?

Tony Nitti, 2013 Tax Changes Raised The Tax Bill On The Wealthiest 2 Percent By $60 Billion. “Whether an additional $60 billion in revenue is enough to satisfy the current administration remains to be seen.” No, we already know it won’t.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 840. More about Toby Miles. Meanwhile, Commissioner Koskinen dismisses the revelations of Lois Lerner’s canine email address under the “old news” ploy, and tells Tax Analysts ($link) that even though she hates Republicans and Tea Partiers, Lerner’s team was fair and square in dealing with their exemption applications.

Kay Bell, Lois Lerner used her dog’s email to conduct IRS business

 

Joseph Thorndike, When it Comes to Taxes, Americans Are of Two Minds – or Three, or Five or Eight. “While trying to make sense of Donald Trump’s statements on tax policy, I was struck by their disparate quality; to call them random is to exaggerate their coherence.”

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Tax Roundup, 8/17/15: New directions in Iowa tax policy. And lots more!

Monday, August 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

This week may see the start a discussion of the future of Iowa tax policy. The Iowa Association of Business and Industry Tax Committee meets Thursday to discuss proposals for the future of the Iowa income tax.

There’s a lot to talk about. The Tax Foundation puts Iowa among the bottom-ten states in its 2015 Business Tax Climate Index. Iowa has the second worst corporate tax ranking and the highest corporation tax rate of any state. We also have a subpar individual tax ranking. Along with the high rates — and made possible by them — the Iowa income tax is full of special favors for influential and sympathetic interests. This makes the taxes expensive and difficult to comply with and not so good at collecting revenue.

The state legislature has not seriously addressed income tax reform in recent years. There has been no movement against the awful corporation tax that I am aware of. The Republican caucus has pushed an individual “alternative maximum tax,” one with lower rates and a broader base — that would co-exist with the current system. That has an obvious flaw — everyone would compute their tax both ways and pay the lower tax. That makes the system more complex. But all tax reform has been bottled up by the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate.

What are the ingredients for Iowa tax reform? A good tax reform discussion should consider:

Repeal of the Iowa corporation income tax. The Iowa corporation tax provided $438 million of the the state’s 2014 revenue, out of $7.545 billion. Corporation income taxes discourage in-state growth and are expensive to enforce. The state would be better off without it.

Repeal of all incentive tax credits. The state has many tax credits, some of which are refundable, including the R&D tax credit. Simply eliminating the tax credits would recoup some of the lost revenue from a corporation income tax repeal.

Move the individual income tax to an AGI-based system. Eliminate state itemized deductions and special state deductions and use the savings to lower the rates. Such as system would only retain a few itemized deductions to prevent abuse of taxpayers, principally the deduction for gambling losses.

Don’t be Kansas. That state enacted a poorly conceived tax reform effort a few years ago, and it has been a mess. Ambitions for tax reform have to be reconciled to revenue needs. While I think the state should spend less than it does, we can’t assume it will do so. Tax reformers need to present a plan that is revenue-neutral, or close to it.

Related:

Is Iowa’s business tax climate really that bad?

Baby steps towards fixing Iowa’s business tax climate

What an Iowa income tax might look like with a fresh start.

The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan

 

Jared Walczak, How High Are Property Taxes in Your State? (Tax Policy Blog). With this map:

 

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Iowa still has relatively high property taxes, even after the recent property tax reforms. But we have high income and sales taxes too.

 

Russ Fox, Two Sets of Returns Aren’t Better than One:

Today I look at the idea of preparing one set of tax returns for clients but using a second set of returns when submitting the returns to the IRS. Of course, those second returns had higher refund amounts with the difference being pocketed by the preparers. After all, what’s a little tax fraud?

This is what Russ might call a Bozo tax offense. It’s not like this sort of thing will go very long without someone noticing.

 

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Estimated Tax Payments

Annette Nellen, Innovation box tax reform proposal, A good explanation of a bad idea.

Kay Bell, IRS says free identity theft protection services are tax-free. “That’s very good news for me, since I was part of the huge OPM hack”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Offers Tax Guidance On Free Identity Theft Protection Services

Paul Neiffer is on the road on The ProFarmer Midwest Crop Tour.

Jim Maule, Rebutting Arguments Against Mileage-Based Road Fees. I think an expansion of tolling is more likely, but I don’t think that is very likely either.

Jack Townsend, Ninth Circuit Requires a Filing for Tax Perjury Charge. “Under the facts, Boitana had merely presented the false return to the agent, but that presentation was not a filing.”

Peter Reilly, Let Irwin Schiff Die With His Family Not In Prison:

You don’t have to agree with Irwin Schiff’s views on the federal income tax, to feel sympathy for Peter Schiff’s request that his father be released from prison. Irwin, now 87, has been diagnosed with lung cancer and it seems likely that he will not live to see his July 26, 2017 release date.

I think the government has made its point.

 

Patrick J. Smith, D.C. Circuit Majority Opinion in Florida Bankers Not Consistent with Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing Decision (Part 1) (Procedurally Taxing):

The weakness of the majority opinion in Florida Bankers, together with the strength of a dissenting opinion filed in the case, as well as the inconsistency of the majority opinion not only with the Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing decision but also with other D.C. Circuit opinions, all make the Florida Bankers case a strong candidate for en banc review. 

The suit challenges the FATCA rules on foreign reporting.

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 828Day 829Day 830

Matt Gardner, Latest Inversion Attempt Illustrates U.S. Can’t Compete with a 0 % Corporate Tax Rate (Tax Justice Blog). It could with a zer-percent rate of its own.

Renu Zaretsky, Tax plans and presidential candidates: The future [may or may not be] now. The TaxVox headline roundup talks about presidential candidate tax plans and the bleak outlook for the IRS budget under the current Commissioner.

Quotable:

If you think of government programs as technology, they are hopelessly behind. We regulate communications using the FCC, which is 1930s regulatory technology. We address health care for the elderly with Medicare, which is 50-year-old technology.

In the private sector, when an enterprise becomes technologically obsolete, it falls by the wayside. In government, it gets larger.

Arnold Kling

 

News from the Profession. Yep, Almost All Accounting Firm Partners Are Still White Guys (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Well, I still am, anyway, and I don’t see that changing.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/14/15: IRS won’t tax victims of its data breach on IRS-provided credit monitoring. And: little birds as informants?

Friday, August 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150814-1That’s sporting of them. The IRS transcript database was hacked this spring. It is offering to pay for credit monitoring to the victims of its negligence in protecting their records. Now, in its beneficence, the IRS says that the victims don’t have to pay tax on the credit monitoring:

The IRS will not assert that an individual whose personal information may have been compromised in a data breach must include in gross income the value of the identity protection services provided by the organization that experienced the data breach. Additionally, the IRS will not assert that an employer providing identity protection services to employees whose personal information may have been compromised in a data breach of the employer’s (or employer’s agent or service provider’s) recordkeeping system must include the value of the identity protection services in the employees’ gross income and wages. The IRS will also not assert that these amounts must be reported on an information return (such as Form W-2 or Form 1099-MISC) filed with respect to such individuals.

Gee, thanks, guys.

Related: Russ Fox, IRS: Free Identity Protection Services After a Data Breach Isn’t Includable in Income

 

buzz20150804It’s Friday, so it’s Buzz day at Robert D. Flach’s place, with links on topics from tracking time in activities to S corporations.

TaxGrrrl, Fix The Tax Code Friday: Letting Go Of Tax Deductions: “If we scrapped all of the deductions under the Tax Code except one, which one would you want to hold onto?”

Russ Fox, A Pseudo New Nominee for Tax Offender of the Year:

Well, he probably can’t win my coveted award of Tax Offender of the Year as the alleged crimes have nothing to do with tax. However, the alleged perpetrator is a tax attorney, so there is at least some relation to tax. Robert Howell of Cary, North Carolina is accused of attempted murder, kidnapping, and first degree burglary in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Mr. Howell is alleged to have followed his ex-girlfriend to South Carolina where he is alleged to have committed the crimes. He’s also accused of assaulting and threatening her the day before this incident in her home in Cary, North Carolina.

But the tax code doesn’t say anything about kidnapping and murder!

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 827. Poor Lois edition.

Joseph Thorndike, The Clintons Don’t Care About Tax Reform – And Neither Does Anyone Else (Tax Analysts Blog):

Clinton, in other words, is eating the seed corn of tax reform. For the sake of an appealing policy initiative, she’s cannibalizing the budgetary payoff from base broadening – and making general tax reform much less likely.

To be fair, Clinton isn’t the only improvident one. Republicans, too, are eager to raid the piggy bank of tax reform in order to pay for their own needs, specifically highway construction. Some key Democrats have also signed on to this idea.

That’s exactly why clever little tax tricks, like “patent boxes” or “incentive” tax credits, drive me nuts. They narrow the base and create another group with an interest in preserving the current awful tax system.

 

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Steven Entin, Restoring Solvency to the Social Security Retirement Program (Tax Policy Blog).

August 14th marks the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935. The program has done much to alleviate poverty among the elderly. Unfortunately, the system itself is showing its age. The Old Age and Survivors Insurance program (OASI, retirement benefits) is now running cash deficits as the baby boomers are retiring. The Disability Insurance program (DI) has been running deficits for several years, and is about to exhaust its trust fund. The recently released Trustees Report shows that only 93% of current OASI costs are covered by tax revenue, and that when the OASI trust fund runs out in 2034, benefits would have to be cut by more than 20% from projected levels. Longer term, OASI has a funding gap of four percent of payroll, meaning that would require more than a four percentage point rise in the payroll tax to close the funding gap over the next 75 years, or benefits would have to be reduced below promised levels by 27% by 2090.

Have a nice day.

 

Because it’s not his own money. Why Did Scott Walker Commit $400 Million for a Pro Basketball Arena? (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox):

But what’s really wrong is Walker’s economic analysis. He confidently calculates an enormous return on that public investment. According to The Washington Post:

“The return on investment is 3 to 1 on this, so we think this is a good, solid move as a good steward of the taxpayers’ money here in Wisconsin,” Walker said Wednesday morning after he signed the legislation. “This is just simple mathematics.”

It may be simple math, but it isn’t very good economics. And Walker ignores some important parts of the story. He didn’t have to. An April, 2013 report released by the city’s Legislative Reference Bureau did a nice job demolishing claims of big returns from similar projects.

Related: Sports Stadiums Are Bad Public Investments. So Why Are Cities Still Paying for Them? (Reason.com)

Career Corner. CPE, Booze, Jokes: That’s All You Need to Know (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

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TaxProf, Republicans Seek To Ban Unions For IRS Employees.

 

New frontiers in public service. A revenue agent from Ohio found a way to combine her day job with her side business venture, according to a report from the Ohio Inspector General. The report says the agent, a Ms. Zhang “accessed tax information for six direct competitors of her personal business on 34 separate occasions.”

Her bosses asked what was going on:

Finally, investigators asked Zhang whether or not she accessed tax records for businesses identified as being direct competitors of her own personal business.  Zhang admitted to doing so in order to create audit leads.  Zhang explained that shortly after her business opened, an unnamed individual approached her in the store and informed her that another similar business was not paying sales tax.  Based on this information, Zhang decided to conduct her own research into the matter. 

Oh, an unnamed individual. All righty, then. I was afraid a little bird told her. All for the public good, I’m sure.

 

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