Posts Tagged ‘economic development’

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.




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




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).



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



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.”



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




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.




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.




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?





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.




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!



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:


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).




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)



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:


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.


Can Iowa tax reform happen?

Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan




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.


Arnold Kling, The EITC in Practice

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




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


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.”


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.


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:




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.


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.


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.



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.




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? (

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



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.



Tax Roundup, 6/22/15: Iowa shovels more economic development fertilizer. And: Paul flat tax fever!

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


20120906-1It’s getting deep. The giant pile of tax credits for the big Lee County fertilizer plants got a little deeper last week. The Iowa Economic Development Board Friday voted for an additional $21.5 million in tax credits for the project. The Quad City Times compares that appropriation to other state spending:

Iowa’s elected legislators negotiated for five months on Iowa school funding, before reaching a compromise that provided $55 million in one-time money that will only assure the status quo: No one expects improvements.

On Friday, Gov. Terry Branstad’s Iowa Economic Development Board added another $21.5 million in tax credits to the $85 million in state incentives already lavished on a foreign fertilizer company under construction in Lee County.

No legislative vote.

No deliberation by elected officials.

Not even a hint of how this new pile of Iowa taxpayer money will help Iowans. Representatives of the parent firm Orascom, of Egypt, said the $21.5 million in tax credits will add 11 jobs to the 180 expected at the plant.

This latest giveaway brings local, state and federal taxpayer investment to $500 million in the $1.9 billion project. That’s right, taxpayers are covering 25 percent of Orascom’s project.

So almost $2 million per “job.” And that assumes they wouldn’t have completed the project without a little more cash from the state, which is improbable. That’s $21.5 million from those of us without connections at the state to fertilize an already richly-subsidized project. We can be confident that some wee portion of that $21.5 million will go to attorneys and consultants who pulled the strings to make it happen.

The state board also wasted $8 million in tax credits on ribbon cutting opportunities in Sioux City involving a convention center and hotel — which experience nationwide shows will be a fiscal nightmare. Because who better to allocate investment capital than politicians who are spending other people’s money?

Iowa’s cronyist tax credit boondoggle is long overdue for the scrapyard. It lures and subsidizes the influential and the well-lobbied at the expense of their less well-connected competitors and their employees. It’s time for something like the Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan to improve Iowa’s abysmal business tax climate for everyone — not just the cronies.




Russ Fox, Arbitrage Is Legal, But You Better Pay the Taxes. It looks at the tax troubles of a recently-indicted Tennessee politician.

Annette Nellen, Uber, Lyft and others – worker classification in the 21st Century. I used Uber over the weekend visiting my son in Chicago, and it’s pretty slick. It’s also here in Des Moines. A few weekends ago, my other son was playing music in the Court Avenue entertainment district on the street and an Uber driver stopped, got out a guitar, and started jamming with them. That doesn’t sound like an employee to me.

Kay Bell, Tax gift for Father’s Day: help paying for child care

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Adoption Credit and Special-Needs Adoptions

Peter Reilly, Joan Farr Claims IRS Denial Of Exempt Status Is Example Of Persecution Of Christians




Presidential Candidate Rand Paul has proposed a 14.5% flat tax. I haven’t had a chance to study it, but its base-broadening, rate-lowering approach is promising. The Tax Policy Blog looks at the plan in The Economic Effects of Rand Paul’s Tax Reform Plan (Andrew Lundeen, Michael Schuyler) and No, Senator Paul’s Plan Will Not ‘Blow a $15 Trillion Hole in the Federal Budget’ (Kyle Pomerleau). The second one is in response to Bob McIntyre’s post in Tax Justice Blog, Rand Paul’s Tax Plan Would Blow a $15 Trillion Hole in the Federal Budget.

Howard Gleckman, Rand Paul’s Tax Cut Isn’t Quite What It Seems (TaxVox)


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 771Day 772Day 773, Day 774.

News from the Profession. Ex-BDO CEO’s Quest to Get Firm to Pony Up for His Legal Bills Not Going So Well (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)




Tax Roundup, 6/16/15: Extreme tax preparer business development tactic fails. And: Florida man, meet Tax Whiz.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


lizard20140826Sadly, there’s plenty of tax work to go around. But not enough for Maria Colvard of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, it seems. The operator of Tax Max LLC, a tax prep service, Ms. Chambers appears to taken competition to a new level. From a Department of Justice press release (my emphasis):

According to U.S. Attorney Peter Smith, between February and May 2013, Colvard convinced an employee at Tax Max LLC, a tax preparation service owned by Colvard in Chambersburg and Hanover, Pennsylvania, to claim to be a criminal investigator with the Internal Revenue Service to shut down the rival business, known as Christina’s Tax Service, also located in Chambersburg.  The employee, Merarys Paulino, then claimed to be an IRS agent and demanded money from Christina’s Tax Service as well as its client list. Paulino previously entered a guilty plea to impersonating an IRS agent and cooperated in the prosecution of Colvard.

It’s foolproof! What could go wrong? Well, other than that a tax professional would be the least likely person in the world to believe an IRS criminal investigator would just show up without a written notice and demand cash and a client list on the spot. In Pennsylvania, as in Iowa, law enforcement folks don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

Ms. Colvard was convicted of two counts of extortion and one count of “aiding the impersonation of an employee of the United States” after a four-day trial.


Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Basic Terminology

Robert Wood, FedEx Settles Independent Contractor Mislabeling Case For $228 Million

Hank Stern, On “Losing” Subsidies. “The fact of the matter is, should SCOTUS insist that the law be applied as it was written, then folks in states using the site were never eligible to receive subsidies in the first place.”

Peter Reilly, Exchange Facilitator Does Not Beat Missouri Use Tax On Learjet. “What they learned was that a transaction that qualifies for tax deferral under federal tax principles does not necessarily avoid sales and use tax.”

Kathryn Sedo, Counsel for Ibrahim Explain Last Week’s Important Circuit Court Opinion on Filing Status (Procedurally Taxing). “The question before the 8th Circuit in Isaak Ibrahim v. Commissioner was whether the term ‘separate return’ as used in section 6013(b) is defined as return with the filing status ‘married, filing separately’ or a tax return with any other filing status other than ‘married, filing jointly.'”

Kay Bell, Houston, we could have more flood problems. “OK, how did I wake up today in my Austin house but in South Florida?”


2008 flood 1


Greg Mankiw, considering arguments made by Export-Import Bank supporters, says:

Other countries give similar subsidies to their firms. So what? If other nations engage in corporate welfare, that is no reason for the United States to follow suit in the name of a level playing field.  We don’t need to import other nations’ bad policies.

Substitute “states” for “countries” and “nations” and it is an accurate summary of the foolishness of the state tax credit “incentive” game played by Iowa economic development officials and politicians.

Jeremy Scott, Can the United States Kill BEPS? (Tax Analysts Blog). ” The United States will probably never go along with BEPS the way the rest of the world has gone along with FATCA, but in the end that probably won’t matter. The EU, India, and China will be perfectly happy to find a way to preserve their tax base without U.S. help.”  “BEPS,” by the way, stands for “Base erosion and profit shifting,” the predictable and natural response of taxpayers to pocket-picking tax authorities.

Kayla Kitson, Four Reasons to Expand and Reform the Earned Income Tax Credit (Tax Justice Blog). I don’t buy it. With 25% of its cost going to ineligible people — and no small part of that to thieves — it is at best very inefficient. The post doesn’t even mention the poverty trap created by the way the credit phases out as incomes rise.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 768. “The court filing, provided to The Daily Caller, claims the IRS received new Lerner emails from the Treasury Department’s inspector general (TIGTA) but can’t fork over the emails to Judicial Watch, a nonprofit group suing to get the emails. Why? Because the IRS is busy making sure that none of the emails are duplicates  – you know, so as not to waste anyone’s time.”

Renu Zaretsky, Raising or Cutting Taxes: Go Big or Go Home. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers presidential candidate tax pledges, as well as tax developments in Kansas, Texas, Florida, New Mexico and Massachusetts.




Florida man meets Tax Whiz. A Florida man filed a tax return prepared by the “Tax Whiz” claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The result was a $1,853 overpayment that the IRS applied to outstanding child support liabilities. The IRS later determined that he didn’t qualify for the credit because he had no qualifying educational expenses. The IRS wanted its $1,843 back.

The man argued that Tax Whiz claimed the credit unbeknownst to him, so he shouldn’t have to pay it back. The Tax Court wasn’t buying:

By his own admission petitioner did not review the return in question. Reliance on a tax return preparer cannot absolve a taxpayer from the responsibility to file an accurate return. See Metra Chem Corp. v. Commissioner, 88 T.C. 654, 662 (1987) (“As a general rule, the duty of filing accurate returns cannot be avoided by placing responsibility on a tax return preparer.”). Even if Tax Whiz may have claimed the credit without his knowledge, petitioner is still responsible for the resulting deficiency.

The moral? Not a surprising result.  You are responsible for what goes on your return, no matter how much, or how little, you pay your preparer. More surprising is that the taxpayer’s first and middle name is listed as “William Billy.”  I’ve never seen that one.

Cite: Devy, T.C. Memo 2015-110.




Tax Roundup, 6/4/15: Iowa session-end frenzy: What if a young farmer drives his ATV to the laundromat?

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1291Sound tax policy? What’s that? Three minor tax bills advanced in the Iowa General Assembly yesterday in the pre-adjournment frenzy. They are all examples of the pursuit of tax legislation unmoored from consideration of sound tax policy.

ATVs. Iowa farmers don’t have to pay sales tax on equipment used “directly and primarily” in the production of agricultural products. The Iowa Department of Revenue holds that the exemption doesn’t apply to general-purpose all-terrain vehicles used to get around the farm — say, to check on crops or livestock (or, incidentally, to go to the good pheasant-hunting spots). The Iowa Senate passed SF 512 yesterday to exempt ATVs “used primarily in agricultural production” from sales tax.

Too bad this isn’t part of a broader movement to exempt all business inputs from sales tax. To the extent that ATVs are a business input, exempting them from sales tax is good policy. I suspect, though, that everyteenage farm boy will have an ATV used primarily in agriculture.

Young Farmers. HF 624 makes minor changes in the tax credit available for custom farming contracts with beginning farmers. No amount of tax credits will change the fundamental difficulties involved in getting into farming. It’s a capital-intensive business that has been consolidating for over a century into larger and more expensive units. This bill isn’t that big a deal, but “Young Farmer” tax credits have no more policy justification than “Young Factory Owner” credits or “Young Cold Storage Warehouse Operator” credits.

20140611-2To the cleaners. Probably the worst tax policy to advance yesterday was HF 603, which excludes the use “self-pay” washing machines from sales tax. While business inputs should not be subject to sales tax, all final consumer expenditures should be. A broader base enables lower rates for everyone. O. Kay Henderson reports on this break:

Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, has met with a couple from St. Ansgar who sold their laundromats in Iowa and opened coin-operated laundromats in Minnesota, which does not charge the sales tax.

“The other part of this is just economic development in general,” Byrnes says. “We have a company that manufactures self-pay units in Fairfield, Iowa, called Dexter and actually they’re looking at some expansion and growth of their company I believe that this will help them get over that hump and help to further their business as well.”

You can make the same “economic development” argument for pretty much anything manufactured in Iowa, including the home laundry machines historically made by Iowa manufacturers Maytag and Amana. It takes a leap of faith to think this will sell even one additional washing machine.





Joseph Henchman, Illinois Governor Suspends New Film Tax Credits, Makes Other Spending Cuts (Tax Policy Blog):

With the two sides at a stalemate, Rauner announced that he is issuing administrative orders to cut $400 million in spending wherever he can. Including:

  • Immediate suspension of all future incentive offers to companies for business attraction and retention, including EDGE credits and the film tax credit program. Commitments already made will be honored.

Unilateral disarmament in the incentive wars is actually doing a big favor for Illinois taxpayers. Those credits enable the well-connected to pick the pockets of the rest of the taxpayers. It is excellent public policy. I hope Iowa decides it needs to ditch its crony tax credits to compete with Illinois.


Jason Dinesen, Are HRAs Always Appropriate for Sole Proprietors? Part 2. “HRAs are often — but not always — a good strategy for sole proprietors. Here are some numbers that lay it out.”

Robert Wood, Another Tax-Exempt Marijuana Church—Green Faith Ministry

Kay Bell, IRS working with tax industry, states to upgrade security


Dean Zerbe, Tax Court Decision – Good News For Whistleblowers (Procedurally Taxing). “This decision and the actions of the IRS in this case are not going to make administration of the IRS whistleblower program easier – and could have easily been prevented by the IRS.”

Jack Townsend, Whistleblower Case Apparently Involving Wegelin. “Perhaps most interesting for many readers of this blog is that the underlying criminal prosecution and guilty plea appears to involve Wegelin Bank, the Swiss Bank that met its demise for its U.S. tax cheat enabler activities.”



Renu Zaretsky, There’s Always Room for Improvement. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the IRS data breach, climate-change tax promises, and charitable tax deduction policy, among other things.

Kelly Davis, Kansas Considers Tax Hikes on the Poor to Address Budget Mess (Tax Justice Blog).


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 756




So tell me again how IRS regulation of preparers will fight fraud? IRS Employee Files Hundreds of Fraudulent Tax Returns:

The former IRS worker, 38-year-old Demetria Michele Brown, stole names, birth dates and social security numbers, and provided false information about wages, deductions, addresses and workplaces in order to obtain the refunds.

The documents were filed from her computer and the money returned by the IRS was sent to bank accounts controlled by Brown, St. Louis newspaper reports.

According to prosecutors, the fraudster carried out the activity from 2008 until 2011 and collected $326,000 / €290,000.

I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened if she had to take an ethics exam.



Tax Roundup, 6/3/15: Oh, THAT million-dollar rent payment. And: the IRS data breach is on management, not budget.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


Flickr image courtesy John Snape under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy John Snape under Creative Commons license

Pay me now, tax me now. A real estate operator agreed to build and lease a building to a tenant, a plasma collection center. The 10-year lease had a provision allowing the tenant to buy down monthly payments by reimbursing the landlord development costs. In 2008, the tenant chose to pay $1 million to the landlord under this lease clause.

Getting a $1 million payment can complicate your tax planning. Tax Court Judge Ruwe explains the simple approach used by the landlord on the joint return he filed:

Petitioners jointly filed a Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for 2008. On one of the Schedules E attached to the return petitioners reported rents received of $1,151,493 in connection with the plasma collection center rental. Among the deductions that petitioners claimed on this Schedule E was a $1 million “contribution to construct” expense.

The IRS disagreed, saying that the taxpayer should have reported the amount as rent without the “contribution to construct” deduction.

When it got to Tax Court, the taxpayer dropped the deduction argument and instead argued, first, that the $1 million payment wasn’t income in the first place, but an expense reimbursement. The Tax Court said that the use of the payment to buy down rent payments was fatal to that argument.

The taxpayer then argued that the rental income should be spread over 10 years under the “rent levelling” rules of Section 467. This often-overlooked section was enacted to prevent games like tenants front-loading rent deductions via prepayments to tax-indifferent landlords. Judge Ruwe provides some background (some citations omitted):

Congress enacted section 467 to prevent lessors and lessees from mismatching the reporting of rental income and expenses.  Section 467 provides accrual methods for allocating rents pursuant to a “section 467 rental agreement”. In order to qualify as a section 467 rental agreement, an agreement must have: (1) increasing/decreasing rents or deferred/prepaid rents and (2) aggregate rental payments exceeding $250,000.  Both parties agree that the lease in this case qualifies as a section 467 rental agreement.

The court held that the lease didn’t “allocate” the $1 million payment across the ten-year lease term:

Petitioners argue that they should be permitted to use the constant rental accrual method provided in section 467(b)(2) in order to spread their rental income to other years. However, this method is inapplicable because it was intended to allow the Commissioner to rectify tax avoidance situations, and the regulations provide that this method “may not be used in the absence of a determination by the Commissioner”.

That’s a tool for the IRS, not for you, silly taxpayer!

dimeThe court also held that the rent was not “prepaid rent” that could be deferred over the lease term:

In applying this regulation to the facts of this case we first find that the lease in question does not “specifically allocate” fixed rent to any rental period within the meaning of section 1.467-1(c)(2)(ii)(A), Income Tax Regs. However, the lease does provide for a fixed amount of rent payable during the rental period (i.e., rent payable pursuant to the terms of the lease). Accordingly, in the absence of a “specific” allocation in the rental agreement, the amount of rent payable in 2008 must be allocated to petitioners’ 2008 rental period pursuant to section 1.467-1(c)(2)(ii)(B), Income Tax Regs., which provides that “the amount of fixed rent allocated to a rental period is the amount of fixed rent payable during that rental period.” Therefore, petitioners are required to include as gross income the entire $1 million lump-sum payment made pursuant to the terms of the lease for the year of receipt, 2008.

The Moral? Heads they win, tails you lose, when you aren’t extremely careful drafting a funky lease. Section 467 is obscure and, I suspect, frequently overlooked. It usually doesn’t matter, as most leases don’t get fancy. When they do, though — especially when you see big payment variances — you need to pay attention. The tax results may surprise.


TaxProf, TIGTA: IRS Ignored Recommended Security Upgrades That Would Have Prevented Last Week’s Hack Of 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts. Prof. Caron quotes the Washington Post:

A government watchdog told lawmakers Tuesday that the Internal Revenue Service has failed to put in place dozens of security upgrades to fight cyberattacks, improvements he said would have made it “much more difficult” for hackers to gain access to the personal information of 104,000 taxpayers in the spring.

“It would have been much more difficult if they had implemented all of the recommendations we made,” J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, told the Senate Finance Committee at a hearing on the data breach, which the IRS says was part of an elaborate scheme to claim fraudulent tax refunds.

Identity theft has been a neglected problem at the IRS for years. Billions of dollars have been lost both to petty Florida grifters and to “a worldwide criminal syndicate” taking advantage of IRS laxity. Yet the last two commissioners (and, sadly, the Taxpayer Advocate) have spent more effort trying to set up a preparer regulation scheme that would do nothing to stop fraud — but would increase IRS power and the market share of the big franchise preparers. Priorities.

And it’s not a matter of a pinched budget. Ask Commissioner Koskinen (via Tax Analysts, $link): “Koskinen acknowledged before the Finance Committee that the Get Transcript security breach was not a matter of resources, and thus budget, but of management.”



Russ Fox, The BEA Responds, or Making IRS Customer Service Look Normal (Bad). Russ reports that BEA has extended the deadline for its mandatory “survey” of foreign business ownership to June 30 for most filers.

Peter Reilly, Failure To File Texas Franchise Tax Form Voids Lawsuit. Sometimes ignoring a state tax filing can bite you in a surprising place.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Changes Position On Identity Theft, Will Provide Copies Of Returns To Victims. “Thanks to an inquiry from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), IRS will now provide victims of identity theft with copies of the fraudulent tax returns filed using their personal and financial information.”

Robert Wood, If You Handle Cash, IRS Can Seize First, Ask Questions Later. “Even if your bank/cash efforts come from 100% legal money, the IRS says it still  [c]an seize it.”

IJim Maule, Where’s the Promised Trickle-Over? Another example of the illusory nature of the benefits of publicly-funded pro sports venues.

Keith Fogg, Tax Court Continues to Take the Same “Angle” on Attorney’s Fees When IRS Concedes the Case. “I continue to find this line of cases to contradict the purpose of the statute.  Particularly for those of us representing low-income taxpayers where the amount of tax at issue is low but the amount of time spent to prepare a case for trial not inconsequential, this loophole is swallowing the rule.”

Jack Townsend, Third Circuit Reverses Variance to One Day from Guidelines Range of 63 to 78 Months. Apparently one day isn’t close enough to 63 months.

Tony Nitti, Will Caitlyn Jenner’s Gender Reassignment Costs Be Tax Deductible?



David Brunori, Amazon Does the Right Thing (Tax Analysts Blog):

Shakopee was prepared to provide direct incentives to Amazon. But Amazon told Shakopee it didn’t want them. That’s right — Amazon said no to the tax incentives being offered.

Good. Why?

I would like to think Amazon is being a good corporate citizen, but I really like the idea that it may have backed off because of potential political opposition to the incentives. Only politicians can stop the scourge of incentives. So if political hassles lead to fewer tax incentives, let’s have more political hassles.


Megan Scarboro, New Hampshire Considering Cuts to Corporate Tax Rate (Tax Policy Blog):

While New Hampshire generally has a good tax code, a tax cut for businesses could improve the state’s economic climate.

Because the state has no tax on wage income or general sales, New Hampshire is ranks 7th overall in our State Business Tax Climate Index, but a notable weakness is that high corporate rates drive a ranking of 48th in the corporate tax rate component.

In case you are wondering, Iowa is #50.

Jeremy Scott, Republican Support for Brownback’s Tax Plan Begins to Erode (Tax Analysts Blog).


Howard Gleckman, What’s Up With the No Climate Tax Pledge?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 755


Career Corner. Study: Faking Long Hours Is Just As Good As Working Long Hours (Greg Kyte, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 5/21/15: Credits targeting what you would do anyway! And: minimum wage, ACA, and lots more.

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan


IMG_0603Paying people to do what they would do anyway. Rhode Island is proposing a new credit for “job creators,” reports David Brunori:

It would work the same way other bad tax incentive programs work: A company that creates new jobs in the state would receive a reduction in its income tax. The proposal mirrors a bill introduced earlier this year. Basically, the bill, if signed into law, would reduce the tax rate for companies that hire full-time employees in Rhode Island who work at least 30 hours per week and receive a salary that is at least 250 percent of the prevailing hourly minimum wage in the state. Large companies would be eligible for a 0.25 percent tax incentive off their net income tax rate for every 50 new hires. Smaller companies would be eligible for a 0.25 percent incentive off their personal income tax for every 10 new hires. The rate reduction would be limited to a maximum of 6 percentage points for the applicable income tax rate and to no more than 3 percentage points for the applicable personal income tax rate. Complicated? You bet. But that’s why law firms like the incentive business.

Statewide employment is expected to grow in Rhode Island in the next several years without the political gimmicks of tax incentives. So this bill is unnecessary (no one thinks the incentives will lead to growth greater than what’s expected). In other words, there is no incentive being provided; the state is just making a welfare payment.

This is true of all “job creation” credits. As David points out: “No sane business owner will hire someone for $40,000 simply to save $4,000 on her tax bill. This bill will not create one new job in Rhode Island.”

An Illinois representative has proposed a “Patriot Employer Tax Credit Act,” (Tax Analysts, $link) with a tax credit of up to $1,500 for employers who:

-Invest in American Jobs: Does not move its headquarters overseas or reduce the number or percentage of U.S.-based workers in comparison to workers overseas.

-Pay Fair Wages: Pay 90% or more of U.S. workers an hourly wage of at least $15 per hour.

-Provide Quality Health Insurance: Offer ACA-compliant healthcare to employees.

-Prepare Workers for Retirement: Provide 90% of non-highly compensated U.S. employees a defined benefit plan OR a defined contribution plan and contribute at least 5% of worker compensation.

-Support Our Troops and Veterans: Pay the difference between regular salary and military compensation for all National Guard and Reserve employees called for active duty and have a plan in place to recruit veterans.

-Create a Diverse Workforce: Have a plan in place to recruit employees with disabilities.

By claiming the word “patriot,” it wraps bad economics in the flag. Because nothing says “I love my country” like tax credits.


20150423-1Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Health Savings Accounts: Beneficiaries and Taxes (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “As HSAs become more common, it is important to consider the HSA in various capacities, including in premarital agreements, death, and divorce.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: In Order To Convert A Home To A Rental, You Should Probably Rent It

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: AMT.

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayer’s Call To IRS Accidentally Broadcast On Howard Stern’s Radio Show. I’m just amazed the caller reached an actual IRS agent.

Peter Reilly, Tax Girl Challenges Homeownership And You Should Really Listen To Her. “To many of us homeownership is a necessary step in becoming a full-fledged adult and a house that is rented can never be a home.  This book might help you rethink that attitude.”

Jim Maule, The Dependency Exemption Parental Tie-Breaker Rule. “Under the parental tie breaker rule in section 152(c)(4)(B), if the parents claiming a dependency exemption deduction for a qualifying child do not file a joint return, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the parent with whom the child resided for the longest period of time during the taxable year, or if the child resides with both parents for the same amount of time during the taxable year, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the parent with the highest adjusted gross income.”

Paul Neiffer, April 18 (or 19), 2016 is Due Date for 2015 tax returns

Jack Townsend, Remaining Swiss Bank Criminal Investigations Likely to Go Into 2016

Robert Wood, Appalling $187 Million Cancer Charity Fraud Case Settles — When 97% Of Money Isn’t For Charity

Keith Fogg, Argument Over Furlough of National Taxpayer Advocate Set for June 2 Before the Federal Circuit (Procedurally Taxing)





Cara Griffith, Tax Reform Laboratories (Tax Analysts Blog). “Federal lawmakers could learn a lot from an examination of what has worked and what hasn’t across the nation.”


Insureblog, Dear HHS, Will You Share My ACA Success Story?:

  So how has this Obamacare thingy helped my small company:-We have seen an overall decrease in benefits since 2010.
-From November 2010 to our current plan year premiums have increased 58.7%.
-If we would have been forced to an Obamacare compliant plan the increase would have been 116.7%

Tom Vander Well, Placing customers on hold without diminishing satisfaction ( The suggestions do not endorse the IRS practice of “courtesy disconnects.”


Carl Davis, Sweet Sixteen: States Continue to Take On Gas Tax Reform (Tax Justice Blog). To the Tax Justice folks, tax reform = tax increase.


Joseph Thorndike, Republicans Should Embrace the Gas Tax – After All, They Invented It (Tax Analysts Blog). Everyone loves being told what they “should” like.


Kay Bell, Will Congress OK highway money before it hits the road?


Elaine Maag, A Redesigned Earned Income Tax Credit Could Encourage Work by Childless Adults. (TaxVox). Only if they can re-design it so that it doesn’t squander 25% of the cost on improper payments.




Megan McArdle, $15 Minimum Wage Will Hurt Workers. A well-explained post explaining what should be obvious:

When the minimum wage goes up, owners do not en masse shut down their restaurants or lay off their staff. What is more likely to happen is that prices will rise, sales will fall off somewhat, and owner profits will be somewhat reduced. People who were looking at opening a fast food or retail or low-wage manufacturing concern will run the numbers and decide that the potential profits can’t justify the risk of some operations. Some folks who have been in the business for a while will conclude that with reduced profits, it’s no longer worth putting their hours into the business, so they’ll close the business and retire or do something else. Businesses that were not very profitable with the earlier minimum wage will slip into the red, and they will miss their franchise payments or loan installments and be forced out of business. Many owners who stay in business will look to invest in labor saving technology that can reduce their headcount, like touch-screen ordering or soda stations that let you fill your own drinks.

These sorts of decisions take a while to make. They still add up, in the end, to deadweight loss — that is, along with a net transfer of money from owners and customers to employees, there will also simply be fewer employees in some businesses. The workers who are dropped have effectively gone from $9 an hour to $0 an hour.

Most people who insist that minimum wage increases are harmless snicker at those who believe in “intelligent design.” Yet they are themselves trying to impose their own design on an eveolutionary system. At least creationists don’t claim to be designing species.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 742


News from the Profession. Accountants Lack Some Skills (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “But it’s foolish to expect accounting graduates to have skills for corporate accounting. They don’t have them because they don’t learn them in school and they don’t learn them in public accounting.”



Tax Roundup, 5/19/15: Is yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision an Iowa refund opportunity? And AICPA looks for love!

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
The Hoover Office Building, the warm and cuddly home of the Iowa Department of Revenue.

The Hoover Office Building, the warm and cuddly home of the Iowa Department of Revenue.

Time for Iowans to claim refunds for local income taxes paid out-of-state? The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled that Maryland was required to allow its residents credit for taxes paid in other states.

State tax systems normally tax resident individuals on 100% of their taxable income. They tax non-residents on only the share of income apportioned or allocated to the state. In order to keep their residents from being clobbered by multiple state income taxes, the states typically allow them a “credit for taxes paid in other states.” This is, roughly, the lesser of the tax paid to the other state or the resident state tax computed on the out-of-state income.

Maryland failed to allow a credit for taxes paid in other states for the “county” portion of its individual income tax. The U.S. Supreme court ordered Maryland to issue such a credit to the plaintiffs, who had out-of-state S corporation income.

Iowa allows a credit for taxes paid in other states, but does not allow such a credit for taxes paid in municipalities or counties. These taxes can be significant. Many Iowans pay taxes in New York City, Kansas City, St. Louis, or Washington, D.C., for example. Many Ohio municipalities also impose income taxes. While the Supreme Court decision doesn’t specifically address such taxes, the court’s logic that double-taxes discriminate against interstate commerce would seem to apply here. A Tax Analysts article ($link) on the decision notes (my emphasis):

Local governments filed an amicus brief  saying Wynne may have implications and that there are many states with long-established tax programs like Maryland’s that do not afford dollar-for-dollar credits to residents for all out-of-state income taxes paid.

That brief identified Wisconsin and North Carolina as states that do not allow a credit against local income taxes, as well as a number of local governments that fail to provide a credit for state taxes paid against local taxes, including Philadelphia; Cleveland; Detroit; Indiana’s counties; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis; and Wilmington, Delaware.

I have emailed an Iowa Department of Revenue representative asking how they will respond to the case, and will report whatever I may hear back from them. Meanwhile, taxpayers who extended their 2011 Iowa returns and paid municipal taxes elsewhere should consider filing protective refund claims while their statutue of limitations remains open.

The TaxProf has a roundup of coverage.


supreme courtMore coverage:

Joseph Henchman, A Victory for Taxpayers: SCOTUS Strikes down Maryland Tax Law (Tax Policy Blog). “This is important not just for one Maryland business, but for anyone who does business in more than one state, travels in more than one state, or lives in one state and works in another.”

Howard Gleckman, A Divided Supreme Court Rejects Maryland’s Tax On Out-Of-State Income (TaxVox). “But given the closeness of the decision and the wide gulf between the majority and the minority, today’s ruling may not be the last word in the argument over whether, and how, states can tax out-of-state income.”

Russ Fox, A Wynne for the Dormant Commerce Clause. “This case also highlights the difficulties facing a taxpayer without deep pockets.”

TaxGrrrl, In Landmark Case, Supreme Court Finds Maryland’s Tax Scheme Unconstitutional. “In the end, it all came down to this: “the total tax burden on interstate commerce is higher” under Maryland’s current tax scheme. That double taxation scheme, the Court found, is unconstitutional.”

Kay Bell, Supreme Court tax ruling could cost Maryland $200+ million. Wheneer a taxing authority gets caught imposing an illegal tax, they always moan about how terrible it will be to repay their ill-gotten gains. I’ll give them the same sympathy they typically give a taxpayer who loses a fight with them.





Bloomberg, Iowa Spent $50 Million to Lure IBM. Then the Firings Started. That was $50 million paid by other Iowa businesses and their employees, money they could have used to grow businesses that might not have fled.


Jason Dinesen, Why Make Estimated Tax Payments, Part 2. “Here’s the reason: if you’re fully self-employed, you don’t draw a paycheck in the traditional sense.

Paul Neiffer, What Runs Through the Estate! “In many cases, the heirs will use the cost basis from grandpa and not pick up the extra cost from mom and dad.”

Robert D. Flach comes through with fresh Tueesday Buzz, including thoughts on the use of the tax law as a welfare program.

William Perez, 10 Emerging Financial Technology Apps with a Tax-Angle




Peter ReillyFree Kent Hovind Movement Has Big Win. ” Judge Margaret Casey Rodgers has granted Kent Hovind’s motion for a judgment of acquittal on the contempt of court charge that he was convicted of in March.”

Robert Wood, U2’s Bono Sounds Increasingly Like Warren Buffett. That’s OK, pitch correction software can do amazing things.

Andy Grewal, The Un-Precedented Tax Court: Bench Opinions (Procedurally Taxing). “Opinions can’t cause a lot of confusion if no one can find them.”


Martin Sullivan, As in Florida, Rubio Pursues ‘Big, Hairy’ Goals in the U.S. Senate (Tax Analysts Blog).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 740. Today’s post is a useful corrective to the persistent scandal denialists.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. AICPA Wants CGMA Love From the C-Suite (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).


Tax Roundup, 5/13/15: Des Moines tries to speed through a red light. And: Tax Expert, heal thyself.

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

DNo Walnut STes Moines plans to sue to keep revenue camera revenue flowing. The Des Moines tax on unwary out-of-town motorists driving past Waveland Golf Course lost another battle yesterday.  The Iowa Department of Transportation turned down the city’s appeal of the Departments order to shut down the city’s freeway speed cameras (Des Moines Register)

As seems to be the practice when it imposes an illegal tax, the City now plans to blow a bunch of money on lawyers rather than obey the law, reports the Register:

Des Moines will appeal the ruling to district court, officials said.

Iowa is the only state in the United States that has permanent speed enforcement cameras on its interstate highways, according to the DOT, which in late 2013 adopted new rules governing the use of the devices on or next to state highways.

A few years ago Des Moines was caught imposing an illegal franchise tax on its residents’ utility bills. Rather than apologizing abjectly and refunding the ill-gotten gains, it appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, losing every step of the way. In the end it had to repay the tax, the city lawyers, and the taxpayer lawyers for a bunch of pointless litigation. The city still seems to favor that approach.


Flickr image by Ano Lobb under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image by Ano Lobb under Creative Commons license.

The cobbler’s children go barefoot. Mr. Hughes, a U.S. Citizen, had a successful career at one of international accounting firm KPMG. Tax Court Judge Wherry tells of an impressive career arc (my emphasis):

During his tenure at KPMG Mr. Hughes rose through the ranks and moved among KPMG’s international offices. Between September 1979 and 1994 he worked in the firm’s international tax group in Houston, Chicago, and Toronto, earning promotions from staff accountant to manager, from manager to senior manager, and finally, in 1986, to partner. During this period his duties shifted from preparing corporate and partnership Federal income tax returns to advising clients, particularly publicly traded corporations. Mr. Hughes also began to specialize in the international aspects of subchapter C of the Code and cross-border transactions, particularly mergers and acquisitions (M&A). He returned to the Chicago office and continued with his transactional work for publicly traded corporations.

A key aspect of M&A work is gain recognition and the basis consequences of transactions.  Transactions like this:

During 1999 KPMG spun off its consulting business to a newly formed corporation, KCI. The firm retained a direct equity stake of approximately 20% of KCI’s outstanding shares, and these shares were specially allocated among KPMG’s partners, including Mr. Hughes (K-1 shares), in January 2000. KPMG caused KCI to issue shares representing the remaining 80% of its equity to KPMG’s partners, including Mr. Hughes, who received 95,467 shares of KCI stock (founders’ shares) on January 31, 2000. Mr. Hughes did not contribute funds to KPMG in connection with KCI’s formation. He took zero bases in the founders’ shares.

So far, so good. Mr. Hughes along the way married a U.K. national and gave shares to his wife. There things begin to get a little foggy. The shares were sold at a time the couple resided in the U.S. , and the taxpayers did not claim full proceeds in income, on the grounds that the recipient spouse received a tax-free step-up in basis when she received the shares in the U.K. After clearing away some fog, the Judge lays out the remaining issues:

The first two are: (1) whether Mr. Hughes transferred ownership of the KCI shares to Mrs. Hughes, and (2) if so, whether Mrs. Hughes took bases greater than zero in the KCI shares. For petitioners to prevail, we must answer both questions affirmatively.

20120511-2When you give shares, or anything else, to a spouse who is a U.S. citizen, Sec. 1041 applies to provide that no gain is recognized and basis carries over. Sec. 1041 doesn’t apply to non-U.S. spouses. The Tax Court explains what happens:

Where, as here, an interspousal property transfer takes the form of a gift, no gain is realized, so regardless of whether section 1041(a) applies, there is no gain to be recognized…

The donee, on the other hand, realizes an economic gain upon receipt of a gift. His or her wealth increases by the value of the gift. But for tax purposes section 102(a) excludes this gain from the donee’s gross income. To preserve the U.S.’ ability to tax any unrecognized gain in property that is the subject of the gift, section 1015(a) sets the donee’s basis in the property equal to the lesser of the donor’s basis (or that of “the last preceding owner by whom it was not acquired by gift”) or if there is unrecognized loss, then for loss purposes, the property’s fair market value.

The taxpayer, who doubtless guided many clients through harrowing cross-border M&A deals unscathed, failed to achieve that on his own return. The court ruled that not only did he owe additional tax, but also a 40% “gross valuation misstatement penalty”:

Given his extensive knowledge of and experience with U.S. tax law, Mr. Hughes should have realized that the conclusion he reached — that the KCI shares’ bases would be stepped up to fair market value, such that the built-in gain in those shares would never be subject to tax in either the United States or the United Kingdom — was too good to be true.


Cite: Hughes, T.C. Memo 2014-89


Locust Street, Des Moines

Locust Street, Des Moines


Paul Neiffer, “Cost don’t Matter, Except When it Does”

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 8: 1920s Court Battles

TaxGrrrl, 11 Reasons Why I Never Want To Own A House Again

Calling Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge producer pleads guilty to film tax credit fraud (

Baton Rouge producer pleads guilty to film tax credit fraud:

“Louisiana’s film tax credit program cannot function as intended when people are constantly defrauding it,” said Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street. “We are continuing to do everything we can to make sure there are criminal consequences when that happens, and today’s guilty plea is the latest example of that.”

Au contraire, as the Cajuns might say. I think that’s pretty much exactly how these things are intended to function.

Kay Bell, Duck Dynasty’s Louisiana state tax credits could be winged


David Brunori, A Flat Income Tax is a Good Thing (Tax Analysts Blog). “Every — and I mean every — tax commission that has ever opined on good tax policy has called for a tax system built on a broad base and low rates.”




Howard Gleckman, Is the GOP’s Enthusiasm for Tax Cuts Going the Way of American Idol? A question answered “no” since at least 1981.

Andy Grewal, The Un-Precedented Tax Court: Part I (Procedurally Taxing) ” Although the court purportedly exercises the judicial power (more on that in a later post), most of its work product is not judge-like.  That is, the Tax Court decides most of its cases as an administrative office would, without setting precedent.”


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 734, featuring Peter Reilly’s IRS Not Grossly Negligent In Disclosure Of Exempt Application. High standards, not.


Jeremy Scott, Unexpected Tory Victory Has Major Ramifications for Europe (Tax Analysts Blog). “Defying polls, pollsters, and the specter of a hopelessly fractured Parliament, the Conservatives won a resounding victory in the U.K. election last week.” Just note that I arrived in Scotland with Labour leading the Tories 41-1 in Scotland. By the time I landed in Des Moines, the Tories held the same number of Scottish seats as Labour. No wonder I felt so tired.


Graphic from BBC


News from the Profession. Grant Thornton Not Gonna Let Some Rich Guy Drag Its Good Name Through the Mud and Get Away With It (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 5/11/15: Returned, recovering, and ranting! Sales taxes, tax credits for special friends pondered by Iowa legislature.

Monday, May 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


IMG_0983I am back from overseas, and somewhat recovered from a nasty bug that hit me just before it was time to come home. So much to catch up on — if I don’t link your post today, I might get it later this week, as I dig out.

I was saddened to learn that the Iowa legislature is still in session. David Brunori reports ($link) on a proposal to allow Des Moines to vote on increasing its own sales tax without participation of its neighbors:

Iowa Rep. Tom Sands (R), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, has introduced legislation that would allow greater Des Moines communities to ask voters to approve a 1 percent local option sales tax. I have written about this issue a lot over the years. The reality is that while there are sound reasons for imposing a local option sales tax, the problems far outweigh the benefits.

When Des Moines adopts this tax, the folks who shop in the city will pay. But many of them don’t live within the city limits. It will be people in the surrounding suburbs and rural areas who pay some of the tax. That’s great for Des Moines, but not so good for other jurisdictions. I am unsure why a legislator from a rural area — or even an area without significant retail — would support this measure. Their citizens will pay but won’t see the benefits.

Well, it’s just another example of the delight Des Moines politicians take in picking the pockets of non-voters (Exhibit A: freeway speed cameras). But remembering the result of the last sales tax increase vote in the area — crushed by a 85% “no” vote — I don’t think the municipal highwaymen should count their sales tax loot just yet.


Politicians call for more subsidies for their well-connected friends, from your pockets. Iowa leaders call for biochemical tax credits for ethanol, biodiesel (Sioux City Journal).


Andrew Lundeen, Pass-through Businesses Employ Most of the Private Sector Workforce (Tax Policy Blog).



“Pass-though” businesses are those taxed on owner 1040s. When you tax high income individuals, there is no escaping that you are reducing funds available for the nations principal employers to hire and expand.


William Perez, Your Guide to the 6 Types of Business for Federal Tax Purposes. “Entrepreneurs can set up their small business as a sole proprietorship, corporation, S-corporation, partnership, non-profit organization, Limited Liability Company, Limited Liability Partnership, and in some states a Professional Limited Liability Company/Partnership.”

Jason Dinesen, Why Make Estimated Tax Payments, Part 1. “People who are new to self-employment are often confused about what estimated tax payments are and why they might need to make these payments.”

Kay Bell, A Mother’s Day tax gift: 10 child care tax credit tips

TaxGrrrl, 11 Things I’ve Learned About Tax From My Mom

Leslie Book, On Mother’s Day Cowan Case Highlights Unfairness of Family Status Tax Rules

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Get Too Greedy! And however greedy you get, you need to follow the appraisal rules if you want to deduct a property donation.

Jack Townsend discusses a Sentencing for Failure to Pay Over Trust Fund Taxes. If you don’t remit withheld payroll taxes, thinking that you are just “borrowing” it, your “interest” might include prison time.

Peter Reilly, Home Schooling Contingency Does Not Kill Alimony Deduction

Robert D. Flach, WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN WRITING TO THE IRS. Not a speedy resolution.



Andrew Mitchel, The Exodus Continues (2015 1st Quarter Published Expatriates).

We began tracking expatriations in late 2009 because we anticipated that the number of expatriations would increase as a result of changes in U.S. tax laws and due to “saber rattling” by the IRS about the imposition of potential penalties in the wake of the UBS scandal.  Our prediction has been accurate.

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC


Robert Wood, New Un-American Record: Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

Me, An obscure tax deadline that could cost you big. A discussion of the looming FBAR deadline.



Kristine Tidgren, Minnesota Producers Impacted by Avian Flu Granted Extra Time to File and Pay Taxes (ISU-CALT Ag Docket)

Hank Stern at Insureblog notes that May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month. Given the stakes, and the relatively low price, it’s shocking that 57% of working adults have no coverage.

Annette Nellen, Narrow exemptions cause inefficiency, inequity and complexity – HR 867 and S. 1179. But they are such a great way to get lobbyists to come to your summer golf fund-raisers.




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 732. “Every time we turn around we get more emails.” Two years, and Commissioner Koskinen is still tired of your complaining.

Russ Fox,730:

The IRS’s budget isn’t going to be increased until the root cause of the IRS scandal is known. That’s a fact. It’s now been over 730 days (Monday will be day 732) that the scandal has been ongoing. If a Republican wins the White House in 2016, we’ll likely know what happened by day 1460. Otherwise, who knows.

The day Commissioner Koskinen resigns is the first day the IRS might start to figure it out.


Cara Griffith, Learn to Love the Property Tax — It’s Not So Bad (Tax Analysts Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Congress Has Not Passed A 2016 Budget. It Has Only Begun The Process.


Career Corner. The Monthly Close: White Collar Crime Should Be a Fun and Scary Surprise (Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 4/9/15: April 15 is also a day-trader deadline. And: Grant 1, Lee 0.

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

daydrinkersTechnology has made made sophisticated stock trading tools that exchange floor pros once could only dream of available to every home. It has democratized the ability to make, and lose, money playing the markets.

It can be tempting to chuck the desk job and run off with Maria Bartiromo and TD Ameritrade. Sadly, more than one trader has emerged from the relationship with nothing to show for it but a lifetime of capital loss carryforwards.

That’s where today’s filing season tip comes in. If you qualify as a “trader,” April 15 is your deadline for choosing whether to make the “mark-to-market election” on your trading positions for 2015. If you don’t qualify as a trader, you can’t make the election.

If you make the mark-to-market election, you are required to recognize all of your open positions at year-end on your tax return as if you had cashed them out. More importantly, all of your gains and losses are ordinary, rather than capital.

That may seem like an inherently bad idea. Aren’t capital gains taxed at a lower rate? Yes, they are, but only if they are long-term, on assets held for over one year. That’s not the kind of gain day-traders are going for. Short-term gains are taxed at the same rates as ordinary income.

Ordinary losses, on the other hand, are a good thing. Well, on your tax return, anyway, if not in any other way. While individual capital losses are deductible only against capital gains, plus $3,000 per year, ordinary losses are fully deductible, and can even generate loss carrybacks.

That makes the mark-to-market election useful for day traders. They give up capital gain treatment that they can’t use anyway, and if they have a bad year — and many beginners do — they at least get to deduct all of their losses. For example, a famous trial lawyer who left the bar for day trading used the mark-to-market election to deduct $25 million in losses.

It’s already too late to make the election, also known as the “Section 475(f) election, for 2014. But you have until April 15 to make the election for 2015. You make the election either with either an unextended 2014 1040 or with the Form 4868 extension for the 2014 return. You may not make the election on an extended 1040.

The election is made on a statement with the following information:

  1. That you are making an election under section 475(f);
  2. The first tax year for which the election is effective; and
  3. The trade or business for which you are making the election.

So if you are spending your days with CNBC and your trading program, you might want to hedge your tax risks by making a 2015 475(f) election by April 15.

Related: The lure of a Sec. 475 election (Journal of Accountancy)

This is another of our series of 2015 Filing Season Tips — one daily through April 15!


Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #3: Just Don’t File


Flickr image courtesy Easa Shamih under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Easa Shamih under Creative Commons license

Tax Court judges can do math too.We talked last week about the need to properly document charitable deductions.  The Tax Court talked about it yesterday, disallowing claimed deductions of $37,315 for lack of substantiation — most of it for purported contributions of household goods. From the decision:

Petitioners did not provide to the IRS or the Court a “contemporaneous written acknowledgment” from any of the four charitable organizations. Petitioners produced no acknowledgment of any kind from the Church or Goodwill. And the doorknob hangers left by the truck drivers from Vietnam Veterans and Purple Heart clearly do not satisfy the regulatory requirements. These doorknob hangers are undated; they are not specific to petitioners; they do not describe the property contributed; and they contain none of the other required information.

So if you claim property deductions for gifts of $250 or more, you need to have something from the charity that, even if it doesn’t show the value, shows what you gave. So why not claim you just gave only gifts under $250? From the Tax Court (my emphasis):

Petitioners contend that they did not need to get written acknowledgments because they made all of their contributions in batches worth less than $250. We did not find this testimony credible. Petitioners allegedly donated property worth $13,115 to the Church; this donation occurred in conjunction with a single event, the Church’s annual flea market. Petitioners’ testimony that they intentionally made all other contributions in batches worth less than $250 requires the assumption that they made these donations, with an alleged value of $24,200, on 97 distinct occasions. This assumption is implausible and has no support in the record.

Hey, I drive a Smart car, it takes a lot of trips!

Cite: Kunkel, T.C. Memo 2015-71.


20140401-1Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Special Tax Deduction for Contributions to Support Families of Slain NY Officers. (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). A 2014 deduction that you can still fund today.

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): Z Is For Zloty. On paying taxes while abroad and you need to use a foreign currency.

Robert Wood, Newest Tax Fraud Threat? Your Payroll Tax. A good reminder of the need to use EFTPS to monitor your payroll tax service, to make sure your company payroll taxes are getting deposited with the government.

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 6: Community Property Laws

Kay Bell, IRS headquarters hit by brief Washington, D.C., power outage. A reminder that even if you e-file, you don’t want to wait until the very last minute.

William Perez, Requesting Additional Time to File a State Tax Return

Jack Townsend, Tax Shelter Salesman Avoids Fraud Finding for Investment in Tax Shelter. You’ll have to follow the link for the more accurate, but less printable, version of the headline.


David Brunori, Greed, Piracy, and Cowardice (Tax Analsyts Blog):

I have written about 100 articles on tax incentives, all of them critical. I don’t blame the “greedy” corporations. State and local taxes are a relatively small part of the cost of doing business. Corporations are handed opportunities to minimize their tax burdens — legally. And rationally, they take advantage of those opportunities. The biggest factors in deciding where to invest are labor costs and broad access to markets. If we ended all tax incentives tomorrow, there would be virtually no effect on the economy. Corporations would still be investing where they are investing.

It’s politicians responding to the incentives. Those of us who want better tax policy, broad tax bases, and low rates for all don’t show up at the legislator’s golf fund raisers. Those looking for a special deal for their company or their industry have low handicaps for a reason.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 700. 700 days, no scandal here, move along.


Bloomberg, An Emotional Audit: IRS Workers Are Miserable and Overwhelmed. A visit to one of the few places where they still offer on-site service. (Via the TaxProf)




History alert. General Lee surrended to General Grant 150 years ago today at Appomatox Court House, Virginia. Fellow tax blogger Peter Reilly is there, and I am insanely jealous.  I am contenting myself by re-reading Lee’s Last Retreatthe best book I’ve seen about the last frantic days of the Army of Northern Virginia. It makes you feel like you are there with the crumbling confederate army as it tried to escape after shattering defeats around Richmond. It also punctures a lot of romantic myths around those events.

After tax season, I will be happy to bore you with my thoughts on why Grant is grievously underrated for his Civil War achievements, and why he is also an underappreciated president. Next week.


News from the Profession: CPA Firm Managing Partner Charged in Embezzlement Scheme (Accounting Today):

Patrick H. Oki, managing partner at the Honolulu-based firm was charged Monday with theft in the first degree, money laundering, use of a computer in the commission of a separate crime, and forgery in the second degree, according to the office of Prosecuting Attorney Keith M. Kaneshiro.

Mr. Oki is reported to be both a CPA and a Certified Fraud Examiner. I can only imagine the awkwardness at the next partner meeting.



Tax Roundup, 3/31/15: Stopping travelers in Iowa for fun and profit. And: more tax credits!

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120703-2Highwaymen with badges. The Des Moines Register is running an excellent series describing the worst public finance innovation in recent decades — civil asset forfeiture. That’s a fancy name for police stealing money from travelers and using the proceeds to fund their own operations, on mere suspicion of wrongdoing by the travelers. The victims have to sue to get it back, and they have to prove they aren’t criminals — turning the normal burdens of proof upside down. That’s expensive and difficult. The result is a terribly-designed tax on the unlucky and the intimidated.

This creates a horrible incentive system. Police can always gin up an excuse to confiscate some traveler’s cash to buy new toys (“scented candles, mulch and tropical fish“) for the department. They then send the travelers on their way, a dead giveaway that they aren’t really fighting crime. Most travelers will be intimidated and drive away without fighting. Even if the traveler wins, nobody is punished for the unjustified seizure.

Today’s installment also shows how this system leads to corruption:

Former Dallas County Sheriff Brian Gilbert was convicted of felony theft for taking $120,000 in cash seized during a 2006 traffic stop.

More recently, Altoona resident Vicki Wharton’s car and some of her money was seized in 2012 by Polk County deputies working with the Mid Iowa Narcotics Enforcement team in a case involving her son.

She fought the forfeiture and managed to get both her car and most of her cash back — minus a few hundred dollars that seemingly disappeared.

Some people assume that anybody traveling with large amounts of cash is up to no good, but there are plenty of horror stories of travelers losing their life savings to thieves with badges to show otherwise. Other cases involve seizure of homes or businesses because, for example, a son was arrested for drug use or a customer used a hotel room for a crime.

While asset forfeiture is likely to be more catastrophic for the victim, it is kindred to highway speed cameras as a corrupt use of law enforcement powers for revenue. It is an inherently unethical, unjust, and third-world way to raise revenue. If you aren’t willing to fund your local Sheriff with property taxes, you shouldn’t ask him to fund himself from passers-by.

Other stories in the Des Moines Register series:

Iowa forfeiture: Forfeiture spending questioned in Iowa, elsewhere

Iowa forfeiture: A ‘system of legal thievery?


20120906-1Des Moines Register, Branstad: Iowa ‘blessed’ to have Hy-Vee; defends tax credits.

Gov. Terry Branstad is defending the state’s decision to award $7.5 million in state tax credits to Hy-Vee Inc. at the same time one of the grocery company’s chief competitors in the Des Moines market has closed its doors because of bankruptcy.

I shop at Hy-Vee, and I like them just fine. Still, they are a 100% ESOP-owned, presumably through an S corporation, meaning they pay no income taxes. Do they need tax credits, too? Their competitor Dahl’s won’t get this credit — they died. Iowa-based Fareway isn’t getting this sweet subsidy — let alone Price Chopper, Aldi, IGA, Super-Valu, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods…


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

TaxGrrrl, As Tax Day Nears, Don’t Panic: File For Extension. Far better to extend than to amend.

Robert Wood, Ten Things You Should Know About IRS Form 1099. “Before you file taxes, collect all your IRS Forms 1099 and pay attention to each one. The IRS sure does.”

Peter Reilly, Exelon Subsidiary Denied Tax Breaks On Three Mile Island Purchase.

Jack Townsend, Swiss Bank Enablers Get Unsupervised Probation and Relatively Light Fines. We need to shoot the jaywalkers so we can wrist-slap the real criminals.



Kay Bell, It’s clear that all tax exempt categories need to be re-evaluated. Scientology is today’s topic.

Clint Stretch, Who Should Pay for the Mess We’re In? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, Just the Facts, Ma’am: On Filing and Reform. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers whether the Rubio-Lee tax plan includes refundable personal credits and the trade-offs of public pension reform.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 691. He links to Robert Wood discussing the reflexive strategy of obstruction and lies that has become standard operating procedure in the executive branch.


And: Tomorrow we start our run to the end of filing season with our 2015 filing season tax tips. Collect one, collect them all!


Tax Roundup, 3/10/15: Deductions by the bag. And: tax credits put the “green” in green energy!

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy Jen Waller under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy Jen Waller under Creative Commons license.

Bags and bags of deductions. To many taxpayers, the deduction for donations of household goods is sort of an extra standard deduction. If the value of non-cash charitable deductions claimed on 1040s were really as high as the deductions claimed, Salvation Army and Goodwill could be in the Fortune 500.

But the tax law doesn’t really have a freebie deduction for contributions of household goods. The IRS explains (item 7):

To claim a deduction for gifts of cash or property worth $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the qualified organization. The statement must show the amount of the cash or a description of any property given. It must also state whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

A Maryland woman failed to meet this test in Tax Court yesterday. Special Trial Judge Carluzzo takes up the story:

Petitioner claimed a $31,037 charitable contribution deduction on her 2008 return, consisting of $15,340 in cash contributions and $15,697 in noncash contributions. Petitioner claimed a $10,357 charitable contribution deduction on her 2009 return, consisting of $6,490 in cash contributions and $3,867 in noncash contributions.

The cash contribution substantiation was inadequate. The documentation for the non-cash portion wasn’t any better (my emphasis):

With respect to the noncash charitable contributions, petitioner attached a Form 8283 to her 2008 and 2009 return, showing several contributions of property for each year, with each contribution of property valued over $250. To substantiate the contributions, petitioner submitted donation receipts from the Purple Heart, the National Children’s Center, the Lupus Foundation of America, Inc., and the Vietnam Veterans of America. Each of the donation receipts is deficient in one way or another, lacking either a date of contribution or a description of the property contributed, or both. Furthermore, the donation receipts neither reconcile with petitioner’s Form 8283 nor provide anything more than vague descriptions of the items donated.

Every practitioner who has been doing 1040 work for very long has seen things like this — say a round “$2,000” for, say, “10 bags, clothes — Goodwill.”  Or, sometimes, $7,000 (that never works; good luck finding a “qualified appraiser” for your old laundry). No receipts, or maybe an unsigned slip of paper that says “10 bags” from the donee. That doesn’t meet the requirements for a “statement” showing a “description of any property given.” The outcome:

Accordingly, we find that for each year in issue, petitioner has failed to establish entitlement to a charitable contribution deduction for donations of property in greater amounts than those now allowed by respondent.

The Moral? The deduction for household goods is not a freebie. If you are claiming it for over $250, you have to meet documentation requirements similar to those for cash donations. Even if you took pictures of the items before donating them, you lose without the statement from the donee.

Cite: Jalloh, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-18.


Wind turbinePutting the green in renewable energy tax creditsTax Analysts’ Brian Bardwell tells us ($link) how green energy credits worked in Oregon:

The Oregonian reported at the end of February that the Oregon University System had claimed credits under that later deadline, saying that it had already begun work on a $27 million installation of solar arrays across its seven main campuses. And although then-Gov. John Kitzhaber used a golden shovel in a 2011 groundbreaking ceremony, contractor Renewable Energy Development Corp. — known as Redco — had not yet obtained building permits for the project or even finished its design plans, the paper reported.

But the DOE approved credits for the program, apparently relying on invoices from a nonexistent company indicating that it had already begun installing the foundations for solar racks at each of the campuses.

Following the reports, DOE Director Michael Kaplan called on the Oregon Department of Justice to investigate the case.

The program had some things in common with Iowa’s film credit program:

Relatively modest to start, the program grew quickly, with lawmakers approving an ever-growing list of eligible projects, increasing the maximum credit from $2 million to $20 million, removing the overall program cap, and allowing some claimants to transfer their credits.

As the program became more unwieldy and the DOE struggled to administer it, the legislature began winding it down…

This is related to the scandal that forced Governor Kitzhaber to resign. Special industry incentives are inherently corrupt, even if nobody in government is on the take, because they reward insiders at the expense of the body of taxpayers, known genericly as “chumps.” (for you Illinois readers, that’s the same as chumbolones).

More coverage at Oregon’s signature solar energy project built on foundation of false hopes and falsehoods


TaxGrrrl, Heart Surgery & Hospital Stays: Deducting Medical Expenses On Your Tax Return. An intrepid tax blogger finds a tax angle in her father’s heart surgery. We wish him a speedy recovery.

William Perez has Concise Guide to Schedule C for all you self-employeds.

Robert Wood, Wesley Snipes Lands NBC Show Endgame. Why His IRS Endgame Failed. “Stay away from crazy arguments.”


Alan Cole, Tom VanAntwerp, Richard Borean, Where Do Americans Take Their Retirement Income? (Tax Policy Blog).


Warm places and lake country, it looks like.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 670. This missing email stuff seems to be a pattern.

So what? The Rich Get (Much) Richer Under The Rubio-Lee Tax Plan (Tony Nitti). If it helps everyone else more than any other plan, why is that a problem?

Kay Bell, Tax simplification is focus of yet another Capitol Hill hearing.

Peter Reilly,  Pensacola Shows Little Interest In Kent Hovind Trial

Simon Johnson, Dynamic Scoring Forum: The Dangers of Dynamic Scoring (TaxVox)


Martin Sullivan, “Beep, Beep” — Korean Singer YoonA Wins Model Taxpayer Award (Tax Analysts Blog):

She is one of eight members of the wildly popular band Girls Generation which has recorded such hits as Beep-Beep and Do the Catwalk. And now . . . she is the recipient of a presidential award from the South Korean government for being a dutiful and honest taxpayer who has made a significant financial contribution to her country.

We don’t expect an award, but it would be nice if the IRS would at least send a thank-you note.


Tax Roundup, 3/5/15: More tax credits! Also: ACA on the dock again, and good tax news for gamblers.

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitorsclick here for the frosty Iowa tax climate post, or go here for a longer treatment.


David Brunori has a wise post about Michigan’s disastrous tax credits: Tax Incentives Cause Trouble For More Reasons Than You Might Think (Tax Analysts Blog). “The history of job creation tax credits in Michigan is a story of corporate welfarism.”

20120906-1That’s just as true here in Iowa, where every legislative session seems to bring a new tax credit, to go with the dozens already on the books. From today’s Des Moines Register: New chemical production tax credit bill advances.

For example, companies like Cargill that produce ethanol and other fuels from corn produce corn oil in the process. The tax credit is geared toward companies that take that oil and other byproducts to create higher-value chemicals. Those higher-value chemicals can then be used to produce plastics, paints or pharmaceuticals.

The legislation would provide a credit of 5 cents for every pound of chemical a company produces. It would not apply to chemicals that are used in the production of food, animal feed or fuel.

These byproducts are already used somewhere. That means the credit would do one or more of the following:

– Subsidize companies that are already making the chemicals.

– Divert the byproducts from their current buyers — producers of food and animal feed, for example — to those who would receive subsidies, forcing the current buyers to find more expensive substitutes.

– Create subsidized competition for companies that already produce chemicals from other sources.

In short, they would take money from existing businesses and their customers and give it to someone with a better lobbyist.

The bill is HSB 98. The bill also contains increases in “seed capital” and “angel investor” tax credits, expanding the Iowa’s dubious role as an investment banker that doesn’t care whether it makes money.


supreme courtYesterday was the current Obamacare challenge’s day in the Supreme Court. It’s pretty clear that the four liberal justices will vote to uphold the IRS, and the subsidies to taxpayers outside of state exchanges. Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas will vote no. The decision is in the hands of Justices Kennedy and Roberts, who aren’t giving much away.

I’ll defer to others for coverage of yesterday’s hearing, including:

Megan McArdle, Life or Death. “This morning, someone on Twitter explained that this case really is different because if the Supreme Court rules the wrong way, thousands of people will die. I find this explanation wholly unconvincing, for two reasons.”

Jonathan Adler, Oklahoma’s response to Justice Kennedy and Things we learned at today’s oral argument in King v. Burwell.


Russ Fox, IRS Proposes Session Method for Slot Machine Play and a Revision to the Regulations on Gambling Information Returns:

There’s a lot to like in IRS Notice 2015-21, the IRS’s proposal for a “Safe Harbor Method for Determining a Wagering Gain or Loss from Slot Machine Play.” The proposal is for a daily session for slot machine play where there are electronic records. Let’s say an individual plays slot machines at Bellagio from 10:00am – 12:00pm and from 3:300pm – 5:00pm. That can all be combined into one session per this revenue procedure (if it is finalized).

This is important for gamblers because gambling winnings are included in Adjusted Gross Income, but losses are itemized deductions. If you treat each play as a separate taxable event, then you inflate both the above-the-line winnings and the below-the-line deductions. Increasing AGI causes all sorts of bad things, including making Social Security Benefits taxable, and at higher levels causing a loss of itemized deductions and exemptions and triggering the Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax of 3.8%. Allowing winnings and losses to be netted over a day reduces this inequity.


IMG_1219Where red-light cameras take you. The Ferguson Kleptocracy (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution). When the role of law enforcement becomes picking the pockets of the citizenry, bad things happen.



Scott Drenkard offers a link rich state tax policy roundup: More Research against the Texas Margin Tax, New Kansas Pass-Through Carve Out Data, and Capital Gains Taxes in Washington (Tax Policy Blog). It includes this:

Barbara Shelly at the Kansas City Star has a review of the Kansas income tax exclusion for pass through entities that blew a hole in the budget. Kansas expected 191,000 people to take advantage of the exclusion, but 333,000 people ended up taking it, for a loss of $207 million in revenues. I testified today to the Ohio House Ways & Means Committee on a similar provision being considered by Gov. Kasich.

Imagine that.



Kay Bell, Alabama’s GOP governor calls for – gasp! – new, higher taxes

Peter Reilly, Government Focusing On Codefendant Hansen As Kent Hovind Trial Commences. More coverage of the young-earth creationist tax case.

Robert Wood, Despite FATCA, U.S. Companies Stash $2.1 Trillion Abroad—Untaxed

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): B Is For Bona Fide Residence Test


William McBride, Rubio-Lee Plan Cuts Taxes on Business Investment to Grow the Economy by 15 Percent (Tax Policy Blog):

  1. It cuts the corporate and non-corporate (or pass-through) business tax rate to 25 percent.
  2. It eliminates the double-tax on equity financed corporate investment, by zeroing out capital gains and dividends taxes.
  3. It allows businesses to immediately write-off their investments, instead of requiring a multi-year depreciation.


Second, the growth in the economy would eventually boost tax revenue, relative to current law. We find after all adjustments (again, about 10 years) that federal tax revenue would be about $94 billion higher on an annual basis. This is our dynamic estimate. Our static estimate, i.e. assuming the economy does not change at all, shows a tax cut of $414 billion per year. We believe the dynamic estimate is much closer to reality.

For another (non-dynamic?) view, there’s Howard Gleckman, The Rubio-Lee Tax Reform Plan Raises Important Issues But Would Add Trillions to the Debt. (Tax Vox)




Accounting Today, Senate Report Blames Tax Pros for Unfair Tax Code. I think that’s a little like criminals blaming their victims for their crimes. I agree with Tony Nitti: Senate Report Blames Tax Professionals For Inequities In The Tax Code; Is Completely Insane.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 665.

Joseph Thorndike, Voters Are Confused About the Difference Between Tax Avoidance and Evasion – Because Politicians Blur the Line (Tax Analysts Blog)


News from the Profession. PwC Concludes Female Millennials Are Great For Vague, Pointless Research (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). “It’s the 3% that don’t care about work/life balance I’m worried about…”



Tax Roundup, 2/9/15: New York questions its tax incentives. And: where’s the ‘no anthrax’ sign?

Monday, February 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

New York FlagNew York Comptroller: nobody tracks whether the state’s corporate welfare tax incentives do any good. Tax Analysts’ Jennifer DePaul reports ($link):

It’s unclear whether the $1.3 billion in incentives and credits doled out annually by New York is creating jobs, a February 5 report by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli concluded.

The ESDC, which administers more than 50 economic development programs, provides little public information on taxpayer-funded investments in its initiatives, the report said.

“ESDC makes no public assessment of whether its disparate programs work effectively together, whether such initiatives have succeeded or failed at creating good jobs for New Yorkers, or whether its investments are reasonable in relation to jobs created and retained,” the report said.

Naturally the politicians disagree:

On February 5 Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters that he disagreed with the comptroller “fundamentally and on his concept of economic development” and said New York has lost its effectiveness to attract businesses over the past decade.

“We’ve come a long way in the past four years in terms of reversing that and bringing jobs back to New York,” Cuomo said. “To the extent that the comptroller thinks we should go back to the old way where we saw New York losing jobs, I couldn’t disagree more strongly.”

To politicians, the only job creation that matters is the kind that lets them hold issue press releases, hold press conferences, and cut ribbons.

For a brief shining moment in the Iowa’s Culver administration, the film tax credit fiasco made our politicians look at the Iowa’s tax credit programs. A panel of state officials issued a report finding no clear evidence that the tax credits do any good. So Iowa replaced them all and lowered individual and corporate tax rates with the savings.

Actually, no. They just continued enacting new credits. I can dream, though.

Link: The Comptroller Report.


dirtyThe Journal of Taxation has a summary of this year’s IRS “Dirty Dozen” tax scams. Number 1 with a bullet are phone call scams from people saying they are IRS agents. Just remember, if the caller claims to be from the IRS, he (or she) isn’t, unless you have been in touch with a specific agent by mail already.


Puzzling over the tangible property regulations and the 3115 requirements? The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation wants to help solve the puzzles. They have scheduled a webinar on on the regs February 18Roger McEowen and Paul Neiffer will host. Registration info available here.


Russ Fox celebrates 10 — the tenth anniversary of his excellent Taxable Talk. Congratulations, Russ!

William Perez, How Is Interest Income Taxed and Reported?

Annette Nellen discusses the new IRS Directory of preparers and Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP). Another useless effort by the supposedly impoverished agency.

IMG_1271Leslie Book, Preparers and Due Diligence (Procedurally Taxing)

Kay Bell, Additions to the tax law name roll of [dis]honor? We at Roth & Company would like to claim rights to the name “Roth IRA,” but alas, we had nothing to do with it.

Jason Dinesen, I Like Mowing My Lawn and Shoveling Snow; Do You Like Preparing Your Tax Return?

I see no value in hiring someone else to mow my lawn or shovel my snow.

The same principle holds true for people who choose to prepare their own taxes. If they know what they’re doing and they enjoy doing it, then I encourage people to do it themselves because they won’t see value in the work of a tax professional.

I see no value in hiring someone else to do my lawn and driveway either. That’s what the teen-ager is for.

TaxGrrrl, Brady Passes On Super Bowl Prize As Butler Hauls In Truck & Tax Bill

Jim Maule, So Who Gets Taxed on the Super Bowl Truck?

Peter Reilly, Oil Rig Manager Does Not Qualify As Foreign Resident

Robert Wood, On-Demand Workers: It’s Tax Time, You’re Self-Employed, Audits Are Inevitable

Me, IRS issues 2015 vehicle depreciation limits, updates 2014 limits for Extension of Bonus depreciation




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 641. Judicial Watch says it has received emails showing the IRS Office of Chief Counsel delayed the investigation into the Tea Party scandal.

The tax law is obese. So the supergenius behind Obamacare, Jonathan Gruber, has floated the idea of taxing folks based on body weightArnold Kling is comments wisely: ” I know that many of my progressive friends would be disgusted by the obesity, but that does not make it a public policy problem.”

That’s right, not every problem is a tax problem. Or even the government’s problem.

David Henderson has more: Jonathan Gruber on Sin Taxes (Econlog)


Kyle Pomerleau, Worldwide Taxation is Very Rare (Tax Policy Blog):

At the beginning of the 20th century, 33 countries had a worldwide tax system. That number slowly dropped to 24 countries by the 1980s. By the 2000s, the number of countries switching to territorial systems accelerated, with more than 10 countries switching in 10 short years. Nearly all developed countries have moved to the superior territorial tax system. Today there are only 6 countries that tax corporations on their worldwide income. The President’s proposal would double-down on the U.S.’s current system and push the United States further out of line with the rest of the developed world.

The U.S. is even more of an outlier on worldwide taxation of individual income, with only Eritrea joining us in taxing citizens abroad.

Tracy Gordon, Go Team: Score 1 for Obama on Ending Tax Subsidies for College Sports (TaxVox).

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 2/5: State of the States (Tax Justice Blog).


Career Corner. Let’s Discuss: The Worst of Eating in the Audit Room (Marty, Going Concern)

Brian Gongol says “You’re not allowed to carry a bag of anthrax spores through a mall.” My bad. It won’t happen again.