Posts Tagged ‘EITC’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 370

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

 

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

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

0-99, 0-414

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other coverage:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Marginal Tax Rates Camp Tax Reform

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

William Perez, Tax-Deductible Relocation Expenses

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

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

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

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 300.

 

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

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

20140305-1Jason Dinesen shares his Tax Season Tunes:

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/10/14: The New Mexico double-dip edition. And: we got it right. We’ll fix that!

Monday, February 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

bureauofprisonsTwo bites at the apple were two too many for a New Mexico man.  Evading $25 million in federal taxes is bad enough, but illegally collecting $225,000 in farm subsidies on top of that seems like piling on.  From a Department of Justice Press Release:

Bill Melot, a farmer from Hobbs, N.M., was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison today to be followed by three years of supervised release for tax evasion, program fraud and other crimes, the Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General announced today.  Melot was also ordered to pay $18,469,998 in restitution to the IRS and $226,526 to the USDA. 

Melot was previously convicted of tax evasion, failure to file tax returns, making false statements to the USDA and impeding the IRS following a four-day jury trial in Albuquerque, N.M.  According to court documents and evidence presented at trial and at sentencing, Melot has not filed a personal income tax return since 1986, and owes the IRS more than $25 million in federal taxes and more than $7 million in taxes to the state of Texas.  In addition, Melot has improperly collected more than $225,000 in federal farm subsidies from the USDA by furnishing false information to the agency.  

He had been sentenced to only five years, but the appeals court decided he needed some more time before putting in another crop.

For a little farmer, Mr. Melot got around:

  Additionally, Melot maintained a bank account with Nordfinanz Zurich, a Swiss financial institution, which he set up in Nassau, Bahamas, in 1992, and failed to report the account to the U.S. Treasury Department as required by law.

If the government’s sentencing memorandum is to believed, Mr. Melot isn’t down with this whole paying taxes thing, filing a blizzard of “baseless” motions and attempting to conceal assets.  For example:

Defendant’s disregard for this Court commenced immediately… Within 24 hours of his release, between August 21 to August 24, 2009, Defendant and his immediate family were observed purchasing 19 money orders for $1000 each at a Moneygram counter, which is located at the Walmart in Hobbs, New Mexico.

a. Each money order was for $1,000.
b. Each money order listed “Bill Melot” in the memo line. The money orders also each listed Defendant’s home address, 2805 E. Rose Road.
c. Each money order was payable to Mueller, Inc., a Ballinger, Texas company, which builds outdoor sheds.

Videos from Walmart showed Defendant wearing the same clothing that he wore when he was released from custody. The money orders, along with an additional $5,260.94 in cash, were used to pay off the balance due on a metallic shed for Defendant’s farm, which he claimed not to own in his statement to Pretrial Services. The purchase of this barn flatly contradicted Defendant’s earlier claim of near indigence

The appeals panel seems to have believed the prosecution, as Mr. Melot got the full sentence requested.

Russ Fox has more at Really Big Tax Evasion Leads to Really Long Sentence at ClubFed.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Oops.  It appears the Iowa legislature accidentally repealed the state sales tax on heavy equipment purchases in 1998, reports Siouxcityjournal.com:

The inadvertent change – which slipped by the department, the legislative code editors, and lawmakers and their staffs in the vetting process — didn’t come to light until last summer, when an attorney contacted the department about the Iowa Code section. At that time, legal staff at the department and the Iowa Attorney General’s office determined that the 2008 action had “rendered that tax obsolete,” Daniels said.

“It was not the department’s intention, nor do we believe that it was the Legislature’s intention, to remove that tax or repeal that tax,” said Daniels, whose agency has asked lawmakers in Senate Study Bill 3117 to restore the sales tax on heavy equipment retroactive to July 1, 2008. 

Sound tax policy tells the legislature to expand the exemption, rather than repeal it.  The heavy equipment will normally be used in business, and business inputs shouldn’t be subject to sales taxes.  It just shows that the General Assembly can occasionally get it right, but will immediately take corrective action when it finds out.

 

 

William Perez offers An Overview of the Income, Deductions, Tax and Payment Sections of the Tax Return

Kay Bell comes through with 6 steps to help you become the best tax client. She omits step number seven: pay your preparer promptly.  No matter how good you are with the first six steps, omitting step seven disqualifies you from the “best” list.

TaxGrrrl, Delayed Tax Refunds, The EITC & How We’re Getting It Wrong   

 And despite its original intent, if the idea is to encourage taxpayers to work more, the current iteration of the EITC fails miserably. As you earn more, your benefits go down, not up. At some point, the incentive to work more is mitigated by the specter of a lesser credit.

It’s a poverty trap.

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 277

Sounds like a good reason to me.  Broken Tax Code Offered as Reason for Reform (Annette Nellen)

Peter Reilly, Benefit Of Clergy – Why Special Tax Treatment For Ministers Needs To Go.  Constitutional Does Not Equal Sound Tax Policy”

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 02/07/2014 (Procedurally Taxing).  It’s a roundup of tax procedure cases and posts.

Jack Townsend, Germany Moves Against Offshore Bank Evaders 

An unwarranted meattax approach: Scientist Proposes Discouraging Meat Consumption with New Tax (Joseph Henchman, Tax Policy Blog).

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

 

Career Corner.  No Shirt, No Shoes, No Accounting Degree, No Probl– Actually, Small Problem (Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/6/14: Mortgage credit program revived for Iowa. And: why your state budget surplus is a mirage.

Thursday, February 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

IFA logoThe Iowa Finance Authority has opened a program that will allow some Iowans to claim a credit, rather than a deduction, for mortgage interest.  From an IFA press release:

The Iowa Finance Authority has announced that eligible Iowans may buy a home and reduce their federal income tax liability by up to $2,000 a year for the life of their mortgage.

The 2014 Take Credit Mortgage Credit Certificate program will be available beginning this week through IFA Take Credit Program Participating Lenders. Approximately 585 Iowa home buyers are expected to benefit from the program.

It has been some years since these credits were available in Iowa.

The credits aren’t for everyone.  They are targeted to lower-income borrowers, with income limits varying by county.  IFA has a “quick check” page for users to determine eligibility.  But for those who qualify, they are a handy way to reduce mortgage costs.  The credit is claimed on Form 8396.

 

TaxProf, TRAC: IRS Criminal Prosecutions Up 23.4% in Obama Administration.  This is probably due to the explosion in tax-refund theft that was less of a priority than regulating preparers was for the Worst Commissioner Ever and the Obama Administration.

 

taxanalystslogoCara Griffith, The Myth of the Budget Surplus (Tax Analysts Blog):

There seems to be a lot of good news about state budgets lately. Newspaper headlines have changed from doom and gloom over budget crises during the recession to questions about how states will manage budget surpluses. Unfortunately, there are financial problems lurking beneath the surface, and one of the largest may be the underfunding of state and local government pension and healthcare plans.

Even Iowa’s relatively well-funded pension plan is 20% underfunded actuarially, and even that uses an absurd assumption of 7.5% investment returns.  The Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa has a lengthy, but excellent, analysis.  Public defined benefit plans are a lie.  They are a lie to taxpayers understating the cost of current pension accruals, a lie to public employees about what they will get after retirement, or both.

 

Elaine Maag of TaxVox raises Questions About Expanding the Childless EITC:

The EITC is often criticized for its built-in marriage penalty. Imagine a single mom with three kids who earns $17,500. Prior to marriage, she qualifies for the maximum credit of $6,143. But if she marries someone with identical earnings, the additional income will reduce her EITC to just $3,670.

If the childless EITC were expanded and the husband had his own EITC, he would lose all or part of his benefit when the couple married, magnifying the tax increase this couple would face relative to when they were not married. As long as the EITC phases out at higher incomes and is tied to joint income, this will remain an issue.

Not to mention the massive level of EITC fraud and the punitive marginal tax rates on taxpayers working their way out of poverty.

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

 

Jana Luttenegger, Expired Housing-Related Tax Rules (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  The exclusion for forgiven mortgage debt is the biggie.

William Perez, Finding the Right Filing Status.  If you are legally married, it’s either joint returns or married filing separate.  Single status is unavailable, even for same-sex couples married in a state that allows them to get married who live in a state that doesn’t.  William provides some excellent explanation.

 

20130419-1Janet Novack, IRS: Don’t Call Us, Look It Up On IRS.Gov.  Well, you might actually get a correct answer that way.

Kay Bell, What the ‘Taxman’ does and doesn’t collect 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 273

Howard Gleckman, The Cruel Political Paradox of Deficit Reduction (TaxVox)

Carl Smith provides Another Update on Rand Cases in Tax Court at Procedurally Taxing.  The Rand cases hold that an “underpayment” for purposes of penalties does not include the portion of refundable tax credits that tax tax below zero.

Going Concern, Pot Taxes May Not Be Such a Cash Cow Due to, Well, the Cash.  Not to mention the disallowance of all non cost-of-goods-sold deduction for legal dealers.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/4/14: Sometimes the tax crime isn’t the worst crime. And the Carnival moves on.

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

WashingtonRule 23 of George Washington’s Rules of Civility has a lot going for it:

When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always show Pity to the Suffering Offender.

Yet even the Father of His Country might have had a hard time suppressing a smile over a federal tax sentencing in California yesterday.  From the Contra Costa Times:

A former San Ramon family law attorney was sentenced to two years in prison Monday for evading taxes and illegally eavesdropping on a client’s estranged spouse with the help of a now-incarcerated private investigator who set up divorcing men for drunken-driving arrests.

Mary Nolan, 62, of Oakland, already relinquished her law license and paid $469,000 in back taxes Sept. 27 after she pleaded guilty to four counts of tax evasion and one count of illegal eavesdropping.

Nolan represented the ex-wives of two men who were arrested after [the private investigator's] attractive female employees lured them into drinking and driving. Those convictions were expunged after the scheme became known in 2011, when Butler and jailed former Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team Commander Norman Wielsch were caught selling drug evidence and admitted to pimping and robbery, among other crimes.

Oddly, the sentencing judge not only failed to impose the 33-month sentence requested by the prosecution, but he also seemed to think the tax charge was more serious than the honey-trap thing, reports Concord Patch:

Breyer told Nolan during the sentencing today, “To eavesdrop on conversations that clearly weren’t intended for an adversary to hear is a
very unfair thing to do.”

But he said he was especially concerned about the failure of Nolan, as a lawyer, to pay the taxes due.

“What I find most troubling is the fact that you were a lawyer. Lawyers have that special responsibility not just to know the law but to follow it,” he told Nolan.

Yes, evading $400,000 of taxes is a bad thing, whether or not you are a lawyer.  Still, ruining lives setting up and framing people to win divorce cases strikes me as worse than making the IRS work hard for its money.   Maybe when you’re a federal judge, things start to look a bit funny.

 

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Well, technically “a bunch” isn’t “a smidgeon.”   ‘Not Even a Smidgeon of Corruption’ at IRS, Obama Says.  (Tax Analysts, $link).   If so, it sure is funny how Lois Lerner was so quick to invoke her 5th amendment right against self-incrimination.  

Clint Stretch, Dumb Mistakes Aren’t Crimes.  (Tax Analysts Blog)  He says “IRS employees will not knowingly do someone’s political bidding.”  History shows otherwise.

 

 

TaxProf, OMB: EITC Is 4th Most Error-Prone Federal Program, With 22.7% Error Rate.  If it makes you feel better, the three worse ones are all Medicaid or Medicare.  Makes you want the government and IRS to pay in a bigger role in health care, for sure.

 

Minnesota:  Come for lovely winter weather, and stay for the annual tax hit!  The Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence has computed the annual cost for a high-earning individual of life in the tundra.  It’s not cheap:

MNvIA

Of course, beautiful Iowa doesn’t have a lot to crow about, as it looks good only by comparison with Minnesota.  While the hypothetical taxpayer could only buy a nice new sedan annually for the savings of moving from Minnesota to Des Moines, she could buy some really nice wheels every year with a move to Sioux Falls.

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Reasonable Compensation In The S Corporation Arena:

The IRS Fact Sheet provides “The amount of the compensation will never exceed the amount received by the shareholder either directly or indirectly. However, if cash or property…did go to the shareholder…the level of salary must be reasonable and appropriate.”  This language would seem to indicate that there is no requirement that compensation be paid to a shareholder-employee provided the shareholder also foregoes distributions. Even with that bit of guidance from the IRS, it is prudent advice to encourage a profitable S corporation to start making reasonable salary payments to its shareholder-employees as soon as it has the means to do so.

Unfortunately, the IRS has shown that it will attempt to force a salary even when the means are lacking.

Paul Neiffer, You Can File Income Tax Returns Now (Maybe)

 

Jeremy Scott, Making Tax Reform a Partisan Issue (Tax Analysts Blog):

And it isn’t hard to see why. Linking tax reform to the debt ceiling risks making it a partisan issue. Forcing Congress to take up reform is a GOP victory, because it causes Democrats to give up on a clean bill. So Democrats, many of whom are sympathetic to the tax reform process, will have to oppose tax changes because Republicans have politicized the debate, defining tax reform as a win for their side.

Ah, the majesty of government.

 

Lyman Stone, New Study: High Excise Taxes Drive Cigarette Smuggling in Boston, New York, Providence (Tax Policy Blog).  That has to be the most predictable news of the day.

Sad news from Kay Bell “The time has come, however, to put the Tax Carnival on hiatus.”  It’s a lot of work to put one together.  Thanks, Kay, for all of the help you’ve given tax bloggers over the years with the Carnival of Taxes.  So until she feels like reopening the Carnival, let’s have one last ride on the Midway.

20120829-1

 

Going Concern, Here Is a Short List of People Less Deserving of Bonuses Than IRS Employees.  Hard to argue with the list, especially the first two, but I would throw in the other branches as well.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/31/14: Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day party edition! And: e-filing begins.

Friday, January 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan


EITC error chart
Yes, for those of you not already taking the day off to observe it, today is Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day!  Let’s celebrate with a true story of EITC awareness.

Cedar Rapids tax preparer Demetries Johnson displayed her awareness of the credit in a big way:

Defendant DEMETRIES JOHNSON notified some taxpayers seeking her services that she could obtain larger tax refunds than they would otherwise receive.  To obtain refunds, defendant DEMETRIES JOHNSON would knowingly report false information on taxpayers returns. The claims made in the tax returns were false, fictitious, and fraudulent in that the claims for refunds, for example: 1) falsely reported income when little or no income was earned, thereby substantially and materially overstating taxpayers’ income in a manner that made the taxpayer appear eligible for a refund by virtue of the EITC; and 2) falsely included a child or children on taxpayers’ returns who did not in fact qualify under the EITC.  Through submission of these false claims, defendant DEMETRIES JOHNSON increased payments made by the Internal Revenue Service to the taxpayers or to bank accounts controlled by the defendant.

Her awareness ended up earning a two-year prison sentence after she pleaded guilty to tax charges.  Her keen level of awareness isn’t uncommon; a recent Treasury Inspector General analysis showed that 21-25% of the $13 billion of the credit issued annually is claimed “in error.”  No small amount of those errors are deliberate.

Those who scam the system are especially aware that the credit is “refundable.”  If you claim more credit than you owe in taxes, the IRS will send you a check for the excess.  Like all refundable credits, it attracts fraudsters.

Come to think of it, maybe “awareness” isn’t the real problem with the Earned Income Credit.

 

Flickr image courtesy Shock264 under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Shock264 under Creative Commons license

When you buy a round, it’s always popular Wind industry fears slowdown as Congress considers future of popular tax credit  (Des Moines Register).  The recipients of wind subsidies delivered through the tax law are annoyed that there is a delay in getting their free stuff.

The headline says the wind turbine subsidy is “popular,” but nothing in the article backs that up, or even repeats the claim.  I suppose it’s as popular with the Warren Buffet-controlled utility that is a big recipient of the credit as the Earned Income Tax Credit was with Demetries Johnson’s clients.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 267.  He highlights today’s Peggy Noonan piece:

 Meanwhile, back in America, conservatives targeted and harassed by the Internal Revenue Service still await answers on their years-long requests for tax exempt status. When news of the IRS targeting broke last spring, agency officials lied about it, and one took the Fifth. The president said he was outraged, had no idea, read about it in the papers, boy was he going to get to the bottom of it. An investigation was announced but somehow never quite materialized. Victims of the targeting waited to be contacted by the FBI to be asked about their experience. Now the Justice Department has made clear its investigation won’t be spearheaded by the FBI but by a department lawyer who is a campaign contributor to the president and the Democratic Party. Sometimes you feel they are just laughing at you, and going too far.

For a case where a key figure promptly hid behind the Fifth Amendment, the FBI was sure quick to conclude there was no crime.

 

William Gale, Benjamin Harris, David John, State of the Union Speech Promotes New Retirement Savings Vehicles (TaxVox):

 Similar to the R-Bond discussed in a recent AARP Public Policy Institute paper written by William Gale, David John and Spencer Smith, MyRA would allow individuals to save in a government bond account similar to the one offered as an option to federal employees through the Thrift Savings Plan. The details are unclear (there’s a WhiteHouse fact sheet here), but MyRA would allow new savers and those with small balances to accumulate retirement savings without either having to pay administrative charges or face market risk.

Just inflation and government policy risk.

 

20130916-1TaxGrrrl, IRS Officially Opens Tax Season Today, Begins Processing Returns and Refunds

William Perez, IRS’s Electronic Filing Systems Opens January 31

Kay Bell, Are you ready to e-file your federal tax return? Here’s how.

Trish McIntire, IRS Notice Prevention

 

Fear the Family (and other related parties).  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.

 

Kyle Pomerleau notes A Few Contradictions in President Obama’s State of the Union Address (Tax Policy Blog)

Keith Fogg, Does Treasury’s Policy Restraining Referrals to Low Income Tax Clinics Harm Individuals and the Tax System? (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D. Flach serves up his last Buzz for awhile as he begins his tax season hiatus.  It’s his 43rd tax season.  If I hit my 43d tax season, it will be in my 68th year.  I admire Robert’s endurance, but I have no plans to match it.

 

haroldDirector of Chartered firm among 13 charged over £2.5m film tax fraud (ifaonline.co.uk).  I think film tax credits are the bait car of tax incentives.

Useless tool.   Treasury Nominee Dynan Calls Home Buyer Tax Credit ‘Useful Tool’ (Tax Analysts, $link).  Not only should her nomination be rejected on the basis of her approval of the failed and fraud-ridden credit, she should be presumed self-disqualified from any public position ever.

While I think the court decision ending tax-free treatment for cash parsonage allowances is likely to stand, not everyone agrees.  Zelinsky: The First Amendment and the § 107 Parsonage Allowance (TaxProf)

 

Tax Trials continues its “Famous Fridays” series with Pete Rose, Gambling Winnings Are Income Too.

News from the Profession: PwC Doing Its Part to Keep Dog Tails Wagging in Northeast Ohio (Going Concern)

 

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

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

Via e-cigarettepedia.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

And because Look!  Justin Bieber!

 

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

William Perez, Filing Requirements for Tax Year 2013

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 265

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

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

 

Robert D. Flach is a sensible man:

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

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

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/19/13: Sub-zero edition! And the dark side of non-recourse debt forgiveness.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2

Tax Court says you can’t go below zero.  At least not in computing penalties.

A taxpayer filed a return showing no tax, but claiming refundable tax credits that generated a refund of $7,327.  That’s why refundable credits are such a sweet deal — you can get a refund of taxes without ever paying them through withholding or estimated taxes.  They are really a form of welfare.

The IRS issued the refund as claimed, but then thought better of it.  The IRS recomputation was that the taxpayer should have showed a positive tax balance of $144.  That meant the taxpayer was supposed to repay the $7,327 refundable credit plus the $144 tax due, for a total of $7,471.  The IRS assessed the difference, plus a 20% penalty on the $7,471 “underpayment.”  The taxpayer didn’t think refunding the refundable credit counted as an “underpayment, and the case went to Tax Court.

The tax imposes an “accuracy related” penalty on deficiencies, based on how much the taxpayer underpays the “tax required to be shown on the return.”  The IRS said the underpayment was the whole $7,471.  The Tax Court said that refundable credits can’t take the tax below zero for this purpose, so the “underpayment” is only $144 for computing the penalty.

 

This seems wrong.  Refundable credit fraud — especially Earned Income Tax fraud — is a multi-billion-dollar problem.  If there is no monetary penalty for claiming bogus credits, the only deterrent for gaming the system is criminal penalties, and given the limits on the IRS ability to prosecute EITC fraud, it’s an empty threat.

The Tax Court seems to agree:

We note that our conclusion breaks the historical link between the definitions of a deficiency and an underpayment; however, it was Congress that made that break.

If the case holds up on appeal, Congressional action is all that can fix it.

Cite: Rand, 141 T.C. No. 12.

 

Peter Reilly, IRS Letter To Senator Boxer On Short Sales Not Good News For Everybody

I hate to spoil a nice celebration, but I am going to risk it.  The position that the IRS outlined in the ruling is probably good news for most people affected by it.  It may not be good news for everybody, though.  In order to understand why you have to understand the IRS reasoning.  Here is the deal.  When debt is secured by property, it is either recourse or non-recourse…

The effect of that section is to make just about all California home mortgages non-recourse…  There are various exceptions to recognizing debt discharge income, such as the insolvency exception.  These will no longer be available.  

When you give up a house for non-recourse debt, you are considered to sell it for that amount.  That can be a bad thing.   If you don’t qualify for the residential gain exclusion — say, because you haven’t used it as a residence long enough to qualify, or you bought the house to rent — you can have taxable gain, no cash, and no available debt forgiveness exclusion.

 

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

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

 

Alan Cole, High Implicit Marginal Tax Rates Make Life Difficult for the Poor (Tax Policy Blog):

The CBO did a great study on this a year ago. It found that the implicit marginal tax rates on some poor folk are frequently above 50%, and sometimes above 80%. That is to say, that when they figure out how to increase their income by a $100, they lose $50 or more in new taxes or lost benefits. 

That’s exactly the sort perverse effect that results from the increase in Iowa’s earned income tax credit, which by itself can put low income taxpayers in a 50%+ bracket.  Take away other benefits and you can see how it could get to 80% or more.

 

Sioux City Journal, Branstad declines to issue a gas tax veto threat.  Probably because he’d like a higher gas tax, even though he likes being re-elected too much to push for one.

 

Ben Harris,  Sorting Through The Property Tax Burden (TaxVox):

Using self-reported American Community Survey data, we find that residential property taxes tend to be close to $1,000 per year, with a small share of households paying substantially more, especially in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and New Hampshire. In recent years, 48 percent of homeowners paid between $750 and $1,750 in property taxes. About one-third—31 percent—paid less than $750 and 21 percent paid more than $1,750.  Just 3 percent paid more than $4,000, with a miniscule share of homeowners (0.2 percent) paying more than $8,000. 

That seems low, but my clients probably aren’t a representative sample.

 

Jason Dinesen, Missouri Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage

 

Kay Bell, Missouri recognizes same-sex marriages for tax filing only20130121-2TaxGrrrl, Black Market Tax Preparers Continue To Defy IRS :

The solution for tax preparers who didn’t want to register and pay the fee? They simply don’t sign the returns.

And yes, that’s against the rules. But a number of paid tax preparers do it anyway. They are referred to in the business as “black market preparers” or sometimes, “ghost” tax preparers.

And that will happen no matter what regulations the IRS imposes on honest preparers.

 

William Perez, Tax Provisions Expiring at the End of 2013

Tony Nitti, House Republicans Put Tax Reform On Hold To Revel In Obamacare Struggles

I really don’t expect to receive tips from clients–it’s not the norm for tax preparation. I definitely don’t expect to receive $1,458,905 in such gratuities.  

I can’t say I expect that either.  But I would be OK with it!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 194

Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz!

 

The Critical Question: Are Jamaican Credit Unions The Next Tax Haven?  (Brian Mahany)

AOL? Prodigy? Attorney’s License to Practice Law Is Suspended for Failing to Maintain an Email Account  (TaxProf)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/13/13: Is more IRS money what we need? And why I’m hoping against hope!

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Is more money the answer to “pitiful” IRS service?   That’s what Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson believes, based on a story by Tax Analysts ($link):

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson in a November 9 speech decried as pitiful the level of IRS customer service given to taxpayers, which she attributed to inadequate funding that has forced the Service to automate many of the most important tax administration functions and skimp on training employees on taxpayer rights.

Everything else being equal, you can do more with more money.  Yet we all face limits to our resources, so we prioritize.  The IRS — at the urging of Nina Olson — has directed resources unwisely to its misguided attempt to boss the tax prep industry.  It has been a debacle so far, and it appears headed to oblivion in the courts.

The IRS has another administrative problem that the Taxpayer Advocate has pointed out.  The tax law is too complicated to effectively administer even with a much larger budget.  The tax law is seen as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, and like a knife with too many gadgets, it becomes hard to work as a knife.  This chart from Chris Edwards at the Cato Institute illustrates the problem:

irs budget cato 20131113

 

Chris Edwards explains:

The chart shows that the IRS has become a huge social welfare agency in recent decades. Handouts have soared from $4.4 billion in 1990 to an estimated $91.1 billion in 2013 (red line). Handouts are down a bit in recent years because some of the refundable credits from “stimulus” legislation have expired. IRS administration costs have grown from $7.7 billion in 1990 to an estimated $15.3 billion in 2013 (blue line). 

How should we reform the IRS budget? First, we should terminate the handout programs. That would save taxpayers more than $90 billion annually and cut the IRS budget by 86 percent. 

The largest IRS handout is the refundable part of the EITC, which is expected to cost $55 billion in 2013.

So true.  Considering that over $10 billion of the $55 billion is stolen or otherwise issued improperly, the EITC is a nightmare.  There would be plenty of funding available for tax administration if EITC could go away.

But the chart also shows something else: if the tax law was no more complicated than it was in 1990 — and believe me, it was plenty complicated — the IRS administrative budget would be adequate.  But with the IRS transformed into a monster multi-portfolio agency charged with healthcare administration, welfare, industrial policy, environmental enforcement, etc., etc., its budget is hopeless.

 

This will work out well:

This article examines the tax collection process to see how the IRS might enforce the individual mandate under the healthcare reform law. It concludes that resistant taxpayers can generally be forced to pay the tax penalty only if they are entitled to receive refundable tax credits that exceed their net federal tax liability. 

From Jordan BerryThe Not-So-Mandatory Individual Mandate, via the TaxProf.

 

Don’t trust the Tax Foundation?  Maybe you’ll trust the Congressional Budget Office.  A commenter yesterday took issue with a chart I reproduced showing not only the tax burden at different income levels, but the amount of government spending benefiting different income levels:

It’s not “the first chart for any tax policy debate,” it’s the last chart you should want to find on your side of the debate if you want to have any credibility.

If that doesn’t work for you, maybe this one from the CBO will be less objectionable:

cbo table

This chart is more focused on direct transfers, but it says pretty much the same thing.  It also covers 2006, and the tax law has hit the high end harder since then. (Via Greg Mankiw).

 

Scott Hodge, Andrew Lundeen,  54 Million Federal Tax Returns Had No Income Tax Liability in 2011 (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Paul Neiffer,  Sale of CRP Land – Is it Subject to the 3.8% Tax?  It depends a lot on whether an appeals court upholds the Tax Court Morehouse decision imposing self-employment tax on CRP income.  “And if the Morehouse case is overturned on appeal and the CRP is treated as rents, the land sale will also be subject to the 3.8% tax.”

 

Kay Bell, Tax tips for newlyweds saying “I do” on 11-12-13 or any day

Jack Townsend,  U.S. Banks File Long-Shot Litigation to Block FATCA Reciprocal Requirements

Leslie Book,  Disclosure and the 6-Year Statute of Limitation: S Corp Issues (Procedurally Taxing)

Jason Dinesen,  EAs are Partly to Blame for Our Obscurity  “Yes, we are treated as the red-headed stepchild of the tax world. But a big reason for this is that we ALLOW people to treat us this way.”

Russ Fox, Dan Walters with Another Example of California Dreamin’

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 188

 

Hope lives! 

It’s Time to Give Up on Tax Reform” – Joseph Thorndike, October 29, 2013

When Tax Reform Rises From the Dead, What Will It Look Like?Joseph Thorndike, November 12, 2013.

I should note that his vision of resurrected tax reform is hideous.  If that’s what hope for tax reform comes to, I’ll hope against his hope.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/31/13: A scary Iowa tax proposal, just in time for Halloween!

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

hatchJack Hatch’s income tax plan would raise taxes on all but very small businesses.  

It’s all in the spin.  My headline is just as accurate as the headline in the Des Moines Register on the tax plan announced by Senator Jack Hatch, a Democratic candidate for Iowa Governor.  The Register’s article, though, spins the way the candidate would like: “Jack Hatch’s income tax plan would give break to all but most wealthy Iowans.”  From the article:

Hatch’s plan would get rid of federal deductibility, which allows taxpayers to deduct federal taxes from their state return. His plan would also raise filing thresholds. It would raise the per-child tax credit from $40 to $500. Married couples who are both employed would get a new $1,000 a year tax credit.

And Iowa’s eight rates and brackets, which range from 0.36 percent to 8.98 percent, would be reduced to four.

The top rate would fall slightly to 8.8 percent, although the income at which that rate begins would be raised by 26 percent, according to an analysis of Hatch’s plan by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. The lowest rate would be 3 percent.

Taxes would go up for Iowans who make an adjusted gross income above $200,000, the Legislative Services Agency analysis says. The wealthiest taxpayers would see a small drop in the highest marginal tax rate, but their taxes would go up because they’d lose federal deductibility.

There are two things I hate about this plan and the way it is covered.  First, it makes no mention that a tax on “the wealthy” is really a tax on business.  Most business income is now reported on individual returns:

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

And 72% of that is reported by taxpayers with AGI over $200,000:

20131031-2

Cutting through the soak-the-rich stuff, what he’s really proposing is a great big tax increase on business.  How that helps Iowa’s economy isn’t explained — I suppose because it doesn’t.

The other part I hate is the whole idea that hurting “the rich” on behalf of “the middle class” is presumed to be just fine.   Heck, let’s go shoplifting at Wal-Mart, they have plenty of money — and it’s for the middle class!

 

I suppose I couldn’t expect Sen. Hatch to embrace the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.  I suspect it makes too much sense for any politician to embrace it.

 

This would be a good thing for Iowa: The Benefits of Independent Tax Tribunals (Cara Griffith, Tax Analysts Blog):

States are increasingly turning to independent tax tribunals. Most states now have either a judicial-branch tax court or an administrative-level tax tribunal that is independent of the state’s tax authority. Taxpayers and practitioners have pressed states for independent decision-making bodies for several reasons, including that the judges or administrative law judges who write decisions are impartial and knowledgeable in tax issues and that the opinions should more consistently and transparently apply the tax law because they will be published. 

Iowa, unfortunately, has only administrative tribunals and regular courts.  The judges know little about taxes, especially income taxes, and tend to defer to the State, even when it tortures law and logic.

 

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

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

TaxProf, NY Times: The Marginal Tax Rate Mess.  Even the New York Times is noticing the high implicit marginal tax rates on means-tested welfare programs, like the earned income tax credit:

As a result of losing eligibility for means-tested benefits, low-income and middle-income families sometimes experience much higher marginal effective tax rates (sometimes exceeding 90 percent) than those at the top of the income distribution. Phase-outs for any one program may not be large, but participation in several programs creates a cumulative effect. 

They “help the poor,” as long as they stay that way.

 

 

 

 

59pdhyef59pdhyefJoseph Henchman, Remembering the Deceased Iowa Pumpkin Tax You Helped End (Tax Policy Blog).

59pdhyefTaxGrrrl,  Social Security Benefits Will Not Keep Pace With Tax Contributions In 2014 

59pdhyef

Jana Luttenegger, Social Security Benefits to Increase in 2014 (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Robert D. Flach,  HAPPY HALLOWEEN – SOME TREATS FROM THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

Phil Hodgen, Chapter 3 – Paperwork for Expatriates and Covered Expatriates

Kay Bell, Colorado taxpayer group files lawsuit to overturn candy tax

Me, IRA is to startup funding as dynamite is to kindling.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.

 

Christopher Bergin, What’s a UDITPA? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Andrew Lundeen, Scott Hodge,  The Income Tax Code Is More Progressive than It Was 20 Years Ago (Tax policy Blog).  “The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay a greater share of the income tax burden than the bottom 90 percent combined, which totals more than 120 million taxpayers. In 2010, the top 1 percent of taxpayers—which totals roughly 1.4 million taxpayers—paid about 37 percent of all income taxes.”

Tax Justice Blog, Bruce Bartlett Is Wrong: New Conclusions on the Corporate Income Tax Change Nothing.  Nothing ever changes at TJB!

Government officials defend increased funding for their agencies.  Iowa police chiefs defend traffic cameras (KWWL.com)

 

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

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

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

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

 

EITC error chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Other coverage:

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

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

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

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces Delayed Start To 2014 Tax Season   

 

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

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 167

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/21/2013: Obamacare and Iowa small business. And the spiritual side of tax credit fraud!

Monday, October 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Tomorrow is the 27th Anniversary of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.  I assume many of you will leave work early today to prepare for the festivities.

20121120-2Things may not be going well for Obamacare when the Des Moines Register finds itself  coping with the concept of unintended consequences, in Few small businesses sign up for tax credits:

 The Affordable Care Act offers a tax credit to entice more small businesses to offer health insurance. But few small-business owners have taken advantage of it so far. And the law could have the unintended effect of prompting small businesses to drop coverage, which would make their employees eligible for individual subsidies on the new health insurance exchanges, insurance experts and business owners told The Des Moines Register.

The article gives a surprisingly realistic view of how Obamacare looks to employers, and why the much-touted small employer tax credit doesn’t work for many employers:

Jesse Patton, a West Des Moines insurance broker and president-elect of the Iowa Association of Health Underwriters, said the tax credit’s confusing rules narrow its appeal.

The credit is available for employers that have fewer than 25 employees making an average of less than $50,000.

“But you start to get a reduction in that credit if you’re over 10 employees and over $25,000 income,” he said.

Also, business owners can’t take the credit for any family members, and many small firms include relatives. Patton’s eight employees include himself, his wife, his son and his daughter-in-law.

“That’s typical for a small business,” he said.

And jumping through the hoops isn’t free:

“Unfortunately, when everybody gets through all of that formula, which is complicated, and pay their accountant $600 to do it, they’d be better off to just take the normal tax deduction versus the credit,” Patton said.

When even the Des Moines Register is starting to get the point about the unintended consequences of Obamacare, it’s in trouble.

 

Megan McArdle has an excellent summary of the current state of the Affordable Care Act in Four Things We Think We Know About Obamacare.  It’s worth reading the whole thing, but this tax nugget is important:

The penalty for being uninsured next year is $95. Again, this is partly true. In fact, the penalty for being uninsured next year is $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is higher. So if you make $75,000 a year and you decide to go without insurance, the penalty will be $750. There are a number of things you can do to avoid having to pay it, from deliberately getting your utilities shut off to under-withholding taxes from your paycheck so that they don’t have a refund from which to take out the penalty. But that number is what will go on the books at the Internal Revenue Service, not the $95 you’ve probably heard.

If it remains somewhere between difficult and impossible to buy through the exchanges, this poses an obvious problem.

 

amazon

Joseph Henchman, Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down “Amazon Tax” (Tax Policy Blog):

Most of the legal challenges to these laws have focused on whether the state power exceeds constitutional limits under the Commerce Clause, but the Illinois Supreme Court focused on this disparity between Internet advertisers and traditional advertisers. Ultimately, the court concluded that because the law requires Internet-based performance marketers to collect tax, but does not require that of traditional performance marketers, it is a discriminatory tax on Internet-based commerce in violation of the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act…

Janet Novack, Illinois High Court Shoots Down Amazon Sales Tax Law; Will SCOTUS Step In?   

 

Paul Neiffer, IRS Releases List of Counties Eligible for Another Year of Livestock Deferral

Kay Bell,  IRS is back and asks for patience as it reopens its doors.  Hey, IRS, do unto others…

Jana Luttenegger, IRS Back to Work, What to Expect (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog):

After 16 days of not opening mail, not processing returns, and not answering phone calls, the IRS is expecting it will take some time to get back to “normal” operations. In fact, the IRS issued a statement urging taxpayers with non-urgent matters to wait to call the IRS. I can only imagine what the call traffic will be like after a 16-day shutdown.  

Not to mention whether the answers you get when you call will be any more accurate.

 

Howard Gleckman, One Modest Path to a No-Drama Budget Deal (TaxVox)

Jack Townsend, Swiss Bank Frey to Close

Brian Mahany, FATCA, FBAR and Opt Outs

 

Leslie Book, Larry Gibbs on Loving v IRS.  Shockingly, a former IRS commissioner thinks IRS commissioners should have all the power they want.

Russ Fox,  One Down, One to Go: DOJ Gets an Injunction, Asks for Another.

One of the more humorous (to me) aspects of the Loving case was hearing the IRS argue that it has no means of disciplining rogue tax preparers. That’s just not true. If I deliberately prepare a bad return, I can be sanctioned and penalized. If I prepare a series of bad returns, the Department of Justice can attempt to have me barred from preparing federal tax returns. As noted at the end of one of the two press releases I’m linking to in this article, “In the past decade, the Justice Department’s Tax Division has obtained more than 500 injunctions to stop tax fraud promoters and tax return preparers.”

They just want to be able to do it by themselves without any of that messy due process stuff.

 

Peter Reilly, Was JD Salinger Facing A Major Estate Tax Problem ? 

TaxGrrrl, How Twitter Hopes To Reduce Its Tax Bill (In 140 Characters Or Less)   
The cobbler’s children always go barefoot.   Attorney Who Claimed Tax Expertise Sentenced to 20 Months in Jail for Understating His Income (TaxProf)

The Critical Question:  Would You Prepare Your Home For A Disaster If It Were Tax Deductible? (Tony Nitti)

 

 

Flickr image courtesy Natesh Ramasamy under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy Natesh Ramasamy under Creative Commons license.

The sacred side of earned income tax credit fraud.  A Washington tax preparer found an unusual way to get in touch with the spirit world, reports seattlepi.com.  Cleo Reed is scheduled to be sentenced today for preparing fraudulent returns claiming imaginary earned income credits:

Writing the court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlen Storm noted Reed had many of his clients claim income for “household help” while claiming to be self-employed. Reed did so for two undercover IRS agents and three fake clients.

During their encounter, Reed explained he pays his recruiters $500 for each young woman with a new child they bring to him, Storm told the court. Agents identified three recruiters who’d brought Reed dozens of clients.

Investigators later determined Reed filed at least 1,305 fraudulent returns in three years, and that the IRS paid out $4.3 million on those claims, Storm continued.

Refundable tax credits are a magnet for fraud, but they are also a path to holiness, it seems:

Writing the court, Reed has denied paying others to recruit clients and claimed he operated in “an ethical manner.” He went on to claim he was only helping his clients “achieve the American dream.”

“I had a spiritual calling to give aid, support, and guidance to the underemployed, disabled, and veterans of this great land,” Reed said in his letter to the court.

Somehow I think this is one religious belief system that the Bureau of Prisons won’t feel compelled to accommodate.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/20/2013: California and Florida have nice weather. What differs? And more on well-intended poverty traps.

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Taxes Matter.  Check out the Tax Policy Blog Monday Map from yesterday:

20130820-1

The map shows money flowing from high-tax basket cases like New York, Illinois and California to low tax Florida and Texas.  Sure, the weather is an excuse for New York and Illinois, but not for California.  And notice how South Dakota, with the best Tax Climate in the Midwest, is the only green Midwest state.

 

 

Wall Street Journal,  Overseas Americans: Time to Say ‘Bye’ to Uncle Sam?

Daniel Kuettel, a Colorado native who lives near Zurich, says he gave up his U.S. citizenship in October because he feared he wouldn’t be able to get a mortgage now that some Swiss banks are cutting ties with American clients.

“It was a really difficult decision. I had to think about what was best for me and my family, to reduce the risk,” says Mr. Kuettel, a 41-year-old software developer. He says his income was below the limit the U.S. allows overseas taxpayers to exempt and he owed no U.S. taxes.

Mr. Kuettel’s problems are due to FATCA, the legislation that tries to force offshore banks to help enforce U.S. tax laws.  Many foreign banks find it easier to just not do business with U.S. citizens.   It didn’t occur to Congress that many Americans abroad are not international financial criminals, but  just ordinary taxpayers whose jobs took them overseas.  Yet FATCA falls alike on the wicked and the just:

But many U.S. taxpayers who aren’t wealthy also are finding it harder to attend to routine financial matters abroad, because some foreign institutions don’t want to face the cost of complying with U.S. requirements.

Amid the crackdown, some face stiff U.S. tax bills and crippling fines over undeclared assets. Paying lawyers and accountants to help meet the various reporting and filing requirements routinely costs at least $1,000 a year, and often much more, experts say.

Congresscritters should have to fill out every form they impose on others, whether it applies or not.  By hand.

 

Poverty Traps.  Even After “Welfare Reform,” In Many States, the Dole Pays Better Than Honest Work.

A new report from the Cato Institute’s Michael D. Tanner and Charles Hughes says that welfare benefits remain more generous than minimum-wage jobs in 35 states.

That even takes into account the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The full report, The Work versus Welfare Trade-Off: 2013 (PDF), is an interesting read, especially since it doesn’t disparage the poor, but assumes that they’re intelligent and often hard-working people who know a good deal when they’re offered one. The fact is, taxes gobble up much of the value of wages and salaries, while the package of benefits extended to those who qualify is tax-free. As a result, it’s not just grunt work that’s out-paid by state (read: taxpayer) generosity. Tanner and Hughes point out:

In 11 states, welfare pays more than the average pre-tax first year wage for a teacher.  In 39 states it pays more than the starting wage for a secretary. And, in the 3 most generous states a person on welfare can take home more money than an entry-level computer programmer.

And some folks collect benefits while making unreported income.  This should make lawmakers think twice before throwing more money at programs like the Earned Income Credit.

 

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

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

When benefits are phased out, that works like a higher marginal rate.  That means the “working poor” who improve their lot pay taxes at millionaire rates on their additional income.

 

It will just die more vigorously.  (Camp’s Senate Decision Helps, but Won’t Save, Tax Reform (Jeremy Scott, Tax Analysts Blog)

Kay Bell, Tax Reform Road Show is now playing in Silicon Valley

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 103

Jack Townsend, Restraining Taxpayers for Tax Debts:

The IRS has a number of collection tools — most prominently the lien and levy.  But the taxpayer can hide assets, particularly overseas assets that stymy collection.  I write today on one of the tools available to the IRS to deal with such situations — the little known writ ne exeat republica.

Interesting stuff.

 

Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz!  I like this:

 At the WALL STREET JOURNAL Tom Herman explains to a reader that “Filing Time Doesn’t Affect Tax Audits”.

The reader wants to know if filing an extension will increase your chances of an audit, and the answer is no.  It is also an “urban tax myth” that extending your return and filing it in October will reduce your chances of an audit.  A return is chosen for audit based on the information reported on the return, and not when it is received by the IRS. 

It’s always better to extend than amend.  An extended return that is e-filed correctly may never have an IRS human pay attention to it.  A human has to look at every amended return.

 

TaxGrrrl celebrates 1000 blog posts at Forbes:  What I’ve Learned In 1,000 Tax Posts 

There are some bloggers and journos that believe that it’s all about the numbers. And numbers are important – heck, this post is about a number. But more important than the numbers are my readers. I’ve said many times that I have the best readers in the world and that’s completely true.

Except for those of you reading this, of course!

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Tax Roundup, 8/12/2013: Good intentions edition. And the mysteriously-lucrative profession of German toilet attendant.

Monday, August 12th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Good intentions don’t always mean good results.  That’s one of the lessons in Michael Schuyler’s post  Evaluating the Growth Effect of the Earned Income Credit at the Tax Policy Blog:

The Tax Foundation study concluded that while the EIC raises the incomes f low-income workers, its net result is to reduce both national output and total hours worked.  This result may seem surprising because the credit creates a strong incentive for workers with very low incomes who are within the EIC’s phase-in range to work more since each extra dollar of earnings brings a larger credit.  Unfortunately, for the larger number of low-to-middle income workers who are within the EIC’s phase-out zone, the loss of benefits with rising earnings generates a powerful deterrent against additional work effort.

 That “deterrent effect” results from the high hidden marginal tax rate on income in the EIC phaseout range:
The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

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

The credit was invented with the worthy intention of encouraging those with the lowest incomes to find work, but it has the unintended, though predictable, effect of discouraging those who already have jobs from moving up.  It does, however, have a fine stimulative effect on grifters, as up to 25% of the credit is issued improperly (examples here and here).

 

IRS, Disclosure Authorization and Electronic Account Resolution retirement delayed three weeks.  It’s nice of them to delay making it harder for tax pros to resolve client problems.

  

Richard Doak, Salesman in Chief: Governors today focus on handing out tax ‘incentives’:

In the early days of the Republic, many states got burned by canal-building schemes and other enterprises that well-connected corporations talked state governments into financing.

By the time the Iowa constitutions were written, in 1846 and 1857, people had become wary of states getting involved with corporations. Hence the restrictions such as those in the Iowa Constitution.

Today, the restrictions are easily gotten around, and the spirit of state-corporate separation expressed in the Constitution is ignored as government rushes into entanglements.

Politicians will sell their souls for a mess of ribbon cuttings and press releases.

 

Megan McArdle, Fixing the Mandate From Hell:

I’m kind of surprised to hear a lot of liberals agree that the 30-hour rule is bad policy, and even more surprised to hear that it would be easy to repeal or reform. In fact, while I opposed the law, I find it easy to see why they designed an employer mandate for all employers who worked more than 30 hours, and difficult to imagine how it could be reformed.

Welcome to the brave new world of 29-hour per week jobs.

 

Brian Strahle,  FEAR AND UNCERTAINTY:  ARE YOU PLAYING THE “WAIT AND SEE” GAME?  “In the world of state taxes, companies are faced with vast amounts of
‘uncertainty’ when applying multiple state rules that lack conformity to  their company’s situation.”  I don’t think you need to qualify the uncertainty with scare quotes.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 95

Kay Bell, New York cop pleads guilty to identity theft, tax refund fraud

Jack Townsend, Is It the Defendant’s Burden to Prove Good Faith As a Defense to Willfulness?

Peter Reilly,  Windsor As A Precedent – Much More Than Taxes

TaxGrrrl, IRS Releases List Of Americans Hoping To Expatriate, Number Tops 1,000

Russ Fox, Once Again, Registration of a Tax Preparer Doesn’t Stop Him from Bad Behavior.   Tax preparer regulation just gives the bad ones a government seal of approval.

 

Look on the bright side! AICPA to CPA Exam Candidates: Hey, at Least You Don’t Have Kidney Stones! (Going Concern)

Flushing out tax crime.   Toilet attendant who kept £35,000 in loose change she made from tips faces tax evasion charges in Germany after investigators discover 1.4 tonne pile of coins in her garage (London Daily Mail).

It sounds like she was some sort of bathroom boss:

The website reported how the woman would drive to a number of toilets across the country in her Mercedes collecting the money.

Police started investigating the woman after she fell out with an employee.

Officers were called to one of the toilets after the pair started fighting but they later opened investigations into how the company was run after suspicions were raised.

It’s the price they pay, apparently, for not having savage unsupervised bathrooms like we deal with here.
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Tax Roundup, 7/25/2013: Mo’ refundable credits, mo’ fraud. Plus cigarettes and preschoolers!

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

momoneyRefundable tax credits are a magnet fo’ mo’ fraud.  Five from Mo’ Money tax prep office in St. Louis arrested in scheme (St. Louis Post-Dispatch):

Mo’ Money franchise owner Jimi Clark, 57, of Memphis, Tenn., abused the American Opportunity Credit to attract and keep clients, prosecutors said. They filed for the credit on at least 47 returns where the taxpayer had not incurred any educational expenses, and unwisely, claimed the same amount of educational expenses, $3,765, on the “vast majority” of the returns, their indictment says.

In all, the 47 returns claimed more than $50,000 in educational credits.

Maybe 25% of the rundable Earned Income Tax Credit is paid improperly.  Yet legislators ignore how the credits actually work because they like them in theory.

 

Bankrupt state pays people to be friends. Illlinois governor to sign deal to lure fertilizer plant (Sioux City Journal)

Speaking of Bankrupt… Detroit Taxes and the Laffer Curve (Alex Tabarrok):

  • [The] per capita tax burden on City residents is the highest in Michigan. This tax burden is particularly severe because it is imposed on a population that has relatively low levels of per capita income.
  • The City’s income tax… is the highest in Michigan.
  • Detroit residents pay the highest total property tax rates (inclusive of property taxes paid to all overlapping jurisdictions; e.g., the City, the State, Wayne County) of those paid by residents of Michigan cities having a population over 50,000.
  • Detroit is the only city in Michigan that levies an excise tax on utility users (at a rate of 5%).

Sometimes you can’t solve the problem with more taxes.

 

Robert D. Flach, DEDUCTING CAPITAL LOSSES

Tony Nitti, Q&A: How Can An Accrual Basis Business Defer Revenue When It Receives Cash In Advance?

Phil Hodgen, Nonfilers–voluntary disclosure is not your only choice:

But my opinion is that the official program is fabulous for someone who is in deep trouble and might otherwise face a spot of prison time.  For that person, the “Your money or your life!” demand from the IRS is easy to answer.  Give ‘em your money. 

For almost everyone else, the voluntary disclosure program is stupidly expensive–in tax cost, penalties, interest, and professional fees to give the government all of the paperwork they want.

You gotta shoot the jaywalkers so you can slap the real crooks on the wrist.

Peter Reilly, Not Good For Real Estate Loss When Tax Court Judge Says Purports

Fiduciary Income Tax Blog, Trials and Tribulations of Nongrantor Trusts

 

 

Cara Griffith, Improving Transparency in Pennsylvania (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 77

Howard Gleckman, The OECD’s International Tax Plan: The First Step on a Long Road (TaxVox)

Tax Justice Blog, CTJ Presents the Nuts & Bolts of Corporate Tax Reform

Linda Beale, Senators promised 50 years of secrecy on their tax reform proposals

Daniel Shaviro, What is a “tax expenditure” and when does this matter?

 

TaxGrrrl,  Louisiana To Offer ‘Fresh Start’ Tax Amnesty Program.  I’m sure this time they really mean this is the last one.

Missouri Tax Guy, The Enrolled Agent, EA

Jack Townsend, Fourth Circuit Holds Defendant to His Tax Loss Stipulated in the Plea Agreement

Kay Bell, Summer 2013 sales tax holidays begin this weekend

William Perez, Sales Tax Holidays in 2013

                                                              

Quotable: (my emphasis)

The manufacturing innovation institute, meanwhile, is just another iteration of an idea that’s been around for longer than Barack Obama has. Go to any Rust Belt city and you’ll find research campuses, innovation institutes and similar institutions named after hopeful politicians who promised that a new manufacturing base would coalesce around this exciting agglomeration of creative minds. Unfortunately, in most instances it has turned out that manufacturing bases would rather coalesce around cheap land, low taxes and acres of uncongested freeway.

-Megan McArdle, “Obama’s Speech Is a Confession of Impotence

 

I think one judge will think otherwise. Three South Dakota men say income taxes don’t apply to them (Argus-Leader.com)

Tax Court Judge Holmes has a new opinion out.  Always entertaining and enlightening.

News you can use:  No Such Thing as Free Swag (Austin John, Elizabeth Malm, Tax Policy Blog).  Sorry, ESPY winners.

More harebrained than what they do anyway? U.S. Senators with Harebrained Tax Reform Ideas Offered an Opportunity (Going Concern)

Maybe not where you grew up. Cigarettes and Preschoolers Don’t Go Together (Scott Drenkard, Noah Glyn, Tax Policy Blog)

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/21/2013: thief subsidy edition. And why the IRS scandal is so depressing.

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Iowa’s elected leadership has come up with a deal to bring down Iowa’s high commercial property taxes in exchange for an increase in Iowa’s earned income tax credit.  The Democrats who control the Senate have long been pushing for an increase in the EITC, and this seemed like an obvious compromise from early in the session.  There will be much rejoicing if the deal gets completed, as appears likely; property tax reform has been the Governor’s highest legislative priority.

It’s too bad that the cost of a sensible property tax is a big increase in a program that is a poverty trap for honest taxpayers and a pinata for thieves.  The phase-outs of the EITC result in shockingly-high marginal tax rates on each additional dollar earned by relatively low-income taxpayers.

The EITC  is refundable, which means it is really a welfare program run through tax returns.  About 25% of the EITC is claimed “improperly,” which is a nice way to say it’s stolen.  The annual cost of the Iowa EITC boost is estimated at $35 million, so the price of fixing a broken commercial property tax regime is an $8 million annual thief subsidy.  So while the politicians celebrate their great compromise, Iowa’s petty thieves also have occasion to raise a glass, filled by you.

 

TaxProf,  Supreme Court Unanimously Reverses Third Circuit, Says PPL Can Claim Foreign Tax Credit for U.K. Windfall Tax and Avi-Yonah and Christians on Yesterday’s PPL Decision.

 

Jeremy Scott, Rand Paul’s Claim of “Written Policy” Seems Like GOP Overreach

It is unlikely that Republicans will find Paul’s smoking gun, but the IRS scandal is almost certainly the result of political bias on some level.  It is hard to believe that a group of officials would innocently pick terms like “Tea Party,” “patriot,” and “9/12” to single out organizations for additional scrutiny.  It would be incredible to find such disinterested tone-deafness even in the most politically insulated of civil servants (and the IRS is far from insulated).

I doubt the White House left fingerprints on IRS efforts to harass political opponents (though it didn’t lift a finger to stop it).   That leads to an even more depressing possibility: that the IRS went out its way to beat up on the President’s opponents on its own.  Nobody blew the whistle.  That means IRS management is so corrupt and political that it would go after the administration’s political opponents with only a wink and a nudge.  And anybody who doesn’t think this was politically-motivated is kidding themselves.

James Taranto puts it well:

And the IRS scandal was a subversion of democracy on a massive scale. The most fearsome and coercive arm of the administrative state embarked on a systematic effort to suppress citizen dissent against the party in power. Thomas Friedman is famous for musing that he wishes America could  be China for a day. It turns out we’ve been China for a while.

 

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

Megan McArdle, Yes, What Happened at the IRS is a Scandal

Russ Fox, The IRS Scandal Reaches the White House

TaxGrrrl, IRS Hearing Marks End Of Their Worst.Week.Ever But Congress Signals More Hearings Are On The Way

Kay Bell, House and Senate committee hearings on IRS screening of Tea Party tax-exempt applications set for May 21 & 22

ViralRead, Report: Head of IRS Employees Union Met With President Obama the Day Before Tea Party Targeting Began

The Other McCain, Portrait of a Thug: IRS Union Boss

 

Peter Reilly, Bank Cannot Issue 1099-C And Subsequently Try To Collect

Jason Dinesen, Same-Sex Marriage, Community Property, And Multi-State Income — Part 3

Fiduciary Income Tax Blog, Passive Income: Good or Bad?

 

Paul Neiffer,  A Farmland REIT is Now Publicly Traded

Stephanie Fitch, 5 Questions Congress Should Ask Obama Commerce Nominee Penny Pritzker

William Perez,  IRS Offices to be Closed on May 24

Linda Beale, How Apple avoids US taxes with shell games

 

Going Concern,  Last Year Was a Very Unfortunate One to Be Wealthy and French, Even By French Standards.  When marginal rates exceed 100%, you know a country is off the rails.

Robert D. Flach has a new Tuesday Buzz up!

The Critical Question: NFL Linebacker James Harrison Spends More On Massage Than You Did On Your House. But Can He Deduct It?  (Tony Nitti)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/30/2013: Iowa due date edition. Send them your cash, so they can forward it to thieves.

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Legislator insists that thieves get $11 million as price of property tax deal.  As Iowans pay their 2012 balances due on today’s state income tax deadline, they may want to take a moment to ponder how careful the legislature is about spending the money they are sending in.

The Des Moines Register reports that Senator Joe Bolkcom demands an increase in the Iowa earned income credit as the price of a property tax bill:

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, chairman of the tax-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee, spoke at a Statehouse news conference sponsored by The Coalition for a Better Iowa, which released a booklet with the stories of Iowans who have been helped by the earned income tax credit. About 200,000 Iowa working families receive the tax credit, which assists households with incomes under $45,000.

Senate Democrats want to raise the earned income tax credit from 7 percent now to 20 percent at a cost of about $55 million annually.

Both Sen. Bolkcom and the Register fail to mention the massive fraud rate of the earned income tax credit.  The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration this month reported:

The IRS estimates that 21 to 25 percent of EITC payments were issued improperly in Fiscal Year 2012. The dollar value of these improper payments was estimated to be between $11.6 billion and $13.6 billion.

Applying that fraud percentage to Sen. Bolkcom’s proposal will result in $11.5 million to $13.75 million in “improper” — mostly fraudulent — Iowa EITC payments.   Remember that the EITC is a “refundable” credit, which means that if it exceeds your tax, the state writes you a check.  It’s a spending program, a welfare program.

I would say it takes a special kind of legislator to demand $55 million in spending knowing that it’s an appropriation of at least $11 million to thieves, but really it just takes a run-of-the-mill legislator spending your money instead of his own.

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

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

 

Only somebody who doesn’t prepare tax returns would say something this stupid.  The TaxProf links to this from a University of Wisconsin academic:

 This Article analyzes the ongoing structural transformation by observing and explaining the advantages that accrue from pursuing social and regulatory objectives through the tax code. In particular, this Article identifies a number of legislative and normative advantages that tax-embedded policies offer.

The tax law has one important job: to raise revenue.  If this author had ever done business tax returns for a living, she would know what a challenge it is to simply determine taxable income.  If she had ever helped a client through an IRS audit, she would know how difficult it is for the agents to simply work through the accounting, let alone run a bunch of social programs on the side.  The author should be made to spend three years working at a storefront tax prep business to learn the chaos her views cause outside the faculty lounge.

 

Tony Nitti,  Overview Of The New 3.8% Investment Income Tax, Part 2: Passive Activities

Jeremy Scott, Baucus, the Marketplace Fairness Act, and Tax Reform (Tax.com):

Baucus’s shift to the right in the last few months (which people had assumed was positioning for the election next year) has antagonized more than just progressives.  It seems his Senate colleagues are growing frustrated as well. 

And that will severely hamper the chances that a major tax reform bill will make it to the Senate floor.

 

Judge Sentences Widow to Less Than a Minute of Probation in Tax Case (Accounting Today)

TaxGrrrl, Willie Nelson, Who Saved His Career And His House With The IRS Tapes, Turns 80

Nanette Byrnes,  Republicans pursue tax reform, and more  (Tax Break)

 

Brian Strahle,  STATE TAXES:  WHAT WILL MAKE YOUR COMPANY CHANGE – CHOICE or AUDIT NOTICE?  On not being in denial about your exposure to business taxes in other states.

Jack Townsend, a criminal tax defense attorney, offers some wise advise in  Tips to Avoid an IRS Criminal Investigation or, Worse, a Tax Grand Jury Investigation

 

It’s time for Robert D. Flach’s Tuesday Buzz!

 

Always heed tax policy advice from a violent cannibal boxer.  Boxer Mike Tyson TKOs Fox host with talk pro-tax talk (Kay Bell)

Martin Sullivan, To Balance the Budget: Tax Sex Appeal (Tax.com)  Yes. by all means cut my taxes.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/25/2013: Only a few days left for IRA distribution mulligan. And: A $750 check for each Iowa household?

Friday, January 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

A proposal to refund part of the state budget surplus.  The Des Moines Register reports:

Iowa House and Senate Republican leaders today proposed to give a flat $750 to every Iowa household in an effort to return to taxpayers the state’s $800 million budget surplus.

The money would be returned to taxpayers in the form of a tax credit, said Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, and House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha.

20120504-1That seems pretty straightforward.  Better still to give it back as part of simplifying the tax code, but better that than just spending it.  Yet just spending it has its advocates:

Senate Democrats who control their chamber said that since it’s early in  the session they are open to talking about the Republicans’ proposal, but they have other ideas.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, who chairs the tax-writing Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee, said Democrats are interested in providing earned income tax credits for lower-income Iowa families and raising the threshold for filing state income taxes. He added that Iowa needs to invest more tax money to clean up dirty rivers and streams, repair crumbling roads and bridges, upgrade the state’s education system and make other improvements.

The earned income credit is a welfare program run through tax returns, with a tremendous rate of fraud.  It’s also a poverty trap.  The phase-out of benefits with rising income serves as a stiff tax on improving your income.  And spending doesn’t become something else just because you call it “investing.”

Elaine Maag,  Earned Income Tax Awareness Day (TaxVox)

 

Kay Bell reminds us that taxpayers who failed to make a 2012 required minimum distribution from the IRA have a January 31 mulligan.   The tax law imposes a stiff penalty on taxpayers who have reached age 70 1/2 who fail to take a minimum amount out by year end.  Taxpayers who failed to take their 2012 withdrawal last year can roll the RMD amount to charity by January 31 and avoid the 50% penalty.

Taxpayers who took an IRA distribution in December can also roll that into a charity by January 31 and avoid having the distribution included in 2012 income.

These provisions were part of the Fiscal Cliff tax bill, which extended the tax-free status of IRA rollovers to charity along with a bunch of other expired provisions.

 

Just because your bank is a country bank doesn’t make the banker a bumpkin.  Four Nebraskans have been charged with “structuring” — breaking deposits into chunks under $10,000 to avoid federal cash reporting requirements.  Federal law requires banks to report cash transactions over $10,000.  Folks who don’t want the government to know about their cash sometimes attempt to use multiple smaller transactions to fly under the radar; that’s illegal.    Theindependent.com reports:

 Randy L. Evans, 59, of Grand Island is charged in a 15-count indictment.  In the first 14 counts, it is alleged that between March 29, 2010, and Dec. 27, 2011, Evans structured financial transactions to evade reporting requirements when he made deposits in the amount of $210,381 at Five Points Bank. Count 15 charges him with structuring financial
transactions to evade reporting requirements when he made 449 transactions between Jan. 4, 2010, and Feb. 28 at Five Points Bank in the amount of $2,030,322.

Bankers are required to report suspicious transactions, and if you make yourself a regular, they’ll notice — especially in a small-town bank.

 

Regrettably, yes.  Libertarian writer Sheldon Richman breaks the bad news: just because the income tax is a bad thing doesn’t make it unconstitutional:

Where does this leave liberty’s advocates? First, we have to face the facts. Like it or not, the U.S. Constitution empowers the Congress to levy any tax it wants. Anyone is free to come up with a contrary interpretation, but the constitutionally endowed courts have spoken. Reading one’s libertarian values into the Constitution is futile. For better or worse, the Constitution means what the occupants of the relevant constitutional offices say it means.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if you think the income tax is unconstitutional if the IRS, the federal judge, the Marshals Service and the Bureau of Prisons think otherwise.  Fighting the income tax by not filing ruins your finances without hurting the Leviathan one little bit.

 

Luring and subsidizing your competitors with your tax money.  Left-side advocacy group Good Jobs First has released a report slamming “incentive” tax breaks like those used for two fertilizer companies in Iowa last year.  The report doesn’t mention Iowa’s programs, but it provides a depressing list of corporate bribery in other states, including subsidies to lure employers from Kansas City, Kansas across the river to Kansas City, Missouri, and vice-versa.  Their press release gets it right:

Interstate job piracy is not a fruitful strategy for economic growth, [report author Greg] LeRoy noted: “The costs are high and the benefits are low, since a tiny number of companies get huge subsidies for moving what amounts to an insignificant number of jobs.” LeRoy added: “The flip side is job blackmail: the availability of relocation subsidies makes it possible for companies that have no intention of moving to extract payoffs from their home states to stay put.”

For all the abuse, the organization’s recommendations are modest.  I would eliminate all such subsidies and replace them with a simple low-rate tax system for everyone.  The Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform would be a great start here.

 

TaxProf,  House Ways & Means Chair Proposes Mark-to-Market Tax on Financial Derivatives

IRS Asks Judge To Suspend Injunction Barring It From Regulating Tax Preparers

Jim Maule,  A Tax Question: So What Do You Do With Your Time?. A good discussion of the “material participation” rules that take on extra importance under the new Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax.

Anthony Nitti,  The Tax Impact of Obamacare On The Passthrough Income of Small Business Owners

Patrick Temple-West,  Firms keep stockpiles of ‘foreign’ cash in U.S., and more (Tax Break)

Joseph Henchman,  Tax Foundation and CBPP Agree: States Need Strong Rainy Day Funds (Tax Policy Blog)

Jamaal Solomon, Tax Organizer for Entertainers.  Independent entertainers who cross state lines can find their taxes complicated, so good recordkeeping is essential.

Robert W. Wood, Shhh, Home Office and other IRS Audit Trigger Secrets

David Cay Johnston, Missing Half the Cash (Tax.com)

Start your weekend early with a Friday Buzz from Robert D. Flach!

News you can use:  Stuff Creepy Accountants Like (Going Concern).  Wisconsin!

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Tax Roundup, 12/26/2012: legislator wants a $310 million train set for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Iowa’s legislators get $800 million to play with for Christmas. Naturally, many of them think they can spend it better than those of us who gave it to them, based on a Des Moines Register report today quoting a bunch of prominent state politicians.

For example, Joe Bolkcom, Iowa City Democrat and Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee:

“We have a silent crisis in the number of kids and the number of our children living in poverty in our state,” Bolkcom said. “One of my top priorities will be addressing that crisis as a matter of tax policy. We need to use some of this tax surplus to make a substantial boost in the earned income tax credit.”

Bolkcom also favors appropriating $20 million as a state match to help  secure an $87 million Federal Railroad Administration grant to establish passenger train service between the Quad Cities and Iowa City, a move he says would create hundreds of jobs.

That’s two awful ideas.  As we have pointed out, increasing Iowa’s earned income credit would impose a brutal combined effective income tax rate of over 50% on low income workers — rewarding dependency and punishing taxpayers for emerging from poverty.

20121226-1And for the passenger rail plan — that’s ten kinds of crazy.  With the Megabus making three daily runs between Chicago and Iowa City for no more than $39.50 — and for as little as $1.50 — it’s hard to imagine a less urgent priority than pouring $20 million into a $310 million federal-state boondoggle to establish rail service that will lose millions annually selling $42 tickets for slower service.

Unfortunately, none of the politicians quoted by the Register proposes using the surplus to overhaul Iowa’s dysfunctional and business-hostile income tax. There is a better way:  Lower the rates, simplify the system, repeal the job-killing corporation income tax, and eliminate the corporate welfare deductions and tax credits.  In other words, The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Related:  You’d better waste your $20 million, or we won’t waste our $80 million!

 

Fiscal Cliff Notes

Kay Bell,  With the Mayan end of world threat over, it’s time to focus on the fiscal cliff

Can I return it?  AMT, the Gift You Don’t Have to Wrap!  (Trish McIntire)

 

Paul Neiffer,  One Week to Go Checklist

Missouri Tax Guy, Can an LLC be Taxed as an S Corp

Jason Dinesen,  Dinesen Tax Greatest Hits – The 5 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2012

Scott Hodge,  Taxing Guns to Pay for Cops in Classrooms? A bad idea to fund another bad idea.

That’s the way to bet, anyway.  Sometimes the Cynics Are Right  (Russ Fox)

Loss carryforwards?  Why Santa Won’t Owe Any Income Taxes This Year (TaxGrrrl)

Robert D. Flach won’t let the post-holiday letdown kill his Buzz!

Because I want to finish reading the phone book first?  Why Not Read the Entire Sales Tax Statute? (Jim Maule)

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EITC: a discouragement to work?

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

When the Iowa legislature was considering a big boost in the state earned income tax credit, I pointed out how the credit phase-out punishes additional income.  The phase out works like a special high tax bracket on low-to-moderate income increases.   Today a New York Times opinion piece (via the TaxProf) makes the same point:

The earned-income tax credit is often said to encourage work, but it may do just the opposite.

The chart below shows the credit’s schedules for the 2011 tax year as a function of annual earned income for a given family situation (other family situations have the same basic shape). The schedule shown illustrates the mountain-plateau pattern described above: an increasing portion for the lowest incomes, a flat portion, a decreasing portion and then finally a flat portion of zero.

 

So while the credit encourages work until the maximum credit is achieved — under these facts, at $9,100 — it actively punishes increases in income from $21,770 to $41,132.  It’s the same point I made with this chart about the proposed increase in the Iowa EITC from 7% of the federal credit to 15% in one of the failed compromises to achieve property tax reform:

The EITC is credited with reducing abject poverty by its advocates.  Unfortunately, the phaseout punishes attempts to move to middle income status, locking people into relatively low income lives.  It’s an unintended consequence that EITC advocates never seem to address.

Related: Governor to buy property tax reform by doubling earned income credit?

 

 

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