Posts Tagged ‘FBAR’

Tax Roundup, 6/30/15: It’s FBAR Day! Foreign and gaming account owners, do or die.

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

fincen logoForm 114 or bust. Today is the unextendable deadline to file Form 114, the “FBAR” report of foreign financial accounts. It’s required if you own foreign financial accounts whose value reached $10,000 anytime in 2014. Penalties for failing to file can run to half the value of the account, so if it applies, you want to get it done. The form must be filed electronically.

Foreign financial accounts include bank or brokerage accounts held outside, even in an offshore branch of a U.S. bank. They also include online gaming accounts for sites located outside the U.S. More details on what is included is available at the IRS FBAR page.

You will need the mailing address of the branch where your foreign account is located. Russ Fox has done a great job of finding many street addresses for online gaming sites.

Is the Form 114 filing requirement absurd? Yes. The filing threshold is far too low, and it works to make regulatory violators out of Americans living and working overseas for the crime of committing personal finance abroad. Meanwhile, I would be surprised if any actual criminals are actually caught using Form 114; instead, it’s just used to increase penalties on those whose tax violations are found in other ways. Oh, and to extort money out of people who didn’t realize they were supposed to file the thing. Unfortunately, absurdity is what the IRS is all about.

Speaking of absurd, The Commerce Department BE-10 survey for those owning at least 10% of an offshore business is also due for e-filing today, with penalties into the thousands of dollars for non-filers.

Related: Russ Fox, Does a Nonresident Alien Spouse that Has Elected to be Treated as a US Person Need to File an FBAR?

 

Arnold Kling reports on what seems to me a very unwise idea: State Nullification of the Federal Income Tax?, involving the idea of “nullifying” the federal income tax by providing a state credit for whatever the federal income tax is, funded by state sales taxes. Arnold points out some of the obvious problems: “For example, if this were enacted, then residents would have no incentive to minimize their tax liability. Go ahead and realize all of your capital gains, because when you pay more Federal taxes, your state sends you a credit.”

 

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Forest fires in Canada give Iowa a spooky sky today.

 

William Perez, Tax Implications of Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling. “Together, [Jason] Dinesen and I came up with a list of all the tax things we should be concerned about as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (pdf).”

Robert D. Flach brings his Tuesday Buzz, along with the less cheerful news that his Gmail account has been compromised. He ponders whether IRS Commissioner Koskinen is worse than his predecessor, Worst Commissioner Ever Shulman. I still give the prize to Shulman, but Koskinen is making a heck of a case for the honor.

Kay Bell, IRS ‘incompetence’ blamed for lost Lois Lerner emails. That’s certainly plausible, but the incompetence all seems to be on the side of hampering the investigation.

Robert Wood, If Uber, FedEx, Other Workers Are Employees, Who Pays What?

Joni Larson, Failing to Prove the Attorney-Client Privilege Applies (Procedurally Taxing). Some conversations you’d rather not share with the IRS.

Peter Reilly, Mario Biaggi’s Criminal Case Followed By Tax Travails. In some ways the tax decision coming on top of the criminal conviction really makes me think there might have been something to Biaggi’s contention that he was a victim of Giuliani’s ambition.  When you look at the big picture of the transactions, nobody seems to have been getting away with anything from an income tax perspective.”

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Are Donations to a 501(c)(4) Deductible?

 

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Elizabeth Malm, A Quick Primer on Personal Income Taxes (with GIFs!) (Tax Policy Blog). They’re nice, but no dancing cats. A great little post for anybody wanting an overview of state income taxes.

Gene Steuerle, Combined Tax Rates and Creating a 21st Century Social Welfare Budget (TaxVox).

Dalton Lane, Obergefell v. Hodges: Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage (Tax Policy Blog):

The Supreme Court’s ruling has definitely simplified the tax system. Whether a same-sex marriage, or a opposite-sex marriage, the tax treatment is the same. Furthermore, same-sex couples will no longer have any difference in filing status between their state income taxes and federal income taxes.

It will make Jason Dinesen’s life easier, for sure.

Caleb Newquist, PwC Walks a Fine Line Between Its People and Clients on Same-Sex Marriage (Going Concern).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 782

 

TaxGrrrl, 8 Signs That It’s Time To Get A New Tax Professional. They are all good signs, especially number 8.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/24/15: New obscure dumb forms we choose to do together. And: Wine and Taxes!

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150528-1There’s a new stupid form in town. The Commerce Department this year springs a new form on people with interests in foreign businesses. Form BE-10 was originally due May 31, but the system for filing it crashed, leading to a new June 30 deadline.

BE-10 is a survey, not a tax form. The survey is done every five years, and formerly was required only when you were contacted by the Commerce Department. Now everyone with a 10% or more “direct or indirect” interest in a foreign business is supposed to file it. From Accounting Today:

The form is mainly intended for businesses with foreign investments. Originally individuals only had a filing requirement if they were directly contacted by the bureau, but last November, the government amended its regulations to require any U.S. person who had at least a 10 percent direct or indirect interest in a foreign business enterprise at any time during the U.S. person’s fiscal year to file the Form BE-10. A U.S. person includes individuals, trusts, estates, corporations and partnerships.

“With many of our clients fighting the IRS over FBAR penalties, we err on the side of filing whenever the government requests a U.S. person to file an international information report,” said Carolyn Turnbull, international tax services director at Vestal & Wiler CPAs in Orlando, Fla.

Penalties for failure to file the form range from $2,500 to $25,000. Even worse, individuals who willfully fail to file the form can face fines of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for a maximum of one year, or both.

$2,500 to $25,000 for not filling out a stupid survey. Remember, government is simply a word for the things we decide to do together, like clobber each other with big fines for obscure paperwork violations.

Robert Wood has more.

 

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Kay Bell, Uncle Sam demands foreign bank account filing by June 30. The $10,000 threshold — and the whole FBAR regime, in fact — is absurd. Like so many regulations, it ensnares otherwise innocent people for paperwork violations while doing next to nothing to affect criminals, who don’t much care about getting the paperwork right.

Robert Wood, Offshore Banks Reveal Account Data, As IRS Amnesty For Many Involves 50% Penalty. Some amnesty.

Russ Fox, FBAR Due in One Week:

Because of the Hom decision of last year, we now must again report foreign online gambling accounts. That’s basically all online gambling sites except the legal sites in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. I maintain a list of online gambling sites and their mailing addresses here.

Russ performs a valuable public service with this address list.

 

 

Samantha Jordan, Scott Drenkard, How High are Wine Taxes in Your State? (Tax Policy Blog). In Iowa, pretty dang high:
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Considering it’s burgeoning wine industry, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been more effort to bring Iowa’s wine tax down. And some of the new Iowa wine isn’t half bad.

 

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 11: Meet the “Single Penalty”

Peter Reilly, Chief Counsel Gives Narrow Scope To Partnership Liability Regulations. “Note, here, that the taxpayers were insolvent and the field is being told to look harder for a possibly larger assessment.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Navigating The Multiple Definitions Of Nonrecourse And Recourse Liabilities

 

Carl Smith, Does Rev. Proc. 99-21 Validly Restrict Proof of Financial Disability, for Purposes of Extending the Refund Claim SOL, to Letters From Doctors of Medicine or Osteopathy? Part 1.

TaxGrrrl, Nevada Pops New Tax On Burning Man, iHeartRadio, Other Music Festivals

 

David Brunori, Rand Paul’s Tax Ideas Are Worth Serious Consideration (Tax Analysts Blog). 

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a GOP presidential candidate, released his tax plan last week. As expected, some commentators piled on criticism. Howard Gleckman of the Urban Institute said Paul was trying to use the tax proposal to “fundamentally restructure the federal government as we know it.” Bob McIntyre, the director of Citizens for Tax Justice, said Paul’s plan would cost $15 trillion over 10 years. Other, less informed folks resorted to calling Paul names.

This criticism from liberals is neither unexpected nor irrational. These are folks who like to see more government spending and revenue raising. Paul is a small government Republican. Of course he wants to see less government and taxes. So it’s not surprising that his tax plan would, in a vacuum, lose the government money. The Tax Foundation says the cost would be $3 trillion over 10 years on a static basis. But that assumes Paul will keep spending at current levels. I suspect that if he became president, he’d support spending cuts equal to or greater than the cost of his tax plan.

I certainly would.

 

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Howard Gleckman, CBO Has No Idea What Repeal of the ACA Means for the Economy or the Deficit (TaxVox). No more idea than when they said the ACA wouldn’t increase the deficit back when it was enacted.

 

Ethan Greene, Alaska Ends Film Tax Credit Program (Tax Policy Blog). States are beginning to realize that they are being had by the film industry.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 776:

In the continuing saga of the IRS, the Department of Justice, and their efforts to hide evidence and obstruct justice to protect Lois Lerner and the administration’s targeting of its political opposition, the IRS now claims that thousands of emails found on backup tapes Commissioner Koskinen told Congress did not exist are not IRS records, the IRS has no control over them, and they can’t produce them. 

The IRS has done nothing but obstruct and stonewall. If a taxpayer treated an IRS exam the way the IRS has treated this investigation, they’d be inviting the criminal agents in.

 

News from the Profession. Life at Deloitte Includes Slow Days (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/23/15: A foolproof tax prep scam! And more.

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

One week left! To file your FBAR Form 114 reports of foreign financial accounts.

 

ice truckDid a Davenport preparer e-file different returns than he showed his clients? That’s what federal prosecutors allege. They have accused a Davenport man of preparing accurate tax returns for clients, but then e-filing different returns claiming larger refunds, diverting the extra refunds to his own account.

If true, the case is interesting in two ways.

First,It appears to have been based on fraudulent Schedule C sole proprietorship filings. These can be used to create sham losses to create extra refunds, or to create sham earned income to generate earned income tax credit. It was most likely an EITC scam, as fake schedule A deductions work as well for deductions, but not at all for generating refundable EITC.

Second, it was a horrible idea. It’s hard to imagine how he thought he would ever get away with filing returns different from what the client approved. Inevitably there would be a notice or other problem that would bring the scam to light. But the cops don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

 

Robert Wood, Record 27 Years Prison For Tax Fraud, Beating Tax Fraud Queen’s 21 Years. The guy allegedly collected 7,000 Social Security numbers and scammed $1.8 in stolen refunds. Considering the hassle he created for the rightful holders of those numbers, that sounds about right.

buzz20141017Robert D. Flach has Tuesday Buzz for you, covering the ground from Trump to Kansas.

William Perez, Tax Advice for Cannabis Entrepreneurs. Speaking of buzz.

Hank Stern, CO-OPs: That flushing sound you hear…  It appears that other Obamacare health co-ops may go the way of Iowa’s CoOportunity.

Keith Fogg, Contrasting the Compromise Standards between the Chief Counsel, IRS and the Department of Justice in Litigated Cases (Procedurally Taxing)

Jack Townsend, Two More Swiss Banks Enter DPAs under US DOJ Swiss Bank Program. Swiss bank privacy is over. Taxpayers who have been counting on it need to check in with their attorneys.

 

Jeremy Scott, Supreme Court Could Create $353 Billion Deficit Problem (Tax Analysits Blog):

The wait continues for the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell — the Court did not release the opinion on June 22. If the Court decides in favor of King — basically making residents of 34 states ineligible for healthcare credits — that will gut President Obama’s healthcare reform effort, essentially leaving lawmakers with the choice to either fix or repeal the Affordable Care Act. Republicans are eager to do the latter, but the Congressional Budget Office may have made that more difficult. The CBO says that outright repeal would cost $353 billion over 10 years based on a static scoring model.

It’s a bit strange to think that it’s the Republicans’ responsibility to fix a law that was incompetently drafted by a Democratic Congress. And the House and Senate don’t seem inclined to follow that path anyway. 

It’s not the Supreme Court that would create the problem. It would be the administration and its Congressional allies that passed an unworkable and incoherent lawwith no support at all from the other party.

Kay Bell, No Supreme Court word yet on Obamacare subsidies,
but another part of the health care law is closer to repeal
. “The House voted on June 18 to get rid of the medical device tax.”

 

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Dita Aisyah, Tax Extenders: Take Them or Leave Them, Part 2 (Tax Policy Blog):

Currently, all 50 or so tax extenders are expired for 2015, but Congress will likely pass them retroactively as they have in the past.

Some tax extenders are genuinely good policy, while some are bad. However, the concept of an extender is silly. They create unnecessary uncertainty for individuals and businesses who need to make important long term financial plans.

This very uncertainty creates the need for lobbyists to make annual pilgrimages to Congress to beg for another year of tax breaks. I suspect that Congress likes it that way.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Rand Paul’s Payroll Tax Swap. “One striking feature of the tax plan is that it eliminates payroll taxes.”

Bob McIntyre, Detractor Dangles Shiny Objects to Obscure Facts about Rand Paul’s Deficit-Inflating Flat Tax Proposal. (Tax Justice Blog). A left-wing tax site calls the Tax Foundation right-wing.

Steven Rosenthal, The Rich get Richer, with a Little Tax Help (TaxVox).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 775. Today’s entry covers a non Tea Party organization whose exemption was stalled because it held views disapproved by the Administration.

 

News from the Profession. There’s a Lack of Talent to Succeed Accounting Firms Because the Talent Doesn’t Exist (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “A recent survey of accounting firm partners from the CPA Consultants’ Alliance found that over half of respondents (51.7%) said procrastination or denial was a primary cause for firms’ succession troubles.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/2/15: See what the thief filed to claim your refund. And: a crowded Irish address files 580 1040s!

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20111040logoIt seems only fair. In a policy change, the IRS will enable identity theft victims to see copies of fraudulent returns filed in their names, reports Tax Analysts ($link).

Tax-related identity theft victims will soon be able to obtain IRS copies of the fraudulent tax returns used to steal their identity, thanks in part to a push by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

“Once we have a procedure in place, we will issue an announcement informing tax-related identity theft victims of the process for receiving a redacted copy of the fraudulent return,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a May 28 letter that acknowledged Ayotte as the impetus for the change in the tax agency’s identity theft policy.

The redactions will deal with other taxpayers included on the stolen return. I am guessing could include pretend spouses and dependents used by the ID thief.

This is good news for taxpayers, as it may help them resolve otherwise inexplicable problems with their IRS accounts. It also promises to help shed light on how the thefts occur and, perhaps, help practitioners suggest measures to fight the fraud. It’s also long overdue. It’s not as if thieves can reasonably expect confidentiality for their crimes.

 

20130316-1The luck of the IRisSh. The tax agency still seems to be way behind the ID thieves. This report from the Irish Times is hardly reassuring: 

An address in Kilkenny topped a table of addresses used for multiple potentially fraudulent tax return applications submitted to the Internal Revenue Service in 2012, a study by the US treasury has found.

The address in Kilkenny was used for 580 returns in 2012, which led to “refunds” totalling $218,974 being issued, according to the study by the treasury inspector general for tax administration in the United States.

The IRS likes to claim that budget constraints are behind its abject failure to control the identity theft refund fraud epidemic. The inability to flag hundreds of refunds claimed from the same offshore address — which would seem like an easy enough programming problem to solve — indicates the problems are deeper than lean budgets.

 An address in Kaunas, Lithuania, was used for 525 applications that prompted the payment of $156,274, while an address in Miami, Florida, came third on the list, with 417 applications leading to the payment of $221,806. 

Somehow this doesn’t tell me the IRS needs to expand its responsibilities — but Congress and the President clearly feel otherwise.

 

Will there finally be real steps to fight the problem? Tax Analysts also reports ($link) that the IRS, in cooperation with states and software vendors, will require additional information to process e-filings:

Central to the announcement is a greatly enhanced public-private effort to combat fraud through increased information sharing.

Another upshot is that industry and government will need to process returns differently starting with the 2016 filing season, said Alabama Department of Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee. On the front end, tax return preparation software providers will need to provide multifactor authentication steps when a taxpayer logs in or returns to a site, she said.

The changes also will require vendors to increase by a few dozen data points the amount of information collected from the taxpayer or the return and sent in a standardized format to the IRS and state revenue departments, Magee said.

The story says the details will be announced sometime this month to enable vendors to prepare for next season. We will cover the announcement when it is made.

 

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Robert D. Flach has a fresh Tuesday Buzz roundup, covering topics as diverse as extenders and “I Love Lucy.

William Perez, The Key Benefits of Health Savings Accounts. Tax deductible contributions, tax-free accumulation, and tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses.

Robert Wood, IRS Says If You’re Willful, FBAR Penalties Hit 100%, $10,000 If You’re Not

Peter Reilly, Conservation Easements – Tax Court Lets Owner Sell Them Or Give Them But Not Both

Jason Dinesen, History of Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 9: After Poe v. Seaborn. “Finally in 1948, Congress acted. For the first time, filing statuses were created and we moved closer to the tax system we know today.”

Kay Bell, Ohio becomes 25th state in which Amazon collects sales tax

Me, How states try to tax the visiting employee. My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.

 

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Alan Cole, Oregon to Experiment with Mileage-Based Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

Oregon will become the first state to implement a per-mile tax on driving. The tax is voluntary – an alternative to the state’s fuel tax. Drivers will get the choice of paying one or another. Should they choose the mileage-based tax, they will be charged 1.5 cents per mile, but get a credit to offset the taxes they pay on gas.

States have difficulty increasing gas taxes. Energy-efficient cars and electric (coal powered!) vehicles also are affecting gas tax revenues. The post doesn’t expain how the state will measure mileage; privacy issues promise to be a big obstacle for mileage taxes, but if this can be overcome, expect more states to follow Oregon.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 754

Martin Sullivan, How Grover Norquist’s Pledge Can Hurt the Conservative Cause (Tax Analysts Blog). “First, the pledge’s hard and fast prohibition on tax hikes can prevent signers from agreeing to compromises that would result in outcomes most conservatives would consider highly favorable.”

 

Scott Sumner asks Why are interest expenses tax deductible? (Econlog).

The cost of equity (dividends, etc.) is not tax deductible, while interest is deductible. But why?

Good question. I respond with another — why aren’t dividends deductible? That would prevent double taxation of corporate income while making sure corporations can’t be used as incorporated investment portfolios.

 

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/6/15: Crime Watch Edition. Rashia, still 21.

Friday, March 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

It’s the time of the year when exasperated taxpayers and preparers are tempted to say, “bugger all this, I’m going to go for the gusto and cheat on my taxes!” That’s when it’s useful to look in on an old friend of the Tax Update to see how well that’s going.

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

Let’s look in on Rashia Wilson, who proclaimed herself (on Facebook!) the “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud.” Her reign was cut short by federal identity theft tax refund charges, resulting in a 21-year sentence. And with federal sentences, you have to serve at least 90% of the time.

Ms. Wilson naturally was unhappy with this judicial lèse-majesté, so she appealed, citing procedural irregularities. The trial judge was ordered to reconsider. On further review, the call on the field stands. 21 years.  Robert Wood has more.

Iowa has tax ID fraud too. While South Florida may be the kingdom of tax refund fraud, it has colonies everywhere. Even in Iowa: Cedar Rapids woman charged with filing false tax returns (KWWL.com):

The United States Department of Justice says 33-year-old Gwendolyn Murray is charged with twelve counts of filing false claims for tax refunds, seven counts of theft of government property, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.­ The indictment containing the charges was unsealed on Tuesday.

It is alleged that Murray filed 12 fraudulent tax returns in 2012 and 2013 using other people’s names. She received refunds on seven of those tax returns. The court also alleges that Murray stole the identities of two people.

It’s good to prosecute ID thieves, but it’s far better to keep them from thieving. It’s eye-opening that 7 of the 12 alleged attempts allegedly succeeded. Criminals aren’t known for their impulse control or their ability to anticipate long-term consequences. If they see somebody get a bunch of cash just from keying in some numbers on a computer, they’re going to want some of that bling themselves, and they aren’t going to ponder the likelihood of a prison sentence first.  The IRS is pretty much leaving the door unlocked and the cash register open.

 

Megan McArdle says the culture of “getting a big refund” is part of the problem in Fewer Tax Refunds, Fewer Scams:

If all returns were submitted at the same time, and refunds were held until they could be cross-checked against the IRS’s copies of W-2s and 1099s, then this sort of fraud wouldn’t work very well; the IRS would know it had two returns and could start the process of figuring out which one was fraudulent before it mailed the check. But we love our early refunds, and people often count on getting that check as early as possible.

She offers wise advice:

However, there’s one thing you personally can do to fight tax fraud, and that’s make sure that you don’t give the government more money than you have to. You should never get excited about a tax refund; all it means is that you gave the government a substantial interest-free loan by withholding too much tax throughout the year. You should aim for your refund to be as small as possible — ideally, zero.

A system that sends $21 billion annually to fraudsters — and that number is rising rapidly — can’t continue forever. Part of this will be a technological fix.  My wife can’t buy a dress at Nordstrom in Chicago without triggering phone calls from two credit card companies.  Meanwhile, the IRS happily wires wads of cash to Rashia. One would hope the IRS could learn something from Visa and Discover.

But the IRS is bad at technology, so part of the fix will have to be slower (and ideally, smaller) refunds. This could include lower penalty thresholds for underpayments so that taxpayers will be more willing to risk owing a bit on April 15 — perhaps combined with withholding tables that leave taxpayers owing a bit, rather than getting refunds.

 

What else can you do to protect yourself? 

  • Be careful with your tax information. Never divulge your bank account or credit card info to strangers over the phone.
  • Assume any unexpected call from a tax agency is a scam.
  • Don’t send copies of 1099s and W-2s as e-mail attachments to your preparer, and don’t email a pdf of your 1040 to a loan officer. That leaves your information exposed.
  • When you transmit confidential information, use strong encryption, or better yet upload it via a secure file transfer site, like the FileDrop system we use at Roth & Company.

 

 

20150105-2Peter Reilly, IRS Grossly Unqualified To Make Determinations About Software Related Exempt Applications. The IRS is grossly unqualified for any number of things that Congress gives it to do. Just a very few that come immediately to mind:

– Determining what is “qualified research” for the research credit.

– Determining the energy properties of “green fuels” for the biofuel subsidies.

– Running the nation’s healthcare insurance finance system.

– Policing political speech by tax-exempt organizations.

An outfit that can’t keep two-bit grifters from cashing in billions in tax refunds annually shouldn’t be looking for new things to do.

 

Kay Bell, Tax identity thief mistakenly sends fake refund to real filer. The police don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

Jack Townsend, More on Light Sentencing for Offshore Account Tax Crimes.

 

Russ Fox provides a valuable service with Online Gambling Addresses Updated for 2015. Taxpayers with offshore online gambling accounts are required to report them on the “FBAR” report of foreign financial accounts (Form 114). The FBAR requires a street address for the account, and these can be hard to find for gambling websites.

William Perez offers advice on how to Communicate Effectively with Your Tax Preparer. We aren’t always the best company this time of year. Come prepared, be efficient, and you can leave our office before we do something bizarre. Other than what we do for a living, of course.

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 3: Big Changes in 1917

Jim Maule, The IRS and the Taxpayer: Both Wrong. “The taxpayer argued that because the distribution from the IRA was less than the his investment in the IRA, it should be treated as a return of investment. The IRS argued that the entire distribution should be included in the taxpayer’s gross income. The Tax Court concluded that both the taxpayer and the IRS were wrong.”

 

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Kyle Pomerleau, The Rubio-Lee Plan Would be Good for Everyone, Especially Low Income Earners (Tax Policy Blog):

If you take all the pieces of the Rubio-Lee tax plan together, it actually produces the largest increase in after-tax income for the lowest income earners, not the highest.

According to our analysis, the bottom decile of taxpayers will see an increase in after-tax income of 44.2 percent, a percentage increase in income nearly four times larger than the top 1 percent’s increase in after-tax income. But the plan doesn’t just increase the after-tax income of the top and the bottom. All taxpayers will see higher after-tax incomes due to this plan.

The Rubio-Lee plan, with its elimination of the double corporate tax and its business rate reductions, is the most promising tax reform plan to surface in a long time. But its opponents can never see wisdom in anything that benefits “the rich,” even when it benefits everyone else.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Expensive Plans, ACA Developments, and Exercises in Futility. Today’s TaxVox roundup has links to folks hating on Rubio-Lee, Spanish film tax credits, and more.

Patrick Smith, Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing Case May Have Great Significance in Anti-Injunction Act Cases (Procedurally Taxing)

 

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Spring will come!

 

 

Cara Griffith, The Use of Big Data in Auditing (Tax Analysts Blog). “For state auditors, big data (like other types of data) could be used to better evaluate and select taxpayers for audit.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, 666

 

Why would he want a job with less power? Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson To Run For President. Yes, Of The United States (Tony Nitti)

Culture Corner. A Tax Shelter Board Game Is a Thing That Exists (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/11/15: Iowa Code Conformity, America’s more selective appeal, and your tax dollars at work in the $1 DVD bin.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1284The Iowa Code Conformity bill goes to the Governor. The Iowa House yesterday approved the Senate-passed bill, SF 126, to update Iowa’s 2014 tax law for the federal “Extender” legislation approved in December. Iowa will conform to the federal legislation, including the $500,000 Section 179 limit, but will not adopt the federal bonus depreciation.

The Governor is expected to sign the bill.

 

Our appeal is just getting more selective. 2014 – More Expatriations Than Ever (Andrew Mitchel):

Today the Treasury Department published the names of individuals who renounced their U.S. citizenship or terminated their long-term U.S. residency (“expatriated”) during the fourth quarter of 2014. 

The number of published expatriates for the quarter was 1,062 (second highest quarter ever), bringing the total number of published expatriates in 2014 to 3,415.  The total for the year breaks last year’s record number of 2,999 published expatriates. The number of expatriates for 2014 is a 14% increase over 2013.  

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Expatriation is often an inconvenient and expensive process. The willingness of so many to go through the hassle is disgraceful evidence of the burden the “shoot the jaywalker” penalties of the foreign account reporting rules and FATCA impose — on top of America’s unique worldwide taxation regime.

Related: Thousands Renounce U.S. Citizenship Hitting New Record, Not Just Over Taxes (Robert Wood)

 

haroldYour tax dollars at work in HollywoodWhen Sony’s emails were hacked, the companies executives were embarrassed by the emails complaining about “spoiled brat” starlets and other insider dish that was exposed. But Tax Analysts’ Brian Bardwell shows that the state legislators who have approved taxpayer funding around the country for filmmakers also have plenty to be embarrassed about. From the subscriber-only story:

While the broader topic of film incentives comes up daily, it appears that top executives — at Sony, at least — are not usually involved in finding credits for individual projects, but when they are, it may be because the film is unlikely to bring in enough money to justify producing it without a government subsidy.

In other words, taxpayers are financing the marginal direct-to-DVD projects for Hollywood. That comes as no surprise to those of us who followed Iowa’s disastrous Film Tax Credit story. In a story line right out of “The Producers,” inflated expense claims allowed awful films to be made without the need to ever get a paying customer — the sale of the resulting transferable tax credits covered the expenses and generated a profit — not counting the attorney fees and jail time, of course.

 

Kay Bell, Tax fraud concerns in Minnesota, Connecticut & now Florida:

“The personally identifiable information apparently hacked at Anthem is exactly what tax fraud thieves use to make false refund claims that appear to be legitimate,” said Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan is suggesting that residents beat tax ID thieves to the punch.

Great.

 

Peter Reilly, Breaking – Repair Regs – AICPA Says Help On The Way – Maybe. “The only thing that I find really encouraging about the AICPA announcement is that I can show it to my partners and justify my wait and see approach, which now apparently has the imprimatur of the AICPA.”

TaxGrrrl, UNRETIREMENT. “The Social Security and tax laws hold hidden traps and rewards for the growing army of well-off folks who just keep on working.”

Leslie Book, Congress Considering Procedural Legislation (Procedurally Taxing).

Jack Towensend, Judge Jed Rakoff Reviews Brandon Garrett’s Book on Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations

 

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David Brunori, It’s Time to End Property Tax Exemptions — for Everyone (Tax Analysts Blog).

City governments are usually looking for payments in lieu of taxes rather than ending exemptions. And the nonprofits — particularly universities and hospitals — tenaciously oppose paying. To be sure, some municipalities and exempt organizations have reached a compromise on payments in lieu of taxes, particularly in Boston. But in the vast majority of the nation, universities, nonprofit hospitals, and property owned by religious organizations are exempt from tax.

I propose we end those exemptions. First, let’s be honest — if you narrow the tax base by exempting some property, everyone else pays more. So in Brunswick, Maine, people and businesses pay more property taxes because Bowdoin College doesn’t. And sometimes they pay a lot more.

Sometimes it can be confusing. Des Moines officials will freely complain about the big hospitals not paying property taxes, but they lacked enthusiasm when the two big non-profit hospitals in town opened new hospitals in the suburbs.

 

Scott Drenkard, Richard Borean, How Many Cigarettes Are Smuggled Into Your State Each Year? (Tax Policy Blog). A lot more since they jacked up the cigarette tax a few years ago.

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The threat of lost cigarette revenue is the real reason state officials are so horrified by the vaporous health risks of e-cigarettes.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Preferences, Investigations, and Settlements. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers Senator Hatch on tax reform, financial supergenius Bernie Sanders on Social Security, and more Swiss bank tax troubles.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 2/10: Semi-Encouraging News (Tax Justice Blog)

Joseph Thorndike, When It Comes to Tax Reform, History Tells Us What Might Happen – And Why It Probably Won’t (Tax Analysts Blog). “The 1986 reform happened not because it was wise and prudent and necessary, but because it worked politically. And even then, only barely.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 643

 

News from the Profession. The Annual Close: The Year in Adverse Accounting Jokes (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/15/15: Taxpayer Advocate rips offshore account enforcement, recommends fixes to Congress.

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today Readershere is the post on the 2015 Iowa legislative session outlook.

 

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Still shooting jaywalkers. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson has submitted her Annual Report to Congress, and she rips the IRS offshore compliance program. Among the “most serious problems” noted in the report is “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs Undermined the Law and Violate Taxpayer Rights.”

The report says the IRS routinely stretches the penalties for “willful” violations of foreign reporting requirements to inadvertent violations, interprets its own guidelines whimsically and unfairly, and makes a practice of hammering small violators disproportionately.  The report also criticizes the IRS practice of denying relief for taxpayers who came in from the cold early when it later started applying reduced penalties.

The report includes one awful example of the IRS treating an apartment owned by the taxpayer as a foreign financial account for purposes of computing the penalty for late reporting:

Example : An IRS employee took the position that a taxpayer’s foreign apartment must be included in the “offshore penalty” base solely because the taxpayer filed returns reporting income from the apartment between two and fifteen months late—after receipt of foreign information reporting documents relating to inherited property. The employee concluded the delay in filing returns meant that the apartment was related to tax noncompliance. Under the 2011 OVDI FAQ 35, “[t]he offshore penalty is intended to apply to all of the taxpayer’s offshore holdings that are related in any way to tax noncompliance.” FAQ 35 defines tax noncompliance as follows:

“Tax noncompliance includes failure to report income from the assets, as well as failure to pay U.S. tax that was due with respect to the funds used to acquire the asset.”

The taxpayer timely overpaid her taxes and reported the income from the apartment (albeit on late-filed returns), and the apartment was not acquired with untaxed funds. Thus, the IRS employee’s unreviewable determination to include the apartment in the offshore penalty base appears to contradict FAQ 35.

This indicates an IRS practice of shooting jaywalkers so that it can slap real international tax cheats on the wrists. Especially unrepresented jaywalkers:

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These penalties – $2,202 average penalty for an average $268 tax understatement for the smallest accounts – are unconscionable. I defy anyone to say otherwise. Well, anyone who doesn’t work for IRS.

It also indicates that taxpayers who oped out of the voluntary disclosure program got better results — which is a harsh indictment of the way the “voluntary” program treats taxpayers.

The report does praise recent changes to IRS practice, but slams the IRS for not applying them retroactively.  The report also recommends that Congress ease up on offshore penalties, including eliminating the penalties when the taxpayer resides in the same country as the foreign account. This would be incredibly useful, eliminating the penalty for committing personal finance while living abroad.

I would go further and make the U.S. tax system territorial for non-residents, to eliminate absurd spectacles like the IRS going after the U.S.-born Mayor of London for capital gains on the sale of his home in London.

Related coverage: 

Robert Wood, National Taxpayer Advocate Slams IRS Offshore Programs & FBAR Penalties, Demands Change

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayer Advocate IDs Most Serious Problems For Taxpayers: Unacceptably Low Levels Of Service Tops List

 

20150115-2Kay Bell, It’s a new year, but time for final 2014 estimated tax payment

Russ Fox, Waiting for Godot. ” If you’re going to call the IRS, expect very lengthy hold times; yesterday I was on hold for 101 minutes before speaking with an IRS representative. I expect the hold times to get far worse as we head into Tax Season.”

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About EAs, #5: EAs are the Only Pros Required to Take Tax CPE.

Robert D. Flach, WTF IS AN EA?  Wednesday Tax Forum is an EA?

Tim Todd, Unsubordinated Mortgage Prevents Charitable Deduction for Conservation Easement

Iowa Public Radio, Tax Time Gets New Ritual: Proof Of Health Insurance.

 

Alan Cole, Financial Transactions Are A Very Poor Tax Base (Tax Policy Blog):

Simply put, financial transactions are a very poor tax base. For one thing, it results in “pyramiding:” taxing the same economic activity many times. For another, economists generally think of trades as highly-valuable activity that benefits both parties, given that they both agreed to the deal. Taxing trade itself results in a kind of “lock-in” effect where people hold on to the things they have, whether or not they’re the best people to actually be holding on to them.

He also notes the social value of the ability to easily sell financial assets, one that would be damaged by a transaction tax.

Howard Gleckman, Gale and DeLong Debate: Is the Budget Deficit Even a Problem? (TaxVox).

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Cara Griffith, Illinois Lawsuit Challenges Tax Credit Program for Encouraging Job Retention (Tax Analysts Blog). “But the interesting question this lawsuit raises is whether job creation and job retention should be treated as equal for purposes of a tax credit.” Yes, they should all get no tax credits.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 1/12: When Your Mouth Writes a Check Your State Can’t Cash (Tax Justice Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 616

Career Corner. The Happiest Lawyers Are Tax Lawyers  (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/14/14: Iowa tax credits expected to pay out $361 million this year. And: Fix FBAR!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Extended 1040s are due tomorrow!

 

20120906-1$521 million for the well-connected and well lobbied. The Des Moines Register reports on a new set of estimates from the Iowa Department of Revenue:

Iowa would have to pay about a half-billion dollars for tax credits during a 12-month period should every recipient come to the table asking for their awards.

The state has a tax credit liability of $462 million for the 2015 fiscal year, which started July 1 and runs until June 30, 2015, according to an Iowa Department of Revenue report.

For the 2016 fiscal year, the state’s tax credit liability is expected to hit $521.2 million.

But it’s not so bad as all that:

The Revenue Department said it only expects $361.4 million worth of tax credits to be claimed in fiscal 2015 and $402.8 million to be claimed in fiscal 2016.

Compare the $361 million in expected tax credit giveaways to expected receipts, net of refunds, from the entire Iowa corporation income tax in fiscal 2015 of $413.5 million. A good chunk of this is actually in the form of cash grants via the Iowa research credit. Iowa persists in giving these away even though a commission tasked with finding out whether they do any good was unable to say they were worth anything.

Iowa couples its regime of special favors for special political friends with high individual rates, and the highest corporation tax rate in the U.S., for those of us lacking lobbyists or state house connections.  Far better to slash individual rates, get rid of the near-worthless corporation income tax, strip out loopholes and deductions, and make everybody’s tax life easier.  It’s time for The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

passportAllison ChristiansPaperwork and Punishment: It’s Time to Fix FBAR (Tax Analysts, Via the TaxProf). A righteous takedown of one of the worst features of an awful tax law:

The FBAR penalty structure is harsh at best and tremendouosly unfair at worst. An FBAR failure or mistake attracts a one-size-fits-all punishment, which rapidly escalates according to a formula that is known only to the IRS. The instructions claim that a taxpayer can avoid penalties by showing a “reasonable cause,” but they also state that a “non-willful” mistake or failure carries a $10,000 penalty, regardless of the amount of money actually at stake…

It cannot be noted without irony that for a regime created to catch hard-core financial criminals, FBAR now criminalizes something we would hardly consider a serious crime — namely a paperwork mistake.

It’s IRS policy to shoot the jaywalkers so they can slap the real international financial criminals on the wrists.  Read the whole thing.

 

Paul Neiffer reminds us that you have Less Than Two Full Days to Get Your Return Filed

It’s a quiet Buzz day at Robert D. Flach’s place. 

Kay Bell, Federal holiday effects on federal taxes,

Stephen Olson has the Summary Opinions for 10/03/14, rounding up developments in tax procedure at Procedurally Taxing.

 

20121022-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 523

Me, The C corporation dilemma and how not to solve it. My latest at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professionals’ Blog. I discuss the C corporation double-tax, and a failed effort to solve the problem with a “midco transaction” in advance of a sale of the business.

 

How is that even possible? District Court Sets The Bar Lower For Accountants Than Attorneys (Peter Reilly)

News from the Profession. Center for Audit Quality Managed to Find Some People Confident in Audits (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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IRS makes it less risky for U.S. residents to start reporting foreign accounts.

Thursday, June 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The IRS has announced updated procedures for taxpayers to file overdue FBAR foreign account disclosures.  These reports are required of taxpayers who have foreign accounts with balances that exceed $10,000 at any time during the year.  Penalties can reach 50% of the highest account balance per year of willful violations.

The new rules provide a streamlined procedure for U.S. residents to begin reporting FBAR non-filing.  The procedure had been available only to non-residents.  It also has eliminated the inane $1,500 cap on unreported taxes from foreign accounts.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

     In addition to permitting resident U.S. taxpayers to use the streamlined program, the IRS has also eliminated the $1,500 tax threshold and the risk questionnaire. Taxpayers must certify that previous compliance failures were not willful.

Under the revised program, all penalties will be waived for nonresident U.S. taxpayers and resident taxpayers will be subject only to a miscellaneous offshore penalty equal to 5 percent of the foreign financial assets that gave rise to the tax compliance issue.

[Attorney Caroline] Ciraolo said practitioners will be pleased that the streamlined program will now be available to residents that previously did not qualify because they were living in the U.S. at the time they initially attempted disclosure. 

This liberalization is combined with higher penalties in some cases.

This looks like a positive development, though I still think it should be more liberal.  A no-questions asked policy for taxpayers with liabilities under a reasonable threshold, with only interest charged on late taxes, would be even better — especially given the extra penalties on those who come in only when it is clear their banks are going to turn over their names anyway.  There are requirements for submitting back foreign account statements, which may not be available.

The IRS doesn’t appear to be applying the relief retroactively, so taxpayers who have already come in voluntarily and paid ridiculous penalties are played for chumps.  And the real problem — worldwide taxation under the U.S. tax system — remains.  A Wall Street Journal report sums it up:

One potential drawback: Taxpayers who come forward in the future may end up faring better than those who heard about the U.S. campaign in the past and presented their case to the IRS then. For example, experts said, taxpayers from the latter group who owed more than $1,500 in taxes could have paid a penalty as high as 27.5%.

In addition, taxpayers abroad face the risk of double taxation, said John Richardson, a Toronto lawyer who works with U.S. taxpayers living in Canada. “The problem is that, penalties aside, the U.S. tax laws are very punitive for U.S. citizens abroad,” he said.

Links:

Commissioner Koskinen news release

IRS news release, IRS Makes Changes to Offshore Programs; Revisions Ease Burden and Help More Taxpayers Come into Compliance 

Streamlined offshore resident procedures

Streamlined U.S. resident procedures

Jack Townsend has a summary and more useful links to the updated IRS procedures.

Accounting Today has a useful article with an oxymoronic headline, IRS Eases Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program for Non-willful Tax Evasion.  If it’s not willful, it’s not evasion.

And remember, the FBAR report for 2013 accounts on Form 114 is due June 30.

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Tax Roundup, 6/4/14: IRS to ease up on FBAR foot-faulters? And: nanny-state taxes!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: The Tax Update will take Thursday and Friday off this week to tend to a family wedding.  We’ll be back as usual Monday.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Maybe we shouldn’t be shooting jaywalkers?  The IRS may be declaring a cease-fire in its long war on inadvertent foreign account violators.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that IRS Commissioner Koskinen told a tax conference that it will be modifying its Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative:

“We are well aware that there are many U.S. citizens who have resided abroad for many years, perhaps even the vast majority of their lives,” Koskinen told a luncheon audience at the 2014 OECD International Tax Conference in Washington. “We have been considering whether these individuals should have an opportunity to come into compliance that doesn’t involve the type of penalties that are appropriate for U.S.-resident taxpayers who were willfully hiding their investments overseas.”

Gee, you think so?  You really think 25%-300% penalties might not be appropriate for the crime of committing personal finance while living abroad?  What could possibly have given him that idea?

     Koskinen also pointed to taxpayers residing in the United States with offshore accounts “whose prior noncompliance clearly did not constitute willful tax evasion but who, to date, have not had a clear way of coming into compliance that doesn’t involve the threat of substantial penalties.”

“We believe that re-striking this balance between enforcement and voluntary compliance is particularly important at this point in time, given that we are nearing July 1, the effective date of FATCA,” Koskinen said. 

One of the things that made Doug Shulman the Worst Commissioner Ever was his brutal treatment of trivial inadvertent offshore paperwork filing violators.  Hopefully his successor will make coming into compliance voluntarily a transparent, predictable process designed primarily to ensure future compliance.  Something like state programs for non-resident non-filers, where taxpayers pay back taxes, if any, and interest for a limited number of open years would make sense  People are understandably reluctant to come into compliance when it can mean financial ruin.

The IRS has not released any details of this kinder, gentler approach, so curb your enthusiasm for now.

Related: IRS Commissioner Koskinen Announces that Changes — Liberalizations — Are In the Offing for OVDP 2012  (Jack Townsend)  “All in all, this is good news, at least from a hope perspective.”

 

20140409-1Robert D Flach offers YET ANOTHER POST CALLING FOR A VOLUNTARY TAX PREPARER DESIGNATION.  Robert makes his case for a “voluntary” designation for preparers who meet some standard.

Robert says something I agree with:

  Having the IRS oversee the designation is not the best idea.  I have suggested that the voluntary RTRP-like designation be administered by an independent industry-based organization like an American Institute of Registered Tax Return Preparers (see “It’s Time for Independent Certification for Tax Preparers“).

If the IRS has nothing to do with it, fine.  If it does, it will inevitably do special favors for its “voluntary” friends and make like difficult for others.

Robert is a little like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, looking for a brain.  The movie quickly makes clear that the Scarecrow already has a perfectly good brain; all he lacks is a diploma.  Robert, a perfectly good (if old-fashioned) preparer, doesn’t need a diploma to save his clients from the Wicked Witch.

 

TaxGrrrl, After TIGTA Report, Expect More Tax Refund Delays,  The IRS is encouraged to expand its refund offset programs.

Paul Neiffer, Portability Revisited. “With the “permanent” changes in the estate tax laws from about 2 years ago, we now have a permanent provision called portability.  This allows for the unused portion of someone’s estate to be “ported” over to the surviving spouse to be used on their final estate tax return.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 391

 

 

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats Just Love Their Nanny-State Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Tax Foundation recently spotlighted a Democratic tax proposal that gives substance to the name-calling: the Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act, introduced last month by Sens. Tom Harkin, and Richard Blumenthal.

According to its champions, the act would protect children from the predations of junk food purveyors. In particular, it would deny manufacturers any sort of tax deduction “for advertising and marketing directed at children to promote the consumption of food of poor nutritional quality.” It would use the resulting revenue to help fund the Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

That all sounds great. Except for the fact that it’s arbitrary, capricious, and an egregious misuse of tax policy.

The tax law – is there anything it can’t do?

Joseph adds, wisely:

Reasonable people can disagree about what qualifies as a loophole. But by almost any definition, the deduction for advertising junk food is not one.

Once you decide the tax law is a public policy Swiss Army Knife, there’s no logical place to stop.

 

20140411-1Kay Bell, Calories or volume: Which is the better tax on sugary drinks?  Neither.  Some problems just aren’t tax problems.

David Brunori’s righteous anger at taxes on e-cigarettes is now freely available at Tax Analysts Blog: Taxing E-Cigarettes Seems Crazy.  “Yet politicians routinely say that e-cigarettes will lead people to start smoking, or worse — use drugs! Are they daft?”  No, just greedy.

 

Renu Zaretsky, In the Midwest, Across the Pacific, and Down Under.  Tax Custs in Ohio and a rejected tax boost in Missouri are part of the TaxVox headline roundup today.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Will Anti-Tax Yogis Sink Tax-Reform in D.C.?.  If that’s what it takes to get the pic-i-nic basket.

 

This will make the homecoming in 2042 a little less awkward.  WMUR.com reports:

The woman who, along with her husband, held police at bay during a nine-month standoff in 2007 over tax evasion has apologized to the community.

Elaine Brown’s apology appeared in Plain Facts, a monthly publication written by Plainfield residents.

She said she and her husband Ed were trying to advance the “cause of justice.” She went on to say they “failed to take into account the impact we were having on others in the town. We failed to realize the fear, anxiety and impact we were causing these good people.

She was unable to apologize in person because she has been detained — until November 2042, according to the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator.  She should be home in time to invite her neighbors to her 102nd birthday party.

 

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

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

 

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

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

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

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

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

Related:

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

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

 

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

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

Top 1 pays more than bottom 90

 

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

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

microsoft-apple

 

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

William Perez discusses Prices for Professional Tax Preparation Services.

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 251

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/10/2014: Taxpayer advocate rips IRS penalties and foreign account enforcement. Also: the Code still stinks!

Friday, January 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

The Taxpayer Advocate’s Annual Report directs some well-deserved fire on two of the worst IRS practices: the penalty-happy approach to examinations and the shoot-the-jaywalkers approach to offshore enforcement.

The report says this about penalties:

The IRS’s decision not to abate inapplicable penalties illustrates its resource-driven approach to them. As we have described in prior reports, the IRS too often proposes accuracy-related penalties automatically when they might potentially apply — before performing a careful analysis of the relevant facts and circumstances — and then burdens taxpayers by requiring them to prove the penalties do not apply.

The IRS should identify and abate all of the accuracy-related penalties that should not apply. It should minimize taxpayer burden when administering the IRC § 6676 penalty (e.g., by not proposing it automatically) and work with the Treasury Department to support a reasonable cause exception.

Amen.  The tax law is hard, and when a taxpayer does what a reasonable person — not a reasonable tax lawyer — should do to pay the right amount, there shouldn’t be an automatic 20% mistake penalty.  Too bad the advocate doesn’t seem to have embraced my “sauce for the gander” penalty, which would make the IRS pay taxpayers the same 20% penalty when the IRS makes an unjustified assessment.

Regarding foreign account enforcement, the report faults the IRS shoot-the-jaywalker approach (my emphasis):

In the 2009 OVD program, the median offshore penalty paid by those with the smallest accounts ($87,145 or less) was nearly six times the tax on their unreported income. Among unrepresented taxpayers with small accounts it was nearly eight times the unpaid tax. The penalty was also disproportionately greater than the amount paid by those with the largest accounts (more than $4.2 million) who paid a median of about three times their unreported tax. When the IRS audited taxpayers who opted out (or were removed), on average, it assessed smaller, but still severe, penalties of nearly 70 percent of the unpaid tax and interest. Given the harsh treatment the IRS applied to benign actors, others have made quiet disclosures by correcting old returns or by complying in future years without subjecting themselves to the lengthy and seemingly-unfair OVD process. Still others have not addressed FBAR compliance problems, and the IRS has not done enough to help them comply.

20121129-1Shooting the jaywalkers so you can slap the bad actors on the wrist.

The IRS should expand the self-correction and settlement options available to benign actors so that they are not pressured to opt out or pay more than they should; do more to educate persons with foreign accounts (e.g., recent immigrants) about the reporting requirements; consolidate and simplify guidance; and reduce duplicative reporting requirements.

The IRS should follow the lead of the states that allow non-resident taxpayers who voluntarily disclose past non-compliance to file and pay five years of prior taxes, with only interest and no penalties — reserving the penalties for those who wait until they are caught.  Tax Analysts quotes one lawyer as saying this would be unfair to the already-wounded jaywalkers:

“It’s very hard to make the program more lenient now without going back and adjusting thousands of [prior] taxpayers’ resolutions since 2009,” he said. That is something the IRS is likely unwilling to do, he added.

Too bad.  That’s exactly what they should do.

 There’s a lot more to the report, including a call for a new taxpayers bill of rights (good) and a renewed call for IRS preparer regulation (a waste of IRS and preparer time).

Related: 

Lynnley  Browning, IRS top cop says the agency is too hard on offshore tax dodgers.  I can’t imagine she wrote that headline.  Any lazy headline writers who call an inadvertent FBAR violator a “tax dodger” should have half their bank account balances seized if they ever forget to report a 1099.

TaxGrrrl, Report To Congress: IRS Is Increasingly Unable To Meet Taxpayer Needs

Jack Townsend,New Taxpayer Advocate Report to Congress Addressing, Inter Alia, OVDI/P Concerns

 

TaxProf, IRS Releases FY2013 2006 Enforcement Stats:

The IRS has released Fiscal Year 2013 Enforcement and Service Results, showing among other things:

  • Individual audit rate:  0.96% (lowest since 2005)

  • Large corporation audit rate: 15.8% (lowest since 2009)

  • Revenue from audits:  $9.8 billion (lowest since 2003)

  • Number of IRS agents:  19,531 (lowest since pre-2000)

  • Conviction rate:  93.1% (highest since pre-2000)

It’s hard to see where the IRS has the resources for making compliant preparers waste their time on preparer regulation busywork.

 

William Perez, Fourth Estimated Tax Payment for 2013 Due on January 15

Paul Neiffer, How Low is Too Low For A Rental Arrangement?  “We had a reader ask the following question: ‘Does leasing cropland to a family member for substantially less than fair market value become “gifting” subject to taxes for value above gifting limit?'”

Jason Dinesen,  Review Your Small Business Operations as Part of Year-End/Year-Beginning Planning

Leslie Book, NTA Annual Report Released (Procedurally Taxing)

 

 

Christopher Bergin, The Tax Code in 2014 – It Still Stinks (Tax Analysts Blog):

I’ve always believed in progressive income taxation. This isn’t it. The conservatives have sold us on the notion that tax is a dirty word, and the liberals have sold us on the notion that class envy is a healthy state of mind.

And that, folks, is why the tax code stinks. And it won’t get any better in the new year.   

There’s more to the stink than that, but it’s a good start.

 

Scott Hodge, Millionaire Taxpayers Tend to be Older.  Well, that’s one good thing about aging, I guess.

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Howard Gleckman, Pay to Extend Unemployment Benefits? Why Not Pay to Extend Temporary Tax Breaks Too?  (TaxVox)

Tax Justice Blog,  Reasons Why Congress Should Allow the Deduction for Tuition to Remain Expired

Kay Bell, Marijuana sales, tax collections good for Colorado coffers.

 

The Newest Cavalcade of Risk is up!  Hank Stern participates with an Overseas ObamaTax Conundrum

 

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

Career Corner: This Year, Resolve to Finally Decide What You Want To Be When You Grow Up in Public Accounting (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/8/2014: Instructions for the Net Investment Income Tax! And new foreign account reporting rules.

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140108-1Almost four years after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the IRS has issued draft instructions for the act’s “Net Investment Income Tax” form, Form 8960 — which itself has only been issued as a draft so far.  With work already underway on many returns subject to this tax, especially trust returns, the timing is lame.  But this is one aspect of Obamacare that isn’t going to get punted, so we will have to go to war with the forms we have.

The draft instructions provide worksheets for some of the more baroque computations that will be needed to complete the form, including the net loss computation and the allocation of itemized deductions to net investment income.  Still, much of the work will have to be done off-the-forms on preparer worksheets applying the regulations.  Tony Nitti says:

That is my big takeaway from the instructions – there’s no faking it. When we saw that this new, complex area of the law would ultimately be computed on a one-page form, we anticipated that the meat of the computation would be done off-form in worksheets provided by the instructions. And that’s exactly what happened. But that shifts the onus back to us as tax advisors to make sure our inputs are correct, which means we must understand the nuances of the final regulations.

Based on my review of the instructions, it will be virtually impossible for a tax advisor to accurately compute, for example, the Net Gains and Losses worksheet without a solid understanding of the types of gains and losses the final regulations contemplate being included in and excluded from net investment income.

As with the rest of the ACA, what could possibly go wrong?

 

Russ Fox, FBAR Changes for 2014

First, Form TD F 90-22.1 is no more. The FBAR has a new form number, Form 114.

Second, as of last July the FBAR must be electronically filed. The good news is that as of last October, your tax accountant can file the form for you as long as you complete Form 114a.

Also, notes Russ, the filing requirement now kicks in when the balance of all foreign accounts together exceeds $10,000.  It used to be account-by-account.

 

William Perez offers Resources for Preparing Form 1099-MISC for Small Businesses

Kay Bell says it’s Time to get organized for your 2014 tax filing tasks

Paul Neiffer advises us to Decant a Trust – Not Wine.

 

David Brunori on the unwisdom of subjecting business inputs to sales tax:

Indeed, virtually every state tax commission that has studied this issue has concluded that business inputs should be exempt from tax. Why? When you tax business purchases, the tax becomes part of the cost of doing business, and companies try very hard to pass those costs on to consumers. Two bad things then happen. First, consumers unwittingly pay the tax in the form of higher prices. It is a hidden tax and a most cynical way of financing government. Second, consumers often pay sales tax on the tax embedded in the retail price of the goods they purchase. So we are actually taxing a tax. This “cascading” amounts to awful tax policy.

But, as David points out, that doesn’t stop the demagogues:

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to talk to a group of legislators about sales tax policy. I was asked if I had any ideas for reform. I mentioned the common ideas of broadening the base by taxing services and remote sales, and lowering rates. I also said that states should exempt business purchases from the sales tax. One legislator looked at me like I had three heads and asked, “Do you mean letting corporations off the hook for sales taxes?” He asked where the justice was in a system that would make poor working families pay sales tax but let multinational companies go free.

Not all that different from the Iowa Senate’s approach to income taxes.

 

Andrew Lundeen, The Top 1 Percent Pays More in Taxes than the Bottom 90 Percent (Tax Policy Blog):

An interesting piece of information from the chart below is that after the 01/03 Bush tax cuts, often claimed to be a tax cut for the rich, the tax burden of the top 1 percent actually increased significantly.

Top 1 pays more than bottom 90

No matter how much you jack up taxes on the “top 1%,” the same people always will say “the rich” aren’t paying “their fair share” and need to indulge in some “shared sacrifice.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Taxing Bitcoin (TaxVox)

What if bitcoin is a currency for tax purposes, the same as, say a euro? In that case, profits from sales would be taxed as ordinary income, with a top rate of 39.6 percent, though all losses could offset other income.

Either way, the mere act of buying something [with Bitcoins] would likely be a taxable event.

Tax Justice Blog, GE Just Lost a Tax Break – and Congress Will Probably Fix That.  That’s what fixers do.

Jack Townsend, Prosecuting the Banks: Does the U.S. Prefer Foreign Banks to U.S. Banks?

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 244

Programming note: I will be doing a tax update program sponsored by the Institute for Management Accountants over the Iowa Cable Network tomorrow evening at 6:00 p.m.  It’s a chance to get your continuing education for 2014 off to a roaring start.  I figure on talking about an hour, with an emphasis on the new Net Investment Income regulations and other 2013 changes we will see this filing season.  I’ll also cover some of the more interesting cases and rulings of the last year.

In case you were wondering, our friends at Going Concern explain How To Tell if Your Accounting Firm is Really a Car Wash

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Tax Roundup, 10/1/2013: Shutdown edition. And two weeks left for 2012 1040s!

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Extended 1040s are due two weeks from today! Sorry for not posting yesterday, but I’m sure many of you understand.  I was laying in canned goods and ammo for the government shutdown.

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

The TaxProf has the IRS Shutdown Plan.  You can still file, but the examiners get a day off.

I like Don Boudreaux’s take:

 If I walk into a supermarket to buy a few artichokes and discover that the supermarket has no artichokes for sale that day, I don’t pay the supermarket for the artichokes that I don’t get.  So shouldn’t we taxpayers be relieved of the obligation to pay for the national-government services that we are not now receiving?

It implies the big difference between things we get from businesses and things we get from the government:  if we don’t like what they have at one store, we can go to another, but if we don’t like the service from Uncle Sam’s Essentials, we can’t exactly take our business elsewhere.

 

Andrew Lundeen and Kyle Pomerleau explain What Happens When There Is a Government Shutdown (Tax Policy Blog):

From 1976 to present there have been 17 shutdowns and like this shutdown, many were caused by political disagreement. For instance, the government shutdown for 12 days in 1977 over a political fight between the House and the Senate over Medicaid policy.

The average length of past government shutdowns is 6.4 days, but this is no indication of how long this shutdown will last. During the Reagan administration there were several shutdowns that only lasted one day.

So either it’s not the end of the world, or the world ends a lot.

Glass half-full: Shutdown Will Stop IRS Audits, but Not ACA Implementation (Jeremy Scott, Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxGrrrl, With Shutdown, Taxes Still Due But You Can’t Ask IRS For Help   

Janet Novack,  Federal Government Begins First Shutdown In 17 Years 

Kay Bell, IRS lays out plan to deal with federal government shutdown

 

William Perez,  IRA Recharacterizations Due by October 15th:

“Recharacterizing” means, quite simply, we can change the character of the IRA: if the contribution was made to a traditional IRA, we can re-characterize it to a Roth IRA; and if the contribution was made to a Roth IRA, it can be recharacterized to a traditional IRA.

 

tax fairyTrish McIntire, It’s Here…

The Health Insurance Marketplace (HIM) opened today! The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that almost everyone must have health insurance by January 1, 2014. The HIM is a way for anyone not covered by an employer’s affordable plan to shop for health insurance. Let’s face it the ACA is complicated and the HIM part is no exception. This post will cover the highlights of the Marketplaces to give you an overview of what will happen.

The Health Care Fairy is  the Tax Fairy’s sister.  Believers in either one end up disappointed.

 

Missouri Tax Guy, How To Write Off Travel Expenses As Business Expenses.  “You can’t go on a one-day business trip and stretch it into a week of sightseeing, and then deduct anything as business-related.”

Point, counterpoint:

4 Reasons the Medical Device Tax is Bad Policy (Kyle Pomerleau, Tax Policy Blog)

The Medical Device Tax Should Not Be Repealed (Tax Justice Blog):

One argument made by the industry against the medical device excise tax is that it singles them out for higher taxes. The reality, however, is that the excise tax was passed as one of many levies on various healthcare sectors to help pay for health insurance expansion. 

That apparently would include the 10% excise tax on tanning booths that is part of Obamacare financing.  They say the tax is paid by something called “various healthcare sectors.”  That’s a fancy way to say “patients.”

 

Jack Townsend, Zwerner Rises to Defense Against Multiple FBAR Penalties:

Readers will recall that, in an unexpected development, Treasury assessed and DOJ Tax sued to collect the 50% FBAR penalty against Carl Zwerner for four years.  Up to that point, based on the information publicly available (principally from offshore account plea convictions), Treasury had only assessed a single FBAR of 50% for the highest year.  Thus, it was of considerable interest — and angst — to taxpayers and practitioners that Treasury would assert 4 years of FBAR penalties.

That could get expensive.

Brian Mahany,  FBAR, FATCA Are Not Dirty Words!  They can certainly trigger some, though.

 

Consolation prizes: Attorney Found Guilty of 28 Tax Charges, but Does Get Nomination for Tax Offender of the Year (Russ Fox)

Peter Reilly,  Has Kent Hovind Given Up Fight Against IRS ?   Mr. Hovind is famous for opening a theme park based on the idea that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.  I suppose if you hang around politicians, you could conclude that.

Robert D. Flach is Buzzing the government shutdown.

 

Nothing is stopping you from writing a check right now, says a cynical tax blogger.   “Tax Us More!” Say Some Wealthy Pennsylvanians (Jim Maule) Because they can pay more taxes any time they want, they really mean “tax other people more.”

 

Career Corner: Ex-PwC Employee Discovers Just How Limiting a Career-Limiting Move Supporting Terrorism Can Be.  (Going Concern)  I worked there when I was a very green new accountant, and I was frequently terrified.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/19/2013: Beanie Babies busted. And no mo’ Mo Money.

Thursday, September 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


20130919-1
Ty Warner was a big winner in life’s lottery.  He invented the Beanie Baby, a toy craze that made him a very wealthy man.  But then, like many lottery winners, he began to handle finances unwisely.  According to media reports, he will plead guilty to hiding funds in Swiss banks.  From the Wall Street Journal:

The creator of Beanie Babies has agreed to plead guilty to U.S. tax evasion and pay $53.6 million, the largest offshore-account penalty ever reported.

Ty Warner, chief executive of Ty Inc., the maker of stuffed dolls, reached an agreement with the U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois to plead guilty to a federal tax-evasion charge in connection with undeclared offshore Swiss accounts, according to his lawyer, Gregory Scandaglia, of Scandaglia & Ryan in Chicago.

Mr. Warner also faces a possible prison sentence.

$53.6 million is a lot of beanies.  What I found striking is how little he stood to gain compared to how much he will lose:

The unpaid tax on the account came to $885,300, according to a Justice Department statement.

By my math, there was $60 to lose for every dollar he stood to gain.  That seems like an unwise bet.

Jack Townsend has the definitive coverage, Whopping FBAR Penalty in Criminal Plea; Beanie Baby Creator Gets Beaned With No Free Pass:

But then his reported net worth is $2.6 billion, so in terms of real world punishment, well not much.  He is probably more concerned with the public embarrassment than the cost of his behavior.  It would appear that for real punishment of the mega-wealthy a penalty keyed to the net worth should apply (if higher than the normal FBAR penalty; then, depending upon the amount, there could be some real punishment rather than just a nuisance).  Of course, if he gets some serious incarceration period — which is what the Guidelines will indicate — then there may be some real punishment.  But, the courts have been notoriously lenient in sentencing, at least for persons not so wealthy as Warner (and his earlier colleague among the mega-rich, Olenicoff).

I have only the customary pity for somebody who falls from success to scandal.  It sounds like Mr. Warner knew exactly what he was doing.  I have a lot more sympathy for much smaller taxpayers who face similarly disproportionate penalties relative to unpaid taxes for inadvertent violations.  It’s too bad the IRS has such a hard time telling the difference.  Apparently you have to shoot the jaywalkers so you can slap the real criminals on the wrist.

The TaxProf has more.  So does Jana Luttenegger.

 

20130919-2Mo’ Money no mo’.  The owners of the Mo’ Money tax prep franchise won’t be making any mo’ money doing taxes.  From a Department of Justice press release:

A federal court in Memphis, Tenn., permanently barred the owners of Mo’ Money Taxes, Markey Granberry and Derrick Robinson, as well as a former Mo’ Money manager, Eumora Reese, from preparing tax returns for others and owning or operating a tax return preparation business, the Justice Department announced today.  The civil injunction order, to which Granberry, Robinson and Reese agreed without admitting the allegations against them, was signed by Judge S. Thomas Anderson of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.

The business seemed to have its share of fraud trouble at its franchises   Based on this, it appears the problems may have started at the top.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Gets Big Win In Corporate Tax Holiday Case, Readies For Next Fight

William Perez, Need to Pay Taxes for 2012? Be Aware of Penalties and Interest

Paul Neiffer, Estimated 2014 Inflation Adjusted Tax Items

Kay Bell, 2014 tax brackets preview indicates tax savings for many

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 133

 

Cara Griffith, The ‘Tech Tax’ That Wasn’t (Tax Analysts Blog)

Alan Cole,  Obamacare’s “Cadillac Tax” – A Poor Patch for a Hole in the Income Tax (Tax Policy Blog)

Donald Marron,  The Costs of Debt Limit Brinksmanship  (TaxVox)

 

We should all have such funding problems.  There are two posts today bemoaning the lack if IRS funding:

Tax Justice Blog,  An Underfunded IRS Means More Tax Avoiders Get a Pass.

Christopher Bergin, Mind the Gap, and Fund the IRS (Tax Analysts Blog)

Here is a chart of inflation-adjusted IRS funding:

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You know, it doesn’t look the IRS is doing that badly by historical standards.  If Congress didn’t act like the tax law was the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, giving the IRS duties as varied as industrial policy and running the nation’s healthcare financing, funding would seem more than adequate.

 

The Critical Question:  Is Obamacare the GOP’s White Whale? (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox)

Career Advice:  This Way to CPA Isn’t Too Confident You Can Get By Without Mommy’s Help (Going Concern)

 

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The saga of Canada Cruz.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

cruzTed Cruz is lucky it wasn’t the other way around.  The Texas Senator recently learned that he is an accidental Canadian citizen because he was born in Calgary.  His American mom moved back to the U.S. when he was four and the Senator apparently never considered himself a Great White Northian.

Now he plans to “renounce” his Canadianhood, presumably to make his political life easier.  That’s fine for him, but I hope he ponders just how lucky he is that his life didn’t go the other way.  If Ted Cruz’s mom were a Canadian who brought him into the world in Fargo, and then moved him as a toddler back to Canada, he would be up to his toque in problems with the IRS.

Assume our alternate-world Ted Cruz – we’ll call him Canada Cruz — had become a successful Canadian lawyer and politician.  Given his $3.5 million net worth, he certainly would have opened substantial bank and brokerage accounts in Canada.  He would have significant retirement plan assets.  And, like many accidental Americans, it would probably never have occurred to him that his American citizenship obligated him to file FBAR reports and U.S. tax returns reporting his Canadian income.

The Treasury might claim half the balance of his financial accounts for each year he failed to file Form TD F 90-22.1 — or a mere $10,000 per year if they decided his violation wasn’t “willful.”    If he attempted to participate in the OVDI “amnesty” program to clean things up, he would probably be told to cough up “only” 25% of the balances in all of his Canadian accounts, and to file US returns paying tax on “all tax years” covered by the disclosure.   Assuming $3 million of his $3.5 million net worth represents financial assets, Canada Cruz would have to fork over at least $750,000 as a result of being an accidental American.  Just in case you wonder why people might renounce U.S. citizenship.

Tax Professor Allison Christians explains (via TaxProf):

US citizens abroad now understand that discovering ties to the US means discovering a world of obligations and consequences flowing from citizenship that you were expected to know and obey. Ignorance of the law being no excuse, the punishments range from the merely ridiculous–many times any tax that would have ever been due–to the infuriating: life savings wiped out and many future tax savings sponsored by your home government, such as in education or health savings plans, treated as offshore trusts and therefore confiscated by the US. Moreover there is no ready escape hatch for the newly discovered and unwanted US citizenship: five years of full tax reporting compliance must be documented, appointments must be made with officials, fees must be remitted, interviews must be conducted, and in some cases exit taxes must be paid. If some in Congress get their way, renunciation could even mean life-time banishment from the US someday soon.

If U.S. politicians had any sense of shame or capacity for introspection, they would take heed of Canada Cruz’s problems and stop U.S. tax law at the border.  A humane and sensible IRS would create an easy way for accidental citizens to come into compliance short of financial ruin.  As it is, Canada Cruz is just screwed.

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/29/2013: If the embezzler had used the money for figurines, would they sue Precious Moments?

Monday, July 29th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130729-1Blame the casino for the thief?  A Nebraska business may be taking an oddly-forgiving view towards employee theft.  The Associated Press reports that the Colombo Candy and Tobacco Wholesale Company (now there’s a product combo for everyone) declined to press charges against a former employee for allegedly stealing $4.1 million.  Instead they are suing a Casino for leading her unto temptation.

But the Nebraska Department of Revenue is less willing to let bygones be bygones, reports KETV.com:

The Nebraska Department of Revenue and the Sarpy County attorney have decided to pursue criminal charges against 54-year-old Caroline Richardson of Gretna.

Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov said this is a case he doesn’t see every day.

“I think it’s interesting for people to know that stolen money is considered income and has to be reported on your income tax,” Polikov said.  “If you don’t report it and don’t pay it, you’ll be prosecuted for it.”

In a civil filing where Richardson is identified as “Jane Doe,” Colombo Candy argued the blame should be less on Richardson and more on an Iowa Casino.

A more cynical view would be that the candy company knows that the accused thief has no money, so it’s going for the deep pockets.

 

Paul Neiffer, Help Prevent SE tax on CRP Rents!  Paul wants CRP recipients to help fund an appeal of the recent Tax Court Morehouse case, holding CRP income to be self-employment income.

The Morehouse case needs be appealed because the case sets a bad precedent for all owners of CRP across the country. Anyone who fails to treat CRP as self-employment income is subject to penalty for underpayment of Federal tax.

However, appeals cost money, and the dollars at risk for Morehouse personally (only $6,000) just aren’t enough for him to justify paying for the appeal. It is important enough that I want to spread the word, and request my readers who have ground in CRP to share in the cost.

If you have CRP ground and want to help the cause, Paul tells you how.

 

TaxGrrrl, Bolt Strikes At Diamond League Games, Says UK Races Hinge On Tax Laws 

Usain Bolt said he wouldn’t race in the U.K. after the Olympics unless they changed their tax laws… and they did, extending the laws in place for the Olympics for the Diamond Games.

Tough luck if you aren’t famous, I guess.

 

Phil Hodgen is launching Web-Based Seminar: U.S. Tax Solutions for Non-Filers Abroad.  It looks like a great resource for the innocents abroad caught up in the FBAR fiasco.

 

Jack Townsend,  Must a Defendant Prove Innocence of Uncharged Crime to Reverse Wrongful Conviction?  That’s insane.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 81.  They’ll keep calling it a “phoney” scandal, but the Inspector General still says otherwise.  So did the President, until it became awkward.

Instapundit:

JACK LEW:  There’s No IRS Scandal, But I Won’t Say Whether I Talked To Wilkins About Targeting.

Those who keep saying there’s no scandal here need to acknowledge that the IRS admitted targeting conservative groups months ago.

 

Kay Bell, Scholarships and grants get better grades than borrowing and tax breaks as ways to pay college costs

William Perez, IRS Update for July 26, 2013

 

Joseph Henchman, Massachusetts to Have Second Highest Cigarette Tax, Rare Tax on Computer Services, Higher Gas Tax (Tax Policy Blog)

Brian Strahle, RECENT CALIFORNIA LLC FEE ISSUES AND WARNING FOR NONFILERS:  HERE COMES THE NOTICE!!  California is looking for nickels under your sofa cushions.

 

Christopher Bergin, Our Secretive Senate. (Tax Analysts Blog).  Not a fan of the 50-year memory hole for tax reform ideas.

Peter Reilly, Why Tax Reform Is Impossible

 

Jim Maule, Tax Law and National Defense: Hush Now!

Linda Beale, Proposals for Cutting the IRS Budget.

 

Janet Novack, U.S. Seeks PNC, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Records To Find Tax Cheats–From Norway   Look out, Decorah.

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Tax Roundup, 7/17/2013: Stories of wounded jaywalkers. And: checking in on Rashia.

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

taxanalystslogoMarie Sapirie of Tax Analysts has an excellent piece about how the IRS offshore account enforcement program treats the thousands of ordinary Americans abroad — and many green card holders living in the U.S. —  as presumptive tax criminals when they try to remedy foot-fault paperwork violations in reporting offshore accounts.  She tells the stories of four “minnows” who tried to remedy inadvertent minor violations of the foreign account rules.  Get a load of the advice they gave “Taxpayer 3:”

The taxpayer, like many others, sought help from a congressional representative in reaching a satisfactory resolution with the IRS. The response that the lawmaker received from the IRS — that the taxpayer could renounce U.S. citizenship — was disappointing. “I lived in the U.S. for 30 years; I never was treated unfairly for 30 years. I was proud of it. And here the IRS is telling me to renounce my citizenship
because it may be the best solution considering my situation,” the taxpayer said.

When the IRS is telling people to expatriate themselves, something is very wrong.

The article discusses the headaches involved in clearing up FBAR reporting, including the delays caused because IRS agents aren’t allowed to make international phone calls.

The IRS should imitate programs for state non-filers for FBAR violations: allow taxpayers to come in penalty-free anytime if they file disclose their accounts and amend returns for five years back to report any unreported offshore income.  Time to stop shooting the jaywalkers.

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Rashia Wilson in happier times.

While Doug Shulman’s IRS was busy shooting jaywalkers, the grifters were running wild.  TampaBay.com has an update on the woman who boasted on her Facebook page that she was the “queen of IRS tax fraud”: IRS loss to fraud’s ‘first lady’ may have hit $20 million:

Rashia Wilson may have duped the IRS out of as much as $20 million before her arrest on stolen identity refund fraud charges.

That’s according to a court document, filed in advance of her sentencing today, that estimates the government’s loss at $7 million to $20 million.

What kind of criminal mastermind could break through the internal controls at IRS to loot that kind of money?

“YES I’M RASHIA THE QUEEN OF IRS TAX FRAUD,” reads a May posting on her Facebook page described in the affidavits. “IM’ A MILLIONAIRE FOR THE RECORD SO IF U THINK INDICTING ME WILL BE EASY IT WONT I PROMISE U!”

Well done, Shulman!  Criminal masterminds like Ms. Wilson are robbing the Treasury of $5 billion annually, and you are busy telling taxpayers trying to come into compliance to renounce their citizenship.

Prior tax update coverage: Identity theft tax fraud: women’s work?

Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 16. “The IRS still has not processed Brian and Wendy’s final joint tax return for 2010.”

 

Inspector General finds “willful” rummaging through political “candidate or donor” records, but Justice Department declines to prosecute.  This is a big deal.  All we know is that it is sometime after 2006.  Failing to prosecute that is shocking; it’s hard to imagine a good excuse.  Tax Analysts reports today ($link) that IRS denies any of its employees were involved.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 69

Kay Bell, Justice Department refusal to prosecute IRS disclosure of taxpayer information prompts inquiry from GOP Senator

Janet Novack,  Former IRS Auditor Gets Probation For Taxpayer Info Leak, Conflict Of Interest.  “Dennis Lerner admitted disclosing information about an audit of
Commerzbank AG and seeking a job with the German bank even as he was still negotiating a $210 settlement with it.”

 

William Perez, Same Sex Marriage, the Windsor Case and Estate Planning

Paul Neiffer, Capital Gains Questions on Selling Farmland

Missouri Tax Guy, Choose your tax pro? A rundown on the difference between CPAs, Enrolled Agents and other preparers.

 

Kay Bell, IRS will be fully staffed July 22 as furlough day is canceled

TaxGrrrl, IRS To Remain Open For Business As Furlough Day Is Canceled

 

Joseph Thorndike, Tax Expenditures Should Be Attacked Head On, Not Through the Backdoor (Tax Analysts Blog).

David Brunori, Immigrants are Good for Us (Tax Analysts Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Will Obamacare Delays Encourage Health Exchange Cheating?  (TaxV0x). Just because we can’t verify that you’re not cheating won’t result in massive cheating, according to Mr. Gleckman.  Let’s ask Rashia about that.

Russ Fox, The Most Ridiculous Tax Ever.  He’s talking about the insane “PCORI” fee.

Tax Justice Blog, North Carolina Facing Disastrous New Tax Laws.   The “disatrous” changes include reduction of the individual rate to 5.75% (currently 7.75%) and the corporate rate to 5% (from 6.9%).  If that’s a disaster, here’s hoping for one in Iowa.

Elizabeth Malm, More Details Released on North Carolina Compromise Plan and North Carolina House, Senate, and Governor Announce Tax Agreement (Tax Policy Blog).

 

Jack Townsend,  UBS Client, 78 Years Old, Sentenced to One Year and One Day

There are no athiests in taxholes.  Economist who dodged tax due to ‘religious objection’ gets four years behind bars (New York Post)

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/24/2013: Officially summer edition. And: catching up on the IRS scandal.

Monday, June 24th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how many times he visited the White House.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how many times he visited the White House.

As the world slows down for summer, so does the IRS scandal.  The TaxProf has only a half-dozen items in yesterday’s daily roundup of IRS scandal stories.  Where are we at?

There’s no smoking gun, like an e-mail from President Obama to Doug Shulman telling him to thwart the Tea Party.  The mystery now appears to be the level of involvement of IRS personnel in Washington, who appear to have closely monitored the handling of the Tea Party 501(c)(4) applications, while  left-leaning applications flew through the system.  While some folks are in a hurry to bury the issue, there are plenty of remaining issues, as Eliana Johnson recounts:

Who at the IRS, for instance, developed the intrusive and exhaustive  questions that were sent to the tea-party groups? Why did so many of those groups have to wait years for their applications to be processed, and why are many more still waiting? Who specifically were the IRS officials in Washington directing the Cincinnati agents targeting the tea-party organizations?

It’s also become clear that the political culture of the IRS was hostile to Tea Parties at the top levels.  IRS defenders have pointed to Doug Shulman’s status as a Bush appointee as evidence of IRS neutrality, but it turns out that he has a long left-side political historyThe same goes for Holly Paz, a high-ranking IRS lawyer who had a key role in overseeing the non-approval process.   The best argument that can be made on behalf of the agency is that because the political culture was so far to the left, they didn’t realize how biased they were being — they actually could have believed Tea Party applications were political, while “progressive” ones were just good people trying to do good things.  That hardly inspires confidence.

While former Commissioner visited the IRS a lot — the exact number of visits isn’t clear, but it was more than Shulman could precisely remember — it appears his t0p aide went to the White House 2 or 3 times weekly.  It’s hard to imagine that slow-walking Tea Party applications would require that level of Administration involvement, but it does show a disturbing level of day-to-day administration involvement with the workings of the tax agency.  It best, it reflects how the IRS has become a multi-portfolio superagency stretching across the government, which is a terrible thing by itself.

 

Andrew Mitchel,  Mandatory Electronic Filing for FBARs Coming Soon.  Remember, they are due this week.  The Treasury (inexcusably) says the timely-mailed, timely-filed rule doesn’t apply to foreign financial account disclosure filings, so you should mail them by today to beat the June 30 deadline.

Roger McEowen, U.S. Tax Court Says that CRP Payments Are Subject To  Self-Employment Tax In the Hands of a Non-Farmer

In a  stunning reversal of course, the U.S. Tax Court  has agreed with the IRS that  the signing of a CRP contract coupled with compliance with the contract  provisions (whether personally or via an agent) results in the party signing  the contract being in the business of participating in the CRP and engaging in an “environmentally friendly farming operation.”  The result was  that the CRP payments were subject to self-employment tax.

Paul Neiffer, Your CRP Income May Be Subject to SE Tax: “Under the ruling of this case, it appears that almost any farmland enrolled in CRP will be subject to SE tax (at least in the Eighth Circuit) unless the case gets appealed and overruled which may take a
couple of years to resolve.”

 

Jason Dinesen, Commentary on the IRS’s E-Services Decision:

The IRS says few practitioners are using E-Services (I think they said only 10% of power of attorney requests come through that system).

Still, in the year 2013, it seems more logical to encourage more practitioners to use E-Services instead of closing it down and taking away the electronic option completely.

Yet another bad IRS decision.  Meanwhile, TaxGrrrl reports that  Defying Directive, IRS Set To Pay Out $70 Million In Employee Bonuses.   Priorities.

Russ Fox, Onwards and Upwards into the 20th Century!

Christopher Bergin, Another Bad Day for the IRS (Tax Analysts Blog)

William Perez, Small Business Week: Deducting Health Insurance Benefits

Peter Reilly, Tea Party Patriots — Federalist Papers — Really ?

Tax Policy Blog, Tanning Tax Not So Hot

Tax Justice Blog, A Reminder About Film Tax Credits: All that Glitters is not Gold

Kay Bell, Amazon heading to Florida, leaving Minnesota

Kim Reuben, Andrew Cuomo’s Lesson in What Not to do With Rising Tax Revenues (TaxVox)

Robert D. Flach, TAX RETURN ERRORS:

Using a tax preparation software package is no substitute for knowledge of tax law.  This applies to paid preparers as well as individual taxpayers.  I sometimes wonder how many alleged tax professionals, especially those employed by the “fast food” tax preparation chains, are really nothing more than data entry clerks. 

Garbage in, garbage out.

 

The Cubs losing ways:  IRS Continues Its Scrutiny Of Leveraged Partnerships: 2009 Sale Of Chicago Cubs Finds Itself In Service’s Crosshairs   Fortunately for Cubs fans, it’s the seller’s problem.

Good luck with that. Billionaire Seeks $186 Million Tax Refund, Claims IRS Biased By ‘Politically Charged Atmosphere’ (Janet Novack)

Gee, who saw this coming?  Governor signs bill paying off Honey Creek Resort debt.  Operating resorts is one more thing the State isn’t very good at.

 

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But how can we slap money launderers on the wrist if we don’t throw the book at widows?

Friday, April 26th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130426-1Absolutely stunning and wonderful news out of Florida in a highly-publicized offshore account case.  From the Palm Beach Daily News:

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp sentenced Mary Estelle Curran of Palm Beach to one year probation Thursday on tax charges, before revoking the sentence five seconds later and sending her out of the courtroom a free woman.

Ryskamp chastised the government for prosecuting the 79-year-old woman when 38,000 other people in the same situation were given immunity.

The woman had inherited Swiss bank accounts from her wealthy husband.  Her lawyer had tried to get her into the offshore disclosure program, but the IRS turned her down because her name was on a list provided by Swiss bank UBS.  She pleaded guilty to two false return charges.  The judge blasted the government for bringing criminal charges:

Based on these facts, did it ever occur to the government to dismiss these charges,” Ryskamp said. “Instead, the government decided it had to make a felon out of this woman?”

That’s been the IRS approach to offshore accounts all along.  The IRS has done a terrible job distinguishing the bad guys from inadvertent violators, hitting people who have come forward with accidental violations with ridiculous penalties, rather than welcoming them into compliance — while often letting bigger fish swim away.  But the government had no apologies to offer:

Mark Daly, from the Department of Justice Tax Division, told Ryskamp that Curran’s husband, Mortimer, was a “very wealthy man” and shouldn’t have turned to a foreign national for an interpretation of U.S. Law.”

Mortimer is beyond the prosecutors’ reach, so burn the widow!  In addition to setting her free, the judge urged her to apply for a presidential pardon, which he promised to endorse.

Related:

Jack Townsend,  Sentencing Judge on Offshore Prosecution Chastises the Government for Lack of Judgment

Bloomberg News,  Widow Gets Less Than Minute of Probation in U.S. Tax Case

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