Posts Tagged ‘Hank Stern’

Tax Roundup, 9/21/15: If you step away from the Iowa business, Iowa rules say sell within five years.

Monday, September 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150811-1When you get out of the business, Iowa wants you to really get out.  Iowa has a tough tax environment for business, consistently ranking in the bottom 20% in the Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate Index. But there’s a pot of gold at the end of the road for entrepreneurs tough enough to stick it out for at least ten years.

The Iowa Capital Gain Deduction excludes from Iowa tax the capital gains on the sale of the assets of a business, or on real estate used in a business, if the business was held for at least ten years and the taxpayer “materially participated” in the business for ten years at the time of sale. And that’s the catch.

This rule tripped up a Johnson County, Iowa couple this month in the Iowa Court of Appeals. The couple ran a rooming house in Iowa city and ran it full-time from 1981 to 1994 — safely longer than ten years. In 1994 they contracted out the daily operation of the business. The couple continued to pay bills, approve major expenditures and renovations, and perform some maintenance activities. They sold out in 2005.

The “material participation” rules are the same as the federal “passive loss” rules under Section 469. Most of these rules are based on time spent in the business during the year. For example, if you spend 500 hours working in a non-rental business during a year, that means you materially participate.

Several material participation rules apply when a taxpayer retires from the business. One applies only to farmers: if you retire at the time you start collecting social security, and you have materially participated otherwise in at least five of the prior eight years, you are considered to materially participate for the rest of your life. Once you participate in a “personal service” business for three years, your material participation is set for life.

For all other businesses, you are considered to materially participate if you have met one of the hour-based requirements in five of the prior ten years. As a practical matter, that means a retiring entrepreneur who continues to own the business is still materially participating for five years after stepping down.

That’s where the taxpayers here failed the material participation tests. While they easily met the requirement to hold the property for ten years, they were not material participants at the time of the sale. The court held that they failed to prove material participation after 1994. That would mean they would have until 1999 to sell and still be material participants. After that, they failed the five-of-the-last-ten-years test.

The Moral: Taxpayers who step back from an Iowa business shouldn’t wait too long to sell if they want to avoid Iowa capital gains tax. If you meet the ten-year holding period and material participation requirement, you have five years to find a buyer.

Cite: Lance, Iowa Court of Appeals No. 14-1144 (9/10/2015).

Roger McEowen has an excellent discussion of this case for Tax Place subscribers. If you practice Iowa tax regularly, the $150 annual subscription is a great bargain.


Iowa Capital Gain Deduction: an illustration





Hank Stern of Insureblog discusses some Dubious 105 Tricks:

Here’s the concept in a nutshell (emphasis on “nut”):

My employer claims that signing up for this “105 Classic Plan” will allow me to make %30+ of my income tax free. The jist [sic] of it is that they will take $560 per (bi-weekly) pay period out of my check, somehow “make it tax free” and refund most of it back through some vague “loan” that I apparently don’t have to pay back.

This will reduce my income taxes pretty massively… but not only that, the company making my money untaxable claims it will pay 75% of all my out of pocket medical expenses up to $12,000.

It’s sort of an underpants gnome tax plan:

  1. Take money out.
  2. ?
  3. Tax free!

It of course doesn’t work. There is no Tax Fairy.


Russ Fox, A 0% Chance of Success Didn’t Deter Him! “Well, one fact that I’ve mentioned in the past is that IRS Criminal Investigations looks at all allegations of employment tax fraud. The reason is obvious: The IRS doesn’t like the idea of people stealing from them.”

Kay Bell, How do fantasy sports differ from gambling? As far as I can tell, gambling takes less time.

Robert D. Flach, REQUIRED NEW YORK STATE CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR TAX PREPARERS. “To be perfectly honest all of the four-hours of sessions were a total waste of my time.” Senators Hatch and Wyden want to spread the time-waste nationwide.

Peter Reilly, Presidential Race – Let’s Talk Religion Politics And The IRS.

Robert Wood, IRS Delays FATCA To Help Banks, But Offshore Account Disclosures Continue




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 863864865


TaxGrrrl, Coca-Cola Says IRS Wants $3.3 Billion In Additional Tax Following Audit

Caleb Newquist, Coca-Cola Can’t Beat the Feeling That Its Taxes Are Just Fine (Going Concern). “Coca-Cola Co. is learning that the IRS side of life includes a challenge to its transfer pricing method.”



Tax Roundup, 6/26/15: Supreme Court saves ACA subsidies — and taxes.

Friday, June 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


supreme courtThe Supreme Court upholds new punitive taxes on thousands of Iowa employers and uninsured individuals. That’s the flip side of the decision yesterday ruling that tax credits remain available for health insurance purchased on the federal exchanges, despite the language of the Obamacare statute — a ruling characterized by the Des Moines Register as “Obamacare ruling protects 40,000 Iowans’ subsidies.

Here’s what it means to those footing the bill:

– The employer mandates will take effect in all states as scheduled. The “Employer Shared Responsibility provisions” require employers to purchase “adequate” health coverage for employees.  It applied in 2014 to employers with over 100 “full-time equivalent” employees in 2013.  In 2015, it applies to employers who had over 50 full-time equivalent employees in 2014. It applies to government and non-profit employers, as well as to businesses.

Employers who fail to offer coverage to 95% of their FTEs and dependents are subject to a $2,000 penalty, pro-rated for months where coverage is lacking, for non-covered FTEs, with a 30-employee exemption. “Full-time Equivalent” means 30 hours per week.

The penalties kick in only if at least one employee claims the coverage tax credit. Yesterday’s decision ensures the mandate applies in all states — rather than just the 14 with state-run exchanges — because the triggering credits will remain available nationwide.

The individual mandate tax applies fully in all states. The “Individual Shared Responsibility Provision” penalizes individuals who aren’t covered at work and who fail to purchase “adequate” and “affordable” coverage. The penalty for 2015 is the greater of $325 ($162.50 for those under 18) or 2% of “household” income. It is prorated if coverage is obtained for some months and not others.

Yesterday’s decision broadens the reach of the tax because the penalty only applies if available coverage is “affordable.” The tax credits are used in computing “affordability,” so the availability of the credits nationwide broadens the tax to many more taxpayers.

20121120-2The Section 36B tax credit remains available nationwide. This is the refundable credit that was the subject of yesterday’s decision. It is estimated when coverage is obtained and applied against coverage costs for the year. It is “trued up” when the taxpayer files their 1040 for the coverage year — a process that can sometimes mean more credit, but that sometimes triggers a big balance due.  Because the credit phases out in steps, one extra dollar of income can trigger thousands of dollars of additional taxes:

Consider a middle-aged married couple earning $62,040, 400 percent of the FPL for a two-person household ($15,510.) If the second cheapest Silver plan in their area costs $1,200 per month, they would receive a subsidy of $8,506 in order to cap that plan’s price at 9.5 percent of their income. However, if they earned $62,041—only a dollar more—the entire subsidy would evaporate. 

Because the $8,506 would have been applied to health premiums, the household would have to pay it back on April 15.

What do I think of the decision? In March I wrote:

In a less politically-sensitive context, one could expect a 9-0 or 8-1 decision against the IRS. That’s what happened in Gitlitz, where the court ruled that the IRS couldn’t regulate away a perceived misdrafting of the tax code’s S corporation basis rules that allowed a windfall to taxpayers whose S corporations had debt forgiveness income. “Because the Code’s plain text permits the taxpayers here to receive these benefits, we need not address this policy concern.” But because a decision against IRS here would invalidate key parts of Obamacare in most of the country, politics is a big part of the process.

That means I think the Scalia dissent gets it right, but we don’t get to file tax returns based on the dissent. It should give pause to those who write legislation, though — there’s no telling how the Supremes will read their work if they don’t like what it does.

Other coverage:

William Perez, What You Need to Know about the Premium Assistance Tax Credit

TaxGrrrl, Supreme Court Upholds King, Says Obamacare Tax Credits Apply To All States

Kay Bell, Let the Affordable Care Act repeal efforts begin (again)

Hank Stern, SCOTUScare Fallout. “Obamacare Ruling May Have Just Killed State-Based Exchanges

Andy Grewal, Grewal: King v. Burwell — The IRS Isn’t An Expert? (TaxProf Blog)

Tyler Cowen, King vs. Burwell, and other stuff. “So on net I take this to be good news, although arguably it is bad news that it is good news.”

Megan McArdle, Subsidies and All, Obamacare Stays

Alan Cole, James Kennedy, King v. Burwell: Supreme Court Upholds Subsidies to Federal Exchanges (Tax Policy Blog)

Roger McEowen,  The U.S. Supreme Court and Statutory Construction – Words Don’t Mean What They Say (AgDocket)




Stuff other than the Supreme Court decision:

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Sole Proprietor

Joseph Thorndike, Rand Paul’s Tax Plan May Be Radical, But It’s Not Impossible (Tax Analysts Blog) “But radical doesn’t mean impossible. Since proportionality lies at the heart of Paul’s plan, history suggests it might have a shot.”

Ethan Greene, Net Investment Income Tax Handicaps Those Meant to Benefit (Tax Policy Blog). “The irony of the NIIT is it taxes the very demographic it was intended to aid; that is, retirees relying on their savings and investment, and those with disabilities, counting on trust income or estate inheritance to maintain their quality of life.”

Donald Marron, Everything You Should Know about Taxing Carbon. (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 778

Caleb Newquist, The Accounting Profession’s Murky Future (Going Concern)



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.”




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.”



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

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


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

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

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

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


Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Basic Terminology

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

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

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

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

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


2008 flood 1


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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




Tax Roundup, 6/11/15: Remember the June 15 deadlines. And: The Bernie Sanders bait and switch.

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


20140728-1Programming Note: No tax roundup tomorrow. See you Monday!


Things that are due Monday: 

– Second Quarter estimated tax payments.

– Returns for filers living abroad

The IRS reminds us Taxpayers with Foreign Assets May Have FBAR and FATCA Filing Requirements in June.


Kyle Pomerleau, How Scandinavian Countries Pay for Their Government Spending (Tax Policy Blog).  This post considers avowed Socialist and quixotic presidential candidate Bernie Sander’s affection for Scandinavian tax and spending policies:

Specifically, Sanders wants the United States to adopt a lot of the spending policies that many of the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden) are commonly known to have. Policies such as government sponsored college education, paid parental leave, and universal healthcare.

Many of these new government programs would be expensive and necessitate higher taxes. It is instructive to look at how Scandinavian countries structure their tax systems in order to raise revenue for these programs. Interestingly, some of the ways that Scandinavian countries raise revenue may make Sanders, who is a proponent of highly progressive taxation, uncomfortable.

Two charts from the post tell the story:

High top rates…



…that kick in at much lower income levels than here:



In words, somebody making just a little more than the average income in Denmark pays a 60.4% rate on every additional dollar of income, while you have to make 8.5 times the average U.S. income to hit the top U.S. marginal rate of 39.6%.

A high top tax rate sounds great when it’s being paid by some rich guy you don’t know, but when you pay it, it doesn’t soound so good. That’s the bait and switch behind the spending policies of Bernie Sanders and his ideological soulmates. They tell you that somebody else will pay for all of this bountiful government spending, but the rich guy isn’t buying — he can’t.


Leona May, Accounting Firms Need More Career Options If They Want to Retain Talent (Going Concern):

With partner being the only laudable end goal, no wonder the big accounting firms have become essentially an accounting industry training ground. Firms pay to train us, and then we jump ship after a few years if that shinin’ disco light partner standard does not jibe with our long-term career aspirations.

The failure to retain good employees who don’t want equity is an expensive failure for our industry.


Robert D. Flach says SEE YOUR TAX PRO FIRST! “Very, very important – if you are considering entering into a business enterprise visit your tax professional and your accountant (if not the same person or firm) before you visit your attorney.”

Hank Stern, Centennial State HIX Hiccups (InsureBl0g). On the ugly state of Colorado’s ACA exchange.

Robert Wood, IRS Still Isn’t Ready For Obamacare, Says Watchdog

Carl Smith, Is The Tax Court an Agency or a Court for FOIA Purposes? (Procedurally Taxing)

Kay Bell, NYC attorney pleads guilty to amended tax return fraud. If the tax agency asks you why you haven’t filed your tax returns, filing fraudulent ones is an unwise response.

Jack Townsend, The Vatican Signs On To FATCA

Andrew Mitchel, U.S. Government Continues to Pursue Taxpayers Committing Tax Fraud




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 763. Today’s link puts the Tea Party scandal in its context as part of the larger movement to regulate (and, inevitably, restrict) free speech via campaign finance “reform.”

Renu Zaretsky, “The Waiting Is the Hardest [and Most Constant] Part”  Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the IRS funding standoff and the continuing Kansas budget fight, among other things.

Cara Griffith, Are REITs Paying Their Fair Share to States? (Tax Analysts Bl0g)

Carl Davis, Sales-Tax-Free Purchases on Amazon Are a Thing of the Past for Most (Tax Justice Blog). “Effective June 1, Amazon is now collecting sales taxes in fully half the states that are collectively home to over 247 million people, or 77 percent of the country’s population.”


This could catch on a lot better than that Irwin Schiff stuff. Austrian Brothel Offering Free Sex And Drinks In Tax Protest



Tax Roundup, 6/10/15: Canada finds tax freedom today. And: limits to states tax reach.

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

canada flagOh, Canada. The Tax Foundation determined that the U.S. “Tax Freedom Day” was April 24 this year. Our neighbor to the north has had to wait until today, reports the Fraser Institute:

Tax Freedom Day measures the total yearly tax burden imposed on Canadian families by the federal, provincial and local governments.

“Without our Tax Freedom Day calculations, it’s nearly impossible for Canadian families to know all the taxes they pay each year because federal, provincial and local governments levy such a wide range of taxes,” said Charles Lammam, director of fiscal studies at the Fraser Institute and co-author of Canadians Celebrate Tax Freedom Day on June 10, 2015.

The list of taxes includes income taxes, payroll taxes, health taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, profit taxes, import taxes, “sin” taxes and more.

In 2015, the average Canadian family (with two or more people) will pay $44,980 in total taxes or 43.7 per cent of its annual income.

The lateness of the date may surprise some U.S. tax practitioners who are familiar with Canada’s low 15% top corporation tax rate — less than half the U.S. 35% top rate. But Canada more than makes up for it with high provincial taxes and a national sales tax.


iowa-illustrated_Page_01Fencing in state tax collectors. A proposed “Business Activity Tax Simplification Act of 2015” (H.R. 2584) would update the rules restricting the ability of states to tax interstate activity:

Business Activity Tax Simplification Act of 2015 Expands the federal prohibition against state taxation of interstate commerce to:

(1) include taxation of out-of-state transactions involving all forms of property, including intangible personal property and services (currently, only sales of tangible personal property are protected); and
(2) prohibit state taxation of an out-of-state entity unless such entity has a physical presence in the taxing state. Sets forth criteria for:
(1) determining that a person has a physical presence in a state, and
(2) the computation of the tax liability of affiliated businesses operating in a state.

Congress last addressed these rules in 1959. The world of multistate commerce today would hardly be recognizable to an Eisenhower-era tax planner. States constantly try to expand their reach to non-voters in other states. State taxes are becoming the largest portion of the tax compliance bill to more and more small businesses. Simplification is way overdue. Unfortunately, this bill will probably go nowhere.


Gretchen Tegeler, Public sector health plans are costly for taxpayers (

Health exchange plans try to encourage members to be conscious of the cost of services.  They require subscribers to pay 100 percent of the cost of nearly everything, up to the deductible. The deductibles are set deliberately high — $3,750 for a single plan and $7,500 for a family plan in our example. Public employee plans, on the other hand, which already cost employees very little in premiums, tend to have extremely low co-pays and deductibles. So employees have minimal exposure to the actual cost of services, and minimal incentive to stay healthy.

When you don’t have to compete to stay in business, this is what happens.


Another ACA Success Story. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports that delays in getting information from insurance exchanges will make it impossible for the IRS to verify all health insurance subsidy claims.

Hank Stern, Yeah, about that promise… (InsureBlog).




Jason Dinesen, Are HRAs Always Appropriate for Sole Proprietors? Part 3

Timothy Todd, Ninth Circuit Vacates Tax Court Decision On Transferee Liability. The case involves a “Midco” transaction involving the use of a loss company to give a buyer an asset deal and a seller a stock deal in the sale of a C corporation.

TaxGrrrl, Footballer Lionel Messi To Face Trial On Tax Fraud Charges. That’s a soccer player, in case you are trying to remember what NFL team he’s on.

Robert Wood, Hastert Pleads Not Guilty, But Can Write Off Blackmail On His Taxes

Caleb Newquist, Who Wants to Work at a Small Accounting Firm? (Going Concern). If it’s you, let me know.

Jim Maule, The Return of the Lap Dance Tax Challenge. “Despite having a fairly good grasp of tax law generally, and a passable understanding of sales taxation, I would have struggled with this case because, as others can attest, I don’t quite understand art.”


20120816-1David Brunori, Brownback Can’t Catch a Break (Tax Analysts Blog).

I think Brownback had the right idea and the wrong approach. He wanted to reduce tax burdens on Kansas citizens. That is laudable for two reasons. First, in the long run, lower taxes will lead to greater economic growth. Second, the money belongs to Kansans. Politicians don’t have an inherent right to people’s property. And it doesn’t matter whether lawmakers’ motivations are noble or venal — it’s not their money.

But I think Brownback made a terrible error when he exempted from tax all income from passthrough entities.

That approach is exactly backwards. You should broaden the base when you lower the rates. And while you should make sure you don’t tax income twice, you want to catch it once.

Kay Bell, Louisiana lawmakers ask D.C. lobbyist for tax hike permission. “Spoiler alert: Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist says ‘no'”


Scott Greenberg, Progressive Policy Institute Calls for Cutting Corporate Tax Rates (Tax Policy Blog). “Right now, companies can take advantage of lower tax rates in Europe by relocating their legal location through an inversion. But, if new international tax rules force companies to actually move jobs overseas to take advantage of Europe’s lower tax rates, companies would likely shift jobs away from the U.S. as well.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 762. He links to a piece arguing “First, the IRS, while effective at collecting taxes, is a poor agency to task with regulating advocacy organizations, especially those, such as the advocacy groups covered under 501(c)(4), that cannot offer donors a tax deduction.” Actually, every non-revenue task assumed by the IRS weakens their effectiveness in collecting taxes.

Playing hard to get. Does Saying “No Chance” Increase the Chances of Reform? Renu Zaretsky’s TaxVox headline roundup covers tax reform, internet taxes, and patent boxes today.


News from the Profession. The Greatest Reality TV Accountants, Awarded and Ranked (Leona May, Going Concern). I’d love to see Robert D. Flach do this.




Tax Roundup, 6/9/15: A Cedar Rapids ID thief pleads guilty. And: Packing the patent box.

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

lizard20140826What are the chances of the government recovering any of the fraudulent refunds? WQAD reports on an Iowan who jumped on the ID theft refund fraud gravy train:

A 35-year-old Iowa woman was convicted after she used another person’s identity to file a phony tax return and then cash the $6,000 refund check issued by the IRS.

Gwendolyn Murray, of Cedar Rapids, was initially charged March 3, 2015, with 12 counts of filing false claims for tax refunds, seven counts of theft of government property and two counts of aggravated identity theft. She was accused of preparing fraudulent tax returns between 2008 and 2013, from which she received seven refund checks, according to court documents.

The total amount allegedly stolen is unavailable in public records, and the defendant pleaded guilty to only one count. Whatever the amount, the defendant’s need for a public defender doesn’t make recovery of the stolen funds seem likely.


Image by Theroadislong under Creative Commons license, via Wikipedia.

Image by Theroadislong under Creative Commons license, via Wikipedia.

Martin Sullivan, Patent Box: Good Intentions Gone Bad (Tax Analysts Blog):

Now several prominent members of Congress want to provide another tax break for research. At first glance, this seems like a very good idea since the usual objections to tax breaks don’t apply. And most regular people understand that the competitiveness of our nation — or in politics-speak, the availability of high-paying jobs — depends on technology.

The new tax break is called a patent box. (The “box” referred to here is the box checked on tax forms in Europe where this idea originated.) The general idea is that income from technology pays tax at a substantially lower rate than other income. So if under tax reform we could get the corporate rate down to 28 percent, patent box income would be taxed at a 14 percent rate.

The problem with this approach is that no one knows even a halfway good way of identifying “income from technology.”

It’s a ridiculous idea. In a real sense every bit of income is “income from technology.” The technology of animal husbandry and plant cultivation has been around for awhile, but it was a big step up from the Acheulean Hand Axe, which was cutting edge technology (literally) in its day.

The patent box is as arbitrary and nonsensical as the Section 199 deduction for “domestic production income.” Yet Section 199 became and remains part of the tax law, so being absurd won’t necessarily stop it.


Hank Stern, Obama Tax Breakage:

And second, why is it a given that “employer sponsored” health plans are the bee’s knees? As we’ve previously blogged, employers don’t tell us what groceries or house to buy: they pay us our wages and we’re free to make our own choices. Why should health insurance be any different?

The historical accidents that led to employer health as a tax-advantaged fringe benefit are reasonably well-known, but it’s a lot harder to answer why it should be that way.


buzz20141017It’s Tuesday, so it’s Buzz Day! At Robert D. Flach’s, you can rummage through the tax implications of garage sales and see just how much Robert likes “reality TV.”

TaxGrrrl, Hastert, Hovind & FIFA Matters Shed Light On Dangers Of Structuring

Russ Fox, Neymar Wins Championship but Faces Tax Evasion Investigation. Soccer just isn’t getting great press off the field the last week or so.

Robert Wood, Moving To Avoid California Taxes? Be Careful. “Don’t just get a post office box in Nevada. That doesn’t work and you will end up with bills for taxes, interest and penalties or worse.”

Keith Fogg, Update on Dischargeability of Late Filed Tax Returns. It can be hard to get bankruptcy discharge on tax debts if you don’t stay current with your filings.

Kay Bell, The tax costs of maintaining private coastal properties. “It’s time that we faced the reality that we can’t beat Mother Nature, at least not along the coastline. And we need to stop using our tax dollars to subsidize this destined-to-fail effort.”

William Perez, 4 Tips for the 1st Estimated Tax Payment of 2015. The second payment is due June 15.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 761. “Judicial Watch announced that Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a Judicial Watch request to issue an order requiring the IRS to provide answers by June 12, 2015, on the status of the Lois Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost.”




Joseph Thorndike, Carly Fiorina Answers the $59 M Question: Why Should Candidates Release Their Tax Returns? (Tax Analysts Blog). “For many, that disclosure will be unpleasant. But I suspect most candidates have learned a lesson from the Romney debacle: Tax disclosure can hurt, but nondisclosure can be deadly.”

Howard Gleckman, Obama-Era Tax Reform: RIP: “Many Democrats, who have embraced income inequality as their 2016 campaign theme, are likely to back more targeted middle-income tax breaks, not fewer. Their agenda will be tax deform, not tax reform.”


Cameron Williamson, Connecticut Legislature Sends Corporate Tax Hike to Governor. (Tax Policy Blog). This is a step backwards for Connecticut tax policy.

Jared Walczak, Nevada Approves New Tax on Business Gross Receipts (Tax Foundation). A big step backwards for Nevada tax policy. At least it’s paired with a giant step forwards in education policy.


Peter Reilly dives deep into the case of the creationist theme park operator and his seemingly miraculous impending release from prison: The Juror Who Freed Kent Hovind Steps Forward



Tax Roundup, 6/1/15: Trusts, but verify. And lots more!

Monday, June 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

tack shelterTrust not flaky trusts. There’s a sort of folk belief that the rich and the sophisticated skip out of income taxes through clever use of trusts. That’s not true; trust income is taxed either to the trust owners, their beneficiaries, or to the trusts themselves — and at high effective rates. The 39.6% top rate that kicks in for unmarried individuals at $413,200 applies starting at $12,300 for trusts.

Still, this folk belief creates a market of gullible people who want to be like the sophisticated kids that don’t pay taxes. Where there’s a market, someone will attempt to meet the demand. That can go badly.

It went very badly for two westerners last week. From a Department of Justice press release:

Joseph Ruben Hill aka Joe Hill, 56, and Lucille Kathleen Hill aka Kathy Hill, 58, both of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Gloria Jean Reeder, 68, of Sedona, Arizona, were convicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstructing a grand jury investigation following a three-week trial. In July 2014, Joe Hill, Kathy Hill and Reeder were indicted for conspiring to defraud the United States by promoting and using a sham trust scheme. Joe Hill and Reeder were also indicted for conspiring to obstruct the grand jury investigation in the District of Wyoming by causing individuals to withhold records required to be produced by federal grand jury subpoenas.

What were they selling?

Essentially, the scheme involved assigning income to the trust by using a bank account in the trust’s name that was opened with a false federal tax identification number. The Hills, Reeder, and many other CCG clients who testified during the trial used the CCG trusts to conceal income and assets from the IRS.

All of their customers can count on thorough and painful IRS exams.




Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Did you miss the last holiday in May? Friday was 529 Day (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “A recent Forbes article discussing the so-called holiday reported two-thirds of Americans are unfamiliar with 529 Plans.”

Hank Stern, The Flip Side of Halbig/King/Burntwell. “But there’s another side to this, one which has thus far gone unremarked: is there a potential upside to folks whose subsidies go away? (Insureblog)

William Perez, Identity Theft Statistics from the Latest TIGTA Report

Annette Nellen, Should Sales Tax Deduction Be Made Permanent? House Says Yes

Kay Bell, Are we tax sheep? A U.K. collection effort says ‘yes’:

These psychologists, anthropologists and other observers of human nature suggested that a couple of lines be added to tax collection letters:

“The great majority of people in your local area pay their tax on time. Most people with a debt like yours have paid it by now.”

It worked.

I’m sure this approach has its limits, but it contains an important insight: people will pay their taxes if they think other people do. But if they feel other people get away with not paying, they’ll stop. Nobody likes to be a chump.

Jack Townsend, New IRS FBAR Penalty Guidance

Jim Maule, Can Anyone Do Business Without Tax Subsidies? Most of us have to — which is a powerful case against giving special favors to the well-connected and well-lobbied.

Andy GrewalThe Un-Precedented Tax Court: Summary Opinions (Procedurally Taxing). “It’s a bit strange to pretend that a judicial opinion does not exist…”

Peter Reilly, Structuring – First Kent Hovind – Now Dennis Hastert. The IRS has overreached in its structuring seizures, but keeping deposits under $10,000 in order to avoid the reporting rules for large tax transactions is still illegal. Bank personnel are trained to report suspected structuring. If you do it consistently, your chances of getting caught approach 100%.

Robert Wood, 20 Year Old Oral Agreement To Split Lottery Winnings Is Upheld. Still, it’s always better to get things in writing.

TaxGrrrl, Man’s Tax Refund Seized For Parking Tickets On Car He Never Owned. This sort of injustice is inevitable when the tax law is drafted into service for non-tax chores.

Russ Fox, I’m Shocked, Shocked! That a Chicago Attorney may have Committed Tax Evasion Related to Corruption. Eddie Vrdolyak may be involved.




Tony Nitti, Rick Santorum Announces A Second Run For President: A Look At His Tax Plan. Mr. Santorum is slightly more likely to be president than I am.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 753The IRS Scandal, Day 752The IRS Scandal, Day 751. I like this from Day 752: “The job of the IRS should be to collect taxes, fairly and efficiently. Since the income tax was enacted in 1913, however, the IRS has appropriated to itself—sometimes on its own, sometimes with congressional blessing—the right to make political judgments about groups of citizens. That is the central failure revealed by this scandal.”


Scott Drenkard, How Tax Reform Could Help Stabilize the Housing System (Tax Policy Blog):

Removing the impediment to saving baked into the tax code, then, has real impacts on real people. It helps people save for down payments on homes, or to put money toward education. Perhaps, if pared with a reduction in policies meant to artificially reduce down payments, tax reform could be an important component to stabilizing the housing market.

No-down-payment means you’re betting someone else’s money.


Richard Phillips, Martin O’Malley’s Record on Taxes is Progressive (Tax Policy Blog). That means he likes to raise them.

News from the Profession. Madoff Auditor Better at Cooperating Than Auditing, Won’t Serve Time (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)


There will be no leftovers at the putlucks. Indiana Marijuana Church Granted Tax-Exempt Status, Plans ‘Call To Worship’ When Members Will Light Up (TaxProf).



Tax Roundup, 5/29/15: A distracted IRS takes its eye off the ball. And more Friday goodness.

Friday, May 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
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.

The IRS Fails at Job One(Christopher Bergin, Tax Analysts Blog).

Over the years, as the fight for transparency continues, I’ve marveled that while the IRS was willing to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars to hide information the courts eventually would force it to turn over to the public, it never shirked from its responsibility to protect the truly private information it was entrusted with. I’ve always admired the IRS for its unflinching diligence in putting that job well ahead of its paranoia of public scrutiny regarding how it operates.

But now there’s a chink, and a big one, in that armor.

The IRS has too much to do. It has its hands full just with its primary job of assessing and collecting taxes, issuing refunds, and protecting taxpayer data. But Congress has chosen to use the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. As a result, the IRS has become a sprawling superagency with a portolio that includes the nation’s health finance system, industrial policy, welfare for the poor, campaign finance… you name it. It should be no surprise that its real job suffers.


William Perez, Identity Theft Statistics from the Latest TIGTA Report. “I was curious, just how big is identity theft, and how much money is leaking out of the Treasury?”

Annette Nellen, IRS Data Breach Unfortunate in Many Ways – PIN? “Why not use of a PIN as is used to access bank data and use credit cards?”

Kay Bell, IRS security breach highlights need to rethink online privacy. “We’ve all to some degree shared details of our lives to broader audiences.”

Justin Gelfand. Most Recent IRS International Hacking Reveals Vulnerability ( Procedurally Taxing). “Perhaps more than anything else, this cyber-attack reveals that stolen identity tax refund fraud is not a problem the Government can prosecute its way out of.”


eic 2014Arnold Kling, The EITC in Practice. Mr. Kling quotes Timothy Taylor on some of the practical problems in administering this program, and then considers an alternative:

One of the advantages of a universal benefit is that you give the money to everyone. My idea is that you would then tax some of it back at a marginal rate of 20 or 25 percent. That is, for every dollar that someone earns in the market, they are lose 20 cents or 25 cents in universal benefits. Compared to a marginal tax rate of zero, 25 percent is more complex and has a disincentive. But it is much less complex and de-motivating than our current system of sharp cut-off points for benefits like food stamps and housing assistance. And having a non-zero tax rate allows you to have a higher basic benefit at lower overall budget cost.

In another post, he says:

I think that the incentive problems with the current system are so bad that I would like to see the next Administration take its best shot at something better. As you know, my preference is for a negative-income-tax type system, but with the added administrative issue of having the grants be in the form of flexible-benefit dollars that only can be used for food, housing, medical care, and education.

I like that idea much more than refundable credits, which are a fraud magnet.


Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Adjunct Professors and Mileage Deductions

Robert D. Flach has some fresh Friday Buzz!




Megan McArdle. Obamacare’s Intent? Just Read the Law. “Memory is so very terrible, and this law is so very complex. Anyone who tells you that they have a full and accurate memory of the evolution of the various moving parts is lying — at least to themselves.”

Hank Stern, A Quarter Trillion Here, A Quarter Trillion there…  “Obamacare is set to add more than a quarter-of-a-trillion—that’s trillion—dollars in extra insurance administrative costs to the U.S. health-care system”


Joseph Henchman, Major Tax Actions in Texas, Illinois, Nevada, and Louisiana (Tax Policy Blog). The Illinois legislature continues its rush to fiscal disaster. Nevada advances an unwise gross receipts tax. Louisiana advances a bill to kill its poorly conceived franchise tax.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 5/28: Deals Made, Dreams Fade (Tax Justice Blog). State tax news from New York and Alabama, where a flat tax proposal has fizzled.




Howard Gleckman, The Perpetual, Immortal, Eternal, Never-Ending Tax Extenders. “The magic number for today is 16. That is, remarkably, the number of times Congress has extended the allegedly temporary research and experimentation tax credit since it was first enacted in 1981.”

Jack Townsend, Former House Speaker Indicted for Stucturing and Lying to Federal Agents. It appears blackmail was involved. Robert Wood has more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 750


Well, it’s not brain surgery. Accountants Lack Some Skills (Caleb NewquistGoing Concern).



Tax Roundup, 5/20/15: April 15 is on April 18 next year. And: exit > voice.

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20140805-3It looks like we’ll be working an extra weekend next April. Thanks to the puzzling rules regarding the observance of Emancipation Day in Washington D.C., the deadline for 1040s next year will be April 18 – even though April 15 falls on a Friday. Residents of Massachusetts and Maine get even one more day. From Rev. Rul. 2015-13:

The District of Columbia observes Emancipation Day on Friday, April 15 when April 16 is a Saturday. This makes Monday, April 18, the ordinary due date for filing income tax returns. However, in this situation, Monday, April 18, is the third Monday in April, the date that Massachusetts and Maine observe Patriots’ Day. Because residents of Massachusetts and Maine may elect to hand carry their income tax returns to their local IRS offices, A (a Massachusetts resident) has until the next succeeding day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday to file A’s income tax return. Thus, A has until Tuesday, April 19, to file A’s income tax return.

I suppose I will appreciate the extra time when the deadline comes, but I would really just as soon get it over with.

Kay Bell has more.


Update on Iowa effects of Wynne decision. The Iowa Department of Revenue public information officer responded to my inquiry about the state’s reaction to Monday’s Supreme Court decision requiring states to allow a credit on resident individual returns for taxes paid in other states: “We are in the process of reviewing the decision.”

Not surprising, as it is a new decision. If you have a refund statute of limitations expiring soon, don’t wait on their guidance to file a protective refund claim for income taxes paid in non-Iowa municipalities.


20150504-2Alito on the limits of politicsThe dissent in Wynne said that Maryland resident taxpayers afflicted with a discriminatory double tax on out-of-state income shouldn’t have prevailed becasue they had recourse to the ballot box to protect their interests. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito pointed out that this does little good (my emphasis):

In addition, the notion that the victims of such discrimination have a complete remedy at the polls is fanciful. It is likely that only a distinct minority of a State’s residents earns income out of State. Schemes that discriminate against income earned in other States may be attractive to legislators and a majority of their constituents for precisely this reason. It is even more farfetched to suggest that natural persons with out-of-state income are better able to influence state lawmakers than large corporations headquartered in the State. In short, petitioner’s argument would leave no security where the majority of voters prefer protectionism at the expense of the few who earn income interstate.

This is actually a powerful argument to limit the role of government in the first place. One voter has negligible power to overthrow unfair legislation. In the one-party rule typical of large American cities, political activity for a minority view is futile, Jim Maule notwithstanding.

20140513-1Arnold Kling points out how market institutions, which hold no elections but allow choice, can actually be more empowering for an individual:

Neither my local supermarket nor any of its suppliers has a way for me to exercise voice. They don’t hold elections. They don’t have town-hall meetings where they explain their plans for what will be in the store. By democratic standards, I am powerless in the supermarket.

And yet, I feel much freer in the supermarket than I do with respect to my county, state, or federal government. For each item in the supermarket, I can choose whether to put it into my cart and pay for it or leave it on the shelf. I can walk out of the supermarket at any time and go to a competing grocery.

The exercise of voice, including the right to vote, is not the ultimate expression of freedom. Rather, it is the last refuge of those who suffer under a monopoly.

He argues  that we should be able to choose governing institutions more like we choose other service providers:

In fact, if we had real competitive government, then we would be no more interested in elections and speaking out to government officials than we are in holding elections and town-hall meetings at the supermarket.

He makes this argument more detail in his book Unchecked and Unbalanced). Somehow I don’t think that will go over well with our current officeholders.



Russ Fox, The Real Impact of the Wynne Decision: “However, many states do not give credits for local taxes. Joe Kristan highlighted Iowa today; Kentucky is another state that does not currently offer such tax credits. Under Wynne I believe they’ll be required to offer such credits.”


Taxpayers are required to keep separate track of acquisition debt and home equity debt, to make sure that the deduction on Schedule A does not include interest on debt principal that exceed the statutory maximums ($1 Million for acquisition debt and $100,000 for home equity debt – no limit on grandfathered debt), and to determine what interest deduction to add back on Form 6251 when calculating Alternative Minimum Taxable Income.

I firmly believe that 99.5% of taxpayers do not do this. I do not know of any taxpayer who does.

The clients don’t, but that doesn’t mean preparers shouldn’t watch out for these items. When taxpayers have interest on multiple home loans, or very high home interest deductions, alert preparers have to ask questions to make sure the deductions and AMT are determined correctly.

Annette Nellen, Filing season tax updates

Robert Wood, Floyd Mayweather Gambles, Wins, Pays IRS:




Another ACA Co-op on the ropes? Hank Stern reports at Insureblog that the Kentucky health care cooperative is insolvent. That means it may go the way of Iowa’s short lived and expensive catastrophe Co-Oportunity.


Jeremy Scott, Hawkins Casts Powerful Shadow Over OPR (Tax Analysts Blog):

Hawkins will probably always face at least some criticism because of the overreach of the preparer regime, and some accusations that she was too favorable to the large practitioner groups such as the ABA and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. But she should more properly be remembered as the person who brought coherence to IRS Circular 230 enforcement and essentially rebuilt OPR from scratch.


In fairness, the preparer regulation overreach was decided above her level.


Scott Sumner, A consumption tax is a wealth tax (Econlog). “For any income tax regime, there is a consumption tax regime of equal progressivity. Unfortunately that equally progressive regime will look much less progressive. This is one of the biggest barriers to tax reform.”

Kyle Pomerleau, What are Flat taxes? (Tax Policy Blog):

When most people hear “Flat Tax,” they usually think a tax system with one, flat tax rate on all income. They also imagine a tax system with little or no deductions or credits. While this is a possible way to design a flat tax, it is not what makes a flat tax a flat tax. The key to a flat tax goes beyond its rates. The key is that it is a consumption tax. You would not call a low-rate tax on all transactions in an economy a flat tax, even though it had one, flat rate.





Howard Gleckman, Are GOP Presidential Candidates Downplaying Tax Cuts Or Hiding The Ball? Referring to Joseph Thorndike, he says: “Joe, who is very much in the watch-what-they-do-not what-they-say (WWTDNWTS) camp, noted that while few GOP presidential hopefuls are talking about tax cuts, many of their proposals are, in fact tax cuts.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 741


Caleb Newquist,  “Just Ask the Guy” Not Always a Futile Fraud Detection Method (Going Concern).  Not foolproof, though.



Tax Roundup, 5/14/15: Snowbird fails to melt Iowa Department of Revenue opposition to gain exclusion. And many links!

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


Programming note: No posting tomorrow. See you Monday!


Iowa's business tax climate, illustrated

Materially-participating in winter

Snowbird loses “material participation” Iowa capital gain exclusion argument. A taxpayer who claimed the unusual Iowa exclusion on very-long-term capital gains failed to convince the Department of Revenue that he “materially participated” in the activity for the minimum of ten years required to qualify for the exclusion.

Iowa allows taxpayers to exclude certain long-term gains from their Iowa taxable income if they meet two requirements:

– They have held the property for ten years, and

– they “materially participated” in the business sold (or in the business holding real property sold) in the ten years preceding the sale.

The “material participation” rule follows the federal “passive activity” material participation definitions. This usually is based on time spent in the activity. Farmers who materially participate in five of the last eight years before they start drawing Social Security payments are considered to materially participate in the farming activity forever. Other taxpayers who retire after working in a business generally are considered to “materially participate” for five years after retirement.

The Iowa ruling letter gives sketchy facts, but it does note (my emphasis):

In determining material participation, only the 10 calendar years immediately prior to the sale are considered and the determination of the participation is limited to that property which is sold.  Both the Department’s rule and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) require material participation to be regular, continuous, and substantial.  The fact that you wintered in Florida lends serious doubt as to the regular part of that requirement.  Additionally, your daughter was paid for management services.  Rule 701 IAC 40.38(1)(e)(7) states in part, “Management activities of a taxpayer are not considered for purposes of determining if there was material participation if either of the following applies: any person other than the taxpayer is compensated for management services, or any person provides more hours of management services than the taxpayer.”

The letter goes on to say that it’s up to the taxpayer to prove participation, and the taxpayer failed to provide logs, calendars or other evidence that he worked sufficient hours to meet the material participation tests.

The moral? If you want to claim material participation, and you have stepped away from the business, it’s important to keep good records of your participation. The state may not be inclined to take your word for it.

Cite:  Document Reference: 15201008


Material Participation Basics





Kay Bell, Don’t ignore that IRS letter and nine other tax notice tips

Robert Wood, Facts About FATCA, America’s Global Disclosure Law. “If you think money anywhere can escape the IRS, think again.”

Jim Maule, When Do Relationships End for Federal Income Tax Purposes?:

The taxpayer argued that the child remains her foster child because they continued their relationship and hold each other out as parent and child. The Tax Court, however, determined that the taxpayer’s guardianship terminated in 2004 when the child attained majority. At that point, the child no longer could be said to be someone who “is placed” with the taxpayer.




Andrew Mitchel has a new Flowchart – Taxation of Pension Distributions Under UK – US Income Tax Treaty


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

Despite its bad reputation, the property tax has numerous benefits. For local governments, the tax provides a relatively stable source of revenue. Local governments also have a fairly high collection success rate. Many property owners have escrow accounts through their mortgage companies, which collect tax monthly and remit it at the appropriate time. Because of that, and the fact that the property tax is attached to something physical, it is hard to avoid or evade.

It’s hard to beat the property tax for funding local services. When the politically-influential carve themselves out of it with TIFs or special exemptions (e.g., special agricultural assessment rules), those that are left footing the bill are understandably unhappy.


Renu Zaretsky, Wishes, Dreams, and Bittersweet Denials Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers thoughts on the effect of reduced refunds on this spring’s retail sales, the failure of a proposed soda tax in California, and the need for more IRS authority to fix bad EITC claims.

Alan Cole, NFIB Survey: Taxes a Top Problem for Business (Tax Policy Blog).

Carl Smith, IRS Plays Cat and Mouse With Tax Court on Its Constitutional Status (Procedurally Taxing).


Joseph Thorndike, Even Under a Flat Tax, Learn to Love Those Loopholes, Because They’re Here to Stay (Tax Analysts Blog). “Once you win the battle, you have to keep fighting it over and over again.”

Greg Mankiw, Why I invest in index funds. “For investors, 2014 was the sixth consecutive year that hedge funds have fallen short of stock market performance, returning only 3 percent on average.”

Hank Stern, Cover Cali sputtering. (InsureBlog). “The Golden State’s health exchange (Covered California) continues to burn through tax-payer dollars at an alarming rate.”


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 735


Career Corner. Should CPAs Consider an MBA? (Paul Gillis, Going Concern). Not to fix your car, no.



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

Monday, May 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


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

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

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

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

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


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


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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Reilly, Home Schooling Contingency Does Not Kill Alimony Deduction

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



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

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

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC


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

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



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

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

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




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

Russ Fox,730:

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

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


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

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


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



Tax Roundup, 4/21/15: Loans aren’t taxable, until you don’t have to pay them. And: ACA, dope, and lots of other stuff.

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Pay me now, tax me later. A hospital in a poor county in Central Florida wanted to recruit an OB-GYN. Rural employers often have to do something extra to recruit good help, so the hospital offered him a $260,000 loan. It came with a sweetener: if certain goals were reached, the loan would be forgiven.

It’s well established that loans aren’t taxable income. That can be pretty sweet to have $260,000 to spend with no withholding and no tax bill. But there’s a catch. You either have to repay the loan (out of your after-tax income), or you have to pay tax on the loan amount if the debt is forgiven.

It’s natural to try to want to have your cake and eat it too — to not pay the loan, and not pay the taxes. That is the very trick behind the leveraged ESOP. But for the rest of us, it’s an elusive goal. It eluded the doctor in Tax Court yesterday.

The doctor met his goals, and $260,000 of debt was cancelled over four years. The doctor didn’t report the income, so the IRS assessed additional tax. The doctor objected. From the Tax Court opinion:

Although the amount that petitioner received from the hospital pursuant to the Revenue Guarantee/Repayment Forgiveness addendum represented a bona fide loan, petitioner contends that the loan was a nonrecourse loan, i.e., that he was not personally liable for its repayment, and that, as a consequence, he did not receive income when the loan was forgiven and canceled by the hospital. The Court disagrees with the premise of petitioner’s argument.

The court pointed out that the terms of the note did make the doctor liable, and added:

Further, although the Court does not accept the premise of petitioner’s contention regarding the nature of the loan, it bears mention that just because a taxpayer is not personally liable for a debt does not mean that cancellation of indebtedness cannot give rise to income…

Under these circumstances, forgiveness and cancellation of the loan gave rise to income.

The Court added in a footnote:

…petitioner argues that when debt is canceled, the creditor should issue a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, and not a Form 1099-MISC. Although this may be so, the fact of the matter is that a bookkeeping error does not serve to negate income arising from the forgiveness or cancellation of debt.

Apparently the hospital knew that there was income, but issued the wrong kind of 1099. But the 1099 doesn’t change the nature of the income.

The moral? Forgivable loans are nice — cash now, tax later. But later happens.

Cite: Wyatt, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-31.




Megan McArdle, Obamacare’s Tax Day Mystery:

Meanwhile, Louise Radnofsky of the Wall Street Journal offers an example of Effect 3, which I confess hadn’t occurred to me: folks who were covered in 2014, got their refund docked to cover subsidy overpayments, and therefore decided to cancel their insurance for this year.

At first blush, this seems irrational. You don’t need to cancel your insurance to make sure that your tax refund remains intact; you just need to do a better job of estimating your income when you go to buy your insurance so that you don’t end up with overpayments. Of course, the taxpayer in question might not have bought the insurance if she’d known what it was actually going to cost her.

Complex systems have unintended consequences.

Hank Stern, The 4% Solution (Insureblog). “Only 4% of people who signed up for ObamaCare got the correct subsidy”

Christine Speidel, Penalty Relief and Premium Tax Credit Reconciliation (Procedurally Taxing). “This post will describe the penalty relief available under Notice 2015-09 and some of the barriers that may prevent low-income taxpayers from accessing the relief.


William Perez, Taxes When Hiring Household Help

Tony Nitti, IRS Seeks Record $2 Billion In Back Taxes From Prominent Businessman And Philanthropist Sam Wyly. Offshore trusts are involved.

Peter Reilly, Superior Point Of Sale Software Does Not Mix Well With Skimming

Jason Dinesen, Breakeven Analysis for Small Businesses, Part 1

Kay Bell, IRS telephone tax help was a dismal 38.5% this filing season. Part of your Commissioner’s “Washington Monument Strategy” of making taxpayers suffer to boost his budget.


20130607-2TaxGrrrl, 4/20: The Blunt Truth About Marijuana & Taxes

James Kennedy, Marijuana Dispensary Settles Case after IRS Suggests It Engage in Money Laundering (Tax Policy Blog):

Imagine running a small business and being assessed a penalty by the IRS. Then imagine being told by the IRS that the only way to avoid the penalty is to commit a serious felony, laundering money. This Kafkaesque nightmare actually became reality for a Colorado marijuana dispensary called Allgreens when it tried to pay its federal payroll taxes.

At some point this decade or next, marijuana will become more or less legal. I wonder if the tax law will be the last bastion of prohibition.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 712. “The IRS Assures an Atheist Group It Will Monitor Churches.” What could go wrong?

Robert Wood, Before IRS Targeting, Lois Lerner Targeted At Federal Election Commission



Paul Neiffer, Senator Wyden Indicates Tax Reform Must Include Flow Through Entities

Joseph Thorndike, Republicans Want to Repeal the Estate Tax Because Too Much Is Never Enough (Tax Analysts Blog).

For my money – and admittedly, it’s not my money, since I don’t expect the tax to be an issue for my heirs – repeal is a bad idea under any circumstances. But it’s an especially bad idea when paired with a continuation of stepped-up basis.

If there is a good argument for the estate tax, it’s to allow basis step up. The “breaking up dynasties” thing is silly. From what I’ve seen in practice, all you need to break up inherited wealth is a second generation.

Eric Toder, Corporate Tax Reform and Small Business (TaxVox).

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 4/20: State Houses Consider Cuts (Tax Justice Blog).


Career Corner. The Non-Golfing Accountant’s Guide To Hitting the Links (Leona May, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 3/24/15: Goldilocks and the medical practice. And: the spirit is willing, but the Tax Fairy is weak.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Reasonable Compensation and the Goldilocks Rule. The IRS has been fighting taxpayers over how much compensation is “reasonable” since Great-grandpa realized he could reduce his corporate tax by taking it out as a salary. The agency historically fought this war over whether taxpayers were taking too much compensation. The IRS has since opened a second front, arguing that S corporation owner-employees were improperly reducing their employment taxes by taking too little salary out of the corporation. Employee owners now need to find a comp level that is “just right.”

As in any two-front war, a victory on one front might cause problems on the other. A Tax Court victory yesterday for the IRS over an eye doctor who took “too much” compensation may give ammunition to S corporation professional practices that take corporate earnings out via their K-1s and distributions — free of Medicare taxes — rather than as salary and bonus.

Judge Kerrigan says Dr. Ahmad, the owner and principal employee of Midwest Eye Center, took four $500,000 bonuses in November and Decemeber of 2007. This wiped out corporate income, which would likely have otherwise been taxed at a flat 35% rate under the “professional corporation” tax rules. They even overdid the bonus a little, carrying a net operating loss into 2008.

The taxpayer failed to convince the judge that the bonus was “reasonable”:

Petitioner produced no evidence of comparable salaries. Instead, petitioner argues that there are no “like enterprises” under “like circumstances” from which to draw comparisons. Petitioner argues that Dr. Ahmad’s large bonus was reasonable for several other reasons. Petitioner points to Dr. Ahmad’s increased workload during 2007 and the various roles that Dr. Ahmad performed, such as CEO, CFO, and COO, and the corresponding managerial duties of those positions. However, petitioner did not provide any methodology to show how Dr. Ahmad’s bonus was determined in relation to these responsibilities.

This tells us that when you have a C corporation owned by a single professional, you have to do more to determine how much bonus is “reasonable” than estimate what the pre-bonus taxable income is. If you are going to suck the income out of such a corporation through bonuses, it is wise to have written bonus criteria that make sense when compared to other practices.

It might be even better to make an S corporation election. The medical practice C corporation was hit with over $320,000 in tax on $1 million “excessive” compensation (and some other items), and another $62,000 in penalties — all of which would have been avoided in an S corporation, where all income is taxed on the 1040 regardless of whether it is “excessive.”

In fact, this case helps S corporation professional practices a little, in that it is evidence that it is not “reasonable” to assume that all income of the practice has to come out as compensation subject to employment taxes.

Cite: Midwest Eye Center, S.C., T.C. Memo 2015-53.


tax fairyIRS says “Rabbi” had a tax practice that wasn’t entirely orthodox. A Department of Justice Tax Press Release tells a story of a man who sought the Tax Fairy in the Torah:

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, alleges that Lawrence Preston Siegel, aka Larry Lave, Yehuda Lave and Larry Easy, falsely represented that he is a licensed attorney and CPA in order to solicit business for his tax practice. 

According to the civil injunction suit, Siegel pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion and two counts of subscribing false tax returns in 1994.  He subsequently resigned from the California bar in 1994, lost his CPA license in 1997, and never regained either accreditation, according to the suit.  The complaint alleges that following his release from federal prison in 2001 for additional convictions, Siegel established a tax practice and stated online that he is an “[i]interesting combination of a Tax Lawyer and CPA who is also a Rabbi trained in Spirituality.”  Siegel, the complaint alleges, claimed to others that his “goal as a spiritual Rabbi, Tax Attorney and CPA is to save people money without going to jail … Everybody wants to pay very little tax, I do it legally and morally under the Torah.” 

It never occurred to me that a Rabbi would require the qualifier “trained in Spirituality.” Isn’t that the whole idea? In any case, he isn’t well-trained in tax, if the Justice Department press release is to be believed (my emphasis):

According to the complaint, among his tax fraud schemes, Siegel falsely advised his customers, typically high earners who own profitable businesses, that they can establish companies in Nevada and treat their California home as an out-of-state corporate office.  Siegel falsely claimed that doing so would transform a vast array of non-deductible personal expenses into tax deductible business expenses, according to the suit.  According to the complaint, Siegel boasted about this tax fraud scheme in e-mails, including one where he falsely claimed that his customers are entitled to free housing as tax-free compensation from their out-of-state companies and that “[t]he housing can [b]e luxurious and cost thousands a [] month” because “[t]here is an assumption that corporations don’t waste money.”

What’s amazing to me is that (if the allegations are true) he had clients who actually believed this. Religious or secular, reform or orthodox, believer or non-believer, the desire to believe in the Tax Fairy is strong among all races, religions and belief systems. But there is no tax fairy.


terrace hill 20150321


Kristine TidgrenExpanded Relief for Taxpayers Receiving Erroneous 1095-As:

On Friday, March 20, CMS announced that it had discovered additional 1095-A errors among those forms issued by both State-run exchanges and the federally-facilitated exchange. CMS is notifying taxpayers impacted by these errors with emails, phone calls, and messages in their Marketplace accounts. Because of these errors, Treasury is expanding the relief it offered in February.

Now, anyone who (1) enrolled in any type of marketplace coverage, (2) received an incorrect Form 1095-A, and (3) filed their return based upon that form, does not need to file an amended tax return. The IRS will not pursue the collection of any additional taxes based on updated information contained in the corrected forms. This relief applies to tax filers who enrolled through either the federally-facilitated marketplace or a state-based marketplace. As provided before, taxpayers who were harmed by the errors may file amended returns to collect the difference.

So the liability of a taxpayer for potentially thousands of dollars in taxes depends on two items:

1. Whether the exchange botched the 1095-A filing, and

2. Whether the taxpayer filed before the 1095-A was corrected.

These are whimsical criteria on which to stake thousands of dollars of tax credits.


Chicago Tribune, It’s Obamacare’s first tax season. Can the IRS handle it?Kristy Maitre of the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation is quoted: “Overall, I do not believe they’re as prepared as they could have been.”

Hank Stern, The Best Laid Plans [Updated]. “In other words, a lot of folks with even rudimentary math skills have figured out that paying the fine penalty tax and “going bare” is a much more cost-effective choice than buying coverage.”

Robert Wood, Happy Anniversary Obamacare Taxes, Many Happy Returns.




Norton Francis, Bobby Jindal’s Revenue Enhancements (TaxVox). “His trick: Turn refundable business credits into non-refundable credits.”

Kay Bell, Downton Abbey’s new tax connection via Rep. Aaron Schock

Tyler Cowen presents New arguments on a carbon tax, including one that suggests a way in which “…a carbon tax could make global warming worse.”

Martin Sullivan, U.S. Effective CorporateTax Rate Higher Than Foreign Competitors? Not Really (Tax Analysts Blog)


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 684


News from the Profession. Conducting Tax Return Update Meetings at the Gym Maybe Not the Best Idea (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “If a client requests a meeting at a location where heavy objects are laying around, and there’s an off-chance that the news you have may be anything other than positive, may we suggest an alternative venue.”



Tax Roundup, 3/9/15: The dark side is very powerful. And: conventional unwisdom, unwise candidacies.

Monday, March 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1Christopher Bergin asks Has the IRS Truly Moved to the Dark Side?

Anyone who reads my posts knows that I have always given the IRS the benefit of the doubt in its dealing with exemption applications from conservative political organizations (which is what they are in every way but technically). I have not accused the IRS of influencing the political process. I’ve argued that it simply screwed up, albeit in a bad way, noting that stupidity is not a crime.

But now “criminal activity” has been raised. And not in a casual way, but in an official way.

The IRS’s response to this latest accusation came in a lame statement issued February 27 that essentially says it’s the inspector general’s “responsibility” to look into all this. For those of us old enough to remember the TV show Hogan’s Heroes, that is the equivalent of Sergeant Shultz saying, “I know nothing.”

Except it’s not funny.

If you’ve lost Christopher Bergin, you’ve lost Middle Arlington. You’ve also lost the “no scandal here” argument.


20150120-1Conventional unwisdomThe Des Moines Register’s Joel Aschbrenner is doing some excellent work on the new convention center hotel that Polk County and the City of Des Moines are helping to fund.

Researchers: Convention hotels rarely fulfill promises: “‘In a great many cases his forecasts have proven to be off, in some cases wildly off,’ Sanders said.”

Who is at risk if hotel under-performs?

The city has offered a $5 million loan guarantee that will come into play three to five years after opening when the hotel refinances its mortgages, Assistant City Manager Matt Anderson said. Hotels often refinance after they build a customer base and stabilize their business, he said.

If the hotel is under-performing due to lower-than-expected occupancy levels or room rates, or if interest rates have spiked up, refinancing would be more expensive and the city would have to cover the difference.

East Village hotel plan loses one floor: “The developer of a hotel and apartment project that will cover an entire East Village block says the hotel is being scaled back in part because of competition from downtown’s proposed convention hotel.”

The City of Des Moines has been pleading poverty. It runs revenue cameras to pick the pockets of random travelers committing the crime of not quite stopping before turning right on red at an empty intersection. It has collected illegal taxes and fought against refunds all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet it thinks it has the resources to help finance a hotel. That has to be terrific news to all of the other hotels downtown.

This isn’t the first time Des Moines has put money in a private downtown business. That hasn’t gone entirely smoothly.


Peter Reilly, 1099-C From Out Of The Blue? Don’t Ignore It! Fight It! Peter reminds us that just because somebody issues a 1o99-C saying there was debt forgiveness income doesn’t make it so.

Russ Fox, You Have to Have an Unreimbursed Loss to Claim a Casualty Loss

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): C Is For Commuting Expenses and D Is For Disability Income.

Kay Bell, No day off for tax advice: March’s first weekly tip round-up

Jack Townsend, Certifying Non-Willflness for Streamlined – The Risk. More on the puzzle palace of IRS offshore account enforcement.

Patrick Thomas, Inability to Correctly Calculate CSED – Confusion Leads to Unlawful Results (Procedurally Taxing).

It is a basic concept of law that once a statute of limitation has passed, no action barred by the statute may take place. Yet, as noted in the National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2014 Annual Report, the IRS often engages in forced collection action after the Collection Statute Expiration Date (CSED) has passed.

I’ll just note that the IRS is pretty good about not issuing refunds when the statute has passed.




David Henderson, Rubio-Lee Isn’t Great:

Co-blogger Scott Sumner, over at his TheMoneyIllusion blog, has a post titled “Rubio-Lee is great, so why not make it even greater?”

I don’t agree that Rubio-Lee is great. It has many good features and Scott has listed pretty much all of them, so I won’t repeat them here. It has a feature, that I’ll mention shortly, that is a major negative.

Unfortunately, Scott didn’t mention the worst aspect of Rubio-Lee: the huge tax credits.


Tony Nitti, Reviewing The Rubio-Lee Proposal For Tax Reform


Hank Stern, Another day, Another CoOp Snafu (Insureblog):

Thanks to a heads’ up from FoIB Josh Archambault, we have this little gem:“The Minuteman Health Inc. Co-op in Massachusetts got more than $156 million and covered only 1,822 people – over $86,000 per enrollee.”But wait, that’s not all!

“HealthyCT Inc. Co-op in Connecticut got more than $128 million and covered only 6,094 people – more than $21,000 per enrollee.”

If that doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies, I have no idea what will.

At least they haven’t gone belly-up, unlike Iowa’s CoOportunity Co-op.
Alan Cole, CRS Report: Medical Device Tax Burden Falls On Consumers (Tax Policy Blog). “Don’t worry, the consumers will ultimately be hit with the tax, and they’ll just have to deal with it because they need their pacemakers!”
Annette Nellen, Obamacare confusion – real and made up. “The current system is too complex, confusing, inequitable, expensive, – and, not providing health care commensurate with the costs.”

Accounting Today, Cover Charge: How the ACA Is Affecting Fees. Spoiler: it’s not lowering them.




Robert Wood, First Win Lottery, Then Defend Suits By Ticket Sellers, Co-Workers, Relatives

Adrienne Gonzalez, To Whom It May Going Concern: My CPA Is Locked Up and They Won’t Let Her Out. (Going Concern). Sometimes imprisonment is a sign to reconsider your choice of preparer.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 669Day 668Day 667

Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson is running for president. The Washington Post reports that he is running as a Republican on a platform of “bold tax reform.

After leaving the IRS, he took a job as CEO of The American Red Cross. That went badly: “The president and CEO of The American Red Cross (ARC) is out after less than six months – involved in an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate.”

It seems like a long shot. Perhaps he looked at the scandals surrounding the presumptive Democratic nominee and her husband and concluded that was the path to an unopposed nomination.



Tax Roundup, 2/24/15: Iowa gas tax boost vote may be today. And: are tax credit subsidies on the way out?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

It looks like the gas tax increase will come to a vote today, reports the Des Moines Register:

Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, who chairs the Iowa House Transportation Committee, said Monday he expects a tight vote. He added that talks were continuing among House Republicans.

“I don’t think we’d bring it up for debate if we didn’t think we had the votes,” Byrnes said.

It sounds like a done deal. At least that’s what they want everyone to think.


20120906-1Iowa has just announced a big new set of tax breaks for an out-of-state company, in the name of  “economic development.” But are “targeted” tax subsidies on the way out? Ellen Harpel says they might be in Beyond tax credits: creating winning incentive packages (


Tax credits have become problematic for several reasons:

  • Tax credits are often presented as no-cost incentives. That is, tax credits are not taken (incentives “paid out”) until the company has met certain thresholds and has started paying the taxes against which the credit is taken. However, as this article in the Wall Street Journal points out, the fiscal costs are substantial. It is not clear to us that other taxes expected to be generated by incentivized projects either materialize or are sufficient to fill the budget gap.
  • One reason might be that tax credits are more important to existing businesses than firms new to a location, based on our review of major incentive deals, so an incentivized project may not generate as much new tax revenue as anticipated.
  • Once the tax credits have been granted, states do not know when businesses will choose to take the credit, wreaking havoc on state budgets, possibly for decades depending on the terms of the tax credit arrangement.
  • Some tax credits are refundable (paid back to the company if their tax liability is not high enough to take the credit) or transferable (sold to another taxpaying entity). Film tax breaks often fall into this category, lowering the taxes paid by other taxpayers that are not the direct target of the incentive.

Using tax credits in this manner is not sustainable. To the extent economic development organizations continue to use tax credits, caps and limits will become the norm.

As long as politicians can get media outlets to run headlines like “New $25 million plant will bring 120 jobs to Iowa,” tax credits remain “sustainable” for vote-buying politicians. If they really wanted to help everybody — not just chase smokestacks — they would enact something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.



WSJ, Tax-Subsidy Programs Fuel Budget Deficits


If Iowa’s tax climate is so bad, why do businesses locate here? A hint may be found here: J.D. Tucille, Florida, the Freest State in the Country? “California, New York, and New Jersey always rank near the bottom of these lists as intrusive, red tape-bound hellholes.”


Via the John Locke Foundation

Via the John Locke Foundation

Iowa is #13.

The First in Freedom Index actually draws from a lot of the sources that have been cited here before, including the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of North America as well as Mercatus Center’s Freedom in the 50 States, the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, and measures put together by the Center for Education Reform, among others. To this, the North Carolina group adds its own weight and emphasis. 

Imagine how attractive Iowa could be without a bottom-10 tax climate.


Russ Fox, “Ripping Off Your Refunds” In the Miami Herald. “There is an excellent article in the Miami Herald on the identity theft tax fraud crisis. ”

TaxGrrrl, Tax Professionals Targeted In Latest Bogus IRS Email Scam. You can fool all of the people some of the time.

Robert Wood, Can IRS Seize First, Ask Questions Later? ‘Yes We Can’.

Kay Bell, NASCAR Hall of Fame and homeowner tax breaks collide. Another subsidized municipal boondoggle.

Peter Reilly, Estate Intended For Charity Depleted By Litigation And Income Tax. A sad story, and a cautionary tale for estate planning.


20121120-2Hank Stern, More Delays on HRAs:

For example, pre-ACA, small employers could fund “standalone” HRAs that allowed employees to pay for privately purchased health insurance (among other things). This encouraged employees to buy the plan best suited to their needs, and employers could control costs because they weren’t beholden to a group carrier’s annual rate in creases.

Sadly, those days are gone.

Everybody must be forced into the exchanges to participate in the ACA’s cross-generational subsidies.


William Perez, Problems with Form 1095-A

Jared Walczak, Will Mississippi Eliminate Its Antiquated Franchise Tax? (Tax Policy Blog). It’s a tax that can be a nasty surprise to a business entering that state.


Alan Cole ponders The President’s Revenue Problem (Tax Policy Blog):

It’s popular to claim that you’ll fund a big new government program through a tax on investors. The strong ideological priors of the political press tell us that investors are earning huge amounts of money, and that’s where the income is.

But the math tells us otherwise. Here’s what the tax bases for wage income and capital income actually look like in practice, from my recent report on sources of personal income.


Tax Update regular readers already know that the rich can’t pick up the tab.


Jim PagelsNumber of American Corporations Declines for 17th Straight Year (

The report claims that the reduction in the number of incorporated firms is not so much due to inversions, mergers, or bankruptcy, but rather more firms classifying themselves as S Corporations, in which profits pass directly to owners and are taxed as individual income. Individual rates are typically lower than the U.S. corporate tax rate, currently the highest among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development at 35 percent federal plus an additional 4.1 percent average rate levied by individual states.

This is why you can’t do a “corporate-only” tax reform.


Jeremy Scott, Does the United States Really Need a Tax Revolution? (Tax Analysts Blog): “Those who say that tax reform doesn’t go far enough and that the nation needs a revolutionary change are probably overstating the problem.”

Martin Sullivan, The Tax Reform Supermarket (Tax Analysts Blog). “Slowly but surely, members of Congress are coming to the painful realization that conventional, Reagan-style tax reform is going nowhere.”


Howard Gleckman, Better Ways to Link the Affordable Care Act with Tax Filing Season (TaxVox). “But since the ACA insurance is so closely linked to tax filing, it only makes sense to synch that sign-up period with tax season.”  I have a better idea: have health insurance purchases be totally unrelated to tax season, by getting rid of the whole misbegotten ACA.



TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 656, quoting the Washington Times:

The White House told Congress last week it refused to dig into its computers for emails that could shed light on what kinds of private taxpayer information the IRS shares with President Obama’s top aides, assuring Congress that the IRS will address the issue — eventually. The tax agency has already said it doesn’t have the capability to dig out the emails in question, but the White House’s chief counsel, W. Neil Eggleston, insisted in a letter last week to House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan that the IRS would try again once it finishes with the tea party-targeting scandal.

Just like it couldn’t possibly find the 30,000 emails that TIGTA dug up from the back-up tapes.


News from the Profession. The PwC Partner Who (Sorta) Looks Like Matt Damon and Other Public Accounting Doppelgangers (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 1/28/15: President scurries away from plan to tax college savings. And: more hard-hitting journalism!

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

csi logoAccounting Today reports: Obama Said to Drop Proposal to Repeal 529 College Tax Break. Good.

This was perhaps the most obnoxious of the proposals in the President’s budget, and that’s saying something. Promoting “free” community college tuition, while punishing those who actually save for college to avoid government loans, is a model of awful incentives and policy.

I can’t let pass this item from the Accounting Today report (my emphasis):

The administration’s quick retreat on the proposal emphasizes the difficulty of changing popular tax breaks, even in ways that lower the overall tax burden.

Yes, hard-hitting journalism in the form of making excuses for the President. It what way does repealing the exclusion for Section 529 plan withdrawals from taxation help “lower the overall tax burden?” The CBO estimates the President’s proposals would increase taxes by over $1 trillion over ten years.

Speaking of hard hitting journalism, we have this from the Des Moines Register today:


For those who no longer take the print edition, be assured that this important story is also available to internet readers.

Related: Annette Nellen, President Obama’s 2015 Tax Proposals


William Perez, Tips for Green Card Holders and Immigrants Who are Filing a US Tax Return. “Being a resident for tax purposes doesn’t necessarily mean you actually live here full time. As long as you have a green card, for example, you are responsible for reporting and paying tax on your worldwide income.”

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Trust Fund Tax Credit for 2014 Tax Returns. $15 per person this year.

Kay Bell, New IRS Form 1095-A among tax docs that are on their way. ACA adds a new wrinkle to this year’s filings.



1099misc2014TaxGrrrl, Where Are My Tax Forms? Due Dates For Forms W-2, 1099, 1098 & More. Including a reminder that K-1s from S corporations, partnerships and trusts are not due when 1099s and W-2s are.

Leslie Book, Thumbs Up on No Income Even When IRS Serves up 1099 DIV: Ebert v Commissioner (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Disagree With An IRS Form 1099? Here’s What To Do. “What happens if the issuer won’t cooperate?”


Jim Maule on The Taxation of Egg Donations. “The Court’s conclusion makes sense, and not simply because it reaches the conclusion I advocated for reasons I suggested relying on cases on which I relied.”

Russ Fox, One Good Crime Deserved Another:

Let’s say you’re involved in a 20-year scheme that has successfully evaded millions of dollars in payroll and income taxes for your largest client. However, you’ve only had minor profits from the scheme. So why not embezzle millions of dollars from that client?

Russ offers some pretty good reasons why not.


cooportunity logoHank Stern, CoOpportunity assumes room temp (InsureBlog). More on the demise of Iowa’s sole SHOP provider, set up with millions in government grants and loans. Underwriting is hard.

Jack Townsend asks Why the Lenient Sentencing for Offshore Account Tax Crimes. “But, from my perspective, it seems to me that one can fairly question the notion that commission of tax crimes via offshore accounts is any less blameworthy — i.e., punishable — than commission of tax crimes in other contexts.”



Kyle Pomerleau, Richard Borean, Pass-through Businesses Account for More than $1.6 Trillion of Payroll (Tax Policy Blog):

Today, Pass-through businesses pay a significant role in the United States Economy. They account for 95 percent of all businesses, more than 60 percent of all business income, and more than 50 percent of all employment.

These are businesses taxed on owner 1040s. Remember that when politicians want to raise rates on “the rich” even more — they are hammering employers when they do this.

Richard Auxier, Pitching, Defense, and State Tax Policy (TaxVox): “So is Max Scherzer saving money in DC? Yes. Are the District’s tax laws a big reason why he signed with the Nationals? I doubt it.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 629

News from the Profession. Jilted Girlfriend Has Totally Had It With Cheap Accountant Boyfriend and His Stupid Spreadsheet (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 1/20/2015: What’s with the accounting method changes? And: foot kissing + tax evasion = double trouble.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

3115-2009If your business return seems extra thick this year, it could be a result of an “accounting method change” application — Form 3115 — buried in it.

The tax law requires taxpayers to get IRS permission to change a “method of accounting.” Without getting into all of the tedious details, and with great oversimplification, a “method of accounting” occurs when the way you account for something on your tax return affects the timing of income or expense, but not the total amount over time. In other words, it’s temporary vs. permanent differences.

Of course timing is everything in tax planning, and the IRS doesn’t want you to change accounting methods willy-nilly. The IRS doesn’t have the time to consider every accounting method change, though, so it publishes a long list of “automatic” method changes annually. This year’s list is in Rev. Proc. 2015-14.

This year will see more Forms 3115 than usual as a result of the so-called “repair regulations” that are effective for 2014 returns. These rules distinguish between “repair” expenses, which can be deducted, and “improvements,” which have to be capitalized and depreciated.

20140925-2The repair regulations have provisions that let taxpayers treat their building components — HVAC, roofs, elevators, etc — as separate items under these rules. Their effect is to permit deductions for some costs that may have been trapped in the depreciable cost of the building. That makes the automatic method change under these rules (Rev. Proc. 2014-17) a good deal, as it can provide a catch-up deduction for prior capitalized costs. Many returns will also include a method change (Rev. Proc. 2014-16) to reflect updated rules for deducting or capitalizing “materials and supplies.”

Automatic method changes are a good thing; if you have a method change that isn’t automatic, special IRS permission is required, and it doesn’t come cheap. But even an automatic change isn’t free, especially if your preparer has to go through old repair records to determine the catch-up deduction. But if you have significant depreciable real property, it’s probably worth the effort.


Russ Fox, Former Mayor (and Current CPA) Learns of Tax Fraud, Joins the Conspiracy

Now, let’s assume you’re a tax professional and you learn that a company is withholding payroll taxes and not paying them to the IRS. Would you:
(a) Tell them that the taxes aren’t being paid, that’s violating the law, and you need to fix this (which could include setting up payment plans with the IRS and Minnesota, or just paying the withheld funds);
(b) Tell them that if they don’t start remitting the withheld funds that he would need to quit the engagement; or
(c) Join the conspiracy. 

An accountant from Stillwater, Minnesota — who happened to also be the Mayor — chose poorly.


20121120-2Hank Stern, Counting down the ObamaTax:

Many (most?) folks believe that the tax is a mere $95 this year and, for some people, this may well be the case. But it’s actually just a minimum; the actual rate (this year) is 1% of income:

TurboTax, an online tax service, estimated that the average penalty for lacking health insurance in 2014 will be $301.”

A common misconception.

Robert Wood, Beware Obamacare When Filing Taxes This Year. A roundup of the individual mandate penalty and the net investment income tax.


Annette Nellen, Due diligence for preparing 1040s for 2014:

What’s new for due diligence for 2014 individual tax returns?  Virtual currency, Affordable Care Act, FBAR, Airbnb rentals, for sure.  Also, the typical charitable contributions, mortgage interest and 1099-K review.  The biggest new item for 2014 will the new line asking if the individual had health coverage for the year.

More work doesn’t come free. The post lists to a longer article about preparer “due diligence” this tax season.


Tim Todd, Tax Court Adopts Functional Test to Define “Bank”. “In sum, the Tax Court held that Moneygram satisfied neither the Staunton functional test nor the § 581 test because it failed to receive deposits, make loans, and was not regarded as a bank by any state or federal regulator. Consequently, Moneygram was not entitled to the reported bad debt deductions of the partial or wholly worthless asset-backed securities.”

Jason Dinesen, A Brief History of Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 2: Taxes in 1913.


Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Understanding Partnership Distributions, Part 1. “As you will see, the regime governing partnership distributions is drastically different from the one governing corporate distributions.”

TaxGrrrl, Fun With Taxes: Tax Haiku 2015. How about this:

 insure worker health?

Better not reimburse it

That is expensive.

 Kay Bell, Martin Luther King Jr. Day lessons via “Selma” & “Glory”

Mitch Maahs, IRS Announces New Standard Mileage Rates (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)



Robert D. Flach, BO SOTU PLANS TO INCREASE TAX ON THE “WEALTHY”. ” BO’s tax proposals, both to help the middle class and punish the wealthy, will never pass in the Republican controlled Congress.”

Matt Gardner, President Obama Takes on the Capital Gains Tax Inequity with New Proposals. By making it worse, of course, though not to hear Mr. Gardner tell it.

Renu Zaretsky, To Build a Better Tax Code, You Could Follow the Money.  The TaxVox headline roundup is heavy on the President’s proposals.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 621. This edition cites Stephen Moore’s Op-ed: “Congress needs to hold the IRS accountable and demand the firing of Mr. Kostiken because he has he admitted openly he can’t do his job.”  Unfortunately, the President who hired him thinks he is doing his job, which is to be a partisan scandal goalie.


The headline that wins the internet: Foot Kissing Chiropractor Sentenced for Bribing IRS Agent (Jack Townsend)



Tax Roundup, 12/30/14: Is prepaying taxes a good bet even without AMT? And: CoOportunity failure ripples.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

I’ll gladly pay you today for part of a hamburger tomorrow. In our zeal to pile deductions into this year’s return, it’s easy to overdo it. If you aren’t subject to alternative minimum tax, you can get a 2014 tax benefit by mailing your estimated 2014 state balance due by tomorrow. But does it really make sense to pay a dollar of tax now to get a 35-cent benefit on April 15? at the 35% bracket, the answer would be yes, but for lower brackets, the numbers don’t work as well.

The chart below shows compares the time value lost by sending $1,000 to the government early to the present value of the tax benefit received, using a 2% discount rate.

Green numbers show a present value benefit for prepaying 12/31/14 vs. the statutory due date indicated.

Green numbers show a present value benefit for prepaying 12/31/14 vs. the statutory due date indicated.

Every situation differs. This table should be used with caution. It does provide some tentative rules of thumb for individuals, assuming you will be in the same bracket in 2014 and 2015, that you itemize, and that AMT does not apply:

– It always makes sense to pay your fourth quarter state estimates in December instead of January.

– If you are an Iowa taxpayer, it makes sense to prepay fourth quarter federal payments at any bracket, but it never makes sense to pay your April 15 balance due in December.

– It only makes sense to prepay your state balance due for April 15 2015 by tomorrow only if you are in at least the 33% bracket, which kicks in for joint filers and $226,850 of taxable income, and for single taxpayers at $$186,350. For Iowa taxes due April 30, it’s about a push, or even a small present value loss.

– It makes sense for taxpayers in the 25% bracket ($73,500 joint, $36,900 single) to prepay their March 1 property tax installments.

– It never makes sense to prepay your September property taxes nine months ahead.

As we discussed yesterday, AMT can make prepayments a much larger blunder, so don’t do anything without running some numbers.


cooportunity logoThe failure of Iowa’s federally-funded CoOportunity health care insurance company is drawing national attention. The Wall Street Journal opines in Fannie Med Implodes: “Call it the Solyndra of ObamaCare.”

Meanwhile, Iowans covered by CoOportunity have to deal with the consequences. Des Moines Register, CoOportunity’s crisis could cost members thousands:

Customers who switch out of CoOportunity coverage won’t be able to start their new policies until Feb. 1, because Dec. 15 was the national deadline for obtaining insurance policies that start Jan. 1. In the meantime, many customers would have to start meeting CoOportunity’s annual deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums for 2015. Then, when they switch insurers in February, “they would have to start over, unfortunately,” Commissioner Nick Gerhart said Monday.

If you like your plan…

CoOportunity Health’s troubles could affect whether small Iowa employers can qualify for 2015 tax credits toward workers’ insurance premiums.

Employers with fewer than 25 full-time workers making an average of less than $50,000 are supposed to be eligible for the tax credits, which can amount to 50 percent of the cost of premiums. However, starting in 2015, those credits are to be applied only to policies that are sold on the employer side of the public marketplace, In Iowa, CoOportunity was the only carrier selling health policies to Iowa employers on the marketplace. The company has ceased selling new policies because of its financial crunch.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said he’s checking with federal officials to see if there’s another way to let small Iowa employers obtain the tax credit.

The IRS has let taxpayers in some counties without a SHOP provider take the credit. We will see if they grant a similar waiver here.

Related: Hank Stern, SHOP Chop.


Robert Wood, 3 Quick Year End Steps Pay Off Big April 15old walnut

Kay Bell, 5 tax-saving moves you can make by Dec. 31

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #1-Obamacare Endures Additional Attacks. Aw, poor thing.

Russ Fox, IRS Announces Tax Season to Start on January 20th

Robert D. Flach, THE YEAR IN TAXES 2014. “Once again the year ended with the idiots in Congress waiting until literally the last minute to pass an extension of all of the expired ‘tax extenders’.”

Melanie Migliaccio, 9th Cir. Rejects IRS’s Transferee Status Recharacterization Argument (Tax Litigation Survey)


Iowa Public Radio, Rep. Grimm To Resign After Guilty Plea On Tax Charge.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 600

Alan Cole, Au Revoir to the Millionaire’s Tax (Tax Policy Blog). “The French government will quietly allow its millionaire’s tax to expire.”



If you think I’m unsympathetic to Commissioner Koskinen’s pleas of IRS povertycheck out No Fat to Cut at the IRS? So Take a Chainsaw to the Rest of the Beast. (J.D. Tuccille,

Of course, Koskinen framed it in terms of customer service, and friendly media outlets immediately parroted the message that a $346 million cut, bringing the IRS budget down to $10.9 billion, inevitably means longer wait times on the phone for distraught taxpayers seeking answers for their pressing tax questions.

This is an all-hands-on-deck spin on IRS cuts, with National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson (who is theoretically on the victims’ side, despite her government paycheck) recruited to caution that the IRS is “chronically underfunded” with unfortunate implications for taxpayer service and assistance.

Then again, that might not be so horrible an outcome, given that IRS assistance involved giving taxpayers bad advice 22 percent of the time back in 1987, 41 percent of the time in 1989, 22 percent of the time in 2002, and 43 percent of the time in 2003. And no matter the advice dispensed by the tax collectors themselves, taxpayers are on the hook for getting it right.

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

I can’t help thinking that the cuts to service are an IRS version of the Washington Monument Strategy, where the government responds to budget cuts by closing the most popular and visible tourist attractions. I would find Commissioner Koskinen’s pleas of poverty more convincing if he weren’t spending money on the new “voluntary” preparer program to end-run the Loving decision that shut down the preparer regulation power-grab. It would also be a good signal to put the 200 IRS employees who spend their working days doing union work on the phones instead.

Related: Cromnibus cuts IRS budget, delays extender vote.


Career Corner. What If Your Job Title Were Brutally Honest? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). I don’t suppose it would be easy to fit “Chronic Blogger Who Does Taxes to Finance It” on a business card.


Tax Roundup, 12/26/14: Bad SHOP-ing day: Iowa SHOP health insurance provider goes into receivership.

Friday, December 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

cooportunity logoSmall businesses wanting to provide health insurance coverage for their employees got a lump of coal in their stocking Christmas Eve with the announcement that CoOportunity Health, Inc. was placed in receivership by the Iowa Insurance Division. The Omaha World Herald reports:

CoOportunity Health, the two-year-old Iowa health insurance cooperative set up with federal loans under the Affordable Care Act, is running out of money and may be liquidated, which raises questions for other health insurance cooperatives nationally.

The company’s 120,000 individual and group customers, most of them in Nebraska and the rest in Iowa, are still covered if they signed up before Dec. 15 and should continue paying premiums to keep coverage in effect, said Nick Gerhart, Iowa’s insurance commissioner.

When the insurance division takes over an insurer, their policies remain in force while the insurer is either reorganized, sold or liquidated. But that doesn’t apply to brand-new enrollees. From the Herald:

But he recommended that policyholders switch to other insurance companies during open enrollment, which ends Feb. 15. People who enroll in new health plans by Jan. 15 would have that coverage in place by Feb. 1.

People who signed up for the first time with CoOportunity after Dec. 15 will not have coverage and should find other insurers, he said. CoOportunity, one of 24 health insurance cooperatives set up under the federal health care law, cannot sell or renew policies.

CoOportunity provided coverage on both the individual marketplace and the “SHOP” marketplace for small businesses. A FAQ (.doc format) from the Iowa Insurance Division on the takeover has this for small businesses looking for coverage:

If I want to remain in the marketplace and change insurance companies, where do I go?

Contact your agent or broker or go to

In central Iowa the website isn’t much help. In our coverage area, CoOportunity was the only SHOP provider, as far as I can tell. I have entered sample information in the SHOP marketplace for our 50309 zip code, and I get this result:

shop plans 20141224

This makes life complicated for small businesses that don’t currently have “grandfathered” coverage. The “marketplace reforms” of the ACA have a long list of requirements for qualifying coverage. If you provide coverage that fails to meet these rules, you incur an insane penalty of $100 per day, per employee. You need to make sure your broker knows if you don’t qualify for a grandfathered plan.

This also causes problems for employers wishing to take the 50% tax credit for providing employee coverage, as the credit is only available for plans purchased through the SHOP.

Roth & Company considered a plan offered by CoOportunity at our renewal last fall. It was slightly cheaper than our current plan (for which we had a 30%+ premium increase), but we stuck with our grandfathered plan, thinking the disruption to our employees wasn’t worth the minor savings. Bullet dodged.

More coverage:

Des Moines Register, CoOportunity Health falters, taken over by state.

Bob Vineyard, Another One Bites the Dust (InsureBlog).


Peter Reilly, Tax Court Rules Wounded Warrior Can Take His Time With The Trash – Merry Christmas. Peter discusses a wonderful Tax Court case from earlier this week that treats a disabled veteran as “materially participating” in maintaining three rental properties as a real estate professional. His handicaps, which make his caretaking a slow process, actually helped him achieve better tax results, as Peter explains.

TaxGrrrl offers A Christmas Day Look At Santa’s Tax Bill.

Kay Bell, Merry Christmas 2014

Paul Neiffer, Merry Christmas – 2014

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: You Won a Home! Now What? Part 3 of the Series

Jim Maule, Enact Tax Laws But Break Them?:

Even if Representative Michael Grimm eventually gives in to the calls for his resignation or is removed in some way from holding office, his failure to step down as part of the plea is an affront to hard-working Americans who do their best to comply with the tax law.

Heck, it’s even an affront to lazy Americans.


buzz20141017Robert Wood, IRS Hid Conservative Targeting Until After 2012 Presidential Election. Smidgen Corrupt?

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions. It’s the Procedurally Taxing roundup of recent tax procedure developments.

Many folks are taking today off, but Robert D. Flach is Buzzing away with his usual good stuff from around the tax world.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 596


William McBride, Japan Plans to Cut Corporate Tax Rate, Leaving U.S. Further Behind (Tax Policy Blog):

Japan currently has a corporate tax rate of 37 percent, the second highest in the developed world after the U.S., which has a corporate tax rate of 39.1 percent (federal plus state). With this cut, Japan would be roughly tied with France for the second highest corporate tax rate in developed world, at 34.4 percent.

Iowa has the highest corporate rate in the U.S., which makes us Number 1 in a not-good way.

Howard Gleckman, House GOP Leadership Would Require Dynamic Scoring of Some Tax Bills. Will It Matter?


Scott Sumner, The French experiment: Laffer >>>>>>> Piketty. (Econlog). France imposed a 75% top rate. Mr. Sumner observes:

Even if you are not a devout supply-sider (and I am a moderate supply-sider, who believes tax increases usually lead to more revenue) it would be hard to deny that this particular tax increase cost revenue, after accounting for the impact of French economic growth.

There are people who seriously insist that a 75%-90% top tax rate would be a good thing. France is Exhibit A.


The Cavalcade no longer moves on. The Cavalcade of Risk, the long-running roundup of insurance and risk-management posts is ending. It’s guiding light, Hank Stern, posts the final edition, which includes his own contribution Green Mountain State Blues, on the demise of their attempt at single-payer coverage in one state.