Posts Tagged ‘harold hill’

Tax Roundup, 11/24/14: Report from the Battle of Scottsdale.

Monday, November 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

haroldBattle report from a skirmish in the state tax policy wars. I was in Scottsdale Friday to join Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation to talk about state film tax incentives. We were on a panel with three advocates for incentives — two from the film industry and one a retired head of a state film office. Our audience was a panel from the National Conference of State Legislators, mostly legislators heading state taxwriting committees.

Joseph did a nice job explaining that all of the studies not financed by the film industry show tax credits for films to at best an inefficient way to create jobs, and at worst job killers when other possible uses for the funds are considered.

The incentive boosters were big on stories, about all the jobs “created” by taxpayer money, all the happy stories of communities getting together to make a movie, and so on.

My role was to tell a different story — the story of Iowa’s embarrassing and disastrous Film Tax Credit program.  I told how the Iowa legislature enacted the program, with two different 25% transferable credits, with little debate and almost no opposition (three “no” votes out of 150 legislators) in 2007. By 2009, film trucks were everywhere and the local paper was running fanzine-like articles gushing over the “sightings” of celebrities.

But trouble was brewing. By spring 2009 the legislature was realizing that they had enacted an open-ended subsidy that threatened their ability to do anything but fund Hollywood. About the same time a tipster sent a letter to the Department of Economic Development saying a filmmaker was bragging around Los Angeles about how she was making money through the “Half-price Filmmaking” program, using pretend expenditures to get tax credit funding well in excess of her cost in making (bad) movies. An audit was commissioned, and soon the program collapsed in disgrace when the audit revealed amazing mismanagement and breathtaking looting of the program. A follow-up audit by the state auditors office showed that 80% of the credits that had been granted were either improper or fraudulent.  Good times.

The Tax Foundation crew was impressive. Joseph and his Tax Foundation colleague Elizabeth Malm seemed to know every legislator. Joseph seemed to be aware of every detail, even correcting my posture as I sat listening to the questions. I think he was a little concerned I might be a loose cannon and go off on the legislators; I can’t deny the temptation, but I knew that wasn’t my place.

The legislators agreed to set up a panel on setting standards for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of tax incentives. That’s a better response than I expected, and I hope something comes of it.

 

Only time for a few quick links today.

 

20140728-1Robert D. Flach starts the short holiday week with a special Monday Buzz!

Russ Fox tackles the important question: Would the Proprietors of “I Married an Idiot” Commit Tax Fraud?

Peter Reilly, Should President Obama Offer Amnesty For Legal Residents Behind On Taxes? I think he should offer a blanket amnesty for Americans abroad enmeshed in the FATCA/FBAR nightmare.

Paul Neiffer, Take Advantage of Low Rates! Low IRS minimum interest rates, that is.

 

Robert Goulder, Magnum Opus: “Paying Taxes 2015: The Global Picture” (Tax Analysts Blog)

Hauqun Li, An Introduction to Forms of Business Organization and Taxation (Tax Policy Blog)

Donald Marron, Bigger, Cleaner, and More Efficient: A Carbon-Corporate Tax Swap

 

TaxGrrrl, Those Not-So-Lost IRS Emails: Up To 30,000 Lerner Emails May Have Been Recovered

Kay Bell, Possible break in hunt for Lois Lerner’s lost IRS emails

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 564

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/3/14: Fight the power edition. And: another Iowa film credit economic triumph!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

It’s good to be back.  Sometimes other things take precedence over work.

 

Fight the Power!  Tax Analysts’ Joseph Thorndike defends the corporation income tax as a bulwark against corporate power ($link):

Popular fondness for taxing corporations may reflect an imperfect understanding of the corporate levy’s incidence. But it also reflects a clear-headed view of where the power lies in American society.

That’s interesting.  Lets see where some major institutions stack up in terms of “power,” measured by revenue (an imperfect measure, but one that is at least available for all of them, unlike net worth).

Google: $55 billion.

Apple: $171 billion.

Microsoft: $23 billion.

BP: $379 billion

State of California: $112 billion

United States Government revenue: $2,770 billion.

United States Government spending: $3,450 billion.

 

In handy graph form:

20140902-1

Of course, only one of these outfits can also send in people with guns to settle disputes with all of the others.  So who is going to impose an income tax to rein in the monster on the Potomac?

 

Economic Development, film style: Iowa pays $2 million to settle film lawsuit (Des Moines Register).  But think of the intangible benefits!

 

Kristy Maitre, Kristine Tidgren, ACA’s Thorny Impact On More-Than-2% S Corporation Shareholders

Consequently, in the absence of further guidance, we believe that if an S corporation chooses to increase wages for its employees to make up for its non-ACA-compliant employer payment plan, the more-than-2% shareholders will now have to pay FICA/FUTA taxes on that compensation, just as the other employees will now have to pay income taxes and FICA taxes on the increased wages. These payments are no longer made pursuant to an employer health plan and cannot be excluded from taxation.

You don’t have to have 50 employees to have Obamacare problems.

 

Peter Reilly, IRS Will Not Tax Forfeited Jackpots Of Compulsive Gamblers.  Mighty kind of them.

Kay Bell, Running errands for mom and other September tax moves

TaxGrrrl, Credit Cards, The IRS, Form 1099-K And The $19,399 Reporting Hole

Tony Nitti, Tax Court Says Bank ‘Thank You’ Points Are Taxable Income   

 

 

Scott Hodge, IRS Data Contradicts Kleinbard’s Warnings of Earnings Stripping from Inversions  (Tax Policy Blog)

Ajay Gupta, Yep, Son, We Have Met the Enemy (Tax Analysts Blog).  Mr. Gupta discusses the FIRPTA precedent for the current inversion hysteria:

It turns out that the enemy in the ‘80s was not the pools of offshore money ready to descend on onshore real estate. Nor will the enemy this time be the many offshore tax havens ready to shelter departing onshore companies. The enemy, as always, is closer to home.

Congress would be a good place to look.

 

Robert D. Flach once again gets to the heart of the matter:  “There is absolutely nothing illegal, immoral, or unethical with trying to ‘dodge’ taxes.  By ‘dodge’ I mean ‘avoid’.”

 

20140527-1Joseph Thorndike, When Do-Gooder Taxes Don’t Do Good (Tax Analysts Blog).

I’m no fan of anti-obesity taxes, whether they target soda, candy bars, or any other junk food. They are regressive and arbitrary, not to mention paternalistic and condescending. Supporters have all sorts of genuine good intentions. But ultimately, these taxes are simply an unfair money grab dressed up as a public health initiative.

Now we have some evidence that they may be ineffective, too.

Imagine that.

 

William Gale, Don’t be fooled: America’s deficit is still a problem

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown: Sept. 2 (Tax Justice Blog).  A left-side rundown of “Oil tax ballot fails in Alaska, film tax credits pass in California, and Ohio needs to do more on EITC expansion. Also: updates on Iowa gubernatorial election and a new report on airline gas tax breaks.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 482

 

And New Coke marketing genius award goes to…  From Going Concern, news of the boldest marketing move since the Edsel.  (Adrienne Gonzalez)

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/2/14: Film credit trial remake edition. And: Senator Otter, taxwriter.

Friday, May 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan


harold
An Iowa appeals court this week threw out the conviction of TV-show producer Dennis Brouse
on charges arising out of the Iowa film tax credit scandal.  The court ruled 2-1 that unclear jury instructions rendered the guilty verdict untenable.  From the decision:

After examining the jury instruction and finding it so confusing, we conclude that it was not possible for the jury to find sufficient evidence to convict pursuant to a general verdict that implicated the joint criminal conduct instruction. 

The case was remanded to the trial court.  I believe the state can appeal this decision to the Iowa Supreme Court.  I am not sure whether the state can retry Mr. Brouse if the ruling stands.  The reversal would leave Wendy Weiner-Runge as the only person hit with serious prison time in the scandal.

In any case, the real offenders in this case will go free.  No charges will be filed against the legislators who voted overwhelmingly to create a cash-filled pinata for out-of-state filmmakers.  The Governor who was to oversee the program will never have to answer for appointing a former drugstore film clerk to run it.  The clerk’s immediate supervisor faces no charges for letting the clerk run wild, committing taxpayer dollars by the millions virtually without documentation or control.

The real crime is that the 150 legislative supergeniuses feel competent to take money from taxpayers and give it to people who convince them they will use it better.

Other coverage: KCCI.com

Cite: State v. Brouse, No. 12-1076  [3-1192]

 

 

 

Andrew Mitchel, 2014 First Quarter Published Expatriates – Second Highest Ever:

 

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Considering how poorly the U.S. tax system treats Americans abroad, it’s no surprise.

 

Jason Dinesen, On Tax Refunds and “Not Owing Tax,” Part 1  “Just because you got a refund it doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t owe taxes.”

Kay Bell, Tax moves to make in May 2014

Peter Reilly, IRS Chief Counsel Checks 1986 Committee Reports To Give Break On Foreclosed Real Estate   

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 358

Russ Fox, Once Again, Bring Me the Usual Suspects: 2014 Small Business Tax Index.  Iowa does poorly.

Robert D. Flach brings your Friday Buzz!

 

Kyle Pomerleau, It Takes 175 hours for a U.S. Business to Comply with U.S. Taxes (Tax Policy Blog).  For bigger businesses, that’s way low.

Howard Gleckman, The Tax Extenders: Yes, Virginia, They Really Are Tax Cuts (TaxVox).

 

 

Not Senator Wyden

Not Senator Wyden

 Senator Wyden, meet Animal House.

Otter: ” But you can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.”

Senator Ron Wyden:At the same time, the potential misconduct of a small group of IRS employees should not tarnish the overwhelming majority of hard working agency employees who do play by the rules.”

 

I did not have tax with that state, New York.  Bill Clinton: ‘I Thank God Every Day That Hillary and I Live in NY and Pay the Highest Aggregate Tax Rate in America’  (TaxProf)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/7/14: Where’s my K-1? And why you should e-file that extension.

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

1040 2013The deadline for 2013 1040s is a week from tomorrow, so we may as well start our annual Filing Season Tips feature.  

Many folks arrive here with a search engine query that goes something like “why don’t I have my K-1, should the partnership go to jail?”  A quick reminder of what a K-1 does, and why they often arrive late in the tax season.

K-1s come from partnerships, S corporations and trusts.  Partnerships and S corporation businesses don’t pay the tax on their income.  The income is instead taxed on your 1040.  They have to compute their own taxable income first — as you might imagine, a more complex process than doing the average 1040.  They then have to sort the income into a bunch of different bins so that all the pieces end up on the right spot on the owner 1040s.  The K-1 is best understood as the collection bins for your shares of the various pieces of the business’ income and expense items.

Furthermore, many businesses and trusts that issue K-1s are awaiting K-1s of their own.  Even if they have their own tax information ready, if the business is still waiting on a K-1, it can’t issue yours.

But, but! Aren’t K-1s supposed to be out by January 1?  You’re thinking of 1099s.  K-1s are due with the S corporation returns (March 15) or the partnership returns (April 15), but they can be, and often are, extended to as late as September 15 — legally.

So what to do?  If you don’t have your K-1 yet, try to at least get an idea of what the income will be, and extend your own return accordingly.  It’s always better to extend than to amend.

This is the first 2014 filing season tip — come back for one each day through April 15!

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #6: Just Don’t File

 

e-file logoKristy Maitre, IRS Change in Extension Processing Makes E-Filing That Extension Critical.

The campus could take up to 6 weeks to process a [paper] extension, and it will not show up on the transcript until processed. With that time delay, it is helpful to have the acknowledgement of an e-filed extension.

With the delay in processing of the extensions, remember if you file a return within that 6 week timeframe, it may not show the extension on the module, and your client could get a penalty for filing late if there is a balance due. This will also have an impact on refund returns if they are later picked up for audit, a balance due results, and the extension was not processed properly.

And why, if you do paper file, you shouldn’t bundle extensions for your family or clients to save postage.

TaxGrrrl, Not Ready To File Your Taxes? Don’t Stress Out, File For Extension 

William Perez, Federal Tax Relief for Victims of Washington State Mudslide and Flooding

Jana Luttenegger, DIY Will is a ‘Cautionary Tale’ (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “As a result, two of Ann’s nieces received property that it appears clearly from the will and attempted amendment was meant for Ann’s brother instead.”

 

20140321-3Kay Bell, 3 popular refundable tax credits: Are they worth it?  Good question, and no.

Peter Reilly, Easement Valuations Not So Easy Anymore

Keith Fogg, Reliance on Counsel to Avoid Tax Liability.  (Procedurally Taxing).  Not likely to work.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 333.  Featuring the Washington Post “fact checker” calling shenanigans on IRS Commissioner Koskinen for denying that IRS had “targeted” Tea Party groups.  It’s safe to say Mr. Koskinen has botched his entrance.

Andrew Lundeen, Senate Finance Committee Passes $85 Billion Tax Extenders Bill (Tax Policy Blog)

20121120-2Tax Justice Blog, Five Key Tax Facts About Healthcare Reform.  Ones they like that I despise: “Only two percent of Americans will pay the tax penalty for not having insurance and  “95 percent of the tax increases included to pay for health reform apply solely to businesses or married couples making over $250,000 and single people making over $200,000.”

This attitude is exactly what is awful about the TJB mindset.  No matter how fickle, arbitrary,   unworkable or economically harmful a tax is — and the Obamacare taxes are all of those — we’re supposed to be OK with them as long as they apply only to “the rich.”  Carried to the logical conclusion, it would be just fine to execute the 1-percenters, confiscate their property, and sell their families into slavery — it only affects the rich anyway, and they don’t count.

 

Arnold Kling has a little reminder for folks hung up on inequality, quoting Lawrence Kotlikoff:

The US fiscal gap now stands at an estimated $205 trillion, or 10.3 percent of all future US GDP. Closing this gap is imperative, and requires a fiscal adjustment of an immediate and permanent 37 percent reduction in spending (apart from servicing official debt), an immediate and permanent 57 percent increase in all federal taxes, or some combination of the two. The necessary size of this adjustment increases the longer it is put off.

And remember, the rich guy isn’t picking up the tab.

 

O. Kay Henderson, No traction for increasing state gas tax.  Not happening this year, apparently.

 

haroldJennifer Carr at Tax Analysts has a good summary of the research as to the economic effect of state film tax credits:

The film industry and lawmakers doubtless believe that film credits are a great deal for everyone involved — and that would be fantastic if it were true — but the most credible studies don’t reflect that.

Her article (unfortunately available only to State Tax Notes subscribers) discusses the funky analysis that film credit boosters use to justify the subsidies.  The boosters like to overstate the tourism effects of films and assume fantastical “multiplier” effects of film spending.  They also ignore opportunity costs — assuming that if the taxpayer money was not spent on Hollywood, it would just crawl in a hole and die.

 

Career Corner.  Crime May Not Pay But Whistleblowing Certainly Does (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/13/14: Looming Payday Edition. And: incentives galore!

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130104-1Deduction day looms.   March 15 is the deadline for calendar-year corporate return filings and payments.  It’s also an important deadline for accrual-basis taxpayers for another reason:  compensation accrued at year-end by a calendar-year accrual-basis taxpayer has to be paid by March 15 of the following year to be deductible in the year accrued.

As every first-year accounting student learns, accrual accounting tries to match expenses with the period in which the income is earned.  If a bonus is based on calendar-year sales or profits, it normally can’t be paid until after year-end, when the numbers are sorted out; still, the bonus is related to those sales, so accrual accounting counts the expense against that year’s income.

The tax law has many limits on accrual accounting.  For example, accrued expenses to “related parties,” typically owners and their families, can’t be deducted until the expenses are actually paid.  The tax law gives accrual businesses 2 1/2 months after year-end to pay accrued compensation to non-related employees.  Otherwise, the deduction is deferred until the year in which the employee is paid.

Does the compensation have to be paid by Saturday, or can I wait until Monday?  The tax law provides that when tax returns are due on a weekend, the deadline is extended to the following monday.  That’s why 2013 calendar-year corporation returns  are due March 17, 2014 – March 15 is on Saturday this year.

But the IRS says that doesn’t work for compensation.  Rev. Rul. 83-116 holds that it only applies to “acts required to be performed in connection with the determination, collection, or refund of taxes”  — things like filing returns.  So, according to IRS, the March 15 deadline still stands for payment 0f 2013 accrued compensation.  It’s not clear that the IRS would win in court on this — they have lost on a similar issue — but you don’t want to be the test case.  If you want to deduct 2013 accrued compensation on your 2013 return, pay it by Saturday.

 

 

haroldIncentives!  Coralville Likely on the Hook for Large Chunk of Von Maur Taxes.  Coralville marches to the beat of its own drummer, who apparently is heavily medicated.

Hey, let’s pay $34 million to build a Des Moines Convention Hotel!  Brian Gongol reports “The city financed the hotel to help spur convention business…but now it’s in danger of losing money.”  You don’t say.

Tax Justice Blog, Film Tax Credit Arms Race Continues: “Saying “no” to Hollywood can be a difficult thing for states, but here are a few examples of lawmakers and other stakeholders questioning the dubious merits of these credits within the last few weeks”.

Good.  Iowa doesn’t seem to have been badly hurt since it turned from subsidizing filmmakers to jailing them.

Related: Robert Wood, Film Taxes Ensnares Beckhams, Bob Geldof, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Annie Lennox & More

 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): F Is For Foreign Tax Credit.  “For many taxpayers, it’s more advantageous to claim income taxes you paid or accrued during the year to a foreign country or U.S. possession as a credit than as a deduction.”

William Perez, Chart: Total Refundable Credits from 1990 to 2011.  There are more of them now.

Peter Reilly, Hedge Fund, TEFRA And Community Property Give Woman Tax Nightmare

Russ Fox, The IRS Needs Volunteers for the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

 

Cara Griffith, States’ Perspectives on Federal Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog)

Joseph Henchman, Nebraska Legislators Approve Inflation Indexing But Drop Major Tax Overhaul (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Mike Lee’s Tax Plan: An Intriguing Idea That Would Add $2.4 Trillion to the Deficit (TaxVox)

Kay Bell, House panel finally looking at Internet sales tax legislation

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 308

News from the Profession.  Tweeting a Lot About Audit Stuff Can Get You a Job at Deloitte.  (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/24/14: WSJ highlights tax season ID theft. And: Shock! Film Tax Credit Corruption!

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The "Chromaro" purchased with ID-theft frauds by a Florida thief.

The “Chromaro” purchased with ID-theft frauds by a Florida thief.

The Wall Street Journal covers identity theft today: “Identity Theft Triggers a Surge in Tax Fraud”   It seems to be designed to tell what a great job the authorities are doing to fight the problem.  It’s nice that they’re stepping up the efforts, but the time to do that was four years ago, when the problem started exploding.  But the IRS was too busy with its attempt to regulate practitioners to be bothered with keeping billions from going out the door to two-bit grifters.  The article refers delicately to the grifters:

The scam, which involves repeatedly filing fake tax returns electronically and receiving refunds within days, is so enticing it is attracting suspects not typically associated with white-collar crime. On Friday, two members of an alleged crack-dealing gang in Miami were indicted on charges they also ran a tax-refund scam on the side. Suspects typically steal lists of names and Social Security numbers. Then they file large numbers of electronic returns claiming refunds, and can start getting money before investigators spot the fraud.

The story notes that stealing from the taxpayers is only part of the damage caused:

The crime creates two victims—the U.S. Treasury and individual taxpayers, who only learn of the fraud when they try to file their legitimate returns. Those taxpayers are stuck with the hassle of proving to the IRS that the previous document was a phony claim.

And the process can drag over years, as an ID-theft victim who works with Jason Dinesen would attest.   It’s a disgrace that the IRS has done so poorly at preventing ID theft, and it is doubly disgraceful that they don’t do a better job helping the victims of IRS negligence.

For your part, don’t help the ID thieves.  Never disclose your social security number.  Keep your tax information secure.  Don’t transmit your social security number in an unencrypted email.  If you want to transmit tax documents electronically, don’t send them as an email attachment.  Use a secure file transfer site, like our FileDrop site.

 

haroldDon’t let the door hit you.  ‘House of Cards’ threatens to leave if Maryland comes up short on tax credits (Washington Post, via Politico):

A few weeks before Season 2 of “House of Cards” debuted online, the show’s production company sent Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley a letter with this warning: Give us millions more dollars in tax credits, or we will “break down our stage, sets and offices and set up in another state.”

That’s the problem with paying people to be your friend.  The price only goes up. In California, the film credit scam industry may be losing a friend, according to Capital Public Radio: Calderon Indicted On Fraud, Bribery Charges:

The Department of Justice announced Friday that State Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) is facing 24 federal charges including bribery, wire fraud and money laundering. U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said Calderon solicited and accepted $100,000.

“Ron Calderon, we allege, took the bribes in return for official acts. Such as, supporting legislation to those that would be favorable to those that paid him bribes and opposing legislation that would harmful to them. The indictment further alleges that Calderon attempted to convince other public officials to do the same.”

~Andre Birotte, U.S. Attorney

The legislation centered on a potential film tax credit and regulation of medical billing. Calderon is accused of accepting cash, trips, dinners and jobs for his children.

I think film tax credits, and all incentive tax credits, are fundamentally corrupt, as they provide better treatment for the well-connected at the expense of everyone else. In Iowa, though, they were able to rely on credulous legislators, without resorting to bribes.

Russ Fox, California State Senator Ron Calderon Indicted on Bribery & Tax Charges.  “Mr. Calderon is facing a maximum of 396 years at ClubFed if found guilty on all charges.”

 

premier.gov.ru [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

premier.gov.ru [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A victim of politically motivated tax prosecution goes free in Ukraine: Freed Ukrainian ex-PM Tymoshenko rallies protesters (CBC).  She had been imprisoned on politically-convenient tax charges by the toppled would-be dictators there.   With the complexity of the tax law, it is way too easy to indict somebody.  That’s why IRS partisanship is so dangerous.

And yes, it can (and has) happened here.

 

 

 

William Perez has the scoop on Reporting Investment Income and Expenses

Jana Luttenegger, Taxing Olympic Winnings.  (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog) Not a problem for the hockey team.

Kay Bell is right when she says Report all your income even if you don’t get a 1099.  The 1099 is a useful reminder, but income doesn’t become tax free if you don’t get one.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Processing Returns, Refunds Faster Than In 2013.

Roberton Williams notes An Updated Marriage Bonus and Penalty Calculator at TaxVox.

 

 

William McBride, Empirical Evidence on Taxes and Growth: A Response to CBPP (Tax Policy Blog).  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has never met a tax increase it doesn’t like, as if there never is a point that giving the mule more to carry slows it down. The McBride post mentions an often-overlooked aspect of our government spending:

The thing is in reality the federal government spends only a small fraction of its budget on public investments, such as roads and airports, and instead spends most of the budget on transfer payments, such as social security and healthcare. Transfer payments are unproductive and even harmful to economic growth, according to most studies. So in practice, income taxes mainly go to transfer payments, and this deal is a clear economic loser, according to the IMF and most academic economists. 

Some folks, like Jim Maule, act like any complaint about the level of government spending and taxes means you are against roads, courts and public order — when most of what the government does is takes money from some people and gives it to other people.

 

Jack Townsend, U.S. Authorities Focus on Swiss Insurance Products Used to Hide U.S. Taxpayer Assets and Income

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 291

The Critical Question.  Sylvia Dion CPA Asks – Where Are The Women? (Peter Reilly)

Going Concern, The Ten Stages of Busy Season.  “You begin to hate every single human being in your office”

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Tax Roundup, 2/11/14: Employer mandate “shared responsibility” delayed for some. And: fresh scam!

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2It’s such a disaster, we’re only going to force some employers to do it right now. The IRS has issued final regulations on the employer health insurance mandate that delay their impact on companies with 50-100 employees until 2016.  The “shared responsibility provisions” — such a creepy name — will still apply to employers with 100 “full-time equivalent” employees in 2015.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

 Under the original 2010 health law, employers with the equivalent of at least 50 full-time workers had to offer coverage or pay a penalty starting at $2,000 a worker beginning in 2014. Last year, the administration delayed the requirement for the first time by moving it to 2015.

The new rules for companies with 50 to 99 workers would cover about 2% of all U.S. businesses, which include 7% of workers, or 7.9 million people, according to 2011 Census figures compiled by the Small Business Administration. The rules for companies with 100 or more workers affect another 2% of businesses, which employ more than 74 million people.

You’ll look in vain in either Sec. 4980H, the “shared responsibility” tax code section, or Sec. 1513 of the Affordable Care Act, which enacted 4980H, for anything that says the provision can take effect later than 2014.  Once again the administration is making it up as it goes in a tacit admission that Obamacare is a half-baked mess.  I hope somebody with 100 employees sues the IRS on equal-protection grounds to enjoin this politically-motivated selective enforcement.   To me it’s another clue that the individual mandate will also be delayed, and ultimately abandoned.

Paul Neiffer, Some ACA Relief for Employers with 50 to 99 Employees

Jason Dinesen, The Affordable Care Act and Small Businesses   

Martin Sullivan, Forget Obamacare for a Minute. Here’s Some Good News About Health Policy (Tax Analysts Blog).  

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

New filing season, same old scams.  Our area IRS Taxpayer Liason says this email is circulating:

Dear Applicant,

An Income Tax repayment is a refund of tax that you’ve overpaid.
Internal Revenue Service  ( IRS ) has received new information about your taxable
income you’ve overpaid too much tax through your job or pension in previous years.

There was a mistake with your tax, which an error occurred on your tax return,
and therefore your income reduced. Your employer also used the wrong tax code.

You are eligible to receive a refund of $2670.48 USD as your recent tax refund.
IRS will send you a repayment. You’ll get the repayment either by cheque in the post or by bank transfer.

Please click here to get your tax refund on your Visa or Mastercard now.

Note : Your refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting
invalid records or applying after the deadline.

Best Wishes,

IRS Tax Refund Service Team
Internal Revenue Service.

Of course it is a scam.  Some obvious clues: a real IRS notice doesn’t have to tell you that it’s dealing in “USD.”  We say “checks” in the US; you get “cheques” in Canada, the UK, or other old Commonwealth countries.  IRS doesn’t do refunds on credit cards.  And, of course, the most important clue:  the IRS will never initiate contact you with an e-mail or phone call.  If an email says it’s from the IRS, it’s not.

 

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Tax Forms: The W-2   

 

haroldHooray for Hollywood!  Movie Producer Peter Hoffman Charged With Film Tax Credit Fraud.  It involves Louisiana, which continues its co-dependent relationship with Hollywood with film tax subsidies.  Iowa, sadder but wiser, now prefers producer room and board subsidies to Film Tax Credits.

 

Howard Gleckman, Incoming Senate Finance Chair Wyden Outlines His Tax Agenda (TaxVox):

Speaking in Los Angeles to a conference sponsored jointly by the USC Gould School of Law and the Tax Policy Center, Wyden framed his tax agenda around several key issues:

Narrow the gap between taxation of investment income and ordinary income.

Significantly increase the standard deduction.

Simplify and enhance the refundable Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

Revise savings incentives by creating a new investment account for all Americans at birth, shift savings subsidies from high-income taxpayers to low- and moderate-income households, and consolidate and simplify the current tangle of existing tax-preferred savings incentives.

Enhance job training.

Restore Build America Bonds—a short-lived idea that partially replaced tax-exempt state and local bonds with direct federal subsidies. He’d also seek ways to encourage business to funnel overseas earnings into domestic infrastructure investment.

It’s a disappointing agenda from somebody considered a thoughtful center-left voice on tax policy.   Any tax on investment income is best understood as a double-tax, and I don’t think by “narrowing the gap” he means lowering ordinary inocme rates.  His second, third and fourth points are fine, but the “Enhance job training” and “Build America Bond” proposals are just political pinatas to be broken open by insiders.  If you want to see what jobs training dollars really accomplish, I refer you to Iowa’s own CIETC.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 278

checkboxJeremy Scott, Check the Box for Tax Avoidance (Tax Analysts Blog).  

The check-the-box rules allowed multinationals to create entities that were treated one way in a foreign jurisdiction and another by the United States. These entities, so-called hybrids, are at the core of companies like Apple’s tax strategies, and they have been used to bring about obscenely low effective tax rates (2.3 percent on $700 billion in foreign earnings, according to the Obama administration).

I think any corporate above zero is obscenely high.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Proposal to Exempt Olympians’ Prize Money from Taxation: Good Politics, Wrong Solution (Tax Policy Blog)

Kay Bell, IRS takes a bite out of U.S. Olympic medalists’ winnings

 

Keith Fogg, Holding People Hostage for the Payment of Tax – Writ Ne Exeat Republica (Procedurally Taxing). No, he’s not talking about tax season.

 

News from the Profession: PwC Will Probably Be the First Accounting Firm to Replace Interns With Robots.  (Going Concern).  Makes sense, as they were the first to do so with partners.

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

Friday, January 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Flickr image courtesy Shock264 under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Shock264 under Creative Commons license

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

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

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

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

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

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

 

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

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

Just inflation and government policy risk.

 

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

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

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

Trish McIntire, IRS Notice Prevention

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/23/2014: Ideas edition. And: why are we taxing pot?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Bad idea.  Refundable tax credits are the favorite kind of credit for tax fraudsters because they generate tax refunds even when there is no tax paid or withheld.  The earned income tax credit is refundable, and that feature has something to do with 20-25% of the credits issued annually being improper.

An intrepid group of Iowa legislators isn’t letting that stop them.  They have introduced HF 2027 to create a new refundable tax credit in Iowa — a piggyback credit equal to 25% of the als0-refundable (and fraud-ridden) American Opportunity Tax Credit.

The AOTC is based on a percentage of tuition paid for the first four years of college.  It phases out at higher income levels.

Politicians can’t resist using the tax law to pass out political favors.  But even the best-intended ones make the tax law more complicated and, by creating a class with something to lose, they make it that much harder to reform.  When there already countless tuition aid programs, not to mention state-funded colleges and universities, it’s unwise to just throw in one more program willy-nilly.

 

Good idea.  Republican Party to vote for repeal of U.S. anti-tax dodging law (Patrick Temple-West).  

Approved in 2010 after a tax-avoidance scandal involving a Swiss bank, FATCA requires most foreign banks and investment funds to report to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service information about U.S. customers’ accounts worth $50,000 or more.

Criticized by banks, libertarians and some Americans living abroad as a costly and unneeded government overreach, FATCA is on the books, but its effective date has been delayed repeatedly, with enforcement now set to start on July 1.

I hate the headline on the article.  I would have written it “Republican Party to vote to decriminalize personal finance for Americans abroad.”  FATCA makes outrageous demands of non-U.S. institutions that have made Americans unwelcome at many foreign banks.

Related: Republicans Target FATCA As Another Windmill to Attack  (Jack Townsend)

 

haroldWorse idea: film tax credits.

Accounting Web, Film Credits: Your Tax Dollars at Work Making Movies:

Actor/director Ben Affleck told the Los Angeles Times he’s filming part of Live by Night in Georgia, a state that is popular for its film credit availability.

“It comes down to the fact that you have X amount of money to make your movie in a business where the margins are really thin,” he said.

Understood – but there’s a disconnect here. Affleck and his fellow actor/director, Matt Damon, both advocate and participate in using film credits to reduce taxes so they can make their movies. But both are also on record saying, because they are wealthy, their taxes should be raised.

What’s wrong with this “picture?”

Why is the film business, of all businesses with thin margins, entitled to special breaks?  Because politicians are suckers for celebrities.

Joseph Henchman, The Economist Reviews State Film Tax Credit Programs (Tax Policy Blog):

The report notes that it’s getting tougher to compete with Louisiana’s 30 percent refundable credit or New York’s $420 million annual budget to subsidize film and TV, and that independent analyses find these do little on net for job creation or economic growth.

But you can’t forget the intangibles!  As a Des Moines columnist breathlessly reported at the high point of the Iowa film credit looting spree:

But some benefits can’t just be measured on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The movies provide employment to local actors, construction crews, artists, caterers, drivers and a host of others. They expose non-Iowans to what the state has to offer. More intangible is the benefit of interactions in a state that can be cut off from the trends and centers of power. Not to mention the excitement factor. We’ve relied on caucuses every four years to bring action and celebrities to town. Now, sightings are anytime, any place.

Fortunately, Iowa is sadder but wiser now.

 

20130916-1Russ Fox, More Work for Tax Professionals: Submission IDs for Efiled Returns:

In the past, the taxpayer signs the 8879, the tax professional signs it and files it away. Now, the taxpayer signs it, the tax professional signs it, and the return is filed. Once the IRS accepts the return, the software company will assign the Submission Identification Number (SID) to the return. The tax professional must either print another copy of the Form 8879 (this one would have the SID on it) and attach it to the Form 8879, print a copy of Form 9325 (Acknowledgement and General Information for Taxpayers Who File Returns Electronically), or the tax professional must write the SID on the original 8879.

It doesn’t seem like much, but that extra minute for every tax return probably equates to an additional 500 minutes of time if you efile 500 returns in a tax season.

And anybody who’s been around a tax prep office during tax season knows there aren’t all that many extra minutes lying around.

 

TaxGrrrl, 11 Questions To Ask When Hiring A Tax Preparer .  A good list.

Leslie Book, The Ban on Claiming the EITC: A Problematic Penalty (Procedurally Taxing).  “We have not addressed the special EITC ban that arises when a taxpayer inappropriately claims the EITC.   The following gives some context, with a focus on the two-year ban for reckless or intentional (but not fraudulent) errors.”

William Perez, Which Tax Form to File?

 

Peter Reilly, Is Tax Court Rebelling Against Supreme Court?  Short answer: no.

Tyler Cowen, Income inequality is not as extreme as many citizens think.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 259

Cara Griffith, When State Taxes and Interstate Compacts Collide (Tax Analysts Blog).  “But states can’t have their cake and eat it too; a compact cannot be both binding and offer states significant choices on whether to follow its terms.”

Tax Justice Blog calls the IRS budget cut The Dumbest Spending Cut in the New Budget Deal.  It’s bad policy, but it’s asking a lot of Congressional Republicans to fund an organ of their opposition.

 

20130607-2Because they can.  Why Exactly Are We Taxing Pot? (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog):

But I must ask: What is the rationale for imposing special taxes on marijuana? Excise taxes are appropriate to pay for externalities – the costs to society of using the product that are not borne by the market. But it is unclear what, if any, externalities are created by smoking pot.

Economic development in the Doritos aisle?

 

Kay Bell, IRS audit results in $862,000 lawsuit award for taxpayer.  Because he tripped over a phone cord.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/22/14: Let’s pay it for Hollywood! And: choosing a preparer.

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

haroldTaking your money and giving it to Hollywood.  Oscar Nominees Cash In On State Tax Subsidies (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox):

Each of the nine movies nominated for this year’s Oscar for best film may already have taken home a pile of tax subsidies. Seven brought back state goodies from the U.S. and two got cash for their work in the U.K.

And, according to data collected by the Manhattan Institute, the winner is….Wolf of Wall Street. The $100 million black comedy about (irony alert) over-the-top greed among sleazy stockbrokers got a 30 percent tax credit for making the movie in New York State.

The Empire State isn’t even the most generous when it comes to doling out tax incentives to filmmakers. In Louisiana, moviemakers not only get a 30 percent credit against overall in-state production costs but also an additional 5 percent payroll credit. Even better, filmmakers with no state tax liability can monetize the credits by selling them to firms that do owe Louisiana tax or even selling them back to the state at 85 percent of their value.

Iowa used to do this, until its film tax credit program collapsed in scandal and disgrace following revelations that filmmakers were charging fancy cars and personal items to Iowa taxpayers under the guise of “economic development.   Further revelations showed that millions of dollars of pretend expenses were used to claim the credit, taking advantage of credulous administration and almost non-existent oversight.

More from Howard Gleckman:

No doubt these credits are good for filmmakers. And I’m sure residents get a kick out of seeing Leonardo DiCaprio shooting a scene in their neighborhood (assuming they are not steamed over the related traffic jam). But is there an economic payoff in return for these substantial lost tax revenues as supporters claim?

Most studies conclude there is not.

It’s amazing that politicians think Hollywood deserves their taxpayers dollars.  Fortunately, Iowa film subsidies now are limited to housing and meal expenses for filmmakers.

 

Jason Dinesen, Deducting Miles Driven for Charity.  “Taxpayers can take a deduction of 14 cents/mile for mileage driven in giving services to a charitable organization, or taxpayers can take a deduction for the actual cost of gas and oil associated with giving services to a charitable organization.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: The Sneaky Tax Consequences of Real Estate Repossessions 

 

Choosing a preparer?

Kay Bell, Time to pick the proper tax pro.  She gets one thing wrong about the IRS:  “For years, the agency has been trying to set up a system under which it register and test tax preparers to help ensure that they meet a minimum competency level.”

No, the agency simply wants to expand its control over preparers and help powerful friends in the big tax prep franchises.  The “minimum competency level” stuff is a weak pretext.

Robert D. Flach, IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN – CHOOSING A TAX PREPARER:

Contrary to the popular “urban tax myth”, unfortunately perpetuated by uninformed journalists and bloggers, just because a person has the initials “CPA” after his/her name does not mean that he/she knows his arse from a hole in the ground when it comes to preparing 1040s.  

True.  But a lot of the best prepaers are CPAs.  Not everybody needs a CPA.  Many folks just need somebody who knows a little more than they do to help them put the W-2 income in the right place.  But if you are doing a complex business return — even on a 1040 — a CPA may be your best bet.

That’s not to say only CPAs are competent preparers.  Enrolled Agents can be very good, and there are many very competent unregulated preparers, like Robert.  I think the competence curve between CPAs and unenrolled preparers would look something like this:

competence curve

The more complex your return, the more likely it is that you will want to bring in an Enrolled Agent or a CPA, but if you already have a strong unregulated preparer who is taking care of your tax needs, you’d be foolish to switch.

 

Paul Neiffer, Average is Important for 2013 Tax Filing.  Farm income averaging, that is.  Another example of a provision that would result in frivolous return penalties for anyone but farmers.

Fairmark.com: Share Identification Under Attack

 

20121120-2Tea Party: Resolved: Obamacare Is Now Beyond Rescue.  Oh, wait, that wasn’t the Tea Party.   It was a debate audience on New York’s Upper West Side.  

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 258

William Perez, The Number of Sole Proprietors has been Rising for 30 Years

Tax Justice Blog: CTJ Submits Comments on the Finance Committee Chairman Baucus’ International Tax Reform Proposal.  They have very different, and largely opposite, concerns from the Tax Foundation.

Jack Townsend, Tax Notes Article on IRS 2013 Victories in Offshore Evasion

 

gatsoNext: automated pedestrian jaywalking camera fines, for our own safety:  NYC Cops Allegedly Beat Up Jaywalking Elderly Man, Refused to Tell Son Which Hospital He Was In (Ed Krayewski, Reason.com)

But I thought it was about traffic safety, not money…  Council members: Traffic camera revenue helped keep property taxes down, pay for public safety.

 

The importance of philanthropy: Warren Buffett Offers $1 Billion For Perfect March Madness Bracket  (TaxGrrrl)

 

The Critical Question: A Meat Tax? Seriously?  (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog).

News From the Profession: Guy Who Couldn’t Hack Two Years in Public Accounting Needs Validation He Isn’t a Loser (Going Concern)

It’s Academic!  How Not to Use Your Faculty Laptop (TaxProf)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/30/2013: Paying for those last-minute write-offs. And: Harold Hill marches on.

Monday, December 30th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


20121228-2
How to pay for those last-minute deductions.
  We’re down to the wire, kids.  2013 ends in less than 48 hours, so if you are going to claim some last-minute deductions, get busy!  Some things to keep in mind:

A credit card is as good as cash. Better, even, because if you incur a business expense before the end of the year, you have your credit card statement to prove it.

If you mail a check for a business expense, the check needs to be in the mail and postmarked in 2013 to be a deductible 2013 expense. If it’s a big check, maybe you should spend a little extra to send it Certified Mail so you can document the postmark.

If you receive a check in the mail, it’s taxable the day you receive it, even if you don’t deposit it.

There is no “close is good enough” rule for cash basis taxpayers. Just because you could have paid a bill doesn’t get you a deduction if you didn’t pay it before year-end.

Don’t overdo it. If you prepay expenses more than a year out, you don’t get the deduction until the year to which the payment applies.

- If you are making a gift to a loved one to qualify for the $14,000 annual gift tax exclusion, having the check in the mail isn’t good enough. A check has to be cashed for the gift to count against this year’s exclusion.

And in case you didn’t check in over the weekend:

What you need to pay by year-end to get a 2013 business expense deduction and

Hie thee to the altar! Maybe.

Check in tomorrow for the last 2013 year-end tax tip!

 

haroldL.A. Times: Transferable Movie Tax Credits Hurt States, Enrich Studios, Tax Lawyers (TaxProf):

Reitz is one of Hollywood’s new financiers. Just about every major movie filmed on location gets a tax incentive, and Reitz is part of an expanding web of brokers, tax attorneys, financial planners and consultants who help filmmakers exploit the patchwork of state programs to attract film and TV production.

In his case, he takes the tax credits given to Hollywood studios for location filming and sells them to wealthy Georgians looking to shave their tax bills — doctors, pro athletes, seafood suppliers, beer distributors and the like.

Money for Hollywood, fixers, middlemen, and the well-connected, at your expense.  Sort of like every other “economic development” tax credit, only even more so.  Fortunately Iowa, sadder but wiser, has turned to jailing film folks instead of subsidizing them.

 

Russ Fox, Bring Me the Usual Suspects: Small Business Policy Index 2013.  Iowa is 43rd.  Not surprising, when “Of the 47 measures included in the 2013 edition of the Index, 22 are taxes or tax related…”

 

William Perez looks at the Top Tax News Stories of 2013.  His top story took place on the first day of 2013:

1. American Taxpayer Relief Act was passed on January 1, 2013. This tax law instituted at top personal tax rate of 39.6%, bumped up the top capital gains rate to 20%, provided for indexing the alternative minimum tax to inflation, reinstated the phaseouts on itemized deductions and personal exemptions. This law was Congress’s way of dealing with the fiscal-cliff, which was the name applied to the expiration of a several tax laws first enacted during the Bush administration.

I hope nothing so awful happens on the last day of the year.

Robert D. Flach also looks back with 2013: THE YEAR IN TAXES – PART TWO

 

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.

Annette NellenNew IRS Commissioner – Does anyone care?

“Despite running a significant organization with over 92,000 employees that collects over $2.2 trillion of revenue and affects the lives of most people in the U.S., it doesn’t seem to me that anyone really cares about who is running the IRS.”

That’s unfortunate.  As the tax law has become the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, the Commissioner oversees a sprawling portfolio ranging from health policy to campaign finance to industrial policy.  There’s more power in the IRS than in most cabinet agencies.  And as the disastrous regime of Doug Shulman proved, an awful Commissioner can cause a lot of damage to taxpayers and to the agency.

 

Jim Maule, Contracting a Tax Outcome.  “When a taxpayer signs a contract, the terms of that contract quite often dictate the tax consequence.”

 

 

What could go wrong?  French High Court OKs 75 Percent Tax For Top Earners (Iowa Public Radio)

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Tony Nitti, A Tax On Cycling: Too Steep A Hill To Climb Or Just Around The Corner?  With talk of replacing gas taxes with mileage charges based, presumably, on tracking your whereabouts, it’s not surprising that they want to tax any alternatives to cars.

 

 

 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 235

Jack Townsend, Judge’s Improper Question of Defendant as Witness is not Reversible 

 

That’s the only way the team overachieved.  St. Louis Rams say they collected too much ticket sales tax (Kay Bell)

 

Oh, this will end well.  “The Game: I’m a pot-smokin’ Tax Fraud” (TMZ).  The first rule of Tax Fraud Club: don’t talk about Tax Fraud Club.

TaxGrrrl takes a look at Mr. Game’s tax claims in  Game Offers Tax Advice To Rappers: Write Off Strippers, Sneaks And Medical Marijuana:

Next, those Jordans. Clothing is deductible if the only purpose of the clothing/uniform is for business purposes (meaning that you must wear them as a condition of employment) and not suitable for everyday use. Clothing is not deductible if you could wear it outside of your workplace (even if you don’t). Those Jordans? Not merely for business purposes. And Game would totally wear them outside of business. 

In case you’re wondering, rappers are not required to take any tax continuing education.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/20/13: Are reports of the death of Instant Tax Service premature? And: film credits = bait car?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
"Fez" Ogbasion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

“Fez” Ogbazion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

Is Instant Tax Service still dead?  Maybe not, reports TaxGrrrl: In Apparent Defiance Of Court Order, Fourth Largest Tax Biz In Country Preps For Sale :

Within a week of the Order, [founder "Fez"] Ogbazion was said to be engaged in discussions relating to the sale of the company, an activity that would appear to be barred under the injunction. Todd Bryant, General Counsel for ITS Financial, confirmed via email that “[a]n asset sale is being considered.”

It was a puzzle, though, as to who might be interested in purchasing the beleaguered company.

An insider, it turns out.  TaxGrrrl questions whether that will work, given that the court order seems designed to destroy the company and salt the earth so it can never return.  Judge for yourself (my emphasis):

Based on the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED pursuant to I.R.C. §§ 7402 and 7408 that Defendants ITS Financial, LLC, TCA Financial, LLC, Tax Tree, LLC, and Fesum Ogbazion, and their representatives, agents, employees, attorneys, and/or any person or entity acting in active concert or participation with them, are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from directly or indirectly, by use of any means:

A. Operating, or being involved with in any way, any work or business relating in any way to preparation of tax returns; and, accordingly, Defendants ITS Financial, LLC, TCA Financial, LLC, and Tax Tree, LLC shall cease to operate; and Defendant Fesum Ogbazion shall cease operating, or being involved with in any way, any work or business relating in any way to preparation of tax returns;

B. Acting as tax return preparers; and/or acting or operating as a franchisor of businesses relating in any way to preparation of tax returns;

C. Supervising or managing or assisting tax return preparers; and/or owning, operating, or engaging in work or a business relating in any way to preparation of tax returns;

D. Assisting with or directing the preparation or filing of tax returns, amended returns, claims for refund, or other related documents;

E. Representing before the Internal Revenue Service any person or organization whose tax liabilities are under examination or investigation by the IRS;

F. Organizing, promoting, providing, advising or selling any business or work of tax services;

They seem to be looking for a loophole here by selling assets, rather than stock, though the injunction against “selling any business” would seem to cover that.  I suspect the judge will make things clear in the coming days.

Prior coverage: Judge shuts down Instant Tax Service.

 

Instant Tax, meet Mo’ Money.  Owner of St. Louis tax prep franchise gets 20 months for 20130919-2fraud (stltoday.com):

The owner of a Mo’ Money tax preparation franchise in St. Louis was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty in July to conspiracy to commit tax fraud and aiding and abetting the preparation of false tax returns.

Jimi Clark, 57, of Memphis, Tenn., and four employees were arrested and indicted in October 2012 on one felony count each of conspiracy to commit tax fraud. All were accused of falsely claiming educational tax credits on at least 47 tax returns for 2009.

Refundable credits like the American Opportunity Credit and the Earned Income Credit are the fuel for the fraudulent return industry.

 

haroldLyman Stone,  California Film Tax Credit Faces Controversy, Delay (Tax Policy Blog):

 A recent FBI sting in California revealed that state Senator Ron Calderon may have taken up to $60,000 in exchange for pushing to lower eligibility requirements for California’s $100-million-a-year film tax incentive program. This isn’t the first time film incentives have been connected to corruption and scandal. Indeed, a scandal about misallocation of film tax credits ultimately led to the demise of Iowa’s program over the last few years.

Sometimes I think that Iowa’s Film Credit Program was just an elaborate “Bait Car” episode that ultimately didn’t run because the stealing was too easy.

 

Elizabeth MalmMaryland Governor Touts Benefits of Film Tax Credits, Despite Evidence to the Contrary  (Tax Policy Bl0g).  Iowa has stopped giving filmmakers money and is instead giving them time, with no apparent bad economic effects.

Kay Bell, Coast-to-coast concerns about film and TV tax credits

 

David Henderson, Saez You: Income Distribution without Key Components of Income.  It turns out one of the most-cited articles on income inequality leaves out a lot of income, particularly government transfers and welfare benefits.  He notes notes, increased transfers are always advocated as a cure for inequality, and yet by the measuring stick used, it can never “help.”

 

Clint Stretch, Turning Down the Heat on Energy Tax Policy  (Tax Analysts Blog).  He notes the new oil and gas boom, and that “Oil and gas tax incentives are not responsible.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 195

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

Howard Gleckman, Baucus Proposes International Tax Reform But Future Action Remains Uncertain (TaxVox)

According to the plan, passive income from overseas activities would continue to be taxed at U.S. rates. Most income from the sale of goods and services overseas would also be taxed at full U.S. rates. The draft would end the practice of deferral that allows firms to avoid U.S. tax on foreign earnings until they bring those profits home. However, income that is currently parked overseas would be taxed at a 20 percent rate payable over 8 years.

Baucus would move the U.S. closer to a territorial system favored by many multinationals and GOP lawmakers. Under such a system, income is taxed in the jurisdiction where it is earned rather than by the firm’s home country. While the plan does not fix a specific tax rate, staffers say Baucus is aiming to reduce the corporate rate from 35 percent to about 30 percent.

But in the Baucus plan, this shift closer to a territorial tax comes at a price. To limit the ability of multinationals to game the system, the plan would impose a stiff minimum tax on income earned overseas by foreign affiliates of U.S. parent companies.

Reducing the corporate rate is fine, but remember that most business income is taxed on 1040s anymore.

 

Tax Justice Blog,  Statement from CTJ Director Robert McIntyre: Is the Baucus Plan for Multinational Corporations a Prelude to a Middle-Class Tax Increase?

 

Peter Reilly has been playing hooky at the commemoration of yesterday’s 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.  I’m jealous.

The Critical Question: Hasn’t the Government Done Enough to Mess Up Higher Education Finance? (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog)  Well, I’m sure they can always mess it up even more.

News from the Profession. Non-Traditional Holiday Celebrations at Accounting Firms, Care To Add Yours?

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/11/13: Sheldon edition. And: masterminds!

Monday, November 11th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

Greetings to our Veteran readers for Veteran’s day!  Though perhaps “greetings” doesn’t summon the best memories.

The Tax Update comes to you today from sunny Sheldon, Iowa:

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Well, it’s sunny indoors at Northwest Iowa Community College, where I am participating in the Sheldon Session of the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School.  I’m the “urban” part.  Seats at the remaining schools are going fast, so register today!

 

Joseph Henchman, FBI Says California State Senator Accepted Bribes to Support Film Tax Credits (Tax Policy Blog).  He cites the LA Times:

 According to the affidavit, posted on Al Jazeera’s website, [State Senator Ronald] Calderon [D-Montebello] allegedly accepted $60,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as a movie executive and $28,000 more from a medical company owner in exchange for efforts to affect legislation on tax credits for the film industry and on workers’ compensation claims.

That tells you that California is a little more sophisticated than Iowa.  The California guy (allegedly) required money to deliver the keys to the treasury to the film industry.  All the Iowa legislature required was a few autographs and photo-ops with starlets.  Iowa has learned from its mistakes, a little, and now favors jailing filmmakers to subsidizing them.

More from Russ Fox, Another Film Tax Credit Scandal

 

"Fez" Ogbasion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

“Fez” Ogbasion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

TaxGrrrl, Fourth Largest Tax Prep Business In The Country Shut Down By Feds  “U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black found that ITS had a culture of “fraud and deception.”

My coverage of Instant Tax Service here.

 

Phil Hodgen,  Distributions from foreign grantor trusts and U.S. paperwork.  “This is a Form 3520 “research in a box” blog post for you, BP. Because you asked.”

William Perez, Social Security Wage Base Increases for 2014

Kay Bell, 12 charitable groups that would love to take your tax-deductible Typhoon Haiyan relief donations

Fiduciary Income Tax Blog, Federal Unified Credit for 2014.  $5,340,000.

Jack Townsend, Swiss Bankers Expect to Share Data for Tax Purposes

Robert W. Wood, Lawyer For NFL Players Sidelined Permanently…True Chicago Style?

Annette Nellen, Growing support for lower corporate rate and territorial system.  Good, but remember that the corporate rate doesn’t even cover most business income.

Tax Justice Blog, GE-Sponsored “Territorial” Study Promotes Agenda of Tax Avoidance

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions aka Procedure Roundup for 11/08/13.  Excellent roundup for procedure fans.

 

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Robert D. Flach, I HATE K-1s!  Robert adds what I will call Flach’s Iron Law: “All K-1s usually arrive late.”  He then proceeds into a fine rant:

While I have not done any specific calculations, I firmly believe that often the additional costs to properly prepare the federal and state income tax returns for taxpayers with K-1 investments is as much as or more than the actual income, or tax benefits if any, generated from the investment.  If the money invested in these limited partnerships were instead invested in related mutual funds I expect the investor would do better.  His/her tax preparation costs would certainly be less.
 
Of course brokers never tell their clients this when selling them the investment.

While K-1s from closely-held businesses are normal and healthy, Robert is exactly right about the kinds of K-1s often seen in investment accounts.

 

Nicotine withdrawal.  Iowa tobacco tax revenue has declined, report says (KTIV.com)

 

Great moments in economic development.  Miami Replaces Tampa As IRS Tax Fraud Capital

 

The Critical Question.  An Isley Brother In Tax Court – Does Tax Crime Pay?  (Peter Reilly).

 

“Mastermind”?  I think the term is overused.  Example: “Mastermind of tax fraud scheme pleads guilty” (Examiner.net).  How did the prosecutor describe the diabolically clever scheme at issue?

“This scheme was based on a nonsensical formula that any honest person would instantly recognize was patently absurd and fraudulent,” U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said in a statement. “Fortunately, the vast majority of these refund claims were detected by the IRS and denied.”

They need a new term for somebody who organizes a really dumb crime.  Disastermaster? Blunderbrain?  Any ideas are welcome in the comments.

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Tax Update, 10/8/13: One week left! What to do if the K-1 never comes. And: money for Harold Hill!

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130311-1Extended 1040s are due one week from today.  There is no second extension available.

I know, the timing might not be good.  But if it hasn’t been good enough to get your tax information together since January, it will probably never be good.   If you don’t scrape up every loss at the slots or every item you dropped off at Goodwill, it doesn’t matter.

You probably aren’t waiting on K-1s anymore.  Tax returns for partnerships, S corporations and Trusts with income reportable on 1040s  were due September 16.  You should have all of your information in hand, and it’s just a matter of spending an hour or two getting it together and to your waiting preparer.  If you are still “working on it,” you’re either overdoing it or not really working on it.

If you don’t have all of your information — if, for example, you are still missing a K-1 — get ready to file as best you can without it.  If it’s a small K-1, you probably can just ignore it.  If it’s a big one, then talk to your preparer.  If it will only generate a passive loss that you can’t use, just go ahead and file without it by October 15, as it won’t affect the amount of your 2012 tax.  If you believe the K-1 will show taxable income when it is finally released, you should talk it over with your preparer.  Use any information you have to take a shot at what the tax will be.

Big or small, income or loss, be sure to file Form 8082 with your return to tell the IRS that you are filing using numbers that aren’t on a K-1.  It helps protect you from penalties.

In any case, don’t ignore the K-1, or pretend it will be zero when you know better.  That doesn’t work.  File by the extended due date.  You’ll get much better results by filing on time and amending if necessary than by filing late.  The penalties for late payment if you owe on an amended return — if any — won’t exceed 1/2% of the underpayment per month.  The penalties on a late-filed return run to 5% per month.

 

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Harold Hill gets a check.  The Iowa Film Tax Credit is repealed, but it is still stimulating the economy for Iowa attorneys and small-time filmmakers.  The Des Moines Register reports that the state has agreed to pay $225,000 to a Rhode Island man miffed that Iowa stopped the film credit gravy train:

The settlement is with financers of the movie “2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams,” which is available on Netflix.

The settlement will partially resolve a lawsuit brought by Anthony Gudas of Providence, R.I., who said his company, Tax Credit Finance, invested money in four film projects based on contracts with the state where tax credits were never paid.

The lawsuit for the three other film projects continues.

The film credit program caused a brief frenzy of production activity before it collapsed following revelations of taxpayer funds buying luxury cars for filmmakers.  A state audit showed that about 80% of the $36 million in credits issued by the program were improper and that oversight was almost non-existent.  Seven film figures ultimately copped pleas or were convicted at trial for cheating on the program, with two filmmakers earning 10-year prison terms.

And the three remaining lawsuits?  From the Register story:

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Thompson in December said for three of the films, producers had not submitted documentation the state needed for the projects to qualify for the credits.  And, in the fourth, state officials said the producer, Harel Goldstein of California, had created false invoices. Goldstein later pled guilty to felony fraud and forgery charges in connection to the invoices.

So the program was looted; “But some benefits can’t just be measured on a dollar-for-dollar basis.” Don’t you wish we were giving more money to Hollywood?

 

Grover’s coming to town.   Tax opponent Grover Norquist to speak in Iowa Wednesday.  (Des Moines Register). I won’t be able to attend, but it should be interesting.

 

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

TaxGrrrl, The View From The Trenches: What The Shutdown Has Meant So Far For Taxpayers:

My advice to taxpayers: pretend things are normal. Yes, that feels nearly impossible. But to the extent possible, file as usual and make payments as usual. But don’t get too complacent: all of those meetings, calls and audits will be rescheduled eventually: it’s a delay, not a complete reprieve.

Sound advice.

William Perez, IRS Shut Down, Week 2

 

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Medical Dependent 

 

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #121: TaxtoberFest 2013.  Looks delicious!

 

20131003-1Andrew Lundeen,  Obamacare Raises Marginal Tax Rates above 50 Percent.  Not just for “the rich,” either.

Megan McArdle,  Republicans Didn’t Sabotage Health Exchanges, Obama Did.  “In short, the administration passed a law with an unrealistically aggressive implementation schedule. And because of the way it passed it, it had no way to finesse that deadline.”  But it would be horrible blackmail for Congress to delay it for a year.

 

 

 

Clint Stretch, Tax Reform Is on Furlough (Tax Analysts Blog).   “As long as Congress is fighting over a continuing resolution and the debt limit, there is no oxygen in the room for other initiatives. Members will be stuck on their talking points, and constituents won’t be thinking about tax reform.”

Robert W. Wood, Bitcoin Is Biggest Loser In Silk Road Meltdown—IRS Wins Big

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 152

Jeremy Scott, It Isn’t Time to Bury the Income Tax Just Yet (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tax Justice Blog,  State News Quick Hits: Brownback Under Fire, and More

 

The Critical Question: Should Small Business Have Veto Power Over Corporate Tax Reform? (Martin Sullivan, Tax Analysts Blog)

Robert D. Flach has his Tuesday Buzz on!

 

Note: There will be no Tax Roundup tomorrow.  See you Thursday!

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Tax Roundup, 6/7/2013: Mexican land trust arrangements aren’t U.S. trusts. And don’t settle for just bad enough!

Friday, June 7th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image by Christian under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image by Christian under Creative Commons license.

The IRS had good news for many Americans owning property in Mexico.  In Rev. Rul. 2013-14, the IRS ruled that a “fideicomiso” land trust enabling Americans to hold residential property in parts of Mexico is not a trust for U.S. tax purposes.  This means taxpayers who haven’t been reporting these as trusts on Form 3520 aren’t exposed to the $10,000 annual penalty that applies to taxpayers who fail to report their foreign trusts.

Andrew Mitchel: Fideicomisos/Mexican Land Trusts are Not Trusts (Finally)  “Now if the I.R.S. will only conclude the same for Canadian tax free savings accounts (“TFSAs”).”

 

Peter Reilly,  IRS Does Not Spend Enough On Conferences. “Actively trying to demoralize the IRS employees to score political points rubs salt into the wound.”

Don’t settle for just bad enough.  The IRS: It’s Bad Enough (Christopher Bergin, Tax Analysts Blog).

The IRS is seriously and dangerously broken. This is not only unfair to the many dedicated public servants at the IRS; it’s unfair to all of us. Get to the truth. Arbitrarily punishing the IRS isn’t going to help any more than blindly defending the agency. The IRS needs fixing and it needs it now, and that starts with new and strong leadership inside the agency, and a President who is willing to spend the political capital on  IRS reform. We don’t have that President. As for the Republicans, they’d rather turn the IRS into Monica Lewinsky.

Somehow I don’t think the IRS will ever be that cooperative.

Patrick Temple-West,  IRS staff say Washington officials helped direct the probe of tea-party groups (Tax Break)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 29.

 

Terrible news for tax practitioners from Russ Fox:  IRS Reportedly Will Close eServices’ Disclosure Authorization Program.  This program saves weeks in solving mystery IRS notices.  Closing it throws sand in the gears of tax compliance.

 

20130607-2Howard Gleckman,  Let Legal Marijuana Dispensaries Deduct Their Business Expenses.  Even when states legalize it, punitive tax rules make it almost impossible to sell legal pot profitably.

 

Brian Maharry, Abusive Tax Shelter Results In $100 Million Assessment

Tax Trials,  Value Matters, Even as Tax Court Denies Conservation Easement Deduction

Fiduciary Income Tax Blog:  FBAR Due Date — 2013.  It’s June 30, kids.

 

In America, we only do this when the Tax Man asks us to.  Italian businessmen drop trou to protest tax collector (Kay Bell)

Child Abuse? Parents to Children: Be a Lawyer, Marry a Lawyer (Jim Maule)

 

TaxGrrrl, Federal Gas Tax Passes Another Milestone: What Is The Future?

We’re closing early to go to the parties.  Happy Birthday to the Federal Gasoline Tax (Philip Hammersley, Tax Policy Blog); Tax Justice Blog,  A Not So Happy 35th Birthday for Proposition 13 But first be sure to catch Robert D. Flach’s Friday Buzz 

 

We were happy to pay him, it was some of his best work.  Another British filmmaker faces jail time for scamming the U.K. film tax credit system in making a film that never made it to the screen, reports the Express:

The scam included a bogus invoice suggesting Kill Bill star Carradine was paid more than £400,000 for 13 days worth of work, even though he had died two weeks prior to the date stamped on the notice.

This is the second criminal film project to hit the news in the U.K.; another one hilariously involved a film thrown together when the operators sensed the authorities were catching on to their scam.  Meanwhile two filmmakers are serving out their 10-year sentences for scamming the Iowa film credit program.  You’d almost think maybe these film credits are just a scam entirely.

 

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Tax Roundup, May 1, 2013: Brittannia gets behind filmmakers in a big way. Also: IRS power grab takes a new direction.

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

hh44.jpgNew U.K. film tax credit indictments.  It appears that the Brits are slowly moving towards the Iowa approach of jailing filmmakers instead of subsidizing them.  Ic.Scotland.co.uk reports:

Five people are to be charged in connection with a film industry tax relief fraud which cost the public purse around £125 million, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The group allegedly abused a tax relief that allows investors in the British film industry to offset losses against other tax liabilities in order to cheat the public revenue.

“Around £125 million” translates to around $194 million.  And in Iowa film producers are serving time for stealing merely single digits of millions.  It just goes to show what you can accomplish with a national effort.

 

Boo.  House bill would give IRS authority to regulate tax pros (Kay Bell)  The power grabbers at IRS and their buddies at the national franchise tax prep firms have been thwarted by the courts.  Now they are using their congresscritter friends to put in the fix.

Kay sadly falls for it:

The quality independent tax professionals are following tax law changes, staying up to date and providing their clients with reliable tax services. Down the  street, however, an inept preparer is undercutting their prices and mucking up the system for all of us — the IRS, tax pros and taxpayers alike.

The IRS can’t regulate anybody into competency.  They can make people pass a “competency” test that really is a literacy test.  They can make people pay for CPE.  But they can’t make anybody competent who wouldn’t be otherwise.    What they can do is drive little preparers out of the business with nagging paperwork, red tape and hassles that the big boys can just assign to their compliance departments, and, when necessary, to their lobbyists.  This reduces the supply of preparers, increasing the cost of preparation for taxpayers.

The real problem with tax errors isn’t preparers; it’s the horrendous tax law and the inept legislators who make it happen.

 

Jacob Sullum on the Burden of Online Sales Taxes (Reason.com):

In a 2011 paper published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Veronique de Rugy and Adam Thierer recommended “an ‘origin-based’ sourcing rule for any states seeking to impose sales tax collection obligations on interstate vendors.” Under that rule, which mirrors what happens when you buy something while visiting another state, each business collects sales tax on behalf of the state where it is based, no matter where the customer happens to be.

The beauty of this approach is that it treats all retailers equally, eliminates the daunting challenge of dealing with many different taxing authorities, and respects state policy choices while encouraging tax competition between jurisdictions. Evidently the idea makes too much sense for Congress to consider.  

 That would motivate online sellers to locate in low tax jurisdictions, which is why congresscritters from high-tax places will never allow it to happen.

 

Scott Drenkard,  California Considers Soda Tax in 2013, Forgetting Resounding Defeat in 2012 (Tax Policy Blog)

Joseph Thorndike, When Tax Reform Means Soaking the Rich (Tax.com)

Eric Toder,  How to Improve the Tax Subsidy for Home Ownership.  (TaxVox).  Maybe by eliminating it?

Jack Townsend,  John Doe Summons Issued to Wells Fargo for Records of CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank Correspondent Account

Patrick Temple-West,  FATCA hurts Americans abroad, and more (Tax Break)

 

J.D. Tuccille, If High Cigarette Taxes Fuel a Booming Black Market, What Will High Marijuana Taxes Do?  (Reason.com).

David Brunori, Pancho Villa and Three Hundred Million Joints (Tax.com)

 

News you can use:  How Not to Deduct 85,491 Miles (Russ Fox)

 The Critical Question:  Has Microsoft Excel Ruined the World? (Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 3/26/2013: Snatching defeat from the jaws of preparer-regulation victory. And: Iowa leads, UK follows on film.

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130326-1Film tax credit scams are big news in the U.K. right now.  An Irish actress, Aoife Madden, yesterday received a 54-month sentence in her role in scamming a U.K. film tax credit scheme.  Irish Times reports:

The group successfully claimed £1.5 million in film tax breaks after they said they intended to make a film titled Landscape of Lives  with a £19 million budget, funded by Jordanian backers.     

Once they were arrested two years ago, the five hurriedly produced a film called, ironically, Landscape of Lies for just £90,000, which went on to win a Silver Ace award from last year’s Las Vegas Film Festival.     

The film, which starred former EastEnders actor Marc Bannerman and Andrea McClean, told the story of a former British soldier’s attempts to discover the truth behind his friend’s murder in an apparent mugging.     

Before suspicions had been aroused, Madden’s London film company, Evolved Pictures, told revenue and customs that millions had been spent on Hollywood A-list actors and film crew when it lodged a value added tax repayment application for £1.48 million. It received more than £1 million.

Lost in the coverage is Iowa’s pioneering role in film tax credit scams.  A little-known film producer from Minnesota came here and showed the Brits just how it’s done:

Take Iowa. A start-up called Polynation Pictures came looking for backing for a sci-fi flick so lame it would have embarrassed Ed Wood. With a financing scheme worthy of Max Bialystock, the con these folks pulled was nearly as inept as the film they made, but Iowa’s film office was too starry eyed to notice.

The $767,250 production Polynation Pictures proposed eventually came in at $3.7 million. This was achieved in part with preposterous expenses. Producers claimed they paid $1,350 to rent six orange road cones. The use of two 6-foot ladders supposedly cost the company $900 (a bargain, as Polynation claimed to have spent another $900 to rent a single 8-foot ladder). Among production necessities was a new Mercedes. The partners set up an array of separate companies and used them to bill themselves extravagantly for work supposedly done on the picture. These were presented to Iowa as “deferred payments”—to be paid if the movie made money (which the enterprise was sure to do when Iowa handed the tax credits over). The only thing missing was a staged rendition of “Springtime for Hitler.”

Polynation mastermind Wendy Weiner Runge received 10 years for her star turn in the film credit program.

The film credit program was touted as a way to make Iowa a leader in the film world.  And, in a way, it did.

You might be interested in this interview with Ms. Madden about her role in the film, knowing what we know now.  She said this:

This project has been a crazy but wonderful challenge!! I’ve always wanted to produce a feature, and have a number of projects in development, but this was the one I just wanted to lift off the page. I think the biggest challenge was sourcing finance, which is no surprise for an independent film company. We were extremely lucky to find international investors and lobby them to back the project, but this was a lengthy process and has always been a challenge.

A challenge, yes, but I’m not sure they turned out lucky.

 

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Now that the courts have saved the IRS from itself by shutting down the misguided preparer regulation system, the Senate rides to the rescue to screw everything up again, Accounting Today reports:

The two leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and ranking Republican member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have begun developing proposals for reforming the U.S. Tax Code, including giving the Internal Revenue Service the clear statutory authority to regulate tax preparers in case the IRS loses its appeal of a recent court case invalidating its Registered Tax Return Preparer regime.

The IRS can’t answer its phones.  Its pockets are being picked to the tune of billions by semi-literate South Florida grifters.  And the Senate thinks that preparers are the problem?   Preparer regulation is a market-share enhancement program for the national franchise tax prep outfits;  the rules were written by a former H&R Block CEO.  If Senators Baucus and Hatch want to re-enact these anti-competitive and useless rules, it just shows who they really represent.  (Via Going Concern). 

 

Howard Gleckman,  Congress Has Not Passed A 2014 Budget, and Probably Won’t (TaxVox).  Why do that, when Henry and Robert have other chores for them?

Joseph Henchman,  Senate Votes on Tax Proposals, Including State Taxation of Internet Commerce.  (Tax Policy Blog) Amazon taxes seem inevitable.  Otherwise Wal-Mart can’t compete with a guy selling things from his basement on the Internet.

Brian Strahle,  The Marketplace Fairness Act:  Is It Really Fair?

Kay Bell,  Online sales tax a step closer with Senate budget amendment

Thanks, you’ve helped enough already.  A New Proposal to Promote American Manufacturing (Martin Sullivan, Tax.com).

 

Jack Townsend, Supreme Court Will Decide Whether B____t Tax Shelters with Basis Overstatements Draw the 40% Penalty

Tony Nitti,  What Are Your Odds Of Being Audited By The IRS?

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2013): N Is For Notice Of Deficiency

Missouri Tax Guy,  Social Security Benefits, are they taxable?

Patrick Temple-West, Proposals to tax trades spark financial firm lobbying, and more (Tax Break)

Peter Reilly,  Has Scalia Already Thrown In The Towel On Same Sex Marriage ?

Dan Meyer, “Where No Tax Rate Has Gone Before…”

Trish McIntire,  That Reminder – 2013. “Your Failure to Plan Is Not My Emergency!”  The tax preparer April battle cry.

 

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Tax Roundup, February 25, 2013: And the award for the dumbest economic development tax credit goes to…

Monday, February 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

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Field of bad dreams.  TheFiscalTimes.com says Iowa is the ninth worst state for taxes:

The Hawkeye State gets a black eye for being the second worst state for corporate taxes, with a 12 percent rate. It also ranks 37th in property taxes, 33rd in individual income taxes and 34th in unemployment insurance taxes.

 They accompany the article with this photo of the “Field of Dreams” — an unwitting illustration of the problems of Iowa tax policy.  The Governor last year signed a proposal giving a special sales tax exemption to a private athletic complex being built around the field, made slightly famous in the Kevin Costner movie.  It’s special carve-outs like this that make for high rates and complicated taxes all around.

 

Speaking of movie-related scams, Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes in the Wall Street Journal The Hollywood Tax Story They Won’t Tell at the Oscars.  Here he talks about how it worked out in Michigan:

State leaders ballyhooed the plan as a way of moving from old-style industry to new.           

Despite tens of millions of dollars in state investment, the promised 3,000-plus jobs didn’t appear. As the Detroit Free Press reported last year, the studio employed only 15-20 people. That isn’t boffo. That’s a bust. The studio has defaulted on interest payments on state-issued bonds, and the guarantors—the state’s already stressed pension funds—may wind up holding the bag. “In retrospect, it was a mistake,” conceded Robert Kleine, the former state treasurer who signed off on the plans in 2010.

He doesn’t neglect Iowa’s film fiasco:

Iowa ended its motion-picture subsidies in 2010, after officials misused $26 million in state money, leading to criminal charges. According to a 2008 investigation by Iowa Auditor David Vaudt, 80% of tax credits issued under the state’s film-subsidy program had been issued improperly (to production companies that weren’t even spending the money in Iowa, for example).

 

Two film credit recipients are now serving 10-year sentences on theft charges arising from the program.  That’s fine, but I really want to see a groveling public apology from the Governor who signed the program into law, the “economic development officials” who turned the keys to the state treasury over to a former Walgreens photo desk clerk in charge of the program, and to the legislators — all but three out of 150 — who voted the moronic program into existence.

 

 

Sequestration panic at the IRS.  Politico adds IRS cuts to the least of things we’re supposed to freak out about in the face of the tiny impending sequestration spending cuts:
“At a minimum, it’s probably going to take longer for people to get through on the phone; it’s going to take longer for refunds to be processed,” said Floyd Williams, a senior tax counsel at Public Strategies Washington.

Williams, who worked for the IRS for nearly two decades and directed the agency’s legislative affairs office for 16 years, says the sequester could also be a boon to those who purposely commit fraud, or accidentally fill out returns incorrectly.

Good thing the IRS can redirect the employees who had been assigned to the preparer regulation program to do something useful, now that the courts have shut down that futile enterprise.  The IRS can’t stand their good fortune, though; Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the IRS is appealing the court decision.

It would be even better if Congress stopped using the IRS as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Given the agency’s new mandate to take care of our health insurance, their performance at the job of actually collecting taxes is only going to get worse.


Preparers gone bad.  Accounting Today rounds up the week in preparer fraud, including a guy in New Mexico who, while serving time for identity theft-related charges, has been hit with 56 counts of fraud and embezzlement.  That would be overachieving in underachieving.

 

Hak Ghun will travel.  To Club Fed. From DurangoHerald.com:

Durango man pleaded guilty to tax evasion this week in federal court in New Mexico.

Hak Ghun, 62, is facing 12 to 18 months in prison after signing a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He also will be required to pay $249,567 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

The man was accused of embezzling from a company that had received investments from the Navajo Nation. For those who don’t get the old TV show reference, here you go.


 

Paul Neiffer,  Safe to File After March 1

If a fire is worth fighting, it’s worth fighting in style.  But the firefighter still can’t deduct the Benz.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

Janet Novack,  The Forbes 2013 Tax Guide

Peter Reilly, Don’t Be Fooled By E-Mail ‘From IRS’ – But Don’t Ignore Their Snailmail

Jim Maule,  Tax Law Provision Enforceable Even if Unwise.  That would be most of them.  For example…

Tax Effects of the Health Care Act (Missouri Tax Guy)

Patrick Temple-West, Payroll tax’s return hits retailers, and more (Tax Break)


These guys are what I call real public servants.  Vigilantes fighting revenue-driven traffic enforcement (The Telegraph, London).

Breaking:  Women Are Not Men: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Today’s Going Concern employment tip: Accountant on Probation for Embezzlement Still More Employable Than the Average Non-Accountant (Temporarily)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/5/2012: Happy Repeal Day! Too bad it’s not the tax code.

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Happy National Repeal Day!

 

Either we cut spending or everyone will pay more taxes.  This post by Veronique de Rugy puts together in one handy package some points I have been trying to drive home about budget and tax policy.  It’s all worth reading, but some key items include:

 In my opinion, the problem with the fiscal-cliff debate has been that no one is acknowledging the fact that there is no way out of raising taxes on everyone eventually unless Congress gets serious about addressing our long-term fiscal problem, by restraining spending.

“The Rich” simply don’t have enough income to foot the bill.  But borrowing temporarily hides the problem:

This, by the way, is why I thought the Bush years were so toxic. Cutting taxes while increasing spending dramatically — Bush increased real spending by 60 percent, as opposed to Clinton’s increase of 12.5 percent — is a recipe for large deficits leading more taxes later or certainly intense pressure to raise taxes.

What will taxes look like when the bill comes due?

This weekend, Mark Steyn gave us an idea of what that tax bill would look like. He writes:

A couple of years back, Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute calculated that, if Washington were to increase every single tax by 30 percent, it would be enough to balance the books — in 25 years. If you were to raise taxes by 50 percent, it would be enough to fund our entitlement liabilities — just our current ones, not our future liabilities, which would require further increases.

Finland shows how high taxes have to be to adequately fund a lavish welfare state, as I have noted:

Finland has an extensive welfare state and most years pays for it without budget deficits.  It does so with income taxes that reach a 2012 top rate of 29.75% at €70,301, which is about $57,021 at current exchange rates.  For a US taxpayer filing single, the 28% rate doesn’t start until taxable income reaches $85,651, and not up to $142,701 on joint returns.  On top of that, Finns pay a 23% Value-added tax on most purchases — a tax that is not tied to income.  But there’s more!  There is a mandatory 4.7% payroll tax on employee gross wages, plus another 18.3% “paid” by the employer — but that necessarily reduces what they can pay the employee after-tax.

I’m not sure all that would go over well here, but that’s what we’re headed for.  Anybody who says rich people can pay for all of the free government stuff is either clueless or lying.  The rich guy isn’t buying.

 

Megan McArdle,  Who Gets More Damaged If We Go Over the Fiscal Cliff?  At least there’s a drink at the bottom.

At least the weather’s nice.  Oh, maybe not…  Top Federal Marginal Tax Rate Will Exceed 50% in California, New York, and Hawaii in 2013 (TaxProf)

Amy Feldman,  Getting ready for the Medicare tax on investment income   (Reuters)

Don’t think he actually plans to pay the higher taxes he supports.  Warren Buffett Makes Money On Tax Breaks He Discredits (Steve Stanek, IBD)

Joseph Thorndike, Moral Abdication Dressed Up Like Hard-Nosed Realism (Tax.com)

 

But think of the intangible benefits of the Iowa film tax credit program! Film financier sues state over unpaid film credits (AP)  The producer of one of the films involved in the suit pleaded guilty to felony chargesarising from tax credits for the film.

Joseph Henchman,New York Times Tells the Tale of Michigan’s Bankrupt State-Backed Film Studio (Tax Policy Blog Oh, and Happy 75th Birthday to the Tax Foundation! 

 

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #109: Tax Stocking Stuffers

TaxGrrrl,  12 Days of Charitable Giving 2012: Be An Elf

Russ Fox,Nominations Due for 2012 Tax Offender of the Year.  ‘Tis the Season!

Must be a Cubs fan. Hapless Mr. Williams Loses Again (Jack Townsend)

Nor do I.  No, I Don’t Plan to Take the RTRP Exam (Jason Dinesen). 

Jim Maule, The Hidden Government Spending Game.  Spending doesn’t become something else just because you run it through a tax return.

Trish McIntire, Do You Have a Spare $2,350?  You do?  Good, you may need to send it to the IRS in April if Congress doesn’t “patch” the Alternative Minimum Tax for this year.

Peter Reilly, Hobby Losses – Need To Convince Tax Court You Love Money More Than The Game

Robert D. Flach has his Wednesday Buzz roundup of tax posts up!

 

 

Holistic auto healing?  Cadillac chiropractor sent to prison for tax fraud  (Mlive.com)

The Critical Question:  Bartlett: The Fiscal Cliff and the Debt Limit — What Would Lincoln Do? (TaxProf)

Judge Holmes Quote of the day. 

Allison T. O’Neil, the ex-wife of Michael J. O’Neil, does not want to pay a penny of their joint 2005 federal tax liability because, she says, it [*2] would be inequitable to make her do so.

2 Michael recalls providing Allison with $6,000 to $10,000 per month. Allison recalls getting only $6,000 per month.

Cite: O’Neil, T.C. Memo 2012-339

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Tax Roundup, 11/14/2012: So what about the other $8.4 trillion?

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Tell me when they get serious about the budget.  The federal budget deficit is running about $1 trillion annually.  So how does the President propose to address it?  Primarily by increasing taxes by $1.6 trillion — over 10 years.  And, of course, no real spending cuts.  The TaxProf links this:

Wall Street Journal:  Obama Sets Steep Tax Target: President to Seek $1.6 Trillion More in Revenue, Double Level From 2011 Talks:

President Barack Obama will begin budget negotiations with congressional leaders Friday by calling for $1.6 trillion in additional tax revenue over the next decade, far more than Republicans are likely to accept and double the $800 billion discussed in talks with GOP leaders during the summer of 2011. …

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), dismissed the president’s opening position for the negotiations. He said Mr. Boehner’s proposal to revamp the tax code and entitlement programs is “consistent with the president’s call for a ‘balanced’ approach.” …

In negotiations between Messrs. Boehner and Obama in mid-2011, the two sides neared agreement on a plan to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, including $800 billion in new revenue. The deal fell apart after Mr. Obama asked to raise the revenue component to $1.2 trillion, and to this day each side blames the other for the collapse. Based on that history, some senior GOP aides said they believed a likely compromise would call for about $1 trillion in new tax revenue, possibly from capping deductions for wealthier taxpayers.

As noted here, a straight dollar cap on itemized deductions would still be a tax increase on pass-through businesses.  Taxpayers who report business income on their personal returns have to deduct the state income taxes as itemized deductions, rather than as “above-the-line” business expenses.  A straight deduction cap would eliminate the deduction for state income taxes on business income.

How would you be able to tell if they are serious?  When they admit that to have government benefits for everybody, you have to increase taxes for everybody, and that cutting spending by cutting “fraud, abuse and waste” never happens.  The rich guy isn’t buying.

Chart 29. The federal deficit has grown so large that tax increases only on America’s millionaires will not be our silver bullet. Even if the government took all of the income earned by those who have an after-tax income of $1 million or more, the amount of revenue generated would fall far short of eliminating the deficit. The expected federal deficit for 2012 is about $1.2 trillion. The latest IRS data indicates that the total after-tax income for all millionaires is roughly $709 billion. If every penny of that after-tax income were taken by the government through a 100% tax rate, and we assume that no spending cuts are made to accompany the tax increase, this would account for only about 60% of the amount needed to erase the deficit. With numbers like this, one thing is clear: soaking the wealthy with increasingly higher tax rates simply cannot be the only answer to our nation’s fiscal problems.

 

TaxProf,  Democrats Embrace Romney’s Tax Plan to Limit Deductions

Patrick Temple-West,  Essential reading: Democrats like a Romney idea on income tax, and more (Tax Break)

Tell me when they get serious about the budget II: Branstad, Grassley push for extension of wind tax credit (Radio Iowa, via The Beanwalker)

So much for that deficit solution.  ‘Fat Tax’ in Denmark Is Repealed After Criticism (New York Times)

Howard Gleckman,  Congress Can’t Avoid Tax Rate Hikes By Closing “Loopholes” (TaxVox)

 

 

Meanwhile, this upcoming tax season is likely to be horrible.  Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller tells the IRS that many taxpayers may have to wait until late March next year to file, depending on whether and when an “AMT Patch” is enacted (my emphasis):

Without an AMT patch, about 28 million taxpayers would be faced with a very large, unexpected tax liability for the current tax year (2012). In addition, in order to allow time for the IRS to make the programming changes necessary to conform our processing systems to reflect expiration of the AMT patch and the credit ordering rules, the IRS would, at minimum, need to instruct more than 60 million taxpayers that they may not file their tax returns or receive a refund until the IRS completes the necessary systems changes. Because of the magnitude and complexity of the changes, it is entirely possible that these taxpayers would not be able to file until late March 2013, if not even later. Tens of millions of these taxpayers would unexpectedly have to pay additional income tax for 2012, leaving them with a balance due return or a much smaller refund than expected.

Tax season has become more compressed into the last few weeks before April 15 because 1099s and K-1s are issued later every year as a result of tax law complexity.  It looks like it could get much worse.

 

You Gotti like it.   John A. Gotti, son of the convicted organized crime figure, scores a legal victory, convincing the Tax Court not to grant summary judgment for the IRS in a tax case involving a corporation he controls with his wife.  It involves a dispute over whether IRS correspondence mailed to a jail address was a proper notification at the taxpayer’s “last known address.”

 

Another sign of the apocolypse.  There is now on online exchange for trading transferable film tax credits.  Tax Analysts reports ($link)

The newly launched Online Incentives Exchange LLC (OIX) purports to be the first “truly national, transparent, liquid exchange for the trading of state tax credits,” competing against direct brokerages in the trading of transferable and/or refundable state tax credits.

Right now, only Louisiana tax credits are trading on the exchange. Organizers plan to enable trading of California and Georgia credits in December and to eventually list on the exchange transferable and refundable tax credits in the 45 states where those incentives are available.

I prefer Iowa’s new practice of imprisoning filmmakers, myself.

 

Richard Morrison,  What Canada Can Teach Us about Corporate Taxes (Tax Policy Blog)

William Perez,  TIGTA Reveals Cause of Refund Delays that Occurred in Early 2012

Kay Bell,  Superstorm Sandy tax considerations; California cities’ soda tax falls flat

Paul Neiffer,  IRS Announces It Does Not Like Fixed Dollar Gifts

Jason Dinesen,   No to Additional Preparer Testing, Yes to CPE Requirements. I say no to the entire preparer regulation scheme.

Brian Strahle,  What Are Your Year-End State and Local Tax Needs?

Robert D. Flach has an exasperated Buzz.

 

Worse than a computer virus?  McAfee On The Run: Murder and Mayhem (But Few Taxes) In Belize  (TaxGrrrl)

In these troubled times, it’s good to know there are still things we can believe in.  Sixth Circuit Agrees That Cliff Claven Is Not A Thief (Peter Reilly)

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