Posts Tagged ‘Howard Gleckman’

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

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

– Subsidize companies that are already making the chemicals.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

Imagine that.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Also:

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

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

 

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 665.

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

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/10/15: Iowa House may vote on conformity today. And: pass-through isn’t the same as “small.”

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1284Iowa Conformity Update: No action yesterday in the Iowa House on SF 126, the Senate-passed bill that conforms Iowa income to federal rules, except for bonus depreciation. The house version of the bill, HF 125, is scheduled for debate today in the Iowa House. That means we may have a vote today.

Update, 9:15 a.m. SF 126 passes Iowa House, 94-0. The Senate-passed bill was substituted for HF 125 on the floor and approved. It now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Some Pass-Through Businesses are Significant Employers (Tax Policy Blog):

In the United States, most businesses are not C corporations. 95 percent of businesses are what are called pass-through businesses. These businesses are called pass-throughs because their income is passed directly to their owners, who then need to pay individual income taxes on it. Contrast this with C corporations that need to pay the corporate income tax on its income before it passes its earnings to its owners. Combined, pass-through businesses employ 55 percent of all private-sector workers and pay nearly 40 percent of all private-sector payroll.

When business income is taxed on the 1040 and income tax rates are raised, the business has less income to hire and grow.

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Not recognizing the fact that pass-through businesses can be large employers can bring about poor policy choices. For example, increases in the top marginal individual income tax rate will not only hit individuals with high wage income or business income, it may hit a significant number of large employers who are organized as pass-through businesses. Conversely, some policies that are aimed at helping small businesses, such as state-level pass-through business income tax exemptions, could incidentally benefit large established businesses.

Unfortunately, no individual rate is ever high enough for some people.

 

younker elevatorsHoward GleckmanTax Subsidies May Not Help Start-Ups as Much as Lawmakers Think (TaxVox):

But the biggest reason startups may be unable to take advantage of tax subsidies is that they often lose money in their early years. In theory, generous preferences such as Sec. 179, the research and experimentation credit, or even the ability to deduct interest costs are all available to startups. In reality, many cannot use them because they make no profit and, thus, pay no tax.

Firms can carry net operating losses forward for up to 20 years but these NOLs are far less valuable than immediate deductions for three reasons—money loses value over time, some firms never generate enough income to take full advantage of their unused losses, and some lose their NOLs when they are acquired. A 2006 Treasury study found that at least one-quarter of these losses are never used and others lose substantial value.

One way to help this problem would be to increase the loss carryback period. Businesses can only carry net operating losses two years. Corporations in Iowa and some other states can’t carry them back at all.

Consider a business that has income in year one, breaks even in years 2 and 3, and loses enough to go broke in year four. It never gets the year 1 taxes back, even though over its life it lost money.

An increased loss carryback period would be especially useful to pass-through owners, enabling some of them to get tax refunds to keep their businesses alive. But once the government has your money, they hate to give it back.

Loosening the “Sec. 382″ restrictions on loss trafficking would also help. A struggling business would be more likely to get investment funds if the investor could at least count on using some otherwise wasted tax losses. But the government is more interested in protecting its revenue than in helping struggling businesses.

 

Department of Foreseeable Unintended ConsequencesTax Analysts Jennifer DePaul reports ($link):

 While a joint session of the New York State Legislature on February 9 heard Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $142 billion budget proposal, the governor released more details about several tax measures included in his budget plan.

Among them was a proposal designed to crack down on tax scofflaws by suspending the driver’s licenses of debtors who owe the state as little as $5,000.

This means taxpayers with relatively small balances due will be deprived of their legal transportation to get to work. This means some taxpayers will have to quit their jobs and never get caught up with their debt, leading to a financial death spiral. Others will try to get to work, get locked up for driving on a suspended license, lose their jobs because they didn’t show up, and go into a financial death spiral. It’s a recipe for locking more people into the underclass because their Governor wants their money faster.

Related: Brian Doherty, Drivers License Suspensions Slamming the Working Poor for No Particular Good Reason in Florida  (Reason.com); Megan McArdle, Cities Dig for Profit by Penalizing the Poor

 

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Russ Fox, Harassing IRS Agents Isn’t a Bright Idea. “Speaking of ways to get in trouble with the IRS, one is to harass an IRS agent. They don’t like it (and it’s a crime).”

Tony Nitti, Are You Exempt From The Obamacare Insurance Penalty?

Robert Wood has 7 Reasons Not To File Your Taxes Early, Even If You’ll Get A Refund. “Measure twice, cut once.”

Paul Neiffer, How Do Repair Regulations Affect My Farm Operation? It does. Find out more when Paul helps present a webinar on the topic for the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation February 18.

William Perez, How Dividends Are Taxed and Reported on Tax Returns

 

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Hammers IRS CI Who Went Out Into The Cold. The strange, sad saga of Joe Banister.

Leslie Book, Some More Updates on IRS Annual Filing Season Program and Refundable Credit Errors. Leslie thinks that preparer regulation would help. I believe the persistent high rate of incorrect EITC payments in spite of increasing IRS initiatives to bug preparers and force them to document due diligence for EITC clients shows that preparer regulation won’t solve this problem.

Jason Dinesen, Send a 1099-C to a Non-Paying Customer? Updated. Probably unwise.

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Jeremy Scott, Finance Committee Review of 1986 Act Smacks of Desperation (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Senate Finance Committee will try to use history as a guide to break the logjam on tax reform. The Republican-led body will hold a February 10 hearing featuring former Finance Chair Bob Packwood and former Sen. Bill Bradley, who will talk about the process that led to the historic legislation that redefined the tax code and has left its imprint on the minds of would-be tax reformers for almost three decades now. However, looking back at 1986 appears more desperate than inspired because most of the factors that existed then are almost totally absent now.

I think all this Congress can accomplish is to not make things work, and to lay the groundwork for a tax reform that might be enacted in a more congenial political climate.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 642.

 

Career Corner. Let’s Discuss: Wearing Headphones at the Office (Jesstercpa, Going Concern). You can tell you are moving up in the CPA world if you get an office with a door, and you can use actual speakers. Unless you are in one of those hideous “open offices,” of course.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/6/15: Iowa pass-through top rate: 47.2%. And: a forgiving IRS!

Friday, February 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitorsThe post about the convicted filmmaker is here.

 

Taxing employers at high rates? That’s OK, they’re rich! Pass-through Businesses can Face Marginal Tax Rates over 50 percent in Some States (Kyle Pomerleau, Richard Borean, Tax Policy Blog):

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

Iowa ranks at about the middle, with a 47.2% combined top rate on pass-through income.

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When lazy politicians think they can cover their incontinent spending just by sending the bill to the rich guy, they don’t tell you that they’re talking about leaving your employer that much less money to hire and pay you.

 

TIGTAI’m sure they’ll be just as forgiving to the rest of us. Accounting Today reports: IRS Rehired Hundreds of Misbehaving Employees with Conduct Problems:

The Internal Revenue Service rehired hundreds of former employees with prior conduct or performance issues, including employees who failed to file their taxes, falsified official forms and misused IRS property, according to a new report. 

The report, from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, acknowledged that most rehired employees do not have performance or conduct issues associated with prior IRS employment. However, TIGTA said it identified hundreds of former employees with prior substantiated conduct or performance issues ranging from tax issues, unauthorized access to taxpayer information, leave abuse, falsification of official forms, unacceptable performance, misuse of IRS property, and off-duty misconduct.

I like this “second chance” policy. I hope they roll it out to the rest of us.  Robert Wood has more: IRS Rehires Hundreds Of Problem Former Employees.

 

Conformity update: The Iowa House of Representaties went home for the weekend without approving SF 126. The Iowa Senate approved the bill this week. SF 126 continues through 2014 Iowa’s practice of conforming to the extender provisions other than bonus depreciation. This will mean Iowans will be able to claim the $500,000 maximum Section 179 deduction on their state returns. I expect the House to pass it next week.

 

1099-CTax Pros, the IRS isn’t your collection agentThat seems to be the implication of this item sent as an email by the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility to practioners yesterday. It addressed the idea of sending a 1099-C, reporting cancellation of debt income, to deabeats who fail to pay a tax return prep fee:

It is difficult to conceive of a situation in which a tax professional, principally engaged in providing tax services will be an “applicable entity” justifying the use of Form 1099-C to attribute income to an arguably scofflaw client for the nonpayment.

So it’s back to old standbys like cyberstalking and prank phone calls, then.*

*I kid! I kid!

 

TaxGrrrl, Minnesota Stops Accepting Returns Filed With TurboTax, Cites Fraud Concerns. It may be that Turbotax is just too popular with the wrong kind of customer. “Banned in Minnesota” can’t be good for Turbotax sales.

 

IMG_1232William Perez, Tax Refunds by Direct Deposit: How to Do It and Problems to Prevent. Some sage advice: “Triple Check Your Bank Account Information Before Filing Your Tax Return”

Kay Bell, Don’t forget local levies when adding up sales tax deduction

Paul Neiffer, Excessive Claims for Fuel Tax Credits Makes the IRS “Dirty Dozen List”. You mean you didn’t use 1000 gallons in your lawn tractor this summer?

 

Clint Stretch, Defining Tax Reform (Tax Anlaysts Blog):

To date, nearly everyone describing tax reform, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the White House, has called for “a simpler tax code.” Not so the Senate Democrats. When they use the words “tax reform,” those words do not mean simplification but do mean many things conservatives would leave out of their own definition, such as progressive taxation.

It is tempting to think that whoever drafted the letter merely forgot simplification, or assumed it to be understood. But the Democrats’ proposal to have tax incentives “take into account the varying cost of living differences among States and regions” makes it clear: Simplification is not one of their core values.

Oddly, Mr. Stretch doesn’t seem to be a fan of simplification. He spent many years as a lobbyist for a national accounting firm I once worked for, so I suppose that’s unsuprising.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 638

Howard Gleckman asks, How Will Jeb Bush Turn His Vision of Government into Tax Policy? Maybe by writing letters to his Congressman. It won’t be by becoming President, I’m pretty sure.

 

Peter Reilly has what seems to me an unnatural interest in the tax problems of “young earth creationist” Kent Hovind. In a long piece Peter explains his interest. It’s long, but this is worth noting:

Whenever I think about disputes that are really passionate, there is one thing that I never forget.  If something really awful were to happen in my community there would be an outpouring of support from people across the country.  Many of them would have views that I consider preposterous and dangerous.  Regardless, we are still in it together.

I’m still puzzled at the interest in this particular sad case, but Peter comes across as thoughtful and humane all the way through.

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Career Corner (?). Ex-Crazy Eddie CFO Now Judging Fellow Criminals on Their Criminal Talents or Lack Thereof (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern), quoting Sam Antar on conviction of New York representative Michael Grimm:

My former bosses running Crazy Eddie would never have let an amateur like Grimm participate in our tax-evasion schemes! If you are to engage in any scheme to skim money and evade taxes, there is one golden rule: Never leave an audit trail.

Michael Grimm left behind a body of evidence in the most convenient places for the federal investigators to help bury him.

We discussed that very issue in our discussion of the Arrow Trucking tax plea yesterday. I hate to think I’m starting to think like Mr. Antar.

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Tax Roundup, 2/2/15: Film trial sequel ends badly for a main character. And: Iowa conformity bills advance.

Monday, February 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Dennis Brouse

Dennis Brouse

They got him for the trailer. The filmmaker who got more transferable tax credits under the Iowa film tax credit program than anyone else was convicted Friday of first degree fraud with respect to the program. From the Des Moines Register:

Dennis Brouse, 64, could face up to 10 years in prison at a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 23. Brouse owned Changing Horses Productions, a company that received $9 million in tax credits from the scandal-ridden Iowa Film Office. Brouse starred in the company’s main series, “Saddle Up With Dennis Brouse.”

Prosecutors claim Brouse bought a 38-foot camper trailer from an elderly couple, Wayne and Shirley Weese, for $10,500 in cash. But prosecutors charged that Brouse claimed the trailer cost twice that much in a statement for tax credits that he turned in to the state.

The State Auditor’s Report on the program reported that Changing Horses claimed 50% tax credits for many other doubtful items. For example, they claimed a $1 million value for a “sponsorship” awarded to a feed company that had refused to sign a document with that value on the grounds that it was “grossly overvalued.” This enabled the company to get tax credits that likely were more than 100% of the money spent in Iowa by the filmmaker.

Mr. Brouse had a prior conviction on charges related to the film program overturned, and his attorney says he will appeal this conviction.

While Iowa’s film credit program was spectacularly mismanaged, it was only one extreme example of the unwisdom of the state legislature attempting to manage Iowa’s economy via the tax law.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Iowa conformity bills advance The bill to update Iowa’s income tax to reflect the December federal “extenders” bill cleared both the House and Senate taxwriting committees. I think than means the bills won’t be delayed, and we can get on with Iowa’s tax season. Both bills conform for pretty much everything in the federal tax law, including the increased Section 179 deduction, but do not conform to federal bonus depreciation.

 

Dahls checks outThe central Iowa grocery chain was broken up Friday in a bankruptcy liquidation. Seven stores will re-open under another name.

Perhaps the greatest victims of the failure are longtime Dahls employees who owned the company through their Employee Stock Ownership Plan. They get nothing, or close to it.

Iowa passed a special break for sales of companies to ESOPs in 2012. Proponents pointed to the employee ownership of Dahl’s major competitor, Hy-Vee, in support of the bill.

The Dahls example shows a dark side of employee ownership — the way it concentrates a large portion of employee retirement assets in a single vulnerable asset.

 

Jason Dinesen, Do I Have to Have Form 1095-A Before I Can File? “Yes, you need the Form 1095-A if you got premiums through an insurance exchange.”

William Perez, Need More Time? How to File for a Tax Extension with the IRS

20150105-1Jim Maule, When Is A Building Placed in Service? “Because the taxpayer presented undisputed evidence that certificates of occupancy had been issued, that the buildings were substantially complete, and that the buildings were fully functionally to house the shelving and merchandise, they had been placed in service within the required time period.”

Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Sharing Financial Responsibility at Tax Time (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “Whatever your situation, it is important to keep good records so that someone else can pick up where you left off, if needed.

Kay Bell, Is Belichick’s coaching style like tax avoidance or tax evasion?

Paul Neiffer, $500,000 Permanent Section 179 Could be Coming Soon! “The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to vote on seven expired tax provisions on February 4, including making permanent Section 179 expensing at the $500,000 level.” Given the politics involved, I’m not holding my breath.

Robert Wood: Receipts Rule IRS Keeps Quiet: They’re Optional. Well, sometimes they aren’t optional, and they always help.

TaxGrrrl, Salaries, Ads & Security: What’s The Real Cost Of Super Bowl XLIX?

Russ Fox, This Never Works…:

Patrick White is the owner of R & L Construction in Yonkers, New York. He liked his home and he liked to gamble. There’s nothing wrong with that. He took payroll taxes withheld from his business and used that money for his homes and for gambling. There’s a lot wrong with that, especially when it totals $3,758,000. Mr. White pleaded guilty to one count of failing to pay over payroll taxes to the government. He’ll be sentenced in May.

Russ throws in some good advice about using EFTPS.

Robert D. Flach regales us with THE TWELVE DAYS OF TAX SEASON

Stephen Olsen, “Summary Opinions for 1/6/15-1/23/15” (Procedurally Taxing). News from the tax procedure world.

 

IMG_0543Christopher Bergin, Robin Hood and Other Fables (Tax Analysts Blog):

When it comes to taxation, President Obama has his own particular points of view. He may use terms such as “middle-class economy” or say things like “the rich can pay a little more,” but at the core he views the tax system as either a mechanism that helps the rich hang on to their ill-gotten gains or as a “honey pot” to fund his political ideas and base. It’s all politics. And that’s why we will see no progress – regarding the gas tax, taxation of businesses, or any other kind of real tax reform – until there has been a change in administrations.

In fact, the major lesson we’ve learned from this latest episode is that when it comes to of tax reform, the Obama administration has the “tinnyist” of tin ears. Whether the merry men and women at the White House believe that section 529 tuition savings plans benefit the ”rich,” they should know that when American voters actually recognize and identify with a tax break by its code section number (in this case, 529), be careful — very, very careful. You usually can’t sneak a fast one into the tax code when taxpayers know the section by number.

Hard to argue with this.

 

Arnold Kling, 529: Popular != Good Policy. “529 plans subsidize affluent people for doing what they would have done anyway–send their kids to exclusive, high-priced colleges.” Maybe, but it still is better than rewarding borrowing by subsidizing it.

Howard Gleckman, Obama’s Failure to Kill 529 Plans May Say Less About Tax Reform Than You Think (TaxVox). “But the survival of these education subsidies does not mean that a rate-cuts-for-base-broadening swap will never be possible.”

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 634

Matt Gardner, Facebook’s Record-Setting Stock-Option Tax Break (Tax Justice Blog). 595 words on the evils of the deduction for stock option compensation without one word noting that every dollar of “phantom” deduction for the issuing corporation is also a dollar of “phantom” income to the employees — and usually at higher rates than the corporation pays.

Scott Drenkard, Gov. Kasich’s Plan May Be A Tax Cut, But It’s Still Poor Policy. (Tax Policy Blog) “Unfortunately, the plan which is set to be announced next Monday by Governor Kasich isn’t going to address any of these problems and will probably make them worse.”

 

Career Corner. You Should Take a Nap This Afternoon Because Science (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/27/15: IRS waives late payment penalty for ACA tax credit recapture. And more!

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20140413-1Be thankful for small favors. Perhaps millions of taxpayers will face an unhappy surprise this tax season thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The ACA provides a tax credit to help taxpayers up to 400% of the poverty level pay for insurance purchased on an ACA exchange. The credit is computed based on an estimate of the taxpayer’s household income and paid directly to the insurance company; the premium paid by the taxpayer is reduced by the same amount.

At tax time, the policyholder-taxpayers have to compare their actual income to the income they estimated when they bought the policy. If the actual income is higher than what was estimated, they may have to repay thousands of dollars in credits paid to the insurers.

Yesterday the IRS provided some cold consolation (Notice 2015-9) for these folks, for 2014 returns only. If they can’t come up with the cash to pay the tax on April 15, the IRS will waive the penalty for late payment of taxes if the amount is reported on a timely return. They are also waiving penalties for underpayment of estimated tax attributable to the credit.

20121120-2Taxpayers claiming the waiver are just supposed to file the return without the payment for the recaptured excess credit. Then when the IRS sends an underpayment demanding payment with penalties, they are supposed to respond with a letter saying “I am eligible for the relief granted under Notice 2015-9 because I received excess advance payment of the premium tax credit.” That will go over well, I’m sure. They also have pay up by April 15, 2016, with interest.

These waivers don’t cover the separate penalty for failing to carry health insurance — the “individual mandate” — because the IRS can’t assess penalties for not paying it in the first place.

Unfortunately, the IRS has not yet issued a blanket waiver for the much more severe penalties on employers with non-compliant premium reimbursement arrangements (“Section 105 plans“). We’ll see if the IRS wants to tangle with the thousands of 2014 waiver requests they will receive if they don’t issue a blanket waiver, one-at-a-time.

Related:

Tony Nitti, IRS: No Penalties For Late Repayments Of The Premium Tax Credit

Megan McArdle, Reality Check on Obamacare Year Two

Me: The ACA and filing season. Be afraid.

 

Robert D. Flach brings you your fresh Tuesday Buzz, including advice about checking information returns and choosing a preparer.

TaxGrrrl, Credit Cards, The IRS, Form 1099-K And The $19,399 Reporting Hole. “Tucked in the middle of the housing bill was a provision that had absolutely nothing to do with housing: a new requirement that banks and credit card merchants to report payments to the IRS.”

Kay Bell, Don’t become a tax identity theft victim. Good idea.

William Perez, A First Look at TaxACT Free File Edition

Russ Fox, The Form 3115 Conundrum: “This year there’s a conundrum faced by tax professionals: Do we need to file a Form 3115 for every taxpayer who has equipment, depreciation, rental property, inventory, etc.?”

I think we will need many 3115 filings, but I don’t think they are required for everyone. As Russ notes, nobody seems to know for sure.

Robert Wood, How Yahoo’s Alibaba ‘Sale’ Skirts Tax Billions, Buffett-Like.

Peter Reilly, A Free Kent Hovind Might Have Backing For A Bigger Better Dinosaur Theme Park. It really is an amazing world.

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Stephen Entin, The President Proposes a Second Tax on Estates (Tax Policy Blog):

The step-up in basis is no loophole. The step-up is needed to prevent double or triple taxation of the same assets. Without it, the president’s plan could result in a 68 percent tax rate on capital gains upon death (the inheritance would be taxed at the 40 percent estate tax rate plus the proposed 28 percent tax rate on capital gains).

It’s worse than that, considering inflation and the fact that those assets were purchased with after-tax income in the first place.

Jeremy Scott, Three Early Signs of What to Expect From Congress (Tax Analysts Blog): “It will be unpredictable.”

IMG_1116TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 628 “The pattern begins with blatant denials — bald lies — and stonewalling. … Next in the pattern, when the lies fail, comes the attribution of responsibility to the lowest level of bureaucrat. …”

Martin Sullivan, Is There Now a Window of Opportunity for Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog). Spoiler: “We will have to wait until 2017 for any real progress on tax reform. And by no means is there any guarantee of movement then.”

Howard Gleckman, Is Dynamic Scoring of Tax Bills Ready For Prime Time?

Sebastian Johnson, Sam Brownback’s White Whale. “Little did Kansas voters know that in reelecting Sam Brownback they were actually voting for a vengeful old sea captain obsessed with one issue above all others – eliminating the state’s personal income tax.”

 

Career Corner. Stop Using These Played Out Words in Your LinkedIn Profile Immediately (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/23/2015: Egg donor compensation taxable payment for services. Meanwhile, kidney donor compensation is a felony.

Friday, January 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
"White-&-Brown-Eggs" by Evan-Amos - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“White-&-Brown-Eggs” by Evan-Amos – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The big news in the tax world today is a Tax Court case ruling that payments to an egg donor were compensation for services. The case turned on the language of the contract of between the egg donor and the agency that procured the eggs. Tax Court Judge Holmes ruled that the payments were not excludible as payments for physical damages because there was no tort claim involved.

There are plenty of places you can read more details on this case, including Russ Fox and Tony Nitti. The TaxProf has a roundup.

So there is an organized and legal market for donor eggs, which, if all goes well, turn into an entire new human. That’s a good thing. But if an agency paid you for one of your kidneys to save the life of an already-born child on the kidney donor list, they would face a $50,000 fine and five years in prison under the Gore-Hatch National Organ Transplant Act of 1984.

The National Kidney Foundation reports that 12 people die daily waiting for a donor kidney, and that 4,453 died waiting for a kidney transplant in 2013.  It’s a felony to save any of those lives by buying a kidney from a healthy, willing and fully-informed seller. Meanwhile, nobody dies waiting for a donated egg.

Cite: Perez, 144 T.C. No. 4

Related: The Case for Paying Organ Donors (Sally Satel)

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Richard Borean, More than Half of all Private Sector Workers are Employed by Pass-through Businesses:

53.7% of Iowans work for pass-through businesses taxed on 1040s.

53.7% of Iowans work for pass-through businesses taxed on 1040s.

“Pass-through” income is income earned by S corporations and partnerships, including LLCs. This income is taxed on 1040s. Those who favor ever-increasing individual taxation of “the rich” by definition favor increasing the tax on employment.

 

buzz20140923Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz, including thoughts on avoiding scammers claiming to be from IRS and on Wal-Mart’s cash tax refund program: “My advice – avoid this program.”

Kay Bell, IRS gets $1.3 million for Darryl Strawberry’s Mets annuity

Paul Neiffer, IRS Scammers Net $14 Million from 3,000 Victims. If the e-mail says it’s from the IRS, it’s not. If you aren’t expecting a call from the IRS, the caller isn’t from the IRS.

Jason Dinesen, Ridiculous IRS Situations I’ve Recently Dealt With. A continuing series.

Leslie Book, Tax Court Addresses Verification Requirement in Trust Fund CDP Case (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Washington Nationals $210M Pitching Contract For Max Scherzer Is About Taxes. “The Home Rule Act prohibits the District from imposing a commuter tax on non-residents.”

Peter ReillyExclusive – Kent Hovind Claims Congressmen Are Looking Into His Case. All you could possibly want to know about the case of the guy who thinks the Flintstones was actually a documentary series.

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Robert Goulder, Reading the Tea Leaves: China’s Jurisdictional Tax Claims (Tax Analysts Blog). Contrary to some reports, even Communist China doesn’t plan to tax worldwide income of non-resident Chinese. The U.S. stands alone in doing that.

Howard Gleckman, A Look at the Territorial Tax Systems in Four Countries Finds No Magic Bullets (TaxVox). No magic beans, either, I’ll bet.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 624

 

Career Corner. Here Are Just a Few Questions You’ll Be Asked in a Big 4 Interview (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/21/15: The Peculiar Case of the Trucking Tax Turtle. And more SOTU reaction, oh boy.

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

tbtTurtles carry their home on their back. So do some taxpayers. The Tax Court yesterday ruled that a truck driver who claimed Minnesota residency was a tax turtle, carrying his tax home on his back.

It matters because you can only deduct meal and lodging expenses for travel “away from home.” When you’re a tax turtle, you’re never away from home — you live on the road.

Judge Holmes takes up the story.

Shalom Jacobs has been a truck driver since 2002. His trips were mainly long haul “over the road” — meaning he spent a significant number of weeks and months on the road and was paid by the mile…

When he wasn’t on the road, Jacobs considered his home to be in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, where he stayed in the guest room of his longtime friend and fellow expat, Shimon Casper. Casper and Jacobs were both born in Israel and reared on kibbutzim. According to Jacobs, the Caspers’ Cottage Grove home was an American-style kibbutz, where Casper, his wife and children, and Jacobs recreated the communal life of their homeland with everyone contributing everything they had and taking only what each needed.

I don’t think the kibbutz  life is the life for me, but if it were, I think I would stay in Israel, where the weather is better. But that doesn’t address our deduction issue. Judge Holmes, again (my emphasis, citations omitted):

Flickr image by USFWS Mountain Prairie under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by USFWS Mountain Prairie under Creative Commons license

The Code is a little peculiar in defining a person’s “home.” Normal people think of their home as the place where they spend their personal and family lives, but a “home” in tax law is usually where a taxpayer has his principal place of employment. Tax law defines a home as the permanent residence at which a taxpayer incurs substantial continuing living expenses only if he doesn’t have a principal place of employment But what if a taxpayer is constantly on the move? Cases decided over many decades give us the answer — a taxpayer who’s constantly in motion is a “tax turtle” — that is, someone with no fixed residence who carries his “home” with him.  Such a taxpayer is not entitled to business deductions for traveling expenses under section 162.  The burden of proof is on the taxpayer if he disagrees with the Commissioner, and that is a high hurdle for a tax turtle to clear.

Turtles aren’t typically seen in hurdle events, and this one failed to clear that high hurdle. Judge Holmes said the taxpayer failed to show that his friend’s home was, in fact, communal, that he actually paid household expenses, or that he used that address for voter registration. This is a good reminder of the importance of documentation in tax controversy; the judge is more likely to take your word if it agrees with a cancelled check.

The Moral: To deduct meals and lodging away from home, you need to leave your home behind. And Tax Turtles will clear a hurdle only if they have a ladder of good records to help them get over it.

Cite:  Jacobs, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-3

 

buzz20140905Actually, that’s yesterday now. Reminder: Worst Tax Season Ever Starts Today (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

Kay Bell, Tax filing season 2015 is here

William Perez, The Penalty for Not Having Health Insurance. “Here are details on how the individual shared responsibility payment is calculated.”

Jason Dinesen, Does Nebraska Recognize Same-Sex Marriages for Taxes?

Robert Wood, Why IRS Form 1099 Is So Dangerous To Your Tax Bill. “Failing to report one is asking for an audit.”

Tuesday Buzz is just as good on Wednesday. A belated Buzz from Robert D. Flach, including coverage of the recent Taxpayer Advocate’s report.

 

Stephen Olsen offers Summary Opinions for 12/19/14 to 1/05/15 at Procedurally Taxing. This rounds up tax procedure happenings.

Paul Neiffer, 2 Senators Work to Eliminate Capital Gains Tax on Chapter 12 Bankruptcies.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the capital gains generated by these sales are subject to income tax.  The two senators do not believe this was the original intent of Congress when the wrote the original law during the 1980s farm debt crisis, so this new bill is designed to eliminate the imposition of capital gains or other taxes on the sale of property due to the Chapter 12 bankruptcy.

The two senators are Grassley and Franken.

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TaxGrrrl liveblogged the State of the Union address. I live-slept it

Howard Gleckman, The Tax Reform Gap Between Obama and the GOP is Widening (TaxVox):

But it isn’t hard to see where the two parties are headed. Obama does not want an anodyne debate over tax reform. Rather, he’s using reform rhetoric to support a “middle-class economics”agenda aimed at using the tax code to redistribute some income from the rich to working-class households. For their part, Republicans want to use reform talk as a framework for a business-oriented growth agenda leavened by some targeted breaks for working families. 

That should be “some more income.

Scott Hodge, Will Obama’s New Plan to Help the Middle-Class Succeed When $1.5 Trillion in Redistribution Has Not?. Spoiler: no.

Tony Nitti, Why Republicans Should Embrace A 28% Tax On Capital Gains. I’m not remotely convinced; the correct rate is zero, as that income is already after tax money. But if you can get the ordinary rate down to 28% too, I’ll listen.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 622

Peter Reilly, Will Kent Hovind Become This Year’s Cliven Bundy? If I knew who Cliven Bundy is, I might have an opinon on that.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/16/15: Insurance reimbursements may trigger $100/day penalty, but at least they’re not on W-2.

Friday, January 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2Letter to Congressman says insurance reimbursements that trigger $100/day Obamacare penalty still excludible from W-2. 

Small employers have long used “Section 105″ plans to reimburse employee purchases of individual health insurance, in lieu of setting up an employer group health plan. Such reimbursements were excludible from employee W-2 taxable income.

Under the Administration’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act, such plans trigger a $100 per-day, per-employee penalty starting in 2014. Many employers are just learning that they had disqualified plans last year and are scrambling to comply; fixing a plan within 30 days of compliance may enable such taxpayers to avoid the $36,500 hit for each employee on “reasonable cause” grounds.

One question that has hung over this is whether the employer has to put the reimbursements that trigger the penalties on employee W-2s as income. A letter to an Illinois Congressman reprinted today in Tax Analysts says they don’t. From the letter  (my emphasis and links):

Prior to the ACA, an employer could reimburse employees for the medical expenses of the employee and the employee’s family and exclude those amounts from the employee’s income and wages under section 105(b) of the Code. The ACA has not changed the tax treatment of the reimbursement for employee medical expenses. However, these arrangements, under the ACA, are considered to be group health plans and must satisfy the market reform rules for them.

The guidance that we provided in Notice 2013-54 did not change the tax results described in Revenue Ruling 61-146. This ruling says that under certain conditions if an employer reimburses an employee’s substantiated premiums for individual health insurance policies, the payments are excluded from the employee’s gross income under section 106 of the Code. This exclusion also applies if the employer pays the premiums directly to the insurance company.

W2Note that the exclusion “applies.” That’s present tense, meaning it’s still alive.

Some employers responded to Notice 2013-54 by treating reimbursements as taxable, but subsequent guidance issued in November last year said that didn’t work to make the $100/day penalty go away.

While they scramble to terminate their now horrifyingly expensive Sec. 105 reimbursement arrangements and figure out how to get out of the penalties, employers still have to issue W-2s this month. Now they know they can at least leave the reimbursements off employee W-2s. Given how widespread the problems seems to be, and how terrible the penalties, the IRS ought to just issue a blanket penalty waiver on this for everyone for 2014 if the non-compliance is disclosed.

Why wasn’t this printed as guidance? This letter went to Congressman Lipinski in September. A similar letter went to Kansas Congressman Goodlatte about the same time. Obviously the IRS knew from the Congressional inquiries that guidance was needed, but until Tax Analysts published this guidance, the IRS had never explained how to handle the W-2s. They still haven’t published guidance telling employers how to  “correct” the erroneous plans, as required on the penalty waiver instructions to the penalty reporting form, Form 8929.

 

IMG_0598Yeah, like he’d admit that. From Tax Analysts ($link):

The IRS is not pursuing a “Washington monument” strategy of discontinuing taxpayer services to protest recent congressional budget cuts, Commissioner John Koskinen told reporters at a press conference on January 15.

The Washington monument strategy refers to claims made by some media outlets during the October 2013 government shutdown that various federal agencies seemed to be closing highly visible public services as a protest against the shutdown.

Koskinen denied that any such calculations entered into the IRS’s decision-making regarding service and enforcement constraints that he said were induced by Congress’s $346 million cut (to $10.9 billion) to the IRS budget for fiscal 2015.

I’ll believe that he’s serious when he closes the “voluntary” preparer registration program and stops paying IRS employees to work full-time for the Treasury Employees Union.

James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal doesn’t deny that the IRS needs more money, but doesn’t have much sympathy anyway (WSJ subscription may be required to access original):

It’s all rather comical—but also galling. The IRS’s abuse of power in its harassment of conservative nonprofits aimed in substantial part at suppressing opposition to ObamaCare. That is, the IRS traduced the free-speech rights of citizens in order to preserve a law expanding IRS power and creating more work for IRS agents.

Now the commissioner complains that the IRS has too much work and not enough resources and threatens to make life even more difficult for taxpayers. It’s like the guy who killed his parents and then pleaded for mercy because he was an orphan.

And an unapologetic one.

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Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz, with a warning for users of off-the-shelf software.

William Perez, The Penalty for Not Having Health Insurance. Don’t think it’s just $95.

Robert Wood. 3 Reasons Filing Taxes Sucks? Obamacare, Obamacare & Obamacare. I can think of a lot of others, myself, but these are definitely three of them.

Alan Cole, The Employer Mandate Reduces Hours Worked (Tax Policy Blog). Not by tax preparers, it doesn’t.

 

Kay Bell, IRS Free File opens Friday, Jan. 16, for eligible taxpayers, four days ahead of Jan. 20 full tax season start

Russ Fox, If You Do Government Work, It Pays to Treat the Government Well

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 617

Howard Gleckman, What To Make of the Senate Finance Committee’s Tax Reform Workgroups 

 

Keith Fogg, Eskimos and the IRS: A Winter’s Tale (Procedurally Taxing) “This post is not about tax procedure issues in the native American population in Alaska but a recent Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report concerning frozen credits at the IRS made me think about the number of ways Eskimos have to say snow.”

 

News from the Profession. Ron Baker: You Can Put Lipstick on Billing by the Hour But Don’t Call It Value Pricing (Adrienne Gonzales, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/7/15: Resolve to monitor your payroll taxes this year. And: searching for gray.

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

EFTPSIf you’re an employer, here’s a new year’s resolution: “I will verify that my tax payments have been made on time every payroll by logging into EFTPS.”

The customers of Riverside, California payroll service Paycare are wishing they had made and kept that resolution. From The Press Enterprise:

The co-owner of a Riverside-based payroll service, Paycare, Inc., pleaded guilty Monday to failure to pay federal payroll taxes and embezzlement from a federally-funded program, the Internal Revenue Service reported.

Scott Willsea, 56, entered the guilty plea in federal court before U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real, according to a press release from IRS spokeswoman Linda Lowery.

Willsea allegedly prepared quarterly payroll taxes for 15 different client companies in the 2009 and 2010 tax years, including All Mission Indian Housing Authority and Of One Mind, LLC, and failed to account for or pay the full amount of tax owed to the IRS by each company.

The IRS and the states want those payroll taxes; after all, they issue refunds to the employees based on the reported withholdings, paid or not. If your payroll provider steals your payroll taxes, you have to pay them again. That can ruin a struggling business,and cripple a strong one.

That’s why employers who use a payroll service should still log onto their accounts with the Electronic Federal Tax Payroll System to verify that the payments have been made. If you do payroll taxes in-house, it’s good financial hygiene to do the same thing.

It’s also a reason for extra due diligence if you consider a “professional employer organization” to meet your payroll needs. These outfits pay your payroll taxes under their own account, and you can’t use EFTPS to monitor your payments. That can work out badly.

 

FranceflagAndrew Mitchel, A Reminder for Green Card Holders Living Outside the U.S.:

U.S. lawful permanent residents (“green card holders”) who live outside the U.S. continue to be subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income until the green card has been revoked or has been administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned. 

Sad and true.

 

Jason Dinesen, Sorry, But There Really Isn’t a “Gray Area” for Most Taxpayers to Push:

NEWSFLASH: for the vast majority of taxpayers, there is no gray area to be pushed.

Your income is whatever your W-2 says it is.

Your deductions are whatever they are. Mortgage, property taxes, charitable, car registration. I suppose there could be a gray area if someone is claiming employee business expenses. But even then, those expenses are not likely to end up being deductible anyway.

No matter what the H & R Block commercials say, there is no magic wand that a tax preparer can wave to make a bigger tax refund appear.

Absolutely true. And if a preparer boasts otherwise, it’s likely that there is a perfectly bad explanation.

 

20141231-1Tim Todd, Late Tax Return Precludes Bankruptcy Discharge. One more reason to file timely.

Russ Fox, Varagiannis Gets 15 Months for Tax Evasion. In Nevada, pimping is OK, but only if you pay your income taxes.

Robert D. Flach has word of ANOTHER UNTRUE TAX EMAIL making the rounds. You mean we can’t trust spam emails? Next thing you’ll tell me that people post things on Facebook that aren’t precisely true.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Planned Disasters Are Here to Stay – and Probably the Only Hope for Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog).

All in all, it seems likely that the new GOP majority will need to gin up some potent crises if they hope to get anything done over the next two years.

I would think we have plenty of crises to go around already.

 

Kay Bell, Tax reform is part of new GOP Congress’ agenda

 

David Brunori is full of wisdom today in Want Bad Tax Policy? Here’s a Blueprint (Tax Analysts Bl0g):

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently released his proposed budget. It illustrates a lot of what is wrong with tax policy in the states. The governor wants to raise taxes by $1.4 billion over the next two years. Conservatives may think this is terrible — and it is. But the problem is how Inslee wants to raise the new revenue. He wants to impose a 7 percent capital gains tax on a narrow band of Washington residents. Specifically, he wants to impose the tax on the earnings sales of stocks, bonds, and other assets above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for those filing jointly. It would affect “only” an estimated 32,000 people who live in Washington.

Keep in mind that this is a state without an income tax. Certainly not a way to encourage their population of tech millionaires to stick around.

Also:

Inslee is also proposing a new excise tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products at 95 percent of the taxable sales price. Yes, 95 percent of the taxable sales price. If the government cared about the health of the poor, it would be subsidizing e-cigarettes.

States hate the idea of losing their tobacco revenue stream.

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Andrew Lundeen, Kansas Would Have Benefited from Dynamic Scoring (Tax Policy Blog):

The tax cuts didn’t pay for themselves. Instead, they left Kansas was left with a hole in the budget. (You can read about what Kansas could have done better here and here.)

This isn’t because individual tax cuts are bad for the economy; they’re just expensive. If the governor had used dynamic scoring, he would have known this.

Iowa has a lot of room to improve its tax system, but they could always screw it up even worse.

 

Howard Gleckman offers Nine Tax Stories to Watch in 2015 (TaxVox), including this:

Tax extenders: They are, after a resurrection of two weeks, once again expired. This is tiresome to even write about, but the best bet is Congress will once again delay action on these 50-plus tax breaks until at least next fall, when the budget wars are likely to come to a head. After that, well, don’t ever bet against another short-term extension.

Yuk.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 608Peter Reilly is featured.

 

Robert Wood, Taxman Is Funny In UK, Why Not IRS? Must not be in the budget.

Career Corner. Skip the Shout Outs and Other Helpful Farewell Email Advice (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). “Quitting your job is a part of life in public accounting. Unless you’re one of those sick, carrot-chasing freaks sticking around until partner, that is.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/31/14: Last minute tax moves: losses, gifts, and… weddings? Timing is everything!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140608_2So.  2014 is down to its last few hours. What can we do today to make April 15, 2015 a little happier? Well, maybe less bad. It’s asking too much of one day to fix a year’s worth of tax problems, but today might still make a difference. A few things you can do yet today:

– Sell stocks at a loss to offset capital gains. It’s the trade date that counts in determining when a loss is incurred (except on a short sale). That means if you have incurred capital gains in 2014, you can sell loss stocks today and reduce your taxable gains for the year. Most individuals can deduct capital losses on a 1040 to the extent of your gains, plus $3,000. To the extent you fail to offset capital gains with the losses sitting in your portfolio, you are paying taxes voluntarilyJust make sure you make the trade in a taxable account and don’t repurchase the losers for 30 days.

– Consider making your state 4th quarter estimated tax payment today (and your federal payment, if you are an Iowan). Don’t do this rashly, as alternative minimum tax can make this a bad move for some taxpayers. Also, time value considerations can make this a bad move. But in the right circumstances, you can save a lot in April by getting your payment in the mail today.

– Make a charitable gift today, if you are so inclined. Gifts (and other deductions) paid with a credit card today are deductible, even if the credit card isn’t paid off until next year. Checks postmarked today are deductible this year. If you don’t know where to make your gifts, I have some suggestions; if you don’t like those, TaxGrrrl has some others.

– And if you are fanatical about tax planning, and someone else, you can change your marital status today. Your marital status on December 31 is your status for the whole year, as far as the IRS is concerned. But if you are seriously considering this, you definitely need to bring someone else into the discussion.

 

20120511-2A Tax Court Case yesterday shows how important year-end timing can beA Minnesota couple paid $2,150.85 of community college tuition for their daughter’s Spring 2011 semester on December 28, 2010. That normally would have qualified for an American Opportunity Tax Credit of about $2,037 — a dollar-for-dollar reduction fo their 2011 taxes. But they were four days too soon.

Tax Court Judge Marvel explains (my emphasis):

Generally, the American opportunity credit is allowed only when payment is made in the same year that the academic period begins. Sec. 1.25A-5(e)(1), Income Tax Regs. For cash method taxpayers, such as petitioners, qualified education expenses are treated as paid in the year in which the expenses are actually paid.

Because the semester didn’t begin until 2011, the 2010 payment didn’t count. Judge Marvel explains that close isn’t close enough:

We realize that the statutory requirements may seem to work a harsh result in a case such as this where a four-day delay in making the December 28, 2010, payment would have engendered a different result. However, the Court must apply the statute as written and follow the accompanying regulations when consistent therewith.

The Moral? When it comes to tax planning, the difference between December 31 and January 1 is one year, not one day. If timing matters, be sure to get on the right side of the line, and be sure you can document your timing. If you are mailing a big check, go Certified mail, return receipt requested, and save that postmark.

Cite: Ferm, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-115.

 

If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

If Iowa’s income tax were a car, it would look like this.

Iowa rated 8th worst small business environment. The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council has ranked the entrepreneurial environment of the 50 states. Iowa does poorly:

Iowa is the nation’s number one producer of corn. Unfortunately, it’s costly policy climate works against production from free enterprise and entrepreneurship in general. Iowa ranks 43rd in terms of its public policy climate for entrepreneurship and small business among the 50 states, according the 2014 “Small Business Policy Index.” While Iowa’s entrepreneurs, businesses, investors and workers benefit from fairly low crime rate and a low level of government debt, there are many negatives, such as high individual capital gains taxes; very high corporate income and capital gains taxes; high unemployment taxes; and a high level of government spending.

While I think overall Iowa is better than 43rd, our awful tax environment hurts. Our system of high rates with dozens of carve-out credits for the well-advised and well-connected works great for insiders, but not so well for the rest of us. Maybe 2015 will be the year Iowa considers serious tax reform, like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Kay Bell, Donating and deducting a car

Jack Townsend, Reasonable Doubt and Jury Nullification

Jason Dinesen lists his Top 5 Blog Posts of 2014. My favorite is his #5, Having a Side Business in Multi-Level Marketing Doesn’t Make Personal Expenses Deductible

Tony Nitti warns us of Five Traps To Avoid When Deducting Mortgage Interest

Robert D Flach shares: MY NEW YEAR’S EVE TRADITIONS: “I type W-2s and 1099s.” Don’t get too wild, Robert!

Me, IRS issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for January 2015

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G. Brint Ryan, Who’s Afraid of the IRS? When Business Fights Back Against Government Overreach and Wins (Procedurally Taxing)

Annette Nellen,State taxes and bitcoin

Robert Wood, No Mickey Mouse Taxes On Jim Harbaugh’s $48M Michigan Deal And 49ers Exit. “Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers contract may be history, but his $48M Michigan deal has tax components that you might not expect.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Taxes, Charitable Gifts, the ACA, and Ineffective Deadlines (TaxVox).  “Scrambling to make a last-minute charitable donation to beat the New Year’s Eve deadline for a 2014 tax deduction? Take a deep breath and ask yourself, ‘Why am I going through this craziness now?'”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 601

 

Post-sequester commuting.

Not excited about all the wild New Years Eve hoopla? Maybe you prefer a more low-key celebration, like the one Robert D. Flach relates in MY NEW YEAR’S EVE TRADITIONS:

Every year during the day on New Year’s Eve I do the same thing I do during the day on Christmas Eve – I type W-2s and 1099s.

Live it up, Robert!

 

And Happy New Year to all of you Tax Update readers! This is it for 2014 here.  See you next week, and next year.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/24/14: Giving season edition! How to give, avoiding traps, and suggestions for the perplexed.

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The extender bill was signed while I was away, as you have probably figured out already. While the extenders remain awful policy, at least we go into the year-end knowing what the tax law is. We should be grateful for our presents; even a lump of coal can help keep us warm.

Related: Kristine Tidgren, Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 Revives Tax Breaks, But Only for 2014Paul Neiffer, It’s Official.

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Tax tips for the giving seasonAs the business week winds down early on Christmas Eve, many taxpayers find themselves feeling generous to charity. Here are some things to keep in mind as you go about your charitable gifting

Gifts of appreciated long-term capital gain property are often the most tax-efficient. Such gifts, done properly, give you a full fair market value deduction without ever taxing you on the appreciation. If you are not gifting publicly-traded securities, however, appraisal requirements for gifts over $5,000, and just the paperwork that may be involved in transferring ownership, may make it impossible to complete such a gift this year.

Even gifts of traded securities can be hard to pull off this late in the year. You have to get the securities into the donee’s brokerage account by the close of business December 31. I’ve seen attempts to get this done fail more than once. It is especially troublesome in dealing with small or unsophisticated charities, who might not even have a brokerage account available to use.

Congress renewed the IRA break in the extender bill, but it needs to happen by December 31, and there are some restrictions. The IRS explains:

  • If you are an IRA owner age 70½ or older you have until Dec. 31 to make a qualified charitable distribution, or QCD.
  • A QCD is direct transfer of part or all of your IRA distributions to an eligible charity. You may transfer up to $100,000 per year.
  • You may exclude the distributed amounts from your income. You can claim this benefit regardless of whether you itemize your deductions. If you do exclude the QCD from your income, you can’t also deduct it as a charitable contribution on Schedule A if you do itemize.
  • You can count your QCDs in determining whether you meet the IRA’s required minimum distribution.
  • The provision had expired at the end of 2013. The new law is retroactive for 2014. This means any eligible QCD in 2014 will qualify.
  • Not all charities are eligible. For example, donor-advised funds and supporting organizations are not eligible recipients.

If you want to give cash, the “mailbox rule” applies. The postmark date controls whether a mailed check is deductible this year.  If you don’t care to take chances, a gift by credit card is deductible in the year the credit card is charged, even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until next year.

If you give any charity a gift over of $250 or more, you need to insist on a written receipt declaring that you received no value for your contribution — or disclosing the amount of any value. No receipt, no deduction.

Of course, your gift has to go to an actual charity to be deductible. The IRS list of qualified Section 501(c)(3) organizations can help you make sure your intended donee qualifies.

If you feel generous, but don’t know what to do, I humbly submit for your consideration a few worthy organizations I donate to:

salvation armySalvation ArmyThey take care of many of the most needy and down-and-out with very little leakage to internal bureaucracy.

Institute for JusticeThis organization shut down the IRS preparer regulation power grab, winning a battle all good-thinking people considered hopeless and frivolous. They made the IRS give back the money they stole from the owner of a little restaurant in Arnolds Park, Iowa while forcing a change in their abusive use of their cash account seizure powers. They also support the little guy when the government abuses its eminent domain powers on behalf of the powerful and well-connected.

Tax FoundationThese guys do wonderful work in helping to form better tax policy. While it is difficult to get politicians to make tax policy for everyone, rather than just the well-lobbied, their 2014 successes in North Carolina, Indiana, Michigan and New York show that the good guys win sometimes.

ISU Center for Agricultural Law and TaxationRoger, Kristine, Kristy and Tiffany do great work helping keep the taxpayers and tax preparers of Iowa in compliance and out of trouble. If you use them, like I do, you should help them out.

 

William PerezQualified Charitable Distributions

Peter Reilly, The Wheels On The Easement Void The Deduction

 

 

20131209-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 594. This edition covers the new report by the House Oversight Committee on the scandal.

There is a lot to the report, which I hope to spend more time on. The item that jumps out at me is that 2011 IRS assessments of gift taxes on contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations were no accident, but were instead part of the IRS effort to fight conservative 501(c)(4) organizations.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

The then-IRS commissioner, Doug Shulman, denied at the time that the IRS was making a broad effort to assess gift tax on donors to such tax-exempt groups, which are formed under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Mr. Shulman said in a May 2011 letter to lawmakers that the audits were initiated by a single IRS employee and were “not part of any broader effort to look at donations” to these organizations.

The new report from GOP lawmakers says that “although the IRS denied any broader attempt to tax gifts to 501(c)(4) groups, “internal documents suggest otherwise.” It notes that in May 2011, an attorney in the IRS chief counsel’s office wrote to his superiors that the “plan is to elevate the issue of asserting gift tax on donors to 501(c)(4) organizations,” and seek a decision from the commissioner and the IRS chief counsel.

It’s clear that Shulman at best didn’t care enough to learn the truth before testifying. At worst he gave false information on purpose. Either answer burnishes his crown as Worst Commissioner Ever.

Related: Can political contributions really be taxable gifts?

 

Grimm tidings. A Congressman pleads guilty to tax fraud involving a restaurant he owned. From the New York Times:

Michael G. Grimm, the Republican representing New York’s 11th Congressional District, who carried the burden of a 20-count federal indictment to a landslide re-election in November, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a single felony charge of tax fraud.

Representative Grimm said he had no intention of stepping down. “Absolutely not,” he said.

My limited experience with felons is that they are cursed with grossly excessive self-esteem. That certainly seems to be the case here.

 

20141201-1Robert D. Flach brings the Holiday Buzz! Good tax stuff from around the tax blogs just in time for Christmas.

Kay Bell, Christmas tree ‘tax’ delayed again. Effort to end it continues

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Tax Court: Vacant House Can Still Qualify as Rental

Robert Goulder, The Vatican Bank, Christmas Cheer, and FATCA (Tax Analysts Blog). “The pontiff is cool with tax transparency.”

Tony Nitti, IRS To Sell The Right To Collect Darryl Strawberry’s Remaining New York Mets Salary.

Russ Fox, Nominations Due for 2014 Tax Offender of the Year

 

Amy Frantz, How the Grinch Taxed Your Christmas Candy in Iowa (Caffeinated Thoughts)

Howard Gleckman, The Tax Vox Lump of Coal Awards: The 10 Worst Tax Ideas of 2014 (TaxVox). My list would differ, but there are so many worthy ideas from which to choose.

Career Corner. Be Social, Don’t Skip the Party, and Other Redundant Holiday Party Advice (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/10/14: Extender bill lives, permanent charitable extender bill doesn’t. And: don’t just buy it; install it!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

lizard20140826Whither the extender bill? HR 5771, the bill to extend retroactively through the end of this month the 55 or so tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013, has been “placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.” That means it appears to be proceeding to a vote, though I find nothing on when that will happen. Tax Analysts reports ($link) that outgoing Senate Majority Leader Reid says he will take up the extender bill ” after finishing work on a defense authorization bill and a government funding measure.”

Meanwhile, the President has threatened to veto a separate attempt to permanently extend three charitable breaks in the extender bill, including the break for IRA contributions. While that’s bad for those breaks, it implies that the White House will not oppose HR 5771’s one-year extension.

 

20130422-2Because it looks as though the “extender” bill will clear the Senate, taxpayers looking to add fixed assets have extra incentive to get it done this year. The bill extends through 2014 — and only through 2014 — the $500,000 limit on Section 179 deductions and 50% bonus depreciation. These breaks allow taxpayers to deduct over half (bonus depreciation) or all (Section 179) of the cost of fixed assets that are otherwise capitalized, with their deductions spread over 3 to 20 years.

Taxpayers should remember that it’s not enough to order or pay for a new asset by the end of 2014 to qualify for these breaks. The asset has to be “placed in service” by year end.

A Tax Court case from last December drives home the point, where a taxpayer lost an $11 million bonus depreciation deduction in 2003 because an asset bought at year-end wasn’t “placed in service” on time.  Judge Holmes takes up the story:

On December 30, 2003, an insurance salesman named Michael Brown1 took ownership of a $22 million plane in Portland, Oregon. He flew from there to Seattle to Chicago — he says for business meetings — and then back to Portland. Brown says these flights put the plane in service in 2003, and entitle him to a giant bonus-depreciation allowance. But a few days later he had the plane flown to a plant in Illinois where it underwent additional modifications that were completed about a month later.

The IRS argued that the need for modifications meant the airplane wasn’t “placed in service” before year end. The taxpayer argued that the airplane was “fully functional” as purchased, and therefore was “placed in service” when acquired and used for its first flight on December 30, 2003. The court agreed with the IRS:

While acknowledging in his briefs that those modifications made the Challenger “more valuable to him” and allowed him to “more comfortably conduct business” as a passenger, he says they have “nothing to do with the Challenger’s assigned function of transporting him for his business.” The problem is that this posttrial framing just doesn’t square with the trial testimony, in which Brown testified that those two modifications were “needed” and “required”. We therefore find that the Challenger simply was not available for its intended use on a regular basis until those modifications were installed in 2004. Brown thus didn’t place the Challenger in service in 2003 and can’t take bonus depreciation on it that year.

A new asset doesn’t actually have to be used during the year to be “placed in service,” but it has to be ready to go. A new machine should be on the floor and hooked up, not just in a crate on the dock, or in a trailer on the way in, if you want to depreciate it. If the new asset is a vehicle, you need to take delivery to get the deduction. If the asset is a farm building, it needs to be assembled and in place, not in boxes on the ground.

Cite: Brown, T.C. Memo 2013-275

 

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The TaxProf reports on a new Treasury Inspector General report, TIGTA: IRS Has 25-30% Error Rate In Refundable Child Tax Credits, Mistakenly Pays $6-7 Billion:

The IRS has continually rated the risk of improper ACTC payments as low. However, TIGTA’s assessment of the potential for ACTC improper payments indicates the ACTC improper payment rate is similar to that of the EITC. Using IRS data, TIGTA estimates the potential ACTC improper payment rate for Fiscal Year 2013 is between 25.2 percent and 30.5 percent, with potential ACTC improper payments totaling between $5.9 billion and $7.1 billion. In addition, IRS enforcement data show the root causes of improper ACTC payments are similar to those of the EITC.

So at least 1/4 of the credit is claimed fraudulently or illegally. This is one of the provisions the President insists be made permanent as a price for permanently extending business provisions. He killed the permanent extender compromise when it didn’t also make the child credit permanent.

 

Wind turbineIowa Public Radio reports Grassley Wants Wind Tax Credit to Go Further. He should read Bryan Caplan’s review, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels: We Owe Civilization to Fossil Fuels. “And despite decades of government favoritism, alternative fuels have yet to deliver.”

 

Peter Reilly, Seventh Circuit Will Not Let Tax Protester Blame His Lawyer For Conviction:

James Stuart thought that Peter Hendrickson had “cracked the code” – the Internal Revenue Code, that is. Joe Kristan would characterize it as finding the tax fairy – that magical sprite who make your taxes go away painlessly while your sucker friends send checks to the tax man.   

It’s always fun to be named-checked by a Forbes blogger.

Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Tax Tips for Gifts to Charity (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).

Robert D. Flach, DONOR ADVISED FUNDS. For at least 99.99% of taxpayers, these are far better than setting up a private foundation.

Kay Bell, Sen. Tom Coburn’s parting gift: a tax code decoder

Paul Neiffer, Watch Your Crop Insurance Form 1099s This Year

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About EAs, #2: We Don’t Work for the IRS

Brad Ridlehoover, The Grinch That Stole Their Reasonable Cause… (Procedurally Taxing)

Tim Todd, IRS Erred in Making Notice of Tax Lien a Condition to Installment Agreement

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 580. Lois Lerner appears to have been scheming to sic the Justice Department on the Tea Partiers as early as 2010, according to newly-unearthed e-mails.

 

Howard Gleckman asks Why Does Congress Pay For Some Tax Cuts and Not Others? (TaxVox). “It can’t be the merits of the recipients. By now, TaxVox readers know that the expired tax breaks included such worthies as preferences for race horse owners, Puerto Rican rum manufacturers, and TV and film producers.”

Eric Cederwall asks What is the Simplest Tax System? (Tax Policy Blog). “Normative economics aside, a per-person tax is one of the most economically efficient taxes for raising revenue.”  Not happening, though.

 

Adrienne Gonzalez, Kids These Days Trust the IRS More Than Olds Do (Going Concern). Like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, they’ll figure it out eventually.

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Tax Roundup, 12/3/14: House voting on extenders today. Are Senate, White House on board?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130113-3The House will likely pass one-year extender bill today. Will the Senate and White House go along? Multiple reports say that the House of Representatives is expected to approve HR 5771 today, reviving 55 perennially-resurected tax breaks through 2014. The breaks, which include bonus depreciation, the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, and the research credit, all expired at the end of 2013.

While the fate of the bill in the Senate and the White House are not entirely clear, I expect the House bill to pass, given the lack of alternatives.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) used a weekly Senate Democratic luncheon Tuesday to push for an alternative that would extend expiring tax breaks through 2015.

But his Republican counterpart on the committee, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, brushed that aside, saying time was running out. Mr. Hatch—on whom Mr. Wyden frequently relies when crafting deals—came out in favor of the short-term fix, saying the only alternative he would support at this point was the one worked out between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and drew a White House veto threat last week. If the Senate advanced a new version, “there will be no bill” because “the House is going to leave,” Mr. Hatch said.

The full text of Sen. Hatch’s statements can be found here.

The Hill reports that the White House appears ready to go along with the House bill. Given the way the White House threatened a veto of the House-Senate deal that would have extended some of the breaks permanently, I think the lack of a veto threat means the President is likely to sign this version. While there appears to be some unhappiness with the House bill — Senator Grassley is not a fan of the one-year approach —  I expect the lame-duck Senate to pass it anyway. Unfortunately, it’s not clear when the Senate will act.

Congress has for years passed these provisions for one or two years at a time because Congressional budget rules allow them to pretend they are less expensive than they really are. Unfortunately, that often leaves taxpayers uncertain as to what the tax law is for the year until the year is almost over — or, in 2012, until the year was over. That makes it hard to evaluate the economics of important fixed-asset decisions. The abortive House-Senate deal would have ended this game for several key provisions, but the White House chose scoring cheap political points over an improved business tax environment.

Related:

Paul Neiffer, Is an One-Year Extension of Section 179 all we get?!

Howard Gleckman, How To End the Tax Extender Drama: Stop Calling Them Extenders—And Make Congress Pay For Them

Kay Bell, Tax extenders compromise: OK expired breaks for 2014 only

 

20121108-1Peter Reilly, Repair Regs – A Hellish Tax Season And Refunds Of Biblical Magnitude. Peter discusses the need, or not, for massive filing of useless accounting method changes to implement the new “repair regulations.” He also touches on a potential boon for owners of commercial real estate.

Robert D. Flach, TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE 0% TAX RATE

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

Russ Fox notes A Rare Piece of Efficiency from the IRS

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #4-IRS Rules on Self-Employment Income Of LLC Members.

 

Robert Wood, What IRS Calls ‘Willful’–Even A Smidgen–Can Mean Penalties Or Jail

TaxGrrrl, Feeling Spendy This Year? ’12 Days Of Christmas’ Slightly More Expensive

 

microsoft-appleSound Advice. David Brunori offers Advice for the New Republican Legislative Majorities (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s full of sound advice, but I especially like this:

Republicans should become the party of virtue, courage, and honesty when it comes to taxes. They should fight crony capitalism, as there is nothing more abhorrent to the free market than the government picking winners and losers. Yet state governments do just that all the time. The proliferation of tax incentives represents horrible tax policy. That politicians can decide economic policy through tax incentives is more akin to a Soviet five-year plan than to Adam Smith’s invisible hand. True conservatives should fight attempts to use tax policy to further economic objectives. Broad-based taxes and low rates will always serve the conservative cause better than the existing nonsensical tax laws. Standing on principle to ensure a broad tax base is hard — and neither party has been able to do it. But it is a stand worth taking.

That would be wonderful advice here in Iowa, but our newly re-elected GOP governor has been up to his mustache in crony tax breaks to chase high-profile businesses. Meanwhile Iowa’s home-grown businesses don’t get the big subsidies. They are dragged down by the highest corporation tax rate in the developed world, baroque complexity, and a bottom-ten business tax environment.

A real pro-business tax reform in Iowa might look something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 573.

 

lizard20140826Leslie BookH&R Block CEO Asks IRS To Make it Harder to Self-Prepare Tax Returns and Why That is Good for the Tax System.  “Yet, as I explain here, I think the changes he proposes would likely be good for the tax system because they could enhance visibility and accountability, principles the IRS should emphasize with issues that tend to have sticky error rates.”

H&R Block has been trying to pad its income for years on the backs of retail taxpayers. Its former CEO authored the illegal tax preparer regulations system the IRS tried to force on the industry — a system that would have run many of Henry and Robert’s competitors out of the buisness. Now they want to force the lowest-income earners through their doors.

I think the right approach to advice from an outfit that so shamelessly promotes its interests at the expense of taxpayers may be to carefully note it, and to do exactly the opposite.

 

Stephen Entin, No Mystery that Investment Slump Hurts Workers, Lowers Productivity and Wages (Tax Policy Blog)

 

News from the Profession. Why Is Everyone in Public Accounting Obsessed with Sports? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/19/14: Mayor of London, U.S. tax delinquent. And: sticks, stones, and IRS.

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Boris Johnaon and an unidentified IRS agent.

Boris Johnson and an unidentified IRS agent.

I thought the Revolution was fought to get away from the English, not to tax them. From Robert W. Wood comes a story that says volumes about how absurd America’s system of worldwide taxation is:

London’s Mayor Boris Johnson is English, but being born in New York means he’s American too. Turns out he never gave up his U.S. citizenship, as the BBC confirmed. Sure, he threatened to renounce in a column for the Spectator, but he renewed his U.S. passport instead.

And on his recent book tour, in a Diane Rehm Show Interview, November 13, 2014, Mr. Johnson even said a thing or two about the American global tax regime. He thinks it is outrageous to tax U.S. citizens everywhere no matter what. He hasn’t lived in the U.S. since he was 5 years old, he notes. Still, the IRS wants money.

Only the U.S. tax law is stupid enough to consider Boris Johnson an American taxpayer. Of course, the U.S. tax law says he’s taxable on his worldwide income as a U.S. Citizen, and that means he’s delinquent on U.S. tax on everything he’s ever earned. Of course, the IRS also claims FBAR penalties on “foreign” financial accounts that would render the Mayor of London a pauper.  He could renounce his U.S. citizenship, but Mr. Wood notes that “When you exit you must certify five years of U.S. tax compliance to the IRS. And any tax for the current or prior years must be paid.”

Boris Johnson is only the most prominent victim of a system supposedly designed to catch international financial fraud, but that works much better in making financial criminals and paupers out of ordinary people for committing personal finance while abroad. And yet there seems to be no movement at all to fix this horrible system. Because Swiss banks, or something.

 

20140106-1William Perez, Excluding Foreign Wages from US Taxes

Paul Neiffer, Another Section 179 Update:

Whenever, I indicate that we should know what the final number should be around Christmas or even New Years, I get emails back saying doesn’t Congress know that taxpayers really can’t make informed equipment decisions without knowing what Section 179 is.

The quick answer is that “Congress does not care!”

So true.

 

Russ Fox, IRS Clarifies Electronic Signature Requirements:

The IRS released a new version of Publication 1345 today (html version only is available for now). Included in it is the following:

Note: An electronic signature via remote transaction does not include handwritten signatures on Forms 8878 or 8879 sent to the ERO by hand delivery, U.S. mail, private delivery service, fax, email or an Internet website.

Thus, if a client signs a signature document in ink, hands it to me, mails it to me, faxes it to me, or uploads it to me via our web portal (or even if he emails it to me), it’s not an electronic signature and I don’t have to check id, etc. (So, mom, I don’t need to see your ID.)   

That’s good news.

 

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Kay Bell, States continue efforts to tax e-cigarettes as vaping grows. E-cigs threaten the states’ tobacco settlement gravy train. That’s why politicians hate them. All of the vaporous public health claims used against E-cigarettes is just blowing smoke.

 Peter Reilly, What’s In A Name? Should Naming Rights Reduce Charitable Deductions?

TaxGrrrl, Top Ten Area Codes Making Spam Calls: Are They Dialing You Up? If you aren’t expecting a call from the IRS, it’s not the IRS.

Robert D. Flach, DON’T BE A NON-FILER! “It is much “more better” to submit a balance due return with no payment than to submit nothing at all.”

Jack Townsend, IRS Documents On OVDI/P From FOIA Request.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 559

Alan Cole, Obamacare’s Contradictory Tax Incentives (Tax Policy Blog):

All too often, the motives behind Obamacare’s taxes are incoherent. We don’t like the distortion towards employer-provided health insurance, so we levy taxes on it. But we also do like the distortion towards employer-provided health insurance, so much so that we will actually mandate it!

The real motivation was to pass something and let IRS work out the details.

Howard Gleckman, Will Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration Kill Tax Reform? Hint: You Can’t Kill Something That’s Already Dead (TaxVox)

 

Hello, IRS readers! Apparently the IRS reads the blogs. Legal Insurrection reports that the IRS is trying to avoid disclosing names of their personnel in a lawsuit because of things said about Lois Lerner in that blog’s comments:

In a federal FOIA lawsuit by Judicial Watch seeking records of Lerner emails and IRS efforts to retrieve the emails, the IRS used two of the comments to the Legal Insurrection Reader Poll post to justify the IRS no longer disclosing the identities of IRS personnel.

Here are the awful comments:

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Juvenile? Sure, but pretty tame stuff for political blogs. Go hang out at Daily Kos if you think otherwise. By the standard the IRS is using here, you would have to conceal the names of just about anybody remotely connected with the government or politics. I’ve been called a “hamburger chomping, malleable moron in the comments,” with no ill consequences other than now I’m self-conscious at McDonalds.

But all the same, be nice in the comments here.

 

Career Corner. Your Open Office May Be Making You a Crappy Worker (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/14/14: Teaching biology is one thing, farming is another. And: parsonage allowances live!

Friday, November 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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Accounting Today visitors: click here for the story about the pharmacist and the painkillers. 

Cash-rent of farmland not “material participation” for Iowa capital gain exclusion. Iowa has an unusual rule that exempts capital gains of business real estate from Iowa’s income tax if the seller meets two tests:

– Holding the property for at least ten years, and

– materially-participating in the business in which the property was used for at least ten years at the time of the sale.

Iowa defines “material participation” using the federal rules for passive loss material participation. A widow who sold 400 acres she held with her late husband claimed the deduction on her 2006 Iowa 1040.  It didn’t work out.  A recently issued protest denial letter from the Iowa Department of Revenue included these key facts:

– The land was first rented to a tenant, a Mr. Goshorn, in 1966; he cash-rented it until the 2006 sale.

– The taxpayer and her husband got full title to the 400 acres in 1990; it had been held by their family dating back to the 19th century.

– The husband died in 2005.

– The land was sold in 2006.

harvestThe taxpayers certainly met the 10-year holding requirement, but the material participation requirement was a problem, as the Department of Revenue explains (my emphasis):

In the protest you also stated, “the activities of the farmer (tenant) could not have continued were it not for the involvement of the taxpayer.”  No evidence was provided to support this statement.  At the beginning of the period ten years prior to the sale, the tenant had been farming nearly 30 years.  It does not seem reasonable that he would need the landlord to tell him how to farm.  Not only did [late husband] not live in the area, he himself had not farmed for well over 30 years.

 

The taxpayer’s daughter stated, “My parents livelihood depended on the success or failure of the farms.”  One of her parents was a biology teacher and the other an x-ray technician.  The farm was not necessary for their livelihood.  Additionally, her parents had guaranteed income by cash renting the land.  The tenant bears the risks of weather, grain prices, etc.

 

So growing things in petri dishes doesn’t count, then?

In your letter dated June 29, 2012, you stated that “The situation involved risk due to the inexperience of the tenant.”  No explanation was provided as to how or why Mr. Goshorn was inexperienced after thirty or forty years of farming.  Also, your letter dated May 9, 2013 exaggerates the risk of the landlord.  There is always a chance of default by the tenant, but it is negligible.  The landlord has legal recourse against that tenant and could find a new tenant the next year.

Thirty years is “inexperienced?” Wow. That’s strict.

Cash rental of farmland is almost impossible to reconcile with material participation.  If you or your spouse aren’t farming yourself, you probably won’t qualify for a capital gain deduction in Iowa on farmland you own.

 

lizard20140826Permanent Extenders? A report by Tax Analsyts today ($link) raises the possibility that some of the perpetually-expiring provisions up for renewal in the lame-duck Congress might be extended permanently:

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also suggested that the negotiations over extenders could result in some provisions being made permanent and cited his tax reform proposal as evidence that he supports making the research credit permanent. But he pointed out that the cost of doing so would be nearly double the cost of the entire Senate Finance Committee extenders package.

I love how they reckon “cost” in Congress. They act as if extending the same tax break over and over forever for one or two years at a time is somehow cheaper than just enacting the provision once without an expiration date. If you tried to do something like that on your financial statements, you’d go to jail. In Congress, though, it’s just another day.

Ways and Means member Charles W. Boustany Jr., R-La., also told reporters that Republicans are negotiating for permanency on as many provisions as possible. “We sort of took them in order of importance in some respect,” he said, citing the research credit, section 179 expensing, bonus depreciation, the subpart F active financing exception, and the controlled foreign corporation look-through rule as “the top-level ones in my mind.”

That’s good news for fans of the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, which reverts to $25,000 for 2014 if no extension is enacted.

The article doesn’t say whether the President has softened his prior opposition to permanent extenders.  If he vetoes an extender bill, a tax season that already promises to be awful could get much worse.

 

Peter Reilly, Clergy Housing Tax Break Withstands Challenge – Atheist Group Lacks Standing:

For my readers who have not been following this drama I should explain, that the Internal Revenue Code provides that cash housing allowances paid to “ministers of the gospel”, that are spent on housing, are excluded from taxable income. Unlike, arguably similar exclusions for the military and people working abroad. there are no dollar limits on “parsonage” allowances.  Housing allowances for pastors of mega churches can run into the hundreds of thousands dollars.

 

I confess to some surprise at the outcome. Designating cash payment as “housing” always has seemed like a too-good-to-be-true tax break, but it lives. Staff-parish relations committees everywhere will be relieved at the outcome.

 

20140826-1Fresh Friday Buzz is on tap at Robert D. Flach’s place! Links to discussions of extenders and same-sex marriage filings issues are part of the fun.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #7-Buy A Building, Get An Immediate Deduction?

Jason Dinesen, My Experiences at the NAEA Leadership Academy. Jason, an Enrolled Agent, keeps up the fight:

Because there are so few of us, some would say (and some have said) to just let the group die. This cannot happen. EAs in Iowa are small in number … but that’s all the more reason for us to stick together! Most of the EAs I know are solo operators such as me, and we tend to exist in isolation in our own little silos. The number-one thing EAs in Iowa have told me they want is networking and a sense of community. Keeping the Iowa Society alive will help provide that.

The IRS attempt to create a new Registered Tax Return Preparer designation for those who take minimal CPE and pass a literacy test is a mortal threat to the Enrolled Agent brand. Enrolled Agents have to pass a rigorous exam and meet higher continuing education standards.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 554

Howard Gleckman, How Did Medical Device MaHkers Become Poster Children for Obamacare Critics (TaxVox). Maybe because the medical device tax is such an obviously bad idea, though Mr. Gleckman seems oblivious to that issue.

 

Is that a code section? ‘Redskins’ cited as basis to revoke NFL’s tax-exempt status (Kay Bell)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/13/14: Ottumwa Day! And: Elections and State Tax Policy.

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Ottumwa, Iowa: An old Southeast Iowa industrial and railroad town, home of fictional Corporal Radar O’Reilly, and today host of Day 1 of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. I’m helping out on the Day 1 panel for this year’s schools, along with CALT Director Roger McEowen and former IRS Stakeholder Liaison Kristy Maitre.  We’ll spend the morning on the ACA and it’s compliance requirements and penalties. We’ll spend the rest of the day trying to distract everyone.

It’s cozy and warm in our conference room at Indian Hills Community College.  That’s good, as it’s chilly outside.

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We’re in Mason City on Monday, and in Denison and Ames next month. There’s still time to register! And if you can’t make it to Denison, Mason City or Ames, the December 15-16 Ames session will be webcast.

 

David Brunori, What Do the Recent Elections Mean for State Tax Policy? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Taxes mattered more in Kansas than anywhere else. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) won there comfortably. The tax cuts of Republican Govs. Rick Snyder in Michigan, Paul LePage in Maine, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin were the focus of opponents’ campaigns, and those governors survived as well. The GOP challengers in Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts promised to either cut taxes or never raise them. They won. The message was clear: Tax cuts sell politically. One need not be Nate Silver to predict that state political leaders seeking to reduce tax burdens will be emboldened by this election.

I don’t think that’s so true here in Iowa. Now safely re-elected to a sixth term, our GOP governor is making noises about increasing the gasoline tax. But maybe he will go bold and convince a split legislature to go big on income tax reform — maybe starting with The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Greg Mankiw, Tax Fact of the Day::

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The big difference is the reliance on other countries on a Value Added Tax, which shows up in the Consumption Taxes bar.

 

Howard Gleckman, Now is the Perfect Time to Raise Gas Taxes (TaxVox).  “Gas prices are at their lowest levels in years and dropping. Consumers would barely notice if they had to pay a bit more now at the pump.”

 

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, Economic Growth Has Slowed Since 2000 (Tax Policy Blog). “Since 2000, GDP growth in the U.S. has been persistently low, averaging about 2 percent. This is much lower than the economic growth we saw in the past.”

20141113-3Kay Bell, Tax extenders outlook cloudy in the 2014 lame duck session:

Will there still be some insistence by the GOP on longer-term approaches to expired tax laws in this Congressional session’s waning hours?

Just what is the level of Democratic support of permanence vs. temporary laws?

And just how much pressure will lobbyists be able to exert to gain support of their favorite provisions, especially since some of the members making decisions now will not be around next year?

We simply don’t know yet.

There’s a lot of incentive for congresscritters to pass temporary provisions. They get to pretend they are less expensive than they really are, and they force lobbyists to show up and genuflect every year or two.

Russ Fox, London Calling: The Real Winners of the 2014 World Series of Poker. The Royal Exchequer trumps a royal flush.

TaxGrrrl, Internet Tax Ban Ending Soon: Speaker Boehner Hopes To Keep Internet Tax Free

Keith Fogg, Reinhart Part II – Extending the Statute of Limitations on Collection by Virtue of Being Out of Country (Procedurally Taxing)

20140729-1Paul Neiffer, Final FUTA Tax Rates by State

 

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Terms and Conditions. This edition of the definitive roundup of insurance and risk-management posts covers a lot of ground, including Hank Stern’s Rubber, Road and Lyft: Insurance Crisis? on ride sharing and insurance.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 553

 

The Critical Question. Just What the Hell is Goodwill Anyway? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going  Concern).

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/5/14: Red waves and extenders. And: RIP, Gordon Tullock

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130113-3So what does it mean for bonus depreciation? Sure, there was a turnover of power in the Senate, but we have tax returns to do here, people. What does the new makeup Congress mean for the upcoming filing season?

Well, technically for now, nothing. The same old congresscritters hold their seats until January. These are the same critters who have failed to to pass a bill extending all of the perpetually-expiring provisions that technically died at the beginning of 2014, including $500,000 Section 179 deductions, 50% bonus depreciation, and the research credit.  With the election over, they may finally move these Lazarus provisions. I think they will, considering that failure to do so will make an ugly filing season even worse.

Yet they may not. The Republican House of Representatives has passed a series of bills making some of the extenders permanent. These have been bottled up in the Democrat-controlled Senate. An emboldened GOP may insist on their versions, a stance which at least has fiscal honesty going for it. If so, nothing happens until January. And even then, the President may veto the permanent extenders in the name of “fiscal responsibility,” keeping up the pretense that passing tax breaks every year or two forever is less costly than just passing them once for good.

So we may just all be doomed. But we knew that.

 

20120906-1Meanwhile, nothing changes in IowaGovernor Branstad, avid distributor of economic development tax breaks, cruised to an easy victory over low-income housing credit developer Jack Hatch. The results show that with respect to corporate welfare tax credits, it truly is better to give than to receive.

While the GOP Governor won easily, the Democrats retained their 26-24 margin in the Iowa Senate.  That means no comprehensive Iowa tax reform is likely for at least the next two years. Not that it would be anyway, as Governor Branstad seems to have made his peace with high rates and complexity, given the ribbon cuttings he gets to attend when tax credits are awarded. But if he changes his mind, the The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, with its elimination of the corporation income tax and all the credits and its 4% top rate, is ready any time he is.

 

In other election-related newsThe lame smear of an Iowa congressional candidate for “moving his corporation to Delaware to dodge Iowa taxes” failed. Entrepreneur Rod Blum won the race for the seat vacated by Bruce Braley, who lost his bid for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat. Really, implying that it is somehow improper for a public company to incorporate in Delaware is right up there with accusing someone of being a notorious extrovert in a relationship with an admitted thespian.

And the attempt to get a local option sales tax passed in the Iowa City area failed.

 

train-wreckMeanwhile, we may be headed for a disastrous filing seasonBoth Commissioner Koskinen and Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson had grim forecasts for the coming tax season, reports Tax Analysts ($link):

“I think it will rival the 1985 filing season,” Olson said. “Those of you who have been in practice that long remember that time when all the returns disappeared, and Philadelphia melted down, and bags were stuffed in the trash full of returns, and we all got nice little calls from the IRS saying, ‘We know your client filed a return, but would you please file it again because we lost it.’ And it took years to undig ourselves from that.”

Oh goody. Of course, the Commissioner used the occasion to try to jack up his budget:

Both Koskinen and Olson said that there is only so much they can do without increased funding from Congress. 

“You really do get what you pay for,” Koskinen said. “And if you’re not paying for it, there’s no way you’re going to get it.”

The IRS will offer no tax return preparation at its walk-in assistance centers and will answer only limited tax law questions over the phone, Olson noted.

Yet with his condescending dismissal of GOP concerns over the Tea Party scandal, and his continuing stonewalling, he has done everything he could to antagonize the folks that set his budget. I’ll believe the IRS needs more money when it stops spending what it has on a “voluntary” preparer regulation regime nobody wants, when it stops using its “scarce” resources to steal cash from small businesses, when it stops giving away millions in cash to ludicrous fraud schemes, and when it stops covering up its harassment of the President’s political opponents. In other words, I’ll believe they are out of money when they don’t have money to spend on dumb things.

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Kay Bell, Tax reform a big factor for mid-term election voters

Peter Reilly, AICPA Wasted Member Dues On IRS Lawsuit. I don’t think it’s wasteful to fight IRS overreach.

Robert D. Flach, FEAR OF CPAs

Keith Fogg, Rare Suspension of Statute of Limitation Due to Continuous Absence from United States (Procedurally Taxing)

David Brunori, Taxing the Internet Is a Bad Idea – As the Hungarians Learned (Tax Analysts Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Will Consumers Come To Love Longevity Annuities? (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 545

 

20130110-2RIP, Gordon TullockAn intellectual giant left the scene this week when Gordon Tullock died Monday in Des Moines, where he moved in the past year. It was sadly appropriate that he died just prior to election day, given his aversion to voting.

Gordon Tullock was a father of the “Public Choice” school of economics. The online “Concise Encyclopedia of Economics” explains:

As James Buchanan artfully defined it, public choice is “politics without romance.” The wishful thinking it displaced presumes that participants in the political sphere aspire to promote the common good. In the conventional “public interest” view, public officials are portrayed as benevolent “public servants” who faithfully carry out the “will of the people.” In tending to the public’s business, voters, politicians, and policymakers are supposed somehow to rise above their own parochial concerns.

A bureaucrat is as human and as selfless, or selfish, as any businessman. This insight helps explain why so many good intentions go awry when they become law.

Dr. Tullock also had important observations on the tendency of powerful interests towards “rent seeking,” whereby the well-connected enrich themselves by to suppressing competitors via regulation and other government intervention.

I met Dr. Tullock once doing tax work for his family, before I understood who he was. He struck me as an absent-minded professor at first, until I realized that he seemed distracted because he was about five steps ahead of me in the discussion. He later sent me an inscribed copy of one of his books, “The Economics of Non-Human Societies.” The inscription said that my profession was described in the chapter beginning on page 47.

The chapter is about termites.

Other Gordon Tullock coverage from Don Boudreaux, Brian Doherty, Bryan Caplan and Tyler CowenFrom Caplan:

While I often disagreed with him, everything he wrote is worth reading.  Start with this excellent compendium.  Unlike many “interdisciplinary” economists, Tullock was a genuine polymath; his knowledge of history was especially impressive.

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Tax Roundup, 10/29/14: Iowa Business Tax Climate worsens. And: Ex-IRS man does a Reddit AMA.

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

41st out of 50. Iowa reclaimed its bottom-10 standing among the states in the 2015 Tax Foundation Business Tax Climate Index released yesterday. Iowa’s standing fell one spot from 2014.

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The Tax Foundation report mentions Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation corporation tax rate, its high individual rates, and its complicated tax system.  Iowa was rated as having the second-worst corporation tax system.

The Tax Foundation explains how the worst states got that way:

The states in the bottom ten suffer from the same afflictions: complex, non-neutral taxes with comparatively high rates. New Jersey, for example, suffers from some of the highest property tax burdens in the country, is one of just two states to levy both an inheritance and an estate tax, and maintains some of the worst structured individual income taxes in the country.

Even though Iowa’s complex and dysfunctional income tax is a long-standing embarrassment, it has been a non-issue in the current race for Governor. While he has occasionally said Iowa needs a better tax code, Governor Branstad’s administration has more avid about handing out tax credits to buy ribbon-cuttings than about fixing a tax law that burdens businesses lacking the pull to swing special deals. The tax law as it is seems to suit the Governor’s needs well enough now.

His opponent, Senator Hatch, is a big beneficiary of tax credits in his development business. As he makes a good living out of the tax law, he is an unlikely candidate for tax reform.

The report does hold out hope. North Carolina’s ranking jumped from 44th to 16th as a result of reforms enacted this year. If they can do it, maybe Iowa can too. The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, which would eliminate the corporation tax and drastically reduce individual rates by getting rid of Iowa’s rats nest of politically-convenient deductions and credits, would be a great place to start.

Other coverage:

TaxProf, 2015 Business Tax Climate: Chilliest in Blue States

Russ Fox, The 2015 State Business Tax Climate Index: Not Much Has Changed

 

20120906-1David Brunori, Yes, More Problems with Tax Incentives (Tax Analysts Blog):

People who have studied tax incentives know everything that’s wrong with them: They don’t work (companies choose where to locate for other reasons); they’re unfair (some companies get them, others don’t, and their benefits inure to the haves rather than the have-nots); they’re inefficient (government bureaucrats can’t make decisions better than the market). There are many more.

We also know why politicians support incentives, despite the mountains of criticism from people who know of what they say. Traditionally, it comes down to fear and greed. No politician wants to lose a company on his watch. Similarly, every politician wants to cut the ribbon opening a new plant. Then there is just cowardice. Taking a stand on principle is a rare commodity.

Indeed.

 

Iowa saved from giving away $30 million in corporate welfare. Iowa loses $1.4 billion fertilizer plant to Illinois (Des Moines Register) “Previous news reports have said both Iowa and Illinois offered Cronus tax incentives of about $30 million.”

 

William Perez, How Saving for Retirement Can Reduce Your Taxes

Robert D. Flach reports on THE SAVER’S CREDIT NUMBERS FOR 2015. This is an underused credit that rewards frugality by lower-income taxpayers.

Jason Dinesen, IRS Oops on E-Services E-mail. “That’s quite a mistake to “inadvertently” send an e-mail to practitioners, implying that online services were available again when they really aren’t. Especially since the IRS doesn’t intend to send a follow-up retraction to all of us who got the original e-mail.”

Jim Maule, How Not to File a Tax Court Petition “First, stand in line and get that hand-stamped postmark. Second, avoid the need to learn the first lesson by treating the petition as due EIGHTY days after it is mailed. That provides a cushion of time, an allowance for unforeseen circumstances, and contingency insurance.”

Jack Townsend, IRS CI Modifies Its Policy Regarding Forfeitures for Structuring on Bank Deposits for Legal Source Deposits.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces PTIN Renewals, Registration For Voluntary Certification

Peter Reilly, There Is An Accountant Art Expert – Who Knew?

Kay Bell, Desert island bipartisanship, sort of, on new reality TV show. Apparently a reality show left two Senators stranded on a desert island for six days. A good start.

 

20121116-1iabiz

 

Howard Gleckman, Is There Any Chance Congress Will Pass Business Tax Reform Next Year? (TaxVox). “The chances are not zero. But the odds are very long.”

William McBride, White House Claims U.S. Effective Corporate Tax Rate is Competitive (Tax Policy Blog). Yes, the way the Giants were competitive last night in Kansas City.

 

News from the Profession. Things You Should NOT Say to a Brand New CPA (Leona May, Going Concern).

 

Recently-retired IRS agent Michael Gregory did an “ask me anything” on Reddit. It apparently didn’t impress everyone, if this report is to be believed:

Gregory accused Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has been leading the investigation of IRS misdoings, of playing politics with IRS funding, which led one Reddit user to offer a “summary” of Gregory’s comments:

From what I’ve seen so far

Lerner did nothing wrong
Darrel Issa is the devil
Throw more money at the IRS
Lack of criminal charges proves everything was just peachy and not politically driven
It’s all congress’ fault
Patriots pay taxes
The flat tax will let evil millionaires kill and eat babies

The IRS couldn’t ask for a better ‘leaker’

Other Reddit users agreed, with one complaining, “[Gregory] might as well have titled this AMA ‘having left the IRS, I am free now to reveal the IRS would be perfect if Congress just paid us more.’ I get that the IRS may be underfunded but this leaker might as well be an IRS lobbyist.”

The IRS seems to have taken the funding issue into its own hands.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/9/14: Tax-exempt now, tax-exempt forever! And: Real Housewife, real plea deal.

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

Accounting Today visitors, click here for the pile of clothes.

 

20120511-2Maybe somebody has tried this before, but as far as I know, this is a new bad idea.  Mr. Lundy, a Florida man, received a non-taxable disability settlement. The IRS didn’t dispute that the settlement was exempt. But then things went to another level.  Tax Court Judge Armen explains (my emphasis):

Rather, petitioners contend that they invested Mr. Lundy’s disability retirement income (which respondent does not challenge as nontaxable) in Mrs. Lundy’s sole proprietorship and that, as a consequence, income generated by that proprietorship is nontaxable. Or, in petitioners’ words: “[A]ny thing we funded with those funds were completely tax free also.”

interesting argument. Once you get a tax-free dollar, anything that grows from that dollar is tax-free forever. That would be awesome. You could invest in municipal bonds, and then anything you buy with the exempt interest would be tax-free too!  If only it worked that way…

Alas, it doesn’t.  Judge Armen elaborates:

In arguing as they do, petitioners fail to distinguish between an item that is excludable from income and the income that such an item may produce once it is invested. Many items are statutorily excluded from gross income. For example, gross income does not include the value of property acquired by gift or inheritance. Sec. 102(a). In contrast, income generated from property acquired by gift or inheritance does not come within such statutory exclusion.

Dang.

Cite: Lundby, T.C. Memo 2014-209.

 

Russ Fox, It’s Not As If Anything Is Happening Right After This…:

And there is. For reasons that only the bureaucrats at the IRS can fathom, every year over Columbus Day weekend the IRS shuts down their computer systems. This includes processing of returns and IRS e-services.

Well, it’s not like there’s a deadline coming up or anything. Oh, wait…

 

The “Real Housewives” casting department apparently didn’t test reading comprehension. TaxGrrrl reports: Real Housewives’ Teresa Giudice Claims She Didn’t Know That Jail Was A Possibility:

The sentence came as a shock to Teresa who claimed, in the interview, that her lawyer did not tell her jail time was a possibility under the plea. She said about the plea, “I didn’t fully understand it. I thought my lawyer was going to fight for me. I mean, that’s what lawyers do. I don’t know. That’s why you hire an attorney. You put it in their hands.”

This shows the importance of reading legal documents before you sign them. She signed a plea agreement with the language excerpted here:

20141009-1

I’m not sure how you can sign something that says “the sentencing judge may impose any reasonable sentence up to and including the statutory maximum term” and feel safe. But then again, I’m not a real housewife.

 

harvestPaul Neiffer, Taxable is Taxable -Whether a 1099 or not! “The bottom line is any income received on the farm is taxable income whether there is a form 1099 or not.”

Jack Townsend, IRS Grants Automatic Treaty Relief for Canadian RRSPs and RRIFs

Kay Bell, Don’t overlook tax breaks in your rush to file by Oct. 15

 

Liz Malm, How Does Your State Score on Property Tax Administration? Probably Not Very Well (Tax Policy Blog). Iowa gets a C.

 

Cara Griffith, Is the Maryland Tax Court Hiding Its Opinions? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Here’s the problem: The Maryland Tax Court publishes a small fraction of its decisions online. It published a single decision in 2013 and has yet to publish a decision in 2014. The court has, of course, issued far more decisions; it simply chooses not to make them publicly available. One would presume, then, that the court retains all decisions and that if a taxpayer or practitioner wanted to review those decisions, a copy could be requested. But it is not that simple in Maryland. 
According to the court’s most recent retention schedule, decisions are to be permanently retained and periodically transferred to the Maryland State Archives. In reality, however, the tax court retains them for three years, but then the decisions are “shredded.” They are not sent to the archives.

Strange. If decisions aren’t public, they are of no use for taxpayers and practitioners trying to follow an often uncertain tax law. The shredding can also provide cover for favoritism or incompetence on the bench. Outrageous.

 

Howard Gleckman, Ryan and Lew Both Object to JCT Scoring of Future Tax Reform (TaxVox). “Like a couple of baseball managers working the umpires before a big World Series game, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), who wants to be the next chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, are looking to change the way Congress scores tax reform even before Congress begins a rewrite.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 519.

News from the Profession. Comcast: Let It Be Known That We Did Not Ask PwC to Fire That Guy (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/8/14: Koskinen warns of another hellish filing season. And: FATCA “tormenting” offshore taxpayers.

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The Younkers Building ruins, morning, March 29, 2014.

The Younkers Building ruins, morning, March 29, 2014.

Here we go again. We know from bitter experience that Congress might cause tax season delays by passing an election-year “extenders” bill at the last minute. IRS Commissioner Koskinen gave official warning yesterday in a letter to the head of the Senate Finance Committee:

This uncertainty, if it persists into December or later, could force the IRS to postpone the opening of the 2015 filing season and delay the processing of tax refunds for millions of taxpayers. Moreover, if Congress enacts any policy changes to the existing extenders or adds new provisions, the IRS would have to reprogram systems and make processing changes, which would result in longer delays. If Congress waits until 2015 and then enacts retroactive tax law changes affecting 2014, the operational and compliance challenges would be even more severe — likely resulting in service disruptions, millions of taxpayers needing to file amended returns, and substantially delayed refunds.

It was just such retroactive changes that made the 2013 filing season so awful. Add the first go round for Obamacare penalty computations on tax returns, and we can look forward to an even more wonderful tax season in 2015.

I predict that we will get a last-minute passage of the Lazarus provisions that keep dying and being resurrected, sometime in December. Of course, it could drag into January again. I expect pretty much all of the expiring provisions, including bonus depreciation, to be included. But I never rule out Congress dropping the ball entirely.

Other coverage: Richard Rubin, IRS Warns of Tax-Filing Season Delays If Congress Stalls 

Joint Committee on Taxation, list of expiring provisions 2013-2024 (pdf).

 

20140815-2Taxpayer Advocate: FATCA “Tormenting” TaxpayersTaxpayer Advocate Nina Olson doesn’t seem to be a fan of FATCA. She spoke to the Financial Markets Association yesterday, and it sounds like she foresees bad things ($link, my emphasis.):

“This is a piece of legislation that is so big and so far-reaching, and [has] so many different moving pieces, and is rolling out in an incremental fashion . . . that you really won’t be able to know what its consequences are, intended or otherwise,” Olson said. “I don’t think we’ll know that for years. And by that point we’ll actually be a little too late to go, ‘Oops, my bad, we shouldn’t have done this,’ and then try to unwind it.”

Wait, this was passed by our duly elected representatives. What could possibly go wrong?

Olson also questioned the penalty regime underlying FATCA. The law provides for a $10,000 penalty for failing to disclose a foreign bank account, and up to $50,000 for failing to disclose after IRS notification, she said. For someone with a $51,000 unreported foreign bank account, that could be a $60,000 penalty.

IRS policy states that penalties should be objectively proportioned to the offense, Olson said. “Putting a $60,000 penalty on someone for failing to report a $51,000 account does not seem to me like a penalty that is proportioned objectively to the offense,” she said.

Olson observed that a similar disproportionality emerged in recent IRS offshore voluntary disclosure initiatives, when the highest proportionate fines fell on the smallest accounts. In 2009 the median unreported balance for the smallest accounts was $44,000, she said. The lowest-balance account holders paid an FBAR penalty almost six times the actual tax due, she said. Yet the top 10 percent, with a median unreported balance of $7 million, paid a penalty roughly half the amount of tax owed, she said.

This is actually in keeping with the longstanding IRS policy of shooting jaywalkers while slapping the real international tax evaders on the wrist.

How could our legislative supergeniuses have come up with such an insane and unfair system? Look at the name of the legislation — “FATCA.” For fat cats, get it? They passed it claiming to be going after fat cats, but drafted it in a way that beats up on everybody working or living abroad attempting to commit personal finance. But because they “intended” to go after fat cats, they absolve themselves of guilt for the collateral damage, the financial devastation of the innocent and unwary, the retirements ruined. And they smear the rare politician who points out the insanity of FATCA with accusations of being soft on tax evasion.

 

canada flagThere was some rare good news on the offshore tax compliance front yesterday when the IRS made it easier to get favored tax treatment on Canadian retirement accounts:  IRS Simplifies Procedures for Favorable Tax Treatment on Canadian Retirement Plans and Annual Reporting Requirements:

The change relates to a longstanding provision in the U.S.-Canada tax treaty that enables U.S. citizens and resident aliens to defer tax on income accruing in their RRSP or RRIF until it is distributed. Otherwise, U.S. tax is due each year on this income, even if it is not distributed.

In the past, however, taxpayers generally would get tax deferral by attaching Form 8891 to their return and choosing this tax treaty benefit, something many eligible taxpayers failed to do. Before today’s change, a primary way to correct this omission and retroactively obtain the treaty benefit was to request a private letter ruling from the IRS, a costly and often time-consuming process.

Many taxpayers also failed to comply with another requirement; namely that they file Form 8891 each year reporting details about each RRSP and RRIF, including contributions made, income earned and distributions made. This requirement applied regardless of whether they chose the special tax treatment. The IRS is eliminating Form 8891, and taxpayers are no longer required to file this form for any year, past or present.

But in case you think the risk of fiscal catastrophe related to Canadian accounts is past, the IRS warns:

The revenue procedure does not modify any other U.S. reporting requirements that may apply under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and section 6038D. See FinCEN Form 114 due by June 30 of each year, and Form 8938 attached to a U.S. income tax return for more information about the reporting requirements under the BSA and section 6038D.

In other words, you can still be assessed a penalty of 50% of the account balance for not filing an FBAR report on the accounts, or a $10,000 penalty for not disclosing a balance on Form 8938 foreign financial asset form. But if you get ruined by these penalties, consider it a sacrifice on the altar of “an improved set of global rules,” you fat cat.

Russ Fox has more: IRS Simplifies Reporting for RRSPs and RRIFs.

 

20141008-1William Perez, Missed the Tax Deadline? Here’s what penalties might apply

Donnie Johnson, Liz Malm, What Does Yesterday’s Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Appeal Denial Mean for Same-Sex Couple Tax Filers? (Tax Policy Blog). Maybe taxpayers in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin could learn from Jason Dinesen’s work here in Iowa.

Kay Bell, Gambling pays out a $38 billion bonus to tax collectors.

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: IRA

KCCI, Pharmacist’s trial has been moved to next year. The owner of Bauder’s Pharmacy, facing tax and other charges arising out of alleged illegal sales of painkillers, is now set to go on trial in February.

 

Howard Gleckman, How Asset Building Tax Subsidies Miss Their Targets (TaxVox):

Nearly one-third of all federal tax expenditures–$384 billion in 2013 alone– is aimed at various forms of asset building, such as retirement savings, higher education, and home ownership. Yet, according to research by several of my Tax Policy Center and Urban Institute colleagues, these tax breaks do little to help low-and middle-income households build wealth.

Gee, you might conclude that maybe not every problem is a tax problem.

 

Two more TaxGrrrl Guest Posts: The IRS’s Uncharitable Treatment Of Charitable Contributions (Andrew VanSingel) and Roadways And Taxes (Charles Horn III).

David Brunori, Last Stand for Soda Taxes — Hopefully (Tax Analysts Blog). “If they can’t get folks in uber-liberal San Francisco and Berkeley to vote for soda taxes, they should just hang up their hats.”

Sebastian Johnson rounds up some more Tax Proposals on the Ballot this Election Season at Tax Justice Blog.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 517

Jeremy Scott, Will the EU Commission Crack Down on Irish Tax Deals? (Tax Analysts Blog).

 

News from the Profession. Some Big 4 Alumni Just Can’t Quit Their Old Firms. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). No problem for me.

 

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