Posts Tagged ‘Howard Gleckman’

Tax Roundup, 12/2/2013: Remember the January 15 property tax credit deadline! And: final 3.8% tax regs.

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1There’s a new deadline this year for Iowa business owners with real property.   Iowa business owners have a January 15, 2014 deadline to apply for the business property tax credit enacted in this year’s legislative session.  Many have yet to apply, reports gazette.com:

Commercial property owners have been slow to apply for a new property tax credit designed to give a little boost to small businesses.

Most business owners who own the property in which the business operates are eligible for the Iowa Business Property Tax Credit.

A $50 million pool of money is available for the first year of the new tax credit. The state legislature included the credit in an historic property tax relief bill signed into law on June 12.

“It is important they get them in now so we can process them,” said Cedar Rapids City Assessor Scott Labus.

Businesses can find the form online here.  It should be filed with the local county assessor’s office. The gazette.com article says the maximum credit for the coming assessment year is $523.

 

Paul Neiffer,  Final Net Investment Income Regs Have Good News For Farmers:

In Final Regulations issued earlier this week, the IRS changed their interpretation of this rule and have now indicated that any self-rented real estate or rental real estate that has been properly grouped with a material participation entity will not be subject to the tax.  In even better news, any gain from selling this type of property will also be exempt from the tax.

Good news not just for farmers, but for any business where the owners rent property to a corporation they control.

 

Tony Nitti, IRS Issues Final Net Investment Income Tax Regulations: A First Look And More   It was a dirty trick to issue them over Thanksgiving, when I wasn’t watching.   I will be posting on some key issues.

 

20130419-1Illinois storm victims get filing relief (IRS news release):

The President has declared the counties of Champaign, Douglas, Fayette, Grundy, Jasper, La Salle, Massac, Pope, Tazewell, Vermilion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, Will and Woodford a federal disaster area. Individuals who reside or have a business in these counties may qualify for tax relief.

The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after Nov. 17, and on or before Feb. 28, 2014, have been postponed to Feb. 28, 2014.

The IRS is also waiving the failure-to-deposit penalties for employment and excise tax deposits due on or after Nov. 17, and on or before Dec. 2, as long as the deposits are made by Dec. 2, 2013.

You don’t have to be damaged to qualify, you just have to be located in the affected area.

 

No, that’s not the real threat.  The Muscatine Journal mistakes the painkiller for the ailment:

Tax breaks for wind-power producers are set to expire in a little more than a month, threatening hundreds of manufacturing and energy jobs in the state if nothing is done.

In Iowa, much of the attention has focused on the federal Renewable Fuel Standard in which the federal government guarantees a market for biofuels. But for Iowa’s turbine manufacturers and power companies, it’s the federal production tax credit that takes precedence.

It’s not the loss of the tax credits that threatens these industries.  It’s their inability to survive without subsidies or, in the case of ethanol makers, their inability to sell their product unless people are forced by law to buy it.  The subsidies only dull the recipients awareness of their real ailment.

 

David Brunori, Confusing Tax Cuts with Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog):

But increasing or decreasing tax burdens should not be confused with tax reform. Tax reform should mean something. I define tax reform as meaningful changes to the tax system that comport with the general notions of sound tax policy. The goal should be to make the system fairer, neutral, more efficient, and more stable. The changes should also increase economic development and job growth. And they should ensure that the government raises enough revenue to meet the public service demands of the citizenry. Changing the rates or tinkering at the margins is not reform.

Nor is giving tax spiffs to influential or sympathetic constituencies, but that’s been the Iowa way for some time now.

 

20120529-2Lyman Stone, Missouri Considering “Massive” Incentives for Boeing (Tax Policy Blog):

This is bad tax policy in spades. Governor Nixon rejected a flawed, but still broad, tax cut on the grounds that taxes don’t matter much for businesses, but government services do. Now Missouri policymakers may try to attract one specific company with a “massive” and narrowly-targeted tax break, despite lack of evidence that incentives lead to economic growth, and ample evidence that they create problems.

It’s all about directing funds to insiders with good lobbyists.

 

Cara Griffith, A Change of Culture (Tax Analysts Blog).  She talks about the natural tendency of tax authorities to conceal information and make tax practice an insiders’ game.  She notes that North Carolina doesn’t release private rulings and hasn’t updated public corporate directives since April 2012.  Iowa is better, but they haven’t updated their “What’s new” website since August.

 

William Perez, Updated Form W-9.  With the additional rules of FATCA piled on top of existing foreign withholding rules, you should make sure to get a W-9 from your vendors, depositors and ownership groups.

 

Jason Dinesen reminds us of the Iowa Insurance Premium Deduction

Trish McIntire reminds us that Refund Advances are really expensive loans.

Robert D. Flach, TO PER DIEM OR NOT TO PER DIEM – THAT IS THE QUESTION.

 

Kay Bell offers some Tax-saving moves to make by Dec. 31, 2013

Howard Gleckman,  Obama Will Try to Clarify the Role of Tax-Exempt Groups in Politics.  Your new role in furthering public debate?  Shut up!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 207

Tax Justice Blog: This Holiday, The Tax Justice Team Is Thankful For…  In other words, watch your wallets, folks.

The Critical Question: Do We Need A Clergy Tax Simplification Act Of 2014?    (Peter Reilly)

Going Concern, 10 Things Accounting Professionals Should Be Thankful For This Year

TaxGrrrl, This Man’s Nuts: Plan To Sell Testicle For New Car Is Taxable   As if there weren’t enough non-tax arguments against this plan.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/22/13: Baucus proposes end of depreciation as we know it; also targets LIFO, cash-method farming.

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Max Baucus

Max Baucus

Baucus aims at LIFO, depreciation.  Senator Max Baucus has issued a tax reform proposal that slows depreciation and eliminates LIFO.  While it is a long way from becoming law — and certainly won’t become law in its current form — it will help shape the next round of tax reform.  Some key points:

-Depreciation for non-real estate assets would be computed not asset by assets, but in “pools,” with a set percentage of the amount of assets in each pool deducted during the year.  If the pool goes negative with dispositions, income is recognized.  There would be four “pools” with varying recovery percentages.

- Buildings would be depreciated under current rules, but over 43 years.

- The annual Section 179 limit would be $1 million, but with a phaseout starting at $2 million of assets placed in service.

- Research expenses would be capitalized and amortized over five years.

- LIFO would be repealed.

- Advertising costs would only be half deductible currently with the rest amortized over 5 years.

- Farmers would lose their exemption from accrual-basis accounting.

I think this goes the wrong way, adding complexity and lengthening lives.  I would prefer more immediate expensing.  LIFO repeal, and maybe the farm rule,  are the only proposals that seem to actually simplify anything.  The rest seem like high-toned revenue grabs.  If the revenue all goes to reduce rates, that wouldn’t be so bad, but I doubt that’s the idea.

 

Victor Fleischer, Tax Proposal for an Economy No Longer Rooted in Manufacturing:

The Baucus proposal aims to make the tax system match economic reality, removing the tax distortions from the equation. It would group tangible assets into just four different pools, with a fixed percentage of cost recovery applied to the tax basis of each pool each year, ranging from 38 percent for short-lived assets to 5 percent for certain long-lived assets.

It would be hard to make the case for giving the priority to tangible assets, and yet that is precisely what current law does by allowing rapid depreciation. At a minimum, the tax depreciation system should strive for neutrality and not discourage investment in intangibles and human capital.

That’s true.  Yet it’s hard to see how the Baucus proposal to require R&D costs to be amortized over five years, or the proposal to require 20-year amortization of intangibles instead of the current 15 years, encourages investments in intangibles and human capital.

Via Lynnley Browning’s Twitter feed.

The TaxProf has a roundup of the plan:  Senate Finance Committee Releases Depreciation and Accounting Tax Reform Plan 

William Perez, Draft Tax Reform Proposals from the Senate Finance Committee

Paul Neiffer, MAJOR Farm Tax Law Changes Proposed by Senate

Leslie Book, Senator Baucus Releases Proposals to Reform Administration of Tax Laws (Procedurally Taxing.

 

St. Louis loses another preparer.  From a Department of Justice Press Release:

A federal district judge in St. Louis has permanently barred defendants Joseph Burns, Joseph Thomas and International Tax Service Inc. from preparing federal tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today…

According to the complaint, the defendants repeatedly fabricated expenses and deductions on customers’ returns and falsely claimed head of household status for customers who were married in order to illegally understate their customers’ federal tax liabilities and to obtain fraudulent tax refunds. The complaint also alleged that the defendants falsely claimed that some of their customers earned income from businesses that the defendants fabricated or increased the amount of business income their customers earned in order to illegally claim the maximum earned income tax credit on customers’ returns.

The IRS has certainly given their clients’ returns a good going over.  That’s the risk of going with a preparer whose results are too good to be true.

 

Scott Hodge, Andrew Lundeen, America Has Become a Nation of Dual-Income Working Couples (Tax Policy Blog)

20131122-1

Though its a brave man who tells the stay-at-home she’s not “working” after a day spent between taking care of an elderly parent and little kids.

 

Jason Dinesen,  Life After DOMA: What if You Amend One Year But Not the Next?

TaxGrrrl, When Mom and Dad Move In: The ‘Granny-Flat Tax Exemption’ For the Sandwich Generation 

Jana Luttenegger, Electronic Signatures, What’s Next? (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  E-filing of wills?

Phil Hodgen, U.S. brokerage accounts after you expatriate

Russ Fox, It’s All Greek to Me. Don’t gamble in Greece, seems to be the point.

 

20121120-2Kay Bell, Ways & Means’ tax plays in GOP anti-Obamacare game plan

Howard Gleckman,  How Washington May Turn June Into Fiscal February (TaxVox).  Yes they’ll be running out of our money again soon.

Christopher Bergin, The End of the Era of Multinationals (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, Scott Walker’s Tax Record Will Be on the Wisconsin Ballot Next Year.  Shockingly, TJB doesn’t like Walker.

Tony Nitti, International Tax Reform For Dummies 

Visit Robert D. Flach for fresh Friday Buzz!

 

News from the Profession: New Audit Associate Looking For Prank Ideas, Possibly a New Job in Near Future (Going Concern)

Oh, one more thing: Magnus!

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

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

“Fez” Ogbazion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prior coverage: Judge shuts down Instant Tax Service.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 195

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/8/13: Kyle Orton gets the bad news about the Tax Fairy. And: how many Lithuanians can you fit into a mailbox?

Friday, November 8th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

tax fairyKyle Orton’s old lawyer fails to find the Tax Fairy, departs the tax business.  From a Department of Justice press release:

A federal court has permanently barred Gary J. Stern from promoting tax fraud schemes and from preparing related tax returns, the Justice Department announced today.  The civil injunction order, to which Stern consented without admitting the allegations against him, was entered by Judge Robert Gettleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  The order permanently bars Stern from preparing various types of tax returns for individuals, estates and trusts, partnerships or corporations (IRS Forms 1040, 1041, 1065, and 1120), among others. 

According to the complaint, Stern designed at least three tax-fraud schemes that helped hundreds of customers falsely claim over $16 million in improper tax credits and avoid paying income tax on at least $3.4 million.  Stern allegedly promoted the schemes to customers, colleagues, and business associates.  The complaint alleges that his customers included lawyers, entrepreneurs and professional football players, and some of the latter, including NFL quarterback Kyle Orton, have sued Stern in connection with the tax scheme, alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and professional malpractice. 

Mr. Stern seems to have led his clients on a merry chase after the Tax Fairy, the legendary sprite who can wave her wand and make your taxes disappear.  Kyle Orton is a graduate of Southeast Polk High School near Des Moines, where the truth about the Tax Fairy apparently was not in the syllabus.

Related: Jack Townsend, Chicago Lawyer Enjoined From Promoting Fraudulent Tax Schemes 

 

20131108-1Maybe Lithuanian apartments are crowded?  USA Today reports:

The Internal Revenue Service sent 655 tax refunds to a single address in Kaunas, Lithuania — failing to recognize that the refunds were likely part of an identity theft scheme. Another 343 tax refunds went to a single address in Shanghai, China.

Thousands more potentially fraudulent refunds — totaling millions of dollars — went to places in Bulgaria, Ireland and Canada in 2011.

In all, a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration today found 1.5 million potentially fraudulent tax returns that went undetected by the IRS, costing taxpayers $3.2 billion.

When your controls don’t notice something like that, you have a lot more urgent problems than regulating preparers.   Yet Congress and the Administration think the IRS is ready to take on overseeing your health insurance purchases.  What could go wrong?

Tony Nitti is moved to offer the IRS a proposition:

MR. IRS,

REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

FIRST, I MUST SOLICIT YOUR STRICTEST CONFIDENCE IN THIS TRANSACTION. THIS IS BY VIRTUE OF ITS NATURE AS BEING UTTERLY CONFIDENTIAL AND ‘TOP SECRET’.

Heh.

 

 

S-SidewalkCosting taxpayers by not taking their money.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Democrats seeking to raise revenue in ongoing budget talks have circulated a list of tax preferences they would like to see eliminated, including a provision that allows some wealthy individuals to avoid large payroll taxes, the carried interest preference, and the tax break for expenses businesses incur when moving operations overseas. 

The “provision that allows some wealthy individuals to avoid large payroll taxes” is called Subchapter S.  Form 1120-S K-1 income has never been subject to payroll or self-employment tax.  This bothers the congresscritters (my emphasis):

Commonly known as the “Newt Gingrich/John Edwards” loophole, it is most often used by owners of Subchapter S corporations to avoid the 3.9% Medicare tax on earnings, which costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.  Many S corporation shareholders receive both wages from the S corporation and a share of the S corporation’s profits, but they pay payroll tax only on their wages.

“Costs” taxpayers?  From my point of view, and from that of my S corporation clients, it saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year — but keeps it out of the hands of grasping politicians, so it’s perceived as a bad thing, by grasping politicians.

The versions of this “loophole closer” proposed in the past have been lame.  When all they have to offer on tax policy is warmed over lameness like these, they aren’t serious.

 

 

TaxProf, Brunson: Preventing IRS Abuse of the Tax System.  The TaxProf quotes a new article by Samuel D. Brunson:

The IRS can act in ways that violate both the letter and the intent of the tax law. Where such violations either provide benefits to select groups of taxpayers without directly harming others, or where the harm to taxpayers is de minimis, nobody has the ability or incentive to challenge the IRS and require it to enforce the tax law as written.

Congress could control the IRS’s abuse of the tax law. Using insights from the literature of administrative oversight, this Article proposes that Congress provide standing on third parties to challenge IRS actions. If properly designed and implemented, such “fire-alarm oversight” would permit oversight at a significantly lower cost than creating another oversight board. At the same time, it would be more effective at finding and responding to IRS abuse of the tax system and would generally preserve the IRS’s administrative discretion in deciding how to enforce the tax law.

Right now the IRS — and by extension the administration in power — can pick and choose what parts of the law it wants to apply.  For example, the current administration has chosen to allow tax credits for participants in federal insurance exchanges, which the law does not authorize, while unilaterally delaying the employer insurance mandate but not the individual mandate.  Somebody should be able to challenge this sort of fiat government.

 

More on the shutdown of Instant Tax Service, a story we covered yesterday:Irwin

Department of Justice press release: Federal Court in Ohio Shuts Down Nation’s Fourth-Largest Tax-Preparation Firm and Bars CEO from Tax-Preparation Business

 

Irwinirwin.jpgPeter Reilly, Ninth Circuit Rules Against Irwin Schiff Sentence Appeal:

Irwin Schiff is probably one of the more famous alternate tax thinkers.  His seminal work “How Anyone Can Stop Paying Income Taxes” is available in hardcover on Amazon for one cent.

Mr. Schiff appealed his sentence on tax crimes on the basis that his attorney failed to raise a “bipolar disorder” defense and what an attorney I know calls the “good faith fraud” defense — the Cheek argument that you really thought the wacky stuff you were saying is true.  Peter wisely notes:

The problem with the Cheek defense is that you have to be smart to raise it, but if you show that you are too smart, then it does not work.

Its a fine line — smart enough to spend “thousands of hours” researching the tax law, but not smart enough to avoid a massive misunderstanding of it.

 

Jana Luttenegger,  IRS Change to Use-Or-Lose Rule for FSA Accounts (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog): “New IRS rules permit employers to allow participants in a health Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) to carry over unused amounts up to $500 from one plan year to the next.”

 

Paul Neiffer, Trusts Get Hit with New 3.8% Tax too. And hard.

Kay Bell, It could be time to harvest capital gains and future tax savings

Rush Nigut,  Careful Planning Necessary When Using Retirement Monies to Fund Startup Business

Brian Strahle, IGNORANCE MAY NOT BE BLISS WHEN IT COMES TO ‘ZAPPERS’  These are software apps designed to hide point-of-sale receipts from the taxman.

Phil Hodgen’s Exit Tax Book: Chapter 9 – Estate and Gift Tax for the Covered Expatriate

Catch your Friday Buzz with Robert D. Flach!

TaxGrrrl,  Former NFL Star Cites Concussions, Receives Prison Sentence For Role In Tax Fraud 

Leslie Book,  TIGTA Report on VITA Errors (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Howard Gleckman,  Can Expiring Tax Provisions Save the Budget Talks? (TaxVox).  ”Sadly, it is hard to see how.”

 

Not strictly tax-related, but good reading anyway:  How to Put the Brakes on Consumers’ Debt(Megan McArdle).  Megan points out the wisdom of spending less than you take in, in preference to trying to get the government to cover your shortfalls.

 

News you can use: 3 ways to screw up your next website (Josh Larson at IowaBiz.com)

News from the Profession: Failed PwC Auditor Finds Success in Burning Bridges With This Ridiculous Farewell Email (Going Concern)

 

Quick thinking.  From The Des Moines Register:

A Des Moines man awoke to find a stranger in his living room Thursday afternoon, police said. When the victim confronted the burglar, the suspect reportedly offered to mow the victim’s lawn for $5.

Guy needs to work on his pricing model.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/1/13: Unhappy Halloween for tax shelter maven. And: clunk!

Friday, November 1st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

tax fairyGuilty again.  Former Jenkens and Gilchrist tax shelter wizard Paul Daugerdas was again convicted on tax crime charges yesterday arising out of the great tax shelter frenzy of the Clinton and Bush II years.   A previous conviction was overturned on grounds of juror misconduct.  Bloomberg Businessweek reports that he was convicted on seven of 16 counts.

A co-defendant, former BDO Seidman CEO Denis Field, was acquitted.

Mr. Daugerdas built a fortune around tax shelters with clever names like “HOMER,” “CARDs” and “BLISS.”  The shelters typically involved offsetting investment positions, with losses allocated to shelter customers and gains allocated to tax-indifferent offshore entities.  The shelters have fared poorly on exam and in the courts, with a nearly unbroken record of failure in litigated cases.

Mr. Daugerdas built a fortune around selling access to the Tax Fairy, the magical sprite who waves her wand to make tax problems go away.  The news that there is no tax fairy proved costly to his clients, and probably also to him.

Link: Prior Tax Update Daugerdas coverage.

 

20121212-1Clunk.  Cash for Clunkers was an expensive boondoggle, reports the Brookings Institution.  The study estimates that the program cost $1.4 million per “job created” while destroying thousands of perfectly good vehicles and raising transportation costs for those who rely on used cars.

Related:  Braley: “Cash for Clunkers” phenomenally successful (Radio Iowa)

Kyle Pomerleau,  Cash for Clunkers: Not Much of a Stimulus (Tax Policy Blog)

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces 2014 Tax Brackets, Standard Deduction Amounts And More   

 

Paul Neiffer,  Calculating Cost Basis Wrong Can Be Costly!

Peter Reilly,  Actuary In Tax Court Beats Northwestern And IRS On Accuracy Of 1099-R.

Janet Novack, Top Social Security Tax To Rise 2.9% In 2014; Benefits Going Up 1.5%

Tax Trials, IRS Resumes Field Exams & Collections.  The shutdown is truly over.

Phil Hodgen’s  series on the expatriate exit tax continues with Chapter 4 – Are You A Covered Expatriate?

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 176

Robert D. Flach is celebrating his 60th birthday with a sale.

 

Howard Gleckman,  As Budget Talks Start, Beware the Bogus Revenue Hikes (TaxVox) “But behind the scenes, Washington’s wink-and-nod crowd thinks it has a solution: Raise new tax revenue—at least on paper—without actually increasing taxes. In fact, some of the gimmicks on the table create even darker Halloween magic.”

Tax Justice Blog, Kansas: Dispatches from a Failing Experiment

 

Going Concern,  Career Conundrum: Is a Master’s Degree Worth It?  It’s all relative.  To me it was, because my it was in Accounting, while my  B.A. was in History — a noble field, but one with grim employment prospects.  If you have an undergrad degree, I’m not so sure it’s worth forgoing a year or two of salary.  If you don’t have a job anyway, it may be the edge you need.

 

Kay Bell, A colorful way to ease IRS notice fears:

Adam Chodorow, however, has an idea of how to ease such tax correspondence induced panic attacks.

Chodorow, a professor at Arizona State’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, suggests color-coding so that taxpayers will immediately know the amount of tax trouble they are in. This, he says, could abate taxpayer stress.

If the IRS could be relied on to issue accurate notices, that would be lovely, but incorrect “red” notices would probably induce a rash of taxpayer heart episodes.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/30/2013: Beggars night day edition! And why IRAs are scary as start-up investors.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
MST3K-2 lantern

Stop by for treats tonight. You can find us by Son’s MST3K-themed pumpkin.

The Des Moines area has an unusual tradition for trick-or-treating on October 30, rather than October 31.   On our “Beggars Night,” it’s customary for the little monsters to tell a joke.  A perennial favorite:

What’s a pirate’s favorite restaurant?

Aaaarghh-bys!

So drive carefully tonight!

 

Speaking of scary, think of having your IRA disqualified and taxed currently, with penalties, for engaging in a prohibited transaction.  That’s what happened to a Missouri man in Tax Court yesterday.

The taxpayer, a Mr. Ellis, rolled $320,000 out of his 401(k) and put it into a self-directed IRA.  The IRA than bought 98% of a corporation (an LLC that elected to be taxed as a corporation) to open a used-car lot, where he began working as the general manager.  It went badly.  From the Tax Court opinion:

In essence, Mr. Ellis formulated a plan in which he would use his retirement savings as startup capital for a used car business. Mr. Ellis would operate this business and use it as his primary source of income by paying himself compensation for his role in its day-to-day operation. Mr. Ellis effected this plan by establishing the used car business as an investment of his IRA, attempting to preserve the integrity of the IRA as a qualified retirement plan. However, this is precisely the kind of self-dealing that section 4975 was enacted to prevent.

The result? $163,000 of taxes and penalties on the $320,000 invested in the used car lot — which, of course, may well not be very liquid, seeing that it’s all invested in a closely-held corporation.

This case has an interesting twist to those of us who follow tax cases too closely.  The IRA plan was apparently the work of  a Kansas City law firm whose attempt to make their practice income largely tax-exempt by funneling it through an ESOP-owned S corporation was shot down in Tax Court in 2011.  I’m just guessing here, but the IRS may have taken a look at that firm’s clients after seeing how aggressive the firm was in using retirement plans to shelter business income.

It’s tempting to have your IRA invest directly to avoid the current tax and 10% penalty that can apply to an early withdrawal.  The results, though, can be a lot scarier than any trick-or-treater.

Cite: Ellis, T.C. Memo 2013-245.

 

59pdhyefMore scary.  Econoblogger Arnold Kling has thoughts on whether Healthcare.gov might be saved:

My opinion of the distribution of likely outcomes is that it is bimodal. There is a high probability that the exchanges will be working at the end of November. I think that there is an even higher probability that they will be working never.

The public pledge where the new savior of the site impresses Mr. Kling, but he thinks the design issues might be intractable.

Andrew Lundeen, Scott Hodge,  The Income Tax Burden Is Very Progressive (Tax Policy Blog):

About half of the nation’s income is reported by taxpayers who make less than $100,000, and half is reported by taxpayers who make more. However, taxpayers who make less than $100,000 collectively pay just 18 percent of all income taxes while those who make more pay over 80 percent of all income taxes.

They have a chart, of course:

20131030-2

 

Howard Gleckman, Who Benefits from Muni Bonds? It’s More Complicated Than You Think (TaxVox) “…while most of the benefit of the tax-exemption goes to high-income investors, lower-income households who hold taxable bonds in their 401(k)s also receive some advantage.”

 

But they’re ready to regulate preparers! TIGTA: IRS Cannot Account for 23% of its IT Assets (TaxProf).

 

Jason Dinesen asks Is There a Way to Protect Yourself from Tax Return Identity Theft?   Use common sense — but if someone in your family dies, ID thieves may be able to get government-published information enabling them to steal the deceased’s identity no matter what you do.

TaxGrrrl, Somebody’s Watching Me: IRS Criminal Investigations Ramp Up Efforts To Thwart Tax ID Thefts   

 

David Brunori offers Tax Advice for State Legislators of All Parties (Tax Analysts Blog).  There’s a lot there, including this:

Both parties should also give serious thought to greater reliance on the property tax. Yes, I know people hate that tax. I also know that politicians find it advantageous to attack it. But the property tax revolts of the late 1970s and the 1980s have badly damaged the fiscal structure of state and local governments.

Don’t expect either party to heed the advice.

 

William Perez,  47% of Individual Taxpayers Earn Under $30,000

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 174

High-fiber diet.  Tax identity thief who ate debit card evidence is convicted (Kay Bell)

From Phil Hodgen’s series on expat taxes: Chapter 2 – Are You An Expatriate?

Carlton Smith, Byers v Comm’r – CDP Venue In Courts Of Appeals May Be Upended (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Joseph Thorndike, It’s Time to Give Up on Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog):

Tax reform? Don’t bet on it. Not this year, and probably not next year either. Tax reform, like everything else in Washington, is on hold pending the resolution of a broader, highly polarized debate about the role of government in American society.

 

Robert D. Flach has his Tuesday Buzz on Wednesday this week.

 

 

20131025-237-yard month penalty for former Eagle Mitchell.  The sentence was handed down yesterday in a Florida federal courtroom, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

The former NFL wide-receiver blamed brain injuries suffered on the field after pleading guilty to a plot where he helped convince Milwaukee Bucks player to use a Florida preparer to file a refund claim, which would be split between the NBA player, Mr. Mitchell, and the preparer.  The claim was fraudulent, and the NBA player wasn’t charged.  Mr. Mitchell also allegedly used an LLC to conceal other fraudulent tax claims.  Brain injuries are funny things.

 

News from the Profession: Dancing Accountant Nearly Thrown Out of a Bank For Dancing To “Money, Money, Money”  (Going Concern)

 

 

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

Monday, October 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And jumping through the hoops isn’t free:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

amazon

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Jack Townsend, Swiss Bank Frey to Close

Brian Mahany, FATCA, FBAR and Opt Outs

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

Flickr image courtesy Natesh Ramasamy under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy Natesh Ramasamy under Creative Commons license.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/17/2013: They’re baa-aak edition. And getting to know CPA firm decisionmakers.

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy dlofink under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy dlofink under Creative Commons license.

The shutdown is over!  The Republic is saved!  That means the IRS can resume sending nonsensical notices and attempting to run the small players out of the tax-prep business.  Audits can resume.  Didn’t you miss them?

It’s all good for the Tax Update, as the Tax Court will resume issuing cases and the IRS will issue new guidance — the grist for this mill.  It will be interesting if we see large batches of cases issued today and early next week, or if the Tax Court really stopped altogether.

Howard Gleckman,  The Un-Default: Congress Has Become A Seinfeld Episode.  That explains why the show was cancelled.  (TaxVox)

TaxGrrrl, IRS To Employees: Let’s Get Back To Work! 

Linda Beale,  Senate passes debt increase/shutdown ending bill

 

Paul Neiffer,  Watch Out for Distributions from Coops:

A qualified distribution is treated as a deduction on the cooperative return and the producer picks up the income amount.  On the contrary, the cooperative does not get a tax deduction when a non-qualified distribution is given and the producer does not pay tax on that amount. 

Extending the dividends-paid deduction for co-ops to all dividends from all corporations is an obvious method of tax reform that nobody but me seems to support.

 

Peter Reilly, Lawyers Hosting Event For Judges Does Not Count As Charity

Jack Townsend,  Supreme Court Denies Certiorari in Coplan

 

20121120-2Kyle Pomerleau, Obamacare’s Shaky Funding Sources (Tax Policy Blog)

These include a new 3.8 percent “unearned income Medicare contribution” (UIMC) and a new tax on “Cadillac” health insurance plans. The income thresholds for the UIMC are not indexed for inflation, so under law most workers would eventually be subject to the tax-over 80 percent of workers within 75 years, according to the Medicare trustees.”

Due to the fact that the income threshold for the new Medicare tax on unearned income will remain static and incomes will continue to rise, more and more people will eventually be hit by this tax. It will no longer be a tax just on the rich.

You can’t fund a mass welfare benefit with a class tax.

 

There’s a new Cavalcade of Risk up at Terms + Conditions!  The Cavalcade is a roundup of insurance and risk management posts.  As you might expect, there’s lots of Obamacare there.  Meanwhile Insureblog has been all over this, including Adventures On The Marketplace, on one man’s attempt to enroll.

Oh, boy.  Happy Centennial, Income Tax! (Benjamin J. Gehlhausen, Tax Policy Blog): “There is nothing simple about a work that approaches 74,000 pages and currently requires 6 billion hours of work by professionals to prepare return forms and comply with tax laws.”

 

20131017-2The Critical Question: Are States Addicted to Revenue from Unclaimed Property? (Cara Griffith, Tax Analysts Blog).  “According to the COST score card, revenue from unclaimed property is the state’s third largest revenue source, generating 16 percent of the general revenue fund in fiscal 2013.”  So they have to modify the old joke about the economist explaining why he left a $20 bill on the ground.  The old punchline is “if that really were money, somebody would have already picked it up.”  The new version is “If it really were lost, the State would have it already.”

 

News you can use.  When Liberals Preach Fairness, Hold On to Your Wallet (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog) ”I am sure those hardworking, middle-class wage earners who will pay more are very happy that the bored liberal billionaires are looking out for them.”

TaxProf, Freakonomics: Is Charitable Giving Affected by the Attractiveness of Tax Preparers?  Come on.  If that were true, all of my clients would have contribution carryforwards.

 

News from the profession.  Accounting Career Conundrums: Aspiring CPA Concerned Background Check Will Uncover Revealing Past (Going Concern).  It’s about a former stripper. I suspect she already knows more CPA firm hiring partners than she realizes.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/16/2013: Extension season is over, now what? And the joy of infinite marginal tax rates.

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20111040logoI hope you don’t have to.  Filing Tax Returns after the October 15th Deadline (William Perez):

You’ll need to mail in your return to the IRS, whether you prepare the return yourself or hire an accountant. That’s because the IRS’s electronic filing servers start going offline after October 15th to prepare for the next filing season.

If you are filing after October 15 this year, my first advice is to file quickly, as you are likely to never file if you don’t get it done now.  My next advice is to make sure it doesn’t happen next year.

Most people who file late make it harder than it needs to be.  90% of the stuff that could possibly go on their returns comes from third parties — things like W-2s, 1099s, mortgage interest and property tax statements, and thank-you notes from charities.  People who can’t seem to file on time should get a big envelope.  They should put these items in the envelope as they come in starting in early January.  They should seal the envelope on February 28 and give it to their preparer.  For most taxpayers, that is all you need to get a reasonably accurate return.

The procrastinators want to go through their checkbooks and find every last $10 charitable gift, and then they never get around to it.  When they finally do, it’s almost certainly a poor use of their time, and when it causes them to file late, it costs them a lot more than that last $10 deduction will save.

Related:  2012 Tax Season Officially Bites the Dust (Paul Neiffer)

 

 

Implicit marginal ratesAlan Cole, Obamacare Puts Infinite Marginal Tax Rates in Action (Tax Policy Blog):

The moment your modified AGI reaches 400% of the poverty line, you instantly lose a subsidy that could easily be worth $15,000. This is a discontinuity in public policy with respect to income. It is a place where an infinitesimal change can result in disastrous consequence for a taxpayer. At 400% of the poverty line, the marginal tax rate is infinite.

It’s an extreme example of the way means-tested welfare benefits can impose high hidden tax rates on poor and middle class taxpayers — punishment ignored by advocates of higher benefits in the name of “compassion.”  More from Arnold Kling.

 

Tony Nitti,  A Quick Look At Expiring 2013 Tax Provisions: What To Do Before Year-End

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 160

 

Kyle Pomerleau, What is the Debt Ceiling and Why Does it Matter? (Tax Policy Blog) ’

Howard Gleckman, The U.S.May Not Default on Friday But Washington Is Still Playing A Dangerous Game

Joseph Thorndike, Debt Limit Fights Are All the Same – Except for This One (Tax Analysts Blog)

But in fact, the nation’s fiscal shortfall can’t be permanently finessed with any sort of measures, be they ordinary, extraordinary, or even superhuman. Default will happen — the only question is when.

Have a nice day.

 

 Jason Dinesen,  If EAs are Liechtenstein and CPAs are the U.S., What are the Unenrolled?   That’s not fair to CPAs; I don’t know any who’ve been shut down for the last two weeks.

 

Leslie Book, Potential Storm Over Removal Power of Tax Court Judges (Procedurally Taxing):

Kuretski is like one of the many thousands of CDP cases where the parties disagree on some aspect of a collection determination, but also has one very big wrinkle: the taxpayers are using the case as a vehicle challenging the constitutionality of the President’s powers to remove Tax Court judges under Section 7443(f).

I didn’t know the President could do that.

 

2014 State Business Tax Climate IndexTax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: Criticism of “Business Climate” Rankings Grows, and More.  Most of the criticism comes from politicians in states with poor business tax climates, and their allies, for some reason.

 

Brian Mahany, High Intrigue in Florida FBAR Trial!

Lush Caribbean islands, secret unreported Swiss accounts, tens of millions of dollars and a husband who disappears into the night. Is this the plot of a new best seller suspense novel? No! It’s some of the events unfolding in a Ft. Myers federal court room where prosecutors say that Patricia Hough conspired to defraud the IRS and filed false tax returns.

I prefer a boring life, at least compared to something like this.

 

Kay Bell, Supreme Court says ‘no’ to NY strip club’s tax relief plea.

The Critical Question: Do Women in Accounting Really Have More Opportunities Than They Did Ten Years Ago? (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Update, 9/25/2013: Preparer regulation has a bad day in court. And the royal consort clarifies the record.

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


20130121-2
Bad Day for preparer regulation at appeals court? 
Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the judges hearing the IRS appeal of the D.C. District Court’s shutdown of Doug Shulman’s preparer regulation power grab do not appear inclined to reverse it:

The D.C. Circuit during September 24 oral arguments in Loving v. IRS, No. 13-5061 (D.C. Cir. 2013), expressed skepticism that the IRS possesses the statutory authority to implement its tax return preparer program. Stuart J. Bassin of Baker & Hostetler LLP said that the oral arguments did not go well for the government and that it didn’t appear as if the court was “buying what the government was selling.” 

I’ve heard the same thing from two attorneys who attended the session.  Preparers who have followed the story of selective enforcement of tax laws in the Tea Party scandal can’t relish the idea of giving the IRS more control over their practices.  It looks as though we may be spared that, until and unless Congress does something stupid like authorizing such preparer regulation.

Robert D. Flach has more, as does Kay Bell.  I have joined an amicus brief against the preparer regulations in this case.

 

20130925-1Incentives gone wild.  While Iowa’s state-level politicians love taking your money to lure and subsidize your competitors, the politicians in Coralville have taken it to Detroit-like levels, reports IowaWatchdog.org:

The City Council of Coralville has piled up about $280 million in debt in recent years, the highest debt per capita for a city in Iowa.

The $14,511 burden for each of its 19,219 residents is seven times higher than Des Moines or Iowa City. It’s enough to pay for 38 Iowa Hawkeyes football season tickets or three semesters of tuition at the University of Iowa.

Moody’s Investors Service, after having downgraded the city’s debt four times, was, in a recent report, particularly tough on Coralville’s “history of issuing debt of non-essential government purposes, including the construction of a hotel, golf course, performing arts center and brewery, all of which are city owned.”

All in the name of “economic development,” of course.  Or, as the department store ads used to say, the more you spend, the more you save!  Unless you are one of the unlucky owners of the 60% of property in Coralville that isn’t in a tax-priviliged TIF district.

 

Jason Dinesen, IRS Guidance on FICA Refunds for Same-Sex Married Couples   

Jack Townsend,  Government Refusal to Grant Immunity Shifts Burden of Proof to IRS in Tax Court Case.  But he isn’t sure it will do the taxpayer any good.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 139

Tony Nitti,  Understanding The Impact Of Legalized Recreational Marijuana On State Tax Revenue   Well, it might not seem to matter so much.

William Perez,  Average Child Tax Credit by State

William McBride,  America Loses another Fortune 500 Company due to High Corporate Taxes (Tax Policy Blog).  A US company, Applie Materials, Inc., acquires a Japanese company, and they move combined headquarters to… Holland:

 The U.S. and Japan have the highest statutory corporate tax rates in the developed world, and by most measures the highest effective corporate tax rates as well. In contrast, the Netherlands has a statutory corporate tax rate of 25 percent, compared to 39 percent in the U.S. and 37 percent in Japan. The Netherlands also has the most generous capital allowances for plant and machinery in the developed world, which is particularly important for these two manufacturing firms. Lastly, unlike the U.S., which taxes foreign earnings on a worldwide basis, the Netherlands uses a territorial tax system, which largely exempts foreign earnings from domestic taxation.

Howard Gleckman, An Upcoming Debate on Whether Private Equity Should Pay Higher Taxes.  (TaxVox) Yes, this country needs nothing more than lower returns to capital.   Just ask the people at Applied Materials.

 

David Brunori, Marriage and Religious Freedom Act Promotes Neither (Tax Analysts Blog):

The tax laws should be neutral when it comes to politics. Personally, I would end all tax exemptions for all political groups — gay, straight, or in between. The IRS rightfully took considerable heat when it singled out conservative groups for scrutiny. But the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act isn’t the answer.

More legislation seldom is, unless it just repeals old legislation.

 

Is there anything tax law can’t do?  Russians Consider Boosting Divorce Tax, Citing ‘Moral And Demographic Decline’ (TaxGrrrl)

 

Tax Justice Blog,  ITEP Analysis: Cuccinelli Tax Plan Mostly Benefits Wealthy Virginians – and Cuccinelli.  When the rich pay most of the taxes, any tax cut will “disproportionately benefit the wealthy.”

Taking a stand: Does the Economy Need Stimulus or Austerity? Yes. (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog)

 

 

20130717-1The Royal Consort clarifies the record.  TBO.com reports that the partner-in-crime of Rashia Wilson, self-proclaimed “Queen of IRS tax fraud,” wants to set the record straight:

He may have been her partner in crime, joining forces to steal millions from federal taxpayers.

He may have spent time at her house and shared “romantic liaisons.”

But Maurice Larry wants people to know he most definitely was not the boyfriend of Rashia Wilson, Tampa’s notorious self-dubbed Queen of Tax Fraud.

Just a good friend with benefits.

Wilson, who became known for her brazen Facebook postings taunting authorities about the millions she was stealing from taxpayers through stolen identity tax refund fraud, was sentenced in July to 21 years in federal prison.

Larry, who spent $100,000 covering a Camaro in chrome, was sentenced Tuesday to 14 1/2 years in federal prison, a sentence he is to serve at the same time as an 8-year, 5-month sentence he received Monday in another tax refund fraud case.

A chrome Camaro?  I suppose it went well with Ms. Wilson’s platinum hairdo.

 

That means they aren’t eating at the right places.  Deloitte Study: Accountants Don’t Have Fire in Their Bellies (Going Concern).

 

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

Thursday, September 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


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

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

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

Mr. Warner also faces a possible prison sentence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The TaxProf has more.  So does Jana Luttenegger.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Neiffer, Estimated 2014 Inflation Adjusted Tax Items

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

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 133

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Here is a chart of inflation-adjusted IRS funding:

20130821-1

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/13/2013: Good luck and honey traps edition.

Friday, September 13th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130415-1It’s Friday the 13th.  Do you know where your extended 1041, 1065, 1120, or 1120-S is? They’re due Monday!  If you have a pass-through return due, late filing penalties start at $195 per K-1.  E-file, or use certified mail, return receipt requested.  It makes for good luck if the IRS says you filed late.

 

 

Christopher Bergin, Tax Avoidance Just Isn’t What It Used To Be:

Setting aside for now the place of moral scruples in a tax rate, some are arguing that corporations have a higher duty to the countries where they do business and the citizens they sell to than simply paying the lowest amount of tax possible. That argument challenges other well-established theories, among them that corporations have a duty to maximize the investment of their shareholders. Well, is it the only duty of a multinational corporation to maximize value for its shareholders?  

Well, it sure isn’t to maximize value for its tax collectors.

 

Jason Dinesen,  Same-Sex Marriage and Minnesota Taxes.  ”Effective with 2013 tax returns, same-sex married couples who file Minnesota tax returns will be required to file those returns as married.”

Phil Hodgen,   Electing Resident Alien Status Under Section 7701(b)(4).  ”This election is used by nonresident aliens who become residents of the United States after the middle of the year, and do not hold a green card.”

 

csi logoTaxGrrrl,  Back To School: Paying For College With 529 Plans:

For federal income tax purposes, putting money in a 529 plan won’t result in a deduction (as it would with, say, an IRA). However, neither the earnings nor the distributions in 529 plans are taxable for federal income tax purposes.

I like Iowa’s Sec. 529 plan, College Savings Iowa.  You get  a deduction for contributions up to $3,045 per donor, per donee on your Iowa 1040; it works like a 6% negative load, and you get the usual federal Sec. 529 benefits too.

 

Russ Fox,  Bankruptcy Trumps a Deemed Sale.  California’s tax authorities don’t get to decide the tax implications of a bankruptcy by themselves.

Leslie Book,  CDP: When is a Document Establishing Liability Received? (Procedurally Taxing)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 127

Kay Bell,  IRS investigations are baaaaack!

 

Tax Justice Blog,  State News Quick Hits: Missouri Legislature Fails to Override Governor’s Tax Cut Veto and More

Jack  Townsend, Swiss Bank Rahn & Bodmer Under DOJ Criminal Investigation 

William McBride,  “Red” China Taxes Capital Relatively Lightly (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman,  Eight in Ten U.S. Households Pay Social Security and Medicare Taxes.   Yet those two programs are actuarial disasters, so they don’t even cover their benefits.  Mr. Gleckman’s use of this as a defense of exempting them from all income taxes is unconvincing.

Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz roundup of tax news!

 

No, it’s about restricting guild membership to keep salaries up.  Getting a PhD in Accounting Isn’t Really About Teaching (Going Concern)

News you can use.  To Enjoy Driverless Cars, First Kill All the Lawyers (Megan McArdle)

 

Sometimes taxes aren’t the most interesting part of the story.  Certainly not in a case reported by the Contra Costa Times about an attorney who apparently will plead guilty to tax charges:

Mary Nolan, 61, of Oakland, was indicted by a grand jury in September 2012 on six counts related to accusations that she failed to report $1.8 million in earnings to the Internal Revenue Service and placed eavesdropping equipment on the cars of her clients’ spouses with disgraced former Concord private investigator Christopher Butler. Court records show that she’s scheduled to enter a guilty plea before Judge Charles Breyer on Sept. 27, although no details as to her plea agreement have been made public.

Illegally bugging cars?

Nolan also is a defendant in two of the half-dozen civil lawsuits pending in state and federal court lodged by the targets of Butler’s “dirty DUI” stings in 2011 and 2012.

Butler’s employees, usually attractive women, would entice the estranged spouses of Butler’s clients to get drunk and drive, at which time Butler would encourage police to arrest the targets for DUI, giving his clients leverage in divorce and child-custody proceedings.

Nolan is accused of helping arrange the arrests of Concord aeronautics engineer Dave Dutcher and Clayton contractor Declan Woods, whose ex-wives, Susan Dutcher and Louise Woods, were represented by Nolan in family law court.

Somewhere a Mr. Dutcher and a Mr. Woods could be excused for enthusiastically toasting this turn of events alone and at home.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/11/2013: Gutterball edition. And states where they get more than you do.

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Flickr image by Heisenberg Media under Creative Commons licenseBowling and tax planning don’t have much in common.  Bowling is a lot more fun to play, but to me, it’s only a little more fun to watch (sorry, Robert!).  But the two are rarely confused.  Which makes a Tax Court case from yesterday stand out.

Mr. Phillips, a retired postal worker from Maryland, took up bowling with a vengeance.  The Tax Court takes up the story:

 Mr. Phillips is a self-taught bowler who began bowling in the early 1990s. His gross winnings over the years were:

           Year                          Gross winnings
 _____________________________________________________________________

           2000                                $50,000 to $65,000
           2001                                -0-
           2002                                 0 to 3,700
           2003                                 13,000
           2004                                 0 to 300
           2005                                 0 to 300
           2006                                -0-
           2007                                -0-
           2008                                -0-

In 2008, a year with no bowling earnings, the IRS looked at his tax return:

     On his Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for the year 2008 Phillips reported that he earned $67,171 in wages from his postal service position. Mr. Phillips attached a Schedule C, for the “business or profession” of “bowling”. He reported that he earned no gross receipts from bowling and that he incurred $28,243 in expenses. 

The Tax Court noted one hint of possible trouble for our bowler:

Mr. Phillips’ tax-return preparer refused to sign the 2008 return because he was afraid of an audit. 

But Mr. Phillips went for the tax equivalent of a 7-10 split and filed the return, with unfortunate consequences.  The IRS came calling and he ended up in Tax Court, where it was nothing but gutterballs:

At trial Mr. Phillips admitted that some of the checked line items on the seven pages of bank statements were not related to bowling. He was unable to point to any line items that were related to bowling. Mr. Phillips admitted that he did not create or keep any records (other than the seven pages of bank statements) related to any of the expenses reported on his Schedule C. He admitted that some of the reported expenses (both in the “other expenses” category and in the category of the remaining expenses) were for “personal business” and for “gambling”

The Tax Court decided that our bowler lost two ways.  First, the court ruled that the losses were “hobby losses,” deductible only as miscellaneous deductions and only to the extent of income:

 None of the factors weigh towards the existence of a profit motive, and all relevant factors weigh against the existence of a profit motive. Mr. Phillips earned a profit in only one tax year. He did not conduct the activities in a businesslike manner or make an effort to increase the profitability of his bowling activities. He decreased the amount of time and effort he expended in 2004 after changing shifts at his primary place of employment where he earned a substantial income. We therefore conclude that Mr. Phillips did not engage in his bowling activities for profit.

Then, just to rub it in, the court said that even if the losses weren’t hobby losses, they weren’t substantiated well enough to deduct anyway.  Decision for IRS, with the 20% “accuracy related penalty” imposed.

Cite: Phillips, T.C. Memo 2013-215.

 

Tax Policy Blog Monday Map, part 2:

20130911-1

 

In New York and California, the government might keep more of that next dollar you earn on your Schedule C than you do.

 

Congratulations to the TaxProf and Going Concern’s Caleb Newquist on being named to Accounting Today’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in Tax and Accounting. Iowans making the list include David Vaudt, in his new role as the head of the Government Accounting Standards Board, and Senator Chuck Grassley, in his old role as a Senate taxwriter.

 

Janet Novack, 10 Tough Lessons For College And Retirement Savers–And Tax Reform   Her number one lesson is important both for legislators and folks whose tax planning gets too elaborate:  ”Tax complexity creates hidden costs.”

Peter Reilly, Wisconsin Will Tax Its Native Wandering Stars – The Stickiness Of Domicile: 

Domicile is “sticky”.  To change it, you need to not only uproot, but also to settle down, at least for a while, someplace else. If you are thinking about becoming a wandering star, you should consider carefully where you will push off from.  If it is a high tax state, be prepared for them to want to hang on to you.

Related: Home is where the heart is. And the house, wife, kids, cars…

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School: Deducting Interest Paid On Student Loans (Even If You Don’t Pay The Loans) 

 

Tax Justice Blog, It Wasn’t Property Taxes that Cost DC Residents their Homes.  It was just not paying them.

Howard Gleckman, The Demise of Estate Tax Planning (TaxVox): “With the estate tax exemption now up to $5.25 million ($10.5 million for couples) estate tax lawyers are running out of work.”   Like it was with Mark Twain (at least at first), I think this report is exaggerated.

 

Robert D. Flach,  TAX BLOGOSPHERE BUDDIES – TRACY SHANNON LEVEY

Russ Fox,  The Apprentice, IRS Style

Kay Bell, Marijuana tax opponents hand out pot at Denver rally.  ”Admit it. You wish you had been in Denver yesterday.”

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/4/2013: Another high-level IRS retirement. And where do Germans hide their cash? Depends.

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1Eliana Johnson, IRS No. 2 Set to Retire:

The second in command at the Internal Revenue Service, Beth Tucker, will retire at the end of September. 

Tucker, the Deputy Commissioner of Operations Support, is a 29-year IRS veteran and in her current position reports directly to the agency’s commissioner. She came under fire for her failure to act when she learned that the IRS had awarded hundreds of millions or dollars in contracts, fraudulently, to the information technology provider Strong Castle, Inc.

National Review Online reported in July that Tucker is one of a handful of senior IRS officials who, according to inspector general J. Russell George, “ran up extremely high travel expenses” on the taxpayer dole commuting to Washington, D.C., from outside the region (she lives in Texas). The agency has since changed its travel policy, putting an end to the practice of employees commuting to the capitol by plane. 

But I’m sure their regulation of preparers would be incorruptible.

 

Russ Fox, IRS Is Big Hindrance in Social Security’s Matching of Social Security Numbers and Names.  Thanks, guys.

 

Howard Gleckman,  Are Some Americans Paying Federal Income Tax They Don’t Owe? :

It is easy to understand the motivations of those who owe Uncle Sam and don’t file (such a course of action isn’t very smart but it is explainable). It is much harder to figure out why someone who has tax withheld and is likely eligible for refunds or refundable tax credits doesn’t bother. 

It’s something that happens quite a bit.  Unfortunately, such folks often eventually find themselves examined, and it turns out they have a year in which they owe taxes.  Then they learn that the can’t use the excess taxes they paid more than three years ago against the taxes they owe because the statute of limitations for claiming those refunds has expired.

TaxProf, Tolan: Obama’s Proposal to Limit Tax Deductions for High-Income Donors Would Undermine Charitable Giving

Joseph Thorndike, Republicans Are Confused About Their Leverage in the Debt Debate (TAx Analysts Blog)

William Perez,  24 States Ban Same-Sex Marriage and have a State Income Tax Tied to the Federal Income Tax

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 118

 

Jack Townsend, Update on U.S.-Swiss Bank Matters – Of Apologies, Wages of Sin, and Leavers

A reader notes that accounting must-read blog Going Concern understands our profession: “‘Your jaded mentality toward the profession is often over the top

20130904-1

Depend-ing on bank secrecy. Germans Hide Cash in Diapers as Swiss Secrecy Crumbles (Bloomberg News)

 

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/23/2013: Don’t die here edition. And the Butch and Sundance approach to tax controversies.

Friday, August 23rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Via Wall Street Journal

Via Wall Street Journal

Advice I intend to take this year.  The Wall Street Journal editorial page lists Iowa as a place to not die. But Minnesota is even worse:

The grand prize for self-abuse goes to Minnesota, which this year enacted a new 10% gift tax with a $1 million exemption. A gift tax is a levy on money given away while still alive. This tax is in addition to Minnesota’s 16% estate tax. The new law is all the more punitive because it applies the 16% estate tax (6% on top of the earlier 10% gift tax) to any gift within three years of death.

This is essentially a clawback tax, or more taxation without respiration. Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, who signed the law, is the heir to a department store fortune and knows a lot about inheriting wealth but not much about creating it.

I would expect that Mr. Dayton’s family has done a lot of estate planning, making sure that he won’t be hit hard by his new tax.  Many proponents of high taxes, like Warren Buffett, have no intention of paying any themselves.

 

Nick Gillespie,  The Immense and Growing Price of “Tax Expenditures”: (Reason.com)

Tax expenditures tend to be very popular with the people who benefit from them but they also represent a blatant attempt by the government to engineer behaviors ranging from having children to buying homes rather than renting. As the consensus that our current tax code is overly complicated and inefficient (both in terms of economic activity and revenue generation), all tax expenditures should be on the table for reconsideration and elimination.

Some folks consider every tax break a good thing, no matter how unfair it is to those who don’t benefit from it.  But tax breaks for special interests, (e.g., low-income housing developers) or economic sectors (manufacturing) are more or less direct government direction of the economy.  It’s nice to see a libertarian voice pointing that out.   The 20th century was an uncontrolled experiment demonstrating that such government direction is unwise.

 

Mistakes were made.  A Louisiana politician, Girod Jackson III, is in tax trouble, reports NOLA.com:

Several years ago, there were filing errors on my business tax returns and delayed initial filings arising from accounting errors and oversight. Today, I have accepted the consequences of those mistakes.”

As a part of accepting these consequences, regretfully, I have submitted my letter of resignation to the Secretary of State and The Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives. 

Makes you wonder just how those “accounting errors” got there.  It almost sounds like he booked an expense to miscellaneous expense instead of office supplies.

Christopher Bergin, It’s a Cover-Up! (Tax Analysts Blog):

The IRS is not a transparent organization; it is a secretive organization — as secretive as it can get away with. That is why, over the years, Tax Analysts has asked the courts to not let it get away with certain secretive things. But was it a “cover-up” that the IRS did not want to make private letter rulings public? Was it a “cover-up” when the IRS tried to hide field service advice or emails to staff that provided legal interpretation? I don’t think so and Tax Analysts sued over all those issues. I guess it depends on your interpretation of “cover-up.” 

But, sadly, this is what the IRS does, and Tax Analysts is quite familiar with its penchant for secrecy.

When your business is taking people’s money, laying low has its attractions.

 

Andrew Lundeen, Do I Have to Pay Taxes on My Interest from My Savings Account?  The short answer is yes.” (Tax Policy Blog).

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 106

TaxGrrrl,  Pennsylvania Mulls First Statewide Plastic Bag Tax In The U.S. As ‘Small Price To Pay’   Maybe they just want to kill Pennsylvanians.

Howard Gleckman, The Center for American Progress Rethinks Retirement Savings:

Today, workers in 401(k) plans bear full investment risk and often struggle with how to allocate their retirement savings and what to do with their assets when they change jobs or retire. With SAFE, those risks would be mitigated. Enrollment would be automatic, savings fully portable, and investment funds pooled and professionally managed. Accounts would be automatically annuitized as in traditional DB plans. 

One of those “Nudge” things.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Max and Dave Do Silicon Valley

James Pethokoukis, Mad Men economics? No, we can’t return to the sky-high tax rates of postwar America

Kay Bell,  It’s time to eliminate many tax-exempt status designations

Robert D. Flach has his Friday Buzz going.  He also has wise advice in this interview:

And learn how to say “no” to a client when they ask you to do something that is “shaky” or “shady.” It is better to lose the client than to gain the potential problems.

So true.

 

The Critical Question: Will Bradley Manning’s Gender Reassignment Be Tax Deductible?  (Tony Nitti).

 

You probably won’t win a paperwork battle with the IRS this wayFrom a Justice Department press release:

 The Justice Department announced today the unsealing of a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Sacramento, Calif., charging Teresa Marie Marty, Charles Tingler and Victoria Tingler, all of Placerville, Calif., with conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing multi-million dollar liens against government officials.

Marty is charged with filing liens against the property of three Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees involved in the collection of taxes she owed the IRS.  She also filed liens of at least $84 million against the property of two Justice Department attorneys involved in a lawsuit filed against her in 2009 to enjoin her and her business, Advanced Financial Services (AFS), from preparing tax returns. 

In case you’re wondering, the IRS doesn’t care for people to slap their employees with false liens.  They also don’t like this:

The indictment alleges that as part of the conspiracy, Harris and Marty engaged a commercial collection agency to collect one of the three false liens that Mr. Tingler had filed, one of which was in the amount of $500,000.

These folks were already in trouble on charges of filing false refund claims.  It sounds like they responded by going on the offensive.  It’s the tax controversy equivalent of Butch and Sundance charging the Bolivian Army.

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Tax Roundup, 8/21/2013: Just scraping by edition.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Time is short today, so just a few highlights:

You know how the IRS is just starved of cash?  They’re being forced to scrape by on about their 2010 funding.  The horror!

20130821-1

Via The TaxProf.  Of course, since Congress has made the IRS into a cross-portfolio superagency, the funds are spread thinner.

 

Jason Dinesen, Work Opportunity Credit Mathematical Computations 

Robert D. Flach, TAXPAYERS SCREWED BY TAX COURT:

If the taxpayer can provide proper documentation that the money was actually given to the charity, via cancelled checks, and that it was an actual charitable donation, via an acknowledgement from the charity, and the charity confirms to the IRS or the Tax Court either in writing or by oral testimony that no goods or services were provided, the deduction should be allowed. 

That would be too sensible.

 

David Brunori, Governor Christie Does Not Understand Tax Policy (Tax Analysts Blog):

Like many governors, New Jersey’s Chris Christie is not well versed in the principles of sound tax policy. In fact, if recent events are an indication, he is ignorant of the basic concepts…

The bill Christie vetoed would have exempted business purchases of various software from sales tax. That is classic good tax policy. His veto is classic bad tax policy.

Sadly, he has plenty of political company.

 

Alan Cole, A Partial Defense of the Mortgage Interest Deduction (Tax Policy Blog):

The mortgage interest deduction is one of the most frequently-criticized elements of the entire tax code. We have written that it distorts investment towards owner-occupied housing. It is also regressive, in that it doesn’t benefit renters or standard deduction filers, both of whom are generally poor. It adds a small layer of complexity to the tax code, which should generally be avoided. It looks for all the world like a social engineering effort.  

All of these accusations, unfortunately, are quite true. And yet, I would stop short of saying the mortgage interest deduction absolutely must be eliminated. A scary truth about our tax system is that owner-occupied housing is one of the few types of capital treated somewhat correctly.

The problem is really the tax system’s abusive taxation of capital.

 

Kay Bell, Reduced municipal bond tax benefits could threaten all governmental credit ratings

TaxGrrrl, Up In Flames: Cigarette Taxes Create Opportunity For Revenue And Crime 

Peter Reilly, IRS Eases Up On War Tax Resisters 

Tax Justice Blog,  Remembering an International Tax Expert and Voice for Tax Justice

Allison Christians, Here is the only reason why Ted Cruz’s citizenship is interesting.

Me, The saga of Canada Cruz.

 

The Critical Question: What If Your Tax Professional Vanishes? (Russ Fox)

I’ll, er, drink to that.  Why Legal Marijuana is a Good Argument for Tax Reform (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox).

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/9/2013: Another international tax enforcement milestone. And don’t count on the ex for a character reference.

Friday, August 9th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Andrew Mitchel,  Number of Expatriates Skyrockets Again (Second Quarter of 2013):

The number of published expatriates for the first two quarters of 2013 (1,809) has already exceeded the highest number of annual published expatriates ever (1,781 in 2011).  Thus, 2013 will clearly be the year with the highest number of published expatriates ever.

 

Chart by International Tax Blog.
Chart by International Tax Blog.

Another triumph for the IRS offshore enforcement program.  If you make being an American abroad a tax nightmare, people will stop being American.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 92

Phony Scandal Watch: IRS agent: Tax agency is still targeting Tea Party groups. (Washington Examiner, Via Instapundit):

In a remarkable admission that is likely to rock the Internal Revenue Service again, testimony released Thursday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp reveals that an agent involved in reviewing tax exempt applications from conservative groups told a committee investigator that the agency is still targeting Tea Party groups, three months after the IRS scandal erupted.

We did nothing wrong, it was just a few rogue agents in Cincinnati, and we don’t do it anymore.  Oh, and it’s phony.

TaxGrrrl,  DEA Passed Secret Data, Tips For Covering Up To IRS.   That’s reassuring.

 

Tax Analysts fights the good fight.  Transparency: Worth Fighting For  (Christopher Bergin).  They’ve done more than anyone else to fight the growth of secret tax law, known only to insiders and cronies.

 

Howard Gleckman, Beware of Tax Reform That Promises Deep Rate Cuts.  I worry more about tax reform that doesn’t promise rate cuts at all.

 

Tax Justice Blog,  Politicians Use Tax Breaks to Subsidize Manufacturing. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?  Everything, of course, though the Tax Justice Blog’s solutions would be no improvement.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Cities, States, and Obamacare’s “Cadillac” Tax (Tax Policy Blog).

No, they shouldn’t. Cheating and Visibility on Taxes: IRS Efforts to Regulate Tax Return Preparers Should Continue (Procedurally Taxing):

Nonetheless, I believe that the IRS’s approach to the return preparer issue, with uniform identification requirements, reasonable competency testing and ongoing education requirements, will greatly enhance visibility in the return preparation process.

This is one of the better arguments I’ve seen for preparer regulation, but it is still not very good.  The preparer regulations impose restrictions on honest preparers that the cheaters will ignore.  It will raise the costs of preparation, causing many taxpayers to self-prepare and others to drop out of the system entirely. The real way to stop cheating is to remove the worst opportunities to cheating, especially refundable tax credits, and to make the law simple enough and the rates low enough that cheating is harder to hide and less attractive.


Watching the watchmen. NYPD cop faces hard time for tax fraud and identity theft. (New York Daily News):

Jonathan Wally, 34, was moonlighting as a tax preparer while working in the 34th Precinct that serves Inwood and Washington Heights. The 10-year NYPD veteran, who resigned upon entering his plea, admitted in Manhattan Federal Court to using bogus Social Security cards to list fictitious dependents.

I’m sure that with a little ethics training from the IRS, he would have turned out differently.

 

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Forget Your Retirement (Plan)!

Brian Strahle, CALIFORNIA:  HOW SHOULD YOU “SHAVE” (FILE YOUR 2012 INCOME TAX RETURN)?

Trish McIntire, Health Insurance Wizard for Business

Russ Fox,  While I Was Out…, where he discusses my post from yesterday, where the Tax Court required an S corporation $877 in taxable income to impute $31,000 in salary income to the owner to incur payroll taxes:

 I do agree with Joe’s conclusion: “When advancing and withdrawing funds from an S corporation, be sure to generate the appropriate prissy paperwork.”  If you have a loan, make it look like a loan: Charge interest and record it!  It’s possible that with good paperwork the owner wouldn’t have received such a ridiculous result.

The more I ponder this Tax Court decision, the more I dislike it.

Freakonomics Blog,  How Much Tax Are Athletes Willing to Pay?

Boxing is particularly interesting because it allows a participant to choose where he performs. If you are a pro golfer or tennis player, you might be inclined to skip a particular event because of a tax situation, but you generally need to play where the event is happening. A top-ranked boxer, meanwhile, can fight where he gets the best deal. Which is why it’s interesting to read that Manny Pacquiao will probably never fight in New York — primarily, says promoter Bob Arum, because of the taxes he’d have to pay.

Yes, tax rates matter.

 

Going Concern, After His Open Victory, It Appears Phil Mickelson Is Doing Some Tax Planning at the PGA Championship.  Yes, taxes are lower if you miss the cut.

 

I hope he didn’t solicit this character referenceA 64-year old Florida executive won’t get to enjoy a golf-course retirement for awhile.  TBO.com reports:

John D. Stanton III stalled an Internal Revenue Service audit for four years, promising he would submit corporate tax returns for his company while secretly diverting tens of millions of dollars to himself.
 
The deception caught up to him Thursday, when a federal judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison for tax evasion.

His ex-wife spoke up for him, pleading for leniency.  Yeah, sure:

The family drama emerged when a letter by ex-wife Susan Stanton was read aloud. In the letter, Stanton called her ex-husband “devious” and said he should be given the maximum prison sentence allowed. John Stanton III fled Tampa in December 2011, the letter said. An arrest warrant on a contempt of court charge was issued, stemming from a divorce case where Stanton defied an order to pay more than $6 million to his ex-wife. “He fled and stayed in $240-a-night hotels,” Susan Stanton wrote. While he was on the run, John Stanton III fathered a child with a 32-year-old woman, the letter said.

Other than that, the break-up was amicable. Now Mr. Stanton gets to spend 10 years in a federal prison, where any money he managed to hide isn’t much use.  When he gets out, assuming his health holds up, he will still have the government ready to seize any hidden cash that slips out.  It seems like the results would have been a lot better if he just had filed his returns.



A note to readers:  I have learned how to embed links to items within longer “Tax Roundup” posts.  I won’t use it for every item, but I will use them for some items that you might want to point out to someone.  There are two that you will find in this post, and they look like this:

No, they shouldn’t.

and

I hope he didn’t solicit this character reference.

Maybe I should just post these things as their own posts, but there you go.

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Tax Roundup, 8/7/2013: Tax credits! That’s the ticket! And: would low-income workers be better off without the earned income credit?

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Tax Credits! - The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Tax Credits! – The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Whatever the question, some folks answer “tax credits!”   From The Des Moines Register:

A former state lawmaker says he will try to rally school, city and county associations to support legislation that would provide tax credits to those who buy empty or abandoned public buildings and create jobs.

Clarence Hoffman, a Denison Republican who served in the Iowa House from 1998 to 2008, said a Des Moines Register Reader’s Watchdog column that raised the question of what to do with abandoned schools across Iowa was the catalyst for his renewed interest in seeking the legislation.

Tax credits!  Problem solved!  Except for the new ones, like:

- Once more the tax law is more complicated, and tax enforcement resources have to be spread even thinner to keep this new credit from being a fraud magnet, like so many others.

- The price of neighboring buildings owned by private owners will be depressed by subsidies offered for the competing public property.  The credit will “solve” the problem of hard-to sell public property by taking money out of the pockets of other property owners.  Maybe Mr. Hoffman can offer still another tax credit to solve that problem.

 

Would low income taxpayers be better off with no earned income tax credit and lower tax rates?  That intriguing possibility is raised in a new Tax Foundation study of the economic effects of repealing the fraud-ridden EITCRichard Morrison discusses the study in the Tax Policy Blog (my emphasis):

The credit does help workers with very low incomes. For workers with higher earnings, the credit continues to raise incomes until it is fully phased out. The phase-out, however, does discourage workers from accepting more hours worked by reducing the amount of additional pay they would otherwise receive. As a result, our research suggests that the negative impact of the phase-out depresses the labor supply by more than the phase-in bolsters it. 

The EITC serves as a poverty trap by imposing a high hidden marginal tax rate because of the way increasing income reduces the credit.  Iowa makes the problem worse by pairing its EITC with the federal credit, leading to marginal tax rates as high as those of the highest income earners:

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

 

More from Mr. Morrison:

It is possible that tax reformers in Congress could alter the Earned Income Tax Credit in any number of ways rather than eliminating it, but in the spirit of our Economics of the Blank Slate analysis series, we modeled a scenario in which it was dropped from the code entirely. It’s important to remember, though, that our analysis also found that pairing an EITC repeal with an across-the-board tax cut would increase GDP by $125 billion per year and add 783,000 full-time jobs. Those additional opportunities would also be good for low-income workers.

But what about the poor grifters who siphon off 25% or so of the EITC?  How can we help them?

 

Jason Dinesen,  Iowa Tuition and Textbook Credit and Back-to-School Shopping

William Perez, Anspach on the Benefits of Roth IRA Conversions

Missouri Tax Guy,  Tax Planning for Freelancers: Are You Prepared?  “One of the most common mistakes that freelancers make is that they don’t properly budget for taxes.”

Peter Reilly,  Internet Password Protocol Not A Charitable Activity

 

Quotable:

With the possible exception of Uncle Sam’s continual – and often horrendous – misuse of its military prowess, no government policy in America is as uncivilized – as offensive to common decency – as destructive of property rights – as arbitrary in its justification and in its applicationas incompatible with freedom – as conducive to corruption – as downright sickening and maddening as is civil forfeiture.

-Donald Beaudreax

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 90.

David Brunori, Lotteries are Winners, Except for the People (Tax Analysts Blog):

You see the lottery system is a big fat scam. It takes money from poor people. Am I the only person who finds it bizarre that the government would raise money from a regressive lottery and then celebrate by giving the money back to the poor and dispossessed in the form of scholarships?

It’s like so many government “benefits” — they take your money, and then they tell you how wonderful it is when they give some of it back.  That’s just as true for “economic development” tax credits.

 

Howard Gleckman, A Summer Update on Tax Reform (TaxVox)

Anthony Nitti, The Problem With Corporate-Only Tax Reform

TaxGrrrl, NC Lawmakers Reckon With The Three Rs: Reading, Writing & (Tax) Reform

Tax Justice Blog,  State News Quick Hits: Irresponsible Tax Promises in Gubernatorial Campaigns – and More

 

Is it really wise to smoke them?  Treating Twinkies Like Crack (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog)

The Critical Question:  NORTH CAROLINA TAX REFORM:  GOOD OR BAD??  (Brian Strahle)

Kay Bell, ‘Racist’ tanning tax assailed by GOP Representative. Racist?  How about plain old stupid?

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/6/2013: Iowa preparer gets prison for reporting too much income. And an ID theft nightmare ends.

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

bureauofprisonsSometimes a big refund isn’t a good thing.  A Shellsburg, Iowa man went too far to get his clients big refunds.  The AP reports that Keith Rath was sentenced last week to 21 months after pleading guilty one count of an 8-count indictment.  He was charged with fabricating business income on 1040s.

While it may seem odd that the IRS would have a problem with taxpayers reporting too much income, the Earned Income Tax Credit is the motivation.  If you have around $10,000 of businss or wage income, you can maximize this refundable credit, generating a nice check from the IRS.

The report says the clients were anaware of the fraud.  It seems like you would notice a business on your return that doesn’t exist, but many taxpayers don’t even look, especially if they like the refund being reported.  The taxpayer problably isn’t pleased to have to give that money back.

It is estimated that about 25% of earned income tax credit claims are improper.  That apparently is just fine with the Governor and the Iowa General Assembly, who doubled Iowa’s EITC last year — with a predictible effect of sending around $8 million to Iowa thieves annually, with and without the aid of shady preparers.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 89.

 

Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 18:

I’ve been telling the story of Wendy Boka and the identity theft nightmare she’s going through with the IRS. Her husband Brian died at age 31 in 2010. Someone stole his identity and filed a fraudulent tax return in his name.

On August 1, 2013, the refund check from the IRS for that 2010 tax return finally arrived in Wendy’s mailbox.

Jason’s series on his client’s identity theft nightmare shows the huge cost of this out-of-control scam.  While the $5 billion mailed annually to thieves is bad enough, it pales compared to the human cost to the taxpayers whose IDs are stolen — the months of frustration, the near-useless bureaucracy, and the financial losses.  The IRS failure to address this, while spending resources on a useless preparer regulation scheme, are what made Douglas Shulman the Worst Commissioner Ever.

Kay Bell, Tax-related identity theft: Its growth and IRS efforts to stop it

 

Me, When you buy business assets, no do-overs. (IowaBiz.com):

The Moral?  No do-overs. You only get one shot at the purchase price allocation when you buy a business. The purchase price allocation needs to be addressed early in your negotiations. If you want to have experts come in for a cost segregation study, you should do it as part of your due diligence before the deal closes, or under agreement after the close with the seller. You can’t unilaterally change the allocation. 

 

Russ Fox, Kansas Joins Bad States for Gamblers in 2014

Robert D. Flach has his Buzz on!

TaxGrrrl profiles fellow tax blogger Peter J. Reilly.

Peter Reilly, Rhode Island Not Giving Historic Credit For Journal Entries.   But journal entries are history, right?

Jack Townsend, IRS Has No Authority To Settle Cases Referred to DOJ Tax Even After They Are Returned

William Perez, IRS Update for August 2, 2013

 

Yes.  Is the Exclusion for Employer-Provided Healthcare Outdated? (Jeremy Scott, Tax Analysts Blog)

Martin Sullivan, Tax Reform: Will the Chairmen Offer Real Plans or Gimmicks?  (Tax Analysts Blog) Bet on gimmicks.

Kyle Pomerleau, More Trouble for Small Businesses in Tax Reform Talks (Tax Policy Blog)

Today, it seems like there is more trouble for pass-through businesses coming from the Democratic Party.

According to Tax Analysts (subscription required), Charles Schumer (D-NY) is quoted as saying “I don’t think we should lower individual tax rates. I think the overwhelming majority of our caucus agrees. We think 39.6 percent is about the right rate.”

Any “reform” that doesn’t lower rates is no reform at all.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Sales Tax Holidays Are Silly Policy:

While one commonly cited rationale for such holidays is that they increase local consumer spending, boosting sales for local businesses, available research concludes this “boost” in sales is primarily the result of consumers shifting the timing of their already planned purchases.

Jana Luttenegger, Sales Tax Holidays in Iowa and around the US

Howard Gleckman, We Make More Than We Think (TaxVox)

Boulevard of Broken Dreams. The AICPA Has Created A Place For Young CPAs To Share Their Woes (and Dreams) (Going Concern)

Answering The Critical Question: Why we all need Dolce & Gabbana to survive the tax evasion drama (Handbag.com)

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/31/2013: Cross-agency co-operation edition. And a new look for the TaxProf!

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Nothing to see here, phoney scandal.  E-mails Suggest Collusion Between FEC, IRS to Target Conservative Groups (Eliana Johnson, The Corner):

Embattled Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner and an attorney in the Federal Election Commission’s general counsel’s office appear to have twice colluded to influence the record before the FEC’s vote in the case of a conservative non-profit organization, according to e-mails unearthed by the House Ways and Means Committee and obtained exclusively by National Review Online.  The correspondence suggests the discrimination of conservative groups extended beyond the IRS and into the FEC, where an attorney from the agency’s enforcement division in at least one case sought and received tax information about the status of a conservative group, the American Future Fund, before recommending that the commission prosecute it for violations of campaign-finance law.

Remember, Ms. Lerner used to work at the FEC.

 

Check out the new look at the TaxProf’s place.  It’s worth the trip for many reasons, including The IRS Scandal, Day 83

 

Tony Nitti,  President Obama’s Plan For Corporate Tax Reform: A ‘Grand Bargain’ Or Simply Another Name For An Old Proposal?

Howard Gleckman, Obama’s New Corporate Tax Offer is Another Dead End

Richard Morrison, Obama Corporate Tax Proposal Limits Potential Economic Growth (Tax Policy Blog)

TaxGrrrl, Baucus & Camp Talk Reform As Tax Road Show Rolls On

Tax Justice Blog, Best and Worst Ideas for “Blank Slate” Tax Reform

Me, Grand bargains and other mistakes

 

Clint Stretch,  In the Trade or Business of Generating Capital Gains? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Kay Bell, Werfel makes IRS budget case at Texas tax preparers meeting.   Good luck with that.

 

David Brunori, Sales Tax Holidays and the Planet of the Apes (Tax Analysts Blog):

Touted as a middle class break for “hard working families,” the holidays only encourage retailers to raise prices. Because rational people change the days they shop during the holiday (rather then spend more), consumers pay more, the government loses revenue, and the retailers get a small windfall. That is why retailers lobby hard for the holiday.   

Trish McIntire,  Kansas Taxes – Even More Changes

From Robert D. Flach, SOME SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION.

 

Can’t we all just get along? The War Against the Billable Hour Goes Mainstream (Going Concern)

 

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