Posts Tagged ‘identity theft’

Tax Roundup, 3/11/16: Iowa Sec. 179 coupling advances in both chambers. And: the cost of not filing timely.

Friday, March 11th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1291To the floor. Identical bills coupling Iowa’s tax law to federal changes enacted in December cleared the taxwriting committees in each house of the General Assembly yesterday, the day after the bills were introduced. The bills (SSB 3171 and HSB 642) will be eligible for floor vote next week.

The sudden breakthrough clears the way for thousands of Iowans to complete their tax returns with the full $500,000 maximum Section 179 deduction. Thousands more will get to take other benefits, including the $250 above-the-line deduction for educator expenses, deductions for student loan interest, and charitable distributions by IRAs for older taxpayers.

The Governor seems to be on board, reports O. Kay Henderson:

Republican Governor Terry Branstad is praising the breakthrough.

“It certainly is a significant step in the right direction,” Branstad told reporters this morning. “…I always reserve judgment until I see it in its final form, but it appears from what I’ve heard to be something that resolves some big differences of opinion between the two houses and hopefully will make it possible to move forward with our other priorities.”

The coupling process is unfolding as I predicted February 26, after Governor Branstad reversed his anti-coupling stand. It’s too bad we couldn’t have gotten this far much earlier, without disrupting filing season. Better late than never, though. Unfortunately, the coupling is for one year only, so we can look forward to a repeat show next year.

Other Coverage:

Jason Schultz, A Victory for Iowa Taxpayers (Caffeinated Thoughts)

Des Moines RegisterLegislators reach pact on key budget issues

TheGazette.com, Iowa tax coupling to benefit ‘tens of thousands’

Me, Tax Roundup, 3/10/16: Coupling deal may trade one-year Sec. 179 coupling for reduced manufacturing sales tax exemption.

Complete Tax Update coverage.

 

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File or extend that 1120-S on time! The returns for calendar-year S corporations are due on Tuesday. If you can’t file on time, be sure you extend, because the penalties have gone up. From the IRS online Form 1120-S instructions:

Late filing of return.   A penalty may be charged if the return is filed after the due date (including extensions) or the return doesn’t show all the information required, unless each failure is due to reasonable cause…  For returns on which no tax is due, the penalty is $195 for each month or part of a month (up to 12 months) the return is late or doesn’t include the required information, multiplied by the total number of persons who were shareholders in the corporation during any part of the corporation’s tax year for which the return is due. 

You can also get in trouble for filing, but not sending the K-1:

Failure to furnish information timely.   For each failure to furnish Schedule K-1 to a shareholder when due and each failure to include on Schedule K-1 all the information required to be shown (or the inclusion of incorrect information), a $260 penalty may be imposed with respect to each Schedule K-1 for which a failure occurs. If the requirement to report correct information is intentionally disregarded, each $260 penalty is increased to $520 or, if greater, 10% of the aggregate amount of items required to be reported.

Extending your return gives you until September 15 to get that information out. A 10-person S corporation incurs a $1,950 fine for being one day late, and it increases each month. The extension, filed on Form 7004, is automatic, and can be e-filed.

Rant: I despise the use of fines like this as a government funding method. Dinging a one-day timing violation is like the red-light cameras that ding you for not quite stopping before turning right at an empty intersection. No harm, no foul, but pay up, peasant.

 

Big companies get phished: Snapchat, Seagate among companies duped in tax-fraud scam:

The scam, which involved fake emails purportedly sent by top company officials, convinced the companies involved to send out W-2 tax forms that are ideal for identity theft. For instance, W-2 data can easily be used to file bogus tax returns and claim fraudulent refunds.

The embarrassing breakdowns have prompted employers to apologize and offer free credit monitoring to employees. Such measures, however, won’t necessarily shield unwitting victims from the headaches that typically follow identity theft.

Be careful out there, kids.

 

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William Perez, Tax Planning for Clergy

Kay Bell, Ways & Means chairman promises more Congressional scrutiny of IRS security procedures

Jack Townsend, DOJ Tax Promotes Employment Tax Criminal Prosecutions. Never “borrow” withheld taxes to pay other vendors. It can get very serious in a hurry, even in Iowa.

Keith Fogg, A Different “Angle” on Recovery of Costs and Attorney’s Fees. “As we have discussed before, allowing the government to wait until the time of trial or even after trial to concede a case and thereby avoid attorney’s fees frustrates the purpose of the qualified offer provisions.”

Robert Wood, Guilty Mo’ Money Tax Preparers Could Face 8 Years. Nothing says “professional” like “Mo’ Money.”

TaxGrrrl, Does The IRS Have Your Money? Nearly $1 Billion In Old Tax Refunds Outstanding

Jim Maule, Why Not Sell Losing Lottery Tickets? “The answer is simple. The person buying those tickets and representing that they lost the face value of those tickets would be committing tax fraud.”

Dang. Tax Court Holds That Family Vacations Are Not Deductible As Book-Writing Research (Tony Nitti).

 

Richard Auxier, Is your state’s tax system punching above or below its weight? (TaxVox).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1037

 

News from the Profession. CPA Accused of Jamming Cell Phones Just Wanted to Commute in Peace, YOU MONSTERS (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/19/16: Thieves holiday! Filing season underway today.

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

1040 corner 2015It begins. The official start of filing season is today. That means the IRS will begin processing electronic return filings today. That doesn’t mean all that much.

Well, it means something to the people most eager to file 2015 1040s: the identity thieves. They don’t have to wait on real W-2s and other information returns, most of which don’t have to be provided to recipients before February 1. The thieves like to file right away, before the real taxpayers e-file and block them.

It means something to earned income tax credit fraudsters. Claiming a little qualifying income on a phony schedule C is standard operating practice for EITC scams, and you can file in a hurry when you just are making it up.

For most other taxpayers, the opening of filing season is a non-event. They are still waiting on the W-2s, their 1098s for their home mortgage interest, and their 1099s for interest and dividends. Especially dividends, as the big brokerage houses routinely get extensions for issuing their 1099s, and then issue amended ones anyway. And K-1s for partnerships and S corporations often aren’t even ready by the filing deadline.

The information return wait will be longer for many of us this year. This is the first year many businesses are required to issue 1095-Bs and 1095-Cs to report health care coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act. These forms are supposed to enable employees to determine their coverage credits and penalties. When it became clear that many employers would be unable to meet the deadline for completing these complex forms, the IRS rolled back their deadlines. The IRS says employees can file their 1040s using “other information” to compute their ACA taxes and credits, but we don’t know yet if people will try.

Don’t be hasty. It is unwise to try to file returns before you have all of your information returns. Especially don’t try to file using your last pay stub instead of your W-2. You’ll probably get it wrong. Worse, if your employer is participating in a new IRS program where W-2s get a unique anti-theft ID number, you’ll delay your refund.

This convicted ID thief likely was a first-day filer.

This convicted ID thief likely was a first-day filer.

It’s better to extend than amend. Whatever benefit you get from filing your return a little sooner, it is lost if you have to file an amended return for a corrected 1099, or for one you didn’t expect that showed up late.

You can file a FAFSA using estimated amounts. One of the biggest causes for taxpayer impatience is the need for tax return information to complete their “Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” which asks for numbers off the 1040. But the FAFSA allows you to use estimates if you haven’t filed your 1040. If you are awaiting a K-1, you’re better off filing your FAFSA based on an estimate than hounding the tax preparer to file a 1040 with incomplete information.

The system should change. Allowing e-filing before any of the information return deadlines almost seems to be a special IRS fraud-filing feature. Given the identity theft epidemic, it’s irresponsible for IRS to be sending billions to grifters before they can cross check returns against third-party information. The third-party filings should have unique identifiers for taxpayers to use to show that they aren’t ID thieves.

The culture should change. Everybody gets excited about a big refund. That just means you gave the government a big interest free loan. Withholding tables should be modified to not generate big refunds, to reduce the pressure for rapid refunds. Penalty thresholds for underpayment should be lowered so that taxpayers accidentally underwithheld aren’t clobbered. People shouldn’t think it’s good to let the Leviathan have their extra cash.

Related: 

TaxGrrrl, Another State Puts Brakes On Tax Refunds, Citing Concerns About Identity Theft;

Accounting Today, IRS Launches Free File for New Season.

Russ Fox, Same as Last Year Doesn’t Work. “Robert Flach has a post today where he notes the information that’s needed to prepare a tax return. I don’t have much to add to his excellent list (though I do need to see your W-2Gs, too).”

 

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Gazette.comGeorgia man linked to 2014 UNI data breach charged with tax fraud:

A Georgia man linked to a University of Northern Iowa data breach in 2014 has been charged with tax fraud in federal court.

Bernard Ogie Oretekor, 45, also known as Emmanuel Libs, was charged last week with theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.

How did a Georgia man from Nigeria get past the IRS? It apparently isn’t too hard:

The California indictment shows Oretekor and his co-defendant sent victim’s “phishing” emails to capture their usernames and account passwords. When victims clicked on the link in the phishing emails it sent them to a fraudulent website and when they logged in their usernames and passwords were captured, which allowed the defendants to access the victims’ accounts.

Be smart. I’ve never seen a real email that requires you to “update your information” for your bank, credit card, etc. Don’t click on links from emails you aren’t expecting, and don’t provide information to them. If you really need to check your information, close the email and go to the actual bank or vendor website directly.

 

Robert D. Flach has a wintry Tuesday Buzz! Bartering, bad taxpayer service, and much more.

William Perez, Can Two Taxpayers Claim Head of Household Status at the Same Address?

Robert Wood, Goldman Sachs’ Historic $5 Billion Settlement Has Silver Lining: Tax Deduction

Kay Bell, Lotteries aren’t budget bonanzas for states

Congratulations to a longtime Iowa Business Blogger. 2016 Brings 10th Anniversary of Rush on Business

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 985

Cara Griffith, Why the Minnesota Tax Court Is Making Me Paranoid:

Here’s my concern: In doing regular research, staff at Tax Analysts realized that the Minnesota Tax Court hadn’t published any new opinions to its website in several months. That is odd, so an inquiry was sent to the court to ask if the location of published opinions had changed or if the court had stopped publishing opinions.

The court responded that its website was under construction and that recent tax court decisions could be found on Westlaw. Eventually it added that a paralegal would attend to the request – next week.

That’s sad and lame. And, as Ms. Griffith points out, Westlaw is expensive. Here in Iowa, the Department of Revenue hasn’t put new rulings online since November 5, and now their new ruling website appears to have blown up. Here’s how it looks this morning:

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Oops.

 

Renu Zaretsky, All’s fair in debates and taxes…. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers how taxpayers will feel the Bern, the attempt to subvert Colorado’s taxpayer protections, and much more.

 

News from the Profession. In 2016, The War Rages On for All the Management Accountants (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/13/15: IRS makes it hard to extend the W-2 deadline; Iowa makes it easy to extend a farm lease.

Thursday, August 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150813-1IRS ends automatic extensions for W-2s. Tax Analysts reports ($link) that IRS will no longer allow automatic extensions for W-2s. Non-automatic extensions will be allowed only in dire circumstances, according to the report:

Under the new rules, the IRS will grant the nonautomatic extension only when the filer demonstrates “extraordinary circumstances or catastrophe,” such as loss of record from fire or natural disaster.

It is an attempt to get wage information in sooner to make it easier to match refund claims to withholding, to help prevent identity theft. It’s a nice thought, but it is nowhere near enough. E-filed W-2s can be filed as late as the end of March – far too late to do much matching before refunds are issued.

Fighting identity theft will require more. It will probably require delays in refunds. It may also require a change in the culture that thinks big tax refunds are a good thing.

It will also require the IRS to raise its game in fraud prevention in its return processing. Russ Fox, Why Rob Banks, Redux:

From Los Angeles comes the news that the California Attorney General’s Office, along with the Long Beach Police and the US Postal Inspection Service did a “takedown” of the “Insane Crip” street gang; 22 members are in custody on charges that include 283 counts of conspiracy, 299 counts of identity theft, and 226 counts of grand theft.”

I doubt there is a lot of sophisticated computer savvy in the Insane Crip ranks. That the IRS is losing billions to street criminals says a lot about how poor the IRS anti-theft systems are.

 

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Kristine Tidgren, Remember the September 1 Lease Termination Notice Deadline (Ag Docket):

Perhaps the most misunderstood portion of Iowa farm lease law is that governing the proper termination of a lease. Iowa law is unique in that under Iowa Code §562.6, a farm lease renews automatically—under the same terms and conditions as the original lease—absent specific action by one or both parties to the lease. The automatic renewal provision applies to both oral and written leases. 

Kristine explains what to do to end a bad lease.

 

Robert D. Flach, ONE REASON YOU SHOULD KEEP COPIES OF YOUR TAX RETURNS FOREVER. “I recently came across an excellent example of the benefit of keeping copies forever.”

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Partnership. “A partnership can exist — for both tax and legal purposes — even if there’s no written agreement in place.”

Kay Bell, Don’t miss the tax break for college textbooks. “The American Opportunity Tax Credit, or AOTC, covers expenses for course-related books, supplies and equipment that are not necessarily paid to the educational institution.”

 

TaxGrrrl, Gun & Ammo Tax Aims At Reducing Violence In Seattle:

It wouldn’t be the only such tax in the country. A similar tax in Cook County, Illinois, was adopted after much controversy in 2012. The hope was that it would slow gun violence. However, according to reports in the Chicago Tribune, gun violence continues to escalate in the city of Chicago with the numbers of persons shot in 2015 so far on pace to top those shot in 2014.

This is the same community that is pricing the poor out of the job market with minimum wage increases.  In both cases, moral preening is substituted for sound policy.

 

Peter Reilly, Church Attendance Held Against Taxpayer In Maryland Domicile Case. Though I suspect attendance at the Secular Humanist Club down the street would have gotten the same result.

 

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Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Carper Introduces Gas Tax Increase Paired With EITC and Child Tax Credit Expansion (Tax Policy Blog). “Paired with an EITC expansion, however, a gas tax increase becomes distributionally progressive: low-income taxpayers receive a net tax cut while middle and upper-income taxpayers receive a slight tax increase.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 826

Career Corner. Can an Accounting Firm Be a ‘Guilt-Free Zone’? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/15/15: IRS declines to make estate tax easy for surviving spouses. And: New ID theft measures!

Monday, June 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Due Today: Second Quarter estimated tax payments; returns for U.S. citizens living abroad.

 

Funeral home signIRS declines to make the estate tax portability election easy. There’s no such thing as a joint estate tax return. That means if one spouse has all of the assets, the other spouse’s lifetime estate tax exemption — $5,430,000 for 2015 deaths — can be lost.

Congress changed the tax law to allow a surviving spouse to inherit the deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exemption, for use on when the surviving spouse files an estate tax return. unfortunately, this treatment is not automatic. It is only available if a Form 706 estate tax return is filed for the first spouse to die. The IRS on Friday issued final regulations rejecting any short-cuts in this process.

There are many problems with this approach. The most obvious is the lottery winner problem. A couple might be living in a trailer, and when the first spouse dies, there seems to be no point in filing an estate tax return when their combined assets are a small fraction of the amount triggering estate tax. Then the surviving spouse wins the Powerball, and suddenly the first spouse’s estate tax exemption becomes very valuable — but it’s lost, because no return was filed.

The IRS rejected allowing any pro-forma or short-cut estate tax returns for such situations:

The Treasury Department and the IRS have concluded that, on balance, a timely filed, complete, and properly prepared estate tax return affords the most efficient and administrable method of obtaining the information necessary to compute and verify the DSUE amount, and the alleged benefits to taxpayers from an abbreviated form is far outweighed by the anticipated administrative difficulties in administering the estate tax. In

The IRS did say it would be generous in allowing “Section 9100” late-filing relief for taxpayers who die with assets below the exclusion amount, but they did not provide any sort of automatic election. The result is a trap for the unwary executors of small estates.

Cite: TD 9725

 

20130419-1IRS announces ID-theft refund fraud measuresThe IRS last week announced (IR-2015-87) steps it promised in March to fight refund fraud in cooperation with tax preparers and software makers:

The agreement — reached after the project was originally announced March 19 — includes identifying new steps to validate taxpayer and tax return information at the time of filing. The effort will increase information sharing between industry and governments. There will be standardized sharing of suspected identity fraud information and analytics from the tax industry to identify fraud schemes and locate indicators of fraud patterns. And there will be continued collaborative efforts going forward.

The most promising of the steps:

Taxpayer authentication. The industry and government groups identified numerous new data elements that can be shared at the time of filing to help authenticate a taxpayer and detect identity theft refund fraud. The data will be submitted to the IRS and states with the tax return transmission for the 2016 filing season. Some of these issues include, but are not limited to:

-Reviewing the transmission of the tax return, including the improper and or repetitive use of Internet Protocol numbers, the Internet ‘address’ from which the return is originating.

-Reviewing computer device identification data tied to the return’s origin.

-Reviewing the time it takes to complete a tax return, so computer mechanized fraud can be detected.

-Capturing metadata in the computer transaction that will allow review for identity theft related fraud.

These are important because they might actually prevent fraudulent refunds from being issued. Measures to help identify fraud after it happens don’t do much, especially when the fraud occurs abroad. Catching the fraudulent returns before the refunds are issued is the only way to really deal with the problem, and the only way to keep innocent taxpayers whose identification has been stolen from having to go through the annoying and sometimes lengthy process of recovering their overpayments.

The sad thing – I see nothing here that couldn’t have been done five years ago, when ID theft refund fraud was already becoming a problem. But the Worst Commissioner Ever was too busy trying to impose preparer regulations on behalf of the big franchise tax prep outfits to pay attention. Priorities.

 

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Bob Vineyard, Best Kept Secrets About Obamacare (Insureblog). “About half of those living in Kentucky and classified as poor were not aware of the basics of Obamacare.”

TaxGrrrl, Spain’s King Felipe Strips Sister Of Royal Title As Tax Evasion Charges Proceed. What good is being regal if things like this happen?

Annette Nellen, Tax reform for 2015? Seems unlikely

Kay Bell, Lessons learned from being tax Peeping Toms

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 10: Filing Statuses Arrive in 1948

Peter Reilly, Why Is Multi-State Tax Compliance So Hard? “Don’t get me wrong.  I believe that the prudent thing is to try to be in pretty good, if not perfect, compliance.  Just don’t expect anybody to make it really easy any time soon.”

Robert Wood, Beware Tax Cops At Farmers’ Markets

 

20120816-1Joseph Henchman, State of the States: Special Session Edition and Kansas Approves Tax Increase Package, Likely Will Be Back for More (Tax Policy Blog). Mr. Henchman rounds up end-of-session tax moves from around the country. Kansas may have made the biggest changes, including a small retreat from its exemption of pass-throughs from the income tax:

Kansas in 2012 completely exempted the income from such individuals, who now total over 330,000 exempt entities. Efforts to repeal this unusual and non-neutral total exclusion of pass-through income earned a veto threat from Governor Brownback. The guaranteed payments provision is estimated to generate approximately $20 million per year.

Taxing guaranteed payments will hardly plug the fiscal hole created by the blanket pass-through exemption. Joseph concludes: “But overall, it is a grab bag of ideas that does little to address the problems underlying Kansas’s tax and budgetary instability. Absent more fundamental changes, legislators will likely have to return in coming years to address budget gaps.”

 

Norton Francis, How Would the Kansas Senate Close the State’s Budget Gap? Mostly by Taxing Poor People (TaxVox)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 765The IRS Scandal, Day 766The IRS Scandal, Day 767

 

Career Corner. Reminder: Parents Meddling in Your Careers Will Not Help You (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 754

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/12/15: The Federal $21 billion thief subsidy; the Iowa $37 million corporation subsidy.

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Lincoln

Accounting Today visitors: click here for the post on the updated auto depreciation limits.

Happy Lincoln’s Birthday. President Lincoln signed the first U.S. income tax into law in August, 1861, to cope with costs of the Civil War and the loss of income from customs collections in the rebellious states.  Wikipedia says the tax was initially 3% on income over an $800 exemption. Right away they started tinkering, and adding expiring provisions:

The income tax provision (Sections 49, 50 and 51) was repealed by the Revenue Act of 1862. (See Sec.89, which replaced the flat rate with a progressive scale of 3% on annual incomes beyond $600 ($12,742 in 2009 dollars) and 5% on incomes above $10,000 ($212,369 in 2009 dollars) or those living outside the U.S., and perhaps more significantly it was explicitly temporary, specifying termination of income tax in “the year eighteen hundred and sixty-six“).

The rates were increased again in 1864 to a top rate of 10%, but it actually was allowed to expire after the end of the war.

For some reason, this early version of the income tax isn’t a big topic in history books. Something else must have been going on then.

 

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

April 15, the thieves holiday Tax-refund fraud to hit $21 billion, and there’s little the IRS can do (CNBC):

Tax-refund fraud is expected to soar again this tax season, and hit a whopping $21 billion by 2016, from just $6.5 billion two years ago, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

And the problem—which the agency admits is growing quickly—is compounded by an outdated fraud-detection system that has trouble identifying many attempts to trick it.

$21 billion. The entire tax system of the state of Iowa raises maybe $8 billion, and the IRS issues $21 billion annually to thieves. Not counting earned income credit fraud, of course.

I’m no IT expert, but saying the IRS is helpless sounds like a cop-out. Even with obsolete technology, the IRS has been slow to stop obvious fraud, such as multiple (say, hundreds of) refunds going to a single bank account. The agency allowed this crisis to spin out of control years ago. Practitioners certainly knew about it during Doug Shulman’s execrable term as IRS commissioner, but he spent his efforts trying to regulate practitioners and harass the Tea Party, while grossly failing at the more basic duty of not wiring money to theives. Commissioner Koskinen obviously hasn’t solved the problem. I think it’s fair to conclude that they just haven’t considered it their biggest problem.

This should be the highest IRS priority, certainly more so than the “voluntary” preparer program. It should also be the highest oversight priority of the tax writing committees in Congress, who should be able to find a way to find the necessary funding in a way that keeps the Commissioner from diverting it to pet projects. Of course, the history of IRS technology upgrades isn’t very encouraging.

It’s possible that the solution will also require taxpayers to wait longer for refunds. It takes a lot longer to get a refund when your identity is stolen anyway, so it’s probably worth taking a little more time. But when technology exists to enable the credit card company to call me when my wife is buying an expensive dress in Chicago, the IRS ought to be able to notice someone like Rashia Wilson before she fills her purse with Benjamins.

Related: TurboTax Fraud May Impact Federal Returns Too, FBI Investigating (Robert Wood)

 

Iowa’s $37 million corporate subsidy programNot everybody knows that the State of Iowa mails subsidy checks to business taxpayers, including $11.7 million just to one. Iowa’s research credit is “refundable,” which means once it wipes out your Iowa tax, the state sends you a check for any remaining credit.

The total 2014 Iowa research credits claimed was $56,918,030 for 2014, according to the newly-issued Iowa Research Activities Tax Credit Annual Report for 2014. (Hat tip: Iowa Fiscal Partnership). Sixteen companies claimed $42 million of the credit, according to the report:

RAC2014

I know everybody thinks they have earned whatever cash they have coming from the state, and I’m not shy about claiming refundable credits for my clients. When the state offers you cash, you’d be foolish not to take it. Still, there’s no way this makes any sense from a tax policy perspective.  The money sent to a few taxpayers should be used to lower rates for everyone, or to help eliminate the futile Iowa corporation income tax.

 

William Perez, Last Year’s State Refund Might be Taxed on Your Federal Return

TaxGrrrl, IRS Releases Latest Version Of Its Mobile App – And Something’s Missing. Service!

Russ Fox, A Bipartisan Tax Bill? I’ll Drink to That! “It’s to end age discrimination against bourbon and whiskey.”

Peter Reilly, Lois Lerner’s Old IRS Team Looking Anti-tech. “…now I’m thinking there might be a full blown Luddite cult operating in there.”

Jason Dinesen, Tips For Financing a Small Business: Part 1 of 5 — There’s Going to Be Paperwork, Deal With It

Kay Bell, Got your tax refund yet? IRS issued 7.6 million in January

 

IMG_1271

Principal Park, home of the Iowa Cubs. About 2 months until opening day!

 

Andrew Lundeen, Proposed Tax Changes in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget (Tax Policy Blog). “In total, the plan includes $2.4 trillion in proposed tax increases offset by $713 billion in new credits, deductions, and other offsets, for a total tax increase of nearly $1.7 trillion over the next ten years.”

Cara Griffith, Series LLCs: The Next Generation of Passthrough Entities? (Tax Analysts Blog). I think they will continue to be the wave of the future, as they have been for years now.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 644

 

Career Corner. Interruptions at the Office: Good or Bad? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). Bad, unless cookies are implicated.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/2/14: Tax moralism and moral panics. And: IRS, abetter of theives, scourge of victims!

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts’ Tax Notes and State Tax Notes are part of my healthy breakfast, and today they are especially delicious.  The only bad part, for me, is that they are subscription publications, making them hard to share in full.  I can give you morsels, though.

Joseph Thorndike has an excellent discussion of the hollow moralism of tax debates, though he ends up defending it.  In the course of discussing an article by Allison Christians on the role of moralism in tax debates, he comes up with gem after gem.  He quotes Learned Hand’s discussion of the issue, which I find conclusive:

Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one’s affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant.

That never stops politicians, as Joseph points out:

     More recently, President Obama’s proposal for a “Buffett rule” clearly falls within that tradition of tax moralism (although in this version of the morality play, the billionaire plays the hero rather than the villain). Like the AMT, the Buffett rule is a rear-guard action to defend the fisc against the predations of aggressive avoiders.

But those sorts of Rube Goldberg tax contraptions are an admission of failure. They take for granted that the existing tax base and its statutory rate structure cannot be defended. But the efficacy of those second-best tax systems — at least when measured in terms of fairness — is anything but self-evident. And their costs in terms of complexity and opacity are substantial. 

If you move away from the law, to a system of “morality” in paying taxes, you lose your way.  Who decides what is moral?  Politicians?  Don’t make me laugh.  It’s hard enough to follow the law, given its ridiculous complexity.  If you then require taxpayers to meet subjective standards of whatever pressure group feels like calling a press conference that day, you make taxes pretty much impossible.

One point not mentioned is the conflicting moral obligations of taxpayers.  A rich individual has moral responsibilities to his children, his business and his own community.  The IRS can’t be the supreme moral agent.  And a corporation has moral and legal obligations to its shareholders, customers and employees that conflict with any “moral” obligation to the fisc.  Given that pensions are mostly invested in corporation stock and bonds, their “moral” obligation to give politicians more money for buying votes is hard to take seriously.

 

e-cigFor dessert, David Brunori chimes in on e-cigarettes and politicians

 I get the rationale for tobacco taxes. You smoke, you get sick, society has to pay for your medical care. That’s consistent with the classic rationale for excise taxes. Those taxes are legitimate only if used to pay for externalities — that is, the societal costs that aren’t borne by the market.

Of course, cigarette taxes in particular have never really been about externalities. If they were, every penny of revenue would go to smoking-related healthcare. Instead, dozens of states earmark some cigarette tax revenue for education (I still can’t believe teachers who rely on cigarette tax revenue for their raises aren’t leaving cartons of Lucky Strikes on their kids’ desks). 

Ah, but giving away cartons of cigarettes on a teacher’s salary?  Of course, my mom was a teacher, and I remember as a kid buying her cigarettes at the store.  But she never shared them, and I never picked up the habit.

David adds:

Taxing e-cigarettes is a money grab. If people use e-cigarettes instead of real cigarettes, the state loses money. The vested interests like the public employee unions and the myriad government contractors can’t have that. But proponents won’t admit the money-grabbing motive.

Iowa, like many other states, is a partner in the tobacco industry as a result of a shakedown settlement agreement with the big tobacco companies.  The industry continues to operate, with the politicians getting a cut of the revenue (nice vice racket you got there, hate to see something bad happen to it).  The moral panic over e-cigarettes is really about protecting this franchise.

 

20130419-1We’ll let them steal your money, and then we’ll punish you for it.  IRS freezes tax ID theft victims’ return – then hits them with late penalties. (Cleveland.com)

Pat Pekarek and her husband, Roger, discovered someone filed taxes using Roger’s Social Security number last year, after the IRS rejected their e-filed joint return.

The Pekareks, who live in Parma Heights, dutifully followed the IRS’ instructions to send their return by mail with documentation proving they were the real Pekareks. The IRS immediately froze their account, along with a credit that Pat Pekarek expected to use toward this year’s taxes.

A year later, the account remains in the IRS deep freeze – along with the credit. And now, even though it was the IRS freeze that kept the credit on ice, the agency is demanding the Pekareks cough up back taxes and pay late penalties.

The IRS has let identity theft get completely out of control, while spending its time and energy trying to regulate law-abiding preparers and harassing uncongenial political groups.  And they’ve managed to neglect and abuse the victims while doing so.  Good thing they are responsible for our health insurance system too.

 

William Perez, Foreign Bank Accounts due June 30th.  New form, and now you have to e-file.

TaxGrrrl, Las Vegas Man Cheated IRS, Taxpayers Using False Home Buyer Credits:  “Refundable credits are traditionally a magnet for fraudulent claims and this one was no different: initial reports indicated that nearly 100,000 refunds were perhaps inappropriately distributed, with $600 million of taxpayer credits labelled “suspicious” in 2009 (despite those numbers, Congress kept extending the credit).”

Jack Townsend, Accountant Sentenced For Tax Crimes; Conduct Included FBAR violations .  “The gravamen of Duban’s conduct is that he assisted the persons related to the automobile dealership in running nondeductible personal expenses through the corporation.”

Scott Schumacher, Winning the He-Said-She-Said Case (Procedurally Taxing)

Tony Nitti, S Corporation Shareholder Must Reduce Basis For Non-Deductible Corporate Loss 

 

20140401-1Lyman Stone, Response to Politico: Taxes and the Texas Miracle (Tax Policy Blog):

But long-term tax policies do matter. Stable, neutral, non-distortionary tax policies, offering low tax rates on broad tax bases, can support economic growth. Firm site selection is one channel, through which taxes affect economic decisions on the margin. There is robust evidence that taxes (while certainly not the only or even the largest factor) do matter for site selection. And, as one of the few site selection variables policymakers can directly control, it makes sense for them to be concerned about the role of taxes.

But not in the form of paying people to be your friends via tax credits.

 

Annette Nellen, Is tax reform on or off? Odd activities in the House last week

Kay Bell, Debate continues about tax havens and punishment fairness

 

Renu Zaretsky, Holes, Holidays, Hurricanes, and Tax Bills (TaxVox).  “The Illinois legislature passed a budget with revenue holes and no spending cuts.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 388

Me, 2 million served.  An arbitrary milestone, achieved!

 

Russ Fox, No, Fido & Lulu Can’t Own Your Business:

All corporations have to have a Board of Directors. That board handles various business items of the corporation. Now, in a tightly controlled corporation you might just have one board member–yourself. But Mr. Zuckerman elected a strategy that I haven’t seen before (and I doubt I’ll see again): He named his pets as board members.

They were probably as independent as any number of human board members.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/26/14: House tax reform plan expands cash basis, boosts 179 limits. And: $133 million employment tax theft.

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Cash basis expansion, permanent Section 179 increase highlight Camp tax reform plan.  The GOP House tax leadership has released their tax reform draft, nicely rounded-up by the TaxProf.  The plan would lower top individual and corporate rates to 25%, while making big changes in business taxation.

They have released two alternate plans for small business taxation.  One plan would tweak S corporation and partnership taxation, making elections easier and easing S corporation penalty taxes.  The other draft would do away with the current pass-through regimes and replace them with a single pass-through tax system.

The Camp draft would also greatly expand the availability of cash method accounting:

20140226-1

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I do like getting rid of the special rules for farmers and letting everybody have the same opportunity.  I less like the rule giving unlimited cash basis for sole proprietorships, as that would encourage people to keep things on their schedule C for tax reasons even if it is a bad structure otherwise.  Do we really need to preserve cash basis for a $100 million schedule C or Schedule F operation?  If something is that big, the “simplicity” argument doesn’t make sense.

I’m all for getting rid of the Section 263A stuff.

While I doubt that anything will happen with tax reform this year, there is a real possibility that things will start moving after the 2014 elections.

William McBride, Four Things to Look for in Chairman Camp’s Tax Reform Plan (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, McConnell Throws Cold Water on Camp’s Tax Plan (TaxVox)

 

 

EFTPSTexans sentenced in massive PEO employment tax theft.  From Breitbart.com:

Federal prison sentences were recently handed down to three businessmen by Chief District Judge Fred Biery. The three defendants – John Bean, Pat Mire, and Mike Solis – are going to prison for their roles in a $133 million scheme involving numerous co-conspirators. The FBI and IRS conducted the investigations for the case, which is believed to be the largest criminal tax related case ever prosecuted in western Texas.

Bean and Mire both pled guilty to money laundering and mail fraud conspiracy charges. Solis plead guilty only to a mail fraud conspiracy charge.

The defendants admitted that from 2002 to 2008, they stole more than $133 million from clients of several of the Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) that they owned and operated.

PEOs actually report client employees as their own, issuing W-2s and filing employment tax returns.  The danger of PEOs is that employers have no way to be sure their employment taxes are being deposited.  If the PEO is stealing them, the IRS will come back to the employers to collect.

With a non-PEO payroll service, the payroll tax returns are prepared for employers, who issue and sign them.  More importantly, non-PEO employers can go online using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System and verify that their payroll taxes are being paid.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProfThe IRS Scandal, Day 293.  Among the items in his daily scandal roundup is a Wall Street Journal editorial, Liberals vs. the IRS: Even the Left Doesn’t Want the Tax Man Regulating Speech:

In the Nation magazine, Nan Aron of the liberal judicial lobby the Alliance for Justice writes that 501(c)(4)s aren’t merely groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, but are “made up of over 86,000 mostly small organizations nationwide” that are active participants in civic life.

“They weren’t invented in the last election cycle; they’ve been around for generations. Their purpose isn’t to hide donors, it’s to advance policies,” Ms. Aron adds. “These groups are involved in elections, because it’s often impossible to advance a policy cause without being involved in the political process.”

There’s no principle that would justify suppressing political rights of 501(c)(4) outfits that can’t apply equally to other exempt outfits.  Furthermore, there’s no real reason to impose taxes on political outfits.  The answer to speech you don’t like is more speech of your own, not suppressing what you don’t want to hear.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Proposed Rules For Nonprofits Alarm Conservatives and Liberals Alike   

 

IRS fights ID theft with one hand, helps it out with the other.  From PC World:

This tax season you may have more to worry about than how much you owe. A new study from Identity Finder finds the IRS is not properly protecting social security numbers in some tax returns…

The research revealed an alarming failure to safeguard sensitive data. Identity Finder uncovered an estimated 630,000 Social Security numbers exposed online in form 990 tax returns.

The most affected group were tax preparers–many of which used their personal SSN rather than their PTIN (preparer tax identification number). However, directors, trustees, employees, donors, and scholarship recipients were all impacted as well. 

It’s fair to point out that preparers have some responsibilty — they are often including SSNs unnecessarily, especially their own.  But that doesn’t excuse the IRS.

 

uni-logoSome UNI workers filing taxes finding Social Security numbers have been used (WCFcourier.com):

According to UNI officials, more than 20 employees have received “error” messages when filing their individual tax returns online, and their returns were rejected. Others who have yet to file say they called the Internal Revenue Service and found their Social Security numbers had been used. One person reportedly received a refund check at home from the IRS though they hadn’t filed a return yet.

UNI officials are playing down the possibility of identity theft, but that’s how I’d bet.  Any organization that collects social security numbers needs to be very careful with them, restricting access and shredding documents on disposal.

Jack Townsend, Stolen Identity Refund Fraud in the News

 

William Perez, Reporting Social Security Benefits

Kay Bell, Don’t fall prey to the Dirty Dozen tax scams of 2014

David Brunori, Great Opportunity for Tax and Public Finance Students (Tax Analysts Blog). “We are conducting our first student writing competition. You should encourage students who have written quality papers to submit them to studentpapers@tax.org.”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

~Andre Birotte, U.S. Attorney

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

William Perez has the scoop on Reporting Investment Income and Expenses

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 291

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

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

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Tax Roundup, 12/19/2013: Government finally to stop promoting identity theft. And more year-end tips!

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

DMFGovernment shuts down identity theft enabling operation: its own.  The budget compromise headed to the President’s death places new restrictions on the Social Security Death Master File.  While prized by genealogists for their work, it’s prized even more by thieves, who use the information on it to snap up fraudulent tax refunds in the names of the dead.  It’s been a multi-billion dollar problem for years.

The person who stole the identity of the late husband of Jason Dinesen’s client almost certainly did so using DMF information, stealing unknown amounts from the government and disrupting the client’s tax life for years.

Bloomberg Business explains the new restrictions:

The legislation would exempt the records from the federal Freedom of Information Act and give the Commerce Department 90 days to set up a process to certify legitimate users. The public would have access to the data three years after an individual’s death.

The language in the bill was taken from a Senate Finance Committee draft from which lawmakers had asked for comment by mid-January, said Alane Dent, vice president for taxes and retirement security at the American Council of Life Insurers.

While the restrictions seem long overdue, not everyone is happy about them, aside from identity thieves.  Newsweek reports:

“Closing the Death Master File is ludicrous,” said Melinde Lutz Byrne, one of the nation’s top genealogists and part of a small group of forensic researchers at Boston University. They have banded together and for two years have fought similar proposals in Texas and Florida to block public access to the Death Master File.

“It is my opinion that the science of it all has bypassed our elected representatives and even the courts,” she said.

It’s a trade-off, but I think preventing fraud deserves priority here.  Still, the objectors are right about this:

“The IRS is handing out money like candy – and nobody wants to acknowledge it,” said Sharon Sergeant, a forensic researcher, technologist and tax-software programmer who strongly supports the Boston University group. “Why isn’t it checking to make sure dead people aren’t getting tax returns? Somebody who reads the obituaries and makes up a social security number the right way, according to the algorithm, can file a tax return and get a payment. It’s got nothing to do with the Death Master File. It has everything to do with the IRS not doing its job.”

But The Worst Commissioner Ever felt it was more important to expand power over preparers than to stop the thieves.

 

2013 year-end tip: Donate your appreciated stock now!  The tax law allows you to claim a full-value charitable deduction for donating appreciated long-term capital gain securities that are publicly-traded.  It’s a tax-efficient way to donate, as you get the full deduction without ever paying tax on the appreciation.

But there is a hitch: you have to get the stock to your favorite charity’s brokerage account by December 31 to get the deduction.  That can take time, especially when dealing with less-sophisticated smaller charities.  If you want a 2013 deduction, start by contacting the charity and learning how they want you to get the securities to them by year-end. Remind the charity that they need to provide you a written acknowledgement of the gift.  And make sure your own broker knows the transfer has to be completed this year.

Come back tomorrow for another 2013 year-end tax tip!

 

20120906-1Just bluffing.  “Archer Daniels Midland Co. decided Wednesday to set up its new international headquarters in Chicago even after it failed in its bid for millions of dollars in state tax breaks.”  Next time our politicians claim to have “created jobs” by giving away your money, remember that they are giving their friends money to do things they would be doing anyway.

 

 

Cara Griffith, The Tax Reform Debate…for a Limited Few in Wisconsin (Tax Analysts Blog):

What was advertised as an “outstanding opportunity for the hardworking taxpayers” to engage in discussions about tax reform are also closed to the public…

Making tax proposals available to the public and opening up a dialogue with affected taxpayers can be eye-opening for people who will eventually have to develop and administer the proposal. If tax legislation is enacted, those who wrote the legislation, those who will enforce it, and those who will be affected by it should all understand what the legislation was designed to do. 

Politicians and their friends don’t like company.

 

Christopher Bergin, Transparency Is in Our DNA (Tax Analysts Blog):

Tax Analysts is involved in litigation in the commonwealth of Kentucky to get its Department of Revenue to begin releasing redacted copies of final letter rulings. The agency is resisting that, which is why we are in court.

Bureaucrats and their friends don’t like company either.

 

Chris Stephens, Pressure Mounts Against “Jock Tax” in Tennessee (Tax Policy Blog):

For example, a player at the NBA league minimum of $500,000 who is paid per game would make about $6,097 per game. If the player plays only one game in Tennessee he would pay a tax of $2,500 for that game, which is a tax rate of 41 percent. It is also worth noting that the player would also pay approximately 40 percent in federal income taxes, potentially leaving almost nothing in take home pay.

The states that want to pick the stars’ pockets forget that not everybody is paid like LeBron.  Unfortunately, the federal proposal to prevent state income taxation of employees only in-state for a few days doesn’t cover athletes or entertainers, treating the couch-surfing musician the same as Peyton Manning.

 

20111040logoTaxGrrrl, IRS Finally Announces Start Date To 2014 Tax Filing Season  Filing season starts January 31.

Paul Neiffer,  Tax Filing Begins January 31, 2014

Jason Dinesen, Six Things I’m Talking to My Small Business Clients About at Year-End (Part 1)   

Tony Nitti, With Tax Break Set To Expire, Partnerships Should Consider Converting To C Corporations Before Year End.  This is a 100% exemption on gains for C corporation stock received on original issue held for at least five years.

Kay Bell,  Homeownership tax breaks to take in December

Robert D. Flach, WHAT’S NEW FOR NEW YORK INCOME TAXES FOR 2013

Margaret Van Houten, How to Maintain Records for your Digital Assets  (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

 

Janet Novack, Minus Taxes And Hype, $636 Million Jackpot Shrinks To $206 Million — Or Less 

Jim Maule, Let’s Not Extend The Practice of Tax Extenders.  Agreed.

Stephen Olsen, The “IRS Investigations” Scam.  A client he helped through the OVDI “amnesty” program gets targeting by a scammer.  Troubling.

Jack Townsend, Judge Rakoff Speaks on the Dearth of Prosecutions from the Financial Crisis   He quotes the judge: “But if, by contrast, the Great Recession was in material part the product of intentional fraud, the failure to prosecute those responsible must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years.”

It’s at least as much political fraud as financial fraud, but political fraud is never prosecuted.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Murray-Ryan Budget Deal Avoids Government Shut down but Does Not Close a Single Tax Loophole, Leaves Many Problems in Place

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 224

 

News from the Profession: Future CPA Seeking the Best CPA Review Course Someone Else’s Money Can Buy (Going Concern)

 

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