Posts Tagged ‘Instapundit’

Tax Roundup, 11/18/14: The ACA and filing season. Be afraid.

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2Megan McArdle, Reality Check on Obamacare Year Two:

Another thing to keep in mind, however: This open enrollment period isn’t the biggest test for Obamacare in the next 12 months.  The biggest test will be what happens on or around April 15th.  That’s the first time all the people who didn’t buy insurance will get hit with the individual mandate penalty, and the ones who thought that it was a nominal $95 fee are in for a nasty shock .  April 15th will also be the first time that people who got too much in subsidies are going to be asked to pay back some of that money.  I do not have hard figures on this, but my basic experience in personal finance and tax reporting suggests that approximately zero percent of those affected will be expecting the havoc it will wreak on their tax refund.  Brace for a wave of taxpayers angrily complaining to congressmen and their local newspapers.  

After completing the first six sessions as a panelist in continuing education for tax preparers around Iowa, I completely agree. Preparers learning about the process of computing the individual mandate penalty and the tax credit adjustments are appalled.

The first question we receive is: how are we going to get people to pay for this? The taxpayers who will have the biggest issues here will be the ones who formerly had the simplest returns and who will not be excited about paying for an extra 1-4 hours of preparer time.  A chart prepared by the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation to guide preparers through the client interview process for ACA return issues looks like this:

20141118-1

 

Courtesy Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation. Full-size version available to TaxPlace subscribers.

 

But it’s worse than even Ms. McArdle knows. It’s not just individual taxpayers who look to get clobbered by this. Based on what I’ve seen at our sessions, dozens or hundreds of Iowa small businesses are starting to figure out that they have had non-compliant health insurance plans so far in 2014 as a result of the ACA “market reforms.”  Non-compliance carries a penalty of $100 per day, per employee. At $36,500 per employee per year, it doesn’t take too much of this to bankrupt a small business. And it’s not as though these employers are doing something abusive; they have just continued funding employee insurance the way they always had, but in ways the “Departments” that run Obamacare no longer like. Or they just might have done all the right things, except for properly notifying employees of their coverage options in writing. Trivial violations, crushing penalties.

While there is a provision to have the penalty waived for reasonable cause, that’s not very comforting in a state where the IRS is willing to loot a restaurant’s bank account without any indication of wrongdoing.  In addition to dealing with a parade of irate individuals with sticker shock from their return fees, let alone their new taxes and penalties, preparers also have to tell noncompliant business-owning clients that they suddenly have a potentially devastating tax liability.

If taxpayers are upset after tax season as practitioners are before it, Obamacare will be about as popular as Ebola by April 15.

 

 

Today in Red Oak.Kay Bell, IRS offers tax relief in certain Ebola situations

Robert D. Flach discusses TAX EFFICIENT INVESTING

Leslie Book, Living With Your Decisions: Delinquent Mortgage Debt (Procedurally Taxing). “Courts and IRS put the kibosh on deductions when the new loan comes from the same lender as the old delinquent loan; the theory in those cases is that the taxpayer has not really gone out of pocket and that there is just a shuffling of papers.”

 

Martin Sullivan, Why the Upcoming Battle Over Expiring Tax Provisions Matters — A Lot (Tax Analysts Blog). “Extenders legislation is not just about the fate of a grab bag of miscellaneous tax provisions this year. If Republicans can get expensive expiring provisions permanently extended, the chances for enactment of tax reform will be significantly improved.”

Steve Warnhoff, New CBO Report: Yes, the Rich Are Paying “a Bit” More (Tax Justice Blog). How much more, Steve?  “New CBO study shows that ‘the rich’ don’t just pay their ‘fair share,’ they pay almost everybody’s share.” (Via Instapundit):

20141118-2

 

Kyle Pomerleau, CBO: Overall Federal Taxing and Spending is Progressive (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Donald Marron, Spin Alert: DOE Loans Are Losing Money, Not Making Profits (TaxVox). Of course they are losing money. If they were profitable, they wouldn’t need the feds to make the loans.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 558

 

News from the Profession. You’re Not Really as Busy as You Claim (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/23/14: Lois Lerner interview goes over… not well. And: Inversion action!

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

man-wichLois Lerner’s interview with Politico published yesterday got some reaction. The Tax Prof has a great roundup in The IRS Scandal, Day 502, including these wonderful headlines:

American Thinker:  Politico Does Weepy Story About Poor Lois Lerner

PJ Media:  Politico Disguises A Slobbering Love Letter To Lois Lerner As An Interview

Breitbart:  News Site Seeks Mutually Beneficial Exclusive with Former IRS Exec (Must Love Dogs)

And my favorite:

Daily Caller:  Lois Lerner Compares Herself To Jeffrey Dahmer

So Tea Party-friendly web sites were not won over, apparently.  Some other reaction:

 

Instapundit:

LOIS LERNER TOOK THE FIFTH, but now she’s telling Politico that she did nothing wrong, and that she’s the real victim here. And note the prominent play Politico gives to alleged anti-semitic epithets, and to Lerner’s brownie-baking. So why the media-rehab operation — and that’s what this is — and why now?

But it’s nice to hear that even the Washington revolving-door apparat finds her “untouchable.” Perhaps that’s because nothing much in this story suggests that she didn’t target Tea Party groups for partisan political reasons.

 

David Hirsanyi, Sorry, Politico, But Lois Lerner Is Not A Victim:

 She has already admitted and apologized for the practice of targeting conservatives groups with terms like “Tea Party” or “patriots” in their titles. She claims that it was done in an effort to deal with the surge in applications for tax-exempt status asking for permission to participate in the political process. Yet, she didn’t aim at groups with the “climate change” or “fairness” in their names to mitigate this alleged crush of work she was facing.

Peter Suderman, Unapologetic Lois Lerner Insists She’s Done Nothing Wrong (Reason.com):

Lerner thinks she did nothing wrong, and she won’t apologize. “Regardless of whatever else happens, I know I did the best I could under the circumstances and am not sorry for anything I did,” she said in an interview with the paper.

That’s basically all she says about her role in the scandal. Lerner, who, after reading a statement, exercised her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when called to testify before Congress last year, doesn’t really add anything to her defense with the statements in her piece. She declares that she stands by her work—and that’s it.

And James Taranto reports “Politico landed an exclusive interview with Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the still-unresolved scandal, and to call it a whitewash would be an insult to lime.”

I think we can safely say of this PR stunt, so far, not so good.

Prior Tax Update coverage: Lerner speaks, sort of. And: a federal tax amnesty?

 

No Walnut STTreasury “does something” about inversions.  The moral panic over inversion transactions took its next logical step when the Treasury announced it would issue regulations out of nowhere to “crack down” on corporations trying to escape our awful U.S. corporation income tax. Notice 2014-52 has the technical details.

The Treasury has previously issued such notices, generally describing future regulations, when it is in a hurry to stop some kind of transaction and doesn’t want to wait for the usual regulation comment period to “do something.”

The Wall Street Journal explains the rules in general terms:

The Treasury rules will make it harder for companies that invert to use cash accumulating abroad—a big draw in recent deals. In addition, the government has made it more difficult to complete these overseas mergers.

The tax changes took effect immediately, officials said, and applied to all deals that hadn’t closed by Monday.

The article addresses how the deal might affect pending deals: (I removed the WSJ’s obligatory stock price info):

The new guidelines could impact a number of pending mergers and acquisitions, including Medtronic Inc. s proposed acquisition of Irish medical-device maker Covidien PLC; Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd.’s acquisition of a division of Italy’s Cosmo Pharmaceuticals SpA; and Mylan Inc.’s  pending deal for Abbott Laboratories overseas generics business. It could also interfere with the merger of fruit grower Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Fyffes PLC.

Less clear is how it would impact Burger King Worldwide Inc. BKW -0.48% ‘s proposed acquisition of Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons Inc., THI.T +1.92% a deal that was designed to move the new corporate headquarters to Canada. 

That deal is structured somewhat differently, and experts disagree whether it would be affected by the new government rules. Most agree the rule changes aren’t likely to end inversions altogether.

Of course it won’t. As long as the U.S. has an uncompetitive business tax climate — better only than France and Portugal in the developed world — corporations will be forced to seek self-help, like inversion deals.

Tax Analysts has a story about how the last round of inversion rules created dangers for corporations who aren’t even inverting ($link): “The existing anti-inversion rules under section 7874 create several traps for foreign companies and individuals that could cause transactions to be treated as inversions when no inversion has taken place.”

Unintended consequences result, traps are created for the unwary, and the awful U.S. corporation income tax gets a little worse. Well done, Jack Lew!

The TaxProf has a roundup.  Howard Gleckman asks Does Treasury Have the Legal Authority To Curb Tax Inversions? (TaxVox): “This issue is the subject of heated debate among tax lawyers.”

 

 

buzz20140923Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz, including links to posts covering ground from tax holidays to How Does a Sole Proprietor Get Paid?

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Moving Expenses

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: Anxiety, Depression Are Not Physical Injuries

Russ Fox, They Both Begin With “E”. Embezzlement, evasion. Add another: eventually detected.

Kay Bell, Identity theft tax refund fraud is increasing, but ways to prevent the crime are not likely to be popular

Jason Dinesen, Entrepreneurial Maturity. “In other words, a business owner who has entrepreneurial maturity knows what they don’t know.”

Annette Nellen, Points from your bank. On the “frequent flyer miles” Tax Court case.

Steven Olsen, Summary Opinions for 9/12/14 (Procedurally Taxing). Rounding up recent developments in tax procedure.

Jack Townsend has some Comments on the Warner Sentencing Oral Argument: “The panel was also concerned that, if Warner’s conduct were so bad, why did the Government argue at sentencing for only a sentence of 1 year and 1 day when the Guidelines range was significantly higher.”

 

20140923-1Alan Cole, The U.S. Tax Code is its Worst Competitive Weakness (Tax Policy Blog). “Simply put, while assessments of the U.S. tax code – both at Tax Foundation and elsewhere – are bleak, there is much to be optimistic about in America.”

Martin Sullivan, Should We Give Up On Reagan Style Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog) “The landmark 1986 Tax Reform Act is an inspiration to all would-be tax reformers. But reforms following that basic framework have gotten nowhere in Congress.”

Steve Warnhoff, The Estate Tax Is Not Doing Enough to Mitigate Inequality: State-by-State Figures (Tax Justice Blog). It’s not working, so lets do it more, harder!

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Tax Roundup, 9/18/14: The $14.8 million suitcase squeeze. And: Koskinen visits the Hill.

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy Sascha Kohlmann under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Sascha Kohlmann under Creative Commons license

Accounting Today visitors: click here for the item from the September 17 “In the Blogs.”

When tax-free merger isn’t. Working with family-owned businesses, a common misunderstanding arises: if a deal is tax-free, like an “A” merger or a partnership contribution, there can’t be gift tax, right?  Very wrong, as a New Hampshire couple’s experience in Tax Court shows.

The parents, Mr. and Mrs Cavallero, had a successful S corporation known as Knight Tool Co. Their son Ken set up another business to make liquid dispensing machines, Camelot.  As part of their estate planning, the two companies merged in an income tax-free deal.  From the Tax Court summary:

Ps and their sons merged Knight and Camelot in 1995, and Camelot was the surviving entity. Valuing the two companies in accordance with the advice their professionals had given, Ps accepted a disproportionately low number of shares in the new company and their sons received a disproportionately high number of shares.

It turns out that the estate planners “postulated” a technology transfer earlier in the lives of the companies that would have resulted in most of the value already being in the second generation. One planner explained to a skeptical attorney that “History does not formulate itself, the historian has to give it form without being discouraged by having to squeeze a few embarrassing facts into the suitcase by force.”

The trouble with doing that is that when the latches break, the suitcase spills all over the place. But the planners persisted.  From the Tax Court decision:

As a result of Mr. Hamel’s correspondence campaign, however, the previously separate tracks of advice — one from the accountants at E&Y and Mr. McGillivray, and the other from the attorneys at Hale & Dorr — now came together for the first time. The contradiction was evident to all the professionals: The accountants had assumed no 1987 transfer (and thus believed there was a need for a means to transmit value to the next generation), but the attorneys postulated a 1987 transfer (and subsequent transfers) pursuant to which that value had already been placed in the hands of the next generation. The attorneys eventually prevailed, however, and the accountants acquiesced. Eventually all of the advisers lined up behind Mr. Hamel’s suggestion that a 1987 transfer be memorialized in the affidavits and the confirmatory bill of sale. They provided a draft of the documents, which Mrs. Cavallaro read aloud to Mr. Cavallaro. After they reported a few typographical errors, the attorneys prepared final versions, which Mr. Cavallaro and Ken Cavallaro executed on May 23, 1995.

So in 1995 they executed documents for a 1987 transaction.  What could go wrong? Well, perhaps the IRS could come in and assess $27.7 million in gift taxes, plus fraud penalties.  And they did. The dispute ended up in Tax Court.  The IRS won the main issue — its argument that the valuable technology was not in fact transferred in 1987 — and with that win, predictably also won the battle of appraisers.  The IRS appraiser at trail asserted a $29.6 million gift, which would result in a gift tax of about $14.8 million at 1995 rates. Because of the involvement of the outside experts, the Tax Court declined to uphold penalties.

This shows how important valuation can be even in a “tax-free” deal.  When doing business among family members at different generations in estate planning, you don’t have the conflicting interests that unrelated buyers and sellers have, so you have the possibility of creating a taxable gift if you are careless. It’s natural for family members to believe numbers that help their estate planning, so it’s wise to get an independent appraiser in to provide a reality check.  And if the facts, or values, don’t fit into the suitcase, don’t squeeze; get a bigger suitcase.

Cite: Cavallero, T.C. Memo 2014-189

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Instapundit, IRS COMMISSIONER: Our Story On The IRS Scandal Isn’t Changing. It’s Just, You Know, Evolving Now And Then.  “I’ve taken a dislike to this Koskinen fellow. He seems sleazy even by DC standards.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 497. Mostly coverage of another slippery appearance by Commissioner Koskinen before House investigators.

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: American Opportunity Credit

Kay Bell, Private and often untaxed home rentals under fire

Peter Reilly, Need To Show Rental Effort To Deduct Expenses. “I think the way I would put it is ‘If at first and second and third you don’t succeed, try something different.  Otherwise forget about deducting losses.'”

 

David Brunori, Fairness and the Reality of State Tax Systems (Tax Analysts Blog) “etc. This week WalletHub released a rating of the fairest state and local tax systems… I am not doubting the accuracy of WalletHub’s survey. But the results don’t align with political reality.”

Cara Griffith, Single Sales Factor May Be Inevitable, but Is It Fair? (Tax Analysts):

In the end, if state officials are truly concerned with making their state more attractive to businesses, perhaps they should consider retaining (or returning to) the three factor apportionment method and focus on a less burdensome corporate tax system overall. In the end, if state officials are truly concerned with making their state more attractive to businesses, perhaps they should consider retaining (or returning to) the three factor apportionment method and focus on a less burdensome corporate tax system overall.

No, they are concerned with ribbon cuttings, press releases, and campaign contributions from those seeing tax credits and carveouts.

 

 

20140805-2Renu Zaretsky, A Hail Mary or Two on the Hill.  The TaxVox tax headline roundup covers inflation adjustments and beating up on the NFL with the tax code, among other things.

Alan Cole, Why do I have Four Different Retirement Accounts? (Tax Policy Blog) “Give us one unlimited saving account, tax it properly, like an IRA, and let us use it how we will.”

Russ Fox, Zuckermans Sentenced; No Word on Fido & Lulu “Unfortunately, members of a board of directors must be human: Fido and Lulu don’t qualify.”

Adrienne Gonzalez, Mad Scientist Gets Prison Time for Using His Dog and Cat in a Tax Avoidance Scheme (Going Concern). PETA couldn’t be reached for comment.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/11/14: Don’t you dare agree with me edition.

Monday, August 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

microsoft-appleDavid Brunori notes ($link) some odd behavior by Good Jobs First, a left-side outfit that has been on the side of the angels by highlighting the baneful effects of corporate welfare tax incentives.  The American Legislative Exchange Council came out with a report blasting cronyist tax incentives, and rather than embracing the report, Good Jobs First ripped it — because the Koch Brothers are the Devil:

Yet, Good Jobs First slams ALEC because many recipients of tax incentives have close ties to ALEC. But so what? The fact that corporations, including those run by the Koch brothers, provide support to ALEC doesn’t diminish the argument that incentives are terrible.

Weirdly, Good Jobs First primarily blames the recipients of corporate welfare for taking the money, rather than the politicians who give it away:

Moreover, Good Jobs First inexplicably says that ALEC is wrong to blame policymakers rather than the companies that receive incentives. But the blame for those horrible policies rests squarely on the shoulders of lawmakers and governors who perpetuate them. In a world where the government is handing out benefits to anyone who asks, it’s hard to fault the people who line up for the handout. No one has been more critical of tax incentives than I, but I’ve never blamed the corporations. Nor do I blame the army of consultants and lawyers who grease the wheels to make incentives happen. There’s no blame for anyone other than the cowardly politicians from both parties who can’t seem to resist using those nefarious policies.

Precisely correct.  When somebody is handing out free money, it’s hard to turn it down when your competitors are taking all they can.

I have seen smart people I respect do everything short of donning tin-foil hats when talking about the Koch Brothers and their dreadful agenda of influencing the government to leave you alone.  Maybe everyone needs an Emmanuel Goldstein.

Adam Michel, Scott Drenkard, New Report Quantifies “Tax Cronyism” (Tax Policy Blog)

Annette Nellen, What about accountability? California solar energy property.  Green corporate welfare is still corporate welfare.

 

20130121-2Russ Fox, Where Karen Hawkins Disagrees With Me…  The Director of the IRS Office of Preparer Responsibility commented on Russ’ post “The IRS Apparently Thinks They Won the Loving Case.”  Russ replies to the comment:

Ms. Hawkins is technically correct that Judge Boasberg’s order says nothing about the use of an RTRP designation. However, the Order specifically states that the IRS has no authority to create such a regulatory scheme. If there isn’t such a regulation, what’s the use of the designation?

The courts closed the front door to preparer regulation, so the IRS is trying to find an unlocked window.

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Imposes New Limits On Tax Refunds By Direct Deposit.  “Effective for the 2015 tax season, the IRS will limit the number of refunds electronically deposited into a single financial account (such as a savings or checking account) or prepaid debit card to three.”

This seems like a measure that should have been put in place years ago.  The Worst Commissioner Ever apparently had other priorities.

 

Kay Bell, Actor Robert Redford sues NY tax office over $1.6 million bill.  The actor gets dragged into New York via a pass-through entity in which he had an interest — a topic we mentioned last week.

Renu Zaretsky, August Avoidance: Corporate Taxes and Budget Realities.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers inversions, gridlock, and Kansas.

Peter Reilly, Org Tries Exempt Status Multiple Choice – IRS Answers None Of The Above

 

 

20140811-1Ajay Gupta, The Libertarian Case for BEPS (Tax Analysts Blog)  BEPS stands for “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.”

Matt Gardiner, Inversions Aside, Don’t Lose Sight of Other Ways Corps. Are Dodging Taxes (Tax Justice Blog).  Don’t worry, Matt.  If I did, my clients would take their business elsewhere.

Robert D. Flach, HEY MR PRESIDENT – DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER!  “If there is something wrong with the Tax Code do not blame the accountant or tax professional.  We have a moral and ethical responsibility to bring to our clients’ attention all the legal deductions, credits, loopholes, techniques, and strategies that are available to reduce their federal and state tax liabilities to the least possible amounts.”

 

Roger McEowen, Federal Court, Contrary To U.S. Supreme Court, Says ACA Individual Mandate Not a Tax.

Jack Townsend, U.S. Forfeits Over $480 Million Stolen by Former Nigerian Dictator.  The headline is misleading — the U.S. received the cash in a forfeiture — they seized it, rather than forfeiting it.

 

2140731-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 459

Instapundit, GANGSTER GOVERNMENT: Inspectors general say Obama aides obstruct investigations.  The majority of the 78 federal inspectors general took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter saying the Administration is blocking their work as a matter of course.  The IRS stonewalling on the Tea Party scandal is part of the pattern.

 

 

News from the Profession. It’s Completely Understandable Someone Might Sign Over 200 Audit Reports By Mistake (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

You mean they didn’t shift to organic carrot juice?  “From Coke to Coors: A Field Study of a Fat Tax and its Unintended Consequences” (Via Maria Koklanaris at Tax Analysts):

Could taxation of calorie-dense foods such as soft drinks be used to reduce obesity? To address this question, a six-month field experiment was conducted in an American city of 62,000 where half of the 113 households recruited into the study faced a 10% tax on calorie-dense foods and beverages and half did not. The tax resulted in a short-term (1-month) decrease in soft drink purchases, but no decrease over a 3-month or 6-month period. Moreover, in beer-purchasing households, this tax led to increased purchases of beer.

I’m sure the politicians who want to run everyone’s diet will angrily demand higher beer taxes in response.

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/1/14: Where the IRS budget really goes. And: IRS ends automatic expiration of foreign tax ID numbers.

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Dang.  “We do not hold, as the principal dissent alleges, that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises can ‘opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.'” — from the majority opinion in yesterday’s Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.

Had they allowed a religious exception to the tax law, all the world religions would quickly develop wildly-popular sects with a doctrinal allergy to tax, and, well,  lots of things.

 

Instapundit links to this chart where it looks like IRS spending is out of control

IRS total 20140701 cato

And I think it is — but not in the obvious way.  The Cato Institute, source of the first chart, also provides this:

IRS budget cato 20140701

It shows that almost all of the massive increase in IRS spending is from refundable credits, which are counted as part of IRS spending in the first chart.  But money given away through the Earned Income Tax Credit is not available for auditing taxpayers or buying additional backup tapes.

That, of course, doesn’t excuse the IRS malfeasance in the Tea Party scandal.  It does show that even as Congress has piled more responsibilities on the IRS — especially via Obamacare — it hasn’t provided additional resources.  Now that one party has seen that the IRS has been acting institutionally as its opposition, the agency is unlikely to get significant new resources as long as that party controls one house of Congress — even less so if the GOP takes the Senate, too.

Meanwhile, rather than trying to conciliate and reassure Congressional Republicans, Commissioner Koskinen has been defiant and tone-deaf in his response to the Tea Party and email erasure scandals.  The results for tax administration will not be good.

 

Jeremy Scott, IRS Strategic Plan Highlights Effects of Budget Cuts (Tax Anlaysts Blog):

A crippled tax collector means a damaged tax system. And a damaged tax system only hurts taxpayers and the federal government as a whole. Congress should focus more on punishing those responsible for the various missteps at the IRS and less on gutting the nation’s revenue collection and tax administration system as a whole.

That will require the IRS as a whole to stop acting like a partisan agency.

 

20130419-1IRS does something very sensible.  Credit where credit is due:  the IRS has decided to no longer make non-resident aliens renew their tax ID numbers every five years.   From IR-2014-76:

Under the new policy:

  • An ITIN will expire for any taxpayer who fails to file a federal income tax return for five consecutive tax years.
  • Any ITIN will remain in effect as long as a taxpayer continues to file U.S. tax returns. This includes ITINs issued after Jan. 1, 2013. These taxpayers will no longer face mandatory expiration of their ITINs and the need to reapply starting in 2018, as was the case under the old policy.
  • To ease the burden on taxpayers and give their representatives and other stakeholders time to adjust, the IRS will not begin deactivating unused ITINs until 2016. This grace period will allow anyone with a valid ITIN, regardless of when it was issued, to still file a valid return during the upcoming tax-filing season.
  • A taxpayer whose ITIN has been deactivated and needs to file a U.S. return can reapply using Form W-7. As with any ITIN application, original documents, such as passports, or copies of documents certified by the issuing agency must be submitted with the form.

Very welcome, and long overdue.  Obtaining an ITIN is an inconvenient and burdensome process, involving either mailing passports or national ID cards to the IRS — and trusting them to return the documents — or making the often long trip to a U.S. consulate to apply in person.  For foreign residents with long-term U.S. financial interests, the requirement to renew ITINs every five years was a gratuitous and expensive burden.

(Hat tip: Kristy Maitre).

 

BitcoinRobert Wood, What IRS Calls ‘Willful’ May Surprise You–And Mean Penalties, Even Jail.  The lingering IRS threat to impose fines for “willful” FBAR noncompliance for small amounts is unwise; it seems that they are more concerned with missing a few lawbreakers than in bringing foot-fault violators into compliance.

Jack Townsend, Good Article on the Non-Willfulness Certification for Streamlined and Related Issues

TaxGrrrl, IRS Says Bitcoin Not Reportable On FBAR (For Now)   

 

Paul Neiffer, IRS Releases Final Regulations on ACA Small-Business Tax Credit

Robert D. Flach starts out July with a Buzz!

Kay Bell, Supreme Court finds contraceptive tax costs ‘substantially burdensome’ in its ruling for Hobby Lobby stores

 

 

Martin Sullivan, States Should Cede Some Taxing Power to the Feds (Tax Analysts Bl0g):

Given that states’ corporate taxes are here to stay, we should consider making them as painless and low-cost to businesses as possible. One way to do that is for Congress to exercise its authority under the commerce clause of the Constitution and require states to entirely piggyback their corporate taxes on the federal system.

Canada does this, and it does help, but getting rid of state corporate income taxes would help much more.

Liz Emmanuel, Millionaires’ Tax Clears New Jersey Legislature, Faces Likely Veto (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu Zaretsky,The Tax Man Cometh, But Sometimes Collects Less.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers the formal effective date of FATCA (today), Kansas budget woes, and a link to an interactive tool to track state budgets.

 

Russ Fox, IRS Didn’t Tell a Court About the Missing Lerner Emails

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 418

 

20140508-1I wouldn’t try asking one this question.  What Type of Fruit is a Polar Bear? Petaluma and Interpretive Choice (Andy Grewal, Procedurally Taxing)

Career Corner.  How to Create a CPA Exam Study Schedule That Guarantees Failure (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

News from the Profession.  San Diego CPA convicted in elaborate tax evasion scheme:

A federal jury deliberated for 30 minutes before finding Lloyd Irving Taylor, 71, guilty of all 19 counts against him, including aggravated identity theft, making false statements to a financial institution, evading taxes, corruptly impeding the Internal Revenue Service and making false statements on U.S. passport applications.

According to evidence presented at trial, Taylor, who has been in custody since April 2013, stole the identities of deceased minors, used them as aliases and obtained fraudulent passports and other identification papers.

Oh, that’s illegal?

According to witnesses who testified, Taylor failed to report $5 million in income during the span of the fraud and owed the IRS about $1.6 million. During his 42 years of working, Taylor had filed a total of seven tax returns, according to trial testimony.

That’s one every six years.  It took awhile, but the IRS eventually notices something was amiss.

At a bond hearing last year, a judge ordered Taylor detained pending trial based on a number of factors, including his international travel on his false passports, the millions of dollars he controlled through dozens of bank accounts and his numerous false statements to banks.

I suppose the man felt invincible, given how long he apparently went without drawing IRS attention.  Eventually that comes around, though he had quite a 42-year run.  But he did get caught, possibly because of better computer matching and more comprehensive bank reporting.  Don’t count on stringing the IRS out for 42 years yourself.

 

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Tax Roundup 6/24/14: Koskinen’s political gifts. And: in case you didn’t think Hitler was bad already…

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Just the man to build bridges to Republicans who fund the IRS.  From Bryan Preston, IRS Chief Koskinen Has Donated Big to Democrats Over the Years:

According to the Washington Free Beacon, Koskinen has donated about $100,000 to Democrat candidates and committees since his first donation in 1979. His donor recipients include Gary Hart, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic nominee in each presidential campaign since 1980 (which would even include Walter Mondale, who stood no chance of beating President Ronald Reagan in 1984), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s campaigns. He most recently donated $2,500 to Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) in 2013.

He has given no money to Republicans.

It’s hard to believe how tone-deaf he is to the Tea Party scandal, but this helps explain it.  (Via Instapundit)

 

Jeremy Scott, Lost Lerner E-mails Latest Example of IRS Death Wish (Tax Analysts Blog), my emphasis:

In contrast to their GOP colleagues, Democrats rushed to Koskinen’s defense. That is, perhaps, understandable, even though much of what the IRS has done during this scandal is indefensible. Democrats probably want to defend their president’s pick to head the IRS, and maybe they want to try to change the narrative heading into a potentially disastrous midterm election. But the reality is that the IRS isn’t doing them any favors. There’s only so much incompetence and disingenuous behavior that can be run through a political spin machine. The Democrats’ reflexive defense of Lerner (whose conduct can’t be excused) and their apparent willingness to accept any explanation from Koskinen (who didn’t even try to adequately explain why he hid information on the lost e-mails from February until late June) is baffling. Democrats weakly attempted to paint the GOP as on a witch hunt for a conspiracy, as though the IRS’s mismanagement and appearance of bias weren’t enough to justify congressional inquiry.

The IRS isn’t doing Democratic congresscritters any favors, nor are they doing any for the IRS.  They are just making the IRS look more like a partisan agency, which could cripple tax administration for years.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 411

 

20140507-1Kay Bell, Save space and trees: Digitize your tax records.  That way if you lose them, the IRS will surely understand.

Russ Fox has some valuable information for online gamblers trying to stay FBAR compliant: Online Gambling Addresses (Updated for 2014)

Robert D. Flach has a Tuesday Buzz for you!

Tony Nitti, How State Taxes Could Play A Role In Carmelo Anthony’s Landing Spot.  Nah, state taxes don’t matter…

Peter Reilly, Step Kids Remain Step Kids After Divorce.  So you may still have a dependent, if not a spouse.

Jack Townsend, Comments by IRS Personnel on New Streamlined and OVDP Procedures.  “The new procedures were designed to ‘encourage folks who are considering quiet disclosures to come in with their hands up’ and avoid taxpayers coming into OVDP with the intention to opt out.”

Annette Nellen, Bitcoin Taxation – Clarity and Mystery, “If you are a tax practitioner and don’t think you need to deal with it, I’d be surprised if none of your clients uses bitcoin.”

William Perez, Backup Withholding.

 

Tyler Dennis, The Clinton’s Estate Tax Planning Demonstrates the Arcane Nature of the Estate Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

When the Clintons created the trust in 2011, their property’s assessed value was $1.8 million.  Without a residential trust, the future appreciation between 2011 and 2021 would count against the gift tax. If the property appreciated at a 4% annual rate and reached $2.6 million by 2021, that’s the amount that would count. With the residential trust, though, the Clintons were able to “lock in” the value of the home at its 2011 value of $1.8 million without actually relinquishing the property to the beneficiary of the trust.

Most supporters of higher taxes assume that they won’t have to pay them.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Disbelief, Devolution, and Death Benefits.  The TaxVox headline roundup talks about the Koskinen appearance before the Issa committee, and about how a surprising proportion of new life insurance is taken out on employees.

Andrew Lundeen, The Average U.S. Worker Pays over $16,000 in Income and Payroll Taxes (Tax Policy Blog):

The tax burden is a combination of income taxes at the federal, state, and local levels as well as the employee and the employer payroll taxes. Of the 31.3 percent tax burden, 15.4 percent is due to income taxes and 15.9 percent is due to payroll taxes, over half of which is paid by the employer on the employee’s behalf. (Workers pay the cost of the employer-side payroll taxes through lower wages.) 

Heck of a deal.

 

Stephanie Hoffer, Kuretski, the Tax Court, and the Administrative Procedure Act (Procedurally Taxing).

 

Another great tax planning idea down the tubes.  Kidnapping Prostitutes Is Not a Good Way to Claim Dependents for Tax Purposes (Greg Kyte, Going Concern)

If you didn’t think he was a bad guy already…  Adolf Hitler: Billionaire tax-dodger?

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/21/14: Clearing the wreckage edition. And: Tax Court penalty abuse.

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140330-2So I took a five-day weekend.  I needed the sleep, and to see something besides the office, my bed, and my commuting route.  So now to clear the debris of the last few weeks from my desk, and my email inbox.

And I come back to see perhaps the dumbest thing ever to come out of the Tax Court.  Janet Novack reports:

“Taxpayers rely on IRS guidance at their own peril,” Judge Joseph W. Nega wrote in an order entered  on April 15th —an order denying a motion that he reconsider his earlier decision to penalize tax lawyer Alvan L. Bobrow for making an IRA rollover move that IRS Publication 590,  Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), says is allowed.

Which is more astounding: he IRS decision to seek penalties against a taxpayer for following IRS guidance, or the Tax Court going along?  A great deal of what we do as professionals, and what taxpayers do, is in reliance on IRS guidance, because often that’s all there is to go on.  If you can get hit with a penalty for following IRS guidance if the IRS changes its mind, we’re all avoiding disaster only as long as the IRS is in a good mood.

This unwittingly goes to the heart of the IRS non-enforcement of the Obamacare employer mandate. The statute provides that the penalty tax on those with 50 or more employees starts this year if they fail to provide specified health insurance.  Nothing in the statute provides otherwise.  The only thing standing between all these employers and massive penalties is IRS guidance — y0u know, the guidance that Judge Nega just said taxpayers rely on “at their own peril.”

The whole Tax Court should reconsider this order.  If they decide that something that stupid really is the law, Congress should reverse with legislation providing that taxpayers relying on written IRS guidance should never be penalized for it.

 

20130419-1Megan McArdle kindly linked to me last week in You Can’t Fight the IRS — specifically, to Tax season tip: when you owe and can’t pay.  She added some thoughtful commentary, including:

 There are basically three types of tax trouble. There is “I was underwithheld at work because my salary changed over the course of the year but didn’t realize it” or “I’m a freelancer or small-business owner, and I forgot to put away enough money for taxes, or I incorrectly estimated what my tax bill would be.” Then there is “I am a small-business owner or otherwise self-employed, and I am on the brink of financial collapse; the money with which I hoped to pay the taxes had to go to keep my creditors (barely) at bay.” And, of course, though I hope this is not you, there is “I have been cheating on my taxes.”

She notes that different troubles require different solutions.

Thanks to her link, and to one from Instapundit to the same post, last week was the busiest around here all year.  My thanks to them, and to everyone who takes the time to link here.  You rock my little world.  If you ever want to link to just a piece of a Tax Roundup, you can do so if it starts in blue bold letters, like the words “Megan McArdle” at the beginning of this segment.

 

While I was too busy to do Tax Roundups at the end of tax season, I missed some excellent Bozo Tax Tips from Russ Fox, including Bozo Tax Tip #1: The Eternal Hobby Loss

 

Greg Mankiw,Transitory Income and the One Percent:

It turns out that 12 percent of the population will find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution for at least one year. What’s more, 39 percent of Americans will spend a year in the top 5 percent of the income distribution, 56 percent will find themselves in the top 10 percent, and a whopping 73 percent will spend a year in the top 20 percent of the income distribution….  

-Quoting a NY Times article by Mark Rank

Occupy… yourselves!

 

Jason Dinesen, Another Tax Season Down — 2014 Tax Season Recap 

Paul Neiffer, Another Tax Season Bites the Dust.  “This year was actually much easier on myself and I think most of my compatriots since we did not have Congress passing a tax bill on the last day of the year to mess up the IRS computers (although the computers have other issues to deal with).”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Reports Tax Filing Numbers As Expected, Issues Statement On Refund Delays 

Robert D. Flach, THAT WAS THE TAX SEASON THAT WAS.  “43 down – 7 to go!”  I hope to stop before 43, myself.  Robert is tougher than I am.

In case you missed it, you can see my April 15 interview with local TV station KCCI here.

 

 

Locust Street, Des Moines

Locust Street, Des Moines

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Tax Planning For Mergers And Acquisitions, Part I.  “…if we spend the time necessary to uncover and understand our clients’ non-tax and tax goals, we will typically find that choosing an ideal transaction structure is largely a process of elimination, and when the dust settles, there will often be only one option that works.”

Peter Reilly, Sawyer Taxi Heirs Midcoast Fortrend Deal – Could Have Been Worse.  It involves a C corporation attempting to have its cake while eating it too, by paying stock-deal tax on an asset sale.

Christopher Bergin, Tax Day – It Just Isn’t Fair (Tax Analysts Blog)  “I suppose the only good news is that in the last several days, there have been dozens of items in the news reporting that the IRS is doing fewer audits.”

Tax Justice Blog, Partners in Crime? New GAO Report Shows that Large Corporate Partnerships Can Operate Without Fear of Audits

Kyle Pomerleau, Why Many People are Wrong about Executive Pay and the Corporate Tax Code.  “A neutral tax code that properly defines business income would place no restriction on how much a business can deduct in compensation.”

Howard Gleckman, If Congress Lets Firms Expense Investments, It Should Take Away Their Interest Deduction.  Fine, if you let them deduct dividends.

 

Going Concern, Utah Man Discovers Liberty Tax Not as Effective as Maury Povich in Determining Paternity.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/2/14: CPA Revenge edition! And more.

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140330-1Mutually assured destruction.  Accounting firm breakups can generate bad feelings.  Bad feelings can generate bad ideas — like filing bogus 1099’s on your erstwhile colleagues.  That went badly for an Ohioan in a U.S. District Court case reported in today’s Tax Notes ($link). 

When Waldman, Pitcher and Co. broke up, it wasn’t amicable. Lawrence Waldman felt ill-used by departing partners Kenneth Pitcher  and Michael Enders.  Some background from the District Court judge:

This case arises from the acrimonious break-up of the successful accounting firm Waldman, Pitcher, and Co., P.S.C. The individual parties in the present case were formerly partners in that firm. The break-up has spawned numerous related lawsuits, various audits by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), numerous complaints of improper conduct to various professional oversight groups, and protracted contentious litigation of the present case.

Mr. Waldman apparently attempted to enlist the IRS in his fight, using an assignment of uncollected receivables in the break-up agreement (footnotes and other references omitted):

In January 2010, Waldman & Co. issued 1099-MISC forms to Pitcher and Enders personally for tax year 2009, for non-employee compensation in the amount of $111,535.00 for Pitcher and $13,260.00 for Enders. It is undisputed that Waldman and his company had not collected any of the AR/WIP money reflected on those 1099 forms (doc. no. 134, ¶¶ 18-19). Waldman was admittedly angry at Pitcher and Enders and has repeatedly characterized their departure as effectively “stealing” two million dollars from him. As a prominent and experienced CPA, Waldman was familiar with the matching program of the IRS and knew that issuing these 1099s to Pitcher and Enders personally would likely result in IRS audits of their personal income tax returns. Waldman & Co. benefitted by taking a corresponding tax deduction for the reported amounts.

The unhappy 1099 recipients fought back:

In February and March of 2010, Pitcher and Enders complained to the IRS’s Office of Professional Responsibility (“OPR”) that Waldman had issued 1099s containing information that Waldman knew to be inaccurate. They asserted that Waldman had done this “to exact a revenge that he couldn’t otherwise exact during our negotiations.” They filed similar complaints with the Accountancy Board of Ohio and Ohio Society of CPAs . Those groups declined to take disciplinary action against Waldman.

20120509-1It then got even uglier:

In February 2011, Waldman & Co. issued “corrected” 2009 1099s to the plaintiffs, reflecting “zero” for their nonemployee compensation. At the same time, he issued “corrected” W-2s to Pitcher and Enders reflecting increased amounts in Box 1 . For Pitcher, an additional $199,290.00 of reported income was included, reflecting the $111,535.00 for the accounts receivable assigned to KPE, $27,755 for the amount paid to KPE by Waldman & Co., and $60,000.00 for attorney fees paid by Waldman & Co. to plaintiffs’ attorneys… For Enders, an additional $13,260.00 was included, consisting of $13,260.00 for the accounts receivable assigned to KPE. Waldman & Co. took a tax deduction for the increased amounts listed on the corrected W-2s, even though such returns indicated that no federal income taxes had been withheld.

I suppose if you are going to make up compensation on W-2s, you may as well be consistent and deduct the pretend expense.

Much litigation later, the District Court ruled for the departing accountants Pitcher and Enders:

Given his education, knowledge, and business experience as a CPA, [Mr. Waldman] could not have reasonably believed that these information returns were proper to file. He filed these information returns “willfully” in order to obtain tax benefits and harass the plaintiffs. Despite having “settled” a previous lawsuit over the plaintiffs’ departure from the firm, Waldman was dissatisfied and stubbornly believed the plaintiffs had “stolen” two million dollars from him by leaving his firm with clients. In taking on the role of whistleblower, he deliberately misused the IRS reporting system.

A lot of good it did them.  They were each awarded $15,000 in damages, but not attorney fees:

In light of the unusually hostile litigation history between the parties, the Court observes that plaintiffs have certainly played a significant role in creating the bitter circumstances of this case. This case has also been marked by needlessly contentious discovery battles, repetitive briefing, and unfortunate personal attacks. In view of the animosity between the parties, the Court in its discretion declines to award attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs. The Court is aware that, absent such an award, this may be a Pyrrhic victory for plaintiffs. Nonetheless, the Court is convinced that this is a just result under the unusual circumstances of this case.

It’s hard to believe that the plaintiffs came out ahead on this, especially when their time is taken into account.

The Moral: breaking up is hard to do, even for accountants.

Cite: Kenneth B. Pitcher et al. v. Lawrence Waldman et al., DC-SD Ohio, No. 1:11-cv-00148

 

20140307-1Jason Dinesen, Life After DOMA: Estate Tax   

Kay Bell, No April Fools’ joke: No capital gains taxes for some investors

William Perez, Extended Time for Choosing When to Deduct Colorado Flooding Losses

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): R Is For Royalties   

Leslie Book, What is a Fair CDP Hearing: Courts Push Back on IRS

 

William McBride, French Economist Wants Top Tax Rate of 80 Percent to Fix Inequality (Tax Policy Blog).  No, it’s not an April Fools joke, and some people who should know better take this serously.  The “French economist” is Thomas Picketty, who is big into the whole “inequality” hand-waving being used to distract us from our real problems.   The post illustrates the folly of the whole war on millionaires with this chart:

20140402-1

He could have added that an increasingly progressive tax system has coincided with increasing inequality.

 

Howard Gleckman, House Republicans Punt on Tax Reform (TaxVox): “…it effectively turns its back on the tax reform plan drafted by Dave Camp, the GOP chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.”

Tax Justice Blog, ITEP Predicts Illinois Tax Reform Debate…and Then Puts Crystal Ball Away

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 328

Name that Party!, tax edition.  Instapundit has a recurring gag poking fun at news stories of corrupt politicians whose political affiliation is left mysteriously unstated.  Here’s an example from the tax world: Gary councilman sentenced to prison.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/4/14: Des Moines votes on refunding illegal tax. And: life after football!

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121002-2Des Moines voters decide today whether to approve a legal tax to refund a similar tax imposed illegally.  The Des Moines Register reports:

A special election Tuesday will determine how the city pays back a portion of a franchise fee it illegally collected from 2004 to 2009.

The Iowa Legislature gave Des Moines the authority to temporarily increase its franchise fee — a tax assessed on anyone who connects to electric and natural gas utilities — to pay off the judgment.

However, if voters reject the proposal, city officials will be forced to raise property taxes for at least 20 years in order to issue and pay municipal bonds to cover the court judgment.

When the tax was ruled illegal, the city appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before finally conceding that it would have to issue refunds — incurring enormous legal bills in the process, including a $7 million bill to the winning lawyers on the other side.  From the District Court opinion awarding the fee:

This case has been in our courts since 2004.  To say it was highly contested would be a gross understatement.  The history of this case shows that the City, while it was entitled to do so, erected one barrier after another in an attempt to prevent the class from being successful in obtaining a refund.  Almost without exception, class counsel was successful in dismantling each of those barriers.

It just goes to show that the city will do the right thing, once it has exhausted all appeals.  Maybe next time they won’t be so quick to enact an illegal tax.

The state legislature voted to allow Des Moines to impose the tax legally to repay the illegal tax.  Somehow I doubt the legislature would do a similar favor for taxpayers by letting them, say, legally not pay income tax for a few years to help them repay the taxes they had illegally avoided in prior years.  

 

William Perez, Deducting Work-Related Expenses

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): A is for Affordable Care Act

Leslie Book, EITC Snapshot: Overclaims and Commercial Preparer Usage (Procedurally Taxing).  “In fact, there is a steady decline in the use of paid preparers among EITC claimants, while the rate of paid preparer usage overall has remained fairly steady.”

Another reason why preparer regulation to cut fraud is like pushing on a string.

Jack Townsend, The Scariest Tax Form? Scary Is in the Eye of the Beholder.  I think the article he cites, which chooses Form 5471, makes a good case, considering the almost-automatic $10,000 fine for filing it late.

Kay Bell,  Tax moves to make in March 2014

 

TaxProf, Tax Court Issues 63-Page Opinion Debunking Cracking the Code Book

 

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts Blog is having a tax reform party:

Clint Stretch, 10 Reasons Republicans Should Embrace the Camp Tax Bill.  This is pretty faint praise:  “2. If they want a credible claim that Obama and Democrats are responsible for the failure of tax reform, they must pass a bill in the House.”

Jeremy Scott, Comparing the Camp and Obama Bank Taxes:

Including the bank tax in his plan is one of Camp’s most intriguing decisions, if only because the gain for him isn’t obvious, even after a closer look. The tax doesn’t raise much money. It is very similar to an Obama proposal that congressional Democrats didn’t really like, meaning it doesn’t buy the chair any bipartisan support. And it comes about four years too late to take advantage of widespread public anger at financial institutions. All Camp seems to have accomplished is legitimizing a revenue raiser for future use by the progressive caucus and undermining his own party’s opposition to this kind of tax increase.

Just… brilliant.  I prefer ending the “too big to fail” subsidy directly, if necessary by denying deposit insurance to such institutions.

Martin Sullivan, 25 Interesting Features of Camp’s New Tax Reform Plan.  “Biggest disappointment. Camp and fellow House Republicans all but promised to reduce the top rate to 25 percent. They failed.”

Christopher Bergin, Tax Reform Only a Mother Could Love:

Many political observers think the GOP has a good chance of not only increasing its majority in the House, but also taking the majority in the Senate. I’m among those who believe that the Republicans will shoot themselves in the foot before that happens. I’ll bet there are more than a few Republicans this week who fear that Camp just put a bullet in the chamber.

I think the Camp plan will be quietly forgotten long before November, but there is still plenty of time for the GOP to demonstrate its skills with a Glock 40.

Norton Francis, Camp Tax Reform Would Create New Challenges for States (TaxVox).  The repeal of the deduction for state and local taxes and limits on muni bonds won’t win friends in the state capitals.

 

National Review, via InstapunditThe IRS Is the Problem:

Representative Camp’s thou-shalt-not list is fine so far as it goes, and, unlike the IRS bureaucracy, Congress does have the authority to rewrite the law. But his proposal falls short in that it assumes that the IRS is a proper and desirable regulator of political speech. It is not. It is not even particularly admirable in its execution of its legitimate mission, the collection of revenue: Its employees have committed felonies in releasing the confidential tax information of such political enemies as the National Organization for Marriage and Mitt Romney, and the agency itself has perversely interpreted federal privacy rules as protecting the criminal leakers at the IRS rather than the victims of their crimes. 

Instapundit comments: “Abolish governmental immunity and make them personally liable for damages for misconduct.”  Hard to argue with that; it would be a good addition to my “Sauce For the Gander” reforms.  I still don’t understand why a nonprofit should lose its exempt status for being primarily political.  Isn’t freewheeling debate a good thing?  The IRS certainly hasn’t shown itself a neutral observer here.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 299

 

Scott Drenkard, Johannes Schmidt, Guess Which State Has the Highest Liquor Taxes in the Nation? (Tax Policy Blog).  Think coffee.

 

Preparing for life after football.  Two former members of a Sioux Falls indoor football league team may have to change their post-athletic career plans.  From the Sioux Falls Argus:

A federal grand jury has indicted six people for conspiracy to defraud the United States and aggravated identity theft.

Two of those indicted – Undra Stewart Franks, 27, and Donta Moore, 28 – are former Sioux Falls Storm players.

The new federal indictment says Moore, Franks and the others conspired to defraud victims by using names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth stolen from others to file fraudulent income tax returns that claimed false income tax refunds.

Identity theft isn’t just a Florida thing.  If you deal with Social Security numbers at work, treat them as valuable confidential data — because that’s what they are.  Guard your own identity by never giving out your social security numbers, protecting your bank account info, and being sure never to transmit those things in unencrypted e-mails.  If you need to send documents with that info electronically, use a secure file transfer site, like our rothcpa.filetransfers.net.

 

News from the Profession.  10 People Not Cut Out to Be Partner (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/21/14: Weaponizing the IRS. And: whither Section 179?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

The new, “weaponized” IRS is a focus of Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, in a USA Today Column:

Since then, of course, the new “weaponized IRS” has, in fact, come to be seen as illegitimate by many more Americans. I suspect that, over time, this loss of moral legitimacy will cause many to base their tax strategies on what they think they can get away with, not on what they’re entitled to. And when they hear of someone being audited, many Americans will ask not “what did he do wrong?” but “who in government did he offend?”

This is particularly true since the Obama administration is currently changing IRS rules to muzzle Tea Partiers.

While I don’t think it’s that bad yet, it’s headed that way if things don’t change.  And, as Glenn points out, it’s not changing:

Meanwhile, the person chosen to “investigate” the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups in 2010-2012 is Barbara Bosserman, a “long-time Obama campaign donor.” So the IRS’s credibility is in no danger of being rebuilt any time soon.

I think this is a terrible and shortsighted mistake by the Administration.  So much of its agenda, especially Obamacare, depends on effective IRS administration, but as the recent budget agreement proved, the GOP isn’t going to fund the IRS when it thinks that’s the same as funding the opposition.

The USA Today piece makes broader points about the effect of the loss of faith in civil servants as apolitical technocrats; read the whole thing.

Via the TaxProf.

Andrew Lundeen at Tax Policy Blog has two new posts on tax reform.  In Tax Reform Should Simplify the Code and Grow the Economy, he says:

We need to eliminate the biases in the code against savings and investment, so individuals have the incentive to add back to the economy, and businesses have the capital to buy new machines, structures, and equipment – all the things that give workers the ability to be more productive and earn higher wages. And we need a tax code that is simple and understandable, so taxpayers know exactly what they pay and why. 

Max Baucus

Max Baucus

We’ve been going the wrong way now for 27 years.  In Responses to Senator Baucus’s Staff Discussion Drafts, he curbs his enthusiasm for the tax reform options offered by outgoing Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus:

Generally speaking, we found that the tax reform proposals in these drafts go in the wrong direction. Our modeling shows that they damage economic growth, hurt investment, and, in many instances, violate the principles of sound tax policy: simplicity, transparency, neutrality, and stability.

The post links to a point-by-point examination of the Baucus proposals.

 

 

TaxProf, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the IRS:

This past year, much ado was made about the so-called “IRS-Gate” and concerns that the Obama administration may have used the agency to target Tea Party and other right wing groups. … [W]hat often is not stated during the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend is that King, early in his leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was routinely subjected to IRS audits of his individual accounts, SCLC accounts as well as accounts of his lawyers, first starting during the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower and continuing through the Kennedy administration.

If you audit me, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine…

Kay Bell, IRS abuse of power, now and in MLK’s day. “Overall, the IRS is paying for its operational indiscretions by receiving less money and more restrictions on how it does spend what funds it has.”

 

Paul Neiffer, Section 179 Update (or Not):

 Here are my official updated odds on when we might know what the actual 2014 Section 179 amounts will be:

By Memorial Day 10 Billion to 1

By Labor Day 10 Million to 1

By the November Mid-Term elections 500 to 1

Between the November Mid-Term Elections and December 15, 2014 25 to 1

After December 15, 2014 and before January 1, 2015 1 to 1

After December 31, 2014 5 to 1

I give about 5 to 1 odds in favor of the current Sec. 179 deduction being extended to $500,000 for 2014, and I think that Paul is right that it is most likely to occur during the lame-duck session.  I think odds are about 50-50 on an extension of 50% bonus depreciation. It’s too bad the Feds have closed Intrade, as this would be a betting market I would like to follow.

 

HelmsleyTaxTrials, Leona Helmsley, Angry Employees Strike Back:

Their mistreatment of employees and squabbles over bills are the stuff of legend and left prosecutors rife with eager witnesses when it came time for trial.

Helmsley was just as arrogant about her taxes, famously telling her housekeeper: “We don’t pay taxes, only the little people pay taxes.”  Helmsley participated in several schemes to avoid paying millions of dollar in income and sales taxes.  

Sometimes that sort of thing comes back and bites you; read the post to see how it bit Helmsley.

 

William Perez on an important topic: Tips for Securely Sending Tax Documents To Your Accountant.  First, don’t send anything with your Social Security Number in an unencrypted email.  Like many firms, Roth & Company offers a secure upload platform to send sensitive information.  If your tax firm has one, use it.  They are the safest way to transmit confidential information and files.

 

Phil Hodgen wonders whether there is a Delay in approving renunciations at State Department?  It’s harder to shoot jaywalkers when they are running away.

Missouri Tax Guy goes back to basics with An Introduction to the Double-Entry Bookkeeping System.  Just remember, Debits are on the door side.

Andrew Mitchel has posted a New Resource Page: 2013 Developments in U.S. International Tax

 

Kay Bell, $4 billion more tax breaks for Boeing from Washington State. Taxing you to give money to folks with good lobbyists.

Jim Maule is appropriately annoyed by the use of the term “IRS Code.”  It’s the Internal Revenue Code, and it’s written by Congress, not the IRS.  Remember that when you vote.

Keith Fogg, Qualified Offers – Is it meaningless to offer what you think a case is worth? (Procedurally Taxing)

Jack Townsend, The New Provision for Tax Restitution and Ex Post Facto

 

The Critical Question: Is Kent Hovind A Tax Protester?  It doesn’t seem like a more promising career path for him than his forays into evolutionary biology.

TaxGrrrl, Hot Tub Tax Machine: News Anchor Takes Plea In Scandal.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/9/2013: Denison! And 56 cents a mile for 2014.

Monday, December 9th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

The Tax Update is in sunny, but very cold, Denison, Iowa today.

20131209-1

I’m participating in the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School here.  The only remaining session is in Ames next Monday, so register now!

 

The IRS has issued updated standard mileage rates for 2014:

– 56 cents for business travel (down from 56.5 cents for 2013);

– 23.5 cents for medical travel;

– 14 cents for charitable travel.

Gas is down.  (Notice 2013-80)

Related: Paul Neiffer, IRS Almosts Eliminates the 1/2 cent

 

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

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

Mickey Kaus, Big Obamacare payoff for tax cheats?:

Doesn’t Obamacare create a big new incentive to fudge your income on your tax returns? The subsidies available on the health care exchanges seem to be based on adjusted gross income (line 37 on Form 1040)– and there’s a huge, conspicuous difference between the subsidy available at, say, a $25,000 income and a $46,000 income. (The subsidy cutoff of is $45,960 for a single person). In California, for the “bronze” policy I’m interested in, at $46,000 I’d pay $507 a month. At $25,000 I’d pay … $63. A difference of $444 a month.

I have mentioned quite often the high hidden marginal rates caused by the phase-out of the earned income tax credit.  The Obamacare subsidy phase-outs worsen this.  The government pays you to stay poor, or to cheat on your taxes if you aren’t poor anymore.  You get what you pay for. (via Instapundit)

William Perez,  Year End Review of Choice of Business Entity. “There is definitely no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to deciding on an appropriate tax structure for a business.”

Margaret Van Houten, What our Estate Planning Clients Need To Know – What are Digital Assets? (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  On the importance of including “digital assets” in your estate planning.

Kay Bell,  Freezing? Home improvements provide warmth, tax savings

Jason Dinesen, Colorado Tax Guidance for Same-Sex Marriage 

Tony Nitti, IRS Addresses Deductibilty Of Organizational And Start-Up Costs Upon Partnership Technical Termination 

 

 

Lyman Stone, Missouri Gives In With $2 Billion Incentive to Boeing.  Missouri taxes its residents and existing businesses to give cash to an insider with good lobbyists.

How do you know that the new proposed 501(c)(4) regulations are designed to silence right-side speech?  The left-side advocacy groups have dropped their lawsuit demanding the IRS enact regulations to silence right-side speech (Huffington Post).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 214 and Smith: The Latest IRS Power Grab

Robert D. Flach, HERE’S A THOUGHT – A FEW MORE CENTS ON A VOLUNTARY CREDENTIAL FOR TAX PROS.  “If the IRS does not decide to go ahead with a voluntary RTRP program after it loses the appeal of Loving v IRS, I have proposed an independent industry-based organization to administer a voluntary RTRP-like tax preparer credential in my ACCOUNTING TODAY editorial ‘It’s Time for Independent Certification for Tax Preparers. ”  It would be an improvement over the IRS system.

Peter Reilly, Cigarette Importer Sees $300M Deduction Go Up In Smoke   

 

 

Greg Mankiw, The Progressivity of the Current Tax Code :

20131209-2

 

Jack Townsend,  Swiss Banks Scrambling to Commit to Participation in U.S.Swiss Bank Initiative

TaxGrrrl, IRS To Rapper: It’s Hammertime!  Remember M.C. Hammer?  The IRS does, even if you don’t.

 

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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, 7/18/2013: Cincinnati, D.C. edition. And: the Redflex auto dealer tax.

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

chief counsel shieldI didn’t know the IRS Chief Counsel worked out of Cincinnati.  The “nothing to see here” apologists for the IRS harassment of right-wing exempt organizations have always said that nothing wrong happened, and it was the work of rogue employees in the Cincinnati hinterlands anyway.  Perhaps not.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Embattled IRS official Lois Lerner directed a multilayered review of Tea  Party groups’ exemption applications that reached all the way to the IRS chief counsel’s office and led to lengthy delays in processing the applications, according to testimony from an IRS attorney released July 17 by House committees investigating the matter.

Carter Hull, a “Washinton IRS tax law specialist,” says the IRS Chief Counsel’s office was involved:

     Hull testified that at the August 2011 meeting, officials from the chief counsel’s office told him they needed updated information on the applications and suggested that a template letter be developed for future processing of applications. He said he told the officials that a template was impractical given the differences in the various applications.

     Hull told investigators that in his 48 years working at the IRS, he had never been asked to send a case he was working to Lerner’s senior adviser or to the chief counsel’s office before he received the request to elevate the Tea Party cases.

Mr. Hull is scheduled to testify at Congressional hearings today.  Nothing to see here, move along.

Wall Street Journal, The IRS Goes to Washington.

 

It’s OK, she’s a witch anyway.  Failed Republican Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell may have been one of the candidates for political office whose tax records were breached, based on a Washington Times story.  The report says Ms. O’Donnell has been contacted by the Treasury telling her that a Delaware state official improperly accessed her federal tax records.   During her campaign for Senate, she was hit with a false federal tax lien on the day she announced her candidacy.

There has been no prosecution for the illegal access:

Treasury officials have refused to give Mr. Grassley any specifics on the cases or to describe the disposition of Ms. O’Donnell’s case, claiming even people who improperly access tax records have an assumption of privacy under federal tax laws.

That will be news to Dennis Lerner, a former IRS agent who this week received a three-year probation sentence for improperly disclosing confidential tax information.

Instapundit has more.

Christopher Bergin, IRS: Victim, Football, Both? (Tax Analysts Blog)


 

gatsoClive reconsidering its revenue camera auto-dealer tax.  The Des Moines Register reports that the future of the Des Moines suburb’s contract with red-light camera operator Redflex is in doubt, now that City Councilman Michael McCoy has joined another member of the five-person council in opposing the cameras.

Most of the cameras are along a strip of Hickman Road that has some car dealerships.  Guess what happens?

McCoy said businesses have raised concerns about the program to him. He said car dealerships are incurring fees when customers test drive their vehicles — the program mails tickets based on license plates. “That doesn’t seem like a way to be business friendly and invite new business into our community,” McCoy said.

But what good are customers if the local municipality can’t pick their pockets?

 

Tax Justice Blog, Are Special Tax Breaks Worthwhile? Rhode Island Intends to Find Out:

Rhode Island is about to put seventeen of its “economic development” tax breaks under the microscope, thanks to a new law (PDF) signed by Governor Chafee last week.  This reform is a welcome step forward in a national landscape where states often do nothing at all to figure out whether narrow tax breaks are really helping their economies.

After Iowa’s film tax program collapsed in disgrace and scandal, a blue ribbon commission was unable to identify any definite benefit to Iowa’s dozens of targeted corporate welfare tax breaks.  Yet Iowa continues to pass them out like Tootsie Rolls at a parade.

 

Cara Griffith, Break Out the Champagne (Tax Analysts Blog).  State revenues are up.

Jack Townsend, Interview of Swiss Bank Whistleblower

Kay Bell, Werfel does his own tax returns, Lerner still under fire and other tidbits from House hearing on IRS small business audits

Me: Long live the Queen! 21 years for the “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud”

 

Mitch Maahs, Deducting Job Search Expenses (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

William Perez, Same-Sex Spouses and Small Business: What’s Changed?

 

‘Merica!  U.S. Tax System Ranks 94th in the World (Andrew Lundeen, Tax Policy Blog)

Career Corner.  If All Else Fails, You Can Still Become an Internal Auditor (Going Concern)

News you can use.  Get Ready To Shop: State Sales Tax Holidays Are Back! (TaxGrrrl)

Reports: he’s not happy any more. Reports: Happy’s Pizza founder, others indicted for fraud, tax evasion (theoaklandpress.com)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/26/2013: The Earned Income Credit elephant in the room.

Friday, April 26th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Christopher Bergin, Dilemma – The Earned Income Tax Credit (Tax.com).  An excellent summary of the problems with the tax law’s biggest welfare program:

Our politicians have tried to do too much through the tax law. And that has created a complicated mess of winners and losers that makes the task of trying to reform it, even to some level of sensible, a daunting one.The poster child for this mess is the Earned Income Tax Credit. Like it or not, the EITC is welfare administered through the tax system. Do we really want our tax system to do that?

The tax law works best if it is seen solely as a tool to finance the government.  Much of its hideous complexity comes from using it is the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  As you add more gadgets it becomes less useful at being a knife.

Mr. Bergin isn’t afraid to mention the elephant in the room:

And there is another huge problem. The EITC program leaks like a sieve. More bluntly and honestly stated, well-intentioned as it may be, the EITC has been corrupted. Don’t take my word for it. Recently, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released a report stating that up to one-quarter of EITC payments made in fiscal 2012 were improper. How much does that represent? Try $13.6 billion. In one year. Using a ten-year budget window, that’s $136 billion, and that’s just the tainted stuff.

Supporters say the EITC is a program that “works.”  Can you say that something “works” when it sprays billions to thieves every year?

Read the whole thing.

 

Fairness:

 But the compliance costs imposed by the Marketplace Fairness Act would place smaller upstarts at a distinct disadvantage, which is, I suspect, one reason that market incumbents such as Amazon support the tax. The real cost of taxes is not the revenue out the door to the taxman; it’s the revenue out to the door to the taxman plus all of the costs involved in complying with the tax code.

Kevin Williamson, via Instapundit

 

Megan McArdle draws  Lessons from Curt Schilling’s Failed Business.  I would add one more: states shouldn’t finance private businesses.  Iowa hasn’t gotten the memo.

Peter Reilly,  How 38 Studios LLC Turned A CPA Into A Warrior

 

Paul Neiffer,  What About Those 1099s?!

Kay Bell,  Sony deal could help singer Lauryn Hill pay delinquent tax bill

Me: But how can we slap money launderers on the wrist if we don’t throw the book at widows?

Phil Hodgen,  How to Compute Net Tax Liability for Form 8854

Patrick Temple-West,  UK’s Cameron fights tax evasion, and more

TaxGrrrl,  H&R Block Offers Apology, Cash To Make Up For Filing Snafu

Howard Gleckman,  Will the Retirement of Max Baucus Open the Door to Tax Reform?

 

Jim Maule, When Taxes Are Cheaper:

And perhaps the short-sightedness and narrow-mindedness is compounded by  the “freedom” mentality that has taken such a hold in modern culture

Yes, let’s all get on board with the new hip “docile submission” mentality.  Because the government knows best!

David Cay Johnston,  Taxpayers Subsidize Rich Anti-Taxers (Tax.com).  Speaking up against the ALEC bogeyman.

 

It’s Friday, you aren’t being productive anyway.  Let’s Play a Game of Accountant/Not an Accountant! (Going Concern)

 

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Hoarders, wreckers and the Accumulated Earnings Tax.

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Instapundit notes idiocy in Connecticut:

Solzhenitsyn, who wrote about what happened to "hoarders and wreckers" in the USSR.

Solzhenitsyn, who wrote about what happened to “hoarders and wreckers” in the USSR.

IN SEPTEMBER OF 2010, I WROTE “They’ll be going after ‘hoarders and wreckers’ next.”

And now this:  In Connecticut, a “Hoarder’s Tax.”   “Rep. Betsy Ritter, a Waterford Democrat, not only has sponsored a “combined reporting” bill, but she has also proposed a hoarder’s tax. This would place a levy on liquid assets — companies with a lot of money in the bank — and dedicate the proceeds to job creation programs.”

Gee, I wonder why businesses are fleeing the northeast?

He might be bemused to learn that the federal tax law already has its own “hoarder’s tax”: The 20% “Accumulated Earnings Tax” of Section 531Section 532 explains how it works (my emphasis)

The accumulated earnings tax imposed by section 531  shall apply to every corporation (other than those described in subsection (b)) formed or availed of for the purpose of avoiding the income tax with respect to its shareholders or the shareholders of any other corporation, by permitting earnings and profits to accumulate instead of being divided or distributed.

Needless to say, taxpayers don’t self-assess this.  It’s generally imposed only when the IRS asserts it on audit.  I have only seen the IRS assert the tax once, and I have been in tax practice since 1984.

The tax, little-known outside of tax geek circles, and not well-known among us, goes all the way back to the earliest days of the income tax in 1913.  Political conditions may be coming together to wave this relic around again.  Consider this from influential left-side economist Paul Krugman:

So corporations are taking a much bigger slice of total income — and are showing little inclination either to redistribute that slice back to investors or to invest it in new equipment, software, etc.. Instead, they’re accumulating piles of cash.

So don’t be too surprised if the incoming Treasury Secretary and IRS Commissioner step up enforcement of this penalty tax.  Or, as Instapundit might say, “all is proceeding as I have foreseen.”*

*4th item.

 

 

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

Monday, February 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130225-1

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

He doesn’t neglect Iowa’s film fiasco:

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

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

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

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


 

Paul Neiffer,  Safe to File After March 1

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

Janet Novack,  The Forbes 2013 Tax Guide

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/29/2013: The best tax proposal ever. Also: tax season delayed for students and parents.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
20130129-1

Flickr image courtesy Pasa47 under Creative Commons license

A Tax I can support!  Tax the Revolving Door (Glenn Reynolds)

In short, I propose putting a 50% surtax — or maybe it should be 75%, I’m open to discussion — on the post-government earnings of government officials. So if you work at a cabinet level job and make $196,700 a year, and you leave for a job that pays a million a year, you’ll pay 50% of the difference — just over $400,000 — to the Treasury right off the top. So as not to be greedy, we’ll limit it to your first five years of post-government earnings; after that, you’ll just pay whatever standard income tax applies.

Plus make them wear clown clothes to work.  (Via the TaxProf)

 

Allysia Finley,  Mickelson and the Sports Star Tax Migration (Wall Street Journal):

About 3.5 million Californians have migrated to other states over the past two decades. Almost anywhere they chose to go would allow them to enjoy greater returns on their labor. Is it really surprising that athletes like Mr. Mickelson might be keeping an eye on the leaderboard?

It would be surprising if they didn’t.

 

Kyle Pomerleau and William McBride:  EITC Awareness Day (Tax Policy Blog)

Research has shown that the EITC is associated with higher workforce participation among certain populations.  However, Casey Mulligan’s research shows there is no free lunch here, since the EITC creates disincentives to work over the income range in which it phases out (roughly $20,000 to $50,000).  And because the EITC is one of many overlapping anti-poverty programs, such as unemployment insurance, they all add up to huge disincentives to work among the poor.

And some Iowa politicians want to increase the Iowa EITC, making it a bigger poverty trap.

 

Steven Rosenthal,  Chairman Camp Agrees: Too Many Choices Burden our Tax System (TaxVox)

Jeremy Scott, Huffington Post Draws Tenuous Link Between Camp Plan, Fix the Debt Group (Tax.com)

Robert D. Flach,  GUIDELINES FOR TAX REFORM:

Recognize and acknowledge that the purpose of the federal income tax is to raise the money necessary for the administration of the government and government sponsored programs.  It is not to be used to “redistribute income” or as a method for delivery of social welfare and other government benefits.

If that principal were vigorously applied to the tax law, the 1040 would fit on a postcard.

 

Climb in the Cavalcade!  Worker’s Comp Insider hosts the latest Cavalcade of Risk roundup of insurance and risk-management posts, including Insureblog on the Curly Bulb Menace.

Russ Fox,  Form 8863 Added to Returns that the IRS Won’t Accept Just Yet.  The form for tuition credits.

William Perez,  When Can You Begin Filing Your 2012 Federal Tax Return?

Jason Dinesen,  Taxpayer Identity Theft, Part 11.  In which the IRS ignores the change-of-address filing and mails a long-delayed refund to the wrong address.

Martin Sullivan, Taxing Financial PollutionOn the futility of a financial transactions tax. (Tax.com)

Missouri Tax Guy,  What you’ll Need.  A guide to gathering your tax return information.

TaxGrrrl,  Tax Season Kicks Off January 30th: Here’s What’s On Tap

Jack Townsend,  IRS Issues John Doe Summons to UBS (All Over Again)

Kay Bell,  Deducting sales tax on your new car … or boat or airplane or home

What does his politics have to do with anything?  Liberal man sentenced to federal prison for tax evasion (Topeka Capital Journal Online)

What does his species have to do with anything?  Beaver County sheriff’s deputy convicted of tax evasion (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.com)
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Tax Roundup, 12/7/2012: You can’t soak the rich without soaking employers. And: Baby Insane Crips?

Friday, December 7th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

When you tax “the rich,” you tax business.  That’s not going to help a struggling economy, but that’s where we’re going.  The TaxProf reproduces a great Congressional Budget Office chart that shows how how business income has moved from corporate returns to individual returns, mostly through the use of “pass-through” entities like S corporations, partnerships and LLCs:

 

Remember when the IRS Commissioner said they are up against sophisticated criminals?  Not so much,  From the LA Times:

Authorities arrested 11 people and seized piles of cash, guns and vehicles Thursday following an investigation into an alleged $1-million tax fraud scheme operated by a Long Beach street gang.
Thursday’s arrests were the result of “tedious investigative work,” and targeted the Baby Insane Crips, as well as family members and acquaintances, according to Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell. Gang members allegedly used stolen Social Security numbers and other personal information to file false tax returns and then funneled refunds to family members and acquaintances.

When the “Baby Insane Crips” can defeat your financial controls, your controls aren’t that good.  Related: Russ Fox,  Why Rob Banks?

 

Indictment of St. Louis CPA unsealed.  The indictment of St. Louis-area CPA Frank “Tiger” Zerjav has been made public.   Mr. Zerjav survived an IRS attempt to shut down his practice via civil injunction.  This is much more serious, alleging the use of falsified Quickbooks files to conceal taxable income.

Bill Straub,  5 Ways The Fiscal Cliff Drama Could Play Out. (Via Instapundit)

Anthony Nitti,  The Top Ten Tax Cases Of 2012, #4: S Corporation Reasonable Compensation – How Much Is Enough?.  The much discussed Watson case.

 Jack Townsend,  Is Restitution a Criminal Penalty Requiring the Jury to Speak?

 

Patrick Temple-West,  Some in GOP urge lawmakers to back tax hikes for changes in safety-net programs, and more

David Brunori, The Rich Will Pay for Our Sins.  For now.  But not forever; the rich guy isn’t buying. (Tax.com)

Christopher Bergin,  Fool’s Gold and Loopholes:

There are no silver bullets that can fix the fiscal distress facing our nation. The fact that our politicians are trying to convince us to the contrary is not productive and shows that they are small leaders. Unfortunately for us, the chances that leaders who think small can solve big problems are not good.

It’s not about solving our problems, to them.

 

It would make putting up with the politicians easier, anywayDude, Should Marijuana Be Legalized and Taxed?  (Howard Gleckman,  TaxVox)

That makes it a better Friday: Robert D. Flach’s Buzz, SPECIAL FRIDAY EDITION

 

News you can use: The Simpsons’ Montgomery Burns explains (sorta) the fiscal cliff (Kay Bell)

Cruel and unusual punishment:  Brazil Prison Gang Conducted 10-Hour Conference Call (Via Going Concern).   Egads.  I’d rather face thumbscrews.

If she were in Congress, I would believe it.   Ex-Chelsea selectwoman accused of tax fraud claims she is illiterate.  A novel tax evasion defense.

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Tax Roundup, 10/23/2012. News of the obvious edition. And…look! Dead squirrels!

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Refundable credits are vulnerable to fraud, and IRS can’t recover the fraudulent payments.  The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration discovers the obvious,  reports Accounting Today (my emphasis):

A new report released Monday by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on refundable tax credits found that they are highly vulnerable to fraud. Refundable tax credits such as the EITC, the Additional Child Tax Credit, the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit for education also provide valuable tax breaks for low-income taxpayers and the middle class.

I call foul.  To say the “First-Time Homebuyer Credit” provides “valuable benefits for low-income taxpayers and the middle class” is lazy and dishonest propaganda.  That’s just the Accounting Today reporter’s assertion, and it appears nowhere in the TIGTA report.   The credit poured money into a declining housing market with little effect, other than blowing $30 billion.  The policy behind the other credits is at best arguable, and the benefits aren’t clearly “valuable” to taxpayers as a whole.

TIGTA initiated its audit to determine the effectiveness of efforts by the IRS to recover refundable credits disallowed during post-refund examinations and to consider options the IRS could implement to decrease the issuance of erroneous refundable credits. 

“Because of the susceptibility of these credits to fraud, and the low success rates in recovering erroneous credits once refunds have been issued, the IRS should take every reasonable step possible to identify potentially questionable credits and validate those credits before associated refunds are issued,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement.

So Doug Shulman’s IRS isn’t taking every reasonable step to keep from sending cash to thieves?  He’s been too busy terrorizing innocents abroad and setting up a vast, expensive and useless preparer regulation bureaucracy, apparently.

 

Attorney: West Des Moines firm’s outstanding liabilities to be paid soon (Des Moines Register).  The payroll service provider facing large bills for not remitting client payroll taxes timely says they will make good on them:

A West Des Moines human resources provider has paid its 2012 tax liabilities and has the funds necessary to pay off more than $4.8 million liabilities within the next three months, an attorney for the businessman said today

The Internal Revenue Service since 2006 has issued at least 15 tax liens against John Vratsinas and his collection of companies, InFocus Partners, Iowa Construction Logistics and ICL Staffing, according to court documents.

That’s good news for clients who might otherwise have to pay their payroll taxes twice, first to the payroll company and then to the IRS.  The taxman wants its payroll taxes, even when the payroll company already has received them.   Of course payroll providers shouldn’t fall behind on payroll taxes in the first place.  A wise employer will enroll in EFTPS and go online to monitor that the taxes are being paid, even when they outsource the job.

Also from the West Des Moines Patch: Attorney for West Des Moines Payroll Outsourcer Says 2012 Taxes Paid

Related Tax Update coverage here.

 

The TaxProf mentions an academic paper “Ranking State Tax Systems: Progressivity, Adequacy, Efficiency.”  From the abstract:

A good tax system must raise sufficient revenue – and do so fairly, efficiently, transparently, and coherently. How do the tax systems of the states stack up in terms of fairness, adequacy, and neutrality? To answer this question, we assess each state’s relative performance in terms of progressivity, growth, and administrative and economic efficiency.

Iowa rates 32nd by their measure. I think “progressivity” is a poor tool for measuring state tax systems.”Progressivity” is just a weasel-way of saying “high rates,” which create distortions and inefficiency, like in Iowa, while punishing pass-through businesses.  Any measure that rates the horrendous New York tax system as #1 is absurd.

 

Russ Fox, Bad States for Gamblers

Patrick Temple-West,  Essential reading: Democrats threaten payroll tax cut consensus, and more (Tax Break)

Trish McIntire,  Tax Backup.  Maintain your records.

Kay Bell,  Kiddie tax, gifts and other tax-related items do get 2013 inflation adjustments

William Perez,  IRA Contribution Limits for 2013

 

Brutal Assault on Reason Watch: 

TaxGrrrl,  Final Presidential Debate – Live Blog

Janet Novack,  10 Reasons Reagan Could Cut The Top Tax Rate To 28%, But Romney Can’t

Peter Reilly,  Debate Proceeds Despite Green Party Lawsuit – Hear Jill Stein On Defense Here

Anthony Nitti,  Clearing Up Confusion Created By The Debates: President Obama’s Tax Proposal And The Fate Of The Small Business Owner.  Anthony unfortunately repeats the pointless fact that increasing the Obama plan only affects “2.5 of small business owners.” That’s true when you rate your Shacklee-selling neighbor the same as a business with dozens or even hundreds of employees.

As the Tax Foundation notes, the Obama plan affects a much higher percentage of pass-through income, a more important measure than the number of Schedule C 1040s.  Anthony dismisses this as just a concern of hedge-funds and private equity millionaires.  My pass-through clients would disagree.

 

The Critical Question:  So Jason … How’s that Guidebook About Same-Sex Marriage and Taxes Coming?  (Jason Dinesen)

Stretch your coffee break:  How to Weaponize Office Supplies (Bloomberg Business Week, via Instapundit)

So the dog can do this, but I can’t?  Man cited for backyard squirrel hunt (KCCI.com)

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Tax Roundup, October 22, 2012: can houses have cowl lamps? And why Iowa tax reform will be hard.

Monday, October 22nd, 2012 by Joe Kristan

20110119-1.jpgIt’s the housing version of “cowl lamp violations.”  A few years ago an Iowa county prosecutor ended up in hot water over the practice of rewriting serious traffic offenses, like drunk driving, down to “cowl lamp” violations, sometimes in exchange for contributions to charities or government agencies.  Cowl lamps are something your great-grandpa’s car might have had.

That may have given the Iowa Civil Rights Commission an idea.  From Reason.com:

The Des Moines Register reports that for five years ending in February 2011, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission shook down landlords for “voluntary contributions” in exchange for dropping discrimination complaints. The Register obtained copies of 27 settlement agreements involving about $20,000 in contributions. Unlike money from fines, which end up in the state’s general fund, the donations went directly to the commission, creating “the impression that justice is for sale,” as state court administrator David Boyd puts it. The commission ended the practice after Winterset attorney Mark Smith questioned its propriety.

Creates the “impression?”  Creates the fact.   Instapundit explains:

I think that all revenue collected by all agencies should go to the general fund.  Otherwise, it doesn’t just give the impression of corruption, it’s corrupting. 

 

Why Iowa tax reform will be hard.  The politicians will no longer get articles like this from Radio Iowa:

State economic development officials approved financial help for six companies Friday. The Iowa Economic Development Authority awarded tax benefits to Alfagomma America to move its stainless steel tube production from its plant in Italy to its only U.S. plant in Burlington.

The company is investing 1.3 million dollars and is expected to create 14 new jobs.

With a non-corrupt system where everybody is treated the same, there would be no more press releases.  The state economy would be much stronger, but the politicians wouldn’t get to cut any ribbons.

In a more just world, the economic development bureaucrats would have to call a press conference any time a business closed or fled as a result of Iowa’s whimsical, byzantine and sometimes punishing state tax system.

 

Crime doesn’t pay, but turning state’s evidence might.  The ex-wife of a Minnesota real estate magnate gets three months after cooperating in the case against him.  He got 4 1/2 years.

 

That won’t stop them for a minute?  “Do education tax benefits produce more educated Americans? Congress has no idea.”  (Marie Spirie, Tax Analysts – subscriber link)

 

Andrew Mitchel,  Repatriate Now? (Before the Bush Tax Cuts Expire).  “There may never be another opportunity for individuals to pull cash out of foreign corporations at such a low U.S. tax cost.”

Roberton Williams,   Understanding TPC’s Analysis of Limiting Deductions (TaxVox)

Anthony Nitti,  Tax Court: Spec Home That Was Never Built Was Not A Trade Or Business

Jim Maule,  The Expensing Deduction is an Expensive and Broken Idea

Peter Reilly,  Beware Of Partnership Status Sneaking Up On Your Business Venture

Alisa Martin,  Things That You Can Do To Get Ready For Tax Season (Guest post at the Missouri Tax Guy)

TaxGrrrl,  Gun and Ammo Tax Proposal Draws Fire.  Yes, that will put Chicago’s violent criminals out of business…

The weekend Buzz from Robert D. Flach.  This part is very true: “In my 40+ years in ‘the business’ I have found that IRS notices are more often than not incorrect (and state notices even more so).”

And I’m eight feet tall!   Maryland Governor O’Malley Says State Has Third Lowest Taxes in the Country! (Joseph Henchman,Tax Policy Blog).

Going Concern,  Arthur Andersen’s Bones Still Have Some Meat on Them.  Not very tasty by now.

Fortunately, the election will be over in about two weeks.  Smelly, destructive bug entering Iowa (TheBeanwalker.com)

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