Posts Tagged ‘iowa tax policy’

Tax Roundup, 5/16/14: Iowa Alt Max Tax resurfaces. And: Alimony madness.

Friday, May 16th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

The Iowa Alternative Maximum Tax Trial Balloon rises again.  From O. Kay Henderson, ‘Flat tax’ likely on GOP legislators’ agenda in 2015:

The top Republican in the Iowa House says if Republicans win statehouse majorities in the House and the Senate this November, one item on his wish list for 2015 is a “flat” state income tax. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, spoke early this morning at a breakfast meeting of central Iowa Republicans.

Paulsen and his fellow House Republicans endorsed a “flat” tax proposal last year, but it was not considered in the Democratically-led Iowa Senate. The proposal would have allowed Iowans to continue filing their income taxes under the current system or choose the alternative of a 4.5 percent flat tax on their income, with no deductions.

I call this an “alternative maximum tax” because taxpayers will compute the tax both ways and pay the smaller number.  That contrasts with the alternative minimum tax, where you compute taxes two ways and pay the higher amount.  It has the obvious drawback of adding a new layer of complexity to the current baroque Iowa income tax.

20120906-1The proposal is likely an attempt to enact a lower rate system in a way that doesn’t upset fans of Iowa’s deduction for federal income taxes — particularly the influential Iowans for Tax Relief.  Because the deduction would rarely provide a better result than the alt max tax, support for the old system would wither away, maybe.

I’m probably too much of a tax geek to read the politics correctly, but I’m not convinced adding a new computation to the Iowa 1040 will fire up the electorate.  I think something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be easier to run on.  Eliminate all the crony tax credits and well-intended but futile tax breaks.  Get rid of the job-killing, worst-in-the-nation Iowa corporation income tax.   Drastically lower rates, increase the standard deduction, and limit the role of the income tax to funding the government.   This would get my vote anyway, and it would at least be awkward to argue instead for the current system that sends millions to some of Iowa’s biggest corporations as subsidies on the backs of you, me and small businesses.

Related: The Iowa flat tax proposal: a good deal for middle class and up, but not for lower incomes.

 

I always thought enforcing the tax rules for alimony would be about the easiest job the IRS could have.  When you pay alimony, you get an above-the-line deduction, but only if you list the name and social security number of the recipient ex-spouse.  Just match the deduction with the income and generate notices when they don’t match.

This information systems problem is apparently too much for the IRS.  Peter Reilly reports:

According to the TIGTA report there were 567,887 Forms 1040 for 2010 that had alimony deductions.  The total claimed was $10 Billion.  When they compared the corresponding returns that should have recorded the income, there were discrepancies on 266,190 returns including 122,870 returns that had no alimony income at all reported.  There were nearly 25,000 returns where the income recognized was greater than the deduction claimed which produced a bit of an offset ($75 million).  On net, deductions exceeded income by $2.3 billion.  In her piece “Alimony Tax Gap is $1.7 BillionAshlea Ebeling goes into more details on the report, so I’m going to get a little more into what I see as the big picture here.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of the IRS, over my career I had developed a grudging respect for the organization’s competence and professionalism.  That’s been mostly drawn down over the last few years.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, A Warning About the IRS That We Should Heed (Tax Analysts Blog):

As I wrote almost a year ago, the IRS is in trouble. Punishing it will do no more good than ignoring what has happened over the last year. The former seems to be the plan of House Republicans; the latter appears to be the White House plan. We need to fix it, and that is harder than either of the above two approaches.

This is correct.  Unfortunately, the IRS became a partisan organization in the Tea Party scandal, and it’s proposed 501(c)(4) regulations only make that official.  The impasse won’t be broken until the IRS does something to reassure Republican congresscritters.  Withdrawing the proposed rules is probably a necessary start.

 

Kay Bell, Johnny Football’s Texas residency can cut his NFL income tax.

Lyman Stone, The Facts on Interstate Migration: Part Five (Tax Policy Blog):

On the whole, these high-inward migration states tend to have lower tax burdens. North Carolina and Idaho have periodically had higher than average tax burdens, but most, like Tennessee and Nevada, have consistently low tax burdens. Again, this doesn’t conclusively prove that taxes drive migration, as no doubt other living costs are lower in these states too: but it does suggest that taxes cannot be discounted out of hand.

 

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Asset

TaxGrrrl, Tesla Continues To Roll Out Tax Strategies For Consumers .  An auto company with a marketing pitch built around tax credits seems like a bad thing to me.

Stop by Robert D. Flach’s Place for a solid Friday morning Buzz!

 

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Howard Gleckman, Are Multinationals Getting Tired of Waiting for Corporate Tax Reform? (TaxVox).  They seem to be taking a do-it-yourself approach more and more.

Tax Justice Blog, States Can Make Tax Systems Fairer By Expanding or Enacting EITC.  I think this is wrong, at least the way the earned income tax credit works now.  Arnold Kling has a much-more promising proposal that would replace the EITC and other means-tested welfare programs.

Kyle Pomerleau, Flawed Buffett Rule Reintroduced in Senate (Tax Justice Blog).  Of course, that’s the only kind.

 

Cara Griffith, In Search of a Little Guidance (Tax Analysts Blog). “If informal guidance is the only guidance available to practitioners and taxpayers, can they rely on it?”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 372.  Guess what?  It wasn’t just a few rogues in Cincinnati.

 

News from the Profession.  Alleged “Touch It For a Buck” Creeper CPA Got His License Revoked For Felony Creepiness (Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/5/14: The Iowa Legislature’s tax grade: D minus, again.

Monday, May 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

The Iowa Legislature has gone home to get re-elected.  As usual, they left the Iowa tax law a little worse than they found it.  They did pass a few new special breaks for their friends and for politics, but they did nothing to simplify Iowa’s high-rate, high-complexity system full of hidden treats for the well-lobbied.

The bills passed include:

A refundable $2,500 adoption credit (HF 2468).  Refundable credits are always a bad idea.  There was apparently no discussion over whether the credit is really needed, or a better use of money than alternate programs, but because a legislator had an expensive adoption, it became a priority.

Sales tax rebates for the Newton racetrack (SF 2341and the Knoxville Raceway (HF 2464).  The bills let each track keep sales taxes they collect — a sweet deal, and an advantage for two taxpayers over every other taxpayer.

Biodiesel tax credits.  SF 2344 gives biodiesel producers two cents per gallon of taxpayer money, in the form of refundable credits, through 2017.  The credit was to expire at the end of 2014.  This is necessary to keep taxpayer dollars flowing to producers until the next time the credit is set to expire, when they will extend it again, just one more time, I promise.

20120906-1HF 2448 passed, providing for easier qualification for the “High Quality Jobs Program” tax credit and a new “Workforce Housing Tax Incentives Program,” which will provide tax credits to housing developers meeting certain conditions designed, no doubt, by one of their lobbyists.  This will do away with the hobo camps that have not sprung up around job sites around the state.

The only really useful thing they passed was the “code conformity bill (HF 2435) to conform Iowa income tax law to include federal tax law changes made in 2014.  In some years they have failed to do so until the end of the session, leaving taxpayers and preparers guessing at the tax law for most of the filing season.

Of course, it could have been worse.  Not every special interest bill passed.

The most prominent failure was that of HF 2472, a bill to provide tax credits for expanding broadband service.  This was a priority of Governor Branstad, killed by a coalition of Democrats who say they wanted bigger credits — but who may have just wanted to hand the Governor a defeat — and Republicans who thought the bill was badly designed.  S.F. 2043, which would have provided a special tax exemption to employee-held stock gains, failed to move.  A proposal to provide a tax credit for student loan payments went nowhere.  A crazy proposal  (H.F. 2270) to pay doctors with tax credits for “volunteering” — at their average hourly rate! — died.

Not everything that died was awful.  HF 2129, which would have expanded the Iowa “Ten and Ten” capital gains break to sales of business interests, never made it out of committee.  Nor did SF 2222, which would have repealed the Iowa inheritance tax.

 

They also failed to pass SSB 3216, the bill to update the Iowa tax appeals system and to remove the Director of the Department of Revenue from the process.  Maybe they can do better next time by also enacting an Iowa tax court.  It seems reasonable to have, say, three district judges from around the state convene as a tax court.  They could give taxpayers a shot at a judicial forum where the judges will have actually heard an income tax case before.

Most importantly, they didn’t even try to address Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation corporate tax rate, its high individual tax rate, or the baroque complexity of Iowa’s income tax for everyone -- other than by making it a little worse with a few new special breaks for special friends.  That means the legislature gets another D-, in my report card, with only the timely passage of the code conformity bill saving them from an F.

But who knows? Elections coming this fall could bring in a few more legislators less intent on taking your money and giving it to friends with lobbyists, to build on the tiny signs of progress seen this session.  Who knows, maybe someday a real tax reform, like the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, will actually get a hearing.

 

20140505-1The Iowa legislative summary took too long, so only a few quick links this morning — I’ll try to catch up tomorrow:

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 361

Russ Fox, Yes, Mom, I Need to See Your ID.  This one I will spend more time on — the IRS, without consultation, plans to make e-filing much more difficult and expensive for everyone, to punish us for their failure to stop ID-theft fraud.

Philip Panitz, Welcome to America, Now Give Us Your Money! (A guest post on Janet Novack’s Forbes blog).  An excellent summary of how the tax law clobbers immigrants, and one I should spend more time on.

Kay Bell, Representatives want to prevent Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling from deducting his $2.5 million NBA fine.  Not every problem is a tax problem, guys.

TaxGrrrl, Union: Privatizing The Sale Of Alcohol Will Kill Children, Lower Tax Revenue.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/1/14: Iowa remains on top! Oh, that’s bad.

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The Iowa House of Representatives has adjourned for the year.  That makes it official: Iowa will continue to have the highest corporation income tax rate in the U.S. for another year, as shown on this map from The Tax Foundation:

2014 Corporate Income Tax Rates

The U.S has the highest corporation tax rate of all OECD countries, so that means right here in Iowa we have the highest corporation income tax rate in the entire developed world.  That’s true even taking into account Iowa’s 50% deduction for federal corporation tax.  Whoopee.  That must mean that Iowa receives just gushers of corporate cash, right?

Wrong.  The Iowa corporation tax generated $403.6 million net revenue in calendar 2013, amounting to about 5.3% of state tax revenues.  The individual income tax, by contrast, generated $3.45 billion net revenue in the same period. (Figures available here.)

The net is so low because the corporation tax, like the Iowa income tax, is riddled with special credits and deductions for the well-connected and well-lobbied.  Some of the biggest corporations in Iowa pay no tax and, in fact, actually get multi-million dollar checks out of the Department of Revenue.

There’s nothing good about this system.  It’s brutal for small corporations without the lobbyists and pull to land big breaks.  Meanwhile, big corporations use their resources to skip around the tax, or even to profit from it.  The high rates and complexity drives away corporations who don’t want to play the influence game, while luring those who play it like a fiddle.  Far better to wipe out the tax and the accompanying subsidies with something like The Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan!

Related: David Brunori, I Will Ask Again, Why Are We Taxing Corporate Income? (Tax Analysts Blog). “There is an increasingly influential school of thought that says the tax is borne by labor in the form of lower wages.”

 

Peter Reilly, Alimony That Does Not Look Like Alimony.  “So if an agreement says that the payments are to be treated as alimony for tax purposes, that really means nothing.  What matters is whether the requirements are met…”

 


20130114-1Roger McEowen, 
Analyzing Hedging under Obamacare’s Net Investment Income Tax Final Regulations.  “… a sole proprietor farmer’s income from hedging activity, or hedging income of a farming entity structured as pass-through entity is not subject to the NIIT, because the farmer or entity is engaged in the trade or business of farming and not the trade or business of trading in commodities.” 

William Perez, Tax Reform Act of 2014, Part 7, IRS Administrative Proposals Impacting Individuals.

Annette Nellen, How sales tax exemptions can waste one’s time.  “Recent litigation in Missouri over whether converting frozen dough into baked goods is “processing,” such that the electricity used is exempt from sales tax, shows the time and money that can be wasted with pointless rules.”

TaxGrrrl, Considering The Death Penalty: Your Tax Dollars At Work.  It should give pause to those who think the government should be the provider of health care when it can’t even kill somebody well.

Um, to save hundreds of millions of shareholder dollars?  Why Does Pfizer Want to Renounce Its Citizenship? (Tax Justice Blog). 

 

20121004-1Renu Zaretsky, Competition and Tax Reform: A Thorn in Everybody’s Side.  The TaxVox headline roundup.

Kay Bell, Amazon begins collecting sales tax from Florida buyers May 1; Will the online retailing giant lose even more customers?

Stephen Olsen, Did Donald Rumsfeld Just Invalidate His Return?  (Procedurally Taxing) “…he just wanted to be able to understand how his tax bill was computed.  Overall, not an unreasonable position, but perhaps a pipedream.”

Jack Townsend, Another Credit Swiss Related Bank Enabler Pleads Guilty

 

taxanalystslogoCara Griffith, The Problem With Outcome-Based Jurisprudence (Tax Analysts Blog).  ” It is not for the court to worry about how the state will fashion a remedy. Its task is to interpret and enforce the state’s laws and strike down those that are unconstitutional.”

 

The newest Cavalcade of Risk is up!  The roundup of insurance and risk management posts is hosted this time by Rebecca Shafer.  Our old friend Hank Stern contributes with bad news on the ACA computer security front: My Bleeding (404Care.gov) Heart

 

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 357.  For a “phony scandal,” it’s awfully persistent.

 

The soft bigotry of low expectations.  IRS Commish Reminds Senator That Hill Staffers Have Worse Tax Compliance Than IRS Employees (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/29/14: Funding what we do anyway edition. And: the real IRS crisis.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Remember, Iowa 1040s are due tomorrow!  They extend automatically, with no need to file an extension, to October 30 if you have at least 90% of your 2013 tax paid in.  If you need to pay in some more, use Iowa 1040-V.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

O. Kay Henderson reports on a New state tax break proposed for Iowa parents who adopt:

The legislature has voted to establish a new tax credit for Iowa parents who adopt a child. If the governor signs the bill into law, Iowans could claim a credit of up to $2500 per child for adoption-related expenses.

The bill would allow the credit for expenses like legal fees and the medical bills for the birth mother.

So the legislature is boldly addressing the lack of available parents wanting to adopt children by subsidizing the process.  Except there is no lack of willing prospective adoptive parents.  In fact, the high cost of adoptions is largely driven by the lack of U.S. babies available, forcing parents wanting to adopt to pursue expensive overseas adoptions.

Adoptive parents do a wonderful thing, taking a stranger’s child into their house as their own.  But all good things don’t necessarily need their own tax break.  This break pays people to do what they are already doing.  If the tax law needs to encourage something, is this the most important thing to do?  Should it instead encourage something people wouldn’t do otherwise?  Should people choose what to do without tax law involvement?  Is it really worth making the Department of Revenue an overseer of the adoption process?  Nobody cares, apparently, as HF 2468 flew through the Iowa Senate 48-0, and the Iowa House, 95-1.  Governor Branstad will come out against farmers before he vetoes this one.

 

I’m sure they are.  Iowa Renewable Fuels Group Pleased With Biofuels Bill Approval. More special favors for special friends.

 

A scene from the heydey of Iowa energy independence.

A scene from the heydey of Iowa energy independence.

 

Kay Bell, Maryland pays $11.5 million to keep House of Cards.  Some people never learn.

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Janet NovackThere’s A Crisis At The IRS And It’s Not What You Think:

The IRS is, however, an insular, often tone deaf and sometimes bumbling bureaucracy which is being starved of the resources it needs to do its job.  Since 2010, its Congressional appropriations have fallen 7% —-and that’s in nominal dollars, before any adjustment for inflation. During the same period, its appropriations funded workforce has shrunk by 10%, with enforcement staff down 15%, according to numbers Congress’ Government Accountability Office released last week. Meanwhile, the tax agency’s workload has increased with the explosion of identity theft tax refund fraud; a 4% growth in returns filed; and new laws to administer, including the Affordable Care Act  (a.k.a. Obamacare).

That is precisely true.  It’s also mostly the agency’s own fault.   The agency been shown to have used its powers against political opponents of the administration.  It refuses to back off of proposed regulations that would make its political role permanent.  Until it swears off that approach, it can only expect short funding.  The House GOP would be fools to fund an agency dedicated to the other party.  Untill Commissioner Koskinen can rise above pro-administration partisanship and pull the proposed regulations, the agency will continue to be shorted.

 

Annals of Public Service.  Rep. Grimm charged with tax fraud, says he won’t quit (USA Today):

Republican Rep. Michael Grimm was indicted Monday on federal charges of tax evasion and perjury for allegedly hiding more than $1 million in revenue from a New York City restaurant he owned where, prosecutors said, he also hired undocumented immigrants.

Grimm, a former FBI agent who has been under federal investigation regarding campaign contributions, said he is the victim of a “political witch hunt” and said he would not resign his seat.

While you can’t rule out a political explanation, the man is a politician, so the charges are at least plausible.  If it is an unsupported political prosecution, that will become apparent quickly.

Even if the charges are supported, that doesn’t rule out political bias.  After all, Democrat Charlie Rangel was never indicted, in spite of failing to pay his taxes for years.  That’s why arguments that the Tea Party persecution was OK, because some Tea Party groups didn’t qualify for exempt status, are unconvincing.  When a law is enforced only against opponents,  it is a gross injustice, even if the selective enforcement catches some actual violators.

 

IMG_1944Peter Reilly, Tax Court Denies Amway Losses – Again.  Peter ponders the Amway couple I discussed last week.  Peter has actually attended an Amway presentation, and he explains how the program works – or doesn’t.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Tax Planning For Mergers And Acquisitions, Part II.  This post discusses the tax-free kind.

TaxGrrrl, Let’s Go Places: Toyota Workers Could Save Big Tax Dollars With Move.  Food for thought for those who think state taxes are irrelevant.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 355

Tyler Cowen, Accounting for U.S. Earnings and Wealth Inequality.  “So much of the current Piketty debate is simply forgetting that…science exists and has already offered a wide range of insights on these topics, as well as having rendered some of the more extreme claims unlikely.”

Richard Borean, Does a Flat Income Tax Create Income Inequality? (Tax Policy Blog).  Short answer: no.

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Jeremy ScottThe Most Expensive Extenders (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Temporary tax policy is generally bad, but temporary policy that is designed to encourage long-term investment decisions is even worse. ”

 

It’s Tuesday!  That makes it Robert D. Flach Buzzday!

 

Russ Fox, It’s Probably Not Good for Your Case When the Court Considers Sanctioning Your Attorney.  When  your lawyer angers the judge, he may not be helping.

News from the Profession.  This Off-Kilter Accounting Firm Just Launched a New Website Begging to Be Judged (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/27/14: NASCAR subsidy heads to Governor. And lots more!

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1Don’t worry, our subsidies are carefully crafted to only help Iowans, and only for a limited time.  Until it’s slightly inconvenient.

When they built the big new racetrack in Newton, they had a unique deal: the track got to keep the sales tax it collected.  The deal was crafted to require the track be partly owned by Iowans, and that it would expire at the end of 2015.

Then NASCAR bought the track.  NASCAR is controlled by a wealthy North Carolina family , with nary an Iowan.  No problem!  The Iowa House sent a bill to the Governor yesterday (SF 2341) repealing the Iowa ownership rule and extending the subsidy through 2025.

The stories in Radio Iowa and the Des Moines Register only quoted the giveaway’s supporters.  For example:

Representative Tom Sands, a Republican from Wapello, said it’s a “performance based” tax break because NASCAR won’t get the rebate unless there are on-site sales.

“One of the questions might be: ‘What kind of return do we, taxpayers, get in the state of Iowa?’ And I drive on Interstate 80 twice every week like many of you do coming to Des Moines and have seen the construction that has happened around that Speedway just since it’s been there,” Sands said, “and we’ve got probably lots more of that we can expect into the future.”

The answer to that is: what makes this private business more worthy to keep its sales taxes than anyone else?  It’s a special deal that every other Iowa business competing for leisure dollars doesn’t get.  It’s the government allocating capital, and if anybody thinks the state is good at that, I’d like my Mercedes, please.

While this corporate welfare passed, at least some legislators are starting to wonder about this sort of thing.  14 representatives joined 9 state senators in opposing the bill.  When the Iowa Film Tax Credit passed, there were only three lonely opponents.  The 14 representatives who stood up for the rest of us: Baudler (R, Adair), Fisher (R, Tama), Heddens (D, Story), Highfill (R, Polk), Hunter (D, Polk), Jorgensen (R, Woodbury), Klein (R, Washington), Olson (D, Polk), Pettengill (R, Benton), Rayhons (R, Hancock), Salmon (R, Black Hawk), Schultz (R, Crawford), Shaw (R, Pocahontas) and Wessel-Kroeschell (D, Story).  Maybe we have the makings of a bi-partisan anti-giveaway coalition.

 

20120702-2Jason Dinesen, Iowa Tax Treatment of an Installment Sale of Farmland By a Non-Resident.  “The capital gain is recognized in the year of the sale and is taxable in Iowa. But what about the yearly interest income the taxpayer receives on the contract going forward?”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): N Is For Name Change   

Paul Neiffer, Painful Form 8879 Process is on its Way.  The IRS, which has forced us to go to e-filing, now plans to make it a time-consuming nightmare for practitioners and clients because of the IRS failure to prevent identity theft.

Tax Trials, U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Sixth Circuit on FICA Withholding for Severance Payments

Margaret Van Houten, Digital Assets Development: IRS Characterizes Bitcoin as Property, Not Currency

William Perez, Tax Reform Act of 2014, Part 2, Income

 

Illinois sealLiz MalmHow much business income would be impacted by Illinois House Speaker Madigan’s Millionaire Tax?

These data indicate that:

  • 54 percent of total partnership and S corporation taxable income in Illinois would be impacted by Speaker’s Madigan’s millionaire surcharge. That’s almost $10 billion of business income.

  • 6 percent of sole proprietorships AGI would be impacted. Important to note here is that not all sole proprietorships earn small amounts of income. Over three thousand would be hit by the millionaire tax, impacting $674 million of income.

  • Taken together, this indicates that 36 percent of pass-through business income is earned at firms with AGI with $1 million or more.

I don’t think this will end well for Illinois.  When you soak “the rich,” you soak employers.  When states do this, it’s easy to escape.

 

Christopher Bergin, Good Grief! Tax Analysts v. Internal Revenue Service (Tax Analysts Blogs)

I have been involved in two Tax Analysts FOIA lawsuits against the IRS. Neither one of them should have gone to federal judges. But the IRS’s secrecy, paranoia, and belief that it has the absolute right to hide information drives it in this area. This lawsuit was a waste of time and money – against an agency that argues that it doesn’t have enough of either — over documents that should have been public from the beginning.

I’m left to quote Charlie Brown: Good grief! What an agency.

Commissioner Koskinen’s pokey response to Congressional document requests needs to be considered in this context.  The IRS has not earned the benefit of the doubt.

Kay Bell, IRS chief Koskinen spars with House Oversight panel

 

Greg Mankiw, Not Class Warfare, Optimal Taxation:

Today’s column by Paul Krugman is classic Paul: It takes a policy favored by the right, attributes the most vile motives to those who advance the policy, and ignores all the reasonable arguments in favor of it.

In this case, the issue is the reduction in capital taxes during the George W. Bush administration. Paul says that the goal here was “defending the oligarchy’s interests.”

Note that when Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, he campaigned on only a small increase in the tax rate on dividends and capital gains. He did not suggest raising the rate on this income to the rate on ordinary income. Is this because Barack Obama also favors the oligarchy, or is it because his advisers also understood the case against high capital taxation?

Oligarchists everywhere.

 

20140327-1Leigh Osofsky, When Can Concentrating Enforcement Resources Increase Compliance? (Procedurally Taxing)

Cara Griffith, Taxing Streaming Video (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 322

Renu Zaretsky, Friendly or Penalty? Taxes on Married Couples, Businesses, and the Uninsured (TaxV0x).  Rounding up the tax headlines.

Jack Townsend, Scope and Limitations of this Blog: It Is a Tax Crimes Blog, not a Tax Crimes Policy Blog.  “I conceive my blog as a forum to discuss the law as it is, including how it develops.  It is not a tax policy blog addressing issues of what the law ought to be.”

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #9: 300 Million Witnesses Can’t be Right.  Richard Hatch is not widely considered a tax role model.

News from the Profession.  Frustrated EY Employee Vandalizes Office Breakroom in Protest Over March Madness Blocking (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/24/14: Iowa corporate tax, $409 million; Iowa tax credits, $337 million. And: Bozo no-nos!

Monday, March 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20120906-1
How about a trade: Corporate Income Tax for Corporate Welfare.
  Interesting numbers from The Des Moines Register:

The state awarded $278.5 million in tax credits during the 2013 fiscal year, down 9.3 percent from the year before, according to a new revenue report.

The department estimates that Iowa will have to pay a maximum of $436.9 million for fiscal 2014, and $487.9 million in fiscal 2015. Those numbers are considered the state’s “contingent liabilities.” However, the department expects claims on the awards will be less.

The department expects the state will pay about $337.9 million in fiscal 2014, and $366.8 million for fiscal 2015.

The entire net revenue from Iowa’s corporation income tax for 2013 was $403.6 million, with an estimate for fiscal 2014 of about $409 million.  So the entire Iowa corporate tax system takes about $400 million from corporations and then hands over 75-85% of it to other businesses.   Let’s consider the difference to be a fee for administering this system of taking from the productive and giving to the well-connected.  It’s about a wash.

From the outside, the answer seems obvious: no tax credits, no corporation tax.  Iowa would go from having one of the very worst corporation income taxes — and the one with the highest stated rate — to one of the very best.  The downside is that it would displace a little industry of tax credit middlemen and fixers idle economic development officials.   If that’s a downside…

Related: The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Chelsea Keenan, Are tax incentives an effective economic development tool? (Cedar Rapids Gazette). “But an October 2013 study published in the Journal of Regional Science that examined the possible benefits to states that offer manufacturers tax incentives receive, and determined there is no measurable gain.”

Lyman Stone, Illinois Speaker Madigan Proposes 3 Percent High-Earner Tax (Tax Policy Good).  Illinois is doing its best to make Iowa look good.

 

20121120-2Jonathan Adler, Was Delaying the Employer Mandate Legal? Did the IRS Even Check? (Volokh Conspiracyvia the TaxProf):

The legal justification for the employer mandate delay offered by the Treasury Department has been exceedingly weak.  Perhaps this is because the Treasury Department never considered whether it had legal authority to delay the employer mandate until after it made the decision to delay it.

More of the results-driven regulation we’ve been talking about.

 

roses in the snowPeter Reilly, Do Some Looking And Thinking Before Signing Form 1040 .  “I’d like to suggest that you take a deep breath and actually look at your return before you take that final step.”  Excellent advice.

Kay Bell, 4 tax breaks for older filers

William Perez: What to Do if You Get a Call from the IRS Asking for Money.  If they haven’t contacted you by mail, hang up.   It’s a scam.

Kristy Maitre, recently of IRS and now with the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, tells how to go about Requesting the Transfer an of IRS Audit.  “Do not simply say that you want to transfer the audit. That will result, in nearly all cases, with a non-transfer.   You must state your case.”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): L Is For Lost Property

Jack Townsend, Another UBS Depositor Indicted; the Russian Connection

Keith Fogg, What is the scope of a tax lien discharge versus the remaining tax lien (Procedurally Taxing)

 

haroldJoseph Henchman, Kevin Spacey at Annapolis Bar Tonight to Lobby Legislators for Subsidies (Tax Policy Blog):

Kevin Spacey is my favorite actor—I spent my entire recent vacation flight watching his movies—so it’s hard for me to say bad things about him. But he’s also a celebrity with an alleged net worth of $80 million lobbying for tax subsidies from Maryland taxpayers.

Sure, asking folks to subsidize Hollywood millionaires may seem odd, but as an Iowan said during the height of our starry-eyed film credit debacle:

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

So pay up, peasants!  You might see a star!

 

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Talk in the District, the Midwest, and Abroad.  It’s the TaxVox news roundup.

Tax Justice Blog, Big News in Ohio: Governor’s Unfair Tax Cut Plan Unveiled.  

Annette Nellen,Book recommendation – Geezer Rap

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 319

News from the Profession.  PwC Competing Against Shaving, Toys and Delicious Food for Guinness World Record Award (Going Concern).

 

Sometimes bad examples are the best teachers.  Blogger  Russ Fox provides some with his “Bozo Tax Tips” series for this year, beginning with Bozo Tax Tip #10: Email Your Social Security Number.  Don’t do it!  “As I tell my clients, email is fast but it’s not secure.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/19/14: Are taxes turning Iowa red? And: Statehouse Update!

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Is Iowa really a red state?  According to personal finance site WalletHub, Iowa is a red state.  But didn’t Iowa vote for Obama the last two elections?  Not that kind of red state.  WalletHub’s map has states with the most burdensome taxes as red states, and those with less burdensome taxes as green:

 

WalletHub

From WalletHub:

 WalletHub analyzed how state and local tax rates compare to the national median in the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.  We compared eight different types of taxation in order to determine:  1) Which states have the highest and lowest tax rates; 2) how those rates compare to the national median; 3) which states offer the most value in terms of low taxation and high cost-of-living adjusted income levels.

WalletHub says Iowans have a tax burden 26% above the national average.  They note, though, that when the rank is adjusted based on our cost of living, Iowa improves 10 places on their rankings.

This is a different measurement than the Tax Foundations well-known Business Tax Climate Indexwhich places Iowa at 11th-worst.  Either way, it’s not a healthy system.  And nothing major is likely to happen to change it anytime soon.  Still, the The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan shows the way!

 

20130117-1Supplies sales tax exemption advances.  The Iowa General Assembly isn’t entirely idle on the tax front.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, as in the House passage yesterday of HF 2443, exempting supplies used in manufacturing from sales tax.  Business inputs in general should not be subject to sales tax, as they are likely to be taxed again when the finished product is sold.

Other than that, there isn’t a lot else to report on the Iowa tax legislative scene.  The speedway tax break remains alive.  The bill to broaden the Iowa capital gain “ten and ten” exclusion hasn’t cleared the committee level.  Silly legislation continues to be introduced, like a 50% state tax credit for payments of principal and interest on student loans (HSB 673).  Let’s encourage crushing student debt burdens!

But sometimes its best when the legislature does nothing.  It’s hard to complain that HF 2770, the bill to pay doctors at their average charge rates with tax credits for “volunteering,” has languished.

 

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

The TaxProf notes the Death of Former IRS Commissioner Randoph Thrower; Was Fired for Refusing President’s Request to Audit His Enemies, quoting a New York Times story:

The end came in January 1971, after Mr. Thrower requested a meeting with the president, hoping to warn him personally about the pressure White House staff members had been placing on the IRS to audit the tax returns of certain individuals. Beginning with antiwar leaders and civil rights figures, the list had grown to include journalists and members of Congress, among them every Democratic senator up for re-election in 1970, Mr. Thrower told investigators years later. He was certain the president was unaware of this and would agree that “any suggestion of the introduction of political influence into the IRS” could damage his presidency, he said.

Mr. Thrower received two responses. The first was a memo from the president’s appointments secretary saying a meeting would not be possible; the second was a phone call from John D. Ehrlichman, the president’s domestic affairs adviser, telling him he was fired.

I’ll just note here that Doug Shulman, worst commissioner ever, left on his own terms.

 

David Brunori, Hawaii Tax Credit Craziness (Tax Analysts Blog):

According to some excellent reporting in the Honolulu Civil Beat, the Legislature is considering a slew of tax incentives to promote manufacturing in the state. Yes, there are those (particularly established manufacturers) who would like to promote something other than tourism, hosting of naval bases, and pineapple production. The main proposal (SB 3082) would provide tax credits for employee training and some equipment purchases. The goal is to turn Hawaii into 1960s Pittsburgh or Flint Mich., in their heyday. I have my doubts. 

I don’t think that really plays to Hawaii’s strengths.

 

20120817-1Howard Gleckman, A Terrible Response to the Internet Tax Mess (TaxVox)

Under the plan, the federal government would let retailers collect tax based on the levy where the seller is located, no matter where the purchaser resides. This would apply to all retailers, as long as they had no physical presence in the consumer’s state.

A firm could base its “home jurisdiction” on the state where it has the most employees, the most physical assets, or the state it designates as its principal place of business for federal tax purposes.

Given the nature of online sellers, changing locations to a no-sales-tax state would be fairly easy.

Interesting.  I wonder if a “universal mail order sales tax rate” might ultimately be the answer.  You could set this universal rate at, say, the average national sales tax rate, collect it from all buyers, and remit it to the delivery state through a clearinghouse run by the state revenue agencies.

 

Paul Neiffer, Cash Rents Equals Extra 3.8% on Sale. “However, once you are done farming and are simply renting the ground to other farmers (including relatives), then the rental income will be subject to the tax and even worse, selling the farmland for a large gain will result in extra tax.”

Jana Luttenegger, Filing From Home, and Health Insurance Reporting on W-2s (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): J Is For Jury Duty Pay   

 

Everything is spinning out of control! Suburban Cleveland Councilman Denies Getting in Brawl With Liberty Tax Sign Spinner (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/7/14: Expanded Iowa 10-and-10 capital gain break advances. And: more rave reviews for Camp plan!

Friday, March 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Expansion of Iowa 10-and-10 gain exclusion advances.  The bill to expand the availability of Iowa’s super-long-term capital gain break cleared its first legislative hurdle this week, as a House Ways and Means subcommittee approved H.F. 2129.

Iowa allows an exclusion from state taxable income of certain capital gains when the taxpayer meets both a 10-year material participation test and a ten-year holding period test.  This exclusion is available for liquidating asset sales and the individual tax on corporate liquidations, but is not available if the taxpayer is selling partnership assets or corporation stock to a third party, or for sales of less than “substantially all” of a business.

H.F. 2129 expands the exclusion “to include the sale of all or substantially all of a stock or equity interest in the business, whether the business is held as  a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, joint venture, trust, limited liability company, or other business entity.”

This would be a big change for Iowa entrepreneurs.  Consider how the current law affects a business started by two partners, with one older than the other.  The older partner retires more than ten years and pays full Iowa capital gain tax when he is redeemed out.  A few years later, the younger partner sells the business and retires himself.  The younger guy gets out with no Iowa capital gain tax under current law.  Under H.F. 2129, in contrast the 10-and-10 exemption would be available in both cases.

A “Fiscal Note” prepared by the Legislative Services Agency on the bill provides some statewide numbers:

Using State and federal tax returns of Iowa taxpayers, the Department of Revenue identified 369 tax returns reporting a capital gain for tax year 2012 where the taxpayer had participated in the business for a minimum of 10 years.

The total capital gain identified on those 369 returns that would be eligible under the capital gains exclusion expansion proposed in HF 2129 is $28.0 million.

Is this a good thing?  I think all capital gains should be tax-free, because they represent either a double-tax on the capital invested in them or, worse, a tax on inflation.  Anything that relieves this is arguably a good thing.  Still, it’s a complex carve-out for a limited class of taxpayers, one that creates a lot of errors by taxpayers who take the deduction erroneously or fail to use it when they are eligible; that sort of thing is almost a definition of bad tax policy. The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would provide a much better approach.

 

O. Kay Henderson, Two tax cuts passed in 2013 showing up in February’s state tax report (Radio Iowa).  The increase in the Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit is properly understood as an increase in a welfare program and a poverty trap,  not a tax cut.

 

20140307-1Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Passive Activity/Passive Activity Losses   

William Perez, Need to File a 2010 Tax Return? Deadlines and Resources.  Why 2010?  The statute of limitations for 2010 refunds expires April 15, 2014.

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): C Is For Clothing And Costumes.  Good stuff.    Related: Dress for success, but don’t look to the IRS for any fashion help.

Russ Fox, Your Check Might Not be in the Mail:

I used to live in Orange County, California. Earlier this week a US Postal Service caught fire as it was heading toward an airport after leaving the Santa Ana mail sorting center. So if you mailed something on Monday, March 3rd from ZIP Codes starting with 926, 927, 928, 906, 917 and 918, it might have been burnt to a crisp. All the mail the truck was carrying was destroyed (an estimated 120,000 pieces).

Another argument for electronic filing and payment.

Kay Bell, IRS criminal investigators are putting more tax crooks in jail.  If you are cheating on taxes big-time, you are a lot more likely to get caught than you might think.

 

taxanalystslogoThat means it must be a weekday.  More Arrogance and Secrecy From the IRS  (Christopher Bergin, Tax Analysts Blog):

I don’t know if these apparent political decisions were made by Lerner or others either inside or outside the IRS, because trying to get information out of that agency is like trying to get sweat out of a rock. Over the years, it has fought the silliest things. I’m only half kidding when I say that if you asked the IRS to see the kind of staplers it’s using, it would tell you it doesn’t have staplers.

The IRS will go to great lengths not to be scrutinized. And that breeds an atmosphere of no accountability — which leads to arrogance. We have seen that arrogance consistently throughout the congressional investigations of several IRS officials. And where will it lead us? Not to a good place, especially for those of us getting ready to file our yearly income tax returns. A tax collector that treats its “customers” as guilty until proven innocent is a tax collector out of control. That is precisely what the national taxpayer advocate has been warning about. If IRS officials don’t believe they are accountable to Congress, the rest of us don’t stand a chance.

This is part of an excellent and thoughtful post, written more in sorrow than anger by a long-time observer of the agency; you really should read the whole thing.  I’ll add that all of these seemingly endemic problems in IRS should warn us off the Taxpayer Advocate’s awful idea of giving IRS more control over the tax preparers who help taxpayers deal with the out-of-control agency.

 

Jack Townsend, Fifth Amendment and Immunity in Congressional Hearings.  Good discussion of the law, in spite of his calling the Issa investigations a “witch hunt.”  It’s the job of Congress to oversee federal agencies, especially an agency that has already admitted gross misbehavior here.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 302

 

20130113-3More rave reviews for the Camp “Tax Reform” plan:

William McBride, Camp and Obama Gang up on Savers

Kyle Pomerleau, Are Capital Gains and Dividend Income Tax Rates Really Lower Under the Camp Tax Reform Plan?  “If you take into account all the phase-outs of deductions and benefits in the Camp plan, marginal tax rates on capital gains and dividends are higher than current law at certain income levels.”

Tax Justice Blog, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp Proposes Tax Overhaul that Fails to Raise Revenue, Enhance Fairness, or End Offshore Tax Shelters

 

Roberton Williams, A Web Tool to Calculate ACA Tax Penalties  (TaxVox).  “It is often said the tax is $95, but for many people it will be much more.”

News from the Profession.  Some CPA Exam Candidates Skeptical the Illinois Board of Examiners Can Tell Time (Going Concern)

 

Peter Reilly, Could You Make Tax Protester Theories Work For You?:

If you are willing to entirely discount the quite remote chance of criminal prosecution, it may well be a decent percentage play particularly if you are just about maximizing your current lifestyle rather than accumulating net worth and entirely amoral when it comes to meeting tax obligations…

I still think it is a really terrible idea to enact Hendrickson’s strategy, but that’s just me.

No, it’s not just you, Peter.  And unless your income is generally not subject to third-party reporting like W-2s or 1099s, you will be caught, and then clobbered by back taxes, penalties and interest.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/10/14: The New Mexico double-dip edition. And: we got it right. We’ll fix that!

Monday, February 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

bureauofprisonsTwo bites at the apple were two too many for a New Mexico man.  Evading $25 million in federal taxes is bad enough, but illegally collecting $225,000 in farm subsidies on top of that seems like piling on.  From a Department of Justice Press Release:

Bill Melot, a farmer from Hobbs, N.M., was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison today to be followed by three years of supervised release for tax evasion, program fraud and other crimes, the Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General announced today.  Melot was also ordered to pay $18,469,998 in restitution to the IRS and $226,526 to the USDA. 

Melot was previously convicted of tax evasion, failure to file tax returns, making false statements to the USDA and impeding the IRS following a four-day jury trial in Albuquerque, N.M.  According to court documents and evidence presented at trial and at sentencing, Melot has not filed a personal income tax return since 1986, and owes the IRS more than $25 million in federal taxes and more than $7 million in taxes to the state of Texas.  In addition, Melot has improperly collected more than $225,000 in federal farm subsidies from the USDA by furnishing false information to the agency.  

He had been sentenced to only five years, but the appeals court decided he needed some more time before putting in another crop.

For a little farmer, Mr. Melot got around:

  Additionally, Melot maintained a bank account with Nordfinanz Zurich, a Swiss financial institution, which he set up in Nassau, Bahamas, in 1992, and failed to report the account to the U.S. Treasury Department as required by law.

If the government’s sentencing memorandum is to believed, Mr. Melot isn’t down with this whole paying taxes thing, filing a blizzard of “baseless” motions and attempting to conceal assets.  For example:

Defendant’s disregard for this Court commenced immediately… Within 24 hours of his release, between August 21 to August 24, 2009, Defendant and his immediate family were observed purchasing 19 money orders for $1000 each at a Moneygram counter, which is located at the Walmart in Hobbs, New Mexico.

a. Each money order was for $1,000.
b. Each money order listed “Bill Melot” in the memo line. The money orders also each listed Defendant’s home address, 2805 E. Rose Road.
c. Each money order was payable to Mueller, Inc., a Ballinger, Texas company, which builds outdoor sheds.

Videos from Walmart showed Defendant wearing the same clothing that he wore when he was released from custody. The money orders, along with an additional $5,260.94 in cash, were used to pay off the balance due on a metallic shed for Defendant’s farm, which he claimed not to own in his statement to Pretrial Services. The purchase of this barn flatly contradicted Defendant’s earlier claim of near indigence

The appeals panel seems to have believed the prosecution, as Mr. Melot got the full sentence requested.

Russ Fox has more at Really Big Tax Evasion Leads to Really Long Sentence at ClubFed.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Oops.  It appears the Iowa legislature accidentally repealed the state sales tax on heavy equipment purchases in 1998, reports Siouxcityjournal.com:

The inadvertent change – which slipped by the department, the legislative code editors, and lawmakers and their staffs in the vetting process — didn’t come to light until last summer, when an attorney contacted the department about the Iowa Code section. At that time, legal staff at the department and the Iowa Attorney General’s office determined that the 2008 action had “rendered that tax obsolete,” Daniels said.

“It was not the department’s intention, nor do we believe that it was the Legislature’s intention, to remove that tax or repeal that tax,” said Daniels, whose agency has asked lawmakers in Senate Study Bill 3117 to restore the sales tax on heavy equipment retroactive to July 1, 2008. 

Sound tax policy tells the legislature to expand the exemption, rather than repeal it.  The heavy equipment will normally be used in business, and business inputs shouldn’t be subject to sales taxes.  It just shows that the General Assembly can occasionally get it right, but will immediately take corrective action when it finds out.

 

 

William Perez offers An Overview of the Income, Deductions, Tax and Payment Sections of the Tax Return

Kay Bell comes through with 6 steps to help you become the best tax client. She omits step number seven: pay your preparer promptly.  No matter how good you are with the first six steps, omitting step seven disqualifies you from the “best” list.

TaxGrrrl, Delayed Tax Refunds, The EITC & How We’re Getting It Wrong   

 And despite its original intent, if the idea is to encourage taxpayers to work more, the current iteration of the EITC fails miserably. As you earn more, your benefits go down, not up. At some point, the incentive to work more is mitigated by the specter of a lesser credit.

It’s a poverty trap.

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.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 277

Sounds like a good reason to me.  Broken Tax Code Offered as Reason for Reform (Annette Nellen)

Peter Reilly, Benefit Of Clergy – Why Special Tax Treatment For Ministers Needs To Go.  Constitutional Does Not Equal Sound Tax Policy”

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 02/07/2014 (Procedurally Taxing).  It’s a roundup of tax procedure cases and posts.

Jack Townsend, Germany Moves Against Offshore Bank Evaders 

An unwarranted meattax approach: Scientist Proposes Discouraging Meat Consumption with New Tax (Joseph Henchman, Tax Policy Blog).

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

 

Career Corner.  No Shirt, No Shoes, No Accounting Degree, No Probl– Actually, Small Problem (Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/29/14: E-cigarette panic! And: SOTU, SALY.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Jeff Stier, Iowa should tread carefully on e-cigarette rules, on the weird impulse to restrict and tax water vapor:

Restricting the use of e-cigarettes, known as “vaping” for the vapor they emit, would undermine the very goal of this law.

First, it wouldn’t reduce exposure to environmental smoke, better known as second-hand smoke, because there is no smoke. There isn’t even any first-hand smoke.

More important, a ban on vaping in public places would damage public health because it would make e-cigarettes a less convenient alternative to cigarette smoking. It would also send the implicit (and incorrect) message that they are also equally dangerous, not only to the user, but to those exposed to the vapor.

All true.  There are two explanations for the why politicians have their dresses over their heads over what amount to very small room vaporizers.

First, because people vaping look a little like smokers, and smoking is a great sin these days, they must be sinning, and sin must be stopped.  For the children!

The second explanation is more cynical, so it probably is true.  The state has a nicotine addiction.  Iowa collected $227 million in tobacco taxes in 2013.  If smokers use e-cigarettes to quit, that money dries up.  We can’t have that.

 


EITC error chart
Tax Analysts’ 
headline ($link) on its story about the tax proposals in the State of the Union doesn’t exactly scream Hope and Change:  “Obama Proposes EITC Expansion in State of the Union, Otherwise Reiterates Old Tax Proposals.”

One hopes that Congress will do something to keep 20-25% of the EITC from being issued “improperly” to grifters before it increases the theft pot.  We can expect the President’s other tax proposals to go nowhere, as they went nowhere when he was in better political shape.  The dead-on-arrival proposals include disallowing more of the Section 199 deduction for f0ssil fuels and tax credits to “build fuel infrastructure” and to subsidize alternative fuels.

His budget also provides for a hodgepodge of other tax incentives.  His revenue-raisers include repealing LIFO inventories, slower depreciation for aircraft, changing grantor trust rules so they are treated the same for income and tax purposes, and limiting the size of retirement accounts — all doomed absent an unlikely comprehensive tax reform.

Related:  Tax Policy is MIA in the State of the Union (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox). “The president perfunctorily restated his support for business tax reform but added no new twist to make his plan any more acceptable to congressional Republicans.”

Good Jobs First, a left-side think tank, has released Show us the Subsidized Jobs, a report on state tax incentives.  Iowa only scores 27%, largely because there is no online disclosure of recipients of the Industrial New Jobs Training program and the Iowa New Jobs Tax Credit.  I would give Iowa zero percent, because these hidden subsidies wouldn’t exist in a well designed tax system.  They should be repealed and replaced by the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Broadbandits.  Speaking of corporate welfare, SSB 3319 was introduced yestarday in the Iowa Senate.  Among other ways to pay providers for something they will do anyway if customers want it, the bill includes a 3% credit on the cost of “new installation of broadband infrastructure.”  Just one more step away from simplicity and transparency.

 

20111040logoDavid Henderson, Marginal Tax Rates: Singing Taxman to My Class:

Think about the Beatles’ earnings. Late 1963 was when they first started making real money. Then in 1964, they hit it big. Presumably they didn’t spend it all but started investing, figuring that they would get interest and dividends on their investments. They probably did. But those returns would be taxed at the 95% rate. When would they start noticing this? Probably some time in 1965. Thus the 1966 song. 

And we all know what an economic dynamo the UK was then.

Martin Sullivan, The Obama Administration’s Backdoor Bailout of Puerto Rico (Tax Analysts Blog):

But here’s a little secret that the powers that be inside and outside government don’t want you to know: The Obama administration has already provided a multibillion-dollar bailout to Puerto Rico. Nobody in the major media outlets has noticed because the issue is highly technical.

And because Look!  Justin Bieber!

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Why You Should Never Hold Real Estate In A Corporation? 

William Perez, Filing Requirements for Tax Year 2013

TaxGrrrl, ‘Same Love’ Grammy Wedding: Married Is Married For Tax Purposes

Leslie Book, Corbalis v Commissioner: Tax Court Holds it Has Jurisdiction to Review Interest Suspension Decisions (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Scott Hodge, President Obama Signs Executive Order to Increase Minimum Wages Paid by Federal Contractors (Tax Policy Blog).  Spending our money to show us how generous he is.

Tax Justice Blog, Has the Tax Code Been Used to Reduce Inequality During the Obama Years? Not Really.   They’ve tried, but it doesn’t work.

Jeremy Scott, BEPS Project Should Include Digital Economy Permanent Establishment (Tax Analysts Blog).   Should companies be taxable in a country because they have a “digital permanent establishment”?  I say they shouldn’t be taxed at all.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 265

Jack Townsend, DOJ Tax AAG Keneally Reports on Swiss Banks Joining DOJ Swiss Bank Program

Kay Bell, Mortgage tax break contributes to fading American dream.

 

Robert D. Flach is a sensible man:

I did not watch the State of the Union address last night.  Instead I watched the wonderful film GAMBIT with Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine on TCM.

I ate a delicious dinner and had pie for dessert, with the TV off.  My view of the whole SOTU thing is well-reflected here.

 

Career Corner: You Can Run But You Can’t Hide. Therefore, Sabotage Your Coworkers (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/13/14: They’re back edition. And: tax fairy doesn’t show up at appeals court.

Monday, January 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20130117-1
The 2014 session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly begins today.
 It doesn’t look like much tax legislation will pass.

The Governor abandoned a plan to allow taxpayers to choose between the current byzantine Iowa income tax and a lower-rate version with fewer deductions and no deduction for federal taxes paid even before the session started.  He instead will focus on lame feel-good initiatives in an election year, reports Omaha.com:

Gov. Terry Branstad is set to unveil his agenda Tuesday during the Condition of the State address. He said his priorities will include expanding broadband Internet access, fighting school bullying and curtailing student loan debt.

The Governor’s opposition will block any tax reform that isn’t sufficiently punitive to the “rich” — which means any reform worthy of the name.  They will try to change some of Iowa’s worst corporate welfare giveaways, reports the Des Moines Register, but the Governor, an inveterate smokestack chaser and ribbon-cutter, can be expected block any restrictions on using your money to lure and subsidize your competitors.

Meanwhile, trial balloons about increasing the gas tax have already deflated.  That means we can expect a quiet session on the tax front, and a continuation of Iowa’s insanely complex and worthless tax system for another year.  But if they change their minds and want to do something useful, it’s always a good time to talk about The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

tax fairyTax Fairy seeker loses appeal.  A South Dakota surgeon who looked across the ocean for the Tax Fairy found only grief — and the grief wasn’t alleviated on appeals.  The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld the conviction that led to a five-year sentence for Dr. Edward Picardi.

The doctor used a scheme where he “leased” his medical services to an offshore company he controlled to artificially reduce his income by stashing earnings in offshore accounts.  The scheme was promoted to him by an attorney-CPA who has been acquitted of criminal charges in another employee leasing case.

Other taxpayers have avoided fraud penalties from employee-leasing to offshore entities (see here), but not taxes and penalties.  When the best you can say about a tax plan is that you avoided fraud penalties, it’s not much of a plan.  There is no tax fairy.

Prior coverage here.

 

Kay Bell has Important January tax dates, deadlines

 

Lyman Stone, Should Nebraska Follow the Example of Illinois or Indiana?  “The case of Illinois is a great example of how higher taxes can contribute to a worsening business climate, which leads to less jobs.”

Annette Nellen, Marijuana and the Tax Law.  Despite appearances, there is no evidence the lawmakers are smoking something when they write tax laws.

TaxGrrrl, Top 10 Most Litigated Tax Issues.  Number one is penalties.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 249

Robert D. Flach offers a SPECIAL OFFER FOR ITEMIZERS!

 

TaxTrials, Famous Fridays: Wesley Snipes, A Lesson in Listening to Bad Advice.  Did he ever.

 

The Critical Question: Massages May Feel Nice, But Can You Deduct Them at the Poker Table? (Russ Fox)

News from the Profession: KPMG Upgrades Its Female Interns From Necklaces to Camisoles  (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/7/2014: Koskinen proposes voluntary IRS preparer certification. And: Obamacare, small business incubator?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

The new IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, would like for IRS to oversee a voluntary preparer certification program if their preparer regulation power grab fails in the courts, reports Accounting Today. But he would still prefer the power grab:

“If you could require certification of preparers and some educational requirements, it would help taxpayers feel some level of confidence that preparers actually know what they’re doing, and the vast majority of them do,” Koskinen said during a conference call with reporters after he was sworn in ceremonially Monday by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew with an audience of many IRS employees in attendance. “My sense is that we should be able to provide that same educational training and that background to preparers. If you can’t require it, offer it, and if you complete the information, you get a certificate that says, ‘I have completed the IRS preparer course.’ I think that could be over time very valuable to preparers, and consumers could ask preparers, ‘Have you gone through the IRS training?’ Whatever happens with the court case, we ought to be able to move forward on that and provide taxpayers with as much assurance as we can that the preparers they are dealing with have met some kind of minimum standards.”

Somebody should point out to him that there already is such a program: the Enrolled Agent Program.  If the IRS runs the now-mothballed Registered Tax Return Preparer literacy test as a voluntary program, it will be a crippling blow to the more rigorous and underappreciated EA designation. Before he worries more about the competence of preparers, Commissioner Koskinen should fix his agency first (my emphasis):

“When I look at the impact of the budget and the implications of further cuts or what happens the next time there’s a sequester, the first thing that happens is the waiting time on a phone call goes up and our service goes down,” he said. “We try to get to 70 or 80 percent, but sometimes it gets as low as 50 or 60, which means at 50 percent that half the people who are calling are getting no answer at all and no satisfaction. It just seems to me that’s intolerable. Taxpayers deserve better, so we need to do whatever we can to provide the services that taxpayers need and expect. They ought to be able to dial the IRS number and get an answer promptly, and they ought to be able to get accurate information.”

Even the shabbiest storefront preparer at least processes more than half of its customers.

 

Why Iowa income tax reform will go nowhere this yearvia the Sioux City Journal:

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said Senate Democrats would formulate a tax-relief approach geared toward income tax cuts for middle-class Iowans, not the two-tiered plan being pushed by Republicans.

“Nobody in my caucus is going to go along with a scheme that leaves middle-class Iowans carrying more than their share of the tax burden in Iowa so rich people can choose whichever one works the best for them,” Gronstal said.

The idea that the state income tax system is somehow a way to fight The Rich Guy is willfully dumb, with zero-income-tax South Dakota right next door.  Oh, and you know what another word for “the rich” is?  Employers. 

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

Megan McCardle poses the question “Will Obamacare Inspire Small-Business Ownership?“:

One theorized benefit of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is that it will unleash a new era of entrepreneurship. Undoubtedly, there are people in the U.S. who wanted to start a business but feared losing their health insurance. Now that they know they can buy it, presumably they’ll be freed to take risks without fearing that they could end up uninsured and uninsurable.

Unfortunately, we just don’t have that much empirical evidence. European nations with more generous social safety nets have lower rates of entrepreneurship than the U.S. does, even though a thought experiment might suggest that generous welfare programs would encourage people to take more risks. Nor did we see a radical unfurling of entrepreneurial energy in Massachusetts after RomneyCare.

She also points out that Obamacare is a kick in the head for businesses that actually succeed:

Meanwhile, of course, the law imposes significant new penalties for growing a company; anyone with more than 50 employees not only has to provide health insurance for their employees, but they also have to meet a substantial regulatory burden to demonstrate that they’re providing affordable coverage. That might discourage people from growing their firms. 

You know, it just might.

 

Russ Fox, Your Mileage Log — Start It Now (2014 Version).  You would not believe how much it helps in an IRS exam.  And doing it retrospectively when the IRS exam notice arrives tends to go badly.

Peter Reilly, Post Divorce Tax Intimacy Can Be Riskier Than Post Divorce Sex   Ewww…

Paul Neiffer, Roger’s Top Ten. “Roger McEowen from Iowa State University and their Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (CALT) just listed his Top 10 Ag Law and Taxation Developments for 2014.”

William Perez, Resources for Preparing and Filing Form W-2 for Small Businesses

Robert D. Flach tells us WHAT’S NEW FOR NJ STATE TAXES FOR 2013

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #124: Happy New Tax Year 2014

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Martin Sullivan, Goodbye Baucus, Hello Wyden (Tax Analysts Blog): “On tax reform the current chair of the Senate Finance Committee has been a laggard. Wyden will be a leader.”

Jeremy Scott, A To-Do List for Wyden (Tax Analysts Blog).  Tax Reform, Extenders, and the Tea Party investigation.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 243

 

Joseph Henchman, Parking and Transit Benefits Tax Exclusion Parity Expires Again; Congress Should Consider Permanent Fix.  (Tax Policy Blog).  “The tax code is probably the wrong place to be subsidizing commuters, and the entire provision ought to be eliminated. If Congress wishes to retain it, it ought to consider a non-expiring unified exclusion of all transportation commuting expenses.”

Tax Justice Blog, Corporate Income Tax Repeal Is Not a Serious Proposal.  Stawmen go up in flames.

Ben Harris, Rethinking Homeownership Subsidies (TaxVox).  He wants to revamp them.  I’d prefer to get rid of them.

 

TaxGrrrl, Cracker Barrel Waitress Serves Up Happiness, Gets Tip & More .  $6,000 more.

The Critical Question: Is College That Guy on eBay Who Never Paid For the Crap You Sent Him? (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/13/13: Government by Connections edition. And how not to butter up your tax evasion judge.

Friday, December 13th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20121220-120120906-1A Des Moines Register report on the introduction of the new ownership of the Iowa Speedway in Newton tells us how things work in Iowa:

No one needed super sleuth Sherlock Holmes to figure out one of the first priorities of NASCAR as the new owners of Iowa Speedway introduced themselves Thursday during a press conference.

Three Iowa legislators were parked front and center in a reserved seating area. Multiple times during the news conference, officials thanked Sen. Bill Dotzler and Representatives Dan Kelley and Rob Taylor.

When the event sprinted toward its own finish line, only the trio with desks at the statehouse were publicly asked to jump on stage for a photo with new track president Jimmy Small.

So why do our humble public servants get to hang with big NASCAR celebrities?   Because the ownership group that bought the speedway doesn’t qualify for the special corporate welfare that the legislature enacted just for the speedway a few years ago, and they want it re-enacted:

The law, as it stands, requires Iowa-based ownership. So the spigot that delivers that sales tax benefit, which Dotzler estimates at about $4 million to date, is being shut off as NASCAR grabs the steering wheel.

Dotzler promised to reintroduce the measure when the legislative session roars to life on Jan. 13, adding that he would support extending it beyond the original end date of 2016.

Government by special favor.  And who benefits?  NASCAR is a private company owned by a very wealthy family — one that evidently knows how to play the connections game.    Meanwhile the guy running the pizza joint, the real estate office, the implement dealership, he gets a horribly complicated Iowa tax system with high rates to pay for lots of loopholes for other people.  He gets automatic penalties for every honest mistake made in attempting to comply with this byzantine system.  But hey, NASCAR!

The legislature is just too darn busy to find a way to enact a simple tax system with low rates and low compliance costs for everybody.  But they have plenty of time to go to a press conference to sell a special tax break for a single wealthy out-of-state family.  Priorities.

 

William Perez has been cranking out lots of good stuff lately, including today’s Donating an IRA as a Year-End Tax Strategy.

Margaret Van Houten,  Do your Digital Assets have Value? Are they Important? (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  Don’t leave the heirs without the password to your Bitcoin vault.

 

20130419-1Christopher Bergin, Walk the Talk: The IRS Needs a Chief Who Supports Transparency (Tax Analysts Bl0g).  And by that, he means for the IRS, not just for us.

Tax Justice Blog,  New CTJ Report: Congress Should Offset the Cost of the “Tax Extenders,” or Not Enact Them At All.  I like the second alternative best.

Janet Novack,  Congressional Work Undone: Lapse Of Tax Credits Will Hit Job Creators 

Roberton Williams, Where Are Tax Rates Headed? (TaxVox)

 

If you like your kludge, you can keep it.  Obamacare’s Never-Ending Fix-a-Thon (Megan McArdle)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 218.  “IRS Targeting: Round Two; The First Time Around, Targeting Conservatives Was a Secret. Now, Not So Much

Jack Townsend, Judge Rakoff, the Wegelin judge, Is Interviewed on the U.S. Initiative Against Swiss Banks

Phil HodgenRenunciation trends in Auckland “I received an email yesterday from a contact in New Zealand. Renunciations in the Auckland Consulate are apparently way, way up compared to last year.”

Stephen Olsen, Preparer Knappe(s) on the job: Delinquency Penalties, Advisors, and Reasonable Cause (Part 2 — I Finally Get to my point on Thouron). (Procedurally Taxing)

Get your friday Buzz! from Robert D. Flach!

 

ShockerGAO: IRS Lacks Adequate Internal Controls (TaxProf).  Maybe the $5 billion in annual refund fraud tipped them off.

Woo-hoo!  Tax and other fun at deductible office holiday parties (Kay Bell)

News from the Profession.  Aren’t You GLAD For This McGLADrey Holiday Card? (Going Concern)


OtterThe Otter legal strategy.  A tax protester in Texas decided that his already slim chances in federal court would be helped by a really stupid and futile gesture.  It went as you might expect, reports Courthouse News Service:

It took a federal jury just one hour of deliberation to convict a Texas man of hiring a hit man to try to murder the federal judge presiding over his tax-evasion case.

Phillip Monroe Ballard, 72, of Fort Worth, was convicted Wednesday of attempted murder-for-hire, after a two-day trial. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

It’s not the first time a tax protester has tried to improve his case by going after the judge.  If it worked, though, that would have been a first.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/5/2013: Branstad floats optional income tax without federal tax deduction. And: is IRS hiding something?

Thursday, December 5th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

Iowa Alternative Maximum Tax proposal revived?  Governor Branstad may push an optional income tax with lower rates and no deduction for federal taxes.  This plan looks like an attempt to improve Iowa’s byzantine income tax without provoking the wrath of Iowans for Tax Relief, the Muscatine-based advocacy group that strongly opposes efforts to do away with the deduction.  KJAN.com reports:

Iowa’s income tax rates higher when compared to most other states because Iowa offers a deduction that’s offered in only five other states. That deduction allows Iowans to subtract their federal income tax liability from their income before calculating their state income taxes.  “We don’t want to erode federal deductability,” Branstad says, “and that’s why we’re saying: ‘Give ‘em the option.’” By giving taxpayers the option to file their income taxes under the current system with that major deduction or under a new system with lower and flatter rates, Branstad might avoid the firestorm he faced from his fellow Republicans in the late 1980s when he proposed doing away with that deduction.

The Governor appears to plan to add a new twist to the plan, reports Kathie Obradovich:

Branstad indicated that he wouldn’t allow Iowans to “game the system” by changing their form every year. That means taxpayers who give up the federal deduction would have to stick with the choice even if the other option would result in lower taxes in a given year.

That means the new system would be a one-way street.  It no longer would be an “alternative maximum tax,” where taxpayers would always compute their tax both with and without the federal deduction and choose the lower amount.  That makes it even worse than the version passed by the Iowa House of Representatives last year, which would have allowed taxpayers to make the choice annually.  Unless the new system provides significantly better results in the great majority of circumstances, most taxpayers would want to retain the option to use the federal deduction.  That would stall the (presumably) desired transition to a simpler system.  Both the Branstad plan and the House plan significantly add to the complexity of the tax law.

While Iowa’s high stated tax rates — individual and corporate — don’t help, the ridiculous complexity of Iowa tax law is the real problem.  Iowa has a bunch of penny-ante credits and deductions that don’t apply for federal purposes.  These are too small to make a significant difference to taxpayers but also too small for the Department of Revenue to police.  There are also dozens of special-interest tax credits and deductions that take dollars from the rest of us on behalf of people with connections at the Statehouse.

It’s not in his nature, but the Governor ought to go bold and embrace the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.  It strips the Iowa tax law to a very few deductions and repeals Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation corporation income tax while drastically lowering personal rates.  The Iowa Senate is unlikely to pass the Governor’s half-baked half-measure anyway; why not change the terms of the debate with a plan that actually makes sense?

Related:  The Iowa flat tax proposal: a good deal for middle class and up, but not for lower incomes.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher BerginTax Analysts v. IRS: What Are They Hiding? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Back in August, I wrote about the lawsuit Tax Analysts had filed against the IRS seeking documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents being sought were training materials used to instruct and guide IRS personnel in the IRS exempt organization determinations office in Cincinnati. The big story then, and now, was generated by former EO director in the IRS Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division Lois Lerner’s admission that the agency had used inappropriate means to determine which organizations qualified for tax-exempt status as social welfare organizations. The organizations singled out for extra scrutiny were mostly, if not entirely, conservative. Tax Analysts felt compelled to seek relief from the courts because we were getting nowhere with the IRS – other than the big stall – even though it had promised expedited treatment on our original request.

Several months later, the big stall continues — to the point that I have to ask myself whether the IRS just made a stupid mistake in targeting those organizations or whether something much worse is going on. 

They are using the “taxpayer confidentiality” excuse for their standard big stall.  Christopher isn’t buying it:

But I’ll say it again: Training materials, really? Why on earth would the IRS try to keep those secret? You’d think the training manuals would all be in a file cabinet somewhere, which hardly would require a search party of 100 lawyers and a scouring for tax return information.

Could it be that this time something is different? Could there be a smoking gun here? I’m not saying there is. I’m just saying it may be time to start asking that question. Because even for the IRS, this is darned peculiar behavior.

Congress should amend the taxpayer confidentiality rules to keep the IRS from using them as an excuse to hide its own dirty laundry.  It shouldn’t require a federal lawsuit to get the IRS to publicize internal non-taxpayer documents.

 

 

20130121-2Whither the Registered Tax Return Preparer Program?  Robert D. Flach argues that the RTRP designation that was part of the nearly-dead IRS preparer regulation power grab should be administered by the IRS on a voluntary basis.  I disagree.

Robert would like a way to distinguish the better class of “unenrolled” preparers from less-professional seasonal preparers.  I can understand that, but I don’t think that the IRS is the agency that should do this.  It would divert already strained IRS resources to do something the preparer industry could do on its own.  I agree with Jason Dinesen that if preparers want a government designation, they should take the Enrolled Agents exam, which is much more difficult than the RTRP literacy test.  The EA designation is sadly underappreciated in the market, and adding a new IRS-run designation would only make that worse.

 

The IRS reminds us that the “savers credit” can help lower-income taxpayers who contribute to a retirement plan.  This is a non-refundable credit of up to 50% of the amount contributed to IRAs or deferred to a 401(k) plan.  For parents, funding a young adult offspring’s retirement plan contribution is a tax-efficient way to help build a nest egg.

 

Don’t try this with your tax deadlines.   TIGTA: IRS Is Seven Years Past Statutory Deadline for Providing Online Account Access to Taxpayers (TaxProf).  From the TIGTA report:

The RRA 98 required the IRS to develop procedures to allow taxpayers filing returns electronically to review their account online by December 31, 2006. The IRS did not meet this requirement, and we determined that the IRS has not made adequate progress in allowing taxpayers to access tax accounts. Currently, taxpayers cannot review account information electronically.

In fact, the IRS is getting worse, having cut back electronic access for tax professionals.  That makes resolving even a simple IRS notice a tedious multi-week snail-mail slog.

 

Tony Nitti, The Definitive Questions And Answers On The New Net Investment Income Tax [Updated For Final Regulations] 

amazonCara Griffith It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…It’s Amazon Prime Air? (Tax Analysts Blog).  Sales tax by drone.

Alan Cole, Report: Obamacare Premium Subsidies Will Need Fraud Protection (Tax Policy Blog).  No kidding.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 210

 

Kay Bell, Tax e-filing continues to grow, hitting 122 million in 2013

TaxGrrrl, Will Congress Drive Up Gas Taxes In 2014?   

 

Um, because most commuters drive?  Why Does the Tax Code Favor Commuters that Drive? (Tax Justice Blog)

Going Concern, IRS’ Improved e-File System Is a Total Success Except For Two Jerks Who Foiled It

 

Don’t trust tax collectors, if you’re a tax collector:

The former tax collector of Plainville, who is also former treasurer of the Connecticut Tax Collectors Association, was arrested Monday morning and charged with first degree larceny, after being under investigation for possible embezzlement since June.

Debra Guerrette, of Bristol, was placed on administrative leave from Plainville’s Revenue office in June after Bristol police informed the town Guerrette was involved in a criminal investigation.

After an analysis of the financial records for the Connecticut Tax Collectors Association, and also Guerrette’s financial records, police said she had “misappropriated funds in excess of $50,000” between 2008 and 2013, into her personal account.

Will there be a special assessment of the collectors to make up the difference?

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/21/13: Would you trust a state legislator to spend your $54?

Thursday, November 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

I’m on the road today, so we’ll make this quick.

Sen. Bolkcom

Sen. Bolkcom

I can spend your $54 better than you can.  The Des Moines Register reports Iowans can get $54 tax credit; some want it used for roads,  The “some” definitely include politicians:

Many Iowans will be eligible for a new $54 tax credit when they file 2013 taxes, according to a calculation from the Department of Revenue, but a key Democratic senator says the money would be better spent fixing crumbling roads and bridges.

State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, chairman of the Iowa Senate’s tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said Wednesday that Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has failed to provide leadership to establish new sources of critically needed road construction revenue.

“Critically needed?”  Maybe not.  I doubt if the Grand Avenue Bridge to Eternity would have been done faster if they had just spent more money on it.  In any case, the politicians’ need for cash is elastic and infinite, no matter how much they have to start with.  It bugs them when they already have your money, like the $54, and they have to give it back.

 

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, The U.S. Ranks Poorly on Cost Recovery (Tax Policy Blog):

 It is common knowledge that the United States has the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world, but it is less well known that our cost recovery system ranks poorly as well.

Currently, the U.S. tax code only allows businesses to recover an average of 62.4% of a capital investment (investments in machinery, industrial buildings, intangibles, etc.). This is lower than the average capital allowance of 66.5% across the OECD…

Ideally, businesses should be able to recovery 100 percent of their investment costs. We could achieve this by shifting to a system of full expensing (which allows complete write off of capital expenses in the first year) or introducing a system of Neutral Cost Recovery (which indexes the investment write-offs for inflation and a real discount rate).

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I’d be happy if they’d just stop changing the rules every year.

 

Going Concern,  Baucus Proposal Would Give ‘Legal Authority’ to Regulate Tax Preparers.  Buried in with a bunch of other stuff, as expected.  If Sen. Baucus would look in the mirror, he’d see where the real problem with  the tax system is.  Maybe that’s why he wants to regulate preparers instead.

Cara Griffith, Hitting the Jackpot (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, Why Everyone Is Unhappy with Senator Baucus’s Proposal for Taxing Multinational Corporations

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 196

Jack Townsend, Fourth Circuit Reverse Tax Obstruction Conviction Because of Bad Instruction and Affirms Denial of Good Faith Instruction for False Claim Conviction.  Even tax protesters are entitled to good jury instructions.

Kay Bell, Mo’ Money tax franchisee gets 20 months in jail for tax fraud.

 

Best spam commenter name ever: “2011 Energy Tax Credits Day Diet Plan When Weight Loss” posted a spam to my spam box this morning.  I look forward to learning more about that plan. 

 

And the muskrats are furious.  Sentenced to 6 months, Beavers still swaggering (Chicago Tribune)

More tomorrow!

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/31/13: A scary Iowa tax proposal, just in time for Halloween!

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

hatchJack Hatch’s income tax plan would raise taxes on all but very small businesses.  

It’s all in the spin.  My headline is just as accurate as the headline in the Des Moines Register on the tax plan announced by Senator Jack Hatch, a Democratic candidate for Iowa Governor.  The Register’s article, though, spins the way the candidate would like: “Jack Hatch’s income tax plan would give break to all but most wealthy Iowans.”  From the article:

Hatch’s plan would get rid of federal deductibility, which allows taxpayers to deduct federal taxes from their state return. His plan would also raise filing thresholds. It would raise the per-child tax credit from $40 to $500. Married couples who are both employed would get a new $1,000 a year tax credit.

And Iowa’s eight rates and brackets, which range from 0.36 percent to 8.98 percent, would be reduced to four.

The top rate would fall slightly to 8.8 percent, although the income at which that rate begins would be raised by 26 percent, according to an analysis of Hatch’s plan by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. The lowest rate would be 3 percent.

Taxes would go up for Iowans who make an adjusted gross income above $200,000, the Legislative Services Agency analysis says. The wealthiest taxpayers would see a small drop in the highest marginal tax rate, but their taxes would go up because they’d lose federal deductibility.

There are two things I hate about this plan and the way it is covered.  First, it makes no mention that a tax on “the wealthy” is really a tax on business.  Most business income is now reported on individual returns:

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

And 72% of that is reported by taxpayers with AGI over $200,000:

20131031-2

Cutting through the soak-the-rich stuff, what he’s really proposing is a great big tax increase on business.  How that helps Iowa’s economy isn’t explained — I suppose because it doesn’t.

The other part I hate is the whole idea that hurting “the rich” on behalf of “the middle class” is presumed to be just fine.   Heck, let’s go shoplifting at Wal-Mart, they have plenty of money — and it’s for the middle class!

 

I suppose I couldn’t expect Sen. Hatch to embrace the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.  I suspect it makes too much sense for any politician to embrace it.

 

This would be a good thing for Iowa: The Benefits of Independent Tax Tribunals (Cara Griffith, Tax Analysts Blog):

States are increasingly turning to independent tax tribunals. Most states now have either a judicial-branch tax court or an administrative-level tax tribunal that is independent of the state’s tax authority. Taxpayers and practitioners have pressed states for independent decision-making bodies for several reasons, including that the judges or administrative law judges who write decisions are impartial and knowledgeable in tax issues and that the opinions should more consistently and transparently apply the tax law because they will be published. 

Iowa, unfortunately, has only administrative tribunals and regular courts.  The judges know little about taxes, especially income taxes, and tend to defer to the State, even when it tortures law and logic.

 

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.

TaxProf, NY Times: The Marginal Tax Rate Mess.  Even the New York Times is noticing the high implicit marginal tax rates on means-tested welfare programs, like the earned income tax credit:

As a result of losing eligibility for means-tested benefits, low-income and middle-income families sometimes experience much higher marginal effective tax rates (sometimes exceeding 90 percent) than those at the top of the income distribution. Phase-outs for any one program may not be large, but participation in several programs creates a cumulative effect. 

They “help the poor,” as long as they stay that way.

 

 

 

 

59pdhyef59pdhyefJoseph Henchman, Remembering the Deceased Iowa Pumpkin Tax You Helped End (Tax Policy Blog).

59pdhyefTaxGrrrl,  Social Security Benefits Will Not Keep Pace With Tax Contributions In 2014 

59pdhyef

Jana Luttenegger, Social Security Benefits to Increase in 2014 (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Robert D. Flach,  HAPPY HALLOWEEN – SOME TREATS FROM THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

Phil Hodgen, Chapter 3 – Paperwork for Expatriates and Covered Expatriates

Kay Bell, Colorado taxpayer group files lawsuit to overturn candy tax

Me, IRA is to startup funding as dynamite is to kindling.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.

 

Christopher Bergin, What’s a UDITPA? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Andrew Lundeen, Scott Hodge,  The Income Tax Code Is More Progressive than It Was 20 Years Ago (Tax policy Blog).  “The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay a greater share of the income tax burden than the bottom 90 percent combined, which totals more than 120 million taxpayers. In 2010, the top 1 percent of taxpayers—which totals roughly 1.4 million taxpayers—paid about 37 percent of all income taxes.”

Tax Justice Blog, Bruce Bartlett Is Wrong: New Conclusions on the Corporate Income Tax Change Nothing.  Nothing ever changes at TJB!

Government officials defend increased funding for their agencies.  Iowa police chiefs defend traffic cameras (KWWL.com)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/24/2013: The tax fairy is no cheap date. And nice words about my big mouth.

Monday, September 23rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Tax Shelter STARS dims in Claims Court.  The high-priced marketed tax shelter craze that started in the late 1990s by the big national accounting firms and some law firms has produced terrible results in litigation.  The latest failure is the KPMG/Sidley Austin tax shleter “STARS,” which was shot down in the Court of Federal Claims last week.

tax fairyThe shelter was designed to generate foreign tax credits against BB&T Corporation’s U.S. taxes.  While the shelter was put together by some of the biggest names in the tax profession, the judge was unimpressed:

Applying these principles here, the STARS transaction must be seen for what it really is. By creating a trust arrangement with nothing but circular cash flows, and momentarily placing funds in the hands of a U.K. trustee before it is returned, Barclays and BB&T artificially caused a U.K. tax on U.S.-sourced revenue. There was no substantive economic activity occurring in the U.K. to warrant a U.K. tax. Yet, by subjecting the Trust funds to a U.K. tax, Barclays and BB&T were able to share the benefits of foreign tax credits, which resulted in a 51 percent rebate of a Bx payment to BB&T. The surprisingly low interest rate to BB&T on the $1.5 billion Loan, 300 basis points below LIBOR, was made possible solely because of the fruits of the Trust arrangement. In reality, the U.S. Treasury is funding the monetary benefits realized by BB&T, Barclays, and the U.K. Treasury. No aspect of the STARS transaction has any economic reality.

When taxpayers got involved in tax shelters set up by big-name firms, they often did so believing that reliance on well-known national firms will protect them from penalties.  Not here:

KPMG’s overarching advice was that BB&T should engage in an economically meaningless transaction to achieve foreign tax credits for taxes BB&T had not in substance paid. Thus, because KPMG’s advice was based on unreasonable and unsupported assumptions, the Court finds KPMG’s advice unreasonable.

Based on KPMG’s recommendation, BB&T also selected the law firm of Sidley Austin, and in particular, Raymond J. Ruble, to provide tax advice and a formal opinion on STARS… Because Sidley Austin’s tax opinion was premised on the unreasonable and unsupported assumption that technical compliance with U.S. tax law would allow the IRS to give its imprimatur to an economically meaningless transaction, the Court finds Sidley Austin’s advice unreasonable.

So the judge undid $660 million in claimed tax savings and added $112 million in penalties to the bill.

The Moral?  Some of the brightest minds in the tax business thought they had finally found the Tax Fairy, the magical sprite that can make your taxes go away with fancy tax footwork.  They sold their discovery to folks just as eager to believe in the Tax Fairy as they were.  But there is no Tax Fairy.

Cite: Salem Financial, Inc., Ct. Fed. Claims, No. 1:10-cv-00192

Related: Jack Townsend,  Yet Another B***t Tax Shelter Goes Down; BB&T’s Streak on B***t Tax Shelters Continues

 

Iowa: an alcohol-dependent nicotine fiend with a gambling problem. From the Sioux City Journal:

In fiscal 2012, Iowa reaped $710.6 million from so-called “sin taxes.” Although that was 4.8 percent of the state’s total revenues of $14.65 billion, it was far less than the $3.7 billion in individual income taxes and $2.1 billion in sales taxes Iowans paid in fiscal 2011.

Still, it greatly exceeds the net take of Iowa’s complex, high rate and futile corporation income tax, which netted $430.4 million of the state’s $7.42 billion in tax revenues in fiscal 2012.

 

William Perez, Using Tax Refunds to Pay Estimated Taxes.  Applying overpayments to the next year’s estimated taxes is a very useful part of any tax planner’s toolkit.

Phil Hodgen,  Rental Income and Branch Profits Tax. “

Branch profits tax is computed on the corporation’s taxable income. The branch profits tax does not care about your net operating loss.

This means that you can have years where the corporation pays no income tax (because it has a net operating loss from the prior year that eliminates the taxable profit generated in the current year). But the corporation will pay the branch profits tax.

If you deal with offshore corporations with U.S. activity, you should read this.

Russ Fox, The Affordable Care Act and Gamblers: A Bad Bet

 

Janet Novack,  In Reversal, IRS Gives Amnesty To Owners Of Secret Israeli Bank Accounts   

TaxProf,  WSJ: Offshore Accounts: No Place to Hide?.  I think offshore bank secrecy is pretty much done for.

Kay Bell,  7 Internet sales tax principles set for House consideration

Peter Reilly:  TIGTA Finally Stumbles On The Real IRS Scandal   Peter seems to think cronies with undue influence on letter rulings is worth than partisans using the power of the IRS to suppress uncongenial political organizations.

TaxGrrrl,  Government Shutdown 101: What Happens When The Lights Go Off?   

Oh Goody.  Payroll Taxes May Have to Go Up (Andrew Lundeen, Tax Policy Blog).

Elaine Maag,  Senator Lee’s New Reform Plan Focuses on Young Children (TaxVox)

 

A scene from the heydey of Iowa energy independence.

Great moments in energy independence.  Biofuels scam ‘the largest tax fraud scheme in Indiana history’  (Biofuels International)

 

That would do that.  Fraud verdict tarnishes Idaho businesswoman’s bio (SFGate.com)

 

 

News from the profession: Five  Unwritten Rules for Making Partner in a Big 4 Firm (Going Concern).  Spoiler: landing great big audit clients helps a lot.

 

Aw, shucks.  Tax Analysts commenter David Brunori says nice things about me today in State Tax Notes ($link):


Many practitioners are gun-shy when it comes to voicing their opinions on tax policy. They have clients, after all, who might disagree with them. Joe Kristan of Roth CPA, a leading tax and accounting firm in Iowa, is an exception. Kristan, writing for the firm’s blog, routinely speaks truth to power. We here at Tax Analysts appreciate that. 

That’s the nicest way anybody has ever said that I don’t know when to shut up.

Mr. Brunori then discusses my observations of Iowa economic policy director Debi Durham and State Senator Joe Bolkcom:

Durham talks about the tax-incentive imperative, which only the gods of crony capitalism would recognize. But then one would expect a government official who spends her time doling out government welfare to corporations to defend the idea of doling out welfare to corporations. Citing the state’s blue ribbon commission, Kristan pointed out that there is little evidence that tax incentives work.

Kristan has criticized State Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D) for arguing for targeted tax incentives. Targeted incentives violate every notion of sound tax policy and, as Kristan wisely points out, assume the state can wisely allocate investment capital. We need more people who understand how everything works to weigh in on tax policy.

I would be surprised if you could fill a coffee table at the Capitol cafeteria with legislators who could explain the opportunity costs of targeted tax credits.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/23/2013: Iowa property taxes improve, income tax gets worse. Plus: more Apple bites.

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

The Iowa General Assembly nears the end of its annual rampage.  While it finally did something to improve a bad commercial property tax system, it managed to make an already awful income tax a little worse.

The Iowa Senate cleared a property tax plan (SF 295) yesterday to reduce commercial property assessments by 10%, with additional property tax credits for smaller businesses.  Unfortunately, the price was to more than double Iowa’s version of the fraud-plagued Earned Income Tax Credit and, it appears, to clutter up the 1040 with additional petty tax credits — those these provisions are apparently part of a separate bill.

As if that weren’t enough abuse to the income tax, the Senate also increased Iowa’s tax credit corporate welfare budget by $50 million  (HF 620) by increasing the amount of tax credits that the economic development bureacracy can hand out.  They sweetened the corporate welfare pot by enabling the diversion of employee withholding to local crony capitalist slush funds economic development funds.

Another bill, HF 625, increased the popular school tuition credit, a poor substitute for true school choice.

While the politicians will pat themselves vigorously on the back, the net result isn’t very exciting.  Yes, lower rates for commercial property are needed.  But now Iowa’s dysfunctional income tax is larded with even more corrupt special interest favors, which will make it that much harder to ever enact a system that makes sense for taxpayers without lobbyists and connections.

Related:

David Brunori, Soviets Run Mississippi, Planned Economies and All (Tax Analysts Bl0g)

The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 14

Going Concern, Lois Lerner Knows What You People Are Thinking

 

Andrew Lundeen, Apple’s Appearance before the Senate Clarifies the Need for Comprehensive Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog):

Our average combined rate of 39.1 percent is the highest in the industrialized world. In an increasingly globalized world, this matters more today than it did the last time we reformed the code in 1986. Today the U.S. has to compete with countries around the globe who are constantly improving their tax codes. When the U.S. fails to do so itself, American consumers, workers, and shareholders lose out.

Kyle Pomerleau, Another Perspective on the Apple Hearing (Tax Policy Blog):

Politicians created the current corporate tax system and the current system is broken. If you are going to set out a menu of options for corporations to reduce their tax burden, don’t be surprised or upset that corporations take advantage of them.

Indeed.

 

Linda Beale, Citizen for Tax Justice’s Bob McIntyre on Apple’s offshore profit-hoarding.

 

Robert D. Flach, A KIND OF CATCH-22  On the compliance burden of the fraud-ridden Earned Income Tax Credit.

Tax Trials, See You on Tuesday: IRS Furloughs Impact Certain Filing Deadlines & Services

Kay Bell, IRS offices will be closed Friday, May 24. Plan accordingly

Jack Townsend, Tax Perjury and FBAR Charges Related to Illegal Income Fake Art Case

 

Cara Griffith, A Missed Opportunity in Texas (Tax Analysts Blog)  An attempt to enact an independent tax court in Texas fails:

“The importance of an independent tax tribunal is well documented in the pages of tax journals and even mainstream media outlets.” 

Iowa has nothing like an independent tax appeals process.

Me, Playing with fire: Using an IRA to finance your business.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/10/2013: Pork and Tequila edition.

Friday, May 10th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Politicians advance plan to allow politicians to give more tax money to private businesses.  From TheGazette.com:

Iowa communities would be able to designate special 25-acre development zones and use a share of sales tax and hotel-motel tax revenues to assist private projects of at least $10 million under legislation that’s getting bipartisan support.

House File 641 would establish reinvestment districts designed to spur development of “big ideas,” said Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, who led a Senate Ways and Means subcommittee that revamped the bill representatives approved 87-9 last month.

This is, of course, an awful idea.  Politicians are notoriously bad at allocating investment capital, and they tend to make sure it goes to their cronies and contributors.  But when the state’s Governor, a member of the purported small government party, does an end-zone dance over a giant federal subsidy to a private utility controlled by a billionaire, the battlefield is left to the crony capitalists.  The House version of HF 641 passed 87-9.

 

 

David Cay Johnston, No Bang for the Buck (Tax.com)

New York State’s comptroller says giving $2.8 billion in tax breaks over  five years added more than a million jobs, which would be great news except that the state lost jobs.

I’m confident Iowa’s job-creating tax breaks work just as well.

 

Kyle Pomerleau,  Suggested (Large) Tax Increase on Investors is Far From International Standards (Tax Policy Blog)

For capital gains, the current law is already out-of-step with international standards. After the fiscal cliff, combined state and federal capital gains rates increased from 19.1 percent to 28 percent. This is more than 10 percentage points higher than the international average. One suggestion, of course, is to tax capital gains at the rate at the 1986 rate of 28 percent. This would push America’s average combined federal and state capital gains rate to more than 35 percent, more than double the international average.

20130510-1

 

Kay Bell,  Tax-writing committee chairmen launch tax reform website

Howard Gleckman,  Will the Slowdown in Health Cost Growth Change the Budget Debate?  (TaxVox)

Patrick Temple-West,  Tax collections from wealthy are saving government, and more (Tax Break).

Russ Fox,  How Long Should You Keep Your Tax Returns For?

Jim Maule, It’s Not a New Tax

Robert D. Flach offers your Friday Buzz.

 

Jack Townsend,  IRS, UK and Australia Joint Efforts on Offshore Accounts

Linda Beale,  Moving in the right direction: US, UK, Aussies to share tax info

 

Inspirational tax blogging.  No, really:  Five Years After A Brain Aneurysm, Fear Of Dying Can’t Make Me Quit Living  (Tony Nitti).  Inspiring and moving.

 

News you can use.  Book On New Jersey Wines Does Not Support Deducting Trips To France (Peter Reilly)

 

Her sister Everclear wasn’t implicated.  From nbc-2.com, Ft. Meyers:

A chance traffic stop on I-75 in Lee County uncovers a massive tax fraud scheme. Deputies say the woman accused used her job to steal personal information – even stealing from people who were dead.

Thursday, 23-year-old Tequila Gordon was sitting in the Lee County Jail. Her bond was set at $72,000. 

Prosecutors say she worked at liberty tax services in 2009 and stole personal information from dozens of people.

I would think having a first name of “Tequila” would make getting a good job challenging.  It won’t be any easier now.

 

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Legislature carves new special favors, does nothing for the rest of us.

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's tax law were a car, it would look like this.

Iowa House approves two new bumper stickers for this car.

The Iowa House of Representatives advanced two corporate welfare provisions  yesterday.

SF 433 makes it easier for businesses with “pilot projects” to keep employee withholding under a “target jobs withholding tax credit” program.  It never says what exactly the “pilot projects” are supposed to prove — maybe if you divert employee withholding to the employer, they like that?  This additional clutter to Iowa’s already byzantine tax law passed 97-2, opposed only by Bruce Hunter (D., Des Moines), and Charles Isenhart (D., Dubuque).

Gazette.com reports on the vote:

Legislation aimed at helping some Iowa border communities compete with neighboring states is on its way to the governor.

The targeted jobs program allows qualifying businesses to apply for state withholding tax credits if they plan to relocate or expand in Iowa, provided they are creating or retaining jobs.

“Creating or retaining” jobs?  Doesn’t that happen whenever you hire someone?  If you want Iowa to “compete” with neighboring states, make the whole tax law competitive.  It’s not just border cities who suffer from a bottom-tier business tax climate.

 

SF 436 expands the amount of Historic Rehab Credits available, increasing the distortion of property markets by subsidy, generally for the benefit of the well-connected developers who know how to play the game.  This one passed 97-2, with only Rep. Hunter and Rick Olson (D., Polk) voting no.

As for actual good policy — simplifying the law, lowering rates, and doing something for people without lobbyists — nothing.  The closest thing to it this session, the flat Alternative Maximum Tax (HF 478), is dying in the Senate.  So once again it looks like the legislature will go home having only added more barnacles to the Iowa income tax.

 

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