Posts Tagged ‘iowa tax policy’

Tax Roundup, 6/29/15: Congratulations, newlyweds, here’s your tax bill! And windy subsidies, IRS stonewalling, more.

Monday, June 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Welcome to the marriage penalty. The Supreme Court has spread Iowa marriage law nationwide. That means more same-sex couples will tie the knot and learn about the sometimes surprising tax results of matrimony. In general, if only one member of the couple has income, it’s a good tax deal, but not so much for two-earner couples. The weird complexity of the tax law means there are lots of exceptions.

The Tax Foundation has an excellent summary of these issues, Understanding the Marriage Penalty and Marriage Bonus. It includes this wonderful piece of abstract art illustrating how marriage can help and hurt a couple’s federal income tax liability:

Marriage penalty tax foundation chart

 

The chart has two axes: the percentage of income earned by each spouse, and the income level. Blue is good, red is bad. If combined income is just short of $100,00, it’s all good, but there is lots of room for tax pain at the top and bottom of the income spectrum for married couples.

Other coverage:

Jason Dinesen, Tax Implications of Friday’s Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage:

This ruling should not have an impact on federal tax returns because couples in same-gender marriages have been able to file as married on their federal tax returns since 2013. This ruling affects state tax returns in states that had bans against same-gender marriage.

Jason, an Iowa enrolled agent, was an early expert in same-sex marriage compliance.

 

TaxProf Blog Op-Ed By David Herzig: The Tax Implications Of Today’s Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision (TaxProf) “Same-sex couples will now be able to inherit, file joint state tax returns, possess hospital visitation rights and all other state marriage rights as heterosexual married couples.”

Kay Bell, Marriage equality means tweaks to tax code, tax forms. “Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee, is already working on getting the new nomenclature on the books.”

TaxGrrrl, SCOTUS Legalizes Same Sex Marriage But Questions Remain For Religious Groups & Tax Exempts

 

Wind turbineWindy Subsidy Signed. Governor Branstad has signed HF 645, which establishes a tax credit for wind energy. The credit is 50% of the similar federal credit, up to $5,000. It takes effect retroactively to 2014, giving a windfall to people who bought qualifying systems already. It will do nothing for the environment, but it will do wonders for companies selling wind energy systems.

 

 

 

Christopher Bergin, Why We Just Sued the IRS – Again (Tax Analysts Blog):

For more than two years the IRS has played its old game of hide the ball regarding requests to release Lois Lerner’s e-mails — e-mails that would teach us a lot about what actually went on during the exempt organization scandal. Many of those requests came from the United States Congress: the elected officials who control the IRS budget. The IRS’s stalling tactics have run the gamut from eye-rollingly comical to downright disturbing.

Through this and and other worrisome developments, one thing is clear: the IRS is now in desperate trouble. Most of that trouble it created itself. It would be unfair to call them the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, because when it comes to shooting itself in the foot the IRS is an expert marksman. The IRS is an agency whose initial reaction to almost anything is secrecy.

The IRS needs a big culture change, one starting with a new Commissioner.

 

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Associated Press, Ex-Rep. Mel Reynolds indicted on tax charges. Can you believe a Chicago politician who would sleep with a 16-year old campaign worker would also cheat on his taxes?

 

Russ Fox, A Peabody, Massachusetts Tax Preparer Gives an Unwitting Endorsement for EFTPS:

Mr. Ginsberg operated a traditional payroll service. It’s fairly easy to check on your payroll company if you use such a service: Enroll in EFTPS. Using EFTPS you can verify that your payroll company is making the payroll deposits they say they are. That’s a good idea–trust but verify. The DOJ Press release notes:

To cover up his scheme, Ginsberg falsified his clients’ tax returns, which he was hired to prepare, indicating that the clients’ payroll taxes had been paid in full, when they had not. When asked by clients about their mysterious IRS debts, Ginsberg gave them a litany of false excuses, including blaming the IRS and his own staff.

None of those excuses work hold up with EFTPS. Today, payroll tax deposits with the IRS are all made electronically. Is it possible for one to get messed up? Yes, but it’s very unlikely. Indeed, most payroll companies just make sure the deposits are made from your payroll bank account.

If you outsource your payroll tax, insource regular visits to EFTPS to make sure your payments are made.

 

Peter Reilly, SpongeBob SquarePants In A Tax Case!

Tony Nitti, Sloppy Drafting Saves Obamacare – Supreme Court Upholds Tax Subsidies For All. I think it was more sloppy judging than sloppy drafting that did the trick.

Keith Fogg, Aging Offers in Compromise into Acceptance (Procedurally Taxing).

Jack Townsend, Rand Paul and Expatriates to Sue IRS and Treasury Over FBAR and FATCA. They want both to be declared unconstitutional. Unfortunately, it seems like a anything the IRS wants is constitutional anymore.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 779Day 780Day 781. Still trying to shake out the “lost” emails after 781 days. You’d think they were stalling or something. And efforts to impeach Commissioner Koskinen. It’s not going to happen, but if he had any shame, he would have resigned long ago.

Richard Auxier, Michigan, out of ideas, might ask poor to pick up transportation tab (TaxVox).

 

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Quotable:

The pledge, the brainchild of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is a terrible idea for several reasons. First, no leader should promise never to raise taxes because, frankly, there are times when it is necessary. Over 50 Kansas legislators and Brownback, who have signed the pledge, found that out last week. I agree with Norquist philosophically; less government is good. But the pledge only leads to more debt at the federal level and gimmicks in state governments.

David Brunori, Tax Analysts ($link)

 

Career Corner. EY Employee Has Eaten So Many Hours, He’s Gone on Hunger Strike (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/22/15: Iowa shovels more economic development fertilizer. And: Paul flat tax fever!

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

20120906-1It’s getting deep. The giant pile of tax credits for the big Lee County fertilizer plants got a little deeper last week. The Iowa Economic Development Board Friday voted for an additional $21.5 million in tax credits for the project. The Quad City Times compares that appropriation to other state spending:

Iowa’s elected legislators negotiated for five months on Iowa school funding, before reaching a compromise that provided $55 million in one-time money that will only assure the status quo: No one expects improvements.

On Friday, Gov. Terry Branstad’s Iowa Economic Development Board added another $21.5 million in tax credits to the $85 million in state incentives already lavished on a foreign fertilizer company under construction in Lee County.

No legislative vote.

No deliberation by elected officials.

Not even a hint of how this new pile of Iowa taxpayer money will help Iowans. Representatives of the parent firm Orascom, of Egypt, said the $21.5 million in tax credits will add 11 jobs to the 180 expected at the plant.

This latest giveaway brings local, state and federal taxpayer investment to $500 million in the $1.9 billion project. That’s right, taxpayers are covering 25 percent of Orascom’s project.

So almost $2 million per “job.” And that assumes they wouldn’t have completed the project without a little more cash from the state, which is improbable. That’s $21.5 million from those of us without connections at the state to fertilize an already richly-subsidized project. We can be confident that some wee portion of that $21.5 million will go to attorneys and consultants who pulled the strings to make it happen.

The state board also wasted $8 million in tax credits on ribbon cutting opportunities in Sioux City involving a convention center and hotel — which experience nationwide shows will be a fiscal nightmare. Because who better to allocate investment capital than politicians who are spending other people’s money?

Iowa’s cronyist tax credit boondoggle is long overdue for the scrapyard. It lures and subsidizes the influential and the well-lobbied at the expense of their less well-connected competitors and their employees. It’s time for something like the Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan to improve Iowa’s abysmal business tax climate for everyone — not just the cronies.

 

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Russ Fox, Arbitrage Is Legal, But You Better Pay the Taxes. It looks at the tax troubles of a recently-indicted Tennessee politician.

Annette Nellen, Uber, Lyft and others – worker classification in the 21st Century. I used Uber over the weekend visiting my son in Chicago, and it’s pretty slick. It’s also here in Des Moines. A few weekends ago, my other son was playing music in the Court Avenue entertainment district on the street and an Uber driver stopped, got out a guitar, and started jamming with them. That doesn’t sound like an employee to me.

Kay Bell, Tax gift for Father’s Day: help paying for child care

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Adoption Credit and Special-Needs Adoptions

Peter Reilly, Joan Farr Claims IRS Denial Of Exempt Status Is Example Of Persecution Of Christians

 

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Presidential Candidate Rand Paul has proposed a 14.5% flat tax. I haven’t had a chance to study it, but its base-broadening, rate-lowering approach is promising. The Tax Policy Blog looks at the plan in The Economic Effects of Rand Paul’s Tax Reform Plan (Andrew Lundeen, Michael Schuyler) and No, Senator Paul’s Plan Will Not ‘Blow a $15 Trillion Hole in the Federal Budget’ (Kyle Pomerleau). The second one is in response to Bob McIntyre’s post in Tax Justice Blog, Rand Paul’s Tax Plan Would Blow a $15 Trillion Hole in the Federal Budget.

Howard Gleckman, Rand Paul’s Tax Cut Isn’t Quite What It Seems (TaxVox)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 771Day 772Day 773, Day 774.

News from the Profession. Ex-BDO CEO’s Quest to Get Firm to Pony Up for His Legal Bills Not Going So Well (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/16/15: Extreme tax preparer business development tactic fails. And: Florida man, meet Tax Whiz.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

lizard20140826Sadly, there’s plenty of tax work to go around. But not enough for Maria Colvard of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, it seems. The operator of Tax Max LLC, a tax prep service, Ms. Chambers appears to taken competition to a new level. From a Department of Justice press release (my emphasis):

According to U.S. Attorney Peter Smith, between February and May 2013, Colvard convinced an employee at Tax Max LLC, a tax preparation service owned by Colvard in Chambersburg and Hanover, Pennsylvania, to claim to be a criminal investigator with the Internal Revenue Service to shut down the rival business, known as Christina’s Tax Service, also located in Chambersburg.  The employee, Merarys Paulino, then claimed to be an IRS agent and demanded money from Christina’s Tax Service as well as its client list. Paulino previously entered a guilty plea to impersonating an IRS agent and cooperated in the prosecution of Colvard.

It’s foolproof! What could go wrong? Well, other than that a tax professional would be the least likely person in the world to believe an IRS criminal investigator would just show up without a written notice and demand cash and a client list on the spot. In Pennsylvania, as in Iowa, law enforcement folks don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

Ms. Colvard was convicted of two counts of extortion and one count of “aiding the impersonation of an employee of the United States” after a four-day trial.

 

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Basic Terminology

Robert Wood, FedEx Settles Independent Contractor Mislabeling Case For $228 Million

Hank Stern, On “Losing” Subsidies. “The fact of the matter is, should SCOTUS insist that the law be applied as it was written, then folks in states using the 404Care.gov site were never eligible to receive subsidies in the first place.”

Peter Reilly, Exchange Facilitator Does Not Beat Missouri Use Tax On Learjet. “What they learned was that a transaction that qualifies for tax deferral under federal tax principles does not necessarily avoid sales and use tax.”

Kathryn Sedo, Counsel for Ibrahim Explain Last Week’s Important Circuit Court Opinion on Filing Status (Procedurally Taxing). “The question before the 8th Circuit in Isaak Ibrahim v. Commissioner was whether the term ‘separate return’ as used in section 6013(b) is defined as return with the filing status ‘married, filing separately’ or a tax return with any other filing status other than ‘married, filing jointly.'”

Kay Bell, Houston, we could have more flood problems. “OK, how did I wake up today in my Austin house but in South Florida?”

 

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Greg Mankiw, considering arguments made by Export-Import Bank supporters, says:

Other countries give similar subsidies to their firms. So what? If other nations engage in corporate welfare, that is no reason for the United States to follow suit in the name of a level playing field.  We don’t need to import other nations’ bad policies.

Substitute “states” for “countries” and “nations” and it is an accurate summary of the foolishness of the state tax credit “incentive” game played by Iowa economic development officials and politicians.

Jeremy Scott, Can the United States Kill BEPS? (Tax Analysts Blog). ” The United States will probably never go along with BEPS the way the rest of the world has gone along with FATCA, but in the end that probably won’t matter. The EU, India, and China will be perfectly happy to find a way to preserve their tax base without U.S. help.”  “BEPS,” by the way, stands for “Base erosion and profit shifting,” the predictable and natural response of taxpayers to pocket-picking tax authorities.

Kayla Kitson, Four Reasons to Expand and Reform the Earned Income Tax Credit (Tax Justice Blog). I don’t buy it. With 25% of its cost going to ineligible people — and no small part of that to thieves — it is at best very inefficient. The post doesn’t even mention the poverty trap created by the way the credit phases out as incomes rise.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 768. “The court filing, provided to The Daily Caller, claims the IRS received new Lerner emails from the Treasury Department’s inspector general (TIGTA) but can’t fork over the emails to Judicial Watch, a nonprofit group suing to get the emails. Why? Because the IRS is busy making sure that none of the emails are duplicates  – you know, so as not to waste anyone’s time.”

Renu Zaretsky, Raising or Cutting Taxes: Go Big or Go Home. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers presidential candidate tax pledges, as well as tax developments in Kansas, Texas, Florida, New Mexico and Massachusetts.

 

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Florida man meets Tax Whiz. A Florida man filed a tax return prepared by the “Tax Whiz” claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The result was a $1,853 overpayment that the IRS applied to outstanding child support liabilities. The IRS later determined that he didn’t qualify for the credit because he had no qualifying educational expenses. The IRS wanted its $1,843 back.

The man argued that Tax Whiz claimed the credit unbeknownst to him, so he shouldn’t have to pay it back. The Tax Court wasn’t buying:

By his own admission petitioner did not review the return in question. Reliance on a tax return preparer cannot absolve a taxpayer from the responsibility to file an accurate return. See Metra Chem Corp. v. Commissioner, 88 T.C. 654, 662 (1987) (“As a general rule, the duty of filing accurate returns cannot be avoided by placing responsibility on a tax return preparer.”). Even if Tax Whiz may have claimed the credit without his knowledge, petitioner is still responsible for the resulting deficiency.

The moral? Not a surprising result.  You are responsible for what goes on your return, no matter how much, or how little, you pay your preparer. More surprising is that the taxpayer’s first and middle name is listed as “William Billy.”  I’ve never seen that one.

Cite: Devy, T.C. Memo 2015-110.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/5/15: Iowa adds deductions to 1041s. And: the dangers of unmonitored payroll services.

Friday, June 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Federal 706 costs good for Iowa 1041. The Iowa General Assembly yesterday eased restrictions on administrative deductions for fiduciaries. Iowa uses federal taxable income, with modifications, as its tax bases. Both houses passed HF 661, which provides a modification to this tax base:

On the Iowa fiduciary income tax return, subtract the amount of administrative expenses that were not taken or allowed as a deduction in calculating net income for federal fiduciary income tax purposes.

If I understand this correctly, this means fiduciaries can now deduct on Iowa 1041s expenses that executors have opted to deduct on the federal estate tax return; executors get to choose to deduct estate administration costs on either the Federal 706 or the Federal 1041, but not both. This bill makes some sense, as there is no Iowa estate tax; any deductions taken on the federal Form 706 estate return would otherwise provide no Iowa benefit.

It also appears to allow the deduction of any “administrative” expenses that would otherwise be disallowed under the 2% of AGI floor. The explanation to the bill doesn’t add much, so we will have to see if this is how the Department of Revenue reads the bill.

The bill passed both houses unanimously, so it seems likely the Governor will sign it. It is to take effect for “tax years ending on or after July 1, 2015 — so it will apply to the current calendar year.

 

EFTPSPEO operator gets 12 years after looting client payroll taxes. A Kentucky man will go away for a long time for an ambitious list of crimes that include stealing payroll taxes from clients. Wilbur Huff ran a professional employer organization. Such organizations take over employer payroll tax functions for their clients. PEOs file and pay the payroll taxes under their own tax ID number. This differs from traditional payroll tax services, which remit taxes under client tax ID numbers and provide prepared returns for the clients to submit.

From a Department of Justice Press release (my emphasis):

From 2008 to 2010, HUFF controlled O2HR, a professional employer organization (“PEO”) located in Tampa, Florida.  Like other PEOs, O2HR was paid to manage the payroll, tax, and workers’ compensation insurance obligations of its client companies.  However, instead of paying $53 million in taxes that O2HR’s clients owed the IRS, and instead of paying $5 million to Providence Property and Casualty Insurance Company (“Providence P&C”) – an Oklahoma-based insurance company – for workers’ compensation coverage expenses for O2HR clients, HUFF stole the money that his client companies had paid O2HR for those purposes.  Among other things, HUFF diverted millions of dollars from O2HR to fund his investments in unrelated business ventures, and to pay his family members’ personal expenses.  The expenses included mortgages on HUFF’s homes, rent payments for his children’s apartments, staff and equipment for HUFF’s farm, designer clothing, jewelry, and luxury cars.

Taxpayers using traditional payroll tax services can make sure their payroll taxes are actually paid to the IRS by logging into EFTPS, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. This doesn’t work for PEOs. That turned out very badly for Mr. Huff’s clients, who still have to pay the IRS the payroll taxes that went for the fancy cars and clothes.

 

buzz20140909Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz! It’s the place to go whether you Love Lucy or you love reading about tax administration.

Peter Reilly, Structuring Seems Like A Crime You Can Commit By Accident

 Imagine that you go to the bank every four days and deposit $12,000.  The bank will file currency transaction reports that let the Treasury Department know that.  That notion annoys you, so you start going every three days and deposit $9,000. No more currency transaction reports, but before long there will be suspicious activity reports.  If the reason you made the switch was to stop the currency transaction reports, you have committed the crime of structuring, even if there is nothing illegal about the source of the funds or the use of them and you are paying all your taxes.  

The crime of avoiding paperwork.

Kay Bell, Weather claims, estimated taxes and more June tax tasks

Jack Townsend, Two More Banks Obtain NPAs Under DOJ Swiss Bank Program

Robert Wood, Obama’s Immigration Action Means Tax Refunds For Illegals, Says IRS

TaxGrrrl, IRS, TIGTA Talk Tech, Identity Theft & Security At Congressional Hearing.

 

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Cara Griffith, Is the IRS Protecting Taxpayer Information or State Tax Authorities? (Tax Analysts Blog). “Although the IRS indicated it would make changes to improve the oversight of federal taxpayer information, it still seems information is shared between the IRS and state tax authorities as a matter of course and without a true determination (before information is shared) about whether a state tax authority has a secure system in place to protect the information received.”

Scott Drenkard, Why Do So Many Businesses Incorporate in Delaware? (Tax Policy Blog). “Delaware’s attractiveness for incorporation is driven by many things: favorable incorporation regulations, rules limiting corporate liability, and a second-to-none corporate court system (the Court of Chancery) with judges that are corporate law experts.”

Howard Gleckman, How Many Americans Get Government Assistance? All of Us. But some of us pay more than others for it.

Robert Goulder, Global Tax Harmonization and Other Impossible Things (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 757 “The IRS responded to a Republican request for an investigation into the Clinton Foundation’s tax-exempt status with a one-page form letter that starts with ‘Dear Sir or Madam.'”

 

Career Corner. ICYMI: AICPA Will Squeeze Excel Into the CPA Exam This Decade (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).  In my day we had pencils — no calculators, no slide rules, no nothing. Spoiled kids won’t get off my lawn.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/4/15: Iowa session-end frenzy: What if a young farmer drives his ATV to the laundromat?

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1291Sound tax policy? What’s that? Three minor tax bills advanced in the Iowa General Assembly yesterday in the pre-adjournment frenzy. They are all examples of the pursuit of tax legislation unmoored from consideration of sound tax policy.

ATVs. Iowa farmers don’t have to pay sales tax on equipment used “directly and primarily” in the production of agricultural products. The Iowa Department of Revenue holds that the exemption doesn’t apply to general-purpose all-terrain vehicles used to get around the farm — say, to check on crops or livestock (or, incidentally, to go to the good pheasant-hunting spots). The Iowa Senate passed SF 512 yesterday to exempt ATVs “used primarily in agricultural production” from sales tax.

Too bad this isn’t part of a broader movement to exempt all business inputs from sales tax. To the extent that ATVs are a business input, exempting them from sales tax is good policy. I suspect, though, that everyteenage farm boy will have an ATV used primarily in agriculture.

Young Farmers. HF 624 makes minor changes in the tax credit available for custom farming contracts with beginning farmers. No amount of tax credits will change the fundamental difficulties involved in getting into farming. It’s a capital-intensive business that has been consolidating for over a century into larger and more expensive units. This bill isn’t that big a deal, but “Young Farmer” tax credits have no more policy justification than “Young Factory Owner” credits or “Young Cold Storage Warehouse Operator” credits.

20140611-2To the cleaners. Probably the worst tax policy to advance yesterday was HF 603, which excludes the use “self-pay” washing machines from sales tax. While business inputs should not be subject to sales tax, all final consumer expenditures should be. A broader base enables lower rates for everyone. O. Kay Henderson reports on this break:

Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, has met with a couple from St. Ansgar who sold their laundromats in Iowa and opened coin-operated laundromats in Minnesota, which does not charge the sales tax.

“The other part of this is just economic development in general,” Byrnes says. “We have a company that manufactures self-pay units in Fairfield, Iowa, called Dexter and actually they’re looking at some expansion and growth of their company I believe that this will help them get over that hump and help to further their business as well.”

You can make the same “economic development” argument for pretty much anything manufactured in Iowa, including the home laundry machines historically made by Iowa manufacturers Maytag and Amana. It takes a leap of faith to think this will sell even one additional washing machine.

 

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Joseph Henchman, Illinois Governor Suspends New Film Tax Credits, Makes Other Spending Cuts (Tax Policy Blog):

With the two sides at a stalemate, Rauner announced that he is issuing administrative orders to cut $400 million in spending wherever he can. Including:

  • Immediate suspension of all future incentive offers to companies for business attraction and retention, including EDGE credits and the film tax credit program. Commitments already made will be honored.

Unilateral disarmament in the incentive wars is actually doing a big favor for Illinois taxpayers. Those credits enable the well-connected to pick the pockets of the rest of the taxpayers. It is excellent public policy. I hope Iowa decides it needs to ditch its crony tax credits to compete with Illinois.

 

Jason Dinesen, Are HRAs Always Appropriate for Sole Proprietors? Part 2. “HRAs are often — but not always — a good strategy for sole proprietors. Here are some numbers that lay it out.”

Robert Wood, Another Tax-Exempt Marijuana Church—Green Faith Ministry

Kay Bell, IRS working with tax industry, states to upgrade security

 

Dean Zerbe, Tax Court Decision – Good News For Whistleblowers (Procedurally Taxing). “This decision and the actions of the IRS in this case are not going to make administration of the IRS whistleblower program easier – and could have easily been prevented by the IRS.”

Jack Townsend, Whistleblower Case Apparently Involving Wegelin. “Perhaps most interesting for many readers of this blog is that the underlying criminal prosecution and guilty plea appears to involve Wegelin Bank, the Swiss Bank that met its demise for its U.S. tax cheat enabler activities.”

 

 

Renu Zaretsky, There’s Always Room for Improvement. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the IRS data breach, climate-change tax promises, and charitable tax deduction policy, among other things.

Kelly Davis, Kansas Considers Tax Hikes on the Poor to Address Budget Mess (Tax Justice Blog).

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 756

 

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So tell me again how IRS regulation of preparers will fight fraud? IRS Employee Files Hundreds of Fraudulent Tax Returns:

The former IRS worker, 38-year-old Demetria Michele Brown, stole names, birth dates and social security numbers, and provided false information about wages, deductions, addresses and workplaces in order to obtain the refunds.

The documents were filed from her computer and the money returned by the IRS was sent to bank accounts controlled by Brown, St. Louis newspaper reports.

According to prosecutors, the fraudster carried out the activity from 2008 until 2011 and collected $326,000 / €290,000.

I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened if she had to take an ethics exam.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/27/15: 104,000 taxpayers compromised by IRS transcript app breach. And: EITC is no free lunch!

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1That took some work. The IRS disclosed yesterday that 104,000 taxpayer accounts have been compromised by identity thieves who did it the hard way. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The IRS said that to access the information, crooks had to clear a multistep authentication process that required prior personal knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security information, date of birth, tax filing status and street address before accessing IRS systems. The process also involved answering personal identity-verification questions, such as “What was your high school mascot?”

Mr. Koskinen, when asked how impostors obtained answers to these so-called “out-of-wallet” questions, suggested social media might have played a role.

“This is not a hack or data breach. These are impostors pretending to be someone who has enough information” to get more, said Mr. Koskinen, who said thieves might be using sophisticated programs to aggregate and mine data.

This is much more difficult than your standard ID theft, where all you need is a Social Security number to go with a name, and maybe a birth date. Getting through the IRS transcript access system requires a fair amount of data entry and outside information.

The breach will complicate filing for the 104,000 taxpayers whose data was accessed, and possibly for another 96,000 taxpayers whose records the thieves failed to breach. Tax Analysts reports ($link):

The IRS will provide credit monitoring and protection to the 104,000 victims at the agency’s expense, Koskinen said. Victims will also be given the IRS’s identity protection personal identification numbers so they are not targeted again, he said. All 200,000 of the taxpayers affected by the raid will be sent notification letters from the IRS and will have their accounts flagged on the agency’s core processing systems, he added.

The IRS has been losing the IT security wars for some time. It’s a shame, because the transcript service has been very useful for taxpayers needing return information for loans or to resolve IRS notices. I think the IRS will eventually have to delay refunds and processing so that it will be able to match third-party information — W-2s and 1099s — with returns before issuing refunds. The era of “rapid refunds” is coming to an end.

Lots of coverage of this. The TaxProf has a roundup. Other coverage:

William Perez, IRS Data Breach: Hackers Gain Access Through ‘Get Transcript’ Web App. “The IRS emphasized that taxpayers don’t need to do anything further. The agency will be sending letters to affected taxpayers explaining what to do next.”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Says Identity Thieves Accessed Tax Transcripts For More Than 100,000 Taxpayers “IRS was alerted to the problem when its monitoring systems noted an unusual amount of activity related to the [transcript] application.”

Russ FoxIRS “Get Transcript” Application Hacked; 104,000 Tax Returns Illegally Accessed. ” It would be time consuming but entirely possible for a stranger who had my social security number and date of birth to answer all the other verification questions.”

Accounting Today, IRS Detects Massive Data Breach in ‘Get Transcript’ Application

J.D. Tucille, Details About 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts Stolen From IRS (Reason.com)

“[T]he vast databases held by the IRS, HHS, security agencies, etc, will be leaked on purpose, leaked because of bureaucrat sloppiness, or be hacked. The more they collect, the more that will eventually leak.” Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, predicted to me last year. That “eventually”—at least, the latest round of it—is now.

Oh, goody.

 

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Kay Bell, Winners of meet-the-candidate contests face tax costs:

True, you won’t pay from your own pocket for the flights, hotel stay, chauffeur or meal with a future president. But the value of those things, like all prizes, is considered taxable by the Internal Revenue Service.

The winners can’t simply ignore the potential tax bill. The political contest organizers should send them, and the IRS, 1099 forms stating the value of the prize.

Well, that’s one tax problem I won’t be having, unless they start paying voters enormous amounts to talk to us. I will meet any candidate who will pay me $100,000 for 10 minutes of my time. Meet me at the Timbuktuu on the EMC Building skywalk.

 

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: You Won the Dream Home, Part 4 — Changing My Mind

Jack Townsend, Switzerland Publishes Certain Identifying Information of Certain Foreign Depositors in Swiss Banks

Bob Vineyard, Bad Moon Rising (Insureblog). “Obamacare news isn’t good.”

 

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David Brunori, Scalia is Right (Tax Analsyts Blog). “The dormant commerce clause is here to stay, with precedent and established expectations and all, but it would be nice if we just admitted that we made it up.”

Robert Wood, Why Aren’t Those $26.4M Speech Fees Taxable To Bill & Hillary Clinton?

James Kennedy,Pennsylvania Senate Considers Hiking Income and Sales Taxes (Tax Policy Blog). They’re pretty high already.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 748

 

Howard Gleckman, Marco Rubio Wasn’t the Only One Who Cashed Out an IRA Last Year (TaxVox). “Substantial assets leak because people under age 59 ½ take early withdrawals or borrow against their IRAs or 401(k). And the problem raises an important and challenging policy question:  Should the money in these accounts be available for non-retirement purposes?”

 

eic 2014Leslie Book offers thoughful consideration of Warrren Buffet’s support for an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (Procedurally Taxing). You should read the whole thing, I’ll highlight this part:

As Mr. Buffet knows, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Using the tax system to deliver benefits is no silver bullet when it comes to addressing inequality. To administer the tax system as we know it today is no easy task. When Congress asks the IRS to do more, there are costs to taxpayers and the system overall. As Congress considers whether to ratchet up EITC, it should do so with the absence of rhetoric. It should also consider the tools it wants to give IRS to combat errors as well as address what costs it wants to impose on claimants and third parties. The current system passes costs on others, many of which are hidden. As with lunch, someone has to pick up the tab.

Among the costs is the 20-25% improper payment rate. Another cost is the high hidden marginal tax rate caused by the phase-out of the credit as incomes increase — a combined federal and state rate that can exceed 50%. And there is a cost to an already-stressed tax system of administering a social program.

Sebastian Johnson, Some States Support Earned Income Tax Credits for Working Families, Others Fall Short. (Tax Justice Blog) A piece that is oblivious to the issues raised by Leslie Book.

 

News from the Profession. EY Law Continues to Not Threaten Law Firms By Poaching Lawyers (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

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Tax Roundup, 5/19/15: Is yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision an Iowa refund opportunity? And AICPA looks for love!

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
The Hoover Office Building, the warm and cuddly home of the Iowa Department of Revenue.

The Hoover Office Building, the warm and cuddly home of the Iowa Department of Revenue.

Time for Iowans to claim refunds for local income taxes paid out-of-state? The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled that Maryland was required to allow its residents credit for taxes paid in other states.

State tax systems normally tax resident individuals on 100% of their taxable income. They tax non-residents on only the share of income apportioned or allocated to the state. In order to keep their residents from being clobbered by multiple state income taxes, the states typically allow them a “credit for taxes paid in other states.” This is, roughly, the lesser of the tax paid to the other state or the resident state tax computed on the out-of-state income.

Maryland failed to allow a credit for taxes paid in other states for the “county” portion of its individual income tax. The U.S. Supreme court ordered Maryland to issue such a credit to the plaintiffs, who had out-of-state S corporation income.

Iowa allows a credit for taxes paid in other states, but does not allow such a credit for taxes paid in municipalities or counties. These taxes can be significant. Many Iowans pay taxes in New York City, Kansas City, St. Louis, or Washington, D.C., for example. Many Ohio municipalities also impose income taxes. While the Supreme Court decision doesn’t specifically address such taxes, the court’s logic that double-taxes discriminate against interstate commerce would seem to apply here. A Tax Analysts article ($link) on the decision notes (my emphasis):

Local governments filed an amicus brief  saying Wynne may have implications and that there are many states with long-established tax programs like Maryland’s that do not afford dollar-for-dollar credits to residents for all out-of-state income taxes paid.

That brief identified Wisconsin and North Carolina as states that do not allow a credit against local income taxes, as well as a number of local governments that fail to provide a credit for state taxes paid against local taxes, including Philadelphia; Cleveland; Detroit; Indiana’s counties; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis; and Wilmington, Delaware.

I have emailed an Iowa Department of Revenue representative asking how they will respond to the case, and will report whatever I may hear back from them. Meanwhile, taxpayers who extended their 2011 Iowa returns and paid municipal taxes elsewhere should consider filing protective refund claims while their statutue of limitations remains open.

The TaxProf has a roundup of coverage.

Cite: COMPTROLLER OF THE TREASURY OF MARYLAND v. WYNNE ET UX. No 13-485.

supreme courtMore coverage:

Joseph Henchman, A Victory for Taxpayers: SCOTUS Strikes down Maryland Tax Law (Tax Policy Blog). “This is important not just for one Maryland business, but for anyone who does business in more than one state, travels in more than one state, or lives in one state and works in another.”

Howard Gleckman, A Divided Supreme Court Rejects Maryland’s Tax On Out-Of-State Income (TaxVox). “But given the closeness of the decision and the wide gulf between the majority and the minority, today’s ruling may not be the last word in the argument over whether, and how, states can tax out-of-state income.”

Russ Fox, A Wynne for the Dormant Commerce Clause. “This case also highlights the difficulties facing a taxpayer without deep pockets.”

TaxGrrrl, In Landmark Case, Supreme Court Finds Maryland’s Tax Scheme Unconstitutional. “In the end, it all came down to this: “the total tax burden on interstate commerce is higher” under Maryland’s current tax scheme. That double taxation scheme, the Court found, is unconstitutional.”

Kay Bell, Supreme Court tax ruling could cost Maryland $200+ million. Wheneer a taxing authority gets caught imposing an illegal tax, they always moan about how terrible it will be to repay their ill-gotten gains. I’ll give them the same sympathy they typically give a taxpayer who loses a fight with them.

 

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Bloomberg, Iowa Spent $50 Million to Lure IBM. Then the Firings Started. That was $50 million paid by other Iowa businesses and their employees, money they could have used to grow businesses that might not have fled.

 

Jason Dinesen, Why Make Estimated Tax Payments, Part 2. “Here’s the reason: if you’re fully self-employed, you don’t draw a paycheck in the traditional sense.

Paul Neiffer, What Runs Through the Estate! “In many cases, the heirs will use the cost basis from grandpa and not pick up the extra cost from mom and dad.”

Robert D. Flach comes through with fresh Tueesday Buzz, including thoughts on the use of the tax law as a welfare program.

William Perez, 10 Emerging Financial Technology Apps with a Tax-Angle

 

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Peter ReillyFree Kent Hovind Movement Has Big Win. ” Judge Margaret Casey Rodgers has granted Kent Hovind’s motion for a judgment of acquittal on the contempt of court charge that he was convicted of in March.”

Robert Wood, U2’s Bono Sounds Increasingly Like Warren Buffett. That’s OK, pitch correction software can do amazing things.

Andy Grewal, The Un-Precedented Tax Court: Bench Opinions (Procedurally Taxing). “Opinions can’t cause a lot of confusion if no one can find them.”

 

Martin Sullivan, As in Florida, Rubio Pursues ‘Big, Hairy’ Goals in the U.S. Senate (Tax Analysts Blog).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 740. Today’s post is a useful corrective to the persistent scandal denialists.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. AICPA Wants CGMA Love From the C-Suite (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

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Tax Roundup, 4/28/15: Iowa flunks another business tax study. And: on to Belfast and Edinburgh.

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20121226-1Programming note. I will be riding the magic flying chair across the ocean tomorrow on my way to the TIAG Spring Conference in Edinburgh, U.K. It will be the first conference since Roth & Company became a member of the TIAG worldwide alliance of independent accounting firms, and I am excited to meet representatives of our sister firms from Canada, China, the U.K. and elsewhere.

I will first stop off in Belfast to attempt to extend the family tree by a branch or two, and to do some sightseeing in County Tyrone, where my mom’s ancestors lived before heading to Ontario, and then to Illinois, in the mid 19th century. Any tips for using the facilities of the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland are welcome and appreciated.

With the travel, posting here will be variable based on time, internet connections, computer functionality, and jet lag. But there will be posts, and there will be pictures, so stop by. Full posting should resume May 8 or so.

 

20130117-1Iowa does it again! Our fair land between the rivers shows up near the bottom of another survey of state business tax systems — this time in 45th place in the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council Best to Worst State Tax Systems for Entrepreneurship and Small Business. Iowa scores especially poorly for its high corporation tax rate and corporate capital gain rates.

Worse, neighboring South Dakota ranks #1. They have no corporation income tax at all. Repeal of the corporation income tax is a key part of the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan. Right now Iowa relies on the highest corporation tax rate in the country, along with 31 (and counting) special interest tax credits, to grow businesses. I think South Dakota’s idea makes more sense.

Related: What an Iowa income tax might look like with a fresh start.

Liz Malm, North Dakota Cuts Income Taxes Again (Tax Policy Blog). They were 15th on the SBE survey before this.

 

Meanwhile, Iowa’s General Assembly ponders a sales tax increase, reports the Des Moines Register:

A late-session bid to raise Iowa’s sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent to generate $150 million annually for natural resources and outdoor recreation programs has gained some traction in the Iowa Legislature, but it remains a long shot.

Cash is fungible, and like highway “trust fund” dollars, the politicians will divert “targeted” revenues to their pet projects sooner or later.

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Roger McEowen, It Ain’t Over Until the FBAR Report is Filed (ISU-Calt Ag Docket): “You trigger a filing requirement whenever you have a an interest in or signatory authority over a foreign financial account with a value over $10,000 at any time during the calendar year.”

William Perez, How to Get Your Tax Withholding Just Right

Kay Bell, Wrong tax refund amount? What now?

Andrew Mitchel, Recognition of Losses on Dispositions of PFICs

 

20140826-1The Buzz is Back! The Wandering Tax Pro, Robert D. Flach, comes back from another tax season with a fresh roundup of tax blog posts presented with his hand-crafted perspective.

‘Moose’ declined comment. ‘Squirrel’ Threatens To Bomb IRS Building (TaxGrrrl)

Robert Wood, Ten Facts About Fighting IRS Tax Bills.

Peter Reilly, Is IRS Targeting Drunkards? Well, somebody has to work there.

Jack Townsend, The Stored Communications Act and Emails: An Overview

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 719 “IRS Attacks Conservative Groups But Silent on Clinton Foundation.” And Media Matters, and…

Howard Gleckman, A Small But Important Change in Retirement Savings Rules (TaxVox). “The proposal would exempt those who have $100,000 or less in retirement savings from having to take required taxable distributions from 401(k)s, IRAs, and the like starting at age 70 ½.”

 

Government is just the name for things we do together. IRS Seeks To Tax $50k Raised From GoFundMe For Cancer Treatment For Car Crash Victim (TaxProf).

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/27/15: Iowa’s corporate rate highest, even after you do the math. And more!

Monday, April 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

The Highest. How High Are Corporate Income Tax Rates in Your State? (Jared Walczak, Richard Borean, Tax Policy Blog):

Corporate income taxes vary widely, with Iowa taxing corporate income at a top rate of 12.0 percent (though the state offers deductibility of federal taxes paid), followed by Pennsylvania (9.99 percent), Minnesota (9.8 percent), Alaska (9.4 percent), the District of Columbia (9.4) and Connecticut and New Jersey (9.0 percent each). At the other end of the spectrum, North Dakota taxes corporate income at a top rate of 4.53 percent, followed by Colorado (4.63 percent), and Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah (5.0 percent each).

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So how much does that federal deductibility lower Iowa’s top rate? If you compute the top rates taking into account the deduction, Iowa still has a top marginal rate of 10.11% — still highest in the nation.

The high rate doesn’t result in high revenue receipts for the state. For example, Calendar 2013 corporation tax revenue for Iowa accounts for less than 6% of the state’s tax receipts. With single-factor apportionment and a tax base hollowed out by special interest carveouts, it hits hardest unlucky taxpayers without pull at the statehouse. Yet, as the U.S. has the highest national corporation tax rate in the OECD, it secures Iowa the dubious honor of having the highest corporation tax rate in the developed world.

 

William Perez, Tax Incentives for Alternative Energy Systems

Annette Nellen, Revenue magic (that should be avoided)

Kay Bell, Virginia dumps tax refund debit cards for paper checks. Fraud is part of the reason.

Paul Neiffer, Think You Are Too Small to Be a Target of Cyber Crime? Think Again. “30% of all targeted cyber-attacks are directed against businesses with less than 250 employees.”

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 7: 1920s Court Battles

Keith Fogg, Last Known Address for Incarcerated Persons (Procedurally Taxing). Funny that the government can insist that a taxpayer partake of its hospitality, but then take no responsiblity to see that he gets his tax notices.

Robert Wood, IRS Paid $3 Billion In Tax Credit Mistakes Plus $5.8 Billion In Erroneous Refunds. That doesn’t count erroneous earned income tax credits — only corporate returns.

Russ Fox, No Discount for her Sentence. “Well, Ms. Morin operated Discount Tax Service. Her clients were very happy with her methods, as they received tax credits and itemized deductions on their returns whether or not they qualified for them.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Savings To Clear Path For Josh Hamilton’s Return To Texas Rangers. But people keep telling me that state taxes don’t affect business decisions.

Robert D. Flach, YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. “The IRS was writing to the taxpayer to tell him that he is dead and so they were not going to process his refund.”

 

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Me, IRS releases Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for May 2015

 

Peter Reilly, IRS Forced To Release Names Of Targeted Groups. The IRS likes to hide its misdeeds behind the taxpayer confidentiality rules. Not this time.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 718The IRS Scandal, Day 717The IRS Scandal, Day 716The IRS Scandal, Day 715.

Howard Gleckman, Could a Carbon Tax Finance Corporate Rate Cuts?

Robert Goulder, Bernie Sanders: Swimming Against the Tide (Tax Analysts Blog). We can only hope so.

Because he would lose? Bush Nomination Would Be Bad News for Tax Reformers (Martin Sullivan, Tax Policy Blog).

 

Career Corner. Dealing with chatty colleagues (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). When feigning death isn’t enough.

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Tax Roundup, 4/23/15: House report rips Koskinen’s war on taxpayer service.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

I’ll believe the IRS has a funding crisis when the IRS acts like it has a funding crisis. The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday issued a report ripping Commissioner Koskinen for deliberately cutting customer service to prioritize ACA implementation and to create pressure for a bigger budget. It’s the IRS version of the Washington Monument Strategy — slashing the most visible and popular services first.

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner, but he'd probably do a better job than the one who is.

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner, but he’d probably do a better job than the one who is.

Christopher Bergin of Tax Analysts describes the report:

In 14 pages, the report blisters the IRS for treating taxpayers like dirt (my term, not theirs). It’s a shrewd counterpunch in the mouth. But remember, the commissioner picked this fight.

What’s in the 14 pages? A discussion of items that Mr. Koskinen chose to fund, and resources he neglected, at the expense of taxpayer service. Examples from the report include:

Diversion of user fee money to the general budget. The IRS has jacked up the fees to obtain rulings and non-automatic accounting changes to absurd levels. Rather than using those fees to provide services, the funds have been diverted to the general IRS budget.

Continuing to keep hundreds of full-time union operatives on the agency payroll. From the report.

“…the IRS reported that employees used 521,725 hours for union activity in fiscal year 2013, which accounted for an estimated $23.5 million in salary and benefits expenses. In fiscal year 2014, the IRS recorded 491,948 hours of union time, and another $23.5 million in salary and benefits expenses. In that same fiscal year, there were 36 IRS agents who devoted 50 percent or more of their time at work to union activities instead of performing official duties. For the first quarter of fiscal year 2015, the IRS reported 113,294 hours of union time.

The report says that at 15 minutes per call, these employee slots could have fielded 2.5 million taxpayer inquiries. But then the union would have to pay its own employees, and we can’t have that.

The report also notes that the IRS hasn’t exactly shown it would make good use of additional funds, citing its expensive internal system implementation failures. It also slams the IRS for ending the pilot private collection program, while failing to pursue the collections targeted under the pilot program. Of course, the Treasury Employee Union would rather have the work not done at all than to have it done by non-union help.

I agree with Christopher Bergin in attributing the mess to Mr. Koskinen:

Almost from the first day on the job, his reaction to congressional budget cuts has been to deflect responsibility elsewhere. His appearances before Congress have a “who do you think you are” edge to them. And this tax filing season, he upped the ante.

His new strategy went something like this: “You want to cut my budget, fine — then I’ll show you what it will cost.”

He began cutting back on taxpayer service and tax law enforcement,

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

claiming that the IRS lacks sufficient funds to do its job. Never mind that its annual budget is about $11 billion. Then Koskinen started telling his employees the country must get used to the IRS doing “less with less.” That language is code for “taxpayers are going to suffer and Congress will get the blame.”

He then doubled down on the rhetoric by labeling budget cuts a “tax cut for tax cheats.” Personally, I think that remark went too far. It resembles a temper tantrum — or worse.

And you know what? The commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t get to throw a public temper tantrum. It’s simply not a part of the job description.

As long as the IRS can afford to keep a battalion of union operatives on its payroll, I’ll remain unconvinced that it really needs a bigger budget. I’m convinced that until Mr. Koskinen resigns, there is no hope for the agency.

Somewhat related: Russ Fox, Don’t Call Us Continues. “If anyone thinks the IRS’s budget will be increased for next year, they’re dreaming.”

The TaxProf has a roundup of coverage.

 

What’s “green” about green energy subsidies. An Indiana man pleads guilty to taking part in a conspiracy to scam the biofuel subsidy system. Prosecutors said the scam raked in over $100 million in refundable biodiesel production credits.

Of course, scams are bad, but the real scandal of the biofuel subsidies is what is legal.

 

William Perez, Tax Incentives for Alternative Energy Systems

 

Jason Dinesen, Tax Season Recap 2015: What a Strange Season, Part 2 (Trends I Noticed)

Peter Reilly, Detective’s Vacation And Sick Time Not Excluded From Taxable Income

Robert Wood, What To Do When IRS Agents Call On You. “This may sound paranoid, but the ramifications of getting flustered and running at the mouth can be extreme.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 714.

 

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Iowa rural broadband bill advances. O. Kay Henderson reports:

The Iowa House has passed a bill that would set up a state-run grant program to expand broadband access in Iowa, although no state money is committed and the program will only get going if the state gets federal tax dollars for it. The bill would set up a new, 10-year-long property tax exemption for companies that extend high-speed broadband service in “unserved or underserved areas” of the state.

Of course. How can you do anything without a tax bill? This item in the article strikes me:

Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, said the bill will hopefully address the “inconsistencies” in broadband speeds.

“I live in a part of Mitchell County where I actually get better connectivity to my barn than I get here at the state capitol,” Byrnes said.

Of course, the state capitol is in the most urban part of the state, which is also a rising tech corridor. If you can get better broadband in a Mitchell County barn, I have doubts about how serious the rural broadband problem really is.

 

TaxGrrrl, Accused Murderer Requests Police Escort To Cash Tax Refund. Jails apparently don’t cash refund checks.

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Tax Roundup, 3/12/2015: Tails and legs: Tax Court says that by any name, refundable tax credits are income.

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2Yesterday the Tax Court ruled that refundable business incentive tax credits issued by New York generate taxable income. Judge Holmes made the decision entertaining. Well, except maybe for the taxpayer who lost.

Credits works differently from deductions. A $100 tax credit reduces your tax by $100, while a $100 deduction reduces the tax of a taxpayer in the 25% bracket by only $25. When a credit is “refundable,” if it exceeds the tax you would otherwise owe, the government sends you a check for the excess. The federal Earned Income Tax Credit is the most common example. Iowa has several such credits, including its EITC and its research credit for business.

New York also uses refundable credits. Judge Holmes sets the stage (all emphasis is mine):

New York State uses extremely targeted tax credits as an incentive for extremely targeted economic development in extremely targeted locations. Those who receive these credits may be extremely benefited — even if they do not owe any state income tax, New York calls the credits overpayments of income tax and makes them refundable. David and Tami Maines say that none of the credits should be taxable because New York labels them “overpayments” of past state income tax, and they never claimed prior deductions for state income tax. The Commissioner disagrees and argues that these refundable credits are, in substance even if not in name, cash subsidies to private enterprise — and just another form of taxable income.

The taxpayer said that because New York called the refundable amount of the credits “overpayments,” they were like withholding:

So the key question in this case becomes whether a federal court applying federal law has to go along with New York’s definition.

The Maineses understand the importance of this question, and they argue that if New York State tax law calls these payments “overpayments” we have no power to call them something different. They point to cases like Aquilino v. United States, 363 U.S. 509, 513 (1960) (quoting United States v. Bess, 357 U.S. 51, 55 (1958)), where the Supreme Court held that Federal tax law “‘creates no property rights but merely attaches consequences, federally defined, to rights created under state law.”‘

Judge Holmes is unconvinced (my emphasis):

The Commissioner does not challenge these cases. And he also agrees that New York law labels the credits as “income tax credits,” and excesses or surpluses as “overpayments” of state income tax for state-tax purposes. But is a state’s legal label for a state-created right binding on the federal government? Here begins the disagreement. The Maineses contend that New York’s tax-law label of these excess EZ Credits as overpayments is a legal interest that binds the Commissioner and us when we analyze their taxability Lincolnunder federal law. The Commissioner warns that if this were true, a state could undermine federal tax law simply by including certain descriptive language in its statute. To use Lincoln’s famous example, if New York called a tail a leg, we’d have to conclude that a dog has five legs in New York as a matter of federal law. See George W. Julian, “Lincoln and the Proclamation of Emancipation,” in Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (Allen Thorndike Rice, ed., Harper & Bros. Publishers 1909), 227, 242 (1885), available at https://archive.org/details/cu31924012928937.

We have to side with the Commissioner (and Lincoln) on this one: “Calling the tail a leg would not make it a leg.” Id. Our precedents establish that a particular label given to a legal relationship or transaction under state law is not necessarily controlling for federal tax purposes.

The taxpayer advanced a more novel argument:

The Maineses also contend that their credits are excludable from their taxable income as welfare. The Commissioner has long held that certain payments from social-benefit programs that promote the general welfare are not includible in gross income.

I’ve called such credits “Corporate welfare” at least once or twice myself. But calling a tail a leg, or corporate welfare, doesn’t make it welfare for tax exclusion purposes:

Critics of programs like New York’s might call them “corporate welfare.” But that’s just a metaphor — the credits that New York gave to the Maineses were not conditioned on their showing need, which means they do not qualify for exclusion from taxable income under the general-welfare exception. See also, e.g., Rev. Rul. 2005-46 (holding that state grants for expenses incurred by businesses that agree to operate in disaster areas are not excludable under the general-welfare exclusion).

We therefore hold that portions of the excess EZ Investment and Wage Credits that do not just reduce state-tax liability but are actually refundable are taxable income.

New York FlagOne interesting thing about the New York credits at issue is that they can either be refunded, at the cost of a loss of some of the credits, or carried forward in full at the taxpayers option. In a footnote, Judge Holmes says that while the taxpayer has the option of whether to claim the refund, there is no option on when it affects taxable income:

Recall that whether or not the Maineses choose to receive the refundable portion of the credit, they are in constructive receipt of it and therefore must include it in their gross income.

This is a full-dress “reported” Tax Court decision, which means it is meant to guide future litigation in this area. A footnote in the decision says there are 10 other related New York cases pending. It has obvious implications for the Iowa research credit and historical building credits, which are refundable. There are many other such refundable tax credits in other states.  I never doubted that such credits were taxable “accessions to wealth,” and the Tax Court feels the same way.

Cite: Maines, 144 T.C. No. 8.

 

The Des Moines Register reports Lawmaker proposes end to Iowa taxes on pensions:

Sen. Roby Smith, a Republican, has introduced Senate File 277, which would phase out taxes on retirement income over five years, starting in fiscal year 2017. The measure is co-sponsored by 23 Republican senators. He said that during his re-election campaign last fall, one of the common complaints he heard from older Iowa voters was the need to pay taxes on retirement income.

Let me register my complaint about having to pay taxes on income while I’m working. Can I get an exemption?

IMG_1284This sort of carve-out is a classic example of how the tax law goes bad. High rates make people motivated to carve out breaks for themselves. It works especially well if those seeking the breaks are organized and have time to spare to press their case, like retired folks.

But giving tax breaks just by virtue of age or working status is the wrong way to go. If a retired person is poor, reduce his taxes to take his poverty into account (the tax law already does so in a number of ways). But if he is wealthy and retired, why should he get a better deal than a less-wealthy person who still trudges to work every day? In terms of wealth, the elderly are better off than the not-so-elderly, as a group.

It would be much better for the legislature to cut the rates for everyone, get rid of special carve outs for the politically influential, and help the poor, of whatever age, with a reasonable exemption for low-income taxpayers.

 

Jason Dinesen asks Why Do Unethical Clients Bother Working With Tax and Accounting Pros?:

I asked one of my peers about this and he said it’s because that type of person likes to feel important. They “have an accountant” and they can brag about it to their friends.

It’s an excellent question. My answer is that they feel they are buying excuses. If they get caught, they will immediately blame the accountant.

Robert Wood, Former NFL Player & 2 Others Get Jail & $35M Restitution For Tax Break Scheme:

The evidence at trial established that through NADN, the defendants promoted and sold a product called Tax Break 2000. Tax Break 2000 purported to be an online shopping website. The defendants falsely and fraudulently told customers that buying the product would allow them to claim legitimate income tax credits and deductions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by modifying the website each customer was provided to make it accessible to the disabled.

If the stupidity of the tax scheme were a factor in sentencing, they’d have faced a firing squad.

 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): Early Distributions

Cara Griffith, Will There Be an Increase in State Transfer Pricing Audits? (Tax Analysts Blog). “States have not, however, been particularly successful in challenging the arm’s-length pricing of intercompany transactions”

 

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Kay Bell, Senate tax writers want public suggestions for tax reform

Stephen Entin, Tax Indexing Turns 30 (Tax Policy Blog)

William Gale, Rubio-Lee Hints at Tax Reform’s Troubling Direction (TaxVox).

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 672. The state continues its efforts to criminalize opposition.

Tax Analysts ($link), IRS Stops Providing Exemption Letters to Press. Given the stellar performance of the IRS Exempt Organizations division, what’s not to trust?

 

Adrienne Gonzalez wonders What Are the Accounting Profession’s Darkest Secrets? (Going Concern). Other than the ritual human sacrifice?

 

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

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

– Subsidize companies that are already making the chemicals.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

Imagine that.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Also:

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

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

 

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 665.

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

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/25/15: Iowa gas tax boost goes to Governor. And: an appointment with Sauron.

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1284Both houses of the Iowa General Assembly approved a 10-cent per gallon gas tax increase yesterday. The Des Moines Register reports:

The fuel tax increase has had strong support from a coalition representing farm groups, business organizations and local government officials. Iowa Farm Bureau members flooded the Capitol last week to lobby legislators to encourage a vote in favor of the gas tax increase. They contended better roads are crucial to the state’s economy and that gas taxes — 20 percent of which are paid by out-of-state motorists — offered the best solution.

The legislation was opposed by Iowans for Tax Relief and Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group, as well as truck stop operators and convenience store owners who worry retailers on Iowa’s borders will lose business to competitors in neighboring states. Opponents suggested lawmakers needed to better prioritize state spending, and proposed tapping revenues from the state’s general fund to pay for highway projects.

While I think gas taxes are a good way to pay for roads — they put the cost on the users — I am unconvinced that the state uses the funds wisely. By ramming the bill through committee by stacking it with yes votes, the legislature leadership made sure such concerns would not be addressed.

I expect the Governor to sign the bill. The legislature wouldn’t have gone through the trouble if they had any doubt. I have predicted that his approval of a gas tax increase means he won’t run for another term. But I also predicted the gas tax wouldn’t pass.

Somewhat related: Jim Maule, So Who Should Pay for Roads?

 

IMG_0543Why not exempt everyone? Tax Analysts reports ($link) that taxpayers who have filed returns based on incorrect ACA 1095-A forms will not have to pay any additional tax based on the corrected forms:

Tax return filers who purchased health insurance from federal marketplaces set up under the Affordable Care Act and who then filed tax returns based on erroneous information contained in Forms 1095-A will not need to file amended returns with the IRS to stay compliant, the Treasury Department said in a February 24 statement.

“The IRS will not pursue the collection of any additional taxes from these individuals based on updated information in the corrected [1095-A] forms,” the Treasury statement said.

It’s yet another example of the IRS making up rules for Obamacare when its flaws become too obvious. I’m not one to complain when the IRS fails to enforce a dumb tax, but does anybody think the IRS would be as understanding for, say, failing to amend based on a corrected K-1?

Related: Robert Wood, Wrong Obamacare Form Tax Filers Get Relief From IRS. “Unfortunately, the 750,000 people who were sent erroneous form but who haven’t yet filed their taxes are being told to wait until the corrected forms arrive in March.”

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Testing Taxpayer Appointments At Some Taxpayer Assistance Centers. Why appointments?

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Tax season is saved! Majority of Taxpayers with Obamacare Premium Tax Credits Need to Pay Back Portion (Accounting Today). I’m sure that’s popular.

Howard Gleckman, So Far, Affordable Care Act Users Are Managing Tax Filing, Many Uninsured May Use New Enrollment Period (TaxVox)

Jason Dinesen, Is Iowa Filing Status Tied to Federal Filing Status When You’re Married?

Annette Nellen explains Bitcoin transaction reporting. If you use Bitcoins regularly, you’ll need a bigger tax return.

Kay Bell, New York city, state lawmakers seek pet adoption tax credit. Not every problem is a tax problem, folks.

Leslie Book, Taxpayer Rights: A Look Back to Congressional Testimony of Michael Saltzman and Nina Olson

Jack Townsend, Cono Namorato to Be DOJ Tax AAG.

 

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Snow warning today!

 

Scott Drenkard, Utah Is Eyeing An E-Cigarette Tax, But Its Reasoning Is Faulty (Tax Policy Blog). States have a pretty sweet deal with the tobacco devil, getting a cut of tobacco revenues. They hate the idea of e-cigs cuttting into that.

 

David Brunori, Sorry Folks — Clothes Should Be Taxable (Tax Analysts Blog):

The sales tax should fall on all final personal consumption. Everything you buy, be it tangible personal property or services, should be subject to the tax. Such a broad base minimizes economic distortions, allows for overall lower rates, and makes both administration and compliance easier.

But it minimizes the opportunities for legislators to do favors for friends.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 657

 

Caleb Newquist, Accountants vs. Lawyers: A Pointless Debate (Going Concern). “A lawyer and an accountant walk into a bar. Everyone else in the bar doesn’t care.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/20/15: Sometimes you just need a new voter edition. Also: time travel for a tax credit!

Friday, February 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1291When the votes don’t go your way, replace the voters. The Iowa House Republican leadership seems all-in on the proposed 10-cent gas tax increase. WHOTV.com reports:

A bill that will raise Iowa’s gas tax by ten-cents per gallon, as soon as March 1, took a big step forward at the statehouse Thursday. That’s thanks in large part to a committee membership shuffle by Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen.

Paulsen replaced Jake Highfill, who he says was a ‘no’ vote on raising the gas tax, with Brian Moore, who he says is a “yes” vote, on the committee. Paulsen also removed Zach Nunn from the committee for one day and put himself in Nunn’s place.

That enabled the bill to clear the committee by a 13-12 vote.  So it looks like the powers that be are determined to make the gas tax increase happen.

 

Time travel. Congress reenacted the expired Work Opportunity Credit in December, retroactively to the beginning of the year. The credit provides a tax savings up up to $9,600 for employers who hire people in groups favored by legislation — welfare recipients and veterans, for example. There was a hitch in the retroactive legislation, though. The WOTC requires employers to certify that new hires are eligible within 28 days of their start date. It’s difficult for employers to go back in time to January to comply with legislation enacted in December.

Fortunately, the IRS yesterday issued Notice 2015-13, giving employers until April 30 to obtain employee signatures on Form 8850 and submit them to the local job service to qualify 2014 hires for the credit.

Wages may qualify for the credit if paid to employees who were on public assistance or food stamps in the period before their hire date, certain veterans, or ex-felons. Details can be found on Form 8850 and its instructions.

 

No Walnut STTax Season is Saved! Obamacare Inflicts IRS Paperwork on New Victims (J.D. Tucille, Reason.com). “Perhaps the Affordable Care Act’s most-resented wrong against the American people will be initiating those previously exempt to the dull, often incomprehensible grind of Internal Revenue Service paperwork.”

Tax Season is Saved! State tax refund troubles spreading (Kay Bell).

Tax Season is Saved! IRS Paid $5.8 Billion In Fraudulent Refunds, Identity Theft Efforts Need Work (Robert Wood)

 

Megan McArdle, Will Obamacare Join Tax Season Chaos?:

Apparently, there is a movement afoot to get the Barack Obama administration to line up the Affordable Care Act’s open-enrollment period with tax season. The reason: Many people are going to find out in March or April that they owe a penalty for not having the minimum essential insurance coverage. Those unlucky people, who may decide they’d like to buy health insurance after all to avoid next year’s penalties, will be too late to go through that year’s open enrollment.

Oh, goody.

IMG_1274William Perez, Reconciling Advance Payments of the Premium Tax Credit. Though the results might not be pleasant.

Jason Dinesen, Tips For Financing a Small Business: Part 2 of 5 — Use Your Accountant as a Resource

Peter Reilly, Tom Brady’s MVP Truck Even More On The Tax Implications

Carl Smith, The Empire Strikes Back on Excessive Refundable Credit Claim Penalties (Procedurally Taxing)

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayers Sue Treasury, SSA, Alleging Improper Refund Seizures. “As the stories became more sensational – in part due to reports filed by The Washington Post – SSA was forced to announce that it would stop trying to collect debts that were more than ten years old. But by “stop,” they apparently meant ‘slow down… a little.'”

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Richard Borean, The Dual Tax Burden of S Corporations (Tax Policy Blog):
Top marginal tax rates for active shareholders then vary based on whether the last dollar is profit or wage. The following map shows the top marginal tax rate in each state for an active shareholder, assuming that their last dollar earned was a profit.
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Passive shareholders do not pay any payroll tax on their income since they do not draw a wage from the business. Instead, they are liable for the ACA’s Net Investment Income Tax of 3.8 percent, which only hits income over $200,000 ($250,000 for married filing jointly).

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I think this will motivate some S corporation owners to become surprisingly active in their retirement.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 652

 

Kristine Tidgren ponders The Irony of Yesterday’s Limited ACA Penalty Relief (ISU-CALT). She notes that some employees whose employers terminated these plans in the face of the $100 per-day-per employee penalty end up worse off than those whose employers continued the plans and whose penalties were waived by the IRS in Notice 2015-17. “Bottom line, the employee of the compliant employer walks away with only about 60% of the benefit received by the employee of the noncompliant employer.”

And that is true, as far as it goes. The apparent purpose of these rules is to force employers to either sponsor a group health insurance plan under the employer SHOP marketplace (good luck with that in Iowa right now), or to send the employees to the individual exchange. So it wasn’t about whether employees were covered, it was about whether their coverage was done under the right government supervision.

But the Obamacare drafters were careless. While they imposed a $100-per-day, per employee penalty for sponsors of plans that reimburse employee premiums, they also left the tax incentives for such plans under Section 105 in place. So while one code section punished employers for reimbursing individual health premiums, another rewarded employees for receiving the reimbursements. Given the mixed message, no wonder many employers didn’t realize that their long-time employee benefit was suddenly a bad thing.

Of course, absent the waiver, many of the employees receiving a premium reimbursement would be much worse off — their employers would go broke paying a $36,500 non-deductible fine for each employee for the crime of covering their individual premiums. As bad results go, this is a lot worse than the loss of a tax benefit by the compliant employer’s employee.

 

Caleb Newquist, #BusySeasonZen: The Train Snowblower (Going Concern). In case you think you’re having a tough winter.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/13/15: Gas tax advances, tax system declines.

Friday, February 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

 

IMG_1284It looks more likely that I was wrong in predicting no gas tax increase. Subcommittees in both the House and Senate Ways and Means committees approved a 10-cent per gallon increase this week, advancing the increase to the full committes. KCRG.com reports:

A group of top lawmakers from both parties and Gov. Terry Branstad have proposed the 10-cent gas tax increase, which is expected to generate more than $200 million annually.

Supporters say the gas tax is the most fair and equitable way to generate funds for road construction.

At least it looks like my backup bet — that a gas tax increase would indicate that Governor Branstad won’t run for another term — is looking better.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, Reform What? (Tax Analysts Blog). It has a great teaser line: “Yes, it sure is fun thinking about tax reform. And doing nothing about it could be fun as well. We might get to watch this colossal structure collapse soon.”

Christopher goes on to explain:

But all this talk has me thinking about other things, too. Which tax system will we reform – or at least start with? Should it be the one most of us are struggling to comply with -– the one that about half of us “regular” taxpayers still have to pay taxes under? You know, the one with deductions for charitable contributions that we’d make anyway — the one that discriminates between people who own a house and rent a house. The one that’s so confusing, many of us just turn our taxes over to a paid preparer or a paid-for program to figure out. Let’s not forget that if you’re doing well under this tax system, you win a prize: the alternative minimum tax (which is sort of a booby prize).

Or maybe we should start by reforming the IRS, which has become so broke and inept that it can’t afford to help your grandmother find the line on her Form 1040 for the dependents she can no longer claim. That’s the agency that is also supposed to enforce the law so that none of us “regular” taxpayers are the true suckers in all this. (How’s that working out for you?)

Lots of that sort of cheerful stuff. In some ways the system is already collapsing before our eyes. A system that wires $21 billion annually to thieves — and it’s getting worse quickly — isn’t built to last.

 

Des Moines Register, 16 companies claim 82 percent of Iowa’s R&D tax credits. “In all, 265 companies claimed about $51 million in credits for research and development last year, the report shows. Of that, 16 companies claimed $42.1 million.”

My coverage of the story from yesterday is here: The Federal $21 billion thief subsidy; the Iowa $37 million corporation subsidy.

 

William Perez, If You Drive for Uber, Lyft or Sidecar, These Tax Tips are Just for You

20150105-2Kay Bell, IRS drops some features in latest app upgrade

Jim Maule, Self-Employment Income Not Offset by NOL Carryforward

Carl Smith, The Eight Circuit Gives Both Sides a Hard Time on What is a “Separate Return” for Section 6013(b) Purposes (Procedurally Taxing). ” Does the limit on changing from a “separate return” to an MFJ return after filing a Tax Court petition only apply where a taxpayer initially filed an MFS return (as the taxpayer argues), or does it also apply where a taxpayer initially filed a “single” or HOH return (as the government argues)?”

Robert Wood, Nine Habits of Exceptionally Tax-Averse People. Numbers 5 and 6 are key.

TaxGrrrl, Are You Insured? Obamacare Deadline Quickly Approaching

Tony Nitti, Republicans, Democrats Agree On Tax Issue; Winter Storm Warning Issued For Hell. Tony, gang truces are more common than you’d think.

Jack Townsend, Structuring 20150119-1Forfeitures Again in the News (my emphasis):

After taking considerable heat on which we reported before, the IRS has hunkered back to a policy that generally (that’s a fuzz word) will allow seizure only where the IRS has proof of illegal income.  So, under the new law, generally the innocents (meaning those without illegal income) can intentionally violate the structuring law without being subject forfeiture and presumably without being subject to structuring prosecution. It seems to me that Congress should change the law rather than have the IRS not enforce the law as Congress wrote it or to signal to citizens that they can violate the law with impunity so long as they do use illegal funds.

I think Jack gives too much credit to the IRS, as if they have only been taking money when there was “intentional” structuring. The news reports have shown there are plenty of reasons to make deposits before you have $10,000 on hand, including insurance policy restrictions and the common sense idea that you don’t leave too much cash sitting around. But IRS didn’t inquire as to whether there was any actual intent to keep deposits low; they just took the money.

While the IRS has plenty to answer for in its seizure policy, I agree that Congress is just as guilty, passing laws allowing asset seizures without barely a nod at due process and without a hearing.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 645

Amber Erickson of Tax Justice Blog boldly makes The Case for Keeping the Medical Device Tax,

Health insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and the medical device industry are all expected to gain from the ACA by earning greater profits as more people enter the healthcare marketplace. The tax is intended to reciprocate those benefits by tacking on a small flat rate to a firm’s revenue.

But that tax is only on the medical deveisces, not “health insurance providers,” the big winner, and not on pharmaceuticals. It really isn’t on the device industry; it is on the people who need them.

 

Eric Cedarwell, Senator Bernie Sanders’s New Deal for America (Tax Policy Blog).

 Inspired by Roosevelt’s New Deal in many regards, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) recently outlined his vision for America, featuring expansionary government spending policies. A major federal jobs program, a hike in the minimum wage to at least $15, expansion of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, increased regulation of Wall Street, and protectionist trade policies are examples of initiatives Sanders emphasized. However, Sen. Sanders provided little information on how he might finance his vision.

In other words, a reprise of the policies that put the “great” in the Great Depression.

Howard Gleckman, Lawmakers Talk Tax Reform But Keep Pushing New Tax Subsidies (TaxVox). Of course they do.

 

Caleb Newquist, When Is the Right Time to Start Your Own Accounting Firm? (Going Concern). December 19, 1990 worked for us. I think it was about 8:30 am.

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Tax Roundup, 1/29/15: Iowans, fill ’em up now. And: lessons from the Obama Sec. 529 retreat.

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

dimeFill me up. ‘Overall consensus’ toward 10-cent hike in state gas tax O. Kay Henderson reports:

 Key legislators say a 10-cent increase in the state gas tax has a good chance of passing the legislature in February and going into effect as early as March.

“I think the overall consensus is to go 10 cents now…We’re so far behind that we need to implement it right away,” Senator Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said this morning.

At the opening of this session of the General Assembly, I guessed that there would be no gas tax boost. It’s looking more likely every day that I was wrong. I asked a few legislators and lobbyists about it when I attended the Iowa ABI Legislative Reception, and they all said a 10-cent gas tax boost was a done deal.

That would test my alternative forecast – that if there was a gas tax boost, it meant Governor Branstad will not run for a seventh term.

 

csi logoAlan Cole, President’s Plan to Tax 529s Was Not a Distraction (Tax Policy Blog):

While the issue was, perhaps, a distraction from the administration’s priorities on community college, it was not at all a distraction from the administration’s priorities on tax policy. It is deeply philosophically consistent with virtually every tax policy proposal, proposed or enacted, from the administration.

The administration’s proposals all tend to follow a particular blueprint for tax policy: simply put, that when Americans save by investing in some kind of asset, that they should be taxed at ordinary income rates on both the initial value of the asset and all the future returns on the asset. (For example, with 529 plans, the initial investment is taxed, and the Obama Administration’s proposal is to tax the returns as well.) This view is mistaken, in that a financial asset’s value is precisely in its future returns. The value of the financial asset, then, is taxed twice. 

The difference here is that the administration has dressed up its tax grabs by saying only “the rich” would have to pay. That’s never really true, but it was so obviously wrong here that even the President’s allies couldn’t support it with a straight face.

 

IRAJoseph Thorndike, What Obama’s 529 Flip-Flop Says About Your Roth IRA (Tax Analysts Blog):

The bursting of the 529 trial balloon should serve as an object lesson for anyone hoping to rein in other tax preferences. In particular, proposals to scale back Roth IRAs – popular among liberal analysts – seem hopeless in the extreme.

I think the dumbest thing was pairing the elimination of a tool to enable people to save for education costs with the unwise “free” community college proposal. That was pretty much saying those who want to pay their own way through college without government grants are chumps.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 630. It has become an issue in the hearings for the Attorney General nominee.

 

Jason Dinesen, What I’m Asking My Clients Regarding the ACA. Pretty much what we are asking our clients.

TaxGrrrl, Form 3115 Adds Confusion & Cost – But May Be Required For 2015. “Since there’s no user fee – and virtually no risk – I tend to agree with those who suggest that businesses owning real and/or tangible property err on the side of caution and file form 3115 to obtain automatic consent.”

Robert Wood, Missing A Form 1099? Why You Shouldn’t Ask For It “Nevertheless, if you don’t receive a Form 1099 you expect, don’t ask for it. Just report the income.”

Tony Nitti, Super Bowl XLIX Tax Tale Of The Tape: Who Ya’ Got? Meh. My football rooting interest ended in Seattle. But for socially-awkward tax nerds (but I repeat myself) who are going to Super Bowl gatherings, Tony has a lifeline.

 

20140512-1Peter Reilly, Don’t Use The IRS To Address Koch Political Spending. Whether it’s Tom Steyer, George Soros, or the Brothers Who Must Not Be Named, the government has no business telling them what causes they can fund.

Russ Fox, Caesars Wins Round One: Chicago, not Delaware. Caesars Entertainment’s bankruptcy litigation, that is.

Carl Smith, Unpublished CDP Orders Dwarf Post-trial Bench Opinions in Uncounted Tax Court Rulings (Procedurally Taxing). Insight on what Tax Court judges do that those of us who don’t do that sort of litigation for a living don’t see.

Jack Townsend, Unreported Offshore Accounts Remains on IRS Dirty Dozen” List

Kay Bell, Illinois shoppers to start paying state sales tax on Amazon purchases on Feb. 1; federal online tax bill still stalled

 

Tax Trials: Georgia Tax Tribunal Rules that Electric Utility’s Machinery and Equipment Used in Transmission and Distribution System Not Exempt from Georgia Sales & Use Tax. Bad tax policy all over. Business inputs should not be subject to sales tax.

Cara Griffith, Tax Appeal Reform May Be a Possibility in Washington State (Tax Analysts Blog)

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David Brunori, Regressive Taxes Are Neither New Nor Good (Tax Analysts Blog): “States should also broaden the sales tax base to tax things rich folks buy, while lowering the tax rates on the things the poor consume the most. But the rich will remain rich.”

Steven Rosenthal, Is Obama Closing Retirement Savings Loopholes or Just Curbing Congress’ Generosity? (TaxVox). How about another choice – he’s just looking to increase taxes on “the rich” any way he can get away with?

Richard Phillips, Congress Should Pass the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act to Combat International Tax Avoidance. (Tax Justice Blog). I have a better idea: a less onerous tax system that would make international tax avoidance less attractive.

 

Career Corner. The Public Accountant’s Definitive Guide to Disclosure of Past Convictions (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 1/26/15: Is Iowa 2014 tax season in jeopordy? And: how “trust fund tax” encourages trusts.

Monday, January 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors: Here is the accounting method post mentioned by “in the blogs.”

 

20130117-1Uh-oh. Is there a holdup on passing the annual “conformity” bill at the statehouse? This from Republican State Senator Bill Anderson in the Sioux City Journal is a bad sign:

Senate Democrats are playing politics with the issue. The Department of Revenue is recommending accountants tell clients to delay filing their taxes until a decision is made. Senate Democrats’ indecisiveness to pass legislation in a timely manner creates uncertainty for taxpayers and tax professionals, preventing them from filing returns.

I had not heard there was any difficulty here. I hope it’s not serious, but I will be watching it more closely now.

This is another example of why Iowa should have a “floating conformity” rule. I don’t understand why they can’t say they will automatically adopt federal extender changes. If they want to leave out bonus depreciation, that could be done with language excluding that from the automatic conformity. We shouldn’t have to go into February without knowing what the state tax law is for the prior year.

 

Janet Novack, Obama Attack On “Trust Fund Loophole” Could Increase Tax Advantage Of Trusts. “Without step-up, there would, for example, be an even greater tax advantage to putting assets that are likely to explode in value—such as founders’ stock in a hot start-up—into an irrevocable trust for children or grandchildren.”

 

Kay Bell, Capital gains gain in income reporting, but tax hike unlikely

Jack Townsend, Fifth Circuit Rejects Attempt on Direct Appeal to Withdraw Guilty Plea in False Claims Conspiracy Case

Jim Maule, No Agreement? No Alimony Deduction. In divorce, paperwork is everything.

Robert Wood, 10 Crazy Sounding Tax Deductions IRS Says Are Legit. My favorite is “free beer.”

20130607-2Anthony Nitti, IRS Futher Limits Deductions For State-Legal Marijuana Facilities:

Most notably, Section 280E provides that “no deduction is allowed for any amount incurred in a business that consists of trafficking in controlled substances.” Because marijuana finds itself on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the IRS has the ammunition necessary to deny the deductions of any facility that sells the drug.

And it does. Regularly.

I hope nobody really believes this actually prevents any drug crimes. What it does is add a crushing tax debt that helps ensure that anybody who gets involved in drug traffic can never reform and become a productive member of society.

 

Robert Goulder, Should the Mayor of London Pay U.S. Taxes? (Tax Analysts Blog):

True, there are tax treaty protections at play and foreign tax credits available. But the point of the story isn’t double taxation; it’s jurisdictional overreach. Many will argue that a citizenship-based tax regime is unfair and heavy-handed.

The U.S. is the only country that does it. Oh, Eritrea, too.

Stephen Olsen, The Gift that Keeps on Taking–Does Section 6324(b) Limit Gift Tax to the Value of the Gift or Can the IRS Take More? (Procedurally Taxing)

 

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Alan Cole, The IRS Has Too Many Responsibilities (Tax Policy Blog):

On one hand, the IRS’s basic responsibilities have gotten less onerous over the years. More and more taxpayers file electronically, which means that everything just zips straight into the IRS’s computer system with little need for human oversight. This should mean that the IRS really doesn’t need to grow, and if anything it could stand to shrink.

But on the other hand, the IRS has been overloaded with all sorts of additional responsibilities. It’s acting as an extension of the Department of Health and Human Services in enforcing the Affordable Care Act. It’s acting as an extension of the Federal Election Commission and regulating political speech (an authority it has perhaps not used so well.) It’s acting as an extension of the Department of Energy with its residential energy credits, and it’s acting as an extension of the Department of Education in offering deductions and credits for teachers and students. It has to figure out who has health insurance and who has children and where the children live. It even has to try to get data from foreign banks, due to the complexity of our worldwide system of taxation. The more arbitrary things find their way into the tax code, the more verification systems the IRS has to put in place.

These are only a few of the non-revenue responsibilities dumped on the IRS that uses the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Beyond the bottle opener and the screwdriver, every gadget you add makes it harder to use it as a knife, and now we have a Swiss Army Knife the size of a railcar.

 

20140919-2Gretchen Tegeler, Benefits and Costs of DARTing Forward  (IowaBiz.com), on the troubling financial structure behind Des Moines’ public tansportaiton:

Despite a nearly 20 percent increase in ridership over this period, there has been no associated increase in fare-based revenue.  If more millennials are riding the bus, why aren’t we seeing an increase in operating revenue?  The absence of growth in operating revenue suggests that all of the recent improvements in service and ridership have been funded by non-users, i.e. from increases in property taxes.  Are we okay with this model? How far should we go with it?

Maybe if they had to rely more on farebox revenue, they would spend less on things like the downtown Palace of Transit.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 627

Glenn Reynolds, Middle-class Savings Like Blood in the Water. Paying for “free” college and student loan subsidies by taking money out of the pockets of those who save for college sets up a strange incentive structure.

Megan McArdle, Uncle Sam Is Coming After Your Savings. They need it to buy you “free” stuff.

 

Career Corner. The Public Accountant’s Definitive Guide to Disclosure of Past Convictions (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/22/15: Business-only tax reform: do-able, or doomed? And: Are Iowa taxes all that bad?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
paul ryan

Paul Ryan

Business-only tax reform? Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the chief taxwriter in the GOP-controlled House is exploring tax reform ideas with the Obama administration:

As Republican taxwriters look for a way to advance tax reform in the face of White House ambivalence, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he would explore a business-only compromise with the Obama administration, as long as it includes passthroughs.

“I’d like to think that there is perhaps an area for common ground there,” Ryan said on Fox News January 20 after President Obama’s State of the Union address. “We’re going to try to explore it and see if we can find something.”

Ryan said Obama’s recent tax proposals, which involve increasing capital gains taxes and implementing a tax on financial institutions to pay for new and expanded middle-income tax incentives, as well as new spending programs, show he is disinterested in comprehensive reform.

I think “as long as it includes passthoughs” is absolutely the right approach. I also think it will be fatal to the reform effort. A majority of businesses and business income is taxed on 1040s as a result of the increased popularity of passthrough structures like S corporations and limited liability companies.

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

Any tax reform effort worthy of the name would bring down rates in exchange for a broader base. As the President seems firmly committed to ever-higher rates on “the rich,” I don’t see how this can happen.

 

Is Iowa’s business tax climate really that bad? (Me, IowaBiz.com). Is Iowa ready for tax reform? Ready or not, it’s overdue for it:

Even after all of the explaining, the Tax Foundation’s main points remain true. Iowa’s corporation tax rate is the highest in the U.S. (even taking the deduction for federal income taxes into account). In fact, it is the highest in the developed world. Our individual tax rate is high, even considering the federal tax deduction. All of the special breaks make Iowa’s income tax very complex. And while Iowa has many tax credits, they are often narrowly tailored and require consulting and string-pulling to obtain. Many small businesses don’t qualify for the wonderful tax breaks, but they still have to pay their accountants to comply with the resulting complex and confusing tax system.

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 post begins an exploration of Iowa tax reform options I will be running at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professional’s Blog. While longtime readers know my fondness for massive changes to the Iowa tax system, I will also be exploring changes on the margin that would improve and simplify Iowa’s tax system in its existing structure that might be easier to pass.

 

David Brunori, Bad State Tax Ideas Abound – Nebraska, Virginia, and Missouri (Tax Analysts Blog):

Special taxes — those on narrow bases — should be imposed sparingly and only for good reason. The best reason is to pay for externalities. But unlike, say, cigarettes, 99 percent of gun purchases produce no externalities. So they should not be subject to special taxes — unless you really hate guns, gun owners, and the guys from Duck Dynasty.

Not every problem is a tax problem.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayers Urged To Be On ‘High Alert’ For Fraud During Filing Season:

This week, the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) issued a reminder to taxpayers to beware of scammers making calls claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The scam, which heated up last year, has continued to plague taxpayers.

If you aren’t expecting a call from the IRS, it’s not the IRS.

 

William Perez, Understanding Form W-2, the Annual Wage and Tax statement

Robert Wood, 10 Surprising Items IRS Says To Report On Your Taxes. As a listicle, it will probably generate traffic to crush Forbes’ servers.

Tax Trials, Fourth Circuit Affirms the Tax Court on Conservation Easement Donation.  “In the end, the Fourth Circuit held that while the conservation purpose of the easement was perpetual, the use restriction on the’ real property is not in perpetuity because the taxpayers could remove land from the defined parcel and replace it with other land.”

Robert D. Flach, ONE WAY RETIREES ARE SCREWED ON THE NJ-1040.

Keith Fogg, How Long Does a CDP Case Toll the Statute of Limitations on Collection? (Procedurally Taxing)

Peter Reilly, Bitter CPA Fight Good For Attorneys And Nobody Else. The U.S. Sixth Circuit picks up the tale of one of the worst accounting firm breakups I’ve come across.

Jack Townsend, USAO SDNY Announces Another Offshore Account Client Plea

 

20141201-1Glenn Hubbard, Obama’s Bad Economic Ideas (Via the TaxProf): “Piling up child tax credits and subsidies for health care over narrow household income ranges, as the president proposes, leads to high rates of taxation on earnings from work as assistance is phased out.” In other words, a poverty trap.

Kay Bell, Obama’s ‘won both’ elections State of the Union quip, Republicans’ many responses to the speech (and gibe)

 

The Tax Policy Blog has lots on the Presidents’ doomed tax proposals:

Kyle Pomerleau, Andrew Lundeen, The Basics of President Obama’s State of the Union Tax Plan

Scott A. Hodge, Michael SchuylerWhat Dynamic Analysis Tells Us About the President’s Tax Hike on Capital Gains and Dividends

Stephen J. Entin, President Obama’s Capital Gains Tax Proposals: Bad for the Economy and the Budget

 

TaxVox is also flooding the SOTU zone:

William Gale, David John, Retirement Security a Priority in the 2015 State of the Union

Gene Steuerle, President Obama’s Middle-Class Tax Message in the State of the Union

William Gale, Adjusting the President’s Capital Gains Proposal

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 623. Today’s installment features an e-mail where scandal figure Lois Lerner shows she’s well aware her unit was under suspicion, and was desparately discouraging further inquiry.

Matt Gardner, Adobe Products’ Acrobatic Tax-Dodging Skills (Tax Justice Blog). I would read that as “skills in meeting their fiduciary duty towards their shareholders.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/12/15: They’re back! Gas tax boost, maybe; tax reform, not likely as 86th Iowa General Assembly convenes

Monday, January 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Same Governor. Same split party control in the legislature. So why would we expect different results? I expect no big tax cuts, tax increases or tax reforms. When you mix the same ingredients and put them in the same oven, expect the same thing to come out of the oven.

They will be legislating for the next few months, so they will talk, and who knows? Something might happen. But that’s not the way to bet.

The Des Moines Register today covers 10 key issues facing Iowa Legislature in 2015. Six of them are tax items. I think only one of them is likely to result in legislation. Let’s go down the list.

ROAD FUNDING/GAS TAX. The state gas tax isn’t inflation adjusted, and the Department of Transportation says it needs more money. As gas taxes are close to a fee on road use, you can make a policy case for an increase. It’s a lot harder to make a political case, which is why the Governor and the legislature are so deferential to one another in this area. The fracking-induced fall in gas prices may give them the legislature the excuse they need to do what they clearly want to do — raise the 10 21-cent per gallon tax. The governor may push it through if he has decided this is his last term. But most likely they’ll be saying “after you” right through adjournment.

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.

INCOME TAX CUTS.  The Register conflates tax cuts with tax reform here. They aren’t necessarily the same thing. Iowa’s income tax could bring in the same amount of revenue without the highest corporation rate in the developed world by eliminating the dozens of special interest tax credits and carveouts and tax credits for the well-connected. As long as Michael Gronstal remains in control of the flow of legislation in the Iowa Senate, anything that cuts rates for “the rich” goes nowhere. In any case, the Governor doesn’t seem to mind a tax credit system that gets him invited to all the cool ribbon cuttings.

That’s too bad. Iowa has a bottom-ten business tax climate that favors those with good lobbyists while making South Dakota look attractive for everyone else. Something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, which would wipe out the corporate tax, cut individual rates, and get rid of Iowa’s byzantine maze of special breaks, is long overdue.

20120906-1BROADBAND EXPANSION. This is the sort of small-ball legislation that has passed in recent years, and this seems like the most likely to get through, probably as a tax credit. Of course, every new tax credit means a puppy dies Iowa’s tax law is just a little worse and a little harder to fix. Never mind that the real obstacle to broadband expansion is in Washington, not Des Moines.

LOCAL OPTION SALES TAXES. The municipalities want to be able to drive out businesses by increasing sales tax without help from surrounding communities. Same ingredients, same cake.

BANNING TRAFFIC CAMERAS. It’s about the money, and Senator Gronstal will prevent any anti revenue camera legislation from advancing.

SALES TAX INCREASE. This proposal to increase sales taxes for natural resource funding died in the Senate last year. If you can’t get a tax increase out of the Iowa Senate, you sure aren’t getting one out of the GOP House.

Other coverage: Sioux City Journal, Iowa Legislators see limited budget room for tax cuts this session

Related: Tax States of the States: Mixed, Murky and Sometimes Mercurial (Renu Zaretsky, TaxVox)

 

IMG_0923Russ Fox, FTC Sponsors Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

Tony Nitti, Four Things Sure To Destroy Your Tax Season. Three of them stem from Obamacare.

 

William Perez, What You Need to Know about Reporting Payments Using Form 1099-MISC

Annette Nellen, HR 30 – Defining full-time worker for ACA has costs. A story of unintended consequences.

Peter Reilly, Dressage Riding Physician Convinces IRS On Hobby Loss Audit But Loses To Massachusetts

Keith Fogg, Tenth Circuit Ups the Ante on Late Filed Returns (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Bill Gives IRS Power Over Tax Prep, But Should It? No.

Kay Bell, St. Louis says no added taxes for new NFL Rams stadium. But the one they have is 20 years old, darn it!

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Kyle Pomerleau, Government Cost $4.5 Trillion in 2014 and We All Paid Part of It (Tax Policy Blog).

Robert Goulder, China’s Fiscal Roadmap: Tax Like America (Tax Policy Blog). If you are worried about China achieving economic domination, you can rest easy now.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 613

News from the Profession. Judging By This List, Accountants Aren’t Marriage Material (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Tax Court Judge Marvel explains (my emphasis):

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

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

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

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

Cite: Ferm, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-115.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kay Bell, Donating and deducting a car

Jack Townsend, Reasonable Doubt and Jury Nullification

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

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

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

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

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

Annette Nellen,State taxes and bitcoin

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

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 601

 

Post-sequester commuting.

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

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

Live it up, Robert!

 

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

 

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