Posts Tagged ‘iowa tax policy’

Tax Roundup, 11/17/15: We’re #40! The new State Business Tax Climate Index comes out today.

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

Iowa rises out of bottom ten in State Business Tax Climate index. The Tax Foundation released its 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index today, and Iowa is no longer one of the ten-worst states in the index. Barely.

Maryland and Iowa changed places from last year in the index, making Iowa the 40th state in the annual index of business tax climates. Iowa’s overall score improved slightly, while Maryland got a little worse, especially in its unemployment insurance ranking. Iowa failed to improve its ranking in any of the five components making up the index. Its ranking fell in the sales tax, unemployment tax, and property tax categories, and it maintained its 32nd place individual tax and 49th place in corporation tax. Still, Maryland’s seven-place plunge in its unemployment tax rankings enabled it to crawl underneath Iowa in the index.

The result isn’t surprising, as Iowa’s tax law is nearly unchanged from last year. The split control of the Iowa legislature has blocked any significant tax legislation. I do suspect that the sales tax component will improve in the 2017 index based on the change in the definition of sales tax-exempt manufacturing supplies under an administrative ruling set to take effect July 1 of next year.

Iowa, in short, continues to have a bad system, one changed very little in structure since the 1970s, with high rates and a rat’s nest of feel-good deductions and special interest subsidies producing a hostile system for small businesses lacking expensive advisors and good friends at the statehouse. It’s a system crying for reform. The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be a huge improvement.

Map by the Tax Foundation

Map by the Tax Foundation


Fresh Buzz! Tuesday again brings a fresh Buzz roundup from Robert D. Flach, covering ground from accounting nostalgia to changes in this year’s W-2.

Robert Wood, Clinton Foundation Amends 4 Years Taxes, Admits Speech Fees Weren’t Donations. Ah, but better keep an eye on those sneaky Tea Partiers. The laundering of speech fees through the foundation, instead of through Clinton 1040s, seems inherently sketchy.

Jay A. Soled, Kathleen DeLaney ThomasThe Nonreporting of Modern Fringe Benefits (Procedurally Taxing). “But there is a strange phenomenon transpiring with respect to this new breed of fringe benefits. While they generally do not fall within the delineated scope of Code section 132’s enumerated exemptions, they are nevertheless not being reported as income by employers (nor by the employees, who follow suit).”

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Review (Of Financial Statements). “In a review, the CPA examines a company’s financials to verify that they are free of deficiencies, but the firm does not review internal controls or fraud risks as in an audit.”

Jack Townsend, Is Jury Unanimity Required as to at Least One Obstructive Act for Tax Obstruction?

Paul Neiffer, Trends in Write-Offs of Farm Assets:

The Tax Foundation periodically comes out with good information on tax statistics.  They recently issued a report on corporate investment in equipment for tax year 2012.  My perception has been that most of the equipment purchased during 2012 was new equipment.  Based on this report, my perception may be in error (or not).

I think Paul is correct in believing that Section 179 is a bigger deal for most farmers than bonus depreciation.

Kay Bell, Cell phone service taxes average 18%, an all-time high




Peter Reilly, Bernie Sanders Less Of A Socialist Than Dwight Eisenhower. Peter bases this (absurd) headline on the Sanders statement that he wouldn’t raise income tax rates to the 90% amount seen in the Eisenhower administration. I suspect Peter was being deliberately provocative or sarcastic, as I think he knows his history too well to actually believe that.

UPDATE: Peter corrects my speculation in the comments: “On the not as Socialist as Dwight Eisenhower thing, I was quoting Sanders (or paraphrasing) as I was live blogging the debates.” Peter has a much stronger stomach than I do to actually watch these things.


Jim Maule, Not a Surprise: Tax Ignorance Afflicts Presidential Candidates and CNN.  While the good professor focuses on the size of the tax code, I think that’s just a reflection of a much bigger problem — one that would be corrected by my proposal that all politicians, and all candidates, be required to do their returns by hand in a live webcast. I would also require a comment bar so we could all help the politicians — “hey, do you really think your used briefs are worth $3 each?”


Annette Nellen, “Abolish the IRS” Distracts from Needed Reforms.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 922. The Attorney General will get to explain why she concludes there were no crimes committed.

Renu Zaretsky, Maybe peace, definitely another patch, and many refunds… Today’s TaxVox headline roundup ranges from prospects for tax legislation this year to refunds of Cleveland’s “Jock Tax.”


News from the Profession. Some Audit Committee Members Just Ignoring Auditors Now (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Well, they’re used to it.



Tax Roundup, 10/21/15: The tax law doesn’t care where you are on the autism spectrum. And: Iowa sales tax rule change praised.

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20151014-1No Asperger exception to Section 475. It’s heads they win, tails you lose for capital gains and losses. If you have capital gains, they’re happy to tax them, no matter how many you have. If you have capital losses, you are limited to gains plus $3,000 per year, with the remainder carrying forward — even if you have to outlive Methuselah to use them up at $3,000 annually. Many sadder-but-wider former day traders have found themselves with this problem.

Section 475 offers some taxpayers a way out. If you qualify as a “trader,” a Section 475 election makes your losses fully deductible. It makes your gains ordinary, rather than capital, and it requires you to recognize gains and losses on your open positions at year-end, but that’s not a big deal for day traders. They tend to trade short-term, and short-term gains are taxed at ordinary rates anyway, and marking-to-market isn’t normally a big deal to them.

But Section 475 has a strict election requirement. You have to make the election no later than the April 15 of the year you want the election to take effect. For example, a taxpayer wanting to make the election effective for 2015 tax returns would have to make the election on his 2014 timely-filed 1040 due April 15, 2015.

A New York man claimed he made the election on his 2003 1040. Unfortunately, he made two serious mistakes. See if you can spot them in the Tax Court’s summary:

In 2003 on the advice of his accountant, petitioner intended to file a section 475(f) mark-to-market election. Petitioner, however, did not retain a signed copy of any election or any evidence of mailing it. Petitioner filed his Federal income tax return for the tax year 2003 on July 25, 2005. The 2003 tax return contained a statement that petitioner had made an election pursuant to section 475(f), but did not have a copy of Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method, attached to it.

Error 1: Not keeping a copy of the election (assuming he made it).

Error 2: Not filing until over a year after the due date.

Other cases have shown that the IRS enforces the timely-filing requirements of Section 475 strictly, to keep taxpayers from making the election with the benefit of hindsight.

The Court ruled that he traded enough to qualify as a “trader” under the tax law, but that he blew the election (my emphasis):

We find that petitioner failed to comply with the requirements for the mark-to-market election set out in Rev. Proc. 99-17, supra. The evidence does not show conclusively whether petitioner signed or mailed a Form 3115 in 2003. Petitioner did not submit a copy of any executed version of Form 3115 or any evidence of mailing it. Respondent did not find any record of petitioner’s Form 3115 in his electronic database, but also admitted that in some years not all Forms 3115 received were actually entered in the database. Next, petitioner filed his Federal income tax return for 2003 on July 25, 2005, failing to comply with the filing deadlines.

There’s a lot in that paragraph. Perhaps the most important thing is that the IRS admits that it doesn’t always know what you file, so it’s wise to keep your returns forever in case something like this happens. The other thing is that the deadlines matter.

The taxpayer made an unusual argument to get out of penalties: that his Asperger Syndrome made it impossible to meet deadlines. The Tax Court wasn’t convinced:

For a number of years, including 2002 and 2003, petitioner worked as a high school teacher. There is no evidence in the record that at any time from 2001 through 2006 petitioner filed for a disability accommodation while he was employed as a school teacher. In 2007 petitioner was trading in securities. Petitioner’s work station was equipped with six monitors showing the status of his trades. Petitioner was able to collect, analyze, and organize information to base his trades on. Petitioner understood he had a duty to file tax returns but claims that in 2007 he was “despondent” because of the losses he suffered and could not organize himself to file a tax return timely.

We are sympathetic to petitioner’s plight. We cannot find, however, under these circumstances that petitioner’s mental condition prevented him from managing his business affairs.

This is consistent with other cases where the courts have found that if you are able to deal with the challenges of daily life, you are presumed to be able to file your returns on time.

The Moral: File your returns on time, and keep copies of your filings forever.

Cite: Poppe, T.C. Memo 2015-205

Related: TaxProf, Tax Court: Asperger’s Syndrome Does Not Excuse Taxpayer’s Failure To File Tax Return




David Brunori calls the Iowa proposal to broaden the definition of manufacturing supplies subject to exemption from sales tax The Best Tax Policy Proposal of the Year (Tax Analysts Blog):

Taxing what business entities buy is wrong for two important reasons. First, businesses will try to pass the tax they pay on to their customers in the form of higher prices. Almost all succeed. The customers incur the tax burden without knowing it. That’s wrong. Even for those companies that don’t pass the tax along to customers, some person is unwittingly paying the tax. Second, when consumers pay higher prices, they are sometimes subject to tax. Thus, the sales tax is imposed on a value that includes previous sales tax. You may know it as cascading or pyramiding. But it’s wrong.

And that’s why the Iowa proposal is so refreshingly right. It would expand the types of business purchases exempt from sales tax. My understanding is that there is a debate in Iowa about whether the Department of Revenue can expand the number of exempt business purchases administratively. I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that the proposal represents sound tax policy.

Governor Branstad says expects the proposal to be enacted, reports the Sioux City Journal in Branstad: House GOP won’t buck rule change.


Russ Fox, The Wagering Excise Tax and DFS:

I’m focusing on the tax aspects of daily fantasy sports (DFS) this week. It’s beneficial for DFS participants for the activity to be considered gambling. For political reasons (“gambling is a sin”) and regulatory reasons (gambling is regulated, skill contests are not), the DFS sites want to be considered skill games sites. There’s another reason that DFS sites don’t want to be considered gambling: the wagering excise tax.

Picking the right horse at the track is a skill, too, but I’m pretty sure it counts as gambling.


Paul Neiffer, What is a Marginal Tax Bracket. A useful explanation for the non-specialist of how tax brackets work.

Kay Bell, Increased e-filing security planned for 2016 filing season. Better at least five years too late than never, I suppose.

Jim Maule, Beachfront House Rental Deduction Washed Out. When you try to deduct what looks like a beach party, you’d better have excellent documentation.

Eric Rasmusen, Law Suit for Billions Against Citigroup Because of Treasury’s 2009 Waiver of Section 382’s Rule about Losing NOL’s after an Ownership Change. The Administration put the fix in for its friends at Citigroup, and now another taxpayer is suing.




Tax Policy Blog, A Comparison of Presidential Tax Plans and Their Economic Effects.

Renu Zaretsky, “There’s no cut like a tax cut… There’s no cut like a tax cut…” Today’s TaxVox tax headline roundup covers the continuing fiscal pain in Kansas and the IRS patting itself on the back on ID theft after letting it spiral out of control for years.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 895



Our media outlets dismiss the opponents of the Ex-Im bank or people who want to wind down Freddie and Fannie as Tea Party nut cases. If you want to stop crony capitalism, what we need are fewer influential media outlets and more Tea Party nut cases.

Arnold Kling



Tax Roundup, 10/7/15: Iowa Dept. of Revenue proposes sound policy, protests erupt. And: skating to a low-tax state.

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150122-1The Iowa Department of Revenue proposes broad definitions for industrial sales tax exemption. The chief Democratic taxwriter in the Iowa Senate is unhappy.

The Des Moines Register reports:

State legislators will consider a proposal next week that would reduce the tax burden for manufacturers by up to $46 million in a move critics say bypasses the legislative process.

In an effort to avoid a “double tax,” current law exempts from taxation some items used during the manufacturing process and instead taxes the final product. The proposal would expand the number of items that qualify for that exemption.

The policy behind the exemption is sound. As David Brunori points out,

Only bad things happen when businesses pay sales tax. First, the businesses paying the tax pass the burden on to their customers in the form of higher prices. But the tax is hidden. People do not know they are paying it. Politicians, and perhaps the New York Times, may like that lack of transparency, but it is awful government policy. Second, the higher priced products purchased by consumers are often subject to tax. This gives rise to a tax on a tax. That is awful tax policy. Finally, taxation of business inputs artificially keeps sales tax rates low. People think the sales tax rate is lower than it actually is. None of this is good.

Whether the Department has overstepped its authority is a separate question from the tax policy. From the Register story:

But state Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, pointed out the fiscal effects of the legislation on Monday.

“We’ve been told repeatedly by this governor that we can’t afford to educate our kids, and here he goes again with another big tax cut for Iowa’s largest corporations and putting their needs ahead of our kids,” Bolkcom said. “It’s wrong.”

“I don’t remember ever tax policy being made by the rules committee or being made by the executive branch without the consent of the Legislature,” Bolkcom said. “This is a huge tax policy change that (Gov. Branstad) has unilaterally decided.”

Iowa businesses have long complained about the restrictive definition of “equipment” and “property directly and primarily used in processing.” It seems to me that the new definitions are more in line with business reality and the intent of the exemption. Still, I haven’t seen a fight over proposed regulations like this, so I have no idea how this will play out.

Link: Proposed new Iowa rules.




TaxGrrrl, Hockey Players Ice High Tax Teams In Favor Of Tax Savings:

With teams located in Canada and in the United States, high performing hockey players may be able to negotiate their tax home with their team home in order to choose a more favorable tax result. That is, according to a new report released jointly by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) and Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), exactly what’s happening.

According to the report, 54% of the 116 Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) and 60% of players with no-trade clauses who changed teams picked teams with lower taxes.

Sports free agency is an unusual natural experiment on whether state taxes matter. There are always other factors than taxes in choosing a team.  Winning is worth something. Still, it’s pretty much the same job, just with different taxes. The resulting low-tax preference is what you would predict.


Kay Bell, Fantasy sports: Gambling or just good, clean online fun?  Either way, taxes are due, but deduction options differ.

Jack Townsend, Swiss Asset Manager Settles Up with DOJ Tax. A $295,000 fine. Another example of second prong of the IRS approach to international tax compliance — shoot the jaywalkers so you can slap the big offenders on the wrist.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: A Buyer’s Best Friend – Understanding The Section 338(h)(10) Election. “What if a buyer could acquire a target’s stock for legal purposes — thereby keeping the target alive and preserving its non-transferable assets — but acquire the target’s assets for tax purposes, giving the buyer the stepped-up basis in the asset it seeks?”


Jim Maule, Putting More Tax Information “Out There” for the Tax Database Thieves:

Until and unless the protection of online data is heightened to a point of 99 percent confidence, the IRS should not create yet another vulnerability, another door through which the robbers can force their way in. In the meantime, why not focus on the problem rather than the symptoms? The underlying cause of some noncompliance is the complexity of the tax laws. Treating the symptoms does not cure the illness.



Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 8/31/15 to 9/11/15. Procedurally Taxing rounds up recent developments in tax procedure, “heavy on estate and gift this week.”




David Brunori, North Carolina Tax Changes — Sort of Good, Kind of Bad (Tax Analysts Blog):

On the good side, the state lowered the personal income tax rate from 5.75 percent to 5.49 percent. Lowering rates is usually good for the economy and for the people paying taxes. I believe that people know how to spend their money in ways that improve the economy much better than the government does. The state also expanded the no-tax exemption to $15,500, providing more relief for low-income taxpayers. In general that is a good thing.

On the super-negative front, the legislature is giving Hollywood moguls $30 million in each of the next two years to make films in North Carolina. I guess they haven’t read any of the studies showing that film credits don’t work. But why let facts stand in the way of policymaking?

It’s probably only a matter of time before they realize the wisdom of Iowa’s enlightened approach to hosting filmmakers.


Joseph Henchman, California Supreme Court Hears Arguments in MTC Case (Tax Policy Blog).

Roberton Williams, New Estimates Of How Many Households Pay No Federal Income Tax (TaxVox). “We now figure it is 45.3 percent, nearly 5 percentage points higher than our 2013 estimate of 40.4 percent.”  Mitt Romney, call your office.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 881. Quoting Victor David Hanson: “What now constitutes actionable criminal behavior in the scandals at the IRS, EPA, ICE and a host of other alphabet agencies are not treated as per se violations of the law. Rather, they are judged according to whether the offender and his crime were deemed progressive and well-intended—or reactionary and thus prosecutable.”

Peter Reilly, Paul Caron’s Day By Day IRS Scandal Has Jumped The Shark – Part 1. Sometimes I think the TaxProf has to reach deep to have something to run every day, but his continued focus on the outrageous IRS behavior is a public service. I’m not sure Peter thinks there is a scandal in the first place.


Career Corner. Do PwC Employees Really Like the New Student Loan Perk? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). No word on whether the spiff is available in cash for those thrifty students who got by without loans.



Tax Roundup, 9/30/15: Taking from rich doesn’t give to the poor; state incentives favor the big.

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Today we have two instances where policy tanks that I usually disagree with make important tax policy points.

TPC logoFirst, The center-left Tax Policy Center, a project of the Brookings Institution (which I castigate below), makes an important observation about the overrated problem of income inequality in their paper, Would a significant increase in the top income tax rate substantially alter income inequality? The summary (my emphasis):

The high level of income inequality in the United States is at the forefront of policy attention. This paper focuses on one potential policy response: an increase in the top personal income tax rate. We conduct a simulation analysis using the Tax Policy Center (TPC) microsimulation model to determine how much of a reduction in income inequality would be achieved from increasing the top individual tax rate to as much as 50 percent. We calculate the resulting change in income inequality assuming an explicit redistribution of all new revenue to households in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. The resulting effects on overall income inequality are exceedingly modest.

I have zero hope that politicians will heed this. Just because you take from the rich doesn’t mean it goes to the poor. It goes to the well-connected, as in the next item.

Second, the not-so-center-left Good Jobs First takes the side of the angels in the battle against state tax incentives, with a survey of small businesses called In Search of a Level Playing Field:

A national survey of leaders of small business organizations reveals that they overwhelmingly believe that state economic development incentives favor big businesses, that states are overspending on large individual deals, and that state incentive programs are not effectively meeting the needs of small businesses seeking to grow. 

I think they have this exactly right. It’s not start-ups that get the big deals from the legislature and the Economic Development bureaucrats. It’s the well-connected and wealthy companies that know how to work the system. The rest of us get to pay for it.




Jason Dinesen, The Iowa School Tuition Organization Tax Credit. “Iowa offers dozens of obscure tax credits. The one I get asked about most is the tax credit available for donations to a ‘school tuition organization’ or STO.”

Kay Bell, Maryland issuing court-ordered county tax credit refunds. If you don’t want to repay illegal taxes, don’t collect illegal taxes.

Russ Fox, How to Wynne Your Money Back in Maryland

Paul Neiffer, IRS Provides List of Counties Eligible For Additional Extension on Livestock Replacement

Jim Maule, Taxation of Prizes, Question Two. He quotes a post from a sweepstakes message board:

 I won concert VIP tickets, there is no value on the tickets, so I can’t sell them. If no value is on them, why am I paying taxes on them? 

Mr. Maule explains that there is a value. If there isn’t, then why didn’t the winner give them away?





InsureBlog, Yes, The New York Obamacare Co-op [squandered*] $340 Million. *The actual headline uses a more colorful term.

Robert Wood, Hillary Backs Cadillac Tax Repeal


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 874. Today’s edition features IRS agents abusing their power on everyday taxpayers. But we can trust them to regulate their tax preparer adversaries, right?

Arnold Kling, Hypocrisy and Cowardice at Brookings. Arnold addresses the firing by the Brookings Institution of Robert Litan, a scholar accused by Senator Elizabeth Warren of “writing a research paper to benefit his corporate patrons.” He is appalled:

1. Robert Litan is one of the most decent individuals in the whole economics profession.

2. Giving Litan’s scalp (sorry for the pun) to Elizabeth Warren does nothing to bolster the integrity of Brookings. It amounts to speaking cowardice to power.

There’s more. The episode is appalling, and it shows the totalitarian tendencies that are barely beneath the surface of Senator Warren’s populism.




Alan Cole, Donald Trump’s Tax Plan Will Not Be Revenue-Neutral Under Any Circumstances (Tax Policy Blog)

Jeremy Scott, Trump’s Tax Plan Is Pretty Much GOP Orthodoxy (Tax Analysts Blog)

Matt Gardner, How Donald Trump’s Carried Interest Tax Hike Masks a Massive Tax Cut for Wealthy Money Managers (Tax Justice Blog)

Peter Reilly, Trump Tax Plan Would Increase Deficit By Over $10 Trillion

Tony Nitti, Love Trump, Hate Romney, But Their Tax Plans Are One And The Same

Renu Zaretsky, Thirty days, goodbye September, shutdown talks—maybe in December. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers shutdown politics, plans to use reconciliation procedures to pass bills repealing pieces of Obamacare, and tax Trumpalism.


See you at Hoyt Sherman Place tonight!



Tax Roundup, 9/9/15: Meredith HQ stays in Iowa despite taxes. And: Walter Mitty, Chiropractor — not Ghostbuster.

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan



A part of the Meredith campus in Downtown Des Moines.

Meredith Corporation will keep its headquarters in Des Moines, reports the Des Moines Register. The Des Moines-based media company yesterday announced its acquisition by Media General, a Virginia-based company. From the Register report:

Virginia-based Media General will acquire Meredith in a cash-and-stock sale, forming a new company — Meredith Media General — that will combine Meredith’s list of women-focused magazines and 17 local TV stations with Media General’s 71 TV stations and digital media assets.

“We have our corporate headquarters in Des Moines, my management team … we all live in Des Moines, our staff are in Des Moines. We will continue to be in Des Moines,” Lacy said. He will serve as CEO and president of the new company.

Meredith Media General will be incorporated in Virginia, but have corporate offices in both Richmond, Va., and Des Moines.

It’s an interesting compromise. With the CEO of the combined company already located in Des Moines, it’s unsurprising that he will run things from here, everything else being equal.

Yet not everything is equal. Des Moines is an expensive place tax-wise to run a corporate headquarters, according to the Tax Foundation’s Location Matters report. Iowa is the 4th most expensive state in which to locate a corporate headquarters, while Virginia is the 12th cheapest. 20150901-1

Fortunately for Des Moines, non-tax factors apparently outweighed the tax issues. These might include the in-place infrastructure for Meredith’s publishing arm, including Better Homes and Gardens and Martha Stewart Living. Still, those 900 Des Moines Meredith jobs might be more secure with a better tax environment. Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, anyone?


Tony Nitti, Child’s Unauthorized Incorporation Of Father’s Business Proves Costly In Tax Court. “Raising kids comes with some well-known hazards: sleepless nights, spit-up stained clothes, and of course, the occasional flailing elbow to the genitalia. What you probably don’t anticipate upon the miracle of childbirth, however, is that one day your kid will take it upon himself to incorporate your business via the internet, costing you tens of thousands in tax deductions.”

Robert D. Flach, THE NATP TAX FORUM AND EXPO IN PHILADELPHIA – PART I. “The one thing that is missing from the NATP Tax Forum offering is the IRS perspective.”

Kay Bell, Tax scam callers now spoofing telephone numbers

TaxGrrrl, IRS To Refuse Checks Greater Than $100 Million Beginning In 2016


Scott Greenberg, The Carried Interest Debate is Mostly Overblown (Tax Policy Blog). Mostly? Almost entirely.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 854

Career Corner. 5 Ways Accountants Can Protect Themselves from the Accountapocalypse (Chris Hooper, Going Concern)




Who knew being a Chiropractor could be so exciting? James Thurber created the character Walter Mitty, “… a meek, mild man with a vivid fantasy life: in a few dozen paragraphs he imagines himself a wartime pilot, an emergency-room surgeon, and a devil-may-care killer.”

A Minnesota chiropractor, a Mr. Laudon, seems to have reprised the Mitty role on his tax return. If his Tax Court testimony is to believed, chiropractic practice can be pretty exciting. From the Tax Court:

He said that his patients often called him a psychiatrist, chauffeur, physician, peace officer, or even a pheasant hunter.2 Some of Laudon’s stated reasons for making these trips strain credibility: for example, driving to a “schizophrenic” patient who was — on more than one occasion — “running scared of demons” down a rural Minnesota highway, or driving to a patient’s home in a Minneapolis suburb — expensing 261 miles — because he had received a call from police that she had overdosed on OxyContin prescribed by her physician. Laudon claimed to have driven hundreds of miles per day — sometimes without a valid license — to see patients, but several of these trips were for medical procedures he was not licensed to perform.

Laudon contends that the Commissioner failed to classify certain deposits as nontaxable, including insurance payments for damage to several vehicles, one of which was involved in a “high speed police chase” with a man “high on meth and cocaine.”

IMG_1583Note that footnote 2, we’ll get to that in a minute. I never knew that a chiropractor could have such an exciting life. Law enforcement, mental health, high-speed chases — even exorcism, it seems.  Is there anything he couldn’t do? Well, back to footnote 2:

But not a ghostbuster. The Commissioner rhetorically asserted that some of Laudon’s trips might have made more sense if he was claiming to be a ghostbuster. Laudon then disclaimed any employment as a ghostbuster. In his reply brief the Commissioner conceded that Laudon was not “employed or under contract to perform work as a ghostbuster during the tax years at issue in this case.” We therefore need make no finding on the existence of a market for “supernatural elimination” in west-central Minnesota. See “Ghostbusters” (Columbia Pictures 1984).

In case you couldn’t tell, this is a Judge Holmes opinion.

Walter Mitty’s dreams didn’t go well, as his fantasy life had him in front of a fantasy firing squad. Things went badly for our chiropractor too. The court found both his documentation and his credibility lacking, including this about his mileage logs:

Laudon claimed to have driven hundreds of miles per day — sometimes without a valid license — to see patients, but several of these trips were for medical procedures he was not licensed to perform. Even his testimony about multiple entries in the logs where he wrote “DUI” was not credible: He claimed that these were not references to being stopped by police while under the influence, or driving while his license was suspended, but instead were his misspellings of a patient named “Dewey” — a supposed patient of his. He testified that he took one business trip to pick up a patient left stranded due to a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. And he even testified about trips he made to test his patients’ urine:

    Absolutely we do * * * [test urine]. It’s part of the — I believe it’s Federal, you know, that they have — we have to abide by that. It’s specific gravity. You’re basically, looking for sugar, let alone height, weight, blood pressure. Make sure they’re not drunk, doing illegal drugs.

We find Laudon not credible in his testimony regarding his business mileage, and this finding affects our views of his testimony’s credibility on every other issue in the case.

The taxpayer reported taxable losses from 2007-2009 ranging from $60,000 to $84,000. That alone is a challenge to credibility. The IRS added $346,000 to his income for the three years, and the Tax Court upheld the IRS with only minor changes. Among the disallowed expenses were “a Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and numerous pieces of hair-salon equipment.” So, a barber, too.

The Moral? There might be more to that mild-mannered chiropractor than you imagined. But if there is, he needs to keep good records when the IRS comes calling.

Cite: Laudon, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-54

Russ Fox is also on the case: Ghost Hunter, Pheasant Hunter, or Deduction Hunter: No Matter, He Loses at Tax Court




Tax Roundup, 8/28/15: Reverse Danegeld. And: stealing a Congressional tax refund!

Friday, August 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy stu_spivack under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy stu_spivack under Creative Commons license

May I have another Danish? It’s a lot less fun to be a Dane than it might have been 1,000 years ago. Back then, cowering kings paid a Danegeld, a payment to keep the fearsome Danish Vikings away. From Wikipedia:

The Danegeld (/ˈdn.ɡɛld/;[1] “Danish tax”, literally “Dane tribute”) was a tax raised to pay tribute to the Viking raiders to save a land from being ravaged. 

Now the money is going the other way, it appears, because the Danish tax agency is outdoing the IRS in sending money to thieves, no questions asked. reports Danes stunned by €800mn tax fraud:

Criminals have duped Denmark’s tax authority into incorrectly refunding €830 million in the past three years, by filling out an online form for tax refunds under double taxation agreements.

The fraud was alerted to police on Wednesday (26 August) and appears to be the country’s biggest tax scam ever, with little chance for the state to recover the money.

They apparently made it easy:

With most of Danish taxes administrated online, it was easy for the fraudsters to fill in the one-page, so-called 06.020 form on the tax authority’s homepage and then claim refunds for taxes paid on stock revenues from Danish companies held by foreign companies.

The fraud would have been easily revealed if the tax authority cross-checked the ownership of shares with Danish companies.

Denmark has about 5 million people, so it’s as though the scammers had taken $185 from every Dane. That would translate to about a $55 billion theft loss in the U.S. Actual annual losses from U.S. tax refund fraud are estimated to run in the neighborhood of $5-6 billion annually.

Being better than Denmark doesn’t seem to comfort one congressman very much. Deseret News reports Congressman Jason Chaffetz is victim of tax return scam:

Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is using the incident to add fuel to his call for the firing of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

The congressman asked President Barack Obama last month to remove Koskinen, saying he has obstructed congressional investigations into the treatment of conservative groups. Chaffetz said not only has Koskinen ignored a congressional subpoena but has shown an inability to manage a large organization and protect sensitive data.

“There has to be a better, smarter way to authenticate who somebody is. Social Security numbers are floating out there everywhere,” the congressman said.

While the refund fraud debacle started before Koskinen became IRS Commissioner, he sure hasn’t gotten it under control.


A loss in the Iowa tax policy world: Co-founder of Iowans for Tax Relief dies.

buzz20150827Friday Buzz! from Robert D. Flach, rounding up stories from the tax uses of capital losses to catching up on retirement savings.

Russ Fox, Will the Last One Out Turn the Lights Off? “Nearly four years ago my business–and the one whole employee in the Bronze Golden State (me)–left for Nevada because sometimes silver is better than gold.” And their politicians are primed to make California taxes worse still.

Annette Nellen, Sales tax on short-term rentals? Maybe! “The ease of listing your home, vacation property or a room on Airbnb or similar web platform has turned a lot of individuals into landlords.”

Paul Neiffer, Midwest Cropland Values Continue to Drop

Kay Bell, Still waiting for tax extenders. Is money the holdup?

Jim Maule, Traffic Ticket Fines Based on Income? “So my bottom line is, yes, conceptually it is an interesting idea with some valid arguments in support, and with some valid arguments in opposition. But when I turn to practical reality, a benchmark too often overlooked, the answer for me is clearly, ‘No, it’s not worth it.'”

Keith Fogg, Quiet the Title before You Sell (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Under Obamacare, Does Everyone Drive A Cadillac?. That’s nothing. Under President Vermin Supreme, everyone gets a pony.

Me, Who should own the bricks?. My latest at, the Des Moines Business Record’s business professionals’ blog, discusses the problems of structuring ownership of business real estate.




Scott Greenberg, Here’s How Much Taxes on the Rich Rose in 2013 (Tax Policy Blog):

So, in 2012, the wealthy had higher-than-usual levels of capital gains income. Therefore, because capital gains are taxed at a lower rate, overall tax rates on high-income Americans were lower than usual in 2012. In 2013, because high-income Americans had much less income from capital gains, their effective tax rates rose significantly.

But some people, including those in the White House now, never beleive the rates are high enough.


Howard Gleckman, CBO Sees a Big Increase in Individual Income Tax Revenues Over the Next Decade. They’ll always want more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 841


News from the Profession. CohnReznick’s Golf Event Won’t Solve Gender Inequality (Greg Kyte, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 8/27/15: Iowa cheap for the factory, costly for the headquarters. And: Instant Tax indictments.

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

All the state taxes. The Tax Foundation has issued its 2015 Location Matters report, “a comparative analysis of state tax costs on business.” It provides a summary of the costs of operating different kinds of business, state by state, with wonderful charts like this one for Iowa:

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

This chart seems to show that Iowa is relatively easy on manufacturing, but a very expensive place for a service business or a distribution center — with an effective state and local rate of around 40% for distribution facilities. It also shows that the corporation income tax really only clobbers retailers and corporate headquarters.

The charts really get interesting when you compare states. Let’s turn to our neighbors in South Dakota:


Source: The Tax Foundation

While most industries fare much better in South Dakota than in Iowa, capital-intensive manufacturers — especially new ones — do a little worse. This is because South Dakota has a higher sales tax, and, presumably, because of the presence of Iowa’s tax incentives for new manufacturers. Once you settle in, there is little difference.

Here’s what the report says about Iowa (my emphasis):

Despite having the highest top corporate income tax rate in the nation at 12.0 percent, Iowa’s mature capital-intensive manufacturing firm experiences the lowest effective tax burden in the nation at 3.9 percent, due in large part to Iowa’s single sales factor apportionment formula and the lack of a throwback rule, which have the effect of exempting nearly all of a firm’s income from in-state taxation. The operation also experiences a relatively low property tax burden due to the lack of property taxes on equipment and inventory.

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 offers a 50 percent deduction for federal income taxes paid, which helps mitigate the burden of the state’s high corporate and individual income taxes but is also responsible for those high rates.

In addition to its favorable apportionment factors for businesses selling goods out of state, Iowa’s benefits-based sourcing rules work to the advantage of Iowa-based firms selling services out of state. However, effective property tax rates can be exceedingly high for some firms—nearly double the national average for mature distribution centers, for instance—greatly increasing overall tax costs. Qualifying new firms (the manufacturing operations and the distribution center) receive a full abatement of the property tax on improvements for three years, though the abatement does not cover taxes on the value of the land itself.

Manufacturing machinery and research and development (R&D) equipment are exempt from the state sales tax, and the R&D facility receives other incentives as well. Iowa also offers generous investment and job creation tax incentives to new firms, though due to the state’s high tax rates, most new firms continue to experience above-average tax burdens.

This offers some lessons for Iowa’s ongoing tax reform debate:

– The Iowa Corporation Income Tax, where it isn’t futile, is a job killer, making it very expensive to locate a corporate headquarters here.

– Iowa’s vaunted tax incentives benefit the lucky and the well connected, while stifling start ups: “most new firms continue to experience above-average tax burdens.”

– Despite the recently enacted property tax reforms, Iowa’s real estate taxes still are a big cost for Iowa businesses.

The full report can be found here.


Can Iowa tax reform happen?

Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan




Instant tax unhappinessThe tax prep franchise outfit Instant Tax Service had a colorful history before it was ordered to close by a federal judge. It was notorious for “paystub” returns, prepared to claim refunds for a mostly low-income clientele before they got their W-2s. That’s something preparers aren’t supposed to do.

Yesterday things got worse for the owners of Instant Tax Service with an indictment on tax charges. A Department of Justice Press Release lists some of the allegations (my emphasis):

From about January 2004 through November 2012, Ogbazion and Wade executed a scheme to obstruct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), wherein numerous ITS franchises filed false federal income tax returns without valid Forms W-2 and without the permission of their taxpayer clients.  The false returns included false and inflated sole proprietorship Schedule C income in an attempt to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Over the course of several years, Ogbazion also instructed an ITS employee to electronically file large volumes of unsigned tax returns on the first day of the “tax filing season,” then falsely backdated customer filing authorizations.  In an attempt to obstruct IRS civil compliance audits, ITS maintained and filed false documents with the IRS, including fabricated Forms W-2 created by ITS employees using tax preparation software, and forged client signatures on various false IRS forms.

Earned income tax credit skeptics are often scolded that the 25% rate of improper payments isn’t all due to fraud; it’s because taxes are hard and all. Taxes are hard, but if there isn’t massive fraud, it’s not for lack of trying. Rather than trying to run a welfare system through the tax code, we should be looking at a universal benefit along the lines proposed by Arnold Kling.


Arnold Kling, The EITC in Practice

Tax Update, Helping the poor by increasing their marginal tax rate., H&R Block snuck language into a Senate bill to make taxes more confusing for poor people (Via the TaxProf).

H&R Block’s entire business model is premised on taxes being confusing and hard to file.

Well, that and promoting IRS preparer regulation to put competitors out of business.

Robert Wood, Trump Firing H&R Block Could Actually Help Immigrants




Jason Dinesen, Things a Business Owner Needs to Know Before Hiring Employees


Tony Nitti, 2013 Tax Changes Raised The Tax Bill On The Wealthiest 2 Percent By $60 Billion. “Whether an additional $60 billion in revenue is enough to satisfy the current administration remains to be seen.” No, we already know it won’t.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 840. More about Toby Miles. Meanwhile, Commissioner Koskinen dismisses the revelations of Lois Lerner’s canine email address under the “old news” ploy, and tells Tax Analysts ($link) that even though she hates Republicans and Tea Partiers, Lerner’s team was fair and square in dealing with their exemption applications.

Kay Bell, Lois Lerner used her dog’s email to conduct IRS business


Joseph Thorndike, When it Comes to Taxes, Americans Are of Two Minds – or Three, or Five or Eight. “While trying to make sense of Donald Trump’s statements on tax policy, I was struck by their disparate quality; to call them random is to exaggerate their coherence.”


Tax Roundup, 8/20/15: Can Iowa tax reform happen?

Thursday, August 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

Iowa Tax Reform – doable? I will spend much of today at the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Tax Committee meeting. The topic is Iowa tax reform. Regular readers know that I have strong feelings about the topic. Iowa’s income tax is a mess, and it doesn’t have to be.

Or does it?

There are always forces that push a tax system to complexity. I think any tax system will always have insiders trying to cut special deals for themselves. This leads to higher taxes on everyone else, but the insiders are good at protecting their special deals. Iowa’s dozens of incentive tax credits are classic examples.

Iowa has other factors that help stymie efforts to lower tax rates by eliminating deductions and special tax breaks. On the right side of the aisle, Iowans for Tax Relief has always opposed any tax reform that eliminates the deductibility of federal income taxes. This is almost unknown outside of Iowa, and its repeal is probably essential if we are going to significantly reduce Iowa’s very high 8.98% individual rate.

On the left side of the aisle, the politicians have an unhealthy focus on soaking the rich. With control of the state senate, Iowa Democrats have bottled up all efforts that would reduce Iowa’s high rates because they help “the rich” — better known as “employers.”

I think Iowa may overcome these obstacles. Elimination of corporate tax and much lower individual might persuade insiders to give up special deals, or at least make them not worth fighting for. I think Iowa business is tired of its perpetually poor business tax climate.  Iowans for Tax Relief may soften its stance on federal deductibilty, or legislators may find the arguments for reform more persuasive. And a broad-based tax simplification could have non-partisan appeal, especially if it has a large low-income exemption.

But I think it has to be ambitious. A small plan isn’t going to persuade anybody to give up their special deals, or to modify long-held views. That’s why the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan is a good place to start.


Scott Drenkard, State Sales Tax Holidays in 2015 (Tax Policy Blog):


“Political gimmicks like sales tax holidays distract policymakers and taxpayers from genuine, permanent tax relief. If a state must offer a “holiday” from its tax system, it is a sign that the state’s tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, then they should cut the sales tax rate year-round.”


Kay Bell, Does your state have unusual, confusing tax laws? Probably.


Victor Fleisher, Stop Universities From Hoarding Money:

Last year, Yale paid about $480 million to private equity fund managers as compensation — about $137 million in annual management fees, and another $343 million in performance fees, also known as carried interest — to manage about $8 billion, one-third of Yale’s endowment.

In contrast, of the $1 billion the endowment contributed to the university’s operating budget, only $170 million was earmarked for tuition assistance, fellowships and prizes. Private equity fund managers also received more than students at four other endowments I researched: Harvard, the University of Texas, Stanford and Princeton.

For some reason, you hear less about inequality in college endowments than you do about income inequality.





Two Headlines from Tax Notes this morning (unfortunately links only work for subscribers):

Tax Community Questions Proposal to End IRS Union Representation

No Evidence of IRS Partisanship Has Been Found, NTEU Says

To me, the second headline pretty much confirms the error of the “tax community” cited in the first one. To read the Lerner emails and conclude that she was “non-partisan” indicates a reading comprehension problem. NTEU, the IRS employee union, gives 96% of of its donations to, er, non-Republicans. Sounds nonpartisan to me…





TaxGrrrl, LLCs, S Corps & PCs: Choosing A Business Entity:

Entity selection is more important than you think. Your choice of entity can affect the number and identity of shareholders and partners, equity structure, control and management, as well what kind of funding you might be eligible to receive.

If you can’t make up your mind, start with the most flexible one — an LLC not taxed as a corporation– so you can change your mind without too much pain and suffering

Peter Reilly, Does Ninth Circuit Mortgage Interest Decision Create Special Rights? Well, it creates an incentive for people with multi-million-dollar houses to get divorces.

Carl Smith, Tax Court Again Refuses to Apply One Part of Equitable Innocent Spouse Relief Rev. Proc. 2013-34 (Procedurally Taxing)

Paul Neiffer, Wo! Paul is seeing lots of 200-bushel corn in Southwest Iowa on his Midwest Crop Tour.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 833



Tax Roundup, 8/17/15: New directions in Iowa tax policy. And lots more!

Monday, August 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

This week may see the start a discussion of the future of Iowa tax policy. The Iowa Association of Business and Industry Tax Committee meets Thursday to discuss proposals for the future of the Iowa income tax.

There’s a lot to talk about. The Tax Foundation puts Iowa among the bottom-ten states in its 2015 Business Tax Climate Index. Iowa has the second worst corporate tax ranking and the highest corporation tax rate of any state. We also have a subpar individual tax ranking. Along with the high rates — and made possible by them — the Iowa income tax is full of special favors for influential and sympathetic interests. This makes the taxes expensive and difficult to comply with and not so good at collecting revenue.

The state legislature has not seriously addressed income tax reform in recent years. There has been no movement against the awful corporation tax that I am aware of. The Republican caucus has pushed an individual “alternative maximum tax,” one with lower rates and a broader base — that would co-exist with the current system. That has an obvious flaw — everyone would compute their tax both ways and pay the lower tax. That makes the system more complex. But all tax reform has been bottled up by the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate.

What are the ingredients for Iowa tax reform? A good tax reform discussion should consider:

Repeal of the Iowa corporation income tax. The Iowa corporation tax provided $438 million of the the state’s 2014 revenue, out of $7.545 billion. Corporation income taxes discourage in-state growth and are expensive to enforce. The state would be better off without it.

Repeal of all incentive tax credits. The state has many tax credits, some of which are refundable, including the R&D tax credit. Simply eliminating the tax credits would recoup some of the lost revenue from a corporation income tax repeal.

Move the individual income tax to an AGI-based system. Eliminate state itemized deductions and special state deductions and use the savings to lower the rates. Such as system would only retain a few itemized deductions to prevent abuse of taxpayers, principally the deduction for gambling losses.

Don’t be Kansas. That state enacted a poorly conceived tax reform effort a few years ago, and it has been a mess. Ambitions for tax reform have to be reconciled to revenue needs. While I think the state should spend less than it does, we can’t assume it will do so. Tax reformers need to present a plan that is revenue-neutral, or close to it.


Is Iowa’s business tax climate really that bad?

Baby steps towards fixing Iowa’s business tax climate

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

The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan


Jared Walczak, How High Are Property Taxes in Your State? (Tax Policy Blog). With this map:




Iowa still has relatively high property taxes, even after the recent property tax reforms. But we have high income and sales taxes too.


Russ Fox, Two Sets of Returns Aren’t Better than One:

Today I look at the idea of preparing one set of tax returns for clients but using a second set of returns when submitting the returns to the IRS. Of course, those second returns had higher refund amounts with the difference being pocketed by the preparers. After all, what’s a little tax fraud?

This is what Russ might call a Bozo tax offense. It’s not like this sort of thing will go very long without someone noticing.


Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Estimated Tax Payments

Annette Nellen, Innovation box tax reform proposal, A good explanation of a bad idea.

Kay Bell, IRS says free identity theft protection services are tax-free. “That’s very good news for me, since I was part of the huge OPM hack”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Offers Tax Guidance On Free Identity Theft Protection Services

Paul Neiffer is on the road on The ProFarmer Midwest Crop Tour.

Jim Maule, Rebutting Arguments Against Mileage-Based Road Fees. I think an expansion of tolling is more likely, but I don’t think that is very likely either.

Jack Townsend, Ninth Circuit Requires a Filing for Tax Perjury Charge. “Under the facts, Boitana had merely presented the false return to the agent, but that presentation was not a filing.”

Peter Reilly, Let Irwin Schiff Die With His Family Not In Prison:

You don’t have to agree with Irwin Schiff’s views on the federal income tax, to feel sympathy for Peter Schiff’s request that his father be released from prison. Irwin, now 87, has been diagnosed with lung cancer and it seems likely that he will not live to see his July 26, 2017 release date.

I think the government has made its point.


Patrick J. Smith, D.C. Circuit Majority Opinion in Florida Bankers Not Consistent with Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing Decision (Part 1) (Procedurally Taxing):

The weakness of the majority opinion in Florida Bankers, together with the strength of a dissenting opinion filed in the case, as well as the inconsistency of the majority opinion not only with the Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing decision but also with other D.C. Circuit opinions, all make the Florida Bankers case a strong candidate for en banc review. 

The suit challenges the FATCA rules on foreign reporting.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 828Day 829Day 830

Matt Gardner, Latest Inversion Attempt Illustrates U.S. Can’t Compete with a 0 % Corporate Tax Rate (Tax Justice Blog). It could with a zer-percent rate of its own.

Renu Zaretsky, Tax plans and presidential candidates: The future [may or may not be] now. The TaxVox headline roundup talks about presidential candidate tax plans and the bleak outlook for the IRS budget under the current Commissioner.


If you think of government programs as technology, they are hopelessly behind. We regulate communications using the FCC, which is 1930s regulatory technology. We address health care for the elderly with Medicare, which is 50-year-old technology.

In the private sector, when an enterprise becomes technologically obsolete, it falls by the wayside. In government, it gets larger.

Arnold Kling


News from the Profession. Yep, Almost All Accounting Firm Partners Are Still White Guys (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Well, I still am, anyway, and I don’t see that changing.



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.




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).





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).



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.




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




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)




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 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?”


2008 flood 1


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.




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.




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.




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.



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.





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




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.



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 (

“[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.




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.”




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).


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.


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.





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




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).


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.


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




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).




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).



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.”




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.


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.




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.


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

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”



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?