Posts Tagged ‘Iowans for Tax Relief’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 210

 

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

TaxGrrrl, Will Congress Drive Up Gas Taxes In 2014?   

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/12/2013: Tax fraud, queens and princesses. And 21 lawyers!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Meanwhile, somewhere an ID thief is trying to get cash from an ATM with a peanut butter sandwich.  TBO.com reports:

A 6-year-old pupil at Symmes Elementary School in Riverview was asked to take her homework out of her backpack, according to Cpl. Bruce Crumpler of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

The girl reached into her bag and pulled out a baggie containing 52 debit cards, Crumpler said.

The cards, which can be used as accounts for depositing tax refunds are commonly used by people who use stolen personal identities to file tax returns to obtain fraudulent refunds.

20130212-1Maybe she’s the little princess of tax fraud.  Meanwhile, the same TBO.com has an update on Rashia Wilson, who allegedly proclaimed herself the “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud:”

Wilson may not have been the biggest player in Tampa’s income tax fraud explosion, but she was one of the most brazen — “flashy,” a sheriff’s investigator called her, “in your face about it.”

The affidavits show Wilson even had a picture of herself with a cool smile on her face, wearing an oversized jewel-encrusted pendant spelling out her first name as she held bundles of cash.

“YES I’M RASHIA THE QUEEN OF IRS TAX FRAUD,” reads a May posting on her Facebook page described in the affidavits. “IM’ A MILLIONAIRE FOR THE RECORD SO IF U THINK INDICTING ME WILL BE EASY IT WONT I PROMISE U!”

Easier than she thought, apparently.  She has been indicted on 57 federal tax fraud charges for collecting $1.3 million through fake tax returns, apparently claiming earned income credits and refundable education credits.  That should make the politicians think twice before they expand these fraud-ridden credits, but it won’t.

 

How many lawyers does it take to lose a tax case?  15.  At least that’s how many lawyers were listed on the losing side yesterday in Bank of New York Mellon Corp., a Tax Court case disallowing foreign tax credits in a tax shelter case.  Six lawyers are listed on the IRS side, for a total of 21.  The losing side was led by former IRS Chief Counsel B. John Williams.  If nothing else, the legal expense deductions should take a bite out of the losing side’s tax bill.  The TaxProf has more.

 

Iowa’s push for a 4.5% optional flat tax — which I call an “alternative maximum tax” — puzzles David Brunori ($link)

Many liberals in Iowa are complaining that a flat tax wouldn’t require the rich to pay their fair share, whatever that means. But a lot of those people seem more interested in soaking the rich than in helping the poor. Personally, I am much more in favor of reducing the tax burdens on the poor and dispossessed than I am in making rich people suffer.


     I think a flat income tax with few deductions (and a sizable exemption for low-income people) is the way to go. I’m unsure why the state would continue its horribly complicated personal income tax system that benefits return preparers, tax lawyers, and tax accountants.

It’s because of a peculiarity of Iowa politics.  The powerful lobbying group Iowans for Tax Relief opposes a repeal of the Iowa deduction for federal taxes paid.  ITR has shown that it can provoke successful primary challenges of Republican legislators who displease the Muscatine-based lobby.  Yet significant rate reduction is impossible if the deduction is retained.  Making the lower rate an “alternative” rather than a replacement appeases Muscatine, though at a cost in incoherence.

 

Will we see a revival in enforcement of the accumulated earnings tax?  The obscure depression-era tax on C corporations that retain cash in excess of their “needs,” as second-guessed by the IRS, is rarely asserted.  With left-side economists like Paul Krugman asserting that corporate cash-hoarding is one reason why the economy remains weak, don’t be surprised if his friends in the Obama administration try to revive enforcement of this archaic and foolish penalty tax. (Via Tyler Cowen).

 

William McBride, CBO Projections of Spending and Tax Credits (Tax Policy Blog):

As the chart below shows, mandatory spending represents the majority of the federal budget, and the part that has grown most dramatically in recent years.  Mandatory spending was about 10 percent of GDP for most of the 30 years prior to 2008.  It leapt to 15 percent of GDP in 2009 and now remains at 13.1 percent.  It is projected to increase to 14.1 percent of GDP by 2023.  Meanwhile, discretionary spending, on programs like defense, roads, and other infrastructure, is on a steady decline.  Discretionary spending is now 8.3 percent of GDP and set to go to a 50 year low of 5.5 percent of GDP by 2023.

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No spending is really “mandatory.”  Congress and the President can always change the “mandatory” programs.  And they will, or we will face fiscal disaster and crushing taxes.

 

Paul Neiffer,  Farmer Filing Due Date Update

Yes.  Will Obama’s Call for Tax Reform Ring Hollow? (Jeremy Scott, Tax.com).

TaxGrrrl, A Beginner’s Guide To Taxes: Do I Need To Hire A Tax Preparer Or Can I Do My Return Myself?

William Perez, Finding the Right Filing Status

Patrick Temple-West,  Sandy damage leads to tax trouble, and more (Tax Break)

Peter Reilly,  Co-op Owner Wins Casualty Loss Appeal

Missouri Tax Guy, Safeguarding Financial Records

Brian Strahle,   Delaware’s NEW Voluntary Disclosure Program for Unclaimed Property:  Should You Utilize It?

Jack Townsend,  Good Faith as a Defense to Tax Crimes

 

The Critical Question:  Would a Carbon Tax and Corporate Tax Reform Taste Great Together? (Donald Marron, TaxVox).

Kay Bell, Man gets $161,392 erroneous tax refund.  And in this case he didn’t even ask for it.

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Tax Roundup, 2/6/2013: 4.5% Iowa tax? Flat chance. And hidden dangers of an IRS exam.

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130206-1Shock!  David Osterberg doesn’t like the 4.5% flat Iowa Income tax proposal!  State Tax Notes tracked down former Senate Candidate and Cornell College Econ Prof* David Osterberg for his views on the proposal to create a flat 4.5% income tax in Iowa alongside the current income tax.  Not surprisingly, he doesn’t like it ($link):

     The founder and executive director of the Iowa Policy Project said a Republican-sponsored House bill to create a flat personal income tax option would shift more of the tax burden to low-income residents.

     But David Osterberg said he is not too concerned because he doesn’t think the proposal has a shot at passing the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority…The proposal is “part of this ideology that says we somehow have to take  care of the top 1 percent and things will be good,” Osterberg said. “I don’t think low-income people believe that — we sure don’t.”

State Tax Notes also tracked down Tax Foundation Economist Elizabeth Malm:

     “Iowa’s current income tax system has nine brackets, with rates ranging from 0.36 percent of income to 8.98 percent of income,” Malm said in an e-mail to Tax Analysts. “In 2012, this made Iowa the fifth highest top income tax rate in the country, among those states that levy PITs.”

     Without additional information, Malm declined to say whether the plan is regressive. She did say, however, that the proposal would fail to simplify the tax code because it keeps the current system intact.

     “I’m guessing the rationale behind allowing taxpayers to choose between the two systems is to ease concerns that the flat 4.5 rate would hit low-income individuals harder,” Malm said.

Wrong guess.  The rationale is almost surely to avoid provoking the powerful lobby group Iowans for Tax Relief, which holds sacred the current Iowa individual deduction for federal taxes paid.  Proposing the flat tax as an alternative, rather than a replacement, finesses that problem — but at the cost of adding more complexity.  In this form, the flat tax is what I call an “Alternative Maximum Tax.”

*Disclosure: I once borrowed his shotgun at Cornell.  It had dust bunnies in the tubes.

 

David Brunori, Who Pays? Who Cares? You Should (Tax.com):

No matter your views on government, there is no justification for asking the poor to pay more than the rich. I do not favor dramatically increasing the tax burdens on the wealthy, particularly income tax burdens. But there are a lot of policies that can be enacted that could even the playing field. Broader base consumption taxes, less reliance on excise taxes, and larger income exemptions for low wage taxpayers would go a long way.

None of these are incompatible with lower top tax rates.

Tracy Gordon,  The Downside of States as Laboratories for Tax Reform (TaxVox)

 

Needed, but impossible.  Tax Notes has a sad-but-true headline that brilliantly summarizes the state of our national tax policy: Urban Institute Panelists Agree Tax Reform Necessary but Unlikely. ($link)

Linda Beale, More on PTINs for previously unregulated tax return preparers:

We have seen considerable evidence of tax return preparers who do not understand the tax laws or who intentionally misapply them (in the home office deduction, etc.).  It is imperative that those who assist others in preparing tax returns demonstrate minimal competency in the tax law as demonstrated by the qualifying exam.

The “qualifying exam” is open book — really more of a literacy test.  The IRS can make preparers show they can read.  They can’t make them competent.  When you consider the Big 4 tax shelter scandals, and the hopeless complexity of the tax law, it’s funny to say that the problem is really “people who do not understand the tax laws.”

 

Peter Reilly, Future Baseball Commissioner Tackles Tax Laws As Complex As Infield Fly Rule

Tough tax return choice for 2012: Pay more now to save later?  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Blog for Entrepreneurs, discussing whether maximizing 2012 deductions is really a good idea.

Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 12 .  More Kafkaesque obstacles to resolving an identity theft for his client.

William Perez, IRS Provides Further Disaster Relief for Hurricane Sandy

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #112: Super Bowl of Taxes

Jim Maule, Tax Ignorance As Persistent as Death and Taxes

Missouri Tax Guy:  Missouri does not mail  Form 1099-G.  You have to get it online.  One more little blow to tax compliance for small taxpayers.

Trish McIntire, Low Cost Tax Preparation Options

TaxGrrrl,  U.S. Postal Service To Eliminate Saturday Delivery: Will It Save Tax Dollars?  Next they’ll shut down the Pony Express.

Patrick Temple-West, Waiting on the phone for the IRS, and more (Tax Break)

Ellen Kant, William McBride, Super Bowl Tax Bill (Tax Policy Blog)

Russ Fox,  Will the Third Time be the Charm for Appeals?  A case where the “independent” IRS appeals function failed twice.

Howard Gleckman, Can the Income Tax Fund the Government We Want?  (TaxVox).  I can’t speak for “we,” but it could easily cover all of the government I want.

 

The Critical Question: Et Tu, Sarkozy? (David Goulder, Tax.com)

If they can spell their address, tax cheating should be easy for them: Massapequa Restaurant Owners Sentenced for Tax Fraud (Massapequa Patch).

Isn’t that conspiracy?  Tax fraud: We have a plan, authorities say (Myfoxtampabay.com)

Screwed either way.  Taxpayer Sues IRS, Claims Agent Coerced Him Into Having Sex to Avoid Adverse Audit  (TaxProf).

 

But not hotirsagent.com?  I guess there really are stupid easy ways to earn internet money.  A Kansan found one, but then got in trouble by not paying his taxes.  KFDI.com reports:

Dallen Harris, 39, pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion. He reported a taxable income of a little more than $164,000 in 2010, when it was actually more than $1 million. 

Harris’ income came from Internet domain names, according to court ecords from a related civil forfeiture case in federal court. The government is seeking to forfeit Harris’ houses, cars and bank accounts in that case. The domain names included celebritysextape.tv, adultkingdom.net, Porntesters.com, hardcorefilms.tv, celebritynakedpic.com and sextape.com. 

No, I won’t link to any of those.  It doesn’t sound like they need any help generating traffic anyway.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/16/2013: Iowa legislators to push Alternative Maximum Tax? Also: new home office deduction option.

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
20130116-1

Kraig Paulsen

It looks like the Republican leadership in the Iowa House of Representatives will be pushing income tax changes this year.  Unfortunately, it looks like they are pushing the plan I call an “alternative maximum tax” like the one floated by Governor Branstad last year and quietly dropped after the election.  O. Kay Henderson reports:

House Republicans are calling for a “flat” state income tax. If their idea becomes law, Iowans would have the option of filing their personal income taxes under the current system — which has a top rate of nearly nine percent — or opting to pay a four-and-a-half percent rate, with no deductions.

 The governor has made it clear property tax reform is his top priority,
but House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha, the top Republican in the
legislature, says Branstad hasn’t said no to cutting income taxes.

20130116-2Any tax practitioner will point out that this will in practice just be one more complication in computing Iowa taxes.  Taxpayers will compute their taxes under both the current system and the flat system and choose the one that results in the lower tax.  I assume the legislative leaders are resorting to this awkward plan to get around the implacable opposition of the powerful Muscatine-based Iowans for Tax Relief to any tax reform that would repeal the deduction for federal taxes on Iowa returns.  Their plan is likely based on that proposed by Iowans for Discounted Taxes.

Far better to just clean up Iowa’s tax law.  Repeal the special interest loopholes and corporate welfare tax credits, get rid of all non-federal deductions, get rid of the deduction for federal taxes, tie the tax law to the federal code, drastically lower the rates, and eliminate the corporation income tax entirely.  In short, enact The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Flickr image courtesy e53 under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy e53 under Creative Commons license

Whether or not Governor Branstad wants to deal with income taxes, he may have to.  His neighbor in Nebraska may be forcing his hand.  1011Now.com reports:

Gov. Dave Heineman is calling for an overhaul of Nebraska’s tax system, saying the state needs to get rid of its individual and corporate income taxes and make up the lost revenue by shutting off as much as $2.4 billion in tax breaks for businesses.

The Republican governor unveiled his tax plan Tuesday during his annual State of the State address to lawmakers.

Heineman says his plan would keep the state competitive with two neighboring states, Wyoming and South Dakota. Both have no individual income tax.

It sounds much like the plan proposed by Louisiana Governor Jindal this week.   If the other states massively improve their income tax systems and Iowa doesn’t, all of the fertilizer tax credits in the world won’t help Iowa’s business climate.

 

 

IRS unveils simplified home office deduction for 2013.  The IRS yesterday unveiled a new optional way to compute home office deductions.  From IR-2013-5:

The new optional deduction, capped at $1,500 per year based on $5 a square foot for up to 300 square feet, will reduce the paperwork and recordkeeping burden on small businesses by an estimated 1.6 million hours annually.

Though homeowners using the new option cannot depreciate the portion of their home used in a trade or business, they can claim allowable mortgage interest, real estate taxes and casualty losses on the home as itemized deductions on Schedule A. These deductions need not be allocated between personal and business use, as is required under the regular method.

This will be handy.  When you depreciate part of your home for a home office deduction, you lose the ability to exclude that much gain on a later home sale.  Home office deductions are also complicated and a magnet for IRS examiners.  This looks like it will be useful for the growing ranks of people who run businesses out of their home.  Taxpayers will still be allowed to opt out of this new method and compute their home office deductions the old way.  Full details are found in Revenue Procedure 2013-13.

Other coverage:

TaxProf,  IRS Announces Optional $1,500 Home Office Deduction in Lieu of Depreciation

Russ Fox, Is A Simplified Home Office Deduction Better?  “The reality is that $5 per square foot understates the cost of most home offices, especially when factoring in depreciation.”

 

Paul Neiffer,  Senator Grassley Wants Extension of March 1 Filing Deadline:

Due to the passage of the new tax law, the ability of the IRS to accept most farmers tax returns by March 1 is very uncertain.  Senator Grassley’s letter indicates that the IRS has granted an extension in the  past, most recently last year when the MF Global mess occurred.  In that case, the IRS did not actually extend the filing date, but granted  waivers of the penalty for any estimated tax penalty caused by MF Global  untimely mailing of form 1099.

Farmers don’t have to make estimated tax payments if they file by March 1.  If they can’t do that, the IRS can impose estimated tax penalties on the whole balance due.  The late enactment of new tax laws for 2012 may make it impossible for the IRS to process returns by then.

 

January: the month to start your 2013 year-end tax planning!  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record’s blog for entrepreneurs.

Jason Dinesen, Rental Properties and Basis Allocation

TaxGrrrl,  IRS Announces 2013 Tax Rates, Standard Deduction Amounts and More

Mary Ellen Goode,  A Stark Reminder of the Excessive Cost of Complying with the Tax Code

Rush Nigut,  Iowa Business Specialty Court Pilot Project.  I hope it leads to a specialized Iowa Court for tax cases.  Taxpayers are at a huge disadvantage arguing before District Court judges with no tax expertise.

Kay Bell, The 1040 is ready! The 1040 is ready!

Anthony Nitti,  Dear America: Your Higher Payroll Taxes Are Not The Result Of A Tax Increase.  Only if the multi-year payroll tax break didn’t count as a tax cut.

Janet Novack,  11 Ways To Tap Retirement Cash Early, Without A 10% Penalty

David Brunori, Virginia’s Gas Tax Reform (Tax.com)

Howard Gleckman,  A Budget Deal is Staring Them in the Face, But Here’s Why Lawmakers Won’t Compromise in 2013 (TaxVox)

Robert D. Flach has a new Buzz!  He responds to my take on his take on CPAs.

Jim Maule,  Still More Joys of IRC Section 86.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, New Paper on Estate Tax Misses the Mark.  (Tax Policy Bl0g). It’s about…

Caron & Repetti: Occupy the Tax Code: Using the Estate Tax to Reduce Inequality (TaxProf)

My experience in tax practice convinces me that the estate tax is unnecessary to break up and dissipate large estates.  Beneficiaries take care of that just fine.

 

Hey!  I said I was sorry!  Defendant Screws Up His Acceptance of Responsibility (Jack Townsend):

Although the defendant claimed remorse, his actions after the time of the guilty plea continued the obstructive conduct.  Hence, this defendant got no benefit from pleading guilty, and saving the Government and the court the time and expense of trial.  Not only that, his obstructive conduct convinced the judge to sentence him at the top of the unreduced Guideline range.

If you want the judge on your side, it might be a good idea to stop committing the crime for awhile.

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An alternative maximum tax for Iowa?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Governor Branstad yesterday floated a trial balloon for his upcoming tax reform proposals. He suggested a new tax plan that would exist side-by-side with Iowa’s current complex and loophole-ridden mess.  Donnelle Eller reports in today’s Des Moines Register:

Gov. Terry Branstad suggested Tuesday letting Iowa taxpayers decide whether they want to pay a flat tax rate or deduct federal taxes under the existing tax system.

Branstad told business executives who make up the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress Board that discussions are early and models were being used to determine what the flat tax rate proposal should be.

The plan resembles that of Iowans for Discounted Taxes.  Their web page describes their proposal:

 The legislation needs to offer you the opportunity to file with all your deductions, or with your new “discount” at the rate of only 5.32% on EARNED income. You would pay 0% on your interest income, dividends, pensions, Social Security, and, JUST LIKE BILL CLINTON DID FOR HOMEOWNERS, 0% on all capital gains.

It’s unlikely that the Governor would pursue a plan that exempted investment income, given the likely response telegraphed by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal in the Register article:

 “Democrats agree that the state treasury can afford tax cuts. We think any tax cuts we do ought to be targeted toward helping growing small businesses and the middle class,” he said.

Of course “targeting” tax benefits is how we got to the horrendous tax system Iowa has now.  Politicians like to “target” tax breaks to their friends and preferred constituencies.  That means they target the wallets of everyone not lucky or well-connected enough to get the breaks.

The Governor’s trial balloon, which I’ll call an Alternative Maximum Tax, has its own problems.  The obvious one is that it would just add one more computation to an already difficult tax return.  Taxpayers would compute their taxes under each system and file whichever return produced the lowest tax.

It would seem to make more sense to just put in one simpler tax system and throw out the old one.  Why is the Governor taking this strange approach?  Possibly as a way to get around the dead-ender opposition to ending the deduction for federal taxes on Iowa’s return, led by the powerful Muscatine advocacy group Iowans for Tax Relief.  If the old mess is left as an option, perhaps a parallel simpler system with lower rates and no federal deduction could pass muster in Muscatine.  Then maybe the old system would eventually wither away.    Somehow, I don’t think the withering would ever happen, and we’d end up with an even worse system.

There’s still time for the Governor to go bold.  The time is now for the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform!

Other coverage: Rod Boshart,  Branstad favors giving Iowans choice of tax breaks

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Ed and Me

Friday, April 29th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

The kennel must be pretty empty at Iowans for Tax Relief, “The Taxpayer’s Watchdog.” The Iowa Republican reports:

In the last week, the following ITR members have resigned:
Edward D. Failor, Jr

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Iowans for Tax Relief loses leader

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

One of the most powerful political outfits in the state lost its leader yesterday when Ed Failor, Jr. resigned his post at Iowans for Tax Relief.
While it has also called for lower rates, the “Taxpayer’s Watchdog” has built its existence around preserving tax breaks, most notably the deduction for state and local taxes. Its dogged refusal to contemplate trading the deduction for lower rates, combined with funding some successful primary challenges of legislators who have crossed it, has made Iowans for Tax Relief a powerful obstacle to serious tax reform.
This part of the organization’s press release after last week’s item veto of bonus depreciation and an expanded earned income credit underlines how the organization promotes bad tax policy:

Second, Governor Branstad took away important tax relief specifically targeted at low-income Iowa families with his veto pen. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would have helped Iowa working families make ends meet through a tax credit which would pay for important needs, like child care and groceries.

The earned income credit is refundable, and most recipients have little or no state tax liability — making it a welfare program run through the tax code. Like Grover Norquist at Americans for Tax Reform, ITR apparently believes a spending program becomes something else when it is run through a tax return. The “Taxpayer’s Watchdog” never barked when the Iowa Film Office was wasting tens of millions on the Iowa film credits, for example; the dog was also quiet when the legislature was enacting the boondoggle.
This map from the Tax Foundation gives an idea of what ITR has accomplished in Iowa tax policy:
20110426-1.png
Click to enlarge.
The accomplishment? Iowa has one of the highest individual tax rates in the country, the highest corporate rate, and a tax law of Byzantine complexity.
It’s unlikely that ITR will change its views as a result of a new leader. That means it will continue to be difficult to advance real tax reform, with low rates and few loopholes, in Iowa.
Related: Spending run through a tax return is still spending
UPDATE: More on the story from Dave Price and O. Kay Henderson.

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Iowa makes the top ten!

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 by Joe Kristan

No, not in football – in individual tax rates. But in the corporate rate competition, we’re number one!
Of course, Iowa is lower in effective rates because it allows a deduction for federal income taxes. It would be simpler and more efficient to get to the same place by building the effect of the deduction into the system with lower rates. Yet Iowa’s most powerful lobby won’t stand for it — and therefore blocks worthwhile tax reform in Iowa – because that would result in “a tax on a tax.”

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Iowans for Tax Relief: making the perfect the enemy of the good

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

Yesterday’s post on tax issues in the Iowa Governor’s race lamented the candidates’ timid approaches to income tax reform:

Far better to adopt the key planks of the Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform:
– Eliminate the corporation income tax
– Lower the to individual rate to 4 percent or less.
– Eliminate all corporate welfare and special interest tax breaks
– Allow Iowa S corporations to elect to be C corporations, taxable only on distributions to Iowa residents, for Iowa filing purposes.
This would require ending federal deductibility, the sacred cow of the powerful lobby Iowans for Tax Relief, and it would take away annual taxpayer checks to influential corporations via the refundable Research credit. That probably explains why candidates are reluctant to do the right tax policy thing.

That prompted a phone call from an unhappy Ed Failor, Jr., President of Iowans for Tax Relief, who felt this was unfair to his organization. I explained that I thought IFTR’s hardline position in favor of deducting federal taxes on the Iowa return was an obstacle to improving Iowa’s tax system. He said that IFTR was willing to give up deductibility if there were adequate protections against subsequent tax rate increases. I invited him to send an e-mail response. This arrived shortly afterwards:

(more…)

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Harold Hill Follies: four weeks later.

Monday, October 12th, 2009 by Joe Kristan

hh44.jpgThe daily disclosures of chicanery and incompetence from the Iowa Film Credit program have slowed down, four weeks after the scandal exploded with a 4:56 p.m. Friday document dump from the Governor’s office. The film credit program is dead in the water, and it is likely to stay that way for quite some time:

A legislative leader said Tuesday that lawmakers might suspend Iowa’s troubled film promotion operation for up to a year while they figure out how to deal with questionable spending and accounting procedures.
In an interview with The Associated Press, House Speaker Pat Murphy said the attorney general’s decision to open a criminal investigation into the Iowa Film Office tax credit program complicates the issue. Lawmakers might want to wait until legal questions are settled before delving into the matter, he said.

The future of the program seems to be increasingly in doubt. Where politicians at first seemed to think giving money to Hollywood was a good idea in spite of everything, the most powerful legislator now says there is only a 50-50 chance the film program will survive:
According to Gronstal, he and other legislators right now “see very little in terms of potential benefits” to the state from the film tax credits which have been awarded already.

But they buy T-shirts here! And don’t forget the swanky parties!
We are even beginning to see some serious talk in both parties about re-examining Iowa’s awful high-rate, loophole-ridden tax system. Ed Failor, the powerful string-puller who runs the loophole lobby Iowans for Tax Relief, has come out for throwing out the whole system:
“You take the Values Fund, you take the Power Fund, you take film tax credits and all the tax credits and those sorts of things and it

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The taxpayers’ wary watchdog

Thursday, October 1st, 2009 by Joe Kristan

Iowans for Tax Relief, “The Taxpayers’ Watchdog,” has revamped its webpage.
Check out the “latest news” from their shiny new page:
20091001-4.JPG
Relax! It seems nothing has happened in Iowa’s tax or spending picture between August 11 and September 30 that was worth rousing the taxpayers’ watchdog. Oh, wait…

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