Posts Tagged ‘Irwin Schiff’

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, 11/8/13: Kyle Orton gets the bad news about the Tax Fairy. And: how many Lithuanians can you fit into a mailbox?

Friday, November 8th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

tax fairyKyle Orton’s old lawyer fails to find the Tax Fairy, departs the tax business.  From a Department of Justice press release:

A federal court has permanently barred Gary J. Stern from promoting tax fraud schemes and from preparing related tax returns, the Justice Department announced today.  The civil injunction order, to which Stern consented without admitting the allegations against him, was entered by Judge Robert Gettleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  The order permanently bars Stern from preparing various types of tax returns for individuals, estates and trusts, partnerships or corporations (IRS Forms 1040, 1041, 1065, and 1120), among others. 

According to the complaint, Stern designed at least three tax-fraud schemes that helped hundreds of customers falsely claim over $16 million in improper tax credits and avoid paying income tax on at least $3.4 million.  Stern allegedly promoted the schemes to customers, colleagues, and business associates.  The complaint alleges that his customers included lawyers, entrepreneurs and professional football players, and some of the latter, including NFL quarterback Kyle Orton, have sued Stern in connection with the tax scheme, alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and professional malpractice. 

Mr. Stern seems to have led his clients on a merry chase after the Tax Fairy, the legendary sprite who can wave her wand and make your taxes disappear.  Kyle Orton is a graduate of Southeast Polk High School near Des Moines, where the truth about the Tax Fairy apparently was not in the syllabus.

Related: Jack Townsend, Chicago Lawyer Enjoined From Promoting Fraudulent Tax Schemes 


20131108-1Maybe Lithuanian apartments are crowded?  USA Today reports:

The Internal Revenue Service sent 655 tax refunds to a single address in Kaunas, Lithuania — failing to recognize that the refunds were likely part of an identity theft scheme. Another 343 tax refunds went to a single address in Shanghai, China.

Thousands more potentially fraudulent refunds — totaling millions of dollars — went to places in Bulgaria, Ireland and Canada in 2011.

In all, a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration today found 1.5 million potentially fraudulent tax returns that went undetected by the IRS, costing taxpayers $3.2 billion.

When your controls don’t notice something like that, you have a lot more urgent problems than regulating preparers.   Yet Congress and the Administration think the IRS is ready to take on overseeing your health insurance purchases.  What could go wrong?

Tony Nitti is moved to offer the IRS a proposition:







S-SidewalkCosting taxpayers by not taking their money.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Democrats seeking to raise revenue in ongoing budget talks have circulated a list of tax preferences they would like to see eliminated, including a provision that allows some wealthy individuals to avoid large payroll taxes, the carried interest preference, and the tax break for expenses businesses incur when moving operations overseas. 

The “provision that allows some wealthy individuals to avoid large payroll taxes” is called Subchapter S.  Form 1120-S K-1 income has never been subject to payroll or self-employment tax.  This bothers the congresscritters (my emphasis):

Commonly known as the “Newt Gingrich/John Edwards” loophole, it is most often used by owners of Subchapter S corporations to avoid the 3.9% Medicare tax on earnings, which costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.  Many S corporation shareholders receive both wages from the S corporation and a share of the S corporation’s profits, but they pay payroll tax only on their wages.

“Costs” taxpayers?  From my point of view, and from that of my S corporation clients, it saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year — but keeps it out of the hands of grasping politicians, so it’s perceived as a bad thing, by grasping politicians.

The versions of this “loophole closer” proposed in the past have been lame.  When all they have to offer on tax policy is warmed over lameness like these, they aren’t serious.



TaxProf, Brunson: Preventing IRS Abuse of the Tax System.  The TaxProf quotes a new article by Samuel D. Brunson:

The IRS can act in ways that violate both the letter and the intent of the tax law. Where such violations either provide benefits to select groups of taxpayers without directly harming others, or where the harm to taxpayers is de minimis, nobody has the ability or incentive to challenge the IRS and require it to enforce the tax law as written.

Congress could control the IRS’s abuse of the tax law. Using insights from the literature of administrative oversight, this Article proposes that Congress provide standing on third parties to challenge IRS actions. If properly designed and implemented, such “fire-alarm oversight” would permit oversight at a significantly lower cost than creating another oversight board. At the same time, it would be more effective at finding and responding to IRS abuse of the tax system and would generally preserve the IRS’s administrative discretion in deciding how to enforce the tax law.

Right now the IRS — and by extension the administration in power — can pick and choose what parts of the law it wants to apply.  For example, the current administration has chosen to allow tax credits for participants in federal insurance exchanges, which the law does not authorize, while unilaterally delaying the employer insurance mandate but not the individual mandate.  Somebody should be able to challenge this sort of fiat government.


More on the shutdown of Instant Tax Service, a story we covered yesterday:Irwin

Department of Justice press release: Federal Court in Ohio Shuts Down Nation’s Fourth-Largest Tax-Preparation Firm and Bars CEO from Tax-Preparation Business


Irwinirwin.jpgPeter Reilly, Ninth Circuit Rules Against Irwin Schiff Sentence Appeal:

Irwin Schiff is probably one of the more famous alternate tax thinkers.  His seminal work “How Anyone Can Stop Paying Income Taxes” is available in hardcover on Amazon for one cent.

Mr. Schiff appealed his sentence on tax crimes on the basis that his attorney failed to raise a “bipolar disorder” defense and what an attorney I know calls the “good faith fraud” defense — the Cheek argument that you really thought the wacky stuff you were saying is true.  Peter wisely notes:

The problem with the Cheek defense is that you have to be smart to raise it, but if you show that you are too smart, then it does not work.

Its a fine line — smart enough to spend “thousands of hours” researching the tax law, but not smart enough to avoid a massive misunderstanding of it.


Jana Luttenegger,  IRS Change to Use-Or-Lose Rule for FSA Accounts (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog): “New IRS rules permit employers to allow participants in a health Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) to carry over unused amounts up to $500 from one plan year to the next.”


Paul Neiffer, Trusts Get Hit with New 3.8% Tax too. And hard.

Kay Bell, It could be time to harvest capital gains and future tax savings

Rush Nigut,  Careful Planning Necessary When Using Retirement Monies to Fund Startup Business

Brian Strahle, IGNORANCE MAY NOT BE BLISS WHEN IT COMES TO ‘ZAPPERS’  These are software apps designed to hide point-of-sale receipts from the taxman.

Phil Hodgen’s Exit Tax Book: Chapter 9 – Estate and Gift Tax for the Covered Expatriate

Catch your Friday Buzz with Robert D. Flach!

TaxGrrrl,  Former NFL Star Cites Concussions, Receives Prison Sentence For Role In Tax Fraud 

Leslie Book,  TIGTA Report on VITA Errors (Procedurally Taxing)


Howard Gleckman,  Can Expiring Tax Provisions Save the Budget Talks? (TaxVox).  “Sadly, it is hard to see how.”


Not strictly tax-related, but good reading anyway:  How to Put the Brakes on Consumers’ Debt(Megan McArdle).  Megan points out the wisdom of spending less than you take in, in preference to trying to get the government to cover your shortfalls.


News you can use: 3 ways to screw up your next website (Josh Larson at

News from the Profession: Failed PwC Auditor Finds Success in Burning Bridges With This Ridiculous Farewell Email (Going Concern)


Quick thinking.  From The Des Moines Register:

A Des Moines man awoke to find a stranger in his living room Thursday afternoon, police said. When the victim confronted the burglar, the suspect reportedly offered to mow the victim’s lawn for $5.

Guy needs to work on his pricing model.




Tax Roundup, 10/1/2012: the thin blue line of sales tax scofflaws. Plus: the dangers of finding your roots.

Monday, October 1st, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Keeping your drunk cousin from starting a fight at the wedding reception: a taxable service?  From

The state Department of Revenue is demanding that 46 Iowa police officers pay back sales taxes from years of working off-duty assignments such as wedding receptions and business security.

Department spokeswoman Victoria Daniels said the plan is to pursue back sales taxes for up to 10 years for those officers who have never filed tax returns for off-duty jobs.

Iowa only requires service providers to collect sales tax for “enumerated services.” CPA services and legal services are not “enumerated,” but “security and detective services” is, along with, for example, reflexology.  The thin blue line is not pleased.

Iowa law enforcement groups have tried for years to convince the Revenue Department not to require police officers to collect sales tax from businesses and individuals who hire them for off-duty gigs. Revenue officials considered drafting a change to the state’s administrative code to exempt officers, but ultimately decided the law clearly required officers to pay up.

So this obviously isn’t news to the officers, who blew off the tax collection requirement anyway.  Next time you get pulled over, try to convince the officer not to require you to slow down.


Aegis trust promoters sentences upheld.  The Seventh Circuit has upheld long sentences for the masterminds behind a sham trust scheme that operated out of the Chicago suburb of Palos Hills in the 1990s.  From the opinion:

     The Aegis trusts were typically marketed to wealthy, self-employed individuals whose income could not be easily traced through the W-2 forms that are issued to ordinary taxpayers. Aegis representatives, including the defendants, conducted seminars promoting the Aegis trusts in cities around the country. Attendance at these seminars was by invitation only, and guests were charged between $150 and $500 to participate. Attendees were told at such seminars that use of the Aegis trust system would reduce if not eliminate their federal income taxes. They were often given materials that purported to document the legitimacy of the system with seemingly thorough and impressive citations to the various legal authorities that supported the trusts. But as one lawyer wrote to a client who sought his advice as to the legitimacy of the system:

      “This material is full of errors, irrelevancies and partial truths followed by non sequiturs. I know that I must resist the temptation to follow every line or I could spend the rest of my life on this. I will concentrate on how, even if it were 99 percent correct, the claimed tax effects fail. In doing so, I’m not implying that that 99 percent is correct. I’m just skipping over the errors.”

The longest sentence is 223 months, which works out to over 18 years.  Under federal sentencing rules, the sentence can be reduced by only about 10% for good time; there is no early out.

The Aegis clients learned the hard way that there is no magical trust formula to get out of taxes.  There is no tax fairy.  Tax Attorney Jack Townsend finds the decision worth three posts (1, 2, 3).

Cite: USA v. Michael Vallone, CA-7, No. 08-3690


When genealogists go bad.  From Billings, Montana via

 A Billings woman who said she filed false tax returns using the Social Security numbers and birth dates of deceased people she found while doing genealogy research online has been sentenced to more than four years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $130,000 in restitution to the IRS.

Maybe she was doing genealogy research, maybe she wasn’t.  While the “Death Master File,” the list of dead people published by the government, is prized by those researching their ancestry, identity thieves love using it to file refund claims for the recently deceasedThis report on the Billings woman from the Billings Gazette makes me wonder if the genealogy was an excuse of some sort:

I am so sorry for my bad behavior. I have so many amends to make,” said Shannon Kathlina Grimm, 41.

Crying as she apologized to the court and to family members and friends, Grimm said, “I know I can be a good person. You will not see me again. I will not be in trouble again, I promise you.”

But Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull told Grimm she deserved more time on top of what she has already spent locked up while the case was pending and sentenced her to four years and three months. The term was at the high end of the guideline range, which started at 41 months.

Cebull also ordered her to pay $129,498 restitution to the IRS.

“Obviously, Ms. Grimm has little, if any, respect for the law,” Cebull said. He noted Grimm’s state conviction for issuing bad checks and her violation of a deferred sentence. She was on probation when she committed the federal fraud crimes, he said.

Maybe it’s genealogy gone bad.  Right, because ancestry research is notorious as a gateway to a life of crime.

For a good view of the fiscal cliff, Check out Roger McEowen’s List of Expired and Expiring Provisions.

Martin Sullivan,  Wrong Turns At the Fiscal Cliff  (

Jana Luttenegger,   Cashing in on a Life Insurance Policy (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell,  Bank forgiveness of phantom debt could create tax problems for former debtors.  Of course, so does forgivenes of real debt.

Jason Dinesen,  The Difficulties of Tax Planning with an Inept Congress.   Of course, we keep sending them back.

Irwin Schiff loses motion to vacate conviction.  Not a great surprise(Jack Townsend)


The Irwin Schiff legacy

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 by Joe Kristan

20101123-1.jpgDreamiscles are not just a sweet frozen treat. They are also little cherubic collectible figurines. The ceramic Dreamsicles made good money for their creators. Unfortunately, it appears they made unwise decisions in choosing their tax advisors. The Broward-Palm Beach New Times reports that Kristin Haynes and her husband fell in with the ideas of tax protest pied piper Irwin Schiff, failed to report their income, and fled to Honduras.
As Honduras has no extradition treaty with the U.S., things went along reasonably well under the circumstances until last June, reports the New Times:

On June 22, the pair flew from Honduras to Fort Lauderdale and were nabbed by federal agents as they went through customs at the airport. Eventually they cut plea deals and pleaded guilty to five counts of failing to file tax returns (for the years 1999 to 2003). Last Tuesday, November 16, a federal judge in Washington sentenced them to prison — 40 months for him, two years for her. They’ve also been ordered to pay more than $800,000 in penalties, fines, and interest.

The article doesn’t explain why the couple tried to reenter the U.S. Considering that Mr. Haynes apparently served time in the 1990s for tax evasion, they should have had no illusions about what was waiting for them.


Irwin Schiff isn’t going anywhere

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

Irwin Schiff has been to court again. Not surprisingly, he lost again.
Mr. Schiff was a pied piper for the “Tax Honesty” movement, using various arguments to make the (hopeless) case that there really isn’t an income tax, at least not for most of us. He is currently serving a 13-year sentence for “conspiracy to defraud the government for the purpose of impeding and impairing the Internal Revenue Service, assisting in the preparation of false income tax returns, tax evasion, and filing false income tax returns.”
He went back to court to argue that he should have been forbidden from acting as his own attorney on the case that resulted in his current prison stay. The appeals court held otherwise:

Although Schiff suffers from bipolar disorder and possibly a delusional disorder, his afflictions did not prevent him from adequately conducting his own defense. Schiff had a coherent trial strategy, offered rational defenses, conducted cross-examinations, direct examinations, and made a closing argument.

It presents a dilemma for those who still hold to his arguments. Either they sympathize with him and agree that he was crazy and shouldn’t have been his own attorney — with all that implies about his opinions on the tax law — or they say that he isn’t telling the truth about being incompetent, but was telling the truth about the tax law.
Cite: United States v. Irwin Schiff, CA-9, No. 08-10408
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When an effort to fight taxes reaches the end of the road

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

It took a long time, but the IRS efforts to collect 1999 taxes from a Spirit Lake, Iowa man are finally scheduled to bear fruit a week from Friday. That’s when the IRS is to auction two motorcycles and two cars once owned by unwilling taxpayer Michael Alan Reed. Some background from the court case allowing the IRS to seize the vehicles:

In 1999, defendant Reed sent a letter and affidavit to the IRS contesting the applicability of federal income tax to him. Also in 1999, defendant Reed sent to the IRS a “Non-Negotiable Bill of Exchange” in the purported amount of $51,635,000. Along with the “Non-Negotiable Bill of Exchange”, defendant Reed sent a copy of his birth certificate, indicating that he was born in the United States, driver’s license, and social security card.

This somehow failed to make the IRS go away, and in the end the IRS ended up seizing the four vehicles. If it were me, I’d miss this one the most:
1947 Indian Chief, VIN CDG5320
No, I don’t ride motorcycles, but that’s still a sweet bike. If you are more of a Harley kind of taxpayer, there’s also this:
1991 Harley “softtail”
All of which teaches a sad but important lesson: there is an income tax. No matter how convincing Irwin Schiff, William Benson, or the other tax protest scholars might sound when they say there is no income tax, the federal judges, federal Marshals, IRS collection guys, and the federal prison wardens are all sure that there is one. Mr. Reed has learned the hard way whose views count.
Prior coverage: Losing your ride, the IRS way.
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Tax-protest figure arrested in firearms raid

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 by Joe Kristan

A former FBI agent with apparent links to jailed tax-protest figure Irwin Schiff and the “We The People” organization was arrested in Nevada on weapons charges last week. Jan Lindsey, 66, was arrested with three others. The four have pleaded not guilty. From

Lindsey, who has lived in Las Vegas for nine years and who authorities say is the leader of an organization called Nevada Lawmen Group for Public Awareness, appeared to be the most publicly active. Lindsey has failed to pay his income taxes or has filed false returns since 1999, Johnson said.
Although Schiff has been incarcerated in Terre Haute, Ind. for nearly three years, he still appears to have a following in the Las Vegas Valley. Schiff