Posts Tagged ‘Jack Townsend’

Tax Roundup, 11/24/15: Another Kansas medical practice ESOP blows up. And: tax credits for everything!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20151124-1When you fund an employee stock ownership plan, be sure you have an employee. Another strange ESOP failure out of Kansas emerged from the Tax Court yesterday. A Wichita doctor, whom we will call Dr. F, funded an ESOP for his practice with over $400,000 in 2004, supposedly rolled over from his IRA. But, according to the tax court, the doctor wasn’t qualified to participate, and there was no evidence of a rollover. From the Tax Court (emphasis added, citations omitted, doctor’s name shortened by me):

Dr. F. received no compensation from, and was not employed by, petitioner in 2004 or 2005. A total of 53.06 shares of petitioner’s stock was allocated to his account in these years. Respondent determined that these contributions exceeded the section 415(c) limitation because Dr. F. received no compensation from petitioner in 2004 or 2005. Petitioner alleges that the amounts in Dr. F.’s accounts were rollover contributions from Dr. F.’s individual retirement account and should not be considered for purposes of section 415(c).

In order for a distribution to be considered a rollover contribution, the entire amount received must be paid into a qualified trust for the distributee’s benefit no later than the 60th day after the day that the distribution is received. Petitioner has not provided evidence that a valid rollover took place. Further, because the ESOP trust did not have a bank or brokerage account from May 13, 2004, through December 31, 2009, it was not possible for the distribution from Dr. F.’s individual retirement account to have been paid into an account held by the ESOP trust.

Details, details. But details are everything. The IRS cited multiple reasons for the ESOP revocation, and as the court notes, “Any one of the reasons cited in the final revocation letter would be sufficient alone to cause the ESOP and the ESOP trust to fail…” The ESOP also failed to get a qualified appraisal.

This is the second physician ESOP out of Kansas to fail this year in Tax Court. Iowa has long been the capital of flaky ESOPs, but Kansas seems ready to challenge our dubious supremacy. In fairness, though, the trustee of both ESOPs appears to operate out of Northeast Iowa, so we’re keeping our hand in the game.

The Moral? ESOPs are useful for limited purposes, primarily as a succession vehicle for a closely-held business, but they are complex and dangerous, requiring meticulous compliance to avoid catastrophe. They are a poor tax shelter for a closely-held business when the owner wants to maintain control.

Cite: Fleming Cardiovascular PA, T.C. Memo. 2015-224


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

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

Joseph Thorndike, Tax Credits Are Easy – And a Loser’s Game for Liberals (Tax Analysts Blog):

Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign is still churning out tax proposals at a furious pace. Over the weekend, she proposed a new credit for caretakers—intended, according to her campaign, to “provide support for the millions of families paying for, coordinating, or providing care for aging or disabled family members.”

That sounds great – just like every other tax break Clinton has suggested in the past several months. After all, caring for family members can be hard, and it’s often expensive. Caretakers could definitely use a hand.

But is the tax system the best way to provide it? Probably not.

Home caregivers are wonderful people. But Mr. Thorndike notes the problems with such feel-good credits:

Using tax incentives as a form of hidden spending merely serves to further erode support for more direct forms of government action. Small-bore tax breaks breed more small-bore tax breaks. But they don’t foster any serious rethinking of the role of government.

Nor do they produce meaningful results, even for the narrow problems they target.

There’s another argument that the tax-credits-for-everything crowd glosses over. Each feel-good credit throws another social program to an IRS that is collapsing under its current workload. They can’t really want IRS agents evaluating at-home care, yet it’s baked into that cake. If you don’t audit a lucrative tax credit, it becomes a fraud magnet. So IRS, meet Grandma.


Howard Gleckman, Clinton’s Caregiver Credit Adds To Her List of Tax Breaks, Sharpens Her Contrast With The GOP. “The likely Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, would aggressively use the tax code to achieve social and economic goals, cut taxes on many middle-income people, and raise taxes on high-income households. Every Republican presidential hopeful would eliminate most existing tax subsidies, lower rates, and give big tax cuts to those with high-incomes.”




Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz! Lots of links, and spicy observations on the use of the tax law to run social programs.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Reminding You That The Gain On That Sale Of Stock May Be Tax Free. “C corporations are like pit bulls and prostate exams — they carry quite the stigma,  but they’re not nearly as bad as they’re made out to be.”

TaxGrrrl, Guilty On Tax & Conspiracy Counts, Couple Faces New Charges For Revenge. Violating the first rule of holes.

Robert Wood, Al Sharpton’s Charity Hikes His Pay 71%, But Tax Liens, Clinton Imprint Remain.


Farley Katz, Joseph Perera, Katy David, Important New Partnership Audit Rules Change Taxation of Partnerships (Procedurally Taxing)

Not only can the partnership owe income tax, the tax will not be based on the income for the year in question, but instead on one or more prior years’ income. Consequently, the economic burden of the tax could be borne by partners who had no interest in the partnership when the income was generated. Conversely, if a partnership overstated its income in a prior year, the benefit of correcting that overstatement will accrue to the current partners, not those who were partners in the earlier year. Finally, if a partnership elects out of the new provisions (assuming it is eligible), the IRS will no longer be able to conduct a centralized audit controlling each partner’s distributive share, but will instead have to audit each partner individually,

Excellent article. These new rules will change the dynamics of partnership exams a great deal when they take effect for 2017 filings.

Jack Townsend, Fifth Circuit Sustains Convictions Despite Trial Judge’s Refusal to Give Proper Cheek Willfulness Instruction




Tyler Cowen, Against a financial transactions tax. He cites a paper documenting that such taxes are unwise:  “This is consistent with earlier findings on Sweden’s transactions tax, and that proposal continues to be one of the more overrated ideas in American Progressive political discourse.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 929

Peter Reilly, Foundation Of Big GOP Donor Loses Tax Court Case Over Political Ads


Career Corner. Let’s Discuss: Non-Equity Partners in Accounting Firms (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)



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, 11/9/15: Waterloo! And Estonia!

Monday, November 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Day 1: Waterloo! The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools are underway! I am on this morning’s panel in beautiful Waterloo, Iowa, with Roger McEowen and Kristy Maitre. Spaces are available for all of the remaining Iowa sessions, so register today! If you can’t make one of the sessions in person, you can attend the December 14 Ames session via webinar.

The November 9 session of the Farm and Urban Tax School in Waterloo is underway!

The November 9 session of the Farm and Urban Tax School in Waterloo is underway!

The early-rising schedule for the drive up here today requires an abbreviated roundup today, so let’s roll.


Kyle Pomerleau Estonia’s Growth-Oriented Tax Code. (Tax Policy Blog). It excerpts a speech from the Estonian Ambassador to the U.S.:

The main components of the Estonian tax system have been in place since the beginning of the 1990s. After Estonia regained independence in 1991, the country needed a tax system that was compatible both with the limited experience of the taxpayer who came from the Soviet communist controlled society and effective tax administration. It was essential that the tax system should support economic growth, not impede it. Therefore, a tax system was developed with an emphasis on indirect taxes. To keep the system simple, transparent and easy to use, only a few exceptions were allowed, as at the same time, tax rates were kept rather low.

A cornerstone of Estonia’s fiscal policy was corporate and personal income tax reform, which introduced the proportional, or flat tax rate of 26% in 1992, which has been reduced to 20%. Since 1999, reinvested corporate profits are no longer subject to income tax. Today, Estonian income tax system, with its flat rate of 20%, is considered one of the simplest tax regimes in the world

We could do a lot worse than the Estonian system. We certainly do now.


Tony Nitti, Renting Your Home On Airbnb? Be Aware Of The Tax Consequences:

Section 280A of the Internal Revenue Code, which governs the treatment of homes that are used for both personal and rental purposes, is a complicated tangle of definitions, designations, and resulting consequences. But if you’re going to start renting out a property on Airbnb or Craigslist, you’re going to need to know the rules, so let’s take a deep dive into Section 280A and see if we can’t help all of you newly-minted slumlords sort through your tax considerations.

And remember the local lodging tax that may apply.


Still plenty of coffee and juice in Waterloo...

Still plenty of coffee and juice in Waterloo…


Headline of the Day: Colorado county’s pot tax to pay for higher education (Kay Bell). 

Jason Dinesen, What Is Iowa Alternate Tax?

Peter Reilly, Republicans Want IRS To Target Hillary Clinton:

Given the outrage that Republicans have expressed about the “targeting” of the Tea Party by the IRS, you would think that they would be slow to advocate IRS political targeting.  Apparently  it is more a matter of who’s ox is being gored.

That’s why the party in power may regret the way it has politicized the IRS. It isn’t likely to remain in power forever.


Rachel Rubenstein, IRS Announces Procedures for Identity Theft Victims to Request Copies of Fraudulently Filed Tax Returns (Procedurally Taxing).

TaxGrrrl, Austrian Woman Destroys Million Dollar Fortune Rather Than Pay Out Heirs

Robert D. Flach offers A YEAR-END TAX PLANNING TIP on capital gains.


...but the breakfast treats are going fast.

…but the breakfast treats are going fast.


Russ Fox, Chaka Fattah, Jr. Guilty of Tax and Fraud Charges. “Chaka Fattah Jr., son of Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah Sr. (D-PA), was found guilty on Friday of 22 of 23 tax and fraud charges.”

Jack Townsend, Financial Secrecy in the U.S. – A NonTax Example Illustrating the Law Enforcement Problem:

One of the issues is that opacity of U.S. entity structures.  The beneficial owners of corporations and other entities may simply not be known.  And states permitting such entities to be organized usually do not request any representations of ownership.  So, shady actors can easily fly under the law enforcement — including tax enforcement — radar screen.  Hence, the U.S. may facilitate evasion of other countries’ taxes by offering foreign investors secrecy as to their investments in the U.S.

In the FATCA era, it will be more difficult for us to tell foreign tax collectors that U.S. tax structures are none of their business.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 912Day 913Day 914.

Renu Zaretsky, Repeal, Reform, and Maybe Retaliation. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup topics include efforts to repeal the “Cadillac Tax,” the background of the new Ways and Means Chairman, and allegations of retaliatory audits in New Mexico.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 11/6: Election Day Wrap Up (TAx Justice Blog).
Career Corner. More Accounting Firms Should Let Employees Build Their Own Niche Practices (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 11/3/15: Work in Illinois, live in Iowa, pay quarterly. And: fun with FATCA!

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Illinois sealReciprocity = no state wage withholding. A newly-released policy letter from the Iowa Department of Revenue explains how the Iowa-Illinois tax reciprocity agreement works for an Iowan working in Illinois for a non-Iowa company. The letter is addressed to the employer:

Your employee is an Iowa resident, earning income in Illinois, and therefore is exempt from paying Illinois income tax on income earned from salaries, wages, and other compensation. For your employee to pay Iowa income taxes, the employee should make estimated payments by completing Form 1040ES – Estimated Income Tax for Individuals. The employee may also need to file an Illinois form showing that they are an Iowa resident not subject to Illinois withholding under the agreement.

While in theory it should make no economic difference whether you pay taxes through quarterly estimates or withholding, many taxpayers prefer withholding. It just seems less painful to have the money taken out before you see it, and you don’t have to remember to write those estimates. I wonder if the employee really feels better off.

The letter adds:

It is also possible for your business to register for an Iowa Withholding Tax Permit on the Department’s website ( In that case your Iowa resident employees could have those employees fill out an IA W-4 (available at and you as the employer could withhold Iowa tax from their paychecks.

Illinois is the only state with which Iowa has a reciprocity agreement. Other states withhold (if they have an income tax) on Iowa employees, and the Iowans claim a credit for taxes paid in other states on their Iowa 1040s.  That sort of works out like Iowa wage withholding in a way for Iowans working in Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska and Minnesota — except with the hassle of completing two full state tax returns. For those crossing the border to South Dakota, which has no income tax, the compliance problem is the same as for the Illinois taxpayer in this policy letter.



Wall Street Journal, American Tax Refugees: Why So Many Yanks Are Renouncing Their U.S. Citizenship  (may be subscriber only link):

Fatca requires that foreign banks, brokers, insurers and other financial institutions give the U.S. Internal Revenue Service detailed asset and transaction records for any accounts held by Americans, including corporate accounts controlled by American employees. If a firm fails to comply, the IRS can slap it with a 30% withholding tax on transactions originating in the U.S. Facing such risks and compliance costs, many foreign firms have decided it’s easier to dump their American clients.

So Americans overseas are becoming increasingly unbankable. Not the wealthiest ones, of course, those “fat cat” potential tax evaders whom Democrats rail against. Much more vulnerable are sales reps, English teachers, lawyers, retirees—the overwhelming majority of American expatriates—whose modest finances make them unappealing clients amid Fatca’s compliance costs.

To get a few press releases, politicians have to break a few citizens eggs.


Robert Wood, U.S. Ranks As Top Tax Haven, Refusing To Share Tax Data Despite FATCA. As long as the U.S. intrudes on other countries’ banks, the other countries will want to reciprocate.

Jack Townsend, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen Comments on FATCA and OVDP. Quoting the Taxpayer Advocate: “The problem with FATCA is that it imposes burdens on taxpayers at all sorts of levels, and it’s not clear what benefits we’re really going to get from it or what we’ll be able to do.” It’s not about “we,” unless we are a politician looking for a cheap headline.




Robert D. Flach comes through with more Tuesday Buzz, with links to posts on minimum IRA distributions and small business money mistakes, among other things.

Kristine Tidgren, Tax Court Says 1972 Settlement Transfer Was Not a Gift (The Ag Docket). “One takeaway of this case for those outside of the Redstone family is recognition of the cold, hard fact that no statute of limitations applied to prevent the IRS from collecting taxes on this alleged 1972 gift.”

TaxGrrrl, Court Switches Gears, Says AICPA Can Sue IRS Over Tax Preparer Credentials. The IRS “voluntary” preparer regulation scheme hits a bump.


Russ Fox, I’m Sure Their Vacation in Arizona Will Impress the Sentencing Judge. “Mr. Joling wanted to be on “biblical safe ground” (he was a pastor) so he didn’t pay taxes.” Biblically safe, perhaps, but not legally, for sure.

Peter Reilly, Democratic Presidential Candidate Drops Out Without Releasing Tax Plan. And almost without anyone noticing.

Leslie Book, Halloween Special: Third Circuit Case Affirms Preparer’s Conviction For Aiding in Preparing False Tax Returns (Procedurally Taxing). “Despite the promise of oversight and its enhancing greater visibility, prosecuting bad apple preparers is an important after the fact way of ensuring that those who abuse the system know that their actions have consequences beyond bringing in fees for raiding the fisc.”

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Gross Income/Gross Profit

William Perez discusses the new 401(k) Contribution Limits.




Joseph Henchman, Voters in Five States Consider Tax-Related Initiatives (Tax Policy Blog). Colorado ponders its marijuana tax windfall, Ohio considers approving one for itself.

Jonathan Ackerman, Rosanne Altshuler, Jeffrey Kupfer Bipartisan tax reform is possible: Lessons learned from President Bush’s reform panel (TaxVox). “Our antiquated business tax system has failed to keep up with an economy that has changed dramatically as a result of globalism, technology, and new capital flows.”
Scott Greenberg, The Bush Tax Reform Panel, Ten Years Later (Tax Policy Blog). “The Bush Panel was an important moment in recent tax policy history, because it provided one possible roadmap for a bipartisan tax reform agreement in the future.”

Matt Gardner, Apple Shifts a Record $50 Billion Overseas, Admits It Has Paid Miniscule to No Tax on Offshore Cash (Tax Justice Blog). Showing once again that Apple management isn’t stupid.


Career Corner. Accounting Firms Need To Have More Transparent Conversations With Employees About Compensation (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 10/30/15: IRS: we didn’t overcharge you, and we won’t do it again. And: Beggars’ Night!

Friday, October 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

The IRS yesterday issued rules reducing the fees charged for giving tax preparers for Preparer Tax Identification Numbers, or PTINs. The rules reduce the annual fee from $50 to $33, but raise the fee charged by a third-party vendor that collects the fee from $13 ($14.25 for first time applications) to $17 for all applications.

It’s an interesting move, considering that the IRS is fighting a lawsuit arguing that the IRS has been overcharging preparers for the numbers, which are required for preparers signing tax returns. The IRS claims that the reduction reflects reduced costs for the program.

Dan Alban of the Institute for Justice, the public interest law firm that led the successful fight against the IRS preparer regulations, says that it is an admission that the IRS has been overcharging, and that the IRS cost reduction argument doesn’t hold up. From his Twitter feed:


The IRS has never been straight with us about either preparer regulation — really, a power grab and a move to assist the big tax prep franchise outfits — or the PTIN fee. I look forward to seeing how the judge hearing the PTIN lawsuit reacts to this news.

Related: PTIN User Fee Will Be Lowered (Sally Schreiber, The Tax Adviser).




I’m back from the Santa Monica TIAG conference. TIAG is an international alliance of independent accounting firms that Roth & Company joined last year. There were great sessions on technical and practice management topics, but the best part is to meet and get to know lawyers and accountants around the world. It’s nice to know people in other countries to call when our clients need professional services aboad, and it’s fun to compare notes with our offshore counterparts.


Friday – Buzz Day! Robert D. Flach rounds up interesting tax stuff from all over.

William Perez talks about Itemized Tax Deductions..

Annette Nellen, Poor recordkeeping – complexity or too busy. “Every year there are several tax cases where taxpayers think they’ll get a better result in court despite poor records. They almost always lose.”

Kay Bell, Obama and House reach budget, debt ceiling deal

Jack Townsend, Movie Review of Film on Corporate Offshoring

Jim Maule,Where Do the Poor and Middle Class Line Up for This Tax Break Parade? Properly decrying corporate welfare, the good Professor asks and answers:

So could it be time for “if you can’t beat them, join them”? Not for those of us who lack the resources to sign up for the parade, or perhaps what should be called the corporate gravy train.

What the good Professor hasn’t realized is that this is exactly what we can expect when we give the government more and more authority to run and regulate things. Those with the means and the connections win.


20151030-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 903Day 904. This from the Day 904 link sounds about right to me regarding the idea of impeaching Commissioner Koskinen:

The evidence against Koskinen will be convincing, but Democrats and the media will claim that because it all involves his defiance of congressional directives – and in their opinion Congress shouldn’t have been investigating in the first place – he really didn’t do anything wrong. They used the same argument in defense of Bill Clinton. Sure, he lied under oath and obstructed justice, but there never should have been an investigation in the first place.

I think it’s a poor use of limited time and political capital.

Peter Reilly, IRS Commissioner Koskinen Impeachment Trial Would Be Historic. A long but worthwhile discussion of the history and process of impeachment, and its prospects.

Keith Fogg, Notification of IRS as a Junior Creditor (Procedurally Taxing). “Two recent lien decisions demonstrate the power of the federal tax lien and the specific steps that parties must take when trying to address that lien.”

Robert Wood, Last Chance To Report Offshore Accounts To IRS, Penalties Climb To 50%

TaxGrrrl. 5 Things You Need To Know About Paul Ryan’s Rise To House Speaker & Tax Reform.

Jeremy Scott, Paul Ryan Punts on Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog). “Paul Ryan is moving on to become speaker, and tax reform might be in a worse spot than it was when Dave Camp’s H.R. 1 went over like a lead balloon.”

Cara Griffith, Why Do We Still Have Unpublished Opinions? (Tax Analysts Blog). “Now unpublished opinions readily appear in online databases. As a result, unpublished opinions are not unpublished in the sense that no one has access to them, but are simply not published in an official reporter and hold less or no precedential value with courts.”


Greg Mankiw, Keep the Cadillac Tax. Better idea — scrap the ACA altogether, give a capped health insurance tax credit for individuals, eliminate interstate barriers to health insurance sales, and let nature take its course.

Career Corner, It’s Time for the Accounting Profession to Get Serious About Mental Illness (Leona May, Going Concern). They aren’t the same thing?




Beggars’ Night! Des Moines and its suburbs don’t trick-or-treat on Halloween. Instead our little goblins go forth on October 30 – “Beggars’ Night.” An explanation: What’s up with Beggars’ Night?:

An article in The Des Moines Register on October 28, 1997, says “Blame World War II.” as well as rowdy youths in the early history of Des Moines. According to this article and other sources, Beggars’ Night was created in 1938 by the Des Moines Playground Commission (later the Parks and Recreation Department) because Halloween night had become a night of vandalism and destructive “tricks” such as setting fires and breaking windows.

Kathryn Krieg, director of recreation for the commission, in 1938 began a campaign to encourage less violent forms of Halloween fun. She declared Beggars’ Night to be October 30 in Des Moines, and further required that children would only receive their treat after earning it by performing a trick or telling a riddle. This too is the opposite of the rest of the country, which traditionally provides the treat in order to avoid being tricked!

So if you need a joke for tonight, you can always rely on the classics, like “What’s the pirate’s favorite restaurant? Arrghhhh-bys!”




Tax Roundup, 10/13/15: Thoughts for those facing the due date. And: Ex-Iowa revenue director backs sales tax rule.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors, click here to go to the YMCA story.


20151013-4It’s time. The extended return deadline is Thursday, October 15, and no more extensions are available (unless, perhaps, you are in South Carolina, drying out from the floods, or you are in an overseas combat zone).

Haven’t filed yet? Haven’t even started? Russ Fox has some thoughts for you:

Somewhere, there’s a procrastinator wondering that exact question. He’s likely thinking, “I don’t have to do anything; I have until October 15th!” That’s not a good answer (with one exception [1]).

First, most tax professionals will not be able to fit you in. I took in one new client appointment this week—and he’s filling a cancellation. Determine your income, gather all your documents, and do your best. Tax forms are available online (the IRS website is actually quite good). Commercial tax software, though flawed [2], is a good choice at this point in time.

That makes sense. You really shouldn’t file late. It’s habit-forming, and it’s a bad habit. If you have a refund coming, you will probably lose it if you don’t file in two years — and without a due date deadline, that happens a lot. If you don’t file, you can’t get a 2016 ACA advance premium credit, making you out-of-pocket for the whole thing until you file your 2016 tax return, assuming you get around to that one.

Russ has another comment worth noting:

I disagree with fellow tax professional Robert Flach on his description that all tax software is fatally flawed. For individuals in simple situation it works perfectly. It doesn’t make math mistakes. And it usually allows for seamless electronic filing. I agree with Robert that the ability to look at a return and evaluate what’s on it (does it pass the smell test) is vital but when you’re up against a deadline, you don’t have a choice.

While I am in awe of Robert’s practice of doing his returns by hand, I don’t recommend it for anyone else. While software, like any human endeavor, is “flawed,” it’s much less flawed than a do-it-yourself tax filer without software. Tax software prevents a lot more mistakes than it causes.


Speaking of Robert Flach, it’s Tuesday, so he has fresh Buzz! His artisanal mind wanders from the size of the tax law, charity scams, and maintaining small business records. Presumably posted with flawed software!




Mike Ralston, Manufacturers shouldn’t be taxed twice. The President of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, and former director of the Iowa Department of Revenue, defends the new proposed rules broadening the definition of “manufacturing supplies” exempt from sales tax: “To the best of my knowledge, no one inside the Statehouse has argued that the proposed rule is bad policy.” David Brunori is quoted.


Tulsa World, Doug Pielsticker: Sentence more than justified. “Laid-off employees blamed the company’s bankruptcy partly on Pielsticker’s lavish lifestyle, which included a $1.3 million mansion, a Bentley and a wedding with 1,000 guests at Philbrook Museum.” We covered the sentencing yesterday.


John Mickelson, Importance of succession planning for privately held businesses (

TaxGrrrl, Be Smart When Being Charitable: IRS Warns On SC Flood Relief Scams

Keith Fogg, The Right Instincts and the Wrong Decision Leads to No Relief as an Innocent Spouse – An Adam and Eve Story (Procedurally Taxing) “Reading the opinion, I realized that I had watched the trial with my students and we had analyzed it in class reaching the same conclusion as Judge Lauber but still feeling sad for the individual who sought relief.”

Peter Reilly, Volkswagen’s Emissiongate May Include Tax Crimes

Jack Townsend, Schumacher, UBS Banker Enabler, Sentenced to Probation Only and Fine. Once again, slapping the real international financial criminals on the wrist while shooting the jaywalkers.

Kay Bell, Some in GOP question Ryan’s conservative commitment; others say he serves the party best as tax-writing chair.  

William Perez, Changes in Tax Deadlines to Take Effect in 2017 (Plus Deadlines for 2015 and 2016). There’s a big one this week.




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 887. Today’s installment features some guy who think the IRS isn’t meddling in politics enough.

Scott Greenberg, Bobby Jindal’s Tax Plan Would End the Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Exclusion (Tax Policy Blog):

Some of the features of Bobby Jindal’s recently released tax plan – fewer tax brackets, ending the estate tax, and eliminating itemized deductions – should be familiar from other Republican candidates’ tax plans. But a few elements of Jindal’s plan stand out from the rest of the field. Specifically, Jindal would significantly change the tax treatment of employer-sponsored health insurance plans.

It would replace the employer exclusion for health care with a “standard deduction” for insurance costs.


Bob McIntyre, We (Don’t) Need to Talk about Bobby Jindal (Tax Justice Blog). We don’t like him. We’ll pretend he’s not there.

Renu Zaretsky, A Speaker, A Speaker, Their Kingdom for a Speaker. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the House Speaker situation, Hockey free agents, and the upcoming Democratic candidate debate.

Career Corner. The Rise of the Lifestyle Accountant (Chris Hooper, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 10/12/15: Broken Arrow (Trucking) nets CEO 7 1/2 years. And: Last week of tax season!

Monday, October 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors, click here to go to the YMCA story.

Last Week! Extended 2014 1040s are due Thursday. That’s it, no more extensions are available.  It should be all over by now, but it’s not. Don’t put your preparer off until Thursday because there might be a $25 charitable contribution you missed, and you are just too darned busy to find it today.


ice truckWrecked. A weird and strange payroll tax crime case wrapped up last week when James Douglas Pielsticker was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison.

Mr. Pielsticker was CEO of Arrow Trucking when it failed spectacularly, leaving hundreds of its drivers stranded:

December 24, 2009

Hundreds of truckers nationwide are stranded and trying to get home before Christmas after their company shut down operations with little notice.

Arrow Trucking, based in Tulsa, suspended operations and laid off employees. Arrow is among the largest trucking companies in the nation.

About 900 truckers were left stranded across the country. Many drivers learned that the company had folded only after filling up their rigs and discovering the company’s fuel credit cards would not work.

There was no money to get the drivers home because Mr. Pielsticker was using it for… other things. From the Department of Justice press release (my emphasis):

According to the plea agreement and other court records, in 2009, Pielsticker and others conspired to defraud the United States by failing to account for and pay federal withholding taxes on behalf of Arrow Trucking Company and by making payments to Pielsticker outside the payroll system.  Pielsticker and others withheld Arrow Trucking Company employees’ federal income tax withholdings, Medicare and social security taxes, but did not report or pay over these taxes to the IRS, despite knowing they had a duty to do so. 

The conspirators paid for Pielsticker’s personal expenses with money from Arrow Trucking Company and submitted fraudulent invoices to TAB to induce the bank to pay funds to Arrow Trucking Company that were not warranted.  In total, the conspiracy caused a loss to the United States totaling more than $9.562 million.

What sort of personal expenses? According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, they included:

…expenses related to his Bentley and Maserati automobiles, and trips on private jets…  In 2007, Arrow paid at least approximately $361,000 for Pielsticker’s benefit; in 2008, it was at least approximately $753,000; and in 2009, Arrow paid approximately $1,300,000 for Pielsticker’s benefit in addition to his normal salary. 

The company collapsed under the weight of the looting, and the drivers were left hanging. Fortunately, other drivers and industry players came to their rescue to get them home, showing a lot more consideration than Mr. Pielsticker.

Employment tax fraud is a very stupid crime (not that there are a lot of smart ones). Jack Townsend reports that the government has recently updated its procedures for prosecuting payroll tax fraud, a sign that this is an enforcement priority. Don’t fail to remit withheld taxes. It’s not just a bad financial move; it could get you in criminal trouble.


Pielsticker Criminal Information Document

CEO Gets 7 1/2 Years Prison Over Employment Taxes, Owes $21M In Restitution (Robert Wood)




Call me when you start using the tools you have. We keep hearing how “common sense” preparer regulation is needed to keep us tax pros in line. Yet the IRS Return Preparer Office isn’t even using the authority it actually has, according to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration:

However, the RPO does not revoke PTINs from tax return preparers who are not compliant with their tax filing and payment obligations. In January 2015, the RPO identified 19,496 preparers with PTINs who were potentially noncompliant with these obligations. These preparers had over $367 million in tax due as of January 26, 2015. In addition, the RPO identified 3,055 preparers who failed to file required tax returns for one or more tax years and eight tax return preparers who failed to file required tax returns for five years.

Our review of PTIN holders as of September 30, 2014, identified 3,001 preparers who self reported a felony conviction on their application; 87 reported a crime related to Federal tax matters. Lastly, processes do not ensure that PTINs assigned to prisoners or individuals barred from preparing tax returns are revoked. Specifically, the RPO did not revoke the PTINs assigned to 65 of 445 confirmed prisoners and 15 of 87 individuals who the IRS identified as barred from preparing tax returns.

This supports the case that preparer regulation is more about driving out competitors of the big national tax franchises than it is about promoting quality tax compliance.




Russ Fox, Gilbert Hyatt Goes to Washington…Again:

Back in 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that Gilbert Hyatt could sue the Franchise Tax Board in Nevada. That was after the FTB rummaged through his trash. The FTB was then hit with over $400 million in damages. However, the Nevada Supreme Court threw out much of the decision, though the court upheld that the FTB committed fraud against Mr. Hyatt.

Sauce for the Gander is excellent tax policy. We should get to assess the same penalties against the government that they assess against us.

Mitch Maas, Netting Tax Savings Found to be a Goal of Many NHL Free Agents (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).

Kay Bell, Computer scientists’ tax code algorithm could make it easier for IRS to catch partnership tax cheats. If nothing else, visit Kay to check out her slick new site design.

Paul Neiffer, How Much Does Section 179 Cost the Government? Or, how much does it save the taxpayer?

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Taxation of Retirement Income

Jim Maule, A Federal Income Tax on Everybody? How Would That Work?

Peter Reilly, Jindal Tax Plan Creates A Wonderland Of Dodging



Scott Hodge, Biggest Challenge To Tax Reformers: Overcoming Our Progressive Tax Code. “But as many of the presidential candidates have found in crafting their tax reform plans, the extreme progressivity of the individual tax code makes broadening the base and lowering the rate an exercise in raising taxes on the poor and cutting taxes on the rich—hardly a winning political message.”

This chart says a lot:

20151011 effective rate chart tax foundation


It’s hard to have an income tax reform that doesn’t disproportionately benefit the folks who pay the tax in the first place.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 884Day 885Day 886. The votes are in:



Richard Auxier, Taxes penalize hockey teams? That’s a bad call, eh?

Career Corner, Would You Work for Revenue Share? (Chris Hooper, Going Concern). Well, I sort of do.



Tax Roundup, 10/8/15: Your tax preparer has to protect your confidential info. IRS, not so much. And more!

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

TIGTAIRS Basically Plastering Your Social Security Numbers on Billboards Now, Because Why Not? (Peter Suderman,

The IRS continues to recklessly print Social Security Numbers (SSNs) on hundreds of millions of notices and letters, despite warnings that this practice dangerously exposes sensitive personal information, and years of pressure to reduce the use of SSNs on documentation.

In fact, the tax agency doesn’t even have procedures in place to fully track its use of SSNs, according to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), a tax agency watchdog.

This is a problem because of the identity theft epidemic. Every document from IRS sitting untended in your mailbox that has your Social Security number is an ID theft vulnerability. Private parties have changed their practices to protect ID numbers. One example is the adoption of secure password-protected web portals to send anything with an SSN. Another is the decline of the practice of identifying tax returns on the outside of mailing envelopes. The increased risk of attracting an ID thief outweighs the risk a taxpayer might not bother opening an unmarked envelope.

Yet TIGTA says IRS is behind the curve. From their press release:

TIGTA found that as of January 2015, the IRS estimates that it has removed SSNs from 58 (2 percent) of the 2,749 types of letters and 93 (48 percent) of the 195 types of notices it issues.

“A person’s Social Security Number is the most valuable piece of personal data identity thieves can obtain.” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “The fact that the IRS does not have processes and procedures to accurately identify all correspondence that contain Social Security Numbers remains a concern.”

Businesses have to be careful with taxpayer information because we could lose business, or be sued, or worse. The IRS doesn’t have that motivation, and it shows.


20151008 tax incidenceTaxProf, Who Benefits From State Corporate Tax Cuts? Firm Owners (40%), Workers (35%), Landowners (25%). The Prof links to a study of “tax incidence,” or who “really” bears the burden of the corporation tax. While politicians and activists like to talk about corporations as tax-avoiding fat cats, it’s a fact that corporations ultimately don’t pay any tax; it comes out of the pocket of an actual human somewhere. Economists will endlessly debate whether its owners, customers or workers who bear the burden. Whoever it is, it’s not a free lunch for the tax man.


Russ Fox, Tax Relief for South Carolinians. “Note that the relief is automatic; impacted taxpayers need not do anything.”

Robert Wood, Skimming Cash — Even From Yourself — Can Mean Prison For Tax Fraud:

Prosecutors said the Horners owned Topcat Towing and Recovery Inc., a towing business in Georgia. Between 2005 and 2008, they skimmed $1.5 million in cash from the businesses, depositing into their personal bank account without disclosing the income on their corporate or personal tax returns filed with the IRS. They tried to conceal their cash deposits from the government by “structuring,” splitting up cash deposits that exceed $10,000.

Unwise. Banks have great incentive to report “structuring,” and they do.


Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Audit (Of Financials)

Leslie Book, Senate Again Takes Aim at Improper Payments in Federal Programs. The government wants to use the IRS inability to stop issuing fraudulent payments as an excuse to regulate preparers.

Jack Townsend, U.S. Senators on Senate Finance Committee Probe the Tax Aspects of the Volkswagen Debacle. “As often in tax-related and other potential criminal settings, the prosecutor has a panoply of provisions to choose from.”

Kay Bell, NHL players’ goal: Play in low or no income tax states


Jared Walczak, How Much Does Your State Collect in Taxes Per Capita? (Tax Policy Blog).



Iowa is #20.


Cara Griffith, Why Is It So Hard to Fund Schools? (Tax Analysts Blog). This article actually highlights the dangers when judges meddle in the appropriation process.

Renu Zaretsky, Questions, Subsidies, Deductions, and Profits. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup has stories on whether Volkswagen’s emission test rigging got them clean air tax credits, questions on the need to subsidize wind turbines, and much more.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 882

Peter Reilly, Paul Caron’s Day By Day IRS Scandal Has Jumped The Shark – Conclusion. “I fear that the series which serves as a great resource is in danger of having its quality diluted.” I worry that the administration will succeed in running out the clock on the outrageous IRS misconduct.

Tax Justice Blog, New CTJ Report: 358 or 72% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2014, Alternate headline: 72% of Fortune 500 Companies try not to squander shareholder value.


Finally: Arrieta, Cubs ace Wild Card test vs. Bucs

Not tax related? Oops.



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, 10/5/15: Cool implosion, but no tax break. And more tax fairy tales!

Monday, October 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

This happened in Downtown Des Moines over the weekend:

YouTube Video Courtesy star105

Preservationists wanted to save the building, the old YMCA. I never understood this. Some beautiful buildings have been lost in Des Moines, but this isn’t one of them. If you aren’t willing to buy a building and fix it up yourself, it doesn’t seem right to tell the owners that they have to do it with their own money.

But did they get a tax break for the implosion? Did they get to write off the cost of the building when they brought it down? It would seem logical — obviously the building is a total loss. But no, it doesn’t work that way. Internal Revenue Code Section 280B is pretty clear:

In the case of the demolition of any structure—
(1) no deduction otherwise allowable under this chapter shall be allowed to the owner or lessee of such structure for—

(A) any amount expended for such demolition, or
(B) any loss sustained on account of such demolition; and

(2) amounts described in paragraph (1) shall be treated as properly chargeable to capital account with respect to the land on which the demolished structure was located.

So not only is there no write-off of the building, the cost of the demolition itself is capitalized, along with any remaining basis in the building — to be recovered only when the land is sold someday. So the income tax law doesn’t encourage implosions. Pretty much the opposite.




Jack Townsend, IRS Makes FOIA Disclosures to Tax Analysts Regarding OVDP and Streamlined Processing. “One point that was already known to practitioners is that rejection of the transition streamlined relief inside OVDP is not a determination of wilfulness so that, upon opt out, the wilfulness penalty is pre-determined.”

Peter Reilly, Rand Paul Suffers Setback In Foreign Reporting Lawsuit


Kristine Tidgren, Let the Motions Begin: Drainage Districts Seek Partial Summary Judgment. Des Moines Water Works is suing upstream drainage districts for not keeping nitrates out of the river. 

Annette Nellen, Obamacare – can pieces be removed? “Obamacare has too many complicated tax provisions in addition to many complicated non-tax provisions.”

Kay Bell, Time to make your flexible spending account choices

Sonya Miller, Freezing the Refunds of Our Guests (Procedurally Taxing). “We are aware of a group of nonresident taxpayers (taxpayers that fall under the rules for aliens temporarily present in the United States as students, trainees, scholars, teachers, researchers, exchange visitors, and cultural exchange visitors) who had their 2014 refunds frozen.”

TaxGrrrl, Treasury Sends Dire Warning To Congress: We’re Running Out Of Money Faster Than Expected.



TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 877878879. They’re still talking about impeaching Koskinen. If the administration really wants to build trust in the IRS, they’ll dump him. Until they do so, we can assume his stonewalling and stiff-arming of the GOP appropriators is the behavior the administration wants out of him.

Scott Greenberg, New Study Shows that Tuition Deduction Does Not Increase College Attendance (Tax Policy Blog):

 Last year, Bulman and Hoxby published a similar study of three federal education credits, which concluded that all three have a “negligible” effect on college attendance. This finding was in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s claim that the expansion of the American Opportunity Tax Credit made it possible for 12 million more students to earn a college degree.

The increase in subsidies over the years coincides with wild increases in tuition costs. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence.


Renu Zaretsky, Hope’s Limits, Math, and Cuts. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup talks about the apparent death of an international tax reform effort and efforts to improve IRS verification of earned income tax credit eligibility.


Russ Fox, There Is No Magic OID Process. Just like there is no Tax Fairy.

Me, Chasing the Tax Fairy. My latest at, the Des Moines Business Record business professionals’ blog. I discuss four manifestations of the Tax Fairy cult – The ESOP Fairy, the Home-based Business Fairy, the Pennies-on-the-dollar Fairy, and the Classic 105 fairy that Hank Stern spotted.




Tax Roundup, 9/28/15. IRS logic: A and B are part of set X. A is part of Set X, so B isn’t. And: Blood Moon!

Monday, September 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

On further review, it’s silly. I’ve had a weekend to think about last weeks IRS “Action on Decision” to continue trying to collect self-employment tax on Conservation Reserve Program payments in the Eighth Circuit. It’s a poke in the eye of the court, and one that will probably not help the IRS when it inevitably has to defend itself before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The gist of the IRS position is that because legislation was enacted in 2008 that specifically stated that CRP payments are payments for renting real estate, and therefore, not self-employment income, to taxpayers collecting Social Security, they suddenly become self-employment income to everyone else.

The Eighth Circuit majority ruled in Morehouse that CRP payments to non-farmers pre-2007 were real estate rentals. Logically, saying that a subset of those payments are real estate rentals shouldn’t by itself make other payments something else. But that’s what the IRS argues.

Unfortunately, the IRS has now made uncertain a seemingly-settled area of the tax law. They did so by taking a position that, if taken by a taxpayer, might trigger negligence penalties. It really is another example of the need for a “Sauce for the Gander” rule that would make the IRS liable to taxpayers for penalties for faulty IRS positions in the same way taxpayers have to pay penalties for bad positions to the IRS.

Prior Coverage at IRS: Post-2007 CRP payments remain self-employment income unless you collect Social Security.


Scott Sumner has posted an outstanding set of tax policy observations: Our bizarre system of taxing capital (Econlog). You really should read the whole thing, but I’ll give you a taste:

It’s difficult to think of a more bizarre and foolish policy than the practice of taxing capital. Consider:

1. If it were appropriate to pay taxes on capital gains, why wouldn’t it be appropriate to pay negative taxes on capital losses? Economic theories tend to be symmetrical. And yet capital losses do not result in negative taxes, except in certain limited cases. And why only those cases?

2. Economic theory suggests that two people with essentially identical economic outcomes should pay identical taxes. But consider two people who both bought 1000 shares of Apple stock for $50/share at the beginning of the year. One sold the shares on November 9th at $100 and bought them back 5 minutes later at the same price. Both held 1000 Apple shares at year-end. To an economist those two outcomes are essentially identical. But one person must pay a large tax on capital gains, while the other does not. Why?

A fan of capital gain taxes would say that just means we should tax unrealized capital gains. Mr. Sumner is not such a fan:

A simpler and fairer solution would be to abolish all taxes on capital, and start over.

But because that would help “the rich,” it isn’t happening. Nothing is too stupid or counterproductive to do to them.


"Blod moon" photos by Jose Guerrero, taken in Columbia. Used by permission.

“Blood moon” photos by Jose Guerrero, taken in Colombia. Used by permission.



A client should not take the finished returns from his/her tax professional and just sign and mail without actually looking at them. The client should carefully review all the forms and schedules that make up the returns before signing the return, and ask the preparer if there is something that he/she does not understand.

And that is the problem with clients who wait until the very last minute — I mean October 15, when no further extensions are available — to finish their tax information. They obviously aren’t going to give the return a good review when they have to immediately sign the e-file authorization or run it to the post office. But if there is something seriously wrong, the IRS isn’t going to take “I didn’t have time to review before filing” as an excuse.


Kay Bell, Electric vehicle tax credits favor the wealthy. You don’t see many Teslas, or for that matter Chevy Volts, in poor neighborhoods.

Paul Neiffer, Involuntary Conversion of Livestock. “If a farmer sells livestock because of consequences of a drought, the payment of income tax on the taxable gain from the sale may be postponed.”

Jason Dinesen, How to Calculate an RMD. If you don’t start withdrawing from your IRA when you hit 70 1/2, the penalties pile up.

Jim Maule, Taxation of Prizes, Question One. “So a person wins a prize, tells the company awarding it that the winner cannot accept it because it will be taxed, creating a liquidity problem, and the company spokesperson says, in effect, ‘Not a problem, it’s not in cash, we won’t send a Form 1099.'”

Peter Reilly, A Slick Estate Planning Trick And Intimations Of Mortality. “The Tax Court decision in the case of Jean Steinberg is a great example of planners taking a rule that is meant to prevent taxpayers from getting away with something and using it to, well, get away with something.”

Russ Fox, Neymar Tax Evasion Investigation Continues; Judge Freezes $48 Million of Assets. Considering how impossible Brazil’s tax system is, it would be surprising if somebody there weren’t guilty of a tax crime.


brazil chart 2


Tony Nitti, House Bill Would Give Tax Deduction, Credit In Exchange For Learning Science And Math. The tax law. Is there anything it can’t do?


Jack Townsend, GE Asks the Supreme Court to Screw Up Again to Bless a BS* Tax Shelter. *Expletive deleted.

Leslie Book, Fifth Circuit Tackles Intersection of TAO Rules and Statutes of Limitation (Procedurally Taxing). “Earlier this week in Rothkamm v US, the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion that considered whether a wife’s application for a Taxpayer Assistance Order (TAO) concerning a recovery of funds levied from her bank account to satisfy her husband’s tax debt tolled the nine-month wrongful levy statute of limitations.”




David Brunori on historic preservation credits ($link): “Nothing says boondoggle like giving rich folks tax dollars to fancy up old buildings.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 870Day 871Day 872. Including musings about how the IRS gagged on Tea Party gnats but swallows Clinton Foundation camels.

Scott Greenberg, Senate Democrats’ Bill Would Overhaul the Treatment of Energy in the Tax Code (Tax Policy Blog):

Currently, nearly every source of energy is subsidized to some extent by the federal government. This means that the U.S. economy is more energy-heavy than it would be under normal market conditions, leading to an inefficient allocation of resources. The Senate Democrats’ bill would continue to heavily subsidize energy production in the United States.

In general, tax expenditures, such as energy subsidies, leave the federal government with less revenue, requiring higher tax rates overall on individuals and businesses.

Anybody who thinks Congress will wisely allocate these subsidies to create our optimal energy use mix for the country hasn’t been paying attention in recent decades.

Renu Zaretsky, A Resignation, and… Resignation. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the implications of Speaker Boehner’s resignation, a politician promising more tax credits! and the sublime awfulness of trying to pay business taxes in Brazil.


News from the Professon. Deloitte Dabbles in Orwellian Tracking Devices (Greg Kyte, Going Concern). “The gadget looks and works like what you would expect if an ID badge had sex with an iPhone.”



Tax Roundup, 9/22/15: A resounding call to document your mileage. And: preparer regulation, IRS service, lots more!

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


No Walnut STYou know you’re having a bad day in Tax Court when:

After concessions, the remaining issue relating to deductions claimed on petitioner’s Schedule A is whether she is entitled to deduct an additional $1,616 of mileage expense that she claimed as part of her unreimbursed employee business expense deduction. The answer is a resounding no.

I’m pretty sure that the Tax Court judges never read their opinions out loud, so I don’t think it was literally resounding. Still, it’s fun to imagine Judge Marvel calling the court into session, calling out a booming “NO!” and then adjourning.

The “no” may hae been resounding because of a little error the Judge detected in the taxpayer’s evidence. The taxpayer claimed mileage deductions for going between work locations. Travel expenses have to meet the special substantiation requirements of Sec. 274(d), where the taxpayer maintains evidence, such as calendars or mileage logs, to prove the deduction. This taxpayer went through a lot of effort generating a log from her work history. However…

Petitioner testified at length regarding how she prepared the reconstructed log. She testified under oath that she had worked for both ATC and MSN throughout 2007 and carefully explained her work assignments for each employer, including her work assignments for ATC from January through September 2007. Unfortunately for petitioner, the document that ATC provided to her summarizing her work history with ATC shows that she did not start her employment at ATC until October 2007. That document demolished any credibility that petitioner’s reconstructed log and her sworn testimony might otherwise have had. [emphasis added]

The Moral? No matter how much effort goes into reconstructing your unreimbursed work mileage, it doesn’t help you if you didn’t actually have the job.

Cite: Spjute, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-58




Bryan Camp has a long piece in Tax Notes today ($link) arguing that the IRS can and should “cut and paste” its way into a new preparer regulation regime. I won’t argue the legalisms, though I think if the IRS thought it plausible, it would have tried it already.

I will point out that in an article with 101 footnotes, there is no discussion of additional costs to the taxpayers, or whether the benefits exceed those costs. He discusses evidence that “unregulated” preparers make more errors, and he assumes that regulation will fix the problem. That’s not necessarily so. It’s hard to imagine the perfunctory examination and CPE requirements of the old RTRP program would improved preparation. You can make somebody take a test, but you can’t make them competent.

Mr. Camp also ignores the unintended but predictable effects of the inevitably-increased price of preparation on the quality of tax returns received by IRS. If prep price goes up, more taxpayers will do their own returns, almost certainly at a higher error rate than from paid-for preparation. Other taxpayers will drop out of the system rather than pay higher prep costs.

In short, regulation advocates assume regulation will solve the problems of inaccurate returns. That’s unproven but unlikely. It is likely, though, that it will increase taxpayer costs and push customers away from paid preparers, which creates a new set of problems.

Related: Leslie Book, AICPA Defends CPA Turf and Challenges IRS Efforts to Regulate Unenrolled Preparers (Procedurally Taxing)


buzz20140909Robert D. Flach has fresh Buzz today, with links ranging from silly tax proposals to silly home office deductions.

Paul Neiffer, What About Those AFRs? “Periodically I will get a question from a client asking me ‘How much interest they have to charge on a loan to their child or some other related party?’. ”

Kay Bell, Meet Obamacare deadlines or pay the higher tax price. “If you don’t file last year’s return, you won’t be able to claim an advance premium tax credit to help you pay for your 2016 Obamacare coverage.”

William Perez, What Tax Documents to Bring to Your Accountant?


Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Making Sense Of Partnership Book-Ups. A primer on adjusting capital accounts to reflect the price paid when partners enter or leave a partnership.

Russ Fox, We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Phone Calls.

So let’s translate this into reality. In the 2013 fiscal year, 22,363,345 phone calls were attempted to various IRS toll-free lines; 15,609,615 were answered (69.8%). In the 2015 fiscal year, 22,013,468 phone calls were attempted to various IRS toll-free lines; 8,277,064 were answered (37.6%). As for the time on hold allegedly decreasing to 23.5 minutes, perhaps that’s after excluding all the time some of the 7 million people who called but whose calls were dropped or who hung up spent on the phone.

I think the IRS cuts in customer service are a sort of “Washington Monument Strategy” of cutting the most visible and useful aspects of taxpayer service to pressure Congress into providing more funds. I’ll believe the IRS is serious about its customer service issues when the IRS takes its 200 employees who spend all of their time doing Treasury Employee Union work and puts them on the phones.

Robert Wood, Let’s Tax Churches. I’m sure that won’t be controversial…

Peter Reilly, The Tax Code Explained & Why It Matters In This Presidential Race (No, It’s Not 70K Pages)

Jack Townsend, Wyly Brothers Seek Bankruptcy Relief from Disgorgement Order from Offshore Shenanigans




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 866

Martin Sullivan, Donald Buffett? (Tax Analysts Blog). Looking for tax wisdom in all the wrong places.

Renu Zaretsky, Inversions, Schools, and Supermarkets. Today’s TaxVox roundup covers the ground from tax increases in Chicago to tax favors for supermarkets in Baltimore.


Sebastian Johnson, Progressive Era Reform Can Be Anything But Progressive (Tax Justice Blog). “Supermajority requirements and tax and spending limits, two frequently proposed ballot measures, are not designed to promote the well-being of states.”

The point isn’t the well being of the state; it’s the well-being of the citizens.


News from the Profession. Accountant Hiding on the Appalachian Trail Has the Mugshot to Prove It (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “If you were an accountant accused of making off with about $9 million of your employer’s money, I can think of few places better to hide than the wilderness.”



Tax Roundup, 9/15/15: Today is a big due date. Also: more on preparer regulation, and Outlaw outlawry!

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

e-file logoExtended corporation, partnership and trust returns are due today! E-file is the best way to be sure to timely file. If you can’t, or won’t, e-file, Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, does the trick; save the postmark.

If you don’t get to the post office before they take their last smoke break for the day, you can go to the Fed-Ex or UPS store and use a designated private delivery service; be sure the shipping method you select is one of the “designated” ones at the link. Make sure the shipping bill shows that you dropped it off today, and make sure it is addressed to the proper IRS service center street address, as the private services can’t use the P.O. box service center addresses.

Third quarter estimated tax payments are also due today for calendar year filers.

Related: Paul Neiffer, September 15 is Worse Than April 15, “Most people who wait to file on September 15 or October 15 are, shall we say, not quite so efficient with their record keeping and thus, it is much tougher for us to get information and to get the tax return done.” Paul is absolutely right.


20130121-2Russ Fox, The NAEA Won’t Like This Post:

I’m a member of the National Association of Enrolled Agents. Generally, I’m supportive of their policies. However, I am not a fan of mandatory preparer regulation. Other than giving the IRS more money and getting rid of the lowest hanging of the bad preparers, preparer regulation won’t accomplish many positives for the general public.

The NAEA’s support of preparer regulation is baffling. The idea of the IRS certifying all preparers strikes me as a deadly threat to the Enrolled Agent brand.

Right now, EAs are the only professionals who have to pass an IRS administered test, one much more rigorous than the one in the abortive Registered Tax Return Preparer plan under the defunct preparer regulations. EAs also have much more serious continuing education rules.

For all this the EA designation is not nearly as well-known as the CPA designation, which isn’t even a tax-specific credential. The RTRP designation threatens to further obscure the EA brand.  Both EAs and RTRPs will be “IRS approved,” and given their failure to establish the EA brand so far, it’s likely to be impossible to get clients to appreciate the superior EA credential.


buzz20150804Buzz! With Robert D. Flach, a fresh tax blog roundup with Robert’s own inimitable style. Topics include this year’s slow-walk of the extenders legislation and the Senate push to regulate preparers.


TaxGrrrl, Congress May Give IRS Authority To Regulate Tax Preparers:

It’s my feeling that the bad guys are the bad guys: forcing you to take ethics courses doesn’t change that. Incompetent and lazy preparers are incompetent and lazy: forcing someone to sit through continuing education courses (likely while text messaging, trust me, I’ve been a speaker at these things) doesn’t make that person smarter or more conscientious. 

It’s another “bootleggers and Baptists” play. Prohibition was supported by do-gooders who naively thought they were making the world a better place, and by bootleggers, who profited from prohibition. Here the Baptist elder is Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen, and the bootleggers are the big national tax prep franchise outfits.


Robert Wood, IRS Offshore Account Penalties Expand, More Banks Sign.

Jim Maule, A New Tax Specialty: Porn:

 According to this report, the Alabama House Ways and Means Committee, trying to deal with a budget shortfall, has approved legislation imposing a 40 percent excise tax on, well, it depends on whose explanation is accepted. Some are calling it a tax on porn.

Well, at least they won’t have trouble recruiting auditors.

Jack Townsend, Another B   S   Tax Shelter Bites the Dust. Fill in the blanks.

Kay Bell, 3 ways to navigate estimated tax penalty safe harbors


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 859

Huaqun Li, Stephen J. Entin, China to Remove Dividend Tax for Long-Term Shareholders (Tax Policy Blog)




Well, they were called the “Outlaws.” David Allen Coe was part of the “Outlaw” country music movement led by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams Jr. Now, like Willie, Mr. Coe has some tax problems. reports:

Country singer David Allan Coe owes the IRS nearly a half-million dollars for taxes due as far back as 1993. The singer pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing the due administration of the IRS on Monday (Sept. 14) and could face three years in prison plus a $250,000 fine.

Coe, known for his hit “Take This Job and Shove It,” owes more than $466,000, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. This includes taxes from 2008 to 2013 when he either failed to file income tax returns or didn’t pay taxes owned. Interest and penalties are part of the figure.

Mr. Coe had a little run-in with the law at a Des Moines area casino a few years back (arrest video here), but the disorderly conduct charges were dismissed. This outlawry promises to be a little more troublesome, but now all he needs is mom, pickup trucks, trains and a drink for a perfect country and western song.



Tax Roundup, 9/11/15: The pitfalls of putting loss generators in a tax-exempt entity. And: Robert remembers a client.

Friday, September 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150911-2When the income isn’t taxable, the losses aren’t deductible. Some stockbrokers like to buy publicly-traded natural resource partnerships as IRA investments. I dislike them because those partnerships can trigger Unrelated Business Income Tax in an otherwise tax-exempt IRA.

An attorney in Virginia illustrated another problem with IRA partnership investments in Tax Court yesterday. From the opinion by Judge Haines:

Petitioner maintained a traditional IRA during 2009 and used it to buy and sell various securities, including shares of two master limited partnerships that were involved in the oil and gas pipeline and storage industry–Atlas Pipeline Partners, L.P. (Atlas), and Crosstex Energy, L.P. (Crosstex). Petitioner received a Schedule K-1, Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc., from Atlas reporting a $66,075 ordinary business loss for 2009. The Schedule K-1 indicated “Trad IRA VFTC as Custodian” and stated that the partner was an “IRA/SEP/KEOGH”. Petitioner reported this loss on the Schedule E,  Supplemental Income and Loss, attached to his 2009 Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Petitioner received a Schedule K-1 from Crosstex reporting a $22,793 ordinary business loss for 2009 and stating that the partner was an “IRA/SEP/KEOGH”. Petitioner also reported this loss on the Schedule E attached to his 2009 Form 1040.

This would have been a remarkable result, if it worked. Individual owners of publicly-traded partnerships have their K-1 losses automatically disallowed under the passive loss rules. Unlike other passive losses, those from publicly-traded partnerships can’t offset other passive income; they can only offset future income from the same partnership, until the partnership is sold.

Within an IRA, though, the losses are never allowed. The tax law allows IRAs to earn income without current tax. The idea is to help taxpayers accumulate funds for retirement. Any tax is deferred until you withdraw funds from the IRA. The downside of this is that losses are also deferred. The only way to deduct a loss from IRA investments is to completely close out the IRA. That only works if you have made non-deductible contributions to the IRA, giving you basis. From, Publication 590b:

If you have a loss on your traditional IRA investment, you can recognize (include) the loss on your income tax return, but only when all the amounts in all your traditional IRA accounts have been distributed to you and the total distributions are less than your unrecovered basis, if any.

Your basis is the total amount of the nondeductible contributions in your traditional IRAs.

You claim the loss as a miscellaneous itemized deduction, subject to the 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limit that applies to certain miscellaneous itemized deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040). Any such losses are added back to taxable income for purposes of calculating the alternative minimum tax.

Our attorney was having none of that. From the Tax Court:

Petitioner argues, in part, that an IRA has “all of the attributes of a grantor trust and is therefore a pass through entity which makes all items of income, deduction and credit treated as belonging * * * [to him] and reportable on * * * [his] individual tax return”.

I’m sure he would have taken that same principled position if those K-1s generated a bunch of taxable income.

Petitioner advances various tax policy arguments which he believes support this position. For example, he contends that restricting an IRA holder’s ability to deduct a loss that occurs when an investment held by  the IRA is sold thwarts congressional intent to encourage individuals to save for retirement. He also claims that requiring retirees to completely liquidate their IRAs in order to recognize a deductible loss is “unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious and completely unworkable for savers dependent upon IRA/SEP income for their retirement.”

Unfortunately, heads-I-win, tails-you-lose only works for the IRS. Again from the Tax Court:

While petitioner may not agree with the way the law is written and may have reasons that he believes support changing the law, we cannot do that for him.

Silly lawyer. Only the Supreme Court can rewrite tax law.

The Moral: IRA investments in partnerships can give you the worst of both worlds. You can make a tax-exempt entity taxable (or much worse, if you invest in the wrong partnership), but your losses are almost never useful.

Cite: Fish, T.C. Memo 2015-176.


Jared Walczak, Liz Malm, Where Does Your State Stand on State & Local Debt Per Capita? (Tax Policy Blog):


This is one measure where Iowa looks pretty good.


MOE BARRYRobert D. Flach, NEVER FORGET. Robert remembers a client who died 14 years ago today in New York.

Kay Bell, Fantasy football payouts mean real income taxes. Don’t worry, it’s made up for by the lowered income taxes of employers resulting from lost productivity during Fantasy season.

Jim Maule, Tax Client and Tax Return Preparer Meet Up in People’s Court.  “[A] preparer ought not accommodate a client who wants a return that does not comply with the law. It’s that simple.”

Peter Reilly, Jeb Bush And The Spirit Of 1986. “Somebody should tell Jeb Bush that tax accountants don’t write the Internal Revenue Code and it is a lot shorter than he thinks it is.”

Keith Fogg, IRS Inaction in Prior Years Provides Path to Penalty Relief for Substantial Understatement Penalty – Fire and Rain (Procedurally Taxing).

Robert Wood, Marijuana Taxes Go Up In Smoke On Sept. 16. In Colorado, for one day only. Mark your calendars!

TaxGrrrl, Over 2,000 Businesses Send Letter To Congress Demanding Attention To Tax Extenders Bill. They’ll get to it when they get to it, peasants!

Russ Fox, How Should Multiple Buy-Ins for a Poker Tournament be Handled on a W-2G? I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I’m sure many of you do.

Jack Townsend, Another Swiss Bank Obtains NPA Under DOJ Swiss Bank Program. If you want to skip taxes with the help of offshore bank secrecy, it’s not likely to work.



Joseph Thorndike, Don’t Bother Fixing the Tax Code Unless You Fix the IRS Too (Tax Analysts Blog). “Because even a good tax law will fail when administered by a bad agency.”

Howard Gleckman, The Cost of the Bush Tax Cuts, and What It Might Mean (TaxVox). “My colleagues at the Tax Policy Center plan to have their own estimates of the distributional and revenue cost of his plan soon. But there is no doubt the plan is a huge tax cut.”

Bob McIntyre, Bush and Trump’s “Populist” Tax Rhetoric Is All Talk (Tax Justice Blog).


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 855

News from the Profession. AICPA Survey: College Students Overconfident, Exaggerate, Delusional, Etc. Etc. About Their Personal Finance Skills (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 9/8/15: One Week to the 15th. And: First-world tax payment problems.

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150803-1September 15 is one week away. If you have extended partnership, corporation or trust returns, time is running short. There are many reasons to file on time:

  • Tax elections made on a late return, including automatic accounting method changes, may not count. With all of the “repair regulation” method changes this year, that could be a big deal.
  • If you owe money, late filing turns a 1/2% per month late-payment penalty into a 5% per month (up to 25%) late filing penalty.
  • If you have a pass-through entity, late-filing triggers a $195 per K-1 per month penalty.

Remember to e-file, or to document timely paper filing via Certified Mail, return receipt requested, or with a shipping bill from an authorized private delivery service.


Gretchen TegelerDART: A property tax funded amenity ( Disturbing trends on the inability of the Des Moines-area public transportation service to cover its operations through fares: does appear the service expansions are generating more ridership  However, as was noted last year, property taxes are basically covering the cost of these additional riders. Total operating revenue was 10.1 percent below projections for the year that closed June 30th, 2015; with fixed route operating revenue being 8.65% percent short of budget.

The overall trends have not changed much from a year ago. Total operating revenue is still less than it was four years ago despite substantial service expansions and improvements since that time. Basically, as it weighs future improvements for DART, the community will need to decide if it is willing to continue to raise property taxes to fund them.

The post includes this chart:


That doesn’t include the cost of the recently-completed $18 million Palace of Transit.


TaxGrrrl, Mega-Mansion Attracts Notice By Feds, Results In Criminal Charges:

According to local sources, federal agents flying in and out of Pittsburgh noticed the size and scope of a mansion belonging to Joe Nocito, Sr., and started asking questions. Those questions eventually led to a guilty plea last week from Ann E. Harris, the personal assistant, secretary and bookkeeper for Nocito, in a tax evasion scheme thought to involve as much as $250 million.

If you are a tax evader, it’s unwise to flaunt your wealth, especially to the point of attracting attention from passing aircraft. But maybe that would take the fun out of the thing.




Russ Fox, The Family that Commits Tax Evasion Together Goes to ClubFed Together. “This is yet another reminder for everyone who uses a payroll service to join EFTPS and make sure your payroll deposits are being made. Trust but verify is excellent practice in payroll.”

Kay Bell, Labor Day tax tip: Union dues might be tax deductible

Scott Greenberg, This Labor Day, How High is the Tax Burden on American Labor? (Tax Policy Blog). “In 2014, the average wage worker saw his or her labor income decrease by 31.5 percent due to federal, state, and local taxes, according to the OECD.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Excluding Gain On Sale Of Home, And Recognizing Gain On Repossession

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Tax Implications of the Unlicensed Daycare Provider

Jim Maule, “Who Knows Taxes Better Than Me?” Professor Maule notes that Donald Trump’s understanding of tax law and economics might not be all that Mr. Trump thinks it is.

Peter Reilly, From Russia With Built In Losses. “There is a certain irony to the whole thing as it seems like financiers were too focused on looting the US treasury with phony shelters to see the probably larger upside of distressed Russian assets.”

Robert D. Flach, DONALD TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT IS A LOT LIKE OBAMACARE, That isn’t meant as a compliment.




Leslie Book, Tax Court Opinion Reaffirming Validity of Regulations Addressing Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Illustrates Chevron Application (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, IRS Gets Tax Data From India As Black Money Hunt Hits Americans Too

Jack Townsend, IRS and DOJ Tax Conferences Before Indictment. That doesn’t sound like fun at all.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 849850851852


Renu Zaretsky, Deals, Dreams, and Data. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the ground from A (Amazon’s sweet Illinois tax credit deal and Apple’s Irish strategy) to Zaretsky.

Cara Griffith, Why Is It So Hard to Find Information on the Sharing of Taxpayer Information? (Tax Analysts Blog). “Taxpayers are expected to blindly provide massive amounts of information to tax authorities, but are then not allowed to know the process through which one state or municipality shares information with another.”


I’ll make sure not to have this problem when I file in April:

Effective January 1, 2016, the IRS will not accept any payment greater than $99,999,999.00. Two or more checks will be required, or we recommend that the taxpayers use Fed Wire to make their payments.

If I did owe more than $100 million, I would be tempted to write one of the checks for $99,999,999.01, just to see if they are serious. Not to give away my income secrets, but I’m pretty sure my 2015 taxable income will spare me the temptation.

Cite: Announcement 2015-23.



Tax Roundup, 9/4/15: Labor day and the Earned Income Tax Credit. And more three-day weekend goodness!

Friday, September 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20140711-2Happy Labor Day!  While getting ready to put in your token appearance at work today before you head for the lake, you may want to ponder the hot “labor” issue of the moment — the minimum wage and its alternatives.

In spite of claims otherwise by supporters, a minimum wage has to cause job losses for the least skilled and connected. That’s part of what it was originally meant to do. If raising the price of wages didn’t affect how much labor is purchased, you could set a $100 per hour minimum wage. That, is, of course, absurd. So advocates have to argue that somehow small increases in the minimum wage are worth the job losses because of the benefits for those who keep their jobs, or that there are no job losses.

Recognizing the weakness of these arguments, many economists argue that an increased Earned Income Tax Credit is a better way to support the working poor.   For example, in The minimum wage versus the earned income tax credit for reducing poverty, Cornell University economist Richard V. Burkhauser states:

Introducing or increasing a minimum wage is a common policy measure aimed at reducing poverty. But the minimum wage is unlikely to achieve this goal. While a minimum wage hike will increase the wage earnings of some poor families and lift them out of poverty, some workers will lose their jobs, pushing their families into poverty. In contrast, improving the earned income tax credit can provide the same income transfers to the working poor at far lower cost. Earned income tax credits effectively raise the hourly wages only of workers in low- and moderate-income families, while increasing labor force participation and employment in those families.

The argument for a perfect earned income tax credit is compelling, but the credit is far from perfect. It is estimated that around 25% of the Earned Income tax credit paid out is paid improperly, including billions in fraud. Earned income tax credit fraud is a big part of the business of corrupt preparers. Many other taxpayers who could properly claim it fail to because of its complexity.

Even if the waste and fraud problem could be solved or overlooked, a properly-functioning EITC is still a poverty trap. The credit phases out as incomes rise, creating a high effective marginal tax rate on each additional dollar earned by a low-income family. It provides help at low income levels, but it discourages improving those income levels.

eic 2014

The marginal tax rates get even worse when phase-outs of other income-based benefits are taken into account.

welfare benefits marginal rate

Chart via the Mises Institute


Arnold Kling is a proponent of a “Universal Benefit” providing everyone a basic amount of income in place of the current array of welfare benefits:

One of the advantages of a universal benefit is that you give the money to everyone. My idea is that you would then tax some of it back at a marginal rate of 20 or 25 percent. That is, for every dollar that someone earns in the market, they are lose 20 cents or 25 cents in universal benefits. Compared to a marginal tax rate of zero, 25 percent is more complex and has a disincentive. But it is much less complex and de-motivating than our current system of sharp cut-off points for benefits like food stamps and housing assistance. And having a non-zero tax rate allows you to have a higher basic benefit at lower overall budget cost.

I’m not entirely convinced that giving everyone a benefit is wise, but it may be a better idea than what we have. It deserves consideration before we concede that a fraud-ridden and complicated EITC is the best we can do for the working poor.


Jared Walczak, Location Matters: Effective Tax Rates on Call Centers by State (Tax Policy Blog). California is a surprisingly cheap place for this.




buzz20150804Robert D. Flach brings today’s Buzz roundup from the National Association of Tax Professionals Tax Forum in Philadelphia. Today he links to posts about small business survival tips and the flight of taxpayers from New York state.

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Hobby Loss Rules, “This is important because deductions for hobbies are limited, whereas deductions are (generally) unlimited for business activities engaged in with a for-profit motive.”

William Perez, What the Recent Uber Worker Classification Ruling Means for Tax Professionals. It has tax implications that William ably discusses, but what it really means is that the government wants to protect well-connected taxi monopolies.

Kay Bell, Uncle Sam to pay $133 million to protect OPM hack victims. But at least they won’t send you a 1099 for the “value” they provide.

Robert Wood, IRS Offshore Account Penalties Increase, Hunt Continues. Offshore bank account secrecy is pining for the fjords.

Jack Townsend, Another Swiss Bank Obtains NPA Under DOJ Swiss Bank Program

Peter Reilly, Presidential Candidate Tax Plans Coming In Slow.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 848. Today the prof links to a John Hinderaker post that includes this:

So someday–not any time soon–the IRS will finally be forced to answer the question that Koch Industries asked it five years ago, in 2010. The Obama administration’s strategy is always the same–stonewall, assert every possible theory, no matter how frivolous, and try to run out the clock. Whether an honest answer to the question will be given, years after the fact, is of course another question.

It’s worked for the IRS and the administration so far.




Howard Gleckman, Why Individual Tax Revenues Will Grow Even If Congress Doesn’t Raise Taxes (TaxVox):

Since 1985, income tax brackets have been adjusted for inflation so that someone whose annual raise tracks the Consumer Price Index is not thrown into a higher tax bracket. However, that adjustment doesn’t fully protect rising income from higher taxes.

In part, that’s because some key parts of the income tax are not indexed. They include the child tax credit, the surtax on net investment income, and the income ceiling for making contributions to Individual Retirement Accounts. But the real problem is that when income grows faster than inflation, it is pushed into higher tax brackets.

When they say the want to just soak the rich, that’s just to fool the rubes. It’s your pocket they want to pick.


Jenice Robinson, H&R Block Uses Corporate Lobbying Might to Make Sure the Poor Use Its Services. (Tax Justice Blog)Earned Income Credits are involved.


Career Corner. Please Don’t Be Like This Accountant Who Got Scammed Over Email (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “Yeah, it’s a little sloppy that a single email from a CEO along with a lone signature over a company seal would be enough to wire $737k.”



Tax Roundup, 9/3/15: How to cut the IRS in on your foreign inheritance. And more!

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150903-1Uncle Heinrich from the old country left you a bundle. Congratulations! Make sure to tell the IRS.

Why, you ask, should I tell them? Inheritances are tax-free, after all.

Well, yes. But the IRS still wants to know about them. And if you don’t tell them, you may be cutting the IRS in on 25% of the gift.

The tax law requires you to file Form 3520 to report gifts or bequests from a foreign source if they exceed $100,000 (or $13,258 if received from a foreign corporation or partnership). This return is due at the same time as your income tax return, including any extensions, but it is filed separately. The penalty for not reporting is 5% of the unreported amount per month, up to 25%.

What if Uncle Hans gives you $75,000, and his wife Aunt Anne-Sophie gives you another $75,000? Then the gifts are counted together and exceed the reporting threshold.

I will be talking about these and other easy-to-overlook  international reporting requirements that can arise in estate planning and administration at the ISU Center on Agricultural Law and Taxation September Seminars. They are September 17 (Agricultural Law Seminar) and September 18 (Farm Estate and Business Planning Seminar). My talk is on the 18th.  Register by September 10 for an early-bird discount!


20150903-2Robert D. Flach, AICPA CONTINUES TO PROMOTE THE URBAN TAX MYTH. “There is absolutely nothing about possessing the initials CPA that in any way, shape, or form guarantees that the possessor knows his or her arse from a hole in the ground when it comes to 1040 preparation.”

TaxGrrrl, Owner Of ITS, Formerly Fourth Largest Tax Prep Biz In Country, To Face Criminal Charges. “Readers sent me numerous emails advising that ITS was still in business for the 2014 tax season, despite the court order.”

Robert Wood, Report Cites Flawed IRS Asset Seizures, And Ironically, Sales Are Handled By ‘PALS’

Kay Bell, Tax moves to make in September 2015. Worth visiting for the accompanying autumn leaves picture alone, but lots of other sound advice too.

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for August 1st to 14th And ABA Tax Section Fellowships (Procedurally Taxing). Recent happenings in the tax procedure world.

Jack Townsend, Ninth Circuit Affirms False Claim Convictions for Tax Preparer. “The false claims statutes involved, however, are not complex statutes.  All that is required is that the defendant know that the claims are false.”

Annette Nellen, 50th Anniversary of Willis Commission Report. “This is likely the most comprehensive study and report ever done on state and multistate issues covering income tax, sales and use tax, gross receipts tax, and capital stock tax.”




Scott Greenberg, Every Tax Policy Proposal from the 2016 Presidential Candidates, in One Chart (Tax Policy Blog). “While some presidential candidates have issued tax reform proposals that touch on almost all of these areas of the tax code, other presidential candidates are not listed as having offered any tax policy proposals at all.”

Renu Zaretsky, The Case of the Unreturned Call for Tax Code Simplicity (TaxVox)  “Are taxpayers clamoring for a simpler, faster, and cheaper filing experience? Well, they are, and they are not.”

Richard Phillips, Ben Carson’s 10 Percent Flat Tax is Utterly Implausible (Tax Justice Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 847. Today’s installment links to an update on the status of the scandal by James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal: “In any case, it’s unreasonable for government officials to expect us to trust their assurances when they take such pains to prevent their verification.


News from the Profession. Here’s a Guy Wearing a PwC T-Shirt Giving Weird Street Massages (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 8/31/15: Low income taxes don’t mean high excise taxes. And: planning for President Bernie.

Monday, August 31st, 2015 by Joe Kristan


I would expect states without an income tax to have high excise taxes, but it’s not so. Liz Malm, How Much Does Your State Collect in Excise Taxes Per Capita? (Tax Policy Blog).


Minnesota, with ridiculously high tax rates, also is the third biggest excise tax collector. South Dakota, with no income tax, is only the 26th highest.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 842843844. There is a lot about the current administration’s approach to transparency. An administration that promised to be “the most transparent in history” resists every information request, even when there is no obvious reason to do so. It is cynical and effective. If after a long fight they finally turn over information that shows no evidence of wrongdoing, they make the investigators look silly. And when wrongdoing does come out, the administration says it’s “old news” — because they did their best to make it so.

More on this from John Hinderaker, Obama’s Stonewall Tactics: A Case Study (Powerline Blog), on the ongoing effort to determine whether administration officials illegally accessed the tax information of the Koch brothers for political reasons.

Related: Russ Fox, Sergeant Schultz to the Rescue!




Peter Reilly ponders Tax Planning For The Risk Of A Bernie Sanders Win. He makes the Vermont socialist sound moderate with this:

The funniest thing about the tax proposals is that this candidate who is as far left as you can go without getting into Green Party territory is promoting a  tax package that would pretty much bring us to the second half of the Reagan administration  when it comes to income and estate tax.

So Bernie Sanders favors a maximum 28% individual rate? No evidence for this in the article. In fact, his campaign, like most of them, offers little specific in the way of tax policy. What it does offer is awful — taxing offshore earnings of U.S. companies, confiscatory estate tax rates, and a financial transactions tax that will only drive trading overseas while making markets less efficient and more costly. I started tax practice in the second half of the Reagan administration, and I’m pretty sure that a Sanders administration tax system would not dramatically lower individual tax rates.

That said, Peter’s article does offer some sound tax planning tips, many of which are worth considering regardless of who wins the White House next year.


Jason Dinesen, Due Date of Iowa Partnership and Corporate Tax Returns Unchanged. The Department of Revenue says these will be Due April 30, despite federal due date changes.

Kay Bell, Cadillac tax repeal on Senate’s post-recess to-do list.

Keith Fogg, Time Stands Still for Snow – Expanding Section 7503 on the Last Day to Timely Complete a Task. The issue in this case is interesting: whether a Tax Court petition is considered late if it is delivered late because the Tax Court is closed for weather. It also reinforces the importance of buying the correct delivery method when using an authorized private delivery service.




Robert Wood, Trump As Tax Code King And Hedge Fund Slayer. He’s a floor wax. He’s a dessert topping. He’s whatever you hallucinate him to be.

TaxGrrrl, Ho, Ho, Oh No! Santa’s Office Threatened With Closure Due To Tax Woes. Well, I never understood his business model.

Jack Townsend, Interest and Penalties Issues At Sentencing


Renu Zaretsky, Thirty Days Hath September: Stay tuned for tax plans to remember? The TaxVox headline wrapup talks about taxes in the election campaign and Brazil abandoning a planned financial transaction tax. Brazil is a leftist country with a soul-sucking business tax system. Even they realize a transaction tax is unwise, making them more sensible than Bernie Sanders.




Tax Roundup, 8/26/15: The Twins defeat the IRS, so IRS may try to change the rules. Also: EITC fraud, and more!

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150826-2The Minnesota Twins have won five in a row. Six, if you count a recent IRS victory by the family that owns the ballclub. It is recounted by Ashlea Ebeling, Estate Of Late Minnesota Twins Owner Carl Pohlad Settles With IRS (via the TaxProf):

The main issue in the estate tax case was how to value Pohlad’s stake in the Minnesota Twins at the time of Pohlad’s death in January 2009 (he was 93). The Pohlad estate valued it as just $24 million for tax purposes, while IRS auditors pegged it at $293 million. Pohlad used typical wealth transfer techniques to limit estate taxes: splitting ownership and control of assets to theoretically reduce what an unrelated buyer would pay for them. 

But the administration doesn’t approve of valuing split interests based on their actual value:

Estate planning with family entities (family limited partnerships and limited liability companies) and the accompanying availability of valuation discounts is in the spotlight. Advisors have been warning clients all summer that the Treasury Department may be coming out with proposed regulations curtailing discounts by next month, and that the new rules could be effective immediately.

That will surely lead to litigation, as it isn’t clear the IRS has that power. It does add great uncertainty to succession planning, which is uncertain enough to begin with.




The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports on tax preparers indicted on allegations of earned income tax credit fraud. The charges say the operators of a business known as Tax King are alleged to have:

…trained Tax King employees how to falsify certain information to maximize returns.

Clients, for example, were allegedly encouraged to fill in false business information in order to qualify for earned income credits. They were allegedly also instructed to submit false education expenses, as well as inaccurate information regarding fuel taxes in order to qualify for tax credits.

Up to 25% of earned income tax credits are paid “improperly.” We are regularly assured that “improperly” doesn’t mean “fraudulently.” Taxes are hard, and all that. Well, if they aren’t stolen, it’s not for lack of effort.


William Perez, What to Do if You Contributed Too Much to Your Roth IRA. “There are four ways to fix this problem that are all pretty straightforward.”

TaxGrrrl, Making Sure You Eat: Paying Yourself As A Small Business Owner

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Understanding Partnership Distributions, Part II –The Mixing Bowl Rules. “If a partner contributes property with a built-in gain or loss to a partnership and the partnership later distributes the property to a partner other than the contributing partner within seven years of the contribution, the contributing partner recognizes gain or loss equal to the built-in gain or loss…”

Kay Bell, NRA lawsuit takes aim at Seattle’s new gun and ammo taxes. A “gun violence” tax on guns and ammo makes as much sense as “drunk driving tax” on all alcohol purchases. It doesn’t tax what it purports to tax.

Peter Reilly, About That Kenneth Copeland Mansion You Saw On John Oliver. On abusive parsonage allowances.

Carl Smith, Tenth Circuit Hook Opinion: Interest and Penalties Must Also Be Paid to Satisfy Flora Full Payment Rule (Procedurally Taxing).  You can’t sue for a refund of a tax you haven’t paid.

Jack Townsend, Category 2 Banks under DOJ Swiss Bank NPA Program. A listing of the Swiss banks that have cut deals with the U.S. tax authorities.



Scott Greenberg, Four Tax Takeaways from the Most Recent CBO Report (Tax Policy Blog).

Over the last fifty years, on average, the federal government has collected 17.4% of GDP in revenues. Yet over the next ten years, the federal government is expected to take in 18.3% of GDP in revenues, nearly a whole percentage point higher than the historical average. The CBO forecasts that, in 2016, the federal government will collect 18.9% of GDP in taxes, higher than any year since 2000.

I don’t think that’s a good thing.


Howard Gleckman, Should College Endowments Be Taxed? (TaxVox).

But why not just make the endowments taxable and use some of the huge revenue windfall to boost tuition assistance and other supports for those students who really need it?

Maybe taxing amounts that aren’t used to reduce tuition. A rich university shouldn’t be saddling its students with debt — or asking for more federal subsidies — while its money managers are living high.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 839. Toby Miles figures prominently.

Robert Wood, IRS Reveals Lois Lerner’s Secret Email Account Named For Her Dog.


The dangers of premature tweeting:


Oops. An hour later, the Dow closed down another 204 points.


Jim Maule, A Rudeness Tax?:

Modern American tax policy, which is in tatters, is of such a wrecked nature that it is only a matter of time before someone proposes a refundable politeness credit. The form would be fun, would it not? “How many times during 2017 did you hold a door open for another person?” Even better, the audits and the Tax Court litigation.

Prof. Maule is right: not every problem is a tax problem. Yet the politicians propose a tax solution for every problem anyway.



Tax Roundup, 8/24/15: School’s in! And: state taxes just might matter.

Monday, August 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


20150824-2School starts here today. In my mind, the day school starts will always mark the end of summer, regardless of where the sun is in the sky, and it always makes me a little sad.




Do state taxes matter? Some policymakers say that states can tax “the rich” as much as you want, and they’ll just sit still and take it. According to Clean Slate Tax blog, IRS migration data implies otherwise:


Florida and Texas were in the top ten for state business tax climates in 2013, while New Jersey, New York and California were in the bottom five. California had the highest state income tax rate, at 13.3%. New York and New Jersey are in the top ten. Texas and Florida have no state income tax.

We live in a complex world, and many factors affect migration patterns. But the weather in California is at least as nice as in Texas, yet people are fleeing California. It’s hard to believe taxes don’t have something to do with it.

Via the TaxProf.


20150819-2Robert D. Flach has a special Monday Buzz! roundup today, covering self-employment tax and saving for college.

Kay Bell, Tax fraud gangsters celebrate their crimes in song. IRS has made ID-theft fraud so easy, even a street gang can do it.

Russ Fox, Former Oklahoma State Senator Embezzled $1.2 Million & Committed Tax Fraud:

Over a ten-plus year period Mr. Brinkley had fraudulently obtained over $1.2 Million from the Better Business Bureau. Mr. Brinkley was President and CEO of the organization; he created phony invoices and used the money for personal expenses and to support his gambling habit. He also admitted to not reporting $148,390 in income on his 2013 tax return.

Elected officials don’t lose their human failings when they become elected officials. In fact, public office may attract people with certain kinds of failings.


TaxGrrrl, Debt, Equity and Startup Money. “Repayment of debt is tax-free but associated interest is taxed as ordinary income.”

Peter Reilly, Paul Hansen Receives Below Guideline Sentence – End Of L’affaire Kent Hovind?  The never ending saga of the tax trouble of the guy who things humans co-existed with dinosaurs.


20150824-3Jack Townsend, When a Prosecutor’s Questions Turns the Prosecutor Into a Witness

Keith Fogg, My Dad and the Tax Court are Almost the Same Age (Procedurally Taxing)

They’re, like, totally rad, too. Marijuana Taxes Swell, Not Up In Smoke After All (Robert Wood).



Scott Greenberg, Clean Energy Credits Mostly Benefit the Wealthy, New Study Shows (Tax Policy Blog). ” The credit for electric vehicles is most skewed towards high-income households, with the top 20% of taxpayers claiming 90% of all electric vehicle credits.”

Renu Zaretsky, Plans, Problems, and Production. This TaxVox headline roundup covers the Rubio tax plan, the Walker ACA replacement, and more.



TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 835Day 836Day 837.

News from the Profession. Going Concern Is Now Part of AccountingflyCaleb Newquist takes the Boeing.