Posts Tagged ‘Janet Novack’

Tax Roundup, 6/6/2013: Omaha Beach edition. And if you like new taxes, you can have Christmas all year!

Thursday, June 6th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Just in case you’re having a bad day…  They hit Omaha Beach 69 years ago today.

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I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure nothing I face today will be hard compared to that.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 28.

Washington Post,  Two IRS officials put on administrative leave for accepting gifts at Calif. conference.  One is the “director of implementation and oversight”  for Obamacare implementation, so maybe he can say it was just an oversight.  But Going Concern notes ”It was $1,100 in free food. Just freaking sayin.”

Robert W. Wood,  Lavish Expenses Are A No-No, Unless You’re The IRS

Kay Bell asks “Can the IRS be saved?”   It would be a lot easier if it functioned only as a revenue collection agency.  Now it is a superagency in charge of health care, industrial policy, historic preservation, welfare… as if just figuring taxable income weren’t enough of a challenge.

 

So what about the things IRS is supposed to be doing?  Jason Dinesen gives us a hint in Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 15:

I’ve been telling the story of Wendy Boka and the identity theft nightmare she’s going through with the IRS. Her husband Brian died at age 31 in 2010. Someone stole his identity and filed a fraudulent tax return in his name.

The IRS still has not processed Brian and Wendy’s final joint tax return for 2010. Wendy is owed a refund from that tax return and we’re still waiting for that refund to be paid.

Good thing they have that line-dancing thing down.

 

Janet Novack,  Don’t Let Fear Of Taxes Or IRS Audits Destroy Your Wealth.  TaxGrrrl is quoted:

“Don’t let the tax tail wag the dog.” In other words, you should think about taxes when you invest, but “don’t be so paralyzed by the tax consequences that you miss out.” That goes for selling, too–don’t keep holding an asset you should get rid of just because you hate paying capital gains tax.

Wise.

 

Ben Harris,  What Changes in the Mortgage Deduction Would Mean for Home Prices (TaxVox):

By contrast, completely eliminating the mortgage interest and property tax deduction—a drastic change that probably would only happen if accompanied by a new tax preference for housing—would cause housing prices to fall by an average of 11.8 percent in the 23 cities studied.  Estimated price declines would range from 10.3 percent in Seattle to 13.8 percent in Milwaukee.

That seems high to me.

 

Cara Griffith, States’ Misuse of Unclaimed Property Laws (Tax Analysts Blog): “Unclaimed property laws were never meant to be a major revenue raiser for states or a major headache for businesses.”  Unfortunately, politicians think that everything defaults to them.

Brian Strahle,  State and Local Tax Challenges with Leases of Equipment and Other Assets – GUIDE / WEBINAR

 

Peter Reilly, Conservation Easement No Deduction For Hypothetical Vineyard

In other news, bears poop in the woods.  Social Security Still Deep in the Red (Kyle Pomerleau, Tax Policy Blog).

social security fund deficit

William McBride,  Contra Every Major Study, EPI Claims Corporate Tax Does Not Affect Growth (Tax Policy Blog)

Tax Justice Blog,  CTJ Report: Apple Is Not Alone.  Amazing that other companies also want to use legal means to reduce their taxes.

Patrick Temple-West, Calculating Apple’s true U.S. tax rate, and more

TaxGrrrl, As Senate Debates Immigration Reform, Worries Grow Over Tax Amnesty Provisions

 

Christmas in June?  They’re trying to restore the Christmas Tree Tax (Roger McEowen).

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/13/2013: Modified limited hangout edition. And a tax blog hijacking!

Monday, May 13th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1If the IRS hoped Friday’s “apology” for giving extra special attention to tax-exemption applications of right-side groups would settle things, they’re very disappointed this weekend.  The Washington Post reports that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration will soon issue a report saying Friday’s apologizer, IRS Director, Exempt Organizations, knew this was going on in 2011.  Meanwhile, in 2012 IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman was still testifying that IRS was not picking on the Tea Party.

So not only was the Shulman era at IRS grasping, incompetent and casually cruel, it was dishonest.

The Tax Prof has a fresh roundup, The Deepening IRS Scandal.

Another Washington Post story has this:

At various points over the past two years, Internal Revenue Service  officials singled out for scrutiny not only groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names but also nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency’s inspector general.

The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that the IRS field office in charge of evaluating applications for tax-exempt status decided to focus on groups making statements that “criticize how the country is being run” and those that were involved in educating Americans “on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

Yes, we sure need to keep an eye on those wingnuts who want to educate people on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Dangerous lunatics, they are!

There is so much blog coverage of this that I won’t even try to round it all up.  A few links from our blogroll:

Megan McArdle,  Why Did the IRS Target Conservative Groups?

Going Concern, Footnotes: Tea Party Patriots to IRS: Drop Dead

TaxProf,  Schmalbeck on the IRS ‘Targeting’ of Conservative Groups, where an academic gives a ”nothing to see here” take, one that is already largely overtaken by events.

 

And some other coverage:

Connor Simpson,  Why the IRS Abruptly Apologized to the Tea Party  (via Instapundit):

The report doesn’t shay whether or not Shulman was informed about the Tea Party questioning, but it does show the IRS’s chief counsel was. It’s standard procedure for the counsel and commissioner to discuss this  sort of thing before a Congressional hearing.

If so, The Worst Commissioner Ever can only plead incompetence instead of lying to Congress.

Reason.com has a bunch of posts at their Hit and Run blog, including  Matthew Feeney,  IRS Scrutiny Extended Beyond Tea Party Groups (Reason.com); Jesse Walker,  A Brown Scare at the IRS?; Matt Welch,  NY Times: IRS Targeting of Tea Party Only Proves Republicans Are Desperate  “It’s the inability to see discrete news events for what they are, rather than what they might mean for the neverending scrum between Teams Red and Blue.”

Jonathan Adler,  IRS Scrutinized Teaching the Constitution (Volokh Conspiracy)

Professor Bainbridge, Wider Problems Found at IRS – Twisting slowly in the wind

William Jacobson,  IRS anti-Tea Party scandal gets real — senior IRS officials aware of targeting (Update – Chief Counsel knew and targets expanded to groups “educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights”)

Katrina Trinko, Rubio: IRS Commissioner Should Resign Immediately (The Corner)

Ann Althouse has more.

And here’s my take from Friday, if you missed it:   Look at a celebrity return?  You’re fired!  Harass a Tea Party outfit?  Carry on.

 

In other news:

Nina Olson, IRS Taxpayer Advocate, has an article in Tax Analysts (via the TaxProf) affirming her support for taxpayer regulation.  Ms. Olson has done much good work as Taxpayer Advocate, but her support for increased preparer regulation is economically uninformed and hopelessly wrongheaded.

 

Russ Fox,  IRAs and Owning a Business Through an IRA and  What Can Go Wrong?  Nevada Democrats Want to Give Tax Breaks to Movie Industry

Peter Reilly,  Brooklyn Grandmother Wins On Dependency Exemption.   Just in time for Mothers Day!

TaxGrrrl,  IRS Set To Close Next Week.  Bad news: it’s only temporary.

 

Trish McIntire,  Max and Dave Looking for Reform

Nick Kasprak,  Do Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves?

Patrick Temple-West,  Falling deficit alters budget debate, and more

Linda Beale,  Orrin Hatch on tax reform at the ABA–a predictable right-wing rant

 

Andrew Mitchel,  Barnes Group – Structured Repatriation Was a Dividend.  In spite of the best efforts of national tax firms.

Phil Hodgen,  Decline of American Civilization, Form 8938 Edition.  “Let’s just bury the world in useless paperwork, shall we?”  That does appear to be the plan.

 

Kay Bell,  IRS reports gains in criminal tax, other financial investigations

Jack Townsend, Cheating is Cheating, Except When Offshore Accounts Are The Means, followed up with More on Conviction Rates in Tax Cases.

Janet Novack,  Independent Contractor Enforcement: There’s More Than The IRS To Fear.  Plenty of state rules and taxes also come into play.

Jim Maule,  The Complexities of Tax: Is This Really Necessary?  “A recent IRS private ruling, PLR 201318003, illustrates how the special low rates for capital gain adds layer upon layer of complexity to the tax law.”

 

I’d like to report a hijacking.  It looks like somebody at Tax Analysts forgot to renew their ownership of the  tax.com domain name.  Going there this morning gets this:

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Tax.com is (has been?) home to the great group blog featuring, among others, David Brunori, Christopher Bergin, David Cay Johnston, Martin Sullivan, Cara Griffith and Clint Stretch.  I hope this is only a temporary hijacking.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/9/2013: Gotta start somewhere edition.

Thursday, May 9th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

rand paulGotta start somewhere.  The Hill reports “Rand Paul introduces bill to roll back parts of tax evasion law“:

“FATCA’s harmful impacts cover the spectrum,” Paul said. “It is a violation of Americans’ constitutional protections, oversteps the limits of Executive power, disregards the mutual respect of sovereignty among nations and drains money from the federal treasury under the guise of replenishing it, and discourages overseas investment in the United States.”

“Tax evasion is a problem that should be addressed, but not in such an egregious way,” Paul added.

FATCA has made normal financial life difficult or impossible for many Americans abroad.  Too bad politicians didn’t think of these things before they voted.

Probably related: Lynnley Browning, U.S. Citizens Ditch Passports in Record Numbers (via the TaxProf).  Also this from Phil Hodgen.

Jack Townsend, HSBC India Reported to be Cooperating with DOJ and IRS and Projecting Significant Penalty

 

TaxGrrrl,  Sanctions May Be Least Of ‘Copyright Troll’ Worries As Matter Is Referred To Feds, IRS.  A great article telling the story of an attorney/copyright troll who annoyed a judge enough to get him to call in the IRS to investigate his taxes.  Hilarity ensues.

Cara Griffith, Pot Calling Kettle Black? (Tax.com):

Good Jobs First is just hiding the ball a little bit by trying to get rid of reports on business climate. The Good Jobs First report says that the real issue we should be focusing on is “how to build a tax system that is fair, modern and relevant.” Yes, that’s exactly what needs to be done, but I would argue that reports on business climate add to the debate. And while I do think that such reports must be examined with a critical eye, “business climate” matters.

Related Tax Update coverage here.

 

Tyler Cowen

“When economists are not listened to, that often means strong special interests and/or strong voter sentiment stand on the other side of the equation.  The numerous special deductions in the tax code, most of which have no efficiency justification, are examples.”

True of both federal and Iowa tax laws.

 

Brian Strahle,  MARKETPLACE FAIRNESS ACT:  IMPACT ON NON-INTERNET REMOTE RETAILERS?

Hence, it appears that this Act would apply to any business (not just Internet Retailers) that makes sales into a state in which it does not have nexus.  Therefore, manufacturers or other non-Internet retailers who sell directly to retail customers who do not have sales representatives or any other physical connection with a state may (under this Act) be required to collect sales tax on its remote sales.

It’s not just the e-Bay sellers who would have to deal with this.  If you really want to create “market fairness,” there are two ways that are much simpler: either a straight national sales tax collection regime with uniform rules and rate where the proceeds are allocated to the states based on the sales to the state, or a sales tax based on shipping location.

 

Janet Novack,  Reverse Showrooming: Best Buy, Amazon And The Internet Sales Tax:

Traditional bricks and mortar retailers squander their immediacy edge with indifferent/uninformed sales help, who look even worse compared to the information now available on the web. But they can do well if they integrate their online and in-store services, carry enough inventory and price competitively.

 

Christopher Bergin, No Use for Useless Stances (Tax.com)

Linda Beale,  Senate did the right thing–will the House?

 

Tony Nitti, Boxer Manny Pacquiao Ducks U.S. Taxes, Will Return To Ring In China

Paul Neiffer,  Make Sure to Coordinate Estate Documents with Ag Laws

Kay Bell,  It’s property tax appraisal, and scam, time

 

It’s great to waste money, as long as it’s wasted here.  I dust off my old personal rant blog in response to this.

Going Concern, Groundbreaking CFO.com Survey Reveals Accounting Professionals Desperately Need Communication Skills.  All I can say to that is, pprdrhnt.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/3/2013: Return of the Glaciers edition.

Friday, May 3rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Tax Update World Headquarters is just a few hundred yards north of the Raccoon River, where the last glacial advance ended about 14,000 years ago.

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Downtown Des Moines, Locust St., this morning.

 Today’s weather makes me wonder whether mastodons eat tulips.

 

TaxProf,  Small Business Owners Sue IRS Over ObamaCare.  I don’t think you can stop a train wreck with a lawsuit.

 

Looking for wounded jaywalkers.  Blogger and tax defense attorney Jack Townsend is looking for “Readers of this Blog Willing to Share Their Personal Experiences in the OVDP/I Programs“:

A reporter for a nationally prominent publication has contacted me to help him get in touch with people who have gone through one of the OVDI/P programs to discuss their experiences and thoughts about the programs.  If you are interested and/or willing to do that, please contact me at jack@tjtaxlaw.com and I will put you in touch with the reporter.

So maybe it’s a chance for those of you who’ve been put through the ringer for a foot-fault violation to get a little justice.

 

Janet Novack,  Pritzker Family Baggage: Tax Saving Offshore Trusts.   My theory is that many of wealthy people who favor higher taxes assume they’ll never have to pay them anyway.

Howard Gleckman,  A New Way to Address the International Tax Mess (TaxVox)

 

Peter Reilly,  IRS Troops Will Take To The Street On Seventh Day In May .  I’m guessing that Peter is referring to the 1960′s  ”Seven Days in May,” about an attempted military coup in the U.S.  I’m not sure whether the National Treasury Employee’s Union, which will “take to the streets,” can pull off a coup, seeing that they pretty much run things already.

 

Nick Kasprak,  Weekly Map: Inheritance and Estate Tax Rates and Exemption (Tax Policy Blog)

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The opposite of a sales tax holiday:  Retailer Target Jumps The Gun On Sales Tax (TaxGrrrl). A South Carolina Target store probably made few friends when it started charging a higher sales tax rate a month early.

Patrick Temple-West,  State Republicans divided on tax cuts, and more (Going Concern).

Christopher Bergin, Taxes Don’t Matter Until, Well, They Matter  (Tax.com):

 

Roger McEowen, Trusts, S Corporations, The Material Participation Test and the  Medicare Passive Income Surtax

Good news!  Are you a likely tax audit target? Sequester just might save you(Kay Bell).

Paul Neiffer:  Full Season vs. Early Season Corn

Jim Maule,  A Slight Improvement in the Code Length Articulation Problem.  No, the Internal Revenue Code is not 77,000 pages.  It’s no less a monstrosity for that.

Daniel Shaviro,  Tax policy colloquium, week 13: Itai Grinberg’s “Emerging Countries and the Taxation of Offshore Accounts”

Friday Buzz from Robert D. Flach

Me:The REIT way to reduce taxes?  My new post at IowaBiz.com, The Des Moines Business Record group blog for entrepreneurs.

Going Concern,  AICPA Attempts to Tie Expired Payroll Tax Cut to Normal American Behavior.

Are you irritable? Sleeping less? Impatient with your friends? Putting on weight? Thinking about divorce? Yes? Sorry to hear, you must be going through a stressful time.

Oh, wait, are you an American? Yes?! Whew, you’re behaving normally then. If you were to read this AICPA press release, you might be inclined to believe that your take home pay being 2% lower than last year would have been the cause of all those things…

What are these “friends” of which you speak?

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/2/2013: Peter Fisher takes on The Tax Foundation. And I’m a video star.

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Peter Fisher

Peter Fisher

Cage Match: Iowan Peter Fisher takes on the Tax Foundation.  Mr. Fisher has written a study for Good Jobs First, a left side advocacy group.  Mr. Fisher who shows up in The Tax Update occasionally, doesn’t care for the Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate Index:

The TF, on the other hand, despite claims to the contrary, ignores the consensus approach to assessing business taxes in the economic literature and attempts to portray the effect of state and local tax law on business profits in an entirely different fashion: by stirring together no less than 118 features of the tax law and producing out of that stew a single, arbitrary index number. That number turns out to bear very little relationship to what businesses actually pay.

Here Mr. Fisher makes the same mistake he makes when he defends Iowa’s highest-rate-in-the nation corporate income tax, which collects very little net revenue because it clobbers some taxpayers while paying generous subsidies to the well-connected and well-lobbied.  He concludes that means Iowa’s corporation tax doesn’t matter because of the low net collection.

A good business tax climate, to the Tax Foundation, doesn’t take money from some businesses and give most of it to other businesses; good policy is based on “simplicity, neutrality, transparency, and stability.”  I agree.

As the Tax Foundation explains in its response to Mr. Fisher:

 The problem here is that we do not claim to measure business tax burdens. We measure and rank tax structures, and this because the size of a tax is less important than the economic distortions it creates. This is a fundamental error in Fisher’s understanding of tax policy.

Mr. Fisher seems more focused on “equity,” whatever that means.  But even if you think the tax law should be used to punish the rich and reward low incomes, cross-border mobility makes state tax systems an awful place to to that.

 
Tony Nitti,  Overview Of The New 3.8% Investment Income Tax, Part 3: Gains From The Sale Of Property.   Tony discusses the ridiculous proposed rules on sales of pass-through businesses, among other things.

TaxGrrrl,  IRS Rolls Out More Proposed Regulations On Health Care As “Train Wreck” Comments Continue To Make Rounds.   “Train wreck” is a term that frequently makes the rounds in the vicinity of train wrecks.  This batch of regs covers “minimum value” for determining whether coverage disqualifies individuals from premium credits.

Trish McIntire,  First Time Penalty Abatement.  The IRS will usually abate minor penalties for first-time infractions, but they don’t like to talk about it.

 

Jen Carrigan,  Should You Expect an Audit?  A guest poster at Missouri Tax Guy’s place explains the IRS exam process.

Jason Dinesen,  Another Example of a Tax Scam E-Mail.   The IRS never contacts taxpayers by e-mail.

Kay Bell,  Tax moves to make in May 2013

 

Janet Novack,  U.S. Demands Wells Fargo Records To Identify Tax Cheats Using Caribbean Havens

Cara Griffith, Feeling the Impact of Impact Fees (Tax.com).

 

Paul Neiffer,  From 80 to 45 in 40 miles.  Temperature, not speed.  I get to meet Paul tomorrow, it should be fun.

Catch a Thursday Buzz from Robert D. Flach.

 

Video!  The Iowa Bar Association now is selling DVDs of “Notes from the Fiscal Cliff,” a January webcast I did with Roger McEowen of the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation.  The outline is here. Supply your own popcorn.

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/19/2013: IRS agents charged with scamming jobless benefits. And post-4/15 thoughts

Friday, April 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

More20130419-1 evidence that preparers are out of control and need IRS employees to keep an eye on them:  24 IRS Employees Indicted for Theft of Government Benefits (TaxProf).

24 current and former employees of the Internal Revenue Service have been charged for crimes relating to fraudulently obtaining more than $250,000 in government benefits.
          
          Thirteen of the current and former IRS employees have been charged federally with making false statements to obtain unemployment insurance payments, food stamps, welfare, and housing vouchers. All thirteen, individually charged in separate indictments, are alleged to have falsely stated that they were unemployed while applying for or recertifying those government benefits.

They may have been right about being unemployed, just wrong about the timing.

 

We have to show the government our returns, so it’s only fair:  Iowa Gov. Branstad plans to show income tax returns to reporters (AP)

Howard Gleckman,  What Ever Happened to State Tax Reform? (TaxVox)

Kay Bell,  Obama’s 2012 effective tax rate was 18.4 percent; Now what do your members of Congress pay in taxes?  Make them do their returns on a live archived webcast, with a rolling comment bar.

Peter Reilly,  How Not To Care About IRS E-mail Snooping

 

William Perez,  IRS Provides Penalty Relief Due to Boston Marathon Explosion and Storms in South and Midwest

Patrick Temple-West,  Tax extension after Boston attack, and more (Tax Break)

Russ Fox, RS Gives Extra Three Months for Filing and Payments to Boston-Area Taxpayers; Massachussetts Deadline Should be the Same

TaxGrrrl,  So You Missed Tax Day, What Next?

 

Andrew Mitchel,  Code §911 Foreign Earned Income Exclusion – Adverse Conditions

Freakonomics Blog, The History of Taxes

Megan McArdle,  Our Tax Code is Too Complicated. Here’s How to Simplify It. ”Get rid of the corporate income tax. It’s not worth it, and there are better ways to collect the money.”

Janet Novack,  Tax Geeks: Make Tax Filing Easy, Kill The Mortgage Deduction, Tax  CPAs

Jim Maule, Tax Compliance and Non-Compliance: Identifying the Factors

Trish McIntire,  You Need the Numbers Before You Do the Return

Scott Drenkard,  Perry Calls for Reforms of Texas’ Margin Tax (Tax Policy Blog).  It could use it.

Christopher Bergin, It Just Isn’t Fair (Tax.com):

The headline producing data  in the report was that revenue loss – about $181 billion – from corporate tax expenditures in 2011 was “approximately the same size as the amount of corporate income tax revenue the federal government collected that year.” That makes a headline grabber; here would be my version: “Corporations Got More in Tax Breaks Than They Paid in Taxes, Government Says.”

It’s almost like the tax exists only so the politicians can carve loopholes for their friends.

 

Indeed.  It’s Rarely a Good Sign When a Tax Prep Business Closes Its Doors Three Days Prior to April 15th (Going Concern)

Just plead “miseducation” and leave it at that.  Lauryn Hill asks judge for leniency in  upcoming tax evasion sentencing claiming she failed to file taxes due to threats and withdrawal from society (dailymail.com.uk)

Tony Nitti,  Girl, You Know You Better Watch Out: Singer Lauryn Hill To Be Sentenced On Tax Evasion Charges

Jack Townsend, Bank Frey Executive and Swiss Lawyer Indicted

Can you blame them?  U.S. Taxpayers Buy a Lot of Weapons  (Jeremy Scott, Tax.com)
“The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.”  Your tax filing stress probably made you smarter (Kay Bell)

How I spent April 15.  (Marketwatch, via Going Concern).  I approve of the comment at the bottom of the GC post.

Me too.  Tax Season 2013: Mostly Unpleasant, And I’m Glad It’s Over  (Jason Dinesen)

Robert D. Flach returns!  THAT WAS THE TAX SEASON THAT WAS 2013

Me: Back to work.

 

News you can use.  Hone your corporate tax evasion skills (Boston.com)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/12/2013: Friday frenzy edition

Friday, April 12th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130104-1We’re down to the wire, so we’re going with a bare-bones roundup today.  Filing deadline is Monday, kids!

 

Kay Bell, 3 ways to e-pay your tax bill

Peter Reilly,  April 15 What To Do If You Don’t Have The Dough

TaxGrrrl,  Last Minute Tax Filing Tips

Russ Fox,  Bozo Tax Tip #1: Don’t Be Suspicious!

Me: Does my share of partnership debt let me deduct K-1 losses?  Yesterday’s 2013 Filing Season Tip.  One-a-day through Monday.  Today’s goes up later this morning.  Collect them all!

 

Kyle Pomerleau, TPC, What About the “Pass-Throughs?”. (Tax Policy Blog). Measuring business taxes needs to look beyond corporation taxes when most businesses are taxed on 1040s.

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Nanette Byrnes,  Middle class tax hikes loom in Obama proposal despite pledge, and more (Tax Break)

Janet Novack, Could Obama’s Plan To Curb The Boss’ Tax Breaks Hurt Workers’ Retirements?   They want you to save, unless you are too good at it.

Roberton Williams,  Taxing Millionaires: Obama’s Buffett Rule (TaxVox)  “But it turns out that setting a floor on the taxes rich people pay is not so easy.”

David Cay Johnston, Promises, Promises (Tax.com).  “Candidate Obama promised in 2008 to reform the Alternative Minimum Tax, and President Obama promised at least an honest accounting in his first budget, but his proposed budget for Fiscal 2014 is silent on the issue.”

Tax Trials,  Can the IRS Read Your Email?

Jack Townsend,  Restitution, Relevant Conduct, Counts of Conviction.  What gets counted when a judge orders a tax criminal to pay restitution?

 

Unclear on the concept:  When you steal somebody’s identity and claim their tax refund, having the refund check mailed to the victim’s home defeats your purpose.

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/10/13: Return-free filing? Mistakes not to sweat. And: W-2 Donuts?

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image by Samat Jain under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by Samat Jain under Creative Commons license

Should we just get a bill from the IRS, instead of filing returns?  That’s something Janet Novack seems to be thinking about.  She has two guest posts on the issue:

Joseph Bankman, The Case For Easy, Free Tax Filing

Arlene Holen,  Five Fallacies About Return-Free Tax Filing

Some people fear return-free filing will separate citizens further from the costs of government.  I think that is caused by an income tax that now is effectively only on high-income earners.  When 51% can send the bill to the other 49%, bad policy seems inevitable.

 

Mistakes, mistakes.  The IRS has issued a list of “Common Errors to Avoid,” ably covered by Jana Luttenegger (Common Errors to Avoid in Tax Returns) and TaxGrrrl (Eight Common Tax Filing Errors And How To Prevent Them).

It makes me wonder: if there are “Errors to avoid,” are there errors we should seek out, or at least not sweat?  I can’t think of errors I’d want to make on a tax return, but I can think of some that I wouldn’t lose sleep over:

1. Forgetting to check the “presidential election campaign fund” box.  After all, your entire tax bill is basically the federal election campaign fund.

2. Misspelling the name of a stock on Schedule D.

3. Writing a “smiley face” next to the tax refund line.

4. Forgetting to update your “occupation” on the signature line when you change jobs.

Any other ideas?

 

Kay Bell, Tax returns, refunds running behind last year’s levels

Peter Reilly, GLAD Alerts Same Sex Couples To Act Quickly To Preserve Refund Rights

Clint Stretch, Are Roth IRAs Your Best Choice? (Tax.com)  I think that they are if you can’t get a deduction, but not otherwise.

Russ Fox,  Bozo Tax Tip #3: Use a Bozo Accountant!

Day traders have their own April 15 deadline.  Yesterday’s 2013 filing season tip.  Today’s tip goes up later this morning.

 

Jack Townsend, Lies, Dams Lies and Statistics – DOJ’s Promo Stats.

Jim Maule,  How To Protest a Tax: Part Two.  It involves dance.  If it makes Prof. Maule bust a move, it’s worth it!

Tony Nitti,  The Masters: A Tax Break Unlike Any Other.  The tax-free Masters windfall for Augusta homeowners.

David Brunori, Prohibition Through Taxation (Tax.com).  If you jack up taxes beyond reason, people cheat.

Howard Gleckman, An Opportunity to Really Fix Social Security (TaxVox)

 

 

No jest. Shirley man pleads guilty in multimillion-dollar tax fraud scam (Newsday)

No, it’s not me. West Des Moines Man Banned from Bar Until He Can Pay Tab (West Des Moines Patch)

 

Megan McArdle, There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch in Taxland.

The core problem is that the IRS cannot look into the hearts of companies and see which of them really needs to provide free lunch to their employees in order to have a healthy, vibrant company, and which of them is doing this in order to provide a tax-free boon to their workers. 

In case anyone asks, donuts are critical to a healthy, vibrant tax practice.

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Tax Roundup, 3/27/2013: Iowa leads the nation! In high corporate tax rates. And: film scam? No prize for you!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

We’re number one!  Weekly Map: Top State Corporate Income Tax Rates (Nick Kasprak, Tax Policy Blog):

Via Tax Policy Blog.

Just another dubious leadership role for Iowa.

 

 

Monday Open Thread: The Tax Man Cometh(The Other McCain).  If you were tax dictator, what would be the first bad tax law to go?  I would get rid of (in order) The AMT, Section 409A on deferred compensation, and the new net investment income tax.  But there are so many worthy candidates…

 

Philip Panitz, guest-posting at Janet Novack’s blog,  How Real Estate Investors Can Protect Themselves From The IRS:

So save all your expense receipts, try to keep a log, and try to stay friendly with—and maintain contact information for—workers and tenants. You might, for example, need to call as a witness a gardener who can say he got his instructions directly from you instead of a real estate company.  And maybe the guy who is always grousing about his plumbing needing fixing or the woman who wonders why the gardener missed a spot in his watering will be asked to testify that they kvetched to you —not a real estate agent–when the toilet needed fixing.

 

U.S. film festival cancels award to UK film after tax scamPerhaps the least of actress Aoife Madden’s problems, considering the 54 month prison sentence she got out of it.

 

Jason Dinesen,  Married Filing Separately, Iowa Tax Returns & Itemized Deductions — Am I Missing Something?  On the quirks of Iowa’s separate-combined filing status.

Roberton Williams, DOMA’s Tax Hassles for Same-Sex Couples

 

Clint Stretch,  Which Kind of Imbalanced Solution Do You Want?  (Tax.com).  Mr. Stretch is, or maybe was, a career lobbyist for a national accounting firm that I once worked for.  Considering that his career involved crafting loopholes, this is a fascinating observation (my emphasis):

I am no fan of spending through the tax code. Tax expenditures are government grants with the barest of qualification criteria administered by an agency with no subject matter expertise when it comes to the purpose of the incentive.  The incentives – from business tax credits to mortgage interest deductions – may influence behavior at the margins,
but many of the beneficiaries are rewarded for doing what they were going to do anyway.  Like direct spending; tax expenditures are spending and individuals do benefit.  Although a rate reduction or a fiscally sound government might cushion the blow, reducing tax expenditures will be another spending cut that takes resources away from affected taxpayers.  We should stop talking about spending versus taxes.  Instead, we should work on how to make reasonable, holistic reductions in major areas of government influence. 

That’s why I think he must have retired.  I don’t think he could say stuff like that if he were still lobbying.

 

Joseph Thorndike : Why the Tea Party Should Support Soda Taxes.  Because it would really annoy people, leading to a tax revolt.   It sounds like an underpants gnome approach to me.

Jack Townsend, IRS Identifies Its Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2013

Principles of the tax law.  Heads They Win – Tails You Lose (Paul Neiffer).  The Obamacare tax on wage income cannot be offset with farm losses.

TaxGrrrl,  All I Needed To Know About Taxes I Learned From My Kids

 

No, no, that’s not how it works, Senator.  You’re supposed to give them money.  Bored Politicians Taxing Strippers (David Brunori, Tax.com)

Group that stands to benefit from government spending calls for government spending.  (Radio Iowa)

Now the IRS is in trouble. William Shatner ‘appalled’ at IRS Star Trek video spoof (Kay Bell)

News you can use.  If You’re Failing the CPA Exam, You’re Not Making the Most of Bathroom Breaks (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/25/2013. Three weeks to go. And Cargo Cults!

Monday, March 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Ceremonial cross of John Frum cargo cult, Tanna island, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), 1967 (via Wikipedia)

Ceremonial cross of John Frum cargo cult, Tanna island, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), 1967 (via Wikipedia)

Heresies of the Cargo Cult.  When some remote societies encountered the industrial world in World War II, they had trouble grasping what they were seeing.  Wikipedia explains:

Cargo cult activity in the Pacific region increased significantly during and immediately after World War II, when the residents of these regions observed the Japanese and American combatants bringing in large amounts of matériel.   When the war ended, the military bases closed and the flow of goods and materials ceased. In an attempt to attract further deliveries of goods, followers of the cults engaged in ritualistic practices such as building crude imitation landing strips, aircraft and faux radio equipment out of bamboo or whatever materials they had at hand, and mimicking the behavior that they had observed of the military personnel operating there.

While it’s easy to mock an islander for building a refrigerator-like box in hopes of conjuring up an icy six-pack, cargo cult behavior also occurs in modern societies.   Without describing it as such, tax historian Joseph Thorndike writes about the cargo cult of the 1950s, where modern policy wonks try to conjure up 1950s-style growth through a ritualistic process of duplicating tailfin-era totems.  For example, Timothy Noah thinks the crushing stated top marginal rates of that era might help generate those Happy Days results.  Mr. Thorndike sees problems with that approach:

We still don’t know if high statutory rates and (relatively) high average rates were a drag on growth. And we can’t know, because we also can’t know what growth might have been in a different tax climate.

Moreover, a range of nontax factors were probably more important in shaping growth patterns in the 1950s. In particular, the economic disruptions of World War II had left the United States in a uniquely dominant position; by one estimate, U.S. manufacturing output constituted 60 percent of the world’s total in 1950.

In other words, it takes more than a bamboo box to conjure up that beer.

After all, the tax system of the Eisenhower era was not a very good one: It paired notionally sky-high rates with a deeply flawed tax base and created distortions both coming and going.

I understand that progressives like Noah are fighting a different battle: They are trying to beat back the rate-cutting mania that often serves as a definition of tax reform these days. But I think we might take a lesson from the tax experts of the 1950s, who understood the problems bedeviling their own tax system. As economist Harold Groves said at the time, “The impression is widely shared that the Congress deliberately throws a high-rate scale to the public as a demagogic bone and then as deliberately allows escapes from taxes that makes these rates specious.”

Mr. Thorndike is more sympathetic to high rates than I ever will be.  Doing taxes for a living, I see first-hand how high rates affect behavior, and I have no patience for academics who say otherwise.  But he wisely notes that simply trying to recreate the totems of the 1950s, like high tax rates, misses all of the other things that put cold beer in the refrigerator.  Same thing goes for other 1950s fetishes like tail fins, industrial unionism and defined benefit pension plans.

 

 

To serve and protect.  Former Pittsburgh Police Chief Charged with Conspiracy, Failure to File Federal Tax Returns (FBI Press Release):

Former Pittsburgh Police Chief Nathan E. Harper has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of conspiracy and willful failure to file income tax returns, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

The five-count indictment named Harper, 60, of Pittsburgh.

According to the indictment, Harper was the chief of the city of Pittsburgh Police Department. From 2009 to 2012, he caused at least $70,628.92 in checks and cash received by the special events office of the department to be diverted to two accounts at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union. Using Visa debit cards, Harper obtained more than $31,000 in ATM withdrawals and debit purchases, all for his personal benefit. Harper also failed to file federal tax returns for the years 2008 through 2011.

If he’s convicted, maybe the special events office can throw a little party for the occasion.

 

What could possibly go wrong?  James Timothy Turner was convicted last week of masterminding a cunning plan.  DothanEagle.com reports:

According to a U.S. Department of Justice press release, Turner was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., attempting to pay taxes with fictitious financial instruments, attempting to obstruct and impede the Internal Revenue Service, failing to file a 2009 federal income tax return and falsely testifying under oath in a bankruptcy proceeding.                           

The FBI began investigating Turner in 2010 after he and three other people sent packages to all 50 governors demanding they leave office.                           

Turner is the president of a group of what prosecutors called “sovereign citizens” known as the “Republic for the united States of America.”

Send “packages” to all of the governors telling them to resign?  Well, at least they weren’t trying to hide what they were doing.

Turner toured the country in 2008 and 2009 teaching seminars that instructed attendees how to submit bonds to pay off tax debt.                           

According to prosecutors, these bonds were completely fictitious and often written for amounts in excess of $1 billion.

Silly man.  Only the Federal Reserve can do that.  Unless we’re talking about the $1 trillion magic coin

 

Every theater needs a dirctor, including economic development theater.  Economic development director accuses senator of engaging in “political theater” over Orascom deal (O. Kay Henderson, via TheBeanwalker)

 

William Perez,  Penalty Relief Available for Some 2012 Federal Tax Returns

Jack Townsend,  Ethicist Question About Tax Professionals Exploiting Loopholes:

So, for those tax professionals engaging in such transactions that they know violated a known legal duty, their conduct is illegal and unethical.  For those transactions engaging in such transactions where they don’t know (perhaps are willfully ignorant) that the conduct is illegal (ultimately most of the b—-t tax shelters are found to be
illegal), then at least the ethical issues arise.  These are smart professionals, paid (supposedly) to predict what a court will do with the b—–t tax shelter.  Yet, in the prominent civil cases that swat down b—–t tax shelters, they fail miserably in their predictions.

 

Kay Bell,  A tax lawyer has ethical problems with tax loopholes

Janet Novack,  How Much Tax Will You Owe On A $320 Million Powerball Jackpot? A Lot More Than In 2012 .  I knew I should have arranged to win that Powerball last year.

Jim Maule,  Tax Meets the Chicken and the Egg

Trish McIntire,  Extensions

Patrick Temple-West,  Athletes’ tough tax bills, and more

TaxGrrrl,  Senate Passes Budget, Calls For Nearly $1 Trillion In Tax Increases

You are required to go to the party.  The Affordable Care Act Turns 3 (Richard Morrison, TaxVox).

 

The Critical Question: Who Will Play Margaret Fuller When The Movie Comes Out ?  (Peter Reilly)

Tony Nitti, IRS Employees’ Star Trek Parody Is As Wonderfully Awful As It Sounds

Russ Fox,  To Boldly Go Where No IRS Employee Has Gone Before…

You mean it’s not a documentary?  IRS Releases Gilligan’s Island Parody Training Video (TaxProf).

Frankly, they don’t give a dam. Beavers defiant after convicted of tax evasion (Chicago Tribune)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/15/13: Corporate return day! And: Can you audit a myth?

Friday, March 15th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Calendar-year corporation returns are due today! They are easy to extend on Form 7004 if you can’t finish them today.  If you don’t extend an S corporation return and you file late, the penalty starts at $195 for each late K-1, and $195 each for every additional month the return is late.

 

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

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

Joseph Henchman,  Iowa House Passes Alternative Maximum Tax: Income Tax Option Clear of Carveouts (Tax Policy Blog).  Joseph has some good things to say about the Iowa alternative tax that passed the house this week (HF 478):

I’ve never filled out an Iowa income tax form but it looks like one of the harder state tax returns. Iowa allows you to deduct what you pay in federal income tax, which is nice but is that much more calculation work (and probably drives up tax rates). There are lines for the lump-sum tax, the minimum tax, the K-12 textbook credit, the school district surtax, the motor fuel tax credit, and the earned income tax credit. I’m sure each one of these has their explanations of necessity but together it sounds like a lot of paperwork, record-keeping, and Tax Filing Day frustration.

Hence, I’m impressed by a bill passed yesterday (House File 478)  by the Iowa House which would offer an alternative to all Iowa taxpayers: a 4.5 percent tax on all income above about $15,000, which no further deductions or exemptions. It’s not perfect: our friend Joe Kristan pointed out that a credit for taxes paid to another state and a deduction for federal interest are probably constitutionally required, and offsetting deductions to certain kinds of income (allowing gambling losses if you tax gambling winnings) is good policy. But as Joe said, the bill “is a welcome step towards improving Iowa’s income tax.”

I’m hoping it’s a step towards the Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

 

It’s a myth, so they’re cracking down on it!

Huffington Post, The Millionaire Migration Myth: Don’t Fall for This Anti-Tax Scare Tactic.

Bloomberg News, States Crack Down on Top Earners Who Flee as Levies Rise: Taxes

If they feel have to “crack down” on something, maybe there’s something to that myth.

 

The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Janet Novack,  Blame Congress, As Well As H&R Block And IRS, For College Tax Credit Mess. Oh, I do!  From the article:

Far be it from me to let either the Internal Revenue Service or tax prep giant H&R Block off the hook for the current mess which has delayed refunds for more than 600,000 taxpayers claiming college tax credits by up to eight weeks. In addition to their operational missteps, both did a poor job (at least  initially) of communicating with taxpayers who desperately need those refunds to pay tuition or other bills.

But let’s put some of the blame where it rightly belongs: on the Washington politicians. For more than two decades, Congress has been expanding  “tax expenditures” with little regard for how complicated such provisions might be for taxpayers to use and for the IRS to administer,  let alone for whether they do enough good to justify their cost and the economic distortions they create.  A new 1065-page Congressional Research Service compendium lists 250 different tax expenditures. Happy reading.

Every little break like this diverts IRS resources from actually collecting income taxes and makes the income tax a little less effective and useful.  Yet Congress still sees the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.

 

Jim Maule,  Tax Depreciation: Do the Math:

No matter how well a student in the basic tax course masters the depreciation deduction to the extent it is studied, that student knows that the total depreciation with respect to a property cannot exceed its cost. All of the students would find themselves bewildered by the proposition that depreciation deductions on a property that cost $34,799 would total $56,000.

So was the Tax Court.

 

Tony Nitti,  Golfer Sergio Garcia Comes Up Short In Tax Court, But Is The Decision A Victory For Other Athletes? He won on his endorsement royalty income, so while he may not have had an undisputed win, he did OK, like a PGA golfer who gets second-place prize money.

 

William Perez,  Delays in Issuing Tax Refunds Related to Education Tax Credits

Going Concern,  IRS Won’t Be Sorry If You Never Get Around to Claiming Your Refund.  Over $900 million in 2009 refunds will be out of reach of their rightful recipients after April 15, when the 3-year window for claiming them expires.

Trish McIntire, Don’t Lose Your 2009 Refund

 

Paul Neiffer,  Will Large Farmers Be Able to Use Cash Method in the Future?!  Farmers should get the same tax rules and breaks everyone else does, no less and no more.

Kay Bell,  Will a relationship neutral tax code save traditional marriage?.  Not every problem is a tax problem.

Howard Gleckman, The Ideological Chasm Between the House and Senate Budgets

William McBride, Dave Camp Floats a Rewrite of Small Business Tax Rules (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Jack Townsend, U.S. Taxpayer Pleads to FBAR and Tax Perjury Violation

Brian Mahany, IRS Agent May Be Headed To Prison For Info Leak – Whistleblower Protection

Brian Strahle, State Tax Revenues:  Corporate Income Tax Not That Important?

Oh, Goody.  Applying for Obamacare Subsidies Will Be as Complicated as Doing Your Taxes (Megan McArdle)

 

Argo pay your taxes.  It turns out Iowa isn’t the only government whose film tax credits attract scammers.  From London comes this via Boston.com:

In some ways ‘‘A Landscape of Lies’’ was a typical indie film, with a tiny budget, a B-list cast and an award from an American film festival.           

What made it special is that it was created solely to cover up a huge tax fraud.

In fact, officials say, the project was a sham, set up to claim almost 1.5 million pounds in goods and services tax for work that had not been done, as well as 1.3 million pounds under a government program that allows filmmakers to claim back up to 25 percent of their expenditure as tax relief.

No word on whether Leo Bloom prepared the fraudulent returns.

 

News you can use: Polish Up Your Guccis. (Christopher Bergin, Tax.com).

Will there be tax reform? I think there has to be. But I don’t think it will look like theTax Reform Act of 1986 because, in short, it’s not 1986, and we don’t have the same problems or even the same tax system. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of lessons to be learned from the ’86 experience. But I don’t think tax reform will happen soon. And a few of the reasons I think that come right out of “Gucci Gulch.”

I have a copy of Showdown at Gucci Gulch, the book about how the 1986 tax reforms were enacted.  I haven’t brought myself to open it; it seems too much like reading about my job.

 

TaxGrrrl,  Arrest of Dancing Mascot Puts Liberty Tax Wavers In The Spotlight

He should have hidden the cash across the pond.  Opening statements underway in Beavers tax evasion trial (WGNtv.com)

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Tax Roundup, 3/8/2013: IRS tackles ex-Bear Zorich. And: higher taxes, less compliance.

Friday, March 8th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

1991PacificIllegal procedure.  Former Chicago Bear Chris Zorich has been flagged.  CBS Chicago reports:

Zorich, 43, was charged Thursday with four misdemeanor counts of failing to file federal income tax returns, for the years 2006 through 2009, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. During that time, he allegedly had an income of more than $1 million.

Federal prosecutors said Zorich was cooperating with the investigation and has agreed to plead guilty.

His lawyer says that he owes no more than $70,000 after withholding on the non-filed years is applied.

I wonder why he was charged.  While it’s a bad idea, it’s not extremely rare for people to just get behind on filing their returns.  It doesn’t usually lead to criminal charges.  Much of his income for the years at issue was W-2 income, so it wasn’t as though the IRS would miss him.

Perhaps he did something to annoy an examiner enough to call in the Criminal Division.  Maybe it’s because he is an attorney [update: he apparently never passed the bar exam].   Or maybe he’s just unlucky to be famous-enough for the IRS to use his celebrity to frighten the rest of us into getting our returns done. (Via Reason 24/7)

Update: This Chicago Tribune report suggests that self-dealing with his charitable foundation may have been a factor.

 

In other tax crime news:

Jack Townsend: Article on Deterrence Through Criminal Enforcement and Defining Tax Shelters

Miami Vice: Two Miami Officers Accused Of Tax Refund Fraud (CBS Miami)

William Perez, Tips for Preparing Form 1040-EZ

Janet Novack, IRS Yanks Criminal Amnesty Deal From Taxpayers With Secret Bank Leumi Accounts. If the IRS turns on taxpayers who turned themselves in under an amnesty, not many folks will participate in another one.

Russ Fox,  When the IRS Changes the Rules Midstream in a Legal Matter…

 

J.D. Tuccile,  As Government Grasps For Taxes, Brace for an Unwinnable War Against You (Reason.com).  It’s a long-form essay on the way getting all sorts of social services from the government doesn’t make people happy to pay their taxes.  This is interesting:

 

20130308-1

 

Those who think tax increases alone can solve our ongoing fiscal disaster are just kidding themselves.

 

Paul Neiffer,  What Are W2 Wages for DPAD?  You have to have paid W-2 wages to use the Section 199 deduction.  But they don’t all work:

These wages cannot include wages paid to your children under age 18 (if a  sole proprietor farmer) and commodity wages.  However, wages paid in cash to spouses and children over age 17 are allowed as part of these wages. 

If you are a schedule F farmer with no employees, the W-2 requirement makes the Section 199 deduction worthless.

 

Jim Maule,  Selecting a Tax Return Preparer.  All sound advice, including this:

Seventh, ask the tax professional about data security. Where and how is paper data stored while in the hands of the preparer? Where is the digital data stored? What precautions are in place to minimize the chances of a third party breaking into the office or the digital servers and obtaining information? If the individual hands over paper records without keeping copies, which is an unwise move, what happens if the tax professional’s office burns down?

Something to think about.

 

Nanette Byrnes, State defections impact U.S. interstate tax compact (Tax Break)

TaxGrrrl,  Taxes From A To Z (2013): D Is For Disaster Relief

William McBride,  Latest IRS Data Shows Taxable Returns Remain Below 1997 Levels (Tax Policy Blog).  The income tax burden falls on fewer and fewer returns.

Howard Gleckman,  Build America Bonds, the Medicaid Expansion, and Trust Between the States and the Feds

Tony Nitti,  Congress Looks To The Wealthy To Bail Out Social Security.  But the rich guy isn’t buying.

 

If you ever wonder why California is the Titanic of state governments, you might want to read Kay Bell’s latest, Tax on email suggested as way to help fund U.S. Postal Service:

Berkeley City Councilman Gordon Wozniak has tossed out the idea of an email tax to help save snail mail.

The financial straits of the U.S. Postal Service became an issue for Berkeley lawmakers when the paper mail delivery system proposed closing that northern California city’s downtown post office and selling the building.

It won’t happen, but a state where somebody who thinks it could happen can be elected to public office is pretty much doomed.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/7/2013: Consultant says Iowa should do more of what he consults about. Also: how not to file a lawyer’s tax return.

Thursday, March 7th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

http://www.rothcpa.com/misc/20090604-1.JPGAnswering the wrong questions.  The Iowa Chamber Alliance asked a consulting firm that makes money playing the corporate location incentives game whether Iowa should sweeten its corporate location incentives.  Guess how they answered it.

From an Iowa Chamber Alliance press release:

“Iowa has a solid base of state - level economic development incentives tools upon which to build. However, to become more competitive, Iowa may wish to increase the funding level and flexibility of some of the State’s key incentive programs” states Darin Buelow, a Principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP.

It’s hard to imagine the study coming to a different conclusion considering what they were looking for:

At the request of the Iowa Chamber Alliance (ICA), Deloitte Consulting (Deloitte) benchmarked incentives programs in Iowa and in five alternate states, focusing on a high-level analysis of state-level incentive programs, their value, and overall effectiveness in attracting investors.

In other words, they were to look at whether Iowa has more and better giveaways than its neighbors.

I looked for the study in vain for any analysis of the value of Iowa’s tax credits to the economy vs. alternative uses for the funds — like lowering the tax rates of the rest of us who pay for them.  There is no mention of opportunity cost.”  In looking at the “value” of the programs, it makes unsupported conclusions like this one about the “High Quality Jobs Program:”

Considered effective and competitive in providing benefits to mitigate corporate income tax, refunding sales tax for construction and providing a supplemental refundable research credit.

Considered effective by whom?  On what basis?  It doesn’t say.

The study says Iowa should enrich its data center corporate welfare — where the rest of us subsidize the infrastructure of Microsoft and Apple.  They also recomment Iowa “consider allowing sale, refund or transfer” of tax credits.

A few years ago, after the film tax credit disaster, Governor Culver tasked a panel with reviewing the effectiveness of Iowa’s dozens of tax credits.  Their report failed to come up with a clear benefit for any of Iowa’s tax credits.  The panel also had this to say about transferable tax credits: (my emphasis)

Transferability of tax credits complicates the projection of revenues and the tracking of credits, creates uncertainty about when credits will be claimed because the purchasing entity may utilize a different fiscal year than the entity awarded the credit, and siphons resources from awarded entities through brokerage fees… Once tax credits are transferred, it creates limited recourse for the State to recover funds claimed in instances where the business awarded the original credit does not fulfill the contracted obligations or if the credit was awarded in error.  Additionally, transferability has also resulted in abuses in some tax credit programs.

It would be better Iowa to not “compete” in taxing its current taxpayers to lure and subsidize their competitors.  Instead Iowa should enact a tax system good enough that we don’t have to pay people to be our friends.   The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be better for Iowa businesses than any number of pocket-picking tax credits.

 

Poor legal move.  From Bloomberglaw.com:

Former Kirkland & Ellis LP senior partner Theodore Freedman pleaded guilty to fraud in connection with the filing of false tax forms.

Freedman changed his plea yesterday from not guilty to guilty of four counts of tax fraud. U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts in Manhattan accepted the plea and set sentencing for Sept. 17. Freedman’s lawyers reached a plea agreement with U.S. attorneys.

Indicted in July 2011, Freedman misrepresented his income as a partner at the law firm by about $2 million, the U.S. said. He also claimed more than $500,000 in expenses for a sole proprietorship that didn’t exist, the government said.

It’s hard to imagine how he thought this would work.  K-1s get matched against tax returns, at least occasionally.  The IRS matching system is cumbersome and inefficient, but it works well enough that you can’t habitually ignore K-1s with six-figure income.  Furthermore, claiming big bogus Schedule C losses like that is practically an engraved invitation for the IRS to visit your return.

Related:  Former Kirkland & Ellis Partner Pleads to Tax Crimes (Jack Townsend)

 

The Colonel knows why your business might have to file returns in other states.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, The Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

William McBride, The Carried Interest Debate: Funding Government for 3.1 Hours (Tax Policy Blog).

Patrick Temple-West,  Cadbury gets tax bill in India, and more (Tax Break).

Daniel Shaviro,  Skepticism about “fundamental tax reform”

Angie Picardo,  Grads – Filing for First the Time (Missouri Tax Guy guest-post)

Brian Strahle,  D.C. Combined Reporting – Transition Rules for 3/15 and 4/15!

Janet Novack,  New IRS Data: Rich Got Richer, But Paid Lower Tax Rate As Stocks Gained

William Perez,  Child Tax Credit for 2012

 

There’s a new Cavalcade of Risk up at Health Business BlogIt’s always worth the ride at the blog world’s roundup of insurance and risk management!

 

Is that an argument for or against intelligent design?  The Sequester: ‘Designed to be Stupid’ (Cara Griffith, Tax.com).

Because they aren’t in a position to speak for themselves: Ellen DeGeneres Speaks Out For Spanish-American War Widowers (Peter Reilly). 

The Critical Question: Why Is Amy Poehler Going To Hell? And What Does Taylor Swift Have To Do With It? (TaxGrrrl)

 

 

Programming note: This site was pretty much shut down part of yesterday afternoon.  Our valiant hosting service says it was a comment spam attack on the pre-2012 archived posts.  Sorry about that.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/4/2013: Eight years for tax shelter lawyer. Plus: employee tax fraud, employer tax bill.

Monday, March 4th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130304-1A federal judge Friday sentenced a key player in the once-lucrative Jenkens & Gilchrist tax shelter practice to eight years in prison.  From the AP:

U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III sentenced 52-year-old Donna Guerin, of Scottsdale, Ariz., after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and tax evasion. He ordered her to pay $190 million in restitution besides the $1.6 million she agreed to forfeit when she pleaded guilty in September.             

Guerin, a former partner at Jenkens & Gilchrist, a Texas-based law firm with offices throughout the United States, had admitted that she helped market tax shelters from 1994 through 2004 to some of the world’s richest investors, including the late sports entrepreneur Lamar Hunt, trust fund recipients, investors, a grandson of the late industrialist Armand Hammer and one of the earliest investors in Microsoft Corp.

The biggest prosecution target at Jenkens, Paul Daugerdas, faces his second trial on the charges in September.  His 2011 trial was voided because of juror misconduct.

Jenkens was one of the big players in the tax shelter industry that sprung up among big law and accounting firms in the 1990s.  It shut down in 2007 after entering a non-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department.

Sort of related:  Ernst & Young Admits That Some of Its Partners Were Running a Tax Shelter Factory (Going Concern);  Ernst & Young Pays $123 Million, Avoids Tax Shelter Prosecution (Janet Novack)

 

Robert Goulder, Questioning the Longevity of the Income Tax (Tax.com):

Dare we attempt to guess what the income tax might look like in another 100 years? 

Personally I think it will still exist, but it will have company. The big question for policymakers is whether it should operate as a “mass” tax — as it strives to do today —  or whether it will function as a “class” tax that applies only to the upper income strata. Given that roughly 47% of American households currently don’t pay the income tax (distinguished from payroll taxes, which almost everyone pays), one could argue it is already starting to resemble a class tax. Perhaps the future is already here. 

I can state with some confidence that if there is an income tax in 2113, I won’t be preparing returns.

 

Jack Townsend,  Fraud on the Return — Even If Not the Taxpayer’s — Causes an Unlimited Civil Assessment Statute of Limitations to Apply.  This is an ugly result caused by an in-house accountant who stole funds meant for payroll taxes.  The Second Circuit overturned the Tax Court and held that the employee’s fraud meant that the employer’s statute of limitations never closed for tax assessment purposes.

 

Russ Fox has a helpful tip: A Sure-Fire Way to Get Indicted

There are many ways to get in trouble with tax law.  As I have said in the past, if you want to get indicted it’s a bit harder.  It helps to be a celebrity, have a very large tax debt, not report large amounts of funds in foreign financial accounts, or abscond with trust fund taxes.  I need to add another item to that list: File liens against IRS employees  who are investigating you.

For some reason, they respond badly to that.

 

William McBride,  BEA: Personal Income Drops 3.6 Percent in January, the Most since the Clinton Tax Increase of 1993  (Tax Policy Blog).  It wouldn’t be shocking if a lot of folks moved income up to 2012 to avoid the 2013 tax increases.

Kay Bell, Don’t forget about your traditional or Roth 401(k)

Paul Neiffer,  When an UPREIT Might Make Sense

Trish McIntire,  Catching Up On the News, a rundown of issues practitioners are running into during filing season.

TaxGrrrl,  If You Qualify, File Your Taxes For Free

Tony Nitti,  Competing Senate Bills Fail; Sequestration Is Here (For Now)

Howard Gleckman,Sequester, We Hardly Knew Ye (TaxVox)

Kaye Thomas,  The Mindbending World of Wash Sale Calculations.

David Cay Johnston, Good News for Investors and Taxpayers (Tax.com)

Martin Sullivan, Red Hot REITs Fire-up Low Tech (Tax.com)

 

Peter Reilly,  Time To Eliminate Joint Filing ? No, it’s not actually related to the next article.

News you can use.  Leff: Medical Marijuana Providers Can Beat Oppressive Federal Taxes by Operating as Non-Profits (TaxProf)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/27/2013: Snow surprise edition. And is tax migration a myth?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Well, that commute was fun.

Seventh Avenue, Des Moines, this morning.

Seventh Avenue, Des Moines, this morning.

They said we wouldn’t get snow.  It hasn’t really stopped since 7 am yesterday.

 

Kyle Pomerleau,  Is Tax Migration a Myth? (Tax Foundation).  Short answer: no.  He comments on a much-noted article by James B. Stewart claiming otherwise:

Mr. Stewart is off the mark if he believes he has uncovered a myth. Besides the posturing of celebrities, no one claims that at the very moment someone whispers “tax increase” one thousand millionaires head to the border. What really happens is that these higher tax burdens cause wealth and income to flee to states and countries with lower burdens and  higher economic growth over time. High-tax states such as Vermont, Michigan and Missouri have not been magnets for jobs over the long run. Look over at Europe which is once again scaring investors. It is a continent with excellent climate, culture and an educated workforce, but its high taxes and spending have stalled population and economic growth for a decade or more. America will go that way if we continue down the same path, driving out investment, businesses, and jobs.

Over the years I have seen people move out of Iowa for tax reasons.  Back in the 1980s, when Illinois was a low-tax state, I saw an S corporation owner pay for a fancy new house in East Dubuque in one year by the simple expedient of moving across the river from Dubuque.  Tax isn’t always the decisive factor, but to say it’s not a factor at all ignores the most basic tenet of economics: incentives matter.

 

 

Their hopes are fulfilled. At least that second one.  Wave the jazz hands and hope for the best-Politicians hope that voters are clueless about tax, writes Tim Harford

Richard Morrison,  Happy Birthday to the Kennedy Tax Cuts (Tax Foundation)

Congress took up Johnson’s suggestion and passed what became the Revenue  Act of 1964, which the President signed on February 26, 1964. The bill dropped the top marginal tax rate from 91% to 70% (and also reduced the corporate tax rate from 52% to 48%). In the wake of this reduction on high-earner households, federal revenue actually increased, rising from  $94 billion in 1961 to $153 billion in 1968, an increase of 33 percent in real terms.

Clearly the old rates were on the far side of the Laffer Curve.

 

Jana Luttenegger,  Unfortunate Reminder of the Need for Powers of Attorney (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog):

A recent news story in the Des Moines area  covered a family looking for assistance to cover legal bills for a family member who is in a coma following a car accident. The family is unable to get access to bank accounts or insurance information, and unable to pay her bills (or even know what bills exist) as they come due. The only way for family members to get access to this information is to go through the court system and have the court appoint someone to take care of those matters.

This sort of planning isn’t just for rich people.

 

Paul Neiffer,  How Step-Up In Basis Works.  On the resetting of basis at date-of-death value when a farmer dies.

Jason Dinesen,  A “Standard Deduction” for Sole Proprietors?

TaxGrrrl, 11 Changes You Must Know Before Filing Your Tax Return for 2012

Kay Bell, Tax reform is job 1.  Well, HR 1, anyway.

 

Jim Maule, Special Low Tax Rates Hurt the Economy and Thus the Nation.  He doesn’t like low capital gain and dividend rates.  How about this, professor: lower the top rate to 20% for all income, allow a corporation dividends-paid deduction, and I’m good with getting rid of a capital gain break.  Otherwise you are double-taxing earnings, and to the extent gains result from inflation, you are collecting a tax on treading water.

 

Andrew Lundeen,  Buffet Rule Still Not a Good Solution. (Tax Policy Blog) Never will be:

The low rates we sometimes see from wealthy individuals is because they derive much of their income from investments, which is double taxed anyway. A capital gain or dividend is first taxed at the corporate level, as a corporate profit, then at the shareholder level. The result is a combined average tax rate of 56.7 percent in the United States – higher than every developed country in the world except, France, Denmark, and Italy. This creates a huge disincentive to invest, ultimately slowing economic growth.

 

David Brunori, Capital Gains from Copenhagen to Bakersfield (Tax.com)

Patrick Temple-West,  EU financial transactions tax to go global, and more.  Bad idea, as this New York Times piece explains.

Howard Gleckman,  What if the Outrage over Excessive Welfare Extended to the Tax Code? (TaxVox).

Me from earlier: Hoarders, wreckers and the Accumulated Earnings Tax.  Will the administration use this tax law relic to force corporations to put their cash to work?

From yesterday: IRS issues 2013 vehicle depreciation limits

 

Mo’ Money might lead to Mo’ time in prison.  Mo’ Money Taxes employee pleads guilty to fraud

In case you were wondering. 10 Ways To Become A Victim Of Tax Identity Theft  (Janet Novack)

News you can use.  Jewish law permits informing on tax evaders.  And secular law can make it lucrative.

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Tax Roundup, February 25, 2013: And the award for the dumbest economic development tax credit goes to…

Monday, February 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130225-1

Field of bad dreams.  TheFiscalTimes.com says Iowa is the ninth worst state for taxes:

The Hawkeye State gets a black eye for being the second worst state for corporate taxes, with a 12 percent rate. It also ranks 37th in property taxes, 33rd in individual income taxes and 34th in unemployment insurance taxes.

 They accompany the article with this photo of the “Field of Dreams” — an unwitting illustration of the problems of Iowa tax policy.  The Governor last year signed a proposal giving a special sales tax exemption to a private athletic complex being built around the field, made slightly famous in the Kevin Costner movie.  It’s special carve-outs like this that make for high rates and complicated taxes all around.

 

Speaking of movie-related scams, Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes in the Wall Street Journal The Hollywood Tax Story They Won’t Tell at the Oscars.  Here he talks about how it worked out in Michigan:

State leaders ballyhooed the plan as a way of moving from old-style industry to new.           

Despite tens of millions of dollars in state investment, the promised 3,000-plus jobs didn’t appear. As the Detroit Free Press reported last year, the studio employed only 15-20 people. That isn’t boffo. That’s a bust. The studio has defaulted on interest payments on state-issued bonds, and the guarantors—the state’s already stressed pension funds—may wind up holding the bag. “In retrospect, it was a mistake,” conceded Robert Kleine, the former state treasurer who signed off on the plans in 2010.

He doesn’t neglect Iowa’s film fiasco:

Iowa ended its motion-picture subsidies in 2010, after officials misused $26 million in state money, leading to criminal charges. According to a 2008 investigation by Iowa Auditor David Vaudt, 80% of tax credits issued under the state’s film-subsidy program had been issued improperly (to production companies that weren’t even spending the money in Iowa, for example).

 

Two film credit recipients are now serving 10-year sentences on theft charges arising from the program.  That’s fine, but I really want to see a groveling public apology from the Governor who signed the program into law, the “economic development officials” who turned the keys to the state treasury over to a former Walgreens photo desk clerk in charge of the program, and to the legislators — all but three out of 150 — who voted the moronic program into existence.

 

 

Sequestration panic at the IRS.  Politico adds IRS cuts to the least of things we’re supposed to freak out about in the face of the tiny impending sequestration spending cuts:
“At a minimum, it’s probably going to take longer for people to get through on the phone; it’s going to take longer for refunds to be processed,” said Floyd Williams, a senior tax counsel at Public Strategies Washington.

Williams, who worked for the IRS for nearly two decades and directed the agency’s legislative affairs office for 16 years, says the sequester could also be a boon to those who purposely commit fraud, or accidentally fill out returns incorrectly.

Good thing the IRS can redirect the employees who had been assigned to the preparer regulation program to do something useful, now that the courts have shut down that futile enterprise.  The IRS can’t stand their good fortune, though; Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the IRS is appealing the court decision.

It would be even better if Congress stopped using the IRS as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Given the agency’s new mandate to take care of our health insurance, their performance at the job of actually collecting taxes is only going to get worse.


Preparers gone bad.  Accounting Today rounds up the week in preparer fraud, including a guy in New Mexico who, while serving time for identity theft-related charges, has been hit with 56 counts of fraud and embezzlement.  That would be overachieving in underachieving.

 

Hak Ghun will travel.  To Club Fed. From DurangoHerald.com:

Durango man pleaded guilty to tax evasion this week in federal court in New Mexico.

Hak Ghun, 62, is facing 12 to 18 months in prison after signing a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He also will be required to pay $249,567 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

The man was accused of embezzling from a company that had received investments from the Navajo Nation. For those who don’t get the old TV show reference, here you go.


 

Paul Neiffer,  Safe to File After March 1

If a fire is worth fighting, it’s worth fighting in style.  But the firefighter still can’t deduct the Benz.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

Janet Novack,  The Forbes 2013 Tax Guide

Peter Reilly, Don’t Be Fooled By E-Mail ‘From IRS’ – But Don’t Ignore Their Snailmail

Jim Maule,  Tax Law Provision Enforceable Even if Unwise.  That would be most of them.  For example…

Tax Effects of the Health Care Act (Missouri Tax Guy)

Patrick Temple-West, Payroll tax’s return hits retailers, and more (Tax Break)


These guys are what I call real public servants.  Vigilantes fighting revenue-driven traffic enforcement (The Telegraph, London).

Breaking:  Women Are Not Men: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Today’s Going Concern employment tip: Accountant on Probation for Embezzlement Still More Employable Than the Average Non-Accountant (Temporarily)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/15/2013: Governor couples Iowa taxes to fiscal cliff bill. Also: 19 years for municipal thief.

Friday, February 15th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Governor Branstad has signed the bill conforming Iowa’s tax law to federal changes enacted last month.  The Governor signed SF 106 yesterday afternoon.

The bill allows taxpayers to use several federal provisions in computing their 2012 Iowa taxes, including:

- The federal Section 179 deduction of up to $500,000.

- The federal above-the-line deductions for tuition and educator expenses.

- The exclusion for IRA distributions to charity for taxpayers who have reached age 70 1/2, and the transitional rules for January 2013 charitable rollovers of IRA distributions.

- The optional deduction for state and local sales taxes.

The bill does not conform Iowa to federal bonus depreciation; Iowa filers will normally use federal standard MACRS depreciation instead.

 

Tony Nitti,  Senate Proposal for Tax Reform Part II: Democrats Seek To End S Corporation Payroll Tax Loophole.  It’s similar to nonsensical proposals put forward in prior years to tax S corporation K-1 income when 75% or more of revenues are “attributable” to three or fewer shareholders — an impossible standard to evaluate in many cases, and one that discriminates against the smallest S corporations.  It shows they are lazy — the problems with the approach are well known, yet the won’t make the effort to correct, instead trotting out the same old bill.  It just shows they aren’t serious.

David Cay Johnston finds the cuts to IRS funding that would result from the impending sequester “Particularly Devastating” (Tax.com)

 

Going Concern,  Former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell Gets Nearly 20 Years.  She stole over $50 million from an Illinois municipality of 15,000 people going back to 1990.  And nobody noticed for over 20 years.

Kay Bell,  IRS’ Where’s My Refund? site swamped by impatient refund tracking taxpayers.

Taxpayers overwhelmed with compliance demands, asks government to slow down.  IRS Overwhelmed With Refund Requests, Asks Taxpayers To Slow Down(TaxGrrrl)

Paul Neiffer, Another Bill to Reduce Farm Payments is Introduced!

Jack Townsend, Swiss and US Sign IGA.  An agreement under the “FATCA” foreign bank reporting rules.

Patrick Temple-West, Married couples face tough taxes, and more (Tax Break)

Russ Fox, Nevada Looks to Tax Online Poker Tournaments

Donald Marron,  The Balanced Budget Amendment’s $300 Billion Error

News you can use.  Retire Rich: The Forbes 2013 Antiretirement Guide (Janet Novack)

Nick Kasprak,  Happy Valentine’s Day! Will You Marry Me (For Tax Reasons?) (Tax Policy Blog).

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Some people are just incurable romantics!

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Tax Roundup, 1/30/2013: Bah. Humbug. And where states get their cash.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130130-4Why so grumpy?  Because it’s the first “official” day of tax season as the IRS begins processing returns.   But only some of them.  The last-minute Fiscal Cliff tax law is delaying the processing of many forms, delaying most business filings until “late February or into March.”  They also have delayed processing of returns with education credits until sometime next month.

Oh, and the streets are a mess.

Kay Bell,  Tax filing on hold for taxpayers who need 31 federal forms

TaxGrrrl, IRS Opens For Business Today, Many Taxpayers Qualify To File For Free

 

Taking your money to give to the well connected.  From Taxing the Rich to Pay for Big Business Tax Credits by Veronique de Rugy:

 

20130130-1

Taking from the small businesses, giving to the big business with pull.

 

Brian Gongol on the decision of Senator Harkin to not seek an umpteenth U.S. Senate term:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could start with a blank slate and ask ourselves (as Iowans): Who is the smartest, most dependable, most thoughtful person we could send to an august body of decision-makers who are challenged with bringing wisdom and sobriety to the decision-making process of government?

Like somebody like that would stand a chance.

 

Why bother with a state corporate income tax?  While state income taxes are a reliable source of work for people like me, they do surprisingly little for the states, according to a new report released by the Tax Foundation yesterday.  Nationwide state corporate income taxes accounted for only 3% of 2010 state revenues.  In Iowa, it’s even lower.  Here are the revenue sources from Iowa and some nearby states:

Source: Tax Foundation

Source: Tax Foundation

 

The corporation income tax raises little revenue, is expensive to administer, is exploited by the well-connected and well lobbied, and is almost certainly a job-killer.  Why not go for a low-rate, low-loophole system like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan?

TaxProf,  A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States, passing on a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says state tax systems are regressive.  Keep this in mind:

Source: Heritage Foundation/

Source: Heritage Foundation/

If you only look at the distribution of taxes paid and ignore the value of services and cash payments received, you miss a lot.

 

Janet Novack,  IRS Tips Won’t Protect You From Identity Theft Tax Fraud.

Jack Townsend,  Article on Importance of Jury Instructions in White Collar, including Tax, Crime Cases

Jason Dinesen, An Obligatory 1099-K Post for 2013

Trish McIntire,  Before You Sign.  A timely reminder that you are responsible for what’s on your return, even when you use a paid preparer.

Patrick Temple-West,  Mickelson and the sports star migration, and more (Tax Break)

William McBride, CRS: Tax Rates Do Matter for Profit Shifting (Tax Policy Blog)

Joseph Thorndike, The Income Tax Is Inquisitorial — Get Over It(Tax.com) May he have a good National Research Project exam in his future.

Robert Goulder, French Budget Minister Caught In Tax Probe (Tax.com)

That wouldn’t take much.  Payroll Tax Cuts May Boost the Economy More than You Think (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox)

 

Bad news, good news:  The Twinkie is Dead! Long Live the Twinkie! (Megan McArdle).

News you can use.  Tax Law Warning: Don’t Cut Mom a Rent Break (Jim Maule)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/24/2013: Tax increases for everyone, anyone? And more bad news for tax season!

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

Tax Foundation graphic.

TaxProf,  NY Times: it Is Time to Raise Taxes on Everybody — Including the Middle ClassPaul Caron links to a New York Times Op-ed:

To make ends meet, both parties agree, spending must be drastically cut. Under the White House budget proposal, discretionary spending on everything except the military is projected to shrink to its smallest share of the economy since the Eisenhower administration by the beginning of the next decade. Though he has resisted Republican demands to slash entitlements, President Obama remains willing to look for further savings from Medicare.

This is not, however, the only option we have. There is an alternative: raising more money from all taxpayers, including the middle class.

Nobody wants to talk about this. … Yet Americans would benefit from a discussion of this possibility.

It’s not true that “both parties agree” that spending must be drastically cut.  It’s not clear that either party, as a whole, admits it, and at least one party remains in firm denial.  The President’s campaign was all about spending money and sending the bill to the rich guy.  Still, it’s nice that finally somebody at the New York Times admits that the rich guy isn’t buying.  He can’t.

 

Janet Novack,  As IRS Tax Filing Season Begins, Bad News For Honest Taxpayers.  She20130121-2 speaks with Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson.  The article has some depressing truth:

Customer service at the Internal Revenue Service is dismal and deteriorating. (Only 68% of telephone callers who wanted to talk to a human at the IRS last tax filing season eached one, and then only after an average 17 minute wait.)  The epidemic of identity theft refund fraud hasn’t yet been contained.  Hope for a major reform that might simplify the tax code is waning.

The article also has some serious nonsense about last week’s ruling shutting down the IRS preparer regulation power grab:

“If the injunction stands, the taxpayers of the United States will be grievously harmed,” IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson told Forbes. “The practical effect of not having some kind of consumer protection for taxpayers going to return preparers is enormous. And I say that seeing all the return preparer fraud, and the return preparer negligence, and the return preparer inadvertent mistakes that happen.”

Enormous?  More like what we did forever until two years ago.  If anybody has evidence that last year’s tax preparers were significantly more accomplished and accurate than they were before the regulations, they haven’t shared it.  And the idea that the RTRP literacy competency test and minimal CPE requirement would have changed that is silly.

Ms. Olson believes that depriving consumers of choices in preparers is in their interest because the diminished choices would be better.  That flies in the face of all we know about regulation.  The net result would be higher prices, driving more taxpayers to do their returns and driving some on the margins out of the system altogether, while sending more business to the big franchise tax prep outfits.

 

Robert D. Flach, TAX RETURN PREPARER REGULATION, LICENSURE, AND/OR CERTIFICATION.  Robert’s magnum opus on how tax preparers should be regulated.

While I agree that having the Internal Revenue Service regulate tax preparers is not the best option – it is without a doubt a far superior option to having Congress legislate regulation.  My opinion of the intelligence, competence, and ability, or rather lack of intelligence, competence, and ability, of the current members of Congress is well known.
The optimal source of tax preparer regulation/licensure/certification, whether mandatory or voluntary, would be an independent industry-based organization, not unlike the AICPA or ABA, such as the National Institute of Registered Tax Return Preparers that I have proposed.

Robert also calls me out:

As I have asked in response to Joe’s assertion, would you want a “casual” electrician wiring your kitchen, or a “casual” dentist filling a cavity, or a “casual” architect designing your home?

If I do, what business is it of anybody else?  If I want to pay a talented handyman neighbor or cousin to install a ceiling fan for me, why is it anybody’s business?  Why should he be not allowed to take my money just because he doesn’t have an electrician card from the Bureau of Electrical and Mortuary Science?  As TaxGrrrl noted yesterday, occupational licensing is taking over the economy, and that’s not a good thing.

 

TaxGrrrl, With A Week To Go, IRS Talks Opening Day and Refunds

 

Cara Griffith, Have State Income Taxes Run Their Course? (Tax.com)

The corporate income tax is inefficient and a not sufficiently stable source of revenue for states. It should be eliminated. The individual income tax is likewise not a particularly stable source of revenue for states, and while counterintuitive, progressive tax systems do not work well at the state-level. Income redistribution, to the extent that it should be a goal at all, should not be undertaken at the state-level. So  in a perfect world, yes, the state individual income tax should be eliminated as well.

Christopher Bergin agrees.

 

Good. Another bid to ban traffic enforcement cameras in Iowa. (O. Kay Henderson, via The Beanwalker).  Traffic cameras are your local government’s most sincere way of showing their contempt for you.

 

Trish McIntire,  Form 8332 and Fairness.  How the IRS enables bitter ex-spouses.

Paul Neiffer,  Why Imputed Interest Matters For 2013 (And Beyond)

Kaye A. Thomas,  Another Demutualization Case

Robert W. Wood, Golfer Phil Mickelson Is Not Alone In Fleeing Taxes (Via Kerry Kerstetter)

Peter Reilly, Why Phil Mickelson’s Remark Was Really Dumb

Brian Mahany, Is FATCA In Trouble? Unfortunately, NO

Joseph Henchman,  CBPP’s Misleading Chart on Debt Stabilization (Tax Policy Blog).  A study in cherry-picking.

Jen Carrigan, Should Capital Gains Be Taxed Differently? (Guest post at The Missouri Taxguy blog).

Patrick Temple-West,  Firms keep stockpiles of ‘foreign’ cash in U.S., and more

Tax Trials,  District Court Decision Prevents IRS from Regulating Certain Tax Return Preparers

Kay Bell,  Fiscal cliff tax provision could help stem fraudulent refund claims by prisoners

 

News you can use:  Passing the CPA Exam While Billing Over 2500 Hours in a Year Is Way Harder Than Having a Baby(Going Concern).  Also less useful and not as smart.

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

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

Kraig Paulsen

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

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

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

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

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

 

Flickr image courtesy e53 under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy e53 under Creative Commons license

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Other coverage:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Jason Dinesen, Rental Properties and Basis Allocation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Maule,  Still More Joys of IRC Section 86.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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