Posts Tagged ‘Jason Dinesen’

Tax Roundup, 6/30/15: It’s FBAR Day! Foreign and gaming account owners, do or die.

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


fincen logoForm 114 or bust. Today is the unextendable deadline to file Form 114, the “FBAR” report of foreign financial accounts. It’s required if you own foreign financial accounts whose value reached $10,000 anytime in 2014. Penalties for failing to file can run to half the value of the account, so if it applies, you want to get it done. The form must be filed electronically.

Foreign financial accounts include bank or brokerage accounts held outside, even in an offshore branch of a U.S. bank. They also include online gaming accounts for sites located outside the U.S. More details on what is included is available at the IRS FBAR page.

You will need the mailing address of the branch where your foreign account is located. Russ Fox has done a great job of finding many street addresses for online gaming sites.

Is the Form 114 filing requirement absurd? Yes. The filing threshold is far too low, and it works to make regulatory violators out of Americans living and working overseas for the crime of committing personal finance abroad. Meanwhile, I would be surprised if any actual criminals are actually caught using Form 114; instead, it’s just used to increase penalties on those whose tax violations are found in other ways. Oh, and to extort money out of people who didn’t realize they were supposed to file the thing. Unfortunately, absurdity is what the IRS is all about.

Speaking of absurd, The Commerce Department BE-10 survey for those owning at least 10% of an offshore business is also due for e-filing today, with penalties into the thousands of dollars for non-filers.

Related: Russ Fox, Does a Nonresident Alien Spouse that Has Elected to be Treated as a US Person Need to File an FBAR?


Arnold Kling reports on what seems to me a very unwise idea: State Nullification of the Federal Income Tax?, involving the idea of “nullifying” the federal income tax by providing a state credit for whatever the federal income tax is, funded by state sales taxes. Arnold points out some of the obvious problems: “For example, if this were enacted, then residents would have no incentive to minimize their tax liability. Go ahead and realize all of your capital gains, because when you pay more Federal taxes, your state sends you a credit.”



Forest fires in Canada give Iowa a spooky sky today.


William Perez, Tax Implications of Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling. “Together, [Jason] Dinesen and I came up with a list of all the tax things we should be concerned about as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (pdf).”

Robert D. Flach brings his Tuesday Buzz, along with the less cheerful news that his Gmail account has been compromised. He ponders whether IRS Commissioner Koskinen is worse than his predecessor, Worst Commissioner Ever Shulman. I still give the prize to Shulman, but Koskinen is making a heck of a case for the honor.

Kay Bell, IRS ‘incompetence’ blamed for lost Lois Lerner emails. That’s certainly plausible, but the incompetence all seems to be on the side of hampering the investigation.

Robert Wood, If Uber, FedEx, Other Workers Are Employees, Who Pays What?

Joni Larson, Failing to Prove the Attorney-Client Privilege Applies (Procedurally Taxing). Some conversations you’d rather not share with the IRS.

Peter Reilly, Mario Biaggi’s Criminal Case Followed By Tax Travails. In some ways the tax decision coming on top of the criminal conviction really makes me think there might have been something to Biaggi’s contention that he was a victim of Giuliani’s ambition.  When you look at the big picture of the transactions, nobody seems to have been getting away with anything from an income tax perspective.”

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Are Donations to a 501(c)(4) Deductible?




Elizabeth Malm, A Quick Primer on Personal Income Taxes (with GIFs!) (Tax Policy Blog). They’re nice, but no dancing cats. A great little post for anybody wanting an overview of state income taxes.

Gene Steuerle, Combined Tax Rates and Creating a 21st Century Social Welfare Budget (TaxVox).

Dalton Lane, Obergefell v. Hodges: Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage (Tax Policy Blog):

The Supreme Court’s ruling has definitely simplified the tax system. Whether a same-sex marriage, or a opposite-sex marriage, the tax treatment is the same. Furthermore, same-sex couples will no longer have any difference in filing status between their state income taxes and federal income taxes.

It will make Jason Dinesen’s life easier, for sure.

Caleb Newquist, PwC Walks a Fine Line Between Its People and Clients on Same-Sex Marriage (Going Concern).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 782


TaxGrrrl, 8 Signs That It’s Time To Get A New Tax Professional. They are all good signs, especially number 8.



Tax Roundup, 6/29/15: Congratulations, newlyweds, here’s your tax bill! And windy subsidies, IRS stonewalling, more.

Monday, June 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Welcome to the marriage penalty. The Supreme Court has spread Iowa marriage law nationwide. That means more same-sex couples will tie the knot and learn about the sometimes surprising tax results of matrimony. In general, if only one member of the couple has income, it’s a good tax deal, but not so much for two-earner couples. The weird complexity of the tax law means there are lots of exceptions.

The Tax Foundation has an excellent summary of these issues, Understanding the Marriage Penalty and Marriage Bonus. It includes this wonderful piece of abstract art illustrating how marriage can help and hurt a couple’s federal income tax liability:

Marriage penalty tax foundation chart


The chart has two axes: the percentage of income earned by each spouse, and the income level. Blue is good, red is bad. If combined income is just short of $100,00, it’s all good, but there is lots of room for tax pain at the top and bottom of the income spectrum for married couples.

Other coverage:

Jason Dinesen, Tax Implications of Friday’s Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage:

This ruling should not have an impact on federal tax returns because couples in same-gender marriages have been able to file as married on their federal tax returns since 2013. This ruling affects state tax returns in states that had bans against same-gender marriage.

Jason, an Iowa enrolled agent, was an early expert in same-sex marriage compliance.


TaxProf Blog Op-Ed By David Herzig: The Tax Implications Of Today’s Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision (TaxProf) “Same-sex couples will now be able to inherit, file joint state tax returns, possess hospital visitation rights and all other state marriage rights as heterosexual married couples.”

Kay Bell, Marriage equality means tweaks to tax code, tax forms. “Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee, is already working on getting the new nomenclature on the books.”

TaxGrrrl, SCOTUS Legalizes Same Sex Marriage But Questions Remain For Religious Groups & Tax Exempts


Wind turbineWindy Subsidy Signed. Governor Branstad has signed HF 645, which establishes a tax credit for wind energy. The credit is 50% of the similar federal credit, up to $5,000. It takes effect retroactively to 2014, giving a windfall to people who bought qualifying systems already. It will do nothing for the environment, but it will do wonders for companies selling wind energy systems.




Christopher Bergin, Why We Just Sued the IRS – Again (Tax Analysts Blog):

For more than two years the IRS has played its old game of hide the ball regarding requests to release Lois Lerner’s e-mails — e-mails that would teach us a lot about what actually went on during the exempt organization scandal. Many of those requests came from the United States Congress: the elected officials who control the IRS budget. The IRS’s stalling tactics have run the gamut from eye-rollingly comical to downright disturbing.

Through this and and other worrisome developments, one thing is clear: the IRS is now in desperate trouble. Most of that trouble it created itself. It would be unfair to call them the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, because when it comes to shooting itself in the foot the IRS is an expert marksman. The IRS is an agency whose initial reaction to almost anything is secrecy.

The IRS needs a big culture change, one starting with a new Commissioner.




Associated Press, Ex-Rep. Mel Reynolds indicted on tax charges. Can you believe a Chicago politician who would sleep with a 16-year old campaign worker would also cheat on his taxes?


Russ Fox, A Peabody, Massachusetts Tax Preparer Gives an Unwitting Endorsement for EFTPS:

Mr. Ginsberg operated a traditional payroll service. It’s fairly easy to check on your payroll company if you use such a service: Enroll in EFTPS. Using EFTPS you can verify that your payroll company is making the payroll deposits they say they are. That’s a good idea–trust but verify. The DOJ Press release notes:

To cover up his scheme, Ginsberg falsified his clients’ tax returns, which he was hired to prepare, indicating that the clients’ payroll taxes had been paid in full, when they had not. When asked by clients about their mysterious IRS debts, Ginsberg gave them a litany of false excuses, including blaming the IRS and his own staff.

None of those excuses work hold up with EFTPS. Today, payroll tax deposits with the IRS are all made electronically. Is it possible for one to get messed up? Yes, but it’s very unlikely. Indeed, most payroll companies just make sure the deposits are made from your payroll bank account.

If you outsource your payroll tax, insource regular visits to EFTPS to make sure your payments are made.


Peter Reilly, SpongeBob SquarePants In A Tax Case!

Tony Nitti, Sloppy Drafting Saves Obamacare – Supreme Court Upholds Tax Subsidies For All. I think it was more sloppy judging than sloppy drafting that did the trick.

Keith Fogg, Aging Offers in Compromise into Acceptance (Procedurally Taxing).

Jack Townsend, Rand Paul and Expatriates to Sue IRS and Treasury Over FBAR and FATCA. They want both to be declared unconstitutional. Unfortunately, it seems like a anything the IRS wants is constitutional anymore.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 779Day 780Day 781. Still trying to shake out the “lost” emails after 781 days. You’d think they were stalling or something. And efforts to impeach Commissioner Koskinen. It’s not going to happen, but if he had any shame, he would have resigned long ago.

Richard Auxier, Michigan, out of ideas, might ask poor to pick up transportation tab (TaxVox).





The pledge, the brainchild of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is a terrible idea for several reasons. First, no leader should promise never to raise taxes because, frankly, there are times when it is necessary. Over 50 Kansas legislators and Brownback, who have signed the pledge, found that out last week. I agree with Norquist philosophically; less government is good. But the pledge only leads to more debt at the federal level and gimmicks in state governments.

David Brunori, Tax Analysts ($link)


Career Corner. EY Employee Has Eaten So Many Hours, He’s Gone on Hunger Strike (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 6/26/15: Supreme Court saves ACA subsidies — and taxes.

Friday, June 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


supreme courtThe Supreme Court upholds new punitive taxes on thousands of Iowa employers and uninsured individuals. That’s the flip side of the decision yesterday ruling that tax credits remain available for health insurance purchased on the federal exchanges, despite the language of the Obamacare statute — a ruling characterized by the Des Moines Register as “Obamacare ruling protects 40,000 Iowans’ subsidies.

Here’s what it means to those footing the bill:

– The employer mandates will take effect in all states as scheduled. The “Employer Shared Responsibility provisions” require employers to purchase “adequate” health coverage for employees.  It applied in 2014 to employers with over 100 “full-time equivalent” employees in 2013.  In 2015, it applies to employers who had over 50 full-time equivalent employees in 2014. It applies to government and non-profit employers, as well as to businesses.

Employers who fail to offer coverage to 95% of their FTEs and dependents are subject to a $2,000 penalty, pro-rated for months where coverage is lacking, for non-covered FTEs, with a 30-employee exemption. “Full-time Equivalent” means 30 hours per week.

The penalties kick in only if at least one employee claims the coverage tax credit. Yesterday’s decision ensures the mandate applies in all states — rather than just the 14 with state-run exchanges — because the triggering credits will remain available nationwide.

The individual mandate tax applies fully in all states. The “Individual Shared Responsibility Provision” penalizes individuals who aren’t covered at work and who fail to purchase “adequate” and “affordable” coverage. The penalty for 2015 is the greater of $325 ($162.50 for those under 18) or 2% of “household” income. It is prorated if coverage is obtained for some months and not others.

Yesterday’s decision broadens the reach of the tax because the penalty only applies if available coverage is “affordable.” The tax credits are used in computing “affordability,” so the availability of the credits nationwide broadens the tax to many more taxpayers.

20121120-2The Section 36B tax credit remains available nationwide. This is the refundable credit that was the subject of yesterday’s decision. It is estimated when coverage is obtained and applied against coverage costs for the year. It is “trued up” when the taxpayer files their 1040 for the coverage year — a process that can sometimes mean more credit, but that sometimes triggers a big balance due.  Because the credit phases out in steps, one extra dollar of income can trigger thousands of dollars of additional taxes:

Consider a middle-aged married couple earning $62,040, 400 percent of the FPL for a two-person household ($15,510.) If the second cheapest Silver plan in their area costs $1,200 per month, they would receive a subsidy of $8,506 in order to cap that plan’s price at 9.5 percent of their income. However, if they earned $62,041—only a dollar more—the entire subsidy would evaporate. 

Because the $8,506 would have been applied to health premiums, the household would have to pay it back on April 15.

What do I think of the decision? In March I wrote:

In a less politically-sensitive context, one could expect a 9-0 or 8-1 decision against the IRS. That’s what happened in Gitlitz, where the court ruled that the IRS couldn’t regulate away a perceived misdrafting of the tax code’s S corporation basis rules that allowed a windfall to taxpayers whose S corporations had debt forgiveness income. “Because the Code’s plain text permits the taxpayers here to receive these benefits, we need not address this policy concern.” But because a decision against IRS here would invalidate key parts of Obamacare in most of the country, politics is a big part of the process.

That means I think the Scalia dissent gets it right, but we don’t get to file tax returns based on the dissent. It should give pause to those who write legislation, though — there’s no telling how the Supremes will read their work if they don’t like what it does.

Other coverage:

William Perez, What You Need to Know about the Premium Assistance Tax Credit

TaxGrrrl, Supreme Court Upholds King, Says Obamacare Tax Credits Apply To All States

Kay Bell, Let the Affordable Care Act repeal efforts begin (again)

Hank Stern, SCOTUScare Fallout. “Obamacare Ruling May Have Just Killed State-Based Exchanges

Andy Grewal, Grewal: King v. Burwell — The IRS Isn’t An Expert? (TaxProf Blog)

Tyler Cowen, King vs. Burwell, and other stuff. “So on net I take this to be good news, although arguably it is bad news that it is good news.”

Megan McArdle, Subsidies and All, Obamacare Stays

Alan Cole, James Kennedy, King v. Burwell: Supreme Court Upholds Subsidies to Federal Exchanges (Tax Policy Blog)

Roger McEowen,  The U.S. Supreme Court and Statutory Construction – Words Don’t Mean What They Say (AgDocket)




Stuff other than the Supreme Court decision:

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Sole Proprietor

Joseph Thorndike, Rand Paul’s Tax Plan May Be Radical, But It’s Not Impossible (Tax Analysts Blog) “But radical doesn’t mean impossible. Since proportionality lies at the heart of Paul’s plan, history suggests it might have a shot.”

Ethan Greene, Net Investment Income Tax Handicaps Those Meant to Benefit (Tax Policy Blog). “The irony of the NIIT is it taxes the very demographic it was intended to aid; that is, retirees relying on their savings and investment, and those with disabilities, counting on trust income or estate inheritance to maintain their quality of life.”

Donald Marron, Everything You Should Know about Taxing Carbon. (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 778

Caleb Newquist, The Accounting Profession’s Murky Future (Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 6/24/15: New obscure dumb forms we choose to do together. And: Wine and Taxes!

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150528-1There’s a new stupid form in town. The Commerce Department this year springs a new form on people with interests in foreign businesses. Form BE-10 was originally due May 31, but the system for filing it crashed, leading to a new June 30 deadline.

BE-10 is a survey, not a tax form. The survey is done every five years, and formerly was required only when you were contacted by the Commerce Department. Now everyone with a 10% or more “direct or indirect” interest in a foreign business is supposed to file it. From Accounting Today:

The form is mainly intended for businesses with foreign investments. Originally individuals only had a filing requirement if they were directly contacted by the bureau, but last November, the government amended its regulations to require any U.S. person who had at least a 10 percent direct or indirect interest in a foreign business enterprise at any time during the U.S. person’s fiscal year to file the Form BE-10. A U.S. person includes individuals, trusts, estates, corporations and partnerships.

“With many of our clients fighting the IRS over FBAR penalties, we err on the side of filing whenever the government requests a U.S. person to file an international information report,” said Carolyn Turnbull, international tax services director at Vestal & Wiler CPAs in Orlando, Fla.

Penalties for failure to file the form range from $2,500 to $25,000. Even worse, individuals who willfully fail to file the form can face fines of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for a maximum of one year, or both.

$2,500 to $25,000 for not filling out a stupid survey. Remember, government is simply a word for the things we decide to do together, like clobber each other with big fines for obscure paperwork violations.

Robert Wood has more.




Kay Bell, Uncle Sam demands foreign bank account filing by June 30. The $10,000 threshold — and the whole FBAR regime, in fact — is absurd. Like so many regulations, it ensnares otherwise innocent people for paperwork violations while doing next to nothing to affect criminals, who don’t much care about getting the paperwork right.

Robert Wood, Offshore Banks Reveal Account Data, As IRS Amnesty For Many Involves 50% Penalty. Some amnesty.

Russ Fox, FBAR Due in One Week:

Because of the Hom decision of last year, we now must again report foreign online gambling accounts. That’s basically all online gambling sites except the legal sites in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. I maintain a list of online gambling sites and their mailing addresses here.

Russ performs a valuable public service with this address list.



Samantha Jordan, Scott Drenkard, How High are Wine Taxes in Your State? (Tax Policy Blog). In Iowa, pretty dang high:


Considering it’s burgeoning wine industry, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been more effort to bring Iowa’s wine tax down. And some of the new Iowa wine isn’t half bad.


Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 11: Meet the “Single Penalty”

Peter Reilly, Chief Counsel Gives Narrow Scope To Partnership Liability Regulations. “Note, here, that the taxpayers were insolvent and the field is being told to look harder for a possibly larger assessment.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Navigating The Multiple Definitions Of Nonrecourse And Recourse Liabilities


Carl Smith, Does Rev. Proc. 99-21 Validly Restrict Proof of Financial Disability, for Purposes of Extending the Refund Claim SOL, to Letters From Doctors of Medicine or Osteopathy? Part 1.

TaxGrrrl, Nevada Pops New Tax On Burning Man, iHeartRadio, Other Music Festivals


David Brunori, Rand Paul’s Tax Ideas Are Worth Serious Consideration (Tax Analysts Blog). 

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a GOP presidential candidate, released his tax plan last week. As expected, some commentators piled on criticism. Howard Gleckman of the Urban Institute said Paul was trying to use the tax proposal to “fundamentally restructure the federal government as we know it.” Bob McIntyre, the director of Citizens for Tax Justice, said Paul’s plan would cost $15 trillion over 10 years. Other, less informed folks resorted to calling Paul names.

This criticism from liberals is neither unexpected nor irrational. These are folks who like to see more government spending and revenue raising. Paul is a small government Republican. Of course he wants to see less government and taxes. So it’s not surprising that his tax plan would, in a vacuum, lose the government money. The Tax Foundation says the cost would be $3 trillion over 10 years on a static basis. But that assumes Paul will keep spending at current levels. I suspect that if he became president, he’d support spending cuts equal to or greater than the cost of his tax plan.

I certainly would.




Howard Gleckman, CBO Has No Idea What Repeal of the ACA Means for the Economy or the Deficit (TaxVox). No more idea than when they said the ACA wouldn’t increase the deficit back when it was enacted.


Ethan Greene, Alaska Ends Film Tax Credit Program (Tax Policy Blog). States are beginning to realize that they are being had by the film industry.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 776:

In the continuing saga of the IRS, the Department of Justice, and their efforts to hide evidence and obstruct justice to protect Lois Lerner and the administration’s targeting of its political opposition, the IRS now claims that thousands of emails found on backup tapes Commissioner Koskinen told Congress did not exist are not IRS records, the IRS has no control over them, and they can’t produce them. 

The IRS has done nothing but obstruct and stonewall. If a taxpayer treated an IRS exam the way the IRS has treated this investigation, they’d be inviting the criminal agents in.


News from the Profession. Life at Deloitte Includes Slow Days (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 6/22/15: Iowa shovels more economic development fertilizer. And: Paul flat tax fever!

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


20120906-1It’s getting deep. The giant pile of tax credits for the big Lee County fertilizer plants got a little deeper last week. The Iowa Economic Development Board Friday voted for an additional $21.5 million in tax credits for the project. The Quad City Times compares that appropriation to other state spending:

Iowa’s elected legislators negotiated for five months on Iowa school funding, before reaching a compromise that provided $55 million in one-time money that will only assure the status quo: No one expects improvements.

On Friday, Gov. Terry Branstad’s Iowa Economic Development Board added another $21.5 million in tax credits to the $85 million in state incentives already lavished on a foreign fertilizer company under construction in Lee County.

No legislative vote.

No deliberation by elected officials.

Not even a hint of how this new pile of Iowa taxpayer money will help Iowans. Representatives of the parent firm Orascom, of Egypt, said the $21.5 million in tax credits will add 11 jobs to the 180 expected at the plant.

This latest giveaway brings local, state and federal taxpayer investment to $500 million in the $1.9 billion project. That’s right, taxpayers are covering 25 percent of Orascom’s project.

So almost $2 million per “job.” And that assumes they wouldn’t have completed the project without a little more cash from the state, which is improbable. That’s $21.5 million from those of us without connections at the state to fertilize an already richly-subsidized project. We can be confident that some wee portion of that $21.5 million will go to attorneys and consultants who pulled the strings to make it happen.

The state board also wasted $8 million in tax credits on ribbon cutting opportunities in Sioux City involving a convention center and hotel — which experience nationwide shows will be a fiscal nightmare. Because who better to allocate investment capital than politicians who are spending other people’s money?

Iowa’s cronyist tax credit boondoggle is long overdue for the scrapyard. It lures and subsidizes the influential and the well-lobbied at the expense of their less well-connected competitors and their employees. It’s time for something like the Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan to improve Iowa’s abysmal business tax climate for everyone — not just the cronies.




Russ Fox, Arbitrage Is Legal, But You Better Pay the Taxes. It looks at the tax troubles of a recently-indicted Tennessee politician.

Annette Nellen, Uber, Lyft and others – worker classification in the 21st Century. I used Uber over the weekend visiting my son in Chicago, and it’s pretty slick. It’s also here in Des Moines. A few weekends ago, my other son was playing music in the Court Avenue entertainment district on the street and an Uber driver stopped, got out a guitar, and started jamming with them. That doesn’t sound like an employee to me.

Kay Bell, Tax gift for Father’s Day: help paying for child care

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Adoption Credit and Special-Needs Adoptions

Peter Reilly, Joan Farr Claims IRS Denial Of Exempt Status Is Example Of Persecution Of Christians




Presidential Candidate Rand Paul has proposed a 14.5% flat tax. I haven’t had a chance to study it, but its base-broadening, rate-lowering approach is promising. The Tax Policy Blog looks at the plan in The Economic Effects of Rand Paul’s Tax Reform Plan (Andrew Lundeen, Michael Schuyler) and No, Senator Paul’s Plan Will Not ‘Blow a $15 Trillion Hole in the Federal Budget’ (Kyle Pomerleau). The second one is in response to Bob McIntyre’s post in Tax Justice Blog, Rand Paul’s Tax Plan Would Blow a $15 Trillion Hole in the Federal Budget.

Howard Gleckman, Rand Paul’s Tax Cut Isn’t Quite What It Seems (TaxVox)


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 771Day 772Day 773, Day 774.

News from the Profession. Ex-BDO CEO’s Quest to Get Firm to Pony Up for His Legal Bills Not Going So Well (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)




Tax Roundup, 6/18/15: Bill protecting multi-state employees advances. Also: crowdfunding taxes, poker reporting and lots more!

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


Programming Note: No Tax Roundup tomorrow. See you Monday!


20140923-1The House Judiciary Committee advanced three bills: The Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act (H.R. 1643), The Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2015 (H.R. 2315), and The Business Activity Tax Simplification Act (H.R. 2584).  Joseph Henchman provides some explanation in Activity in Congress on Key State Tax Bills (Tax Policy Blog):

The Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2015 (H.R. 2315) limits states from imposing or collecting individual income tax on those who are in the state for less than 30 days. Most states technically require such payments when someone is in the state for even a day, and even withholding to be set up in advance, and we’re increasingly hearing horror stories of states trying to collect these sums. Since all states provide a credit for taxes paid to another state, making people fill out 20 or 30 tax returns for a net national wash is lunacy. Most everyone, except New York officials and state tax administrators, support this legislation…

The Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act (H.R. 1643) establishes national standards for when and how states can tax digital goods and services…

The Business Activity Tax Simplification Act (H.R. 2584) limits state power to impose corporate income taxes and gross receipts taxes to businesses with physical presence in the state for at least 14 days. While that is the historical standard, states have begun shifting to an “economic nexus” standard, imposing taxes on businesses with no connection to the state except that they have sales there. This exporting of tax burdens adds complexity, litigation, compliance costs, and uncertainty. We hear lots of horror stories of states suddenly imposing years’ of back taxes on companies who had no expectation of owing taxes in that state because they have no property or employees there.

Iowa is among the states aggressively going after out-of-state businesses with very weak ties to the state.

The Digital Goods act seems the least controversial, so the most likely to advance. The Mobile Workforce bill — a long overdue effort to save cross-state workers from expensive annual compliance nightmares — passed 23-4, opposed only by three New Yorkers and a Californian. That’s a sign that it could advance. The Business Activity Simplification Act passed only on a party-line vote, which means it is likely doomed for this session of Congress.


Jason Dinesen, Same-sex Marriage and Paycheck Withholdings – An Unpleasant Surprise on 2014 Tax Returns. “Some of my clients went from getting a refund of several-thousand dollars in prior years to owing several-thousand dollars on their 2014 tax return.”

TaxGrrrl, Crowdfunding As An Investment Tool: Is Trouble Brewing? If the proceeds are a “gift,” they are non-taxable, but it’s not clear that they qualify.

Robert Wood, Amazingly, IRS Collects 30 Year Old Tax Debt Despite 3 Year Statute Of Limitations. This shows how hard it is to shake off liability for unpaid payroll taxes. It reminds us how unwise it is to “borrow” withheld taxes from the IRS.

Russ Fox, Form 8300 and Poker:  “If you’re a business and you receive a payment of $10,000 or more in cash or like funds (this would include casino chips but would not include a cashier’s check), you have a reporting requirement: You must file Form 8300 with the IRS.”

Kay Bell, IRS looks at $600 slots, bingo & keno reporting threshold

Jack Townsend, On Ignorance – Deliberate or Otherwise. Sometimes, when telling clients that they did something that will cost them taxes, I have gotten the feeling the client wished I was a little more ignorant.

Mitch Maahs, National Society of Accountants Proposes a Tax Practitioners Bill of Rights (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “While this Bill of Rights would represent a vast improvement for tax practitioners and their clients, the gravity of these improvements in customer service, combined with the crippling level of IRS budget cuts, may render the Tax Practitioners Bill of Rights an unattainable goal.”




Joseph Thorndike, First They Taxed Soda; Now They’re Coming for Your Water (Tax Analysts Blog). First they tax pop, and now they want to discourage a healthy and convenient alternative to sugary drinks. What they really want is more money and more power over the people foolish enough to keep electing them.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 77. E-mail stalling figures prominently.

That can’t be true. It was the “Affordable” Care Act. Five Years Later: ACA’s Branded Prescription Drug Fee May Have Contributed to Rising Drug Prices (Scott Greenberg, Tax Policy Blog).

Renu Zaretsky, On Havens and Stalemates. Today’s TaxVox talks about Wal-Mart’s tax structure, an EU tax haven “blacklist,” and a TIGTA report on how budget cuts are affecting IRS enforcement efforts. Also, a lame employment tax credit plan from Hilary Clinton.


Career Corner. Donald Trump’s Accountants Should Quit (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

It’s a good day.



Tax Roundup, 6/16/15: Extreme tax preparer business development tactic fails. And: Florida man, meet Tax Whiz.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


lizard20140826Sadly, there’s plenty of tax work to go around. But not enough for Maria Colvard of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, it seems. The operator of Tax Max LLC, a tax prep service, Ms. Chambers appears to taken competition to a new level. From a Department of Justice press release (my emphasis):

According to U.S. Attorney Peter Smith, between February and May 2013, Colvard convinced an employee at Tax Max LLC, a tax preparation service owned by Colvard in Chambersburg and Hanover, Pennsylvania, to claim to be a criminal investigator with the Internal Revenue Service to shut down the rival business, known as Christina’s Tax Service, also located in Chambersburg.  The employee, Merarys Paulino, then claimed to be an IRS agent and demanded money from Christina’s Tax Service as well as its client list. Paulino previously entered a guilty plea to impersonating an IRS agent and cooperated in the prosecution of Colvard.

It’s foolproof! What could go wrong? Well, other than that a tax professional would be the least likely person in the world to believe an IRS criminal investigator would just show up without a written notice and demand cash and a client list on the spot. In Pennsylvania, as in Iowa, law enforcement folks don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

Ms. Colvard was convicted of two counts of extortion and one count of “aiding the impersonation of an employee of the United States” after a four-day trial.


Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Basic Terminology

Robert Wood, FedEx Settles Independent Contractor Mislabeling Case For $228 Million

Hank Stern, On “Losing” Subsidies. “The fact of the matter is, should SCOTUS insist that the law be applied as it was written, then folks in states using the site were never eligible to receive subsidies in the first place.”

Peter Reilly, Exchange Facilitator Does Not Beat Missouri Use Tax On Learjet. “What they learned was that a transaction that qualifies for tax deferral under federal tax principles does not necessarily avoid sales and use tax.”

Kathryn Sedo, Counsel for Ibrahim Explain Last Week’s Important Circuit Court Opinion on Filing Status (Procedurally Taxing). “The question before the 8th Circuit in Isaak Ibrahim v. Commissioner was whether the term ‘separate return’ as used in section 6013(b) is defined as return with the filing status ‘married, filing separately’ or a tax return with any other filing status other than ‘married, filing jointly.'”

Kay Bell, Houston, we could have more flood problems. “OK, how did I wake up today in my Austin house but in South Florida?”


2008 flood 1


Greg Mankiw, considering arguments made by Export-Import Bank supporters, says:

Other countries give similar subsidies to their firms. So what? If other nations engage in corporate welfare, that is no reason for the United States to follow suit in the name of a level playing field.  We don’t need to import other nations’ bad policies.

Substitute “states” for “countries” and “nations” and it is an accurate summary of the foolishness of the state tax credit “incentive” game played by Iowa economic development officials and politicians.

Jeremy Scott, Can the United States Kill BEPS? (Tax Analysts Blog). ” The United States will probably never go along with BEPS the way the rest of the world has gone along with FATCA, but in the end that probably won’t matter. The EU, India, and China will be perfectly happy to find a way to preserve their tax base without U.S. help.”  “BEPS,” by the way, stands for “Base erosion and profit shifting,” the predictable and natural response of taxpayers to pocket-picking tax authorities.

Kayla Kitson, Four Reasons to Expand and Reform the Earned Income Tax Credit (Tax Justice Blog). I don’t buy it. With 25% of its cost going to ineligible people — and no small part of that to thieves — it is at best very inefficient. The post doesn’t even mention the poverty trap created by the way the credit phases out as incomes rise.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 768. “The court filing, provided to The Daily Caller, claims the IRS received new Lerner emails from the Treasury Department’s inspector general (TIGTA) but can’t fork over the emails to Judicial Watch, a nonprofit group suing to get the emails. Why? Because the IRS is busy making sure that none of the emails are duplicates  – you know, so as not to waste anyone’s time.”

Renu Zaretsky, Raising or Cutting Taxes: Go Big or Go Home. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers presidential candidate tax pledges, as well as tax developments in Kansas, Texas, Florida, New Mexico and Massachusetts.




Florida man meets Tax Whiz. A Florida man filed a tax return prepared by the “Tax Whiz” claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The result was a $1,853 overpayment that the IRS applied to outstanding child support liabilities. The IRS later determined that he didn’t qualify for the credit because he had no qualifying educational expenses. The IRS wanted its $1,843 back.

The man argued that Tax Whiz claimed the credit unbeknownst to him, so he shouldn’t have to pay it back. The Tax Court wasn’t buying:

By his own admission petitioner did not review the return in question. Reliance on a tax return preparer cannot absolve a taxpayer from the responsibility to file an accurate return. See Metra Chem Corp. v. Commissioner, 88 T.C. 654, 662 (1987) (“As a general rule, the duty of filing accurate returns cannot be avoided by placing responsibility on a tax return preparer.”). Even if Tax Whiz may have claimed the credit without his knowledge, petitioner is still responsible for the resulting deficiency.

The moral? Not a surprising result.  You are responsible for what goes on your return, no matter how much, or how little, you pay your preparer. More surprising is that the taxpayer’s first and middle name is listed as “William Billy.”  I’ve never seen that one.

Cite: Devy, T.C. Memo 2015-110.




Tax Roundup, 6/15/15: IRS declines to make estate tax easy for surviving spouses. And: New ID theft measures!

Monday, June 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Due Today: Second Quarter estimated tax payments; returns for U.S. citizens living abroad.


Funeral home signIRS declines to make the estate tax portability election easy. There’s no such thing as a joint estate tax return. That means if one spouse has all of the assets, the other spouse’s lifetime estate tax exemption — $5,430,000 for 2015 deaths — can be lost.

Congress changed the tax law to allow a surviving spouse to inherit the deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exemption, for use on when the surviving spouse files an estate tax return. unfortunately, this treatment is not automatic. It is only available if a Form 706 estate tax return is filed for the first spouse to die. The IRS on Friday issued final regulations rejecting any short-cuts in this process.

There are many problems with this approach. The most obvious is the lottery winner problem. A couple might be living in a trailer, and when the first spouse dies, there seems to be no point in filing an estate tax return when their combined assets are a small fraction of the amount triggering estate tax. Then the surviving spouse wins the Powerball, and suddenly the first spouse’s estate tax exemption becomes very valuable — but it’s lost, because no return was filed.

The IRS rejected allowing any pro-forma or short-cut estate tax returns for such situations:

The Treasury Department and the IRS have concluded that, on balance, a timely filed, complete, and properly prepared estate tax return affords the most efficient and administrable method of obtaining the information necessary to compute and verify the DSUE amount, and the alleged benefits to taxpayers from an abbreviated form is far outweighed by the anticipated administrative difficulties in administering the estate tax. In

The IRS did say it would be generous in allowing “Section 9100” late-filing relief for taxpayers who die with assets below the exclusion amount, but they did not provide any sort of automatic election. The result is a trap for the unwary executors of small estates.

Cite: TD 9725


20130419-1IRS announces ID-theft refund fraud measuresThe IRS last week announced (IR-2015-87) steps it promised in March to fight refund fraud in cooperation with tax preparers and software makers:

The agreement — reached after the project was originally announced March 19 — includes identifying new steps to validate taxpayer and tax return information at the time of filing. The effort will increase information sharing between industry and governments. There will be standardized sharing of suspected identity fraud information and analytics from the tax industry to identify fraud schemes and locate indicators of fraud patterns. And there will be continued collaborative efforts going forward.

The most promising of the steps:

Taxpayer authentication. The industry and government groups identified numerous new data elements that can be shared at the time of filing to help authenticate a taxpayer and detect identity theft refund fraud. The data will be submitted to the IRS and states with the tax return transmission for the 2016 filing season. Some of these issues include, but are not limited to:

-Reviewing the transmission of the tax return, including the improper and or repetitive use of Internet Protocol numbers, the Internet ‘address’ from which the return is originating.

-Reviewing computer device identification data tied to the return’s origin.

-Reviewing the time it takes to complete a tax return, so computer mechanized fraud can be detected.

-Capturing metadata in the computer transaction that will allow review for identity theft related fraud.

These are important because they might actually prevent fraudulent refunds from being issued. Measures to help identify fraud after it happens don’t do much, especially when the fraud occurs abroad. Catching the fraudulent returns before the refunds are issued is the only way to really deal with the problem, and the only way to keep innocent taxpayers whose identification has been stolen from having to go through the annoying and sometimes lengthy process of recovering their overpayments.

The sad thing – I see nothing here that couldn’t have been done five years ago, when ID theft refund fraud was already becoming a problem. But the Worst Commissioner Ever was too busy trying to impose preparer regulations on behalf of the big franchise tax prep outfits to pay attention. Priorities.




Bob Vineyard, Best Kept Secrets About Obamacare (Insureblog). “About half of those living in Kentucky and classified as poor were not aware of the basics of Obamacare.”

TaxGrrrl, Spain’s King Felipe Strips Sister Of Royal Title As Tax Evasion Charges Proceed. What good is being regal if things like this happen?

Annette Nellen, Tax reform for 2015? Seems unlikely

Kay Bell, Lessons learned from being tax Peeping Toms

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 10: Filing Statuses Arrive in 1948

Peter Reilly, Why Is Multi-State Tax Compliance So Hard? “Don’t get me wrong.  I believe that the prudent thing is to try to be in pretty good, if not perfect, compliance.  Just don’t expect anybody to make it really easy any time soon.”

Robert Wood, Beware Tax Cops At Farmers’ Markets


20120816-1Joseph Henchman, State of the States: Special Session Edition and Kansas Approves Tax Increase Package, Likely Will Be Back for More (Tax Policy Blog). Mr. Henchman rounds up end-of-session tax moves from around the country. Kansas may have made the biggest changes, including a small retreat from its exemption of pass-throughs from the income tax:

Kansas in 2012 completely exempted the income from such individuals, who now total over 330,000 exempt entities. Efforts to repeal this unusual and non-neutral total exclusion of pass-through income earned a veto threat from Governor Brownback. The guaranteed payments provision is estimated to generate approximately $20 million per year.

Taxing guaranteed payments will hardly plug the fiscal hole created by the blanket pass-through exemption. Joseph concludes: “But overall, it is a grab bag of ideas that does little to address the problems underlying Kansas’s tax and budgetary instability. Absent more fundamental changes, legislators will likely have to return in coming years to address budget gaps.”


Norton Francis, How Would the Kansas Senate Close the State’s Budget Gap? Mostly by Taxing Poor People (TaxVox)


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 765The IRS Scandal, Day 766The IRS Scandal, Day 767


Career Corner. Reminder: Parents Meddling in Your Careers Will Not Help You (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 6/8/15: Hush money edition. And: IRA invests in IRA owner’s business, disaster ensues.

Monday, June 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
"Dennis Hastert 109th pictorial photo" by United States Congress - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“Dennis Hastert 109th pictorial photo” by United States Congress – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The TaxProf and I are cited in a New York Times article on the tax implications of former House Speaker Hastert’s hush money scandal: If Hastert Was Extorted, He Could Deduct Some Losses From His Taxes.

Mr. Hastert has been indicted on charges of “structuring” deposits to avoid reporting rules as part of a plan to pay for silence from “Individual A” for alleged sexual contact pre-Congress. From the article:

While extortion payments would be taxable for Individual A, they would actually be partly deductible for Mr. Hastert, said Paul Caron, a tax law professor at Pepperdine University. It’s right there in I.R.S. Publication 17, Chapter 25: You get to deduct losses because of theft, to the extent those losses exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. Blackmail and extortion count as theft.

But to claim the deduction, Mr. Hastert would have to convince the I.R.S. or a court he had been extorted, which could be difficult.

”Sometimes judges will find a way to disallow deductions for what they find unsavory behavior,” said Joe Kristan, a tax accountant with the Roth C.P.A. firm. He noted a case in which a divided Ninth Circuit panel denied a tax deduction for extortion to a man who said he paid hush money to his mistress.

For the record, I have no personal experience in deducting extortion and hush money payments.

Related: Jack Townsend, Article on Structuring to Avoid Bank Currency Reporting Requirements, on the structuring charges of the Hastert case.


No Walnut STTaxpayer’s IRA-owned corporation leads to tax disaster. The Eighth Circuit appeals court has upheld horrendous tax penalties against a taxpayer who had an IRA capitalize his business as an investor.

A Mr. Ellis rolled his 401(k) plan into an IRA, which invested about $310,000 in CST, a C corporation. CST started an auto dealership and employed Mr. Ellis as General Manager. That led to unfortunate tax results. From the court opinion (my emphasis):

The tax court properly found that Mr. Ellis engaged in a prohibited transaction by directing CST to pay him a salary in 2005. The record establishes that Mr. Ellis caused his IRA to invest a substantial majority of its value in CST with the understanding that he would receive compensation for his services as general manager. By directing CST to pay him wages from funds that the company received almost exclusively from his IRA, Mr. Ellis engaged in the indirect transfer of the income and assets of the IRA for his own benefit and indirectly dealt with such income and assets for his own interest or his own account. See 26 U.S.C. § 4975(c)(1)(D), (E); 29 C.F.R. § 2509.75-2(c) (“[I]f a transaction between a party in interest and a plan would be a prohibited transaction, then such a transaction between a party in interest and such corporation . . . will ordinarily be a prohibited transaction if the plan may, by itself, require the corporation . . . to engage in such transaction.”)

While the investment itself wasn’t ruled a prohibited transaction, things got messy once the IRA-owned corporation started paying Mr. Ellis a salary — an “indirect transfer” occurred.

The consequences? The prohibited transaction terminated the IRA. That means the whole value of the IRA became taxable income, with no cash made available to cover the taxes. With penalties, the bill will exceed $160,000.

The Moral? Direct business investments from IRAs are dynamite. If you must use retirement plan funds for a business start-up, it may be wiser to take a taxable withdrawal and use the after-tax funds to make the investment. If there is any way to fund it without retirement plan funds, that would be wiser still.

Cite: Ellis, CA-8, No. 14-1310 

Prior coverage here.


20150528-1Margaret Van Houten, Legislature Passes Bill Affecting Iowa Trusts and Estates (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “Beginning on July 1, 2016, a step grandchild will no longer be subject to Iowa Inheritance Tax.  Currently, direct ancestors and descendants, including stepchildren, were exempt from the tax, while step grandchildren were grouped with other individuals, such as siblings, nieces and nephews and unrelated individuals and were subject to the tax.”

TaxGrrrl, The Not So Skinny On National Doughnut Day. That’s every day!

Jason Dinesen, Breakeven Analysis for Small Businesses — Service Providers and Not-for-Profits

Annette Nellen, More on marijuana businesses and tax ethics. “Despite state actions, the production, sale and use of marijuana is a crime under federal law. Thus, for licensed practitioners, there is concern about ethical violations of helping someone commit a crime.”

Kay Bell, H&R Block explores virtual tax preparation.

Peter Reilly, A New York Day Is Like A New York Minute At Least For Taxes:

In the case of John and Janine Zanetti, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division agreed with the Commissioner of Taxation and Finance that a New York day can be less than 24 hours.  The point of the decision was to determine whether the Zanettis had spent enough time in New York to be considered statutory residents for the year 2006.


Jim Maule asks Is the Federal Income Tax Progressive? He focuses on the “low” federal effective rate on the “Top .001%.” Of course, the reason people get to those rates is normally because of a one-time event, typically the sale of a corporation, that is taxed at long-term capital gain rates. Such taxpayers are normally at that income level only once in their life. Of course, Prof. Maule ignores the built-in double tax hidden in these figures.

Leslie Book, DC Circuit Criticizes Government in Case Alleging an Israel Special Policy for Tax Exemptions (Procedurally Taxing). “As IRS has increased responsibility beyond its paramount mission of collecting revenues, the historical reasons for the discretion IRS has exercised have lessened.”

Robert Wood, Are On Demand Workers Independent Contractors In Name Only?

Tony Nitti, Put It On The Card! Congressman Proposes To Make Credit Card Debt Forgiveness Tax Free

Russ Fox, Another Las Vegas Preparer Gets In Trouble Over the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. “I’d say it was something in the water but Las Vegas is in a desert.”




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 758Day 759Day 760. The IRS treatment of the Tea Partiers is compared and contrasted with that of the Clinton Foundation.


Arnold Kling, Payroll Taxes in Europe. ” I find it hard to reconcile Germany’s relatively low unemployment rate with this high payroll tax rate.”

David Henderson responds:

I don’t find it hard to reconcile the two. The reason: Germany has had high payroll tax rates for a long time–for decades, actually. So real wages have had a long time to adjust.

I understand this as saying the total employment cost is about the same, but the employee gets less of it.


Kyle Pomerleau, CRS Outlines Four Important Aspects of the EITC. “The EITC enjoys bipartisan support among lawmakers. This is due to the fact it both reduces poverty among families with children and has a positive impact on the labor force for certain individuals. Yet, the EITC is not without its flaws. It’s benefit phase-out has a negative impact on the labor force and it suffers from high error rate and overpayment.”

Richard Auxier, Choose your tax system: progressive vs. regressive (TaxVox). A critique of the “Fair Tax” and other national sales tax proposals.


News from the Profession. Pope Figured The Lord’s Work Could Use a Good Auditor (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)




Tax Roundup, 6/4/15: Iowa session-end frenzy: What if a young farmer drives his ATV to the laundromat?

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1291Sound tax policy? What’s that? Three minor tax bills advanced in the Iowa General Assembly yesterday in the pre-adjournment frenzy. They are all examples of the pursuit of tax legislation unmoored from consideration of sound tax policy.

ATVs. Iowa farmers don’t have to pay sales tax on equipment used “directly and primarily” in the production of agricultural products. The Iowa Department of Revenue holds that the exemption doesn’t apply to general-purpose all-terrain vehicles used to get around the farm — say, to check on crops or livestock (or, incidentally, to go to the good pheasant-hunting spots). The Iowa Senate passed SF 512 yesterday to exempt ATVs “used primarily in agricultural production” from sales tax.

Too bad this isn’t part of a broader movement to exempt all business inputs from sales tax. To the extent that ATVs are a business input, exempting them from sales tax is good policy. I suspect, though, that everyteenage farm boy will have an ATV used primarily in agriculture.

Young Farmers. HF 624 makes minor changes in the tax credit available for custom farming contracts with beginning farmers. No amount of tax credits will change the fundamental difficulties involved in getting into farming. It’s a capital-intensive business that has been consolidating for over a century into larger and more expensive units. This bill isn’t that big a deal, but “Young Farmer” tax credits have no more policy justification than “Young Factory Owner” credits or “Young Cold Storage Warehouse Operator” credits.

20140611-2To the cleaners. Probably the worst tax policy to advance yesterday was HF 603, which excludes the use “self-pay” washing machines from sales tax. While business inputs should not be subject to sales tax, all final consumer expenditures should be. A broader base enables lower rates for everyone. O. Kay Henderson reports on this break:

Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, has met with a couple from St. Ansgar who sold their laundromats in Iowa and opened coin-operated laundromats in Minnesota, which does not charge the sales tax.

“The other part of this is just economic development in general,” Byrnes says. “We have a company that manufactures self-pay units in Fairfield, Iowa, called Dexter and actually they’re looking at some expansion and growth of their company I believe that this will help them get over that hump and help to further their business as well.”

You can make the same “economic development” argument for pretty much anything manufactured in Iowa, including the home laundry machines historically made by Iowa manufacturers Maytag and Amana. It takes a leap of faith to think this will sell even one additional washing machine.





Joseph Henchman, Illinois Governor Suspends New Film Tax Credits, Makes Other Spending Cuts (Tax Policy Blog):

With the two sides at a stalemate, Rauner announced that he is issuing administrative orders to cut $400 million in spending wherever he can. Including:

  • Immediate suspension of all future incentive offers to companies for business attraction and retention, including EDGE credits and the film tax credit program. Commitments already made will be honored.

Unilateral disarmament in the incentive wars is actually doing a big favor for Illinois taxpayers. Those credits enable the well-connected to pick the pockets of the rest of the taxpayers. It is excellent public policy. I hope Iowa decides it needs to ditch its crony tax credits to compete with Illinois.


Jason Dinesen, Are HRAs Always Appropriate for Sole Proprietors? Part 2. “HRAs are often — but not always — a good strategy for sole proprietors. Here are some numbers that lay it out.”

Robert Wood, Another Tax-Exempt Marijuana Church—Green Faith Ministry

Kay Bell, IRS working with tax industry, states to upgrade security


Dean Zerbe, Tax Court Decision – Good News For Whistleblowers (Procedurally Taxing). “This decision and the actions of the IRS in this case are not going to make administration of the IRS whistleblower program easier – and could have easily been prevented by the IRS.”

Jack Townsend, Whistleblower Case Apparently Involving Wegelin. “Perhaps most interesting for many readers of this blog is that the underlying criminal prosecution and guilty plea appears to involve Wegelin Bank, the Swiss Bank that met its demise for its U.S. tax cheat enabler activities.”



Renu Zaretsky, There’s Always Room for Improvement. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the IRS data breach, climate-change tax promises, and charitable tax deduction policy, among other things.

Kelly Davis, Kansas Considers Tax Hikes on the Poor to Address Budget Mess (Tax Justice Blog).


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 756




So tell me again how IRS regulation of preparers will fight fraud? IRS Employee Files Hundreds of Fraudulent Tax Returns:

The former IRS worker, 38-year-old Demetria Michele Brown, stole names, birth dates and social security numbers, and provided false information about wages, deductions, addresses and workplaces in order to obtain the refunds.

The documents were filed from her computer and the money returned by the IRS was sent to bank accounts controlled by Brown, St. Louis newspaper reports.

According to prosecutors, the fraudster carried out the activity from 2008 until 2011 and collected $326,000 / €290,000.

I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened if she had to take an ethics exam.



Tax Roundup, 6/2/15: See what the thief filed to claim your refund. And: a crowded Irish address files 580 1040s!

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20111040logoIt seems only fair. In a policy change, the IRS will enable identity theft victims to see copies of fraudulent returns filed in their names, reports Tax Analysts ($link).

Tax-related identity theft victims will soon be able to obtain IRS copies of the fraudulent tax returns used to steal their identity, thanks in part to a push by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

“Once we have a procedure in place, we will issue an announcement informing tax-related identity theft victims of the process for receiving a redacted copy of the fraudulent return,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a May 28 letter that acknowledged Ayotte as the impetus for the change in the tax agency’s identity theft policy.

The redactions will deal with other taxpayers included on the stolen return. I am guessing could include pretend spouses and dependents used by the ID thief.

This is good news for taxpayers, as it may help them resolve otherwise inexplicable problems with their IRS accounts. It also promises to help shed light on how the thefts occur and, perhaps, help practitioners suggest measures to fight the fraud. It’s also long overdue. It’s not as if thieves can reasonably expect confidentiality for their crimes.


20130316-1The luck of the IRisSh. The tax agency still seems to be way behind the ID thieves. This report from the Irish Times is hardly reassuring: 

An address in Kilkenny topped a table of addresses used for multiple potentially fraudulent tax return applications submitted to the Internal Revenue Service in 2012, a study by the US treasury has found.

The address in Kilkenny was used for 580 returns in 2012, which led to “refunds” totalling $218,974 being issued, according to the study by the treasury inspector general for tax administration in the United States.

The IRS likes to claim that budget constraints are behind its abject failure to control the identity theft refund fraud epidemic. The inability to flag hundreds of refunds claimed from the same offshore address — which would seem like an easy enough programming problem to solve — indicates the problems are deeper than lean budgets.

 An address in Kaunas, Lithuania, was used for 525 applications that prompted the payment of $156,274, while an address in Miami, Florida, came third on the list, with 417 applications leading to the payment of $221,806. 

Somehow this doesn’t tell me the IRS needs to expand its responsibilities — but Congress and the President clearly feel otherwise.


Will there finally be real steps to fight the problem? Tax Analysts also reports ($link) that the IRS, in cooperation with states and software vendors, will require additional information to process e-filings:

Central to the announcement is a greatly enhanced public-private effort to combat fraud through increased information sharing.

Another upshot is that industry and government will need to process returns differently starting with the 2016 filing season, said Alabama Department of Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee. On the front end, tax return preparation software providers will need to provide multifactor authentication steps when a taxpayer logs in or returns to a site, she said.

The changes also will require vendors to increase by a few dozen data points the amount of information collected from the taxpayer or the return and sent in a standardized format to the IRS and state revenue departments, Magee said.

The story says the details will be announced sometime this month to enable vendors to prepare for next season. We will cover the announcement when it is made.




Robert D. Flach has a fresh Tuesday Buzz roundup, covering topics as diverse as extenders and “I Love Lucy.

William Perez, The Key Benefits of Health Savings Accounts. Tax deductible contributions, tax-free accumulation, and tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses.

Robert Wood, IRS Says If You’re Willful, FBAR Penalties Hit 100%, $10,000 If You’re Not

Peter Reilly, Conservation Easements – Tax Court Lets Owner Sell Them Or Give Them But Not Both

Jason Dinesen, History of Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 9: After Poe v. Seaborn. “Finally in 1948, Congress acted. For the first time, filing statuses were created and we moved closer to the tax system we know today.”

Kay Bell, Ohio becomes 25th state in which Amazon collects sales tax

Me, How states try to tax the visiting employee. My new post at, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.




Alan Cole, Oregon to Experiment with Mileage-Based Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

Oregon will become the first state to implement a per-mile tax on driving. The tax is voluntary – an alternative to the state’s fuel tax. Drivers will get the choice of paying one or another. Should they choose the mileage-based tax, they will be charged 1.5 cents per mile, but get a credit to offset the taxes they pay on gas.

States have difficulty increasing gas taxes. Energy-efficient cars and electric (coal powered!) vehicles also are affecting gas tax revenues. The post doesn’t expain how the state will measure mileage; privacy issues promise to be a big obstacle for mileage taxes, but if this can be overcome, expect more states to follow Oregon.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 754

Martin Sullivan, How Grover Norquist’s Pledge Can Hurt the Conservative Cause (Tax Analysts Blog). “First, the pledge’s hard and fast prohibition on tax hikes can prevent signers from agreeing to compromises that would result in outcomes most conservatives would consider highly favorable.”


Scott Sumner asks Why are interest expenses tax deductible? (Econlog).

The cost of equity (dividends, etc.) is not tax deductible, while interest is deductible. But why?

Good question. I respond with another — why aren’t dividends deductible? That would prevent double taxation of corporate income while making sure corporations can’t be used as incorporated investment portfolios.





Tax Roundup, 5/29/15: A distracted IRS takes its eye off the ball. And more Friday goodness.

Friday, May 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

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

The IRS Fails at Job One(Christopher Bergin, Tax Analysts Blog).

Over the years, as the fight for transparency continues, I’ve marveled that while the IRS was willing to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars to hide information the courts eventually would force it to turn over to the public, it never shirked from its responsibility to protect the truly private information it was entrusted with. I’ve always admired the IRS for its unflinching diligence in putting that job well ahead of its paranoia of public scrutiny regarding how it operates.

But now there’s a chink, and a big one, in that armor.

The IRS has too much to do. It has its hands full just with its primary job of assessing and collecting taxes, issuing refunds, and protecting taxpayer data. But Congress has chosen to use the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. As a result, the IRS has become a sprawling superagency with a portolio that includes the nation’s health finance system, industrial policy, welfare for the poor, campaign finance… you name it. It should be no surprise that its real job suffers.


William Perez, Identity Theft Statistics from the Latest TIGTA Report. “I was curious, just how big is identity theft, and how much money is leaking out of the Treasury?”

Annette Nellen, IRS Data Breach Unfortunate in Many Ways – PIN? “Why not use of a PIN as is used to access bank data and use credit cards?”

Kay Bell, IRS security breach highlights need to rethink online privacy. “We’ve all to some degree shared details of our lives to broader audiences.”

Justin Gelfand. Most Recent IRS International Hacking Reveals Vulnerability ( Procedurally Taxing). “Perhaps more than anything else, this cyber-attack reveals that stolen identity tax refund fraud is not a problem the Government can prosecute its way out of.”


eic 2014Arnold Kling, The EITC in Practice. Mr. Kling quotes Timothy Taylor on some of the practical problems in administering this program, and then considers an alternative:

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

In another post, he says:

I think that the incentive problems with the current system are so bad that I would like to see the next Administration take its best shot at something better. As you know, my preference is for a negative-income-tax type system, but with the added administrative issue of having the grants be in the form of flexible-benefit dollars that only can be used for food, housing, medical care, and education.

I like that idea much more than refundable credits, which are a fraud magnet.


Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Adjunct Professors and Mileage Deductions

Robert D. Flach has some fresh Friday Buzz!




Megan McArdle. Obamacare’s Intent? Just Read the Law. “Memory is so very terrible, and this law is so very complex. Anyone who tells you that they have a full and accurate memory of the evolution of the various moving parts is lying — at least to themselves.”

Hank Stern, A Quarter Trillion Here, A Quarter Trillion there…  “Obamacare is set to add more than a quarter-of-a-trillion—that’s trillion—dollars in extra insurance administrative costs to the U.S. health-care system”


Joseph Henchman, Major Tax Actions in Texas, Illinois, Nevada, and Louisiana (Tax Policy Blog). The Illinois legislature continues its rush to fiscal disaster. Nevada advances an unwise gross receipts tax. Louisiana advances a bill to kill its poorly conceived franchise tax.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 5/28: Deals Made, Dreams Fade (Tax Justice Blog). State tax news from New York and Alabama, where a flat tax proposal has fizzled.




Howard Gleckman, The Perpetual, Immortal, Eternal, Never-Ending Tax Extenders. “The magic number for today is 16. That is, remarkably, the number of times Congress has extended the allegedly temporary research and experimentation tax credit since it was first enacted in 1981.”

Jack Townsend, Former House Speaker Indicted for Stucturing and Lying to Federal Agents. It appears blackmail was involved. Robert Wood has more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 750


Well, it’s not brain surgery. Accountants Lack Some Skills (Caleb NewquistGoing Concern).



Tax Roundup, 5/27/15: 104,000 taxpayers compromised by IRS transcript app breach. And: EITC is no free lunch!

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1That took some work. The IRS disclosed yesterday that 104,000 taxpayer accounts have been compromised by identity thieves who did it the hard way. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The IRS said that to access the information, crooks had to clear a multistep authentication process that required prior personal knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security information, date of birth, tax filing status and street address before accessing IRS systems. The process also involved answering personal identity-verification questions, such as “What was your high school mascot?”

Mr. Koskinen, when asked how impostors obtained answers to these so-called “out-of-wallet” questions, suggested social media might have played a role.

“This is not a hack or data breach. These are impostors pretending to be someone who has enough information” to get more, said Mr. Koskinen, who said thieves might be using sophisticated programs to aggregate and mine data.

This is much more difficult than your standard ID theft, where all you need is a Social Security number to go with a name, and maybe a birth date. Getting through the IRS transcript access system requires a fair amount of data entry and outside information.

The breach will complicate filing for the 104,000 taxpayers whose data was accessed, and possibly for another 96,000 taxpayers whose records the thieves failed to breach. Tax Analysts reports ($link):

The IRS will provide credit monitoring and protection to the 104,000 victims at the agency’s expense, Koskinen said. Victims will also be given the IRS’s identity protection personal identification numbers so they are not targeted again, he said. All 200,000 of the taxpayers affected by the raid will be sent notification letters from the IRS and will have their accounts flagged on the agency’s core processing systems, he added.

The IRS has been losing the IT security wars for some time. It’s a shame, because the transcript service has been very useful for taxpayers needing return information for loans or to resolve IRS notices. I think the IRS will eventually have to delay refunds and processing so that it will be able to match third-party information — W-2s and 1099s — with returns before issuing refunds. The era of “rapid refunds” is coming to an end.

Lots of coverage of this. The TaxProf has a roundup. Other coverage:

William Perez, IRS Data Breach: Hackers Gain Access Through ‘Get Transcript’ Web App. “The IRS emphasized that taxpayers don’t need to do anything further. The agency will be sending letters to affected taxpayers explaining what to do next.”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Says Identity Thieves Accessed Tax Transcripts For More Than 100,000 Taxpayers “IRS was alerted to the problem when its monitoring systems noted an unusual amount of activity related to the [transcript] application.”

Russ FoxIRS “Get Transcript” Application Hacked; 104,000 Tax Returns Illegally Accessed. ” It would be time consuming but entirely possible for a stranger who had my social security number and date of birth to answer all the other verification questions.”

Accounting Today, IRS Detects Massive Data Breach in ‘Get Transcript’ Application

J.D. Tucille, Details About 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts Stolen From IRS (

“[T]he vast databases held by the IRS, HHS, security agencies, etc, will be leaked on purpose, leaked because of bureaucrat sloppiness, or be hacked. The more they collect, the more that will eventually leak.” Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, predicted to me last year. That “eventually”—at least, the latest round of it—is now.

Oh, goody.




Kay Bell, Winners of meet-the-candidate contests face tax costs:

True, you won’t pay from your own pocket for the flights, hotel stay, chauffeur or meal with a future president. But the value of those things, like all prizes, is considered taxable by the Internal Revenue Service.

The winners can’t simply ignore the potential tax bill. The political contest organizers should send them, and the IRS, 1099 forms stating the value of the prize.

Well, that’s one tax problem I won’t be having, unless they start paying voters enormous amounts to talk to us. I will meet any candidate who will pay me $100,000 for 10 minutes of my time. Meet me at the Timbuktuu on the EMC Building skywalk.


Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: You Won the Dream Home, Part 4 — Changing My Mind

Jack Townsend, Switzerland Publishes Certain Identifying Information of Certain Foreign Depositors in Swiss Banks

Bob Vineyard, Bad Moon Rising (Insureblog). “Obamacare news isn’t good.”




David Brunori, Scalia is Right (Tax Analsyts Blog). “The dormant commerce clause is here to stay, with precedent and established expectations and all, but it would be nice if we just admitted that we made it up.”

Robert Wood, Why Aren’t Those $26.4M Speech Fees Taxable To Bill & Hillary Clinton?

James Kennedy,Pennsylvania Senate Considers Hiking Income and Sales Taxes (Tax Policy Blog). They’re pretty high already.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 748


Howard Gleckman, Marco Rubio Wasn’t the Only One Who Cashed Out an IRA Last Year (TaxVox). “Substantial assets leak because people under age 59 ½ take early withdrawals or borrow against their IRAs or 401(k). And the problem raises an important and challenging policy question:  Should the money in these accounts be available for non-retirement purposes?”


eic 2014Leslie Book offers thoughful consideration of Warrren Buffet’s support for an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (Procedurally Taxing). You should read the whole thing, I’ll highlight this part:

As Mr. Buffet knows, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Using the tax system to deliver benefits is no silver bullet when it comes to addressing inequality. To administer the tax system as we know it today is no easy task. When Congress asks the IRS to do more, there are costs to taxpayers and the system overall. As Congress considers whether to ratchet up EITC, it should do so with the absence of rhetoric. It should also consider the tools it wants to give IRS to combat errors as well as address what costs it wants to impose on claimants and third parties. The current system passes costs on others, many of which are hidden. As with lunch, someone has to pick up the tab.

Among the costs is the 20-25% improper payment rate. Another cost is the high hidden marginal tax rate caused by the phase-out of the credit as incomes increase — a combined federal and state rate that can exceed 50%. And there is a cost to an already-stressed tax system of administering a social program.

Sebastian Johnson, Some States Support Earned Income Tax Credits for Working Families, Others Fall Short. (Tax Justice Blog) A piece that is oblivious to the issues raised by Leslie Book.


News from the Profession. EY Law Continues to Not Threaten Law Firms By Poaching Lawyers (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).


Tax Roundup, 5/26/15: It’s not always the onions that make you cry. And: beer taxes and other summer fun!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1589Onions aren’t the only thing that will make you cry. An S corporation brokering onions tried to reduce its tax bill through a “Section 419(f)” arrangement that purported to be a tax-exempt employee benefit plan. In reality, many such plans were actually tax shelters attempting to invest deductible employer contributions in variable life policies and similar financial instruments benefiting the owner.

The IRS got wise to these plans and issued Notice 95-34, ruling that such arrangements are “reportable transactions” subject to special taxpayer disclosure rules. Failure to make such disclosures can trigger severe penalties

A Wisconsin U.S. District Court has ruled the onion broker had such a plan, and is subject to the penalties, to the tune of $40,000:

In short, the trial evidence showed that CJA’s Affiliated Employers Health & Welfare Trust was an aggregation of separate plans maintained for individual employers that were experience-rated with respect to individual employers, that is, they were structured so as to assure each employer that its contributions would benefit only its own employees. The money that participating employers paid into the Plan bought insurance for only their own employees; there was no pooled risk.

The Moral? It’s a cliché, but it’s still valid: when something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The taxpayer presumably lost their deductions on top of the $40,000 penalty.

Cite: Vee’s Marketing, DC-WD-WI No. 3:13-ccv-00481



With summer here, you may want to know How High Are Beer Taxes in Your State? Scott Drenkard of the Tax Policy Blog provides this map:


I don’t understand the high rates in the southeast. Whisky protectionism? Temperance movement echoes? Whatever the reasons there, it’s hard to imagine why they would apply to Alaska and Hawaii.


Megan McArdle, Sticker Shock for Some Obamacare Customers:

So the proposed 2016 Obamacare rates have been filed in many states, and in many states, the numbers are eye-popping. Market leaders are requesting double-digit increases in a lot of places. Some of the biggest are really double-digit: 51 percent in New Mexico, 36 percent in Tennessee, 30 percent in Maryland, 25 percent in Oregon. The reason? They say that with a full year of claims data under their belt for the first time since Obamacare went into effect, they’re finding the insurance pool was considerably older and sicker than expected.

Obamacare? You mean the “Affordable” Care Act.


TaxGrrrl, Civil War Widows, General Logan & Why We Celebrate Memorial Day. Interesting history involving an Illinois politician who made a pretty good Civil War general.

Kay Bell, Memorial Day thanks for the ultimate military sacrifice

Robert D. Flach starts this short work week with fresh Buzz! Robert takes issue with Warren Buffet’s support for the Earned Income Tax Credit: “While federal welfare, which is what the EITC is, may be appropriate, it should not be distributed via the US Tax Code.”

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: New Preparer Requirements on Earned Income Credit = Higher Fees for Clients

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: When Can A Business Deduct Prepaid Expenses? A surprisingly complex issue.

Russ Fox, Staking and the WSOP: 2015 Update. Having backers can complicate a poker pro’s tax life.




Robert Wood, Florida Says Uber Drivers Are Employees, But FedEx, Other Cases Promise Long Battle

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions. The latest roundup by Procedurally Taxing of developments in the tax procedure world.

Jack Townsend, IRS Establishes Cybercrimes Unit to Combat Solen ID Tax Fraud. At least five years too late.

Paul Neiffer tells about this year’s ISU-CALT Summer Seminar Series. I’m not participating this year, probably making it a better program than ever!


Renu Zaretsky, Roads, Schools, Sales and Wills. A delay in the federal highway bill, gas tax politics in California, and Amazon pays U.K. tax in today’s TaxVox headline roundup.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 744Day 745Day 746Day 747

Career Corner. More Quick and Dirty Tips for Your Insider Trading Scheme (Leona May, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 5/21/15: Credits targeting what you would do anyway! And: minimum wage, ACA, and lots more.

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan


IMG_0603Paying people to do what they would do anyway. Rhode Island is proposing a new credit for “job creators,” reports David Brunori:

It would work the same way other bad tax incentive programs work: A company that creates new jobs in the state would receive a reduction in its income tax. The proposal mirrors a bill introduced earlier this year. Basically, the bill, if signed into law, would reduce the tax rate for companies that hire full-time employees in Rhode Island who work at least 30 hours per week and receive a salary that is at least 250 percent of the prevailing hourly minimum wage in the state. Large companies would be eligible for a 0.25 percent tax incentive off their net income tax rate for every 50 new hires. Smaller companies would be eligible for a 0.25 percent incentive off their personal income tax for every 10 new hires. The rate reduction would be limited to a maximum of 6 percentage points for the applicable income tax rate and to no more than 3 percentage points for the applicable personal income tax rate. Complicated? You bet. But that’s why law firms like the incentive business.

Statewide employment is expected to grow in Rhode Island in the next several years without the political gimmicks of tax incentives. So this bill is unnecessary (no one thinks the incentives will lead to growth greater than what’s expected). In other words, there is no incentive being provided; the state is just making a welfare payment.

This is true of all “job creation” credits. As David points out: “No sane business owner will hire someone for $40,000 simply to save $4,000 on her tax bill. This bill will not create one new job in Rhode Island.”

An Illinois representative has proposed a “Patriot Employer Tax Credit Act,” (Tax Analysts, $link) with a tax credit of up to $1,500 for employers who:

-Invest in American Jobs: Does not move its headquarters overseas or reduce the number or percentage of U.S.-based workers in comparison to workers overseas.

-Pay Fair Wages: Pay 90% or more of U.S. workers an hourly wage of at least $15 per hour.

-Provide Quality Health Insurance: Offer ACA-compliant healthcare to employees.

-Prepare Workers for Retirement: Provide 90% of non-highly compensated U.S. employees a defined benefit plan OR a defined contribution plan and contribute at least 5% of worker compensation.

-Support Our Troops and Veterans: Pay the difference between regular salary and military compensation for all National Guard and Reserve employees called for active duty and have a plan in place to recruit veterans.

-Create a Diverse Workforce: Have a plan in place to recruit employees with disabilities.

By claiming the word “patriot,” it wraps bad economics in the flag. Because nothing says “I love my country” like tax credits.


20150423-1Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Health Savings Accounts: Beneficiaries and Taxes (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “As HSAs become more common, it is important to consider the HSA in various capacities, including in premarital agreements, death, and divorce.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: In Order To Convert A Home To A Rental, You Should Probably Rent It

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: AMT.

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayer’s Call To IRS Accidentally Broadcast On Howard Stern’s Radio Show. I’m just amazed the caller reached an actual IRS agent.

Peter Reilly, Tax Girl Challenges Homeownership And You Should Really Listen To Her. “To many of us homeownership is a necessary step in becoming a full-fledged adult and a house that is rented can never be a home.  This book might help you rethink that attitude.”

Jim Maule, The Dependency Exemption Parental Tie-Breaker Rule. “Under the parental tie breaker rule in section 152(c)(4)(B), if the parents claiming a dependency exemption deduction for a qualifying child do not file a joint return, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the parent with whom the child resided for the longest period of time during the taxable year, or if the child resides with both parents for the same amount of time during the taxable year, the child is treated as the qualifying child of the parent with the highest adjusted gross income.”

Paul Neiffer, April 18 (or 19), 2016 is Due Date for 2015 tax returns

Jack Townsend, Remaining Swiss Bank Criminal Investigations Likely to Go Into 2016

Robert Wood, Appalling $187 Million Cancer Charity Fraud Case Settles — When 97% Of Money Isn’t For Charity

Keith Fogg, Argument Over Furlough of National Taxpayer Advocate Set for June 2 Before the Federal Circuit (Procedurally Taxing)





Cara Griffith, Tax Reform Laboratories (Tax Analysts Blog). “Federal lawmakers could learn a lot from an examination of what has worked and what hasn’t across the nation.”


Insureblog, Dear HHS, Will You Share My ACA Success Story?:

  So how has this Obamacare thingy helped my small company:-We have seen an overall decrease in benefits since 2010.
-From November 2010 to our current plan year premiums have increased 58.7%.
-If we would have been forced to an Obamacare compliant plan the increase would have been 116.7%

Tom Vander Well, Placing customers on hold without diminishing satisfaction ( The suggestions do not endorse the IRS practice of “courtesy disconnects.”


Carl Davis, Sweet Sixteen: States Continue to Take On Gas Tax Reform (Tax Justice Blog). To the Tax Justice folks, tax reform = tax increase.


Joseph Thorndike, Republicans Should Embrace the Gas Tax – After All, They Invented It (Tax Analysts Blog). Everyone loves being told what they “should” like.


Kay Bell, Will Congress OK highway money before it hits the road?


Elaine Maag, A Redesigned Earned Income Tax Credit Could Encourage Work by Childless Adults. (TaxVox). Only if they can re-design it so that it doesn’t squander 25% of the cost on improper payments.




Megan McArdle, $15 Minimum Wage Will Hurt Workers. A well-explained post explaining what should be obvious:

When the minimum wage goes up, owners do not en masse shut down their restaurants or lay off their staff. What is more likely to happen is that prices will rise, sales will fall off somewhat, and owner profits will be somewhat reduced. People who were looking at opening a fast food or retail or low-wage manufacturing concern will run the numbers and decide that the potential profits can’t justify the risk of some operations. Some folks who have been in the business for a while will conclude that with reduced profits, it’s no longer worth putting their hours into the business, so they’ll close the business and retire or do something else. Businesses that were not very profitable with the earlier minimum wage will slip into the red, and they will miss their franchise payments or loan installments and be forced out of business. Many owners who stay in business will look to invest in labor saving technology that can reduce their headcount, like touch-screen ordering or soda stations that let you fill your own drinks.

These sorts of decisions take a while to make. They still add up, in the end, to deadweight loss — that is, along with a net transfer of money from owners and customers to employees, there will also simply be fewer employees in some businesses. The workers who are dropped have effectively gone from $9 an hour to $0 an hour.

Most people who insist that minimum wage increases are harmless snicker at those who believe in “intelligent design.” Yet they are themselves trying to impose their own design on an eveolutionary system. At least creationists don’t claim to be designing species.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 742


News from the Profession. Accountants Lack Some Skills (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “But it’s foolish to expect accounting graduates to have skills for corporate accounting. They don’t have them because they don’t learn them in school and they don’t learn them in public accounting.”



Tax Roundup, 5/19/15: Is yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision an Iowa refund opportunity? And AICPA looks for love!

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
The Hoover Office Building, the warm and cuddly home of the Iowa Department of Revenue.

The Hoover Office Building, the warm and cuddly home of the Iowa Department of Revenue.

Time for Iowans to claim refunds for local income taxes paid out-of-state? The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled that Maryland was required to allow its residents credit for taxes paid in other states.

State tax systems normally tax resident individuals on 100% of their taxable income. They tax non-residents on only the share of income apportioned or allocated to the state. In order to keep their residents from being clobbered by multiple state income taxes, the states typically allow them a “credit for taxes paid in other states.” This is, roughly, the lesser of the tax paid to the other state or the resident state tax computed on the out-of-state income.

Maryland failed to allow a credit for taxes paid in other states for the “county” portion of its individual income tax. The U.S. Supreme court ordered Maryland to issue such a credit to the plaintiffs, who had out-of-state S corporation income.

Iowa allows a credit for taxes paid in other states, but does not allow such a credit for taxes paid in municipalities or counties. These taxes can be significant. Many Iowans pay taxes in New York City, Kansas City, St. Louis, or Washington, D.C., for example. Many Ohio municipalities also impose income taxes. While the Supreme Court decision doesn’t specifically address such taxes, the court’s logic that double-taxes discriminate against interstate commerce would seem to apply here. A Tax Analysts article ($link) on the decision notes (my emphasis):

Local governments filed an amicus brief  saying Wynne may have implications and that there are many states with long-established tax programs like Maryland’s that do not afford dollar-for-dollar credits to residents for all out-of-state income taxes paid.

That brief identified Wisconsin and North Carolina as states that do not allow a credit against local income taxes, as well as a number of local governments that fail to provide a credit for state taxes paid against local taxes, including Philadelphia; Cleveland; Detroit; Indiana’s counties; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis; and Wilmington, Delaware.

I have emailed an Iowa Department of Revenue representative asking how they will respond to the case, and will report whatever I may hear back from them. Meanwhile, taxpayers who extended their 2011 Iowa returns and paid municipal taxes elsewhere should consider filing protective refund claims while their statutue of limitations remains open.

The TaxProf has a roundup of coverage.


supreme courtMore coverage:

Joseph Henchman, A Victory for Taxpayers: SCOTUS Strikes down Maryland Tax Law (Tax Policy Blog). “This is important not just for one Maryland business, but for anyone who does business in more than one state, travels in more than one state, or lives in one state and works in another.”

Howard Gleckman, A Divided Supreme Court Rejects Maryland’s Tax On Out-Of-State Income (TaxVox). “But given the closeness of the decision and the wide gulf between the majority and the minority, today’s ruling may not be the last word in the argument over whether, and how, states can tax out-of-state income.”

Russ Fox, A Wynne for the Dormant Commerce Clause. “This case also highlights the difficulties facing a taxpayer without deep pockets.”

TaxGrrrl, In Landmark Case, Supreme Court Finds Maryland’s Tax Scheme Unconstitutional. “In the end, it all came down to this: “the total tax burden on interstate commerce is higher” under Maryland’s current tax scheme. That double taxation scheme, the Court found, is unconstitutional.”

Kay Bell, Supreme Court tax ruling could cost Maryland $200+ million. Wheneer a taxing authority gets caught imposing an illegal tax, they always moan about how terrible it will be to repay their ill-gotten gains. I’ll give them the same sympathy they typically give a taxpayer who loses a fight with them.





Bloomberg, Iowa Spent $50 Million to Lure IBM. Then the Firings Started. That was $50 million paid by other Iowa businesses and their employees, money they could have used to grow businesses that might not have fled.


Jason Dinesen, Why Make Estimated Tax Payments, Part 2. “Here’s the reason: if you’re fully self-employed, you don’t draw a paycheck in the traditional sense.

Paul Neiffer, What Runs Through the Estate! “In many cases, the heirs will use the cost basis from grandpa and not pick up the extra cost from mom and dad.”

Robert D. Flach comes through with fresh Tueesday Buzz, including thoughts on the use of the tax law as a welfare program.

William Perez, 10 Emerging Financial Technology Apps with a Tax-Angle




Peter ReillyFree Kent Hovind Movement Has Big Win. ” Judge Margaret Casey Rodgers has granted Kent Hovind’s motion for a judgment of acquittal on the contempt of court charge that he was convicted of in March.”

Robert Wood, U2’s Bono Sounds Increasingly Like Warren Buffett. That’s OK, pitch correction software can do amazing things.

Andy Grewal, The Un-Precedented Tax Court: Bench Opinions (Procedurally Taxing). “Opinions can’t cause a lot of confusion if no one can find them.”


Martin Sullivan, As in Florida, Rubio Pursues ‘Big, Hairy’ Goals in the U.S. Senate (Tax Analysts Blog).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 740. Today’s post is a useful corrective to the persistent scandal denialists.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. AICPA Wants CGMA Love From the C-Suite (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).


Tax Roundup, 5/13/15: Des Moines tries to speed through a red light. And: Tax Expert, heal thyself.

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

DNo Walnut STes Moines plans to sue to keep revenue camera revenue flowing. The Des Moines tax on unwary out-of-town motorists driving past Waveland Golf Course lost another battle yesterday.  The Iowa Department of Transportation turned down the city’s appeal of the Departments order to shut down the city’s freeway speed cameras (Des Moines Register)

As seems to be the practice when it imposes an illegal tax, the City now plans to blow a bunch of money on lawyers rather than obey the law, reports the Register:

Des Moines will appeal the ruling to district court, officials said.

Iowa is the only state in the United States that has permanent speed enforcement cameras on its interstate highways, according to the DOT, which in late 2013 adopted new rules governing the use of the devices on or next to state highways.

A few years ago Des Moines was caught imposing an illegal franchise tax on its residents’ utility bills. Rather than apologizing abjectly and refunding the ill-gotten gains, it appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, losing every step of the way. In the end it had to repay the tax, the city lawyers, and the taxpayer lawyers for a bunch of pointless litigation. The city still seems to favor that approach.


Flickr image by Ano Lobb under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image by Ano Lobb under Creative Commons license.

The cobbler’s children go barefoot. Mr. Hughes, a U.S. Citizen, had a successful career at one of international accounting firm KPMG. Tax Court Judge Wherry tells of an impressive career arc (my emphasis):

During his tenure at KPMG Mr. Hughes rose through the ranks and moved among KPMG’s international offices. Between September 1979 and 1994 he worked in the firm’s international tax group in Houston, Chicago, and Toronto, earning promotions from staff accountant to manager, from manager to senior manager, and finally, in 1986, to partner. During this period his duties shifted from preparing corporate and partnership Federal income tax returns to advising clients, particularly publicly traded corporations. Mr. Hughes also began to specialize in the international aspects of subchapter C of the Code and cross-border transactions, particularly mergers and acquisitions (M&A). He returned to the Chicago office and continued with his transactional work for publicly traded corporations.

A key aspect of M&A work is gain recognition and the basis consequences of transactions.  Transactions like this:

During 1999 KPMG spun off its consulting business to a newly formed corporation, KCI. The firm retained a direct equity stake of approximately 20% of KCI’s outstanding shares, and these shares were specially allocated among KPMG’s partners, including Mr. Hughes (K-1 shares), in January 2000. KPMG caused KCI to issue shares representing the remaining 80% of its equity to KPMG’s partners, including Mr. Hughes, who received 95,467 shares of KCI stock (founders’ shares) on January 31, 2000. Mr. Hughes did not contribute funds to KPMG in connection with KCI’s formation. He took zero bases in the founders’ shares.

So far, so good. Mr. Hughes along the way married a U.K. national and gave shares to his wife. There things begin to get a little foggy. The shares were sold at a time the couple resided in the U.S. , and the taxpayers did not claim full proceeds in income, on the grounds that the recipient spouse received a tax-free step-up in basis when she received the shares in the U.K. After clearing away some fog, the Judge lays out the remaining issues:

The first two are: (1) whether Mr. Hughes transferred ownership of the KCI shares to Mrs. Hughes, and (2) if so, whether Mrs. Hughes took bases greater than zero in the KCI shares. For petitioners to prevail, we must answer both questions affirmatively.

20120511-2When you give shares, or anything else, to a spouse who is a U.S. citizen, Sec. 1041 applies to provide that no gain is recognized and basis carries over. Sec. 1041 doesn’t apply to non-U.S. spouses. The Tax Court explains what happens:

Where, as here, an interspousal property transfer takes the form of a gift, no gain is realized, so regardless of whether section 1041(a) applies, there is no gain to be recognized…

The donee, on the other hand, realizes an economic gain upon receipt of a gift. His or her wealth increases by the value of the gift. But for tax purposes section 102(a) excludes this gain from the donee’s gross income. To preserve the U.S.’ ability to tax any unrecognized gain in property that is the subject of the gift, section 1015(a) sets the donee’s basis in the property equal to the lesser of the donor’s basis (or that of “the last preceding owner by whom it was not acquired by gift”) or if there is unrecognized loss, then for loss purposes, the property’s fair market value.

The taxpayer, who doubtless guided many clients through harrowing cross-border M&A deals unscathed, failed to achieve that on his own return. The court ruled that not only did he owe additional tax, but also a 40% “gross valuation misstatement penalty”:

Given his extensive knowledge of and experience with U.S. tax law, Mr. Hughes should have realized that the conclusion he reached — that the KCI shares’ bases would be stepped up to fair market value, such that the built-in gain in those shares would never be subject to tax in either the United States or the United Kingdom — was too good to be true.


Cite: Hughes, T.C. Memo 2014-89


Locust Street, Des Moines

Locust Street, Des Moines


Paul Neiffer, “Cost don’t Matter, Except When it Does”

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 8: 1920s Court Battles

TaxGrrrl, 11 Reasons Why I Never Want To Own A House Again

Calling Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge producer pleads guilty to film tax credit fraud (

Baton Rouge producer pleads guilty to film tax credit fraud:

“Louisiana’s film tax credit program cannot function as intended when people are constantly defrauding it,” said Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street. “We are continuing to do everything we can to make sure there are criminal consequences when that happens, and today’s guilty plea is the latest example of that.”

Au contraire, as the Cajuns might say. I think that’s pretty much exactly how these things are intended to function.

Kay Bell, Duck Dynasty’s Louisiana state tax credits could be winged


David Brunori, A Flat Income Tax is a Good Thing (Tax Analysts Blog). “Every — and I mean every — tax commission that has ever opined on good tax policy has called for a tax system built on a broad base and low rates.”




Howard Gleckman, Is the GOP’s Enthusiasm for Tax Cuts Going the Way of American Idol? A question answered “no” since at least 1981.

Andy Grewal, The Un-Precedented Tax Court: Part I (Procedurally Taxing) ” Although the court purportedly exercises the judicial power (more on that in a later post), most of its work product is not judge-like.  That is, the Tax Court decides most of its cases as an administrative office would, without setting precedent.”


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 734, featuring Peter Reilly’s IRS Not Grossly Negligent In Disclosure Of Exempt Application. High standards, not.


Jeremy Scott, Unexpected Tory Victory Has Major Ramifications for Europe (Tax Analysts Blog). “Defying polls, pollsters, and the specter of a hopelessly fractured Parliament, the Conservatives won a resounding victory in the U.K. election last week.” Just note that I arrived in Scotland with Labour leading the Tories 41-1 in Scotland. By the time I landed in Des Moines, the Tories held the same number of Scottish seats as Labour. No wonder I felt so tired.


Graphic from BBC


News from the Profession. Grant Thornton Not Gonna Let Some Rich Guy Drag Its Good Name Through the Mud and Get Away With It (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 5/11/15: Returned, recovering, and ranting! Sales taxes, tax credits for special friends pondered by Iowa legislature.

Monday, May 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


IMG_0983I am back from overseas, and somewhat recovered from a nasty bug that hit me just before it was time to come home. So much to catch up on — if I don’t link your post today, I might get it later this week, as I dig out.

I was saddened to learn that the Iowa legislature is still in session. David Brunori reports ($link) on a proposal to allow Des Moines to vote on increasing its own sales tax without participation of its neighbors:

Iowa Rep. Tom Sands (R), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, has introduced legislation that would allow greater Des Moines communities to ask voters to approve a 1 percent local option sales tax. I have written about this issue a lot over the years. The reality is that while there are sound reasons for imposing a local option sales tax, the problems far outweigh the benefits.

When Des Moines adopts this tax, the folks who shop in the city will pay. But many of them don’t live within the city limits. It will be people in the surrounding suburbs and rural areas who pay some of the tax. That’s great for Des Moines, but not so good for other jurisdictions. I am unsure why a legislator from a rural area — or even an area without significant retail — would support this measure. Their citizens will pay but won’t see the benefits.

Well, it’s just another example of the delight Des Moines politicians take in picking the pockets of non-voters (Exhibit A: freeway speed cameras). But remembering the result of the last sales tax increase vote in the area — crushed by a 85% “no” vote — I don’t think the municipal highwaymen should count their sales tax loot just yet.


Politicians call for more subsidies for their well-connected friends, from your pockets. Iowa leaders call for biochemical tax credits for ethanol, biodiesel (Sioux City Journal).


Andrew Lundeen, Pass-through Businesses Employ Most of the Private Sector Workforce (Tax Policy Blog).



“Pass-though” businesses are those taxed on owner 1040s. When you tax high income individuals, there is no escaping that you are reducing funds available for the nations principal employers to hire and expand.


William Perez, Your Guide to the 6 Types of Business for Federal Tax Purposes. “Entrepreneurs can set up their small business as a sole proprietorship, corporation, S-corporation, partnership, non-profit organization, Limited Liability Company, Limited Liability Partnership, and in some states a Professional Limited Liability Company/Partnership.”

Jason Dinesen, Why Make Estimated Tax Payments, Part 1. “People who are new to self-employment are often confused about what estimated tax payments are and why they might need to make these payments.”

Kay Bell, A Mother’s Day tax gift: 10 child care tax credit tips

TaxGrrrl, 11 Things I’ve Learned About Tax From My Mom

Leslie Book, On Mother’s Day Cowan Case Highlights Unfairness of Family Status Tax Rules

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Get Too Greedy! And however greedy you get, you need to follow the appraisal rules if you want to deduct a property donation.

Jack Townsend discusses a Sentencing for Failure to Pay Over Trust Fund Taxes. If you don’t remit withheld payroll taxes, thinking that you are just “borrowing” it, your “interest” might include prison time.

Peter Reilly, Home Schooling Contingency Does Not Kill Alimony Deduction

Robert D. Flach, WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN WRITING TO THE IRS. Not a speedy resolution.



Andrew Mitchel, The Exodus Continues (2015 1st Quarter Published Expatriates).

We began tracking expatriations in late 2009 because we anticipated that the number of expatriations would increase as a result of changes in U.S. tax laws and due to “saber rattling” by the IRS about the imposition of potential penalties in the wake of the UBS scandal.  Our prediction has been accurate.

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC


Robert Wood, New Un-American Record: Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

Me, An obscure tax deadline that could cost you big. A discussion of the looming FBAR deadline.



Kristine Tidgren, Minnesota Producers Impacted by Avian Flu Granted Extra Time to File and Pay Taxes (ISU-CALT Ag Docket)

Hank Stern at Insureblog notes that May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month. Given the stakes, and the relatively low price, it’s shocking that 57% of working adults have no coverage.

Annette Nellen, Narrow exemptions cause inefficiency, inequity and complexity – HR 867 and S. 1179. But they are such a great way to get lobbyists to come to your summer golf fund-raisers.




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 732. “Every time we turn around we get more emails.” Two years, and Commissioner Koskinen is still tired of your complaining.

Russ Fox,730:

The IRS’s budget isn’t going to be increased until the root cause of the IRS scandal is known. That’s a fact. It’s now been over 730 days (Monday will be day 732) that the scandal has been ongoing. If a Republican wins the White House in 2016, we’ll likely know what happened by day 1460. Otherwise, who knows.

The day Commissioner Koskinen resigns is the first day the IRS might start to figure it out.


Cara Griffith, Learn to Love the Property Tax — It’s Not So Bad (Tax Analysts Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Congress Has Not Passed A 2016 Budget. It Has Only Begun The Process.


Career Corner. The Monthly Close: White Collar Crime Should Be a Fun and Scary Surprise (Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 4/27/15: Iowa’s corporate rate highest, even after you do the math. And more!

Monday, April 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

The Highest. How High Are Corporate Income Tax Rates in Your State? (Jared Walczak, Richard Borean, Tax Policy Blog):

Corporate income taxes vary widely, with Iowa taxing corporate income at a top rate of 12.0 percent (though the state offers deductibility of federal taxes paid), followed by Pennsylvania (9.99 percent), Minnesota (9.8 percent), Alaska (9.4 percent), the District of Columbia (9.4) and Connecticut and New Jersey (9.0 percent each). At the other end of the spectrum, North Dakota taxes corporate income at a top rate of 4.53 percent, followed by Colorado (4.63 percent), and Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah (5.0 percent each).



So how much does that federal deductibility lower Iowa’s top rate? If you compute the top rates taking into account the deduction, Iowa still has a top marginal rate of 10.11% — still highest in the nation.

The high rate doesn’t result in high revenue receipts for the state. For example, Calendar 2013 corporation tax revenue for Iowa accounts for less than 6% of the state’s tax receipts. With single-factor apportionment and a tax base hollowed out by special interest carveouts, it hits hardest unlucky taxpayers without pull at the statehouse. Yet, as the U.S. has the highest national corporation tax rate in the OECD, it secures Iowa the dubious honor of having the highest corporation tax rate in the developed world.


William Perez, Tax Incentives for Alternative Energy Systems

Annette Nellen, Revenue magic (that should be avoided)

Kay Bell, Virginia dumps tax refund debit cards for paper checks. Fraud is part of the reason.

Paul Neiffer, Think You Are Too Small to Be a Target of Cyber Crime? Think Again. “30% of all targeted cyber-attacks are directed against businesses with less than 250 employees.”

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 7: 1920s Court Battles

Keith Fogg, Last Known Address for Incarcerated Persons (Procedurally Taxing). Funny that the government can insist that a taxpayer partake of its hospitality, but then take no responsiblity to see that he gets his tax notices.

Robert Wood, IRS Paid $3 Billion In Tax Credit Mistakes Plus $5.8 Billion In Erroneous Refunds. That doesn’t count erroneous earned income tax credits — only corporate returns.

Russ Fox, No Discount for her Sentence. “Well, Ms. Morin operated Discount Tax Service. Her clients were very happy with her methods, as they received tax credits and itemized deductions on their returns whether or not they qualified for them.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Savings To Clear Path For Josh Hamilton’s Return To Texas Rangers. But people keep telling me that state taxes don’t affect business decisions.

Robert D. Flach, YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. “The IRS was writing to the taxpayer to tell him that he is dead and so they were not going to process his refund.”




Me, IRS releases Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for May 2015


Peter Reilly, IRS Forced To Release Names Of Targeted Groups. The IRS likes to hide its misdeeds behind the taxpayer confidentiality rules. Not this time.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 718The IRS Scandal, Day 717The IRS Scandal, Day 716The IRS Scandal, Day 715.

Howard Gleckman, Could a Carbon Tax Finance Corporate Rate Cuts?

Robert Goulder, Bernie Sanders: Swimming Against the Tide (Tax Analysts Blog). We can only hope so.

Because he would lose? Bush Nomination Would Be Bad News for Tax Reformers (Martin Sullivan, Tax Policy Blog).


Career Corner. Dealing with chatty colleagues (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). When feigning death isn’t enough.


Tax Roundup, 4/23/15: House report rips Koskinen’s war on taxpayer service.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

I’ll believe the IRS has a funding crisis when the IRS acts like it has a funding crisis. The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday issued a report ripping Commissioner Koskinen for deliberately cutting customer service to prioritize ACA implementation and to create pressure for a bigger budget. It’s the IRS version of the Washington Monument Strategy — slashing the most visible and popular services first.

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner, but he'd probably do a better job than the one who is.

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner, but he’d probably do a better job than the one who is.

Christopher Bergin of Tax Analysts describes the report:

In 14 pages, the report blisters the IRS for treating taxpayers like dirt (my term, not theirs). It’s a shrewd counterpunch in the mouth. But remember, the commissioner picked this fight.

What’s in the 14 pages? A discussion of items that Mr. Koskinen chose to fund, and resources he neglected, at the expense of taxpayer service. Examples from the report include:

Diversion of user fee money to the general budget. The IRS has jacked up the fees to obtain rulings and non-automatic accounting changes to absurd levels. Rather than using those fees to provide services, the funds have been diverted to the general IRS budget.

Continuing to keep hundreds of full-time union operatives on the agency payroll. From the report.

“…the IRS reported that employees used 521,725 hours for union activity in fiscal year 2013, which accounted for an estimated $23.5 million in salary and benefits expenses. In fiscal year 2014, the IRS recorded 491,948 hours of union time, and another $23.5 million in salary and benefits expenses. In that same fiscal year, there were 36 IRS agents who devoted 50 percent or more of their time at work to union activities instead of performing official duties. For the first quarter of fiscal year 2015, the IRS reported 113,294 hours of union time.

The report says that at 15 minutes per call, these employee slots could have fielded 2.5 million taxpayer inquiries. But then the union would have to pay its own employees, and we can’t have that.

The report also notes that the IRS hasn’t exactly shown it would make good use of additional funds, citing its expensive internal system implementation failures. It also slams the IRS for ending the pilot private collection program, while failing to pursue the collections targeted under the pilot program. Of course, the Treasury Employee Union would rather have the work not done at all than to have it done by non-union help.

I agree with Christopher Bergin in attributing the mess to Mr. Koskinen:

Almost from the first day on the job, his reaction to congressional budget cuts has been to deflect responsibility elsewhere. His appearances before Congress have a “who do you think you are” edge to them. And this tax filing season, he upped the ante.

His new strategy went something like this: “You want to cut my budget, fine — then I’ll show you what it will cost.”

He began cutting back on taxpayer service and tax law enforcement,

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

claiming that the IRS lacks sufficient funds to do its job. Never mind that its annual budget is about $11 billion. Then Koskinen started telling his employees the country must get used to the IRS doing “less with less.” That language is code for “taxpayers are going to suffer and Congress will get the blame.”

He then doubled down on the rhetoric by labeling budget cuts a “tax cut for tax cheats.” Personally, I think that remark went too far. It resembles a temper tantrum — or worse.

And you know what? The commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t get to throw a public temper tantrum. It’s simply not a part of the job description.

As long as the IRS can afford to keep a battalion of union operatives on its payroll, I’ll remain unconvinced that it really needs a bigger budget. I’m convinced that until Mr. Koskinen resigns, there is no hope for the agency.

Somewhat related: Russ Fox, Don’t Call Us Continues. “If anyone thinks the IRS’s budget will be increased for next year, they’re dreaming.”

The TaxProf has a roundup of coverage.


What’s “green” about green energy subsidies. An Indiana man pleads guilty to taking part in a conspiracy to scam the biofuel subsidy system. Prosecutors said the scam raked in over $100 million in refundable biodiesel production credits.

Of course, scams are bad, but the real scandal of the biofuel subsidies is what is legal.


William Perez, Tax Incentives for Alternative Energy Systems


Jason Dinesen, Tax Season Recap 2015: What a Strange Season, Part 2 (Trends I Noticed)

Peter Reilly, Detective’s Vacation And Sick Time Not Excluded From Taxable Income

Robert Wood, What To Do When IRS Agents Call On You. “This may sound paranoid, but the ramifications of getting flustered and running at the mouth can be extreme.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 714.




Iowa rural broadband bill advances. O. Kay Henderson reports:

The Iowa House has passed a bill that would set up a state-run grant program to expand broadband access in Iowa, although no state money is committed and the program will only get going if the state gets federal tax dollars for it. The bill would set up a new, 10-year-long property tax exemption for companies that extend high-speed broadband service in “unserved or underserved areas” of the state.

Of course. How can you do anything without a tax bill? This item in the article strikes me:

Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, said the bill will hopefully address the “inconsistencies” in broadband speeds.

“I live in a part of Mitchell County where I actually get better connectivity to my barn than I get here at the state capitol,” Byrnes said.

Of course, the state capitol is in the most urban part of the state, which is also a rising tech corridor. If you can get better broadband in a Mitchell County barn, I have doubts about how serious the rural broadband problem really is.


TaxGrrrl, Accused Murderer Requests Police Escort To Cash Tax Refund. Jails apparently don’t cash refund checks.