Posts Tagged ‘John Koskinen’

Tax Roundup, 3/17/15: St. Patrick didn’t chase the taxes out of Ireland.

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150317-1aTax luck of the Irish. While America celebrates Irish heritage by today by drinking far too much bad dyed beer, we’ll ponder the sober look taken by Kyle Pomerleau at the Irish tax system (my emphasis):

It may be surprising to Americans to hear that Ireland has pretty high taxes. We usually hear about Ireland’s tax system in the context of its corporate income tax rate, which sits a low 12.5 percent, half the average rate of the OECD. We are led to believe that Ireland is a low-tax country in general.

In reality, Ireland’s tax code has some of the highest marginal tax rates, especially on income, in the OECD.

Ireland’s top marginal individual income tax rate is 40 percent on individuals with incomes over 33,800 EUR ($36,236).  On top of that, individuals need to pay payroll taxes of 4 percent on wages and other compensation. Ireland also has “Universal Social Charge,” which tops out at 8 percent (11 percent for self-employed individuals).

Altogether, the top marginal tax rate in Ireland is 52 percent. The average top marginal income tax rate (plus employee-side payroll taxes) is 46 percent in the OECD. Not only is this rate high, it applies at a relatively low level of income ($40,174).

It’s enough to make me glad great-great-great Grandpa took off for North America in the 1840s.*

The tax rate is also high on investment income. Capital gains are taxed at 33 percent, which is significantly higher than the OECD average of about 18.4 percent. Dividends are taxed at ordinary income tax rates of 40 percent plus the 8 percent Universal Social Charge (48 percent).

The US top marginal rate, excluding state taxes, is about 44.588%, considering phase-outs and the Obamacare 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax, but it doesn’t kick in until taxable income reaches $406,750 for single filers and $457,600 on joint returns. Our fully-loaded top capital gain and dividend rate is 19.25%. So if you must drink something, drink to having a less awful top marginal rate than Ireland.

*OK, technically he came from County Tyrone, which is in the U.K., not the Republic of Ireland.

 

daydrinkersMaria Koklanaris reports on a study by the left-side policy shop Good Jobs First (Tax Analysts $link):

There are 11 companies listed in both the top 50 state and local subsidy recipients and the top 50 federal subsidy recipients. They are Boeing, The Dow Chemical Co., Ford Motor Co., General Electric, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., NRG Energy Inc., Sempra Energy, SolarCity, and United Technologies.

Also, six companies on the top 50 state list are on the list of the top 50 recipients of federal loans, loan guarantees, and bailout assistance — Boeing, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase. Five companies — Boeing, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Motors, and JPMorgan Chase — are on all three lists.

All companies you just feel good about when you pay extra taxes, so they can pay less. Especially GE and JPMorgan Chase.

 

Christopher Bergin, The IRS Doubles Down on Secrecy (Tax Analysts Blog):

Faced with blistering criticism over how it handled exemption applications, accusations that it wrongly – and, perhaps, even criminally – withheld e-mails from lawmakers and the public, and rising concerns that it is the most secretive government agency we have, what is the Internal Revenue Service’s response?

To become even less transparent. As the saying goes: You can’t make this stuff up.

I think the evidence can lead to only two conclusions about the current IRS commissioner: either he is the most tone-deaf and socially-unskilled administrator in the Federal government, or he wants to make the IRS as unaccountable as possible.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 677. IRS, fighting transparency tooth and nail.

 

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.

Peter Reilly, Don’t Sic IRS On Racist Frat Boys. “Nobody ever suggests that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Department of Education should pitch in and help collect taxes, but for some reason the IRS is seen as the Swiss army knife of social policy, ready to further shred its tattered reputation addressing issues that stump other institutions.”

 

 

William Perez, Need to File a Year 2011 Tax Return? Deadlines and Resources

Kay Bell, Filing tips for the 2015 tax deadline that’s just a month away

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): I Is For Insolvency. And Illinois, but that’s the same thing.

Robert Wood, Of Obamacare’s Many Taxes, What Hurts Most. So many choices.

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for week ending 02/27/15 (Procedurally Taxing). A roundup of developments in the tax procedure world.

Russ Fox begins his last part of tax season hibernation. Take care of yourself and your clients, Russ. I’ve been tempted to hibernate myself, but since now is when people are most interested in this stuff, I keep at it.

 

Picture by Dan Kristan

Picture of Irish countryside by Dan Kristan

 

Richard Auxier, Can Rube Goldberg Save the Highway Trust Fund? (TaxVox). “In principle, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is simple. Drivers pay a federal gas tax when they purchase fuel, the revenue goes to the HTF, and the federal government sends the dollars to states and local governments for highway and transit programs. But in practice the system is a mess and a new proposal by a road builder trade group shows just how tangled this web has become.”

News from the Profession. Accountants Share Their Dreams. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/3/15: ‘Tens of thousands’ of returns delayed by ACA. Also: Feds, Iowa provide partial deadline relief for farmers.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson

Tax season is saved! Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the IRS is sitting on “tens of thousands” of returns affected by the Obamacare advance premium tax credit:

Speaking March 2 in Washington at an American Payroll Association event sponsored by Bloomberg BNA, Olson said the returns have been “held for quite a long time, since the beginning of the filing season,” because the IRS is still waiting for matching data from state health insurance exchanges. The returns are being held in suspense and the IRS has instructed its employees not to inform taxpayers why their return is being suspended when the taxpayer contacts the Service, she said.

According to Olson, the Taxpayer Advocate Service will not follow the IRS’s instructions to remain silent on the issue because taxpayers have the right to be informed under the taxpayer bill of rights.

More of Commissioner Koskinen’s famous committment to transparency and disclosure. But all is well, right?

Olson said her office has received days of training on the ACA so her employees are prepared when these cases come in. “I think this is one of the most complicated provisions that we’ve ever inserted into the Internal Revenue Code” and I’m “astonished at the complexity of it,” she said.

“I’m very concerned about the filing season,” Olson said, adding that the federal exchange has already sent erroneous reporting information to 800,000 taxpayers.

Just yesterday the IRS, on the due date for farmer and fisherman returns where no estimated tax was paid, waived estimated tax penalties for such taxpayers where they are still waiting on 1095-A forms from their healthcare exchange. This follows the universal waiver of late payment penalties for amounts owed on the advance premium credit, the waiver of ACA penalties on health insurance premium reimbursement plans, and the last-minute waiver of Form 3115 requirements for smaller businesses under the repair regs. It’s an overwhelmed IRS desperately patching up a failing tax season with duct tape and wire.

 

binFeds extend 1040 deadline to April 15 for farmers awaiting form 1095-A; Iowa extends deadline to April 15 for all farmersFarmers are eligible for a special deal that lets them not pay estimated taxes, as long as they file and pay the balance due by March 1. The deadline was yesterday because March 1 was on a Sunday this year.  As we reported yesterday, the IRS issued a last-minute waiver of the deadline for farmers still awaiting their Form 1095-A from an ACA exchange.

Yesterday Iowa followed suit. The Iowa Department of Revenue sent this to practitioners on its email list (I can’t find a link on the Department website; the emphasis is mine):

The Iowa Department of Revenue has granted an extension to all farmers and commercial fishers to file 2014 Iowa individual income tax returns without underpayment of estimated tax penalty.

If at least 2/3 of their income is from farming or commercial fishing, taxpayers may avoid penalty for underpayment of 2014 estimated tax in one of the following ways:

(1) Pay the estimated tax in one payment on or before January 15, 2015, and file the Iowa income tax return by April 30, or

(2) File the Iowa income tax return and pay the tax due in full on or before March 2, 2015.

The issuance of corrected premium tax credit forms (Form 1095-A) from the Health Insurance Marketplace may affect the ability of many farmers and fishers to file and pay their taxes by the March 2 deadline.

Therefore, any farmers or fishers who miss the March 2 deadline will not be subject to the underpayment of estimated tax penalty if they file and pay their Iowa taxes by April 15, 2015.

The Iowa relief is not limited to farmers awaiting a 1095-A. The slightly tricky thing: non-farmer Iowa 1040s are due April 30, but the new farmer deadline is April 15. Be careful out there.

Related: Paul Neiffer, IRS Has Impeccable Timing (As Usual)

 

 

W2All is well.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) Additional Medicare Tax Reporting Is Causing Problems. It quotes Paul Carlino, an IRS branch chief:

Carlino explained that reporting amounts in Form W-2 box 6 that do not equal the 1.45 percent tax on wages has caused confusion among taxpayers, some of whom seek refunds believing their employer withheld an incorrect amount of tax.

Carlino said that another problem is taxpayers who are not having the additional Medicare tax withheld. 

The Additional Medicare Tax is unique among federal payroll taxes in that it is computed at separate rates for married and single filers, requiring a reconciliation on the 1040. That can result in underwithholding.

 

Russ Fox, Don’t Call Us:

When I called today I reached the normal recording, but every time I attempted to obtain help for an individual not in collections (that’s one of the options when calling the PPS) all I got was, “Due to extremely high call volumes that option is not available now. Please try your call again later.”

Well, the IRS has other priorities than your silly tax return, peasant.

 

TaxGrrrl, Tax Checks Go Up In Flames After Mail Truck Burns. Sums up this tax season.

Robert Wood, Obama Immigration Fix: 4M Illegals Who Never Paid U.S. Tax, Get 3 Years Of Tax Refunds. Only about 25% of EITC payments are made improperly. What could possibly go wrong?

William Perez, Moving Expenses Can Be Tax-Deductible

Kay Bell, Jeb Bush reportedly won’t sign no-tax pledge

Soon, my precious, soon.

Soon, my precious, soon.

Peter Reilly, Lois Lerner Out From Under Freedom Path Lawsuit For Now

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 663, quoting James Taranto from the Wall Street Journal: “So the IRS admittedly denied tax-exempt status improperly to at least 176 groups, tried to apply extralegal restrictions to others, and is still delaying approval for those groups that have gone to court in an effort to vindicate their rights.”

 

Alan Cole, How to Dismantle an Ugly IRS Worksheet (Tax Policy Blog):

The difficulty of the worksheet is not the fault of the IRS. If anything, the IRS put a very difficult concept into a one-page worksheet. But even with the worksheet’s good design, it’s still 27 lines. That’s because the underlying tax code it deals with is not elegantly designed.

The post goes on to explain how our system of taxing corporation income twice leads to this complexity.

 

Martin Sullivan, High Hopes for Highway Funding: A Bridge to Nowhere (Tax Analysts Blog). “Congress is talking a lot about long-term solutions to our infrastructure funding problem, but will likely only do another short-term patch.”

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Renu Zaretsky asks Can Expectations Be Too Low? In today’s TaxVox headline roundup. (No, by the way.). The post addresses the low IRS audit rate for businesses, the IRS plan to issue retroactive earned income tax credit to beneficiaries of the executive amnesty for illegal immigrants, and the upcoming Supreme Court arguments in King v. Burwell on whether the IRS exceeded its authority in granting ACA credits in states that didn’t set up exchanges under the act. 

 

Career Corner, Here Are Some Coded Phrases You Will Hear During Busy Season (Andrew Argue, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/12/15: The Federal $21 billion thief subsidy; the Iowa $37 million corporation subsidy.

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Lincoln

Accounting Today visitors: click here for the post on the updated auto depreciation limits.

Happy Lincoln’s Birthday. President Lincoln signed the first U.S. income tax into law in August, 1861, to cope with costs of the Civil War and the loss of income from customs collections in the rebellious states.  Wikipedia says the tax was initially 3% on income over an $800 exemption. Right away they started tinkering, and adding expiring provisions:

The income tax provision (Sections 49, 50 and 51) was repealed by the Revenue Act of 1862. (See Sec.89, which replaced the flat rate with a progressive scale of 3% on annual incomes beyond $600 ($12,742 in 2009 dollars) and 5% on incomes above $10,000 ($212,369 in 2009 dollars) or those living outside the U.S., and perhaps more significantly it was explicitly temporary, specifying termination of income tax in “the year eighteen hundred and sixty-six“).

The rates were increased again in 1864 to a top rate of 10%, but it actually was allowed to expire after the end of the war.

For some reason, this early version of the income tax isn’t a big topic in history books. Something else must have been going on then.

 

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

April 15, the thieves holiday Tax-refund fraud to hit $21 billion, and there’s little the IRS can do (CNBC):

Tax-refund fraud is expected to soar again this tax season, and hit a whopping $21 billion by 2016, from just $6.5 billion two years ago, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

And the problem—which the agency admits is growing quickly—is compounded by an outdated fraud-detection system that has trouble identifying many attempts to trick it.

$21 billion. The entire tax system of the state of Iowa raises maybe $8 billion, and the IRS issues $21 billion annually to thieves. Not counting earned income credit fraud, of course.

I’m no IT expert, but saying the IRS is helpless sounds like a cop-out. Even with obsolete technology, the IRS has been slow to stop obvious fraud, such as multiple (say, hundreds of) refunds going to a single bank account. The agency allowed this crisis to spin out of control years ago. Practitioners certainly knew about it during Doug Shulman’s execrable term as IRS commissioner, but he spent his efforts trying to regulate practitioners and harass the Tea Party, while grossly failing at the more basic duty of not wiring money to theives. Commissioner Koskinen obviously hasn’t solved the problem. I think it’s fair to conclude that they just haven’t considered it their biggest problem.

This should be the highest IRS priority, certainly more so than the “voluntary” preparer program. It should also be the highest oversight priority of the tax writing committees in Congress, who should be able to find a way to find the necessary funding in a way that keeps the Commissioner from diverting it to pet projects. Of course, the history of IRS technology upgrades isn’t very encouraging.

It’s possible that the solution will also require taxpayers to wait longer for refunds. It takes a lot longer to get a refund when your identity is stolen anyway, so it’s probably worth taking a little more time. But when technology exists to enable the credit card company to call me when my wife is buying an expensive dress in Chicago, the IRS ought to be able to notice someone like Rashia Wilson before she fills her purse with Benjamins.

Related: TurboTax Fraud May Impact Federal Returns Too, FBI Investigating (Robert Wood)

 

Iowa’s $37 million corporate subsidy programNot everybody knows that the State of Iowa mails subsidy checks to business taxpayers, including $11.7 million just to one. Iowa’s research credit is “refundable,” which means once it wipes out your Iowa tax, the state sends you a check for any remaining credit.

The total 2014 Iowa research credits claimed was $56,918,030 for 2014, according to the newly-issued Iowa Research Activities Tax Credit Annual Report for 2014. (Hat tip: Iowa Fiscal Partnership). Sixteen companies claimed $42 million of the credit, according to the report:

RAC2014

I know everybody thinks they have earned whatever cash they have coming from the state, and I’m not shy about claiming refundable credits for my clients. When the state offers you cash, you’d be foolish not to take it. Still, there’s no way this makes any sense from a tax policy perspective.  The money sent to a few taxpayers should be used to lower rates for everyone, or to help eliminate the futile Iowa corporation income tax.

 

William Perez, Last Year’s State Refund Might be Taxed on Your Federal Return

TaxGrrrl, IRS Releases Latest Version Of Its Mobile App – And Something’s Missing. Service!

Russ Fox, A Bipartisan Tax Bill? I’ll Drink to That! “It’s to end age discrimination against bourbon and whiskey.”

Peter Reilly, Lois Lerner’s Old IRS Team Looking Anti-tech. “…now I’m thinking there might be a full blown Luddite cult operating in there.”

Jason Dinesen, Tips For Financing a Small Business: Part 1 of 5 — There’s Going to Be Paperwork, Deal With It

Kay Bell, Got your tax refund yet? IRS issued 7.6 million in January

 

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Principal Park, home of the Iowa Cubs. About 2 months until opening day!

 

Andrew Lundeen, Proposed Tax Changes in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget (Tax Policy Blog). “In total, the plan includes $2.4 trillion in proposed tax increases offset by $713 billion in new credits, deductions, and other offsets, for a total tax increase of nearly $1.7 trillion over the next ten years.”

Cara Griffith, Series LLCs: The Next Generation of Passthrough Entities? (Tax Analysts Blog). I think they will continue to be the wave of the future, as they have been for years now.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 644

 

Career Corner. Interruptions at the Office: Good or Bad? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). Bad, unless cookies are implicated.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/5/2015: Conformity bill passes Iowa Senate with Sec. 179, but without Bonus. And: buy Maserati, or pay tax?

Thursday, February 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Iowa Senate passes conformity bill. The Iowa Senate sent the 2015 “code conformity” bill (SF 126) to the House yesterday on a 49-0 vote. The bill, conforms Iowa’s 2014 tax law to reflect December’s “extender” legislation, including the $500,000 “Section 179” deduction, but not including bonus depreciation.

The House could vote on the bill as early as today, though it’s not on this morning’s House debate calendar. Still, with the bill out of the Senate, it seems like a sure thing, even if it has to wait until next week.

ice truck

 

There may have been a flaw in the planThe former owner of Arrow Trucking Company pleaded guilty yesterday to tax charges connected with the 2010 failure of the company.

The “information” containing the charges outlines an energetic looting of the company that brought in a host of helpers — and potential informants. For example:

In about September 2009, a conspirator asked an Arrow Trucking Company employee to have a telephonic communication with a representative of Transportation Alliance Bank with respect to an audit and to falsely verify the authenticity of fraudulent invoices.

Well, that’s one witness right there. And here’s another.

In about December 2009, a conspirator asked an Arrow Trucking Company employee to have a telephonic communication with a representative of Transportation Alliance Bank with respect to an audit and to falsely verify the authenticity of fraudulent invoices.

Well, no harm no foul — they had pretty much made sure the IRS would catch up with them, if the information is to be believed. They failed to file the federal Form 941 payroll tax returns for 2009, or to remit the payroll taxes for those quarters. That’s a sure way to attract IRS attention. And once the IRS started sniffing around, they left a lot of clues for the IRS in the alternative uses they made of the withheld taxes. These other things included payment of $20,000 in company funds to an ex-wife. But that didn’t mean the next ex was slighted:

During the year 2009, Arrow Trucking Company funds were used to make payments to The Events Company for a conspirators wedding.

They should have been able to leave the wedding in style:

During 2009, Arrow Trucking Company Funds were used to make payments related to a Bentley automobile for the benefit of a conspirator.

Or maybe, honey, we want something a little sportier:

During 2009, Arrow Trucking Company Funds were used to make payments related to a Maserati automobile for the benefit of a conspirator.

It all seems like fun and games, but that fun led to this:

In December 2009, the carrier left hundreds of its drivers stranded on highways across the United States after a Utah bank voided company fuel cards.

Between halting payroll tax returns, using company funds for lavish toys, and getting employees to lie for them, they pretty much made sure the feds would visit, belt and suspenders. The IRS audit program for businesses is designed to find such things, but it sounds like they left a pretty easy trail to follow.

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Peter Reilly, Mr. Koskinen’s Last Chance To End The Form 3115 Madness:

Here is the crisis.  Some very smart people with a lot of influence in the tax industry are telling all the rest of us the following story.  You know those new regulations are telling you to change your accounting methods.  Even if you look at what you’ve done over the years and decide that there is no income or expense to be picked up it is still an accounting method change.  Given all the new concepts you could not possibly have been using those methods.  So if your client has any sort of a trade or business, there are one or more Forms 3115 that have to be filed. 

If he was as keen on preserving limited IRS resources as he keeps telling Congress, he would announce that taxpayers could adopt the new accounting methods without a 3115 by attaching an election to their return, if they prefer it that way. That would save forests, and enormous amounts of IRS storage space.  But if he were serious about maximizing agency resources, he also wouldn’t allow 200 IRS employees to collect government checks for union work, and he wouldn’t divert IRS resources into a “voluntary” preparer regulation scheme.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 637. This edition links to a Bloomberg piece about the Commissioner’s recent Senate testimony: IRS Chief: I Don’t Want to Be Seen As Influencing 2016. I take that as meaning he wouldn’t mind influencing  the elections; he just doesn’t want to be seen doing so.

 

Robert Wood, Coming Soon: No Travel Or Passport If You Owe IRS. What could go wrong?

 

Kay Bell, Seven tax extenders approved by Ways & Means Committee. Similar to the permanent extenders that passed the house and died last year, they can be seen as a counter to the President’s tax proposals in his budget.

Robert Goulder, Smart Tax Reform: Parity for Passthroughs (Tax Analysts Blog):

An obvious difficulty in business-only tax reform is devising a means to level the playing field between corporate and noncorporate entities. The overwhelming majority of commercial enterprises in the United States (roughly 90 percent) are not organized as corporations. They take alternate forms such as S corporations, partnerships, LLCs, or sole proprietorships. The primary difference, of course, is the lack of entity-level taxation for noncorporate businesses.

Unless you hate pass-throughs, as the administration seems to.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, The President Proposes Changing the International Tax System for Corporations (Tax Policy Blog)

 

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Cara Griffith, Texas Comptroller to Look to Legislature for Guidance on Taxing Aircraft (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tracy Gordon, A Fuller Accounting of How State and Local Governments Fared in the Great Recession (TaxVox).

 

News from the Profession. Let’s Catch This PwC Partner Up on the Fun Stuff She Missed Over the Last 20 Years (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/14/15: Education credits to delay refunds? And: it’s not volunteering when you’re paid.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Kristy Maitre

Kristy Maitre

If your tax refund this year seems to take forever to arrive, education credits might be involved. The invaluable Kristy Maitre, former IRS Stakeholder Liaison and now with the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, has leaned that the IRS may delay refunds on returns claiming the “American Opportunity Credit.” From an e-mail she has distributed:

If your client is getting the American Opportunity Credit this year you need to be aware of a possible “refund hold” on the credit to verify attendance at the college. At this time we “assume” only that part of the refund will be held and the other part of refund not related to the American Opportunity Credit will be released.

At this time we are not sure who this will impact, IRS appears to want to keep it a BIG secret. Our concern is that the tax preparer will be blamed for the delay of the refund and overall it would make the preparer look bad as well as having to deal with an upset client due to the issue. I was able to find some criteria in a new IRM, but we need more information from IRS.

Your client should be  informed by IRS of the reason the refund is being held and that once the 1098-T from the accredited institution is verified the refund will be released,  or they will receive a Letter 4800C to inform them if further documentation is required to allow the education credit…

The AOTC is a “refundable” credit; if the credit exceeds the tax computed, the IRS will pay you the excess. Given the high incidence of refund fraud involving refundable credits like the AOTC, it’s understandable that the IRS would want to verify eligibility before issuing a refund.

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.

Unfortunately, this verification will come from matching 1098-Ts issued by colleges and universities. These forms, which purport to show tuition paid, are notoriously unreliable. The inevitable matching errors will leave some taxpayers trying to get their refunds fixed well into the summer.

This highlights the unwisdom of using the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. It’s hard enough to get taxable income right. Congress also assigns IRS education policy, health care, social welfare, industrial policy, campaign finance regulation, you name it. Like with the Swiss Army Knife, you can only add so many functions before you make it bad at being a knife.

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Commissioner Koskinen wants us to blame cuts in his budget for tax refund delays. In a memo to IRS employees, he outlines the dire effects of the cuts in his agency budget, including:

Delays in refunds for some taxpayers. People who file paper tax returns could wait an extra week — or possibly longer — to see their refund. Taxpayers with errors or questions on their returns that require additional manual review will also face delays.

It’s foolish of Congress to pile work onto the IRS and then cut its budget. That said, Mr. Koskinen has brought a lot of this on himself with his combative and tone-deaf response to the Tea Party scandal.

Also, there’s a bit of the Washington Monument Strategy in his memo, by making cuts in areas that inflict pain on taxpayers. I would be more convinced that the IRS is really committed to making taxpayer service a priority if his list of budget adjustments included sending to the field, or laying off, the hundreds of full-time IRS employees who do only union work. He would be more convincing if he said the “voluntary” preparer regulation initiative was on ice until funding improves. Instead, the Commissioner puts the National Treasury Employees Union and his own power grab ahead of processing refunds.

 

No Walnut STVolunteering. I don’t think that word means what you think it means. From Governor Branstad’s 2015 Condition of the State address:

 In addition, I am offering legislation creating the Student Debt Reorganization Tax Credit. This tax credit allows individuals to volunteer for worthy causes within Iowa’s communities and in exchange have contributions made toward their student debt.

There is so much wrong with this, beyond the idea that it’s “volunteering” when you get paid for it. It’s one more random addition to an already ridiculous mishmash of distortive and unwise education subsidies. It’s one more incentive for students to take on debt they can’t otherwise afford. And it misplaces human capital from productive for-profit enterprise to the black hole of the government and non-profit sector.

Iowa Form 148 already lists 32 different tax credits. The Governor thinks adding some more is the solution to Iowa’s problems. I think the credits are a big part of the problem, as they help make the Iowa tax law the complex high-rate mess that it is.

 

William Perez, How Soon Can We Begin Filing Tax Returns?

Kay Bell, Reducing your 2014 tax bill using exemptions, deductions

Jason Dinesen, H&R Block Doesn’t Really Have ACA “Specialists” On Staff. A bold charge, but a convincing one.

Peter Reilly, Can Walgreen Stance On Property Tax Hurt Income Tax Position Of 1031 Investors? Thoughts on getting too cute in analyzing the value of a real estate interest.

Leslie Book, Can IRS Change Taxpayers from Procrastinators to Payors By Drafting Letters that Make Taxpayers Feel Bad? (Procedurally Taxing). Usually people feel bad when they get a letter that says “notice of levy,” but that’s not what he’s talking about.

Robert Wood, Citizenship Renunciation Fee Hiked 422%, And You Can’t Come Back

Jack Townsend, Another UBS Depositor Sentence; Consideration of the Role of Potential Deportation

 

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David Brunori, Using the Poor for Fixing the Roads (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Michigan Legislature passed a bill that would significantly increase the state’s earned income tax credit. Some 800,000 Michigan families will see tax relief. I think that is a good thing. But the change won’t go into effect unless voters approve a sales tax increase from 6 percent to 7 percent.

I don’t share David’s enthusiasm for the EITC, but I do appreciate the absurdity of the sales tax link.

Kyle Pomerleau, Representative Van Hollen Releases New $1.2 Trillion Tax Plan.  “Unfortunately, most of Representative Van Hollen’s tax plan would move the U.S. further away from having a competitive, modern tax code.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 615. This installment covers a Tea Party group that has been waiting five years for Lois Lerner’s old office to approve their exemption application.

 

Career Corner. Age and accounting as a second career (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/2/14: Dead provisions to arise for just a few weeks? And: Shocker! IRS Commissioner wants more $$$

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

lazarus risingCongress to let the Lazarus provisions make it to the end of 2014? The White House’s threat to veto the Senate’s deal to permanently extend some of the perennially expiring tax provisions has killed that proposal. Now it looks like Congress will take up a bill to extend the provisions, which expired at the end of 2013, through the end of this year. That means we get to do this all over again next year. The Hill reports:

The vote on a short-term extension, expected as soon as this week, would come after a veto threat from President Obama derailed a developing $400 billion deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) that would have extended some expired tax breaks indefinitely, as well as others for two years.

Republicans on both side of the Capitol suggested the move showed that a one-year deal was the only proposal with a chance of becoming law.

The article says “practically all” of the provisions that expired at the end of 2013 will be included. The Lazarus provisions that will come back to life include, among many others:

– A $500,000 Section 179 deduction for asset purchases that would otherwise be capitalized and depreciated.

– 50% “bonus depreciation”

– The research credit

– The five-year built-in gain period.

– The allowance of tax-free distributions from IRAs to charities.

The full text of the bill is available here: (HR 5771)

So we will get a 2014 tax law just as 2014 comes to an end. Because there is no election, there is hope that we won’t have to wait until December 2015 to know what the tax law is for 2015. Not exactly a shining moment in tax policy.

The bill also includes technical corrections for tax bills going back to 2004.

Related:

How the White House torpedoed Harry Reid’s tax deal (The Hill)

The Politics and Policy of Tax Extenders (Len Burman, TaxVox). “In theory, allowing tax provisions to expire periodically could precipitate a careful reexamination of the effectiveness of each program in light of our fiscal situation and priorities. In practice, the expiration of popular temporary provisions such as the R&E credit creates a vehicle for all sorts of budget-busting mischief.”

 

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.

TaxGrrrl has posted another installment of her interview with IRS Commissioner KoskinenYou may not be astounded to hear that he wants more money:

With spending cuts already taking a toll on taxpayer services, the agency is bracing itself for another tough season. In fact, Koskinen cites funding the IRS as his biggest challenge since taking office last December.

“It’s a serious problem for us,” he says. “I don’t know who got our $500 million but I’ll bet they’re not gonna give you back the $2-3 billion we would have if we had it.”

Given that the Congress has used the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, with responsibilities including attempting to run the broken Obamacare machine, it’s not unreasonable to think IRS has increased needs for funds.

That said, the Commissioner has nobody to blame but himself. His tone-deaf and confrontational tone with Republicans investigating the political abuse of the Exempt Organizations function has earned him no friends in the party that controls the purse strings. The sudden appearance of 30,000 Lois Lerner e-mails that he insisted could not be recovered killed any credibility he had left. Only a new commissioner has any hope of turning that around.

The Commissioner also says he has cut spending to the bone:

The agency is already down 3,000 employees last year. Another 2,000-3,000 are on their way out by the end of this year. The current rate of replacement is one new employee for every five employees who leave… 
What gets cut next? The Commissioner is clear that it will be more personnel. That is, he noted, all that’s left.

Well, maybe. I’d be more convinced of that if he decided there just wasn’t enough cash lying around for his “voluntary” tax preparer initiative — a blatant attempt to get around the Loving decision shutting down mandatory preparer regulation.

Related: Robert Wood, Horrible Bosses, IRS EditionPeter Reilly, Restoring Trust In IRS Is A National Imperative

 

buzz20141017Robert D. Flach has posted his fresh Tuesday Buzz, including a link to his post at The Tax Professional on tax preparer civil disobedience in ACA enforcement. I will have more to say about this topic later this week.

William Perez explains Itemized Tax Deductions

Russ Fox, Mundane Tax Fraud Downs Friend of Cicero Town President

Keith Fogg, Appeals Fumbles CDP Case and Resulting Resolution Demonstrates Power of Installment Agreement (Procedurally Taxing)

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Enrolled Agents

Jack Townsend, More on Willfulness. You can’t break the law if you aren’t trying.

Kay Bell, December to-do list: shopping, family visits and tax tasks

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 572

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, Less Than One Percent of Businesses Employ Half of the Private Sector Workforce (Tax Policy Blog). “On the other hand, while only 0.4 percent of all firms have over 500 employees, this small group of businesses employs 50.6 percent of the nation’s private sector workforce, with most of those employees working for C corporations.”

News from the Profession. This Timesheet-Addicted Managing Partner Will Make You Grateful Not to Work For Him (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). A charming threat of dismissal issued the day before Thanksgiving will always make you thankful for an updated resume.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/27/14: IRS visits Arnolds Park restaurant, tips itself.

Monday, October 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120703-2IRS Commissioner Koskinen likes to say there is nothing wrong with the IRS that a bigger budget can’t cure. A story out of Arnolds Park, Iowa might cause one to question that. The New York Times reports:

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

Banks are required to report “suspicious” deposits under $10,000 because they might be done to evade a required IRS filing. As they get in trouble for non-reporting, they are likely to overreport. And in these cases, that’s all the IRS required before stealing the cash. The victims have legal recourse, but it requires them to sue the federal government, owner of the largest law firm in the world; legal bills routinely run into tens of thousands of dollars.

So, without any evidence, or even suspicion, of a crime, the IRS uses some of its allegedly precious and constrained enforcement resources to steal money from a little Iowa restaurant. The story cites other cash seizure nightmares. One involved an Army sergeant saving for his daughters’ education. Others involved legitimate but cash-intensive businesses.

If this is what the IRS accomplishes with insufficient resources, imagine how much they could steal with full funding.

(via Instapundit)

Related:

Tax Justice Blog,  New Movie Aims to Scare Public by Depicting IRS as Jack-Booted Thugs. Where would anybody get that idea?

Dan Mitchell, Another Example of Government Thuggery – and another Reason Why Decent and Moral People Are Libertarians

Russ Fox, SARs Leading to Forfeiture: The IRS Oversteps

 

20141027-2Jason Dinesen, How Non-Residents or Part-Year Residents Report Federal Refunds on Iowa Tax Returns. One more complication from Iowa’s deduction for federal taxes.

Robert D. Flach, DON’T TRY TO BUY A HOUSE OR CONDO WITH ONLY 5% DOWN!. And don’t try to subsidize that either.

William Perez, Self-Employed Retirement Plans, “If you have self-employment income, then you can take a tax deduction for contributions you make to a SEP, SIMPLE, or a solo 401(k) retirement plan.”

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #9-Tax Court Further Muddies The ‘Dealer Versus Investor’ Issue

 

TaxGrrrl, Fundraising Campaign Ends For ‘Ebola Free’ Nurse, Donors Encouraged To Contribute To Charity

Jana Luttenegger, 2015 Retirement Plan Limits Announced (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Paul Neiffer, 2015 Social Security Wage Base Increases to $118,500

Kay Bell, 6 year-end tax tips for small businesses

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions (Procedurally Taxing). Recent cases on whistleblowers, interest abatement, and art valuation.

 

 

Andrew Mitchel, 2014 Third Quarter Published Expatriates – Third Highest Ever. FATCA and the IRS holy war on Americans abroad takes its toll.

20141027-1

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 536

 

David Brunori on the inherently corrupt nature of corporate welfare tax incentives, like those so popular with Iowa politicians ($link):

I have no doubt there are more instances of companies contributing to politicians and getting economic development payouts. I’m not naïve. Corporations donate money to governors and lawmakers and expect a return on their investment. While the governors cited above were Republican, corporations and business interests don’t discriminate. Indeed, Lockheed Martin donated lots of money to Democratic governors.

We likely won’t find a smoking gun e-mail reading, “Dear Governor, your check is in the mail, please process my multimillion-dollar handout. Your friend, CEO.” Politicians and business leaders are too smart for that. But growing evidence of tax incentives being granted by politicians who receive money should give everyone pause. It’s unlikely to be a coincidence.

But, jobs! For the middlemen, fixers and lobbyists, anyway.

 

Joseph Henchman, Michigan Senate Advances Film Tax Credit Extension Bill (Tax Policy Blog). Because Detroit has no greater need than to give money to Hollywood.

 

News from the Profession. Meet the Guy Who Prefers Falafel Over PwC (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/24/14: IRS attorney says revolving door spins away billions. And: pass-through isn’t always small.

Friday, October 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130129-1Taxes are for the little people without connections. A sensational open letter to the top Treasury tax brass from an IRS attorney alleges that the agency routinely shuts off promising examinations of big well-connected taxpayers. From Raw Story (via the TaxProf):

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, IRS commissioner John A. Koskinen, and IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, Jane J. Kim, an attorney in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel in New York, accused IRS executives of “deliberately” facilitating multi-billion dollar tax giveaways. The letter, dated October 19, will add further pressure on the agency, which is under fire for allegedly targeting conservative and Tea Party groups.

The letter describes three cases where Ms. Kim says the IRS walked away from large well-founded assessments of big corporate taxpayers raised by whistleblowers. The story implicates the revolving door between big law and accounting firms and the top levels of the IRS as a key to the strange taxpayer friendliness.

Bill Henck, who has worked for over 26 years in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel, agreed. “The senior executives drive the train on all this and pal around with lobbyists,” he said. “Treasury was involved with both the Elmer’s Glue scam and the black liquor taxability issue. IRS executives look out for themselves, which usually means protecting corporate interests, since they hire lobbyists and are close to politicians.”

Backing up Henck’s concerns, the private sector lawyer and ex-IRS attorney explained that since 1998, IRS restructuring has focused on bringing in “outside people.” This led to the employment of an extra layer of executives who were previously “partners from big accounting firms.” Citing active IRS criminal agents, the ex-IRS attorney said: “Almost every large firm or corporation has a person inside the IRS. It’s a revolving door, with the top two or three management layers all from big accounting and law firms, and this is why they won’t work big billion-dollar cases criminally. Private bar attorneys are, in effect, controlling the IRS. It’s a type of corruption – that’s the word used by one IRS agent I’m in touch with whose case was shut down by higher ups without cause.”

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

That brings to mind Commissioner Koskinen’s view of the revolving door:

So I’ve always said the best testimonial to a good place to work is people are forever coming in and trying to steal your people. And so I would be delighted to have young people come here for two or three years and some of them get recruited away because they were so good and the training is so good, because the more of that that happens, the more people are going to stand in line to get here. And as I say, the experience is, because it would be a great place to work, is the capture rate would be terrific.

So the Commissioner thinks the revolving door is a good thing. That probably means Ms. Kim’s letter isn’t exactly going to trigger reforming zeal from Mr. Koskinen. And don’t expect that you can skip out on taxes without your own mole in the IRS, chump.

 

 

Robert D. Flach has your fresh Friday Buzz! Including depressing news that Congresscritters are going to wait until January 2015 to enact the tax laws for 2014.

Kay Bell, Some retirement plan contribution, AGI limits go up in 2015

Brett Bloom, Dismantling a Partnership: The IRS’s Toolbox (Tax Litigation Survey)

William Perez, How to Plan for, Minimize, and Report the Self-Employment Tax

TaxGrrrl, IRS Gets Big Win In Court As Judge Dismisses Tea Party Targeting Cases

Peter Reilly, National Organization For Marriage – No Recovery Of Attorney Fees In Case Against IRS

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 533

 

Kyle PomerleauPass-Through Businesses are not Always Small Businesses (Tax Policy Blog). This article is a good read for anyone who thinks increases in top rates don’t hurt business because most pass-throughs are small. While that may be true, there a lots of large ones:

Compared to c corporations, pass-through businesses are still much smaller on average. The same Census data shows that 1.6 percent of corporate businesses employ 100 or more employees and 0.36 percent employ 500 or more employees. 44 percent employ between 1 and 100 employees.

However, in absolute terms, there are about as many pass-through businesses with 500 or more employees than there are traditional c corporations. According to the Census, there are approximately 9573 pass-through businesses with 500 or more employees and 9434 c corporations with 500 or more employees.

20141024-1

Source: Tax Foundation

So when you increase taxes on high-income individuals, you are also increasing taxes on employers, which isn’t likely to do good things for employment.

 20141024-2

Robert Goulder, FATCA Envy Spreads Across Hemisphere (Tax Analysts Blog) Other countries just might want to poke into foreign accounts the way we do.

Howard Gleckman, Why Tax Lawyers and Tax Economists Can’t Communicate (TaxVox)

 Megan McArdle,  Can’t Afford a House? Don’t Buy One. Wise advice, but politicians think we should have a program to buy a pony for everyone.

Tax Justice Blog asks What Horrors Await Us in Congress after the Election?  And will they be better or worse horrors than the current bunch of congresscritters?

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/21/14: Gander gets sauced! And: IRS Commissioner’s prophecy of tax season doom.

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Gander, Meet Sauce. An alert reader points out something wonderful I had missed — a ruling awarding attorney fees and costs of $257,885 to the return preparers who successfully challenged the IRS preparer regulations. It’s a rare and welcome example of the IRS being held accountable for being unreasonable with taxpayers. And the court said the IRS was being unreasonable (all emphasis mine; some citations omitted):

In the present case, the reasonableness of the government’s position can be measured by the familiar guideposts of statutory interpretation: text, legislative history, statutory context, and congressional intent. In each of those dimensions, the interpretation of § 331(a)(1) advocated by the government was deficient. Indeed, on several key points, such as the proper meaning of the word “representatives,” the IRS offered no support whatever for its interpretation. The Court therefore finds that the government’s position was not substantially justified.

Losing the battle over whether its position was justified, the IRS dipped into its seemingly bottomless supply of chutzpah to challenge the amount:

As an initial salvo, the IRS argues that it was unreasonable and excessive for Plaintiffs to request compensation for over 1,700 hours spent advocating an interpretation of the statute that Plaintiffs themselves contend is obvious.

Our position was reasonable! OK, it was so unreasonable that even a cave man could litigate against it!

The Court declines the IRS’s request for across-the-board cuts to Plaintiffs’ award. The choice of a hatchet is particularly inappropriate here for several reasons. First and foremost, Plaintiffs prevailed at every stage of this litigation and achieved the entirety of their requested relief. Degree of success is “the most critical factor” in evaluating the reasonableness of a fee award.  Second, the IRS understates the complexity of this case. To be sure, this Court and the D.C. Circuit both concluded that Plaintiffs’ was the only reasonable interpretation of 31 U.S.C. § 330(a)(1). That conclusion, however, was apparent largely as a result of Plaintiffs’ thorough research and well-reasoned briefs.

Hah.

The only thing that would make it better would be if the IRS were assessed a penalty for taking a frivolous or negligent position. Maybe someday. But congratulations to the plaintiffs and the Institute for Justice for pulling off a legal end-zone dance.

 


Cite: Loving, Civil Action No. 12-385 (DC-District of Columbia)

And if you think that preparers can now do whatever they please, read Tax preparation business owner sentenced for tax fraud:

Charles Lee Harrison has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of willfully aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of a false tax return, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Lucy Cruz, special agent in charge of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). Harrison, the owner of a tax preparation business in Houston and Navasota, pleaded guilty June 16, 2014.

Today, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Harrison a 36-month sentence to be immediately followed by one year of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay $396,057 in restitution.

I’m confident Mr. Harrison feels quite regulated at the moment.

 

Oh, Goody. “So we have right now probably the most complicated filing season before us that we’ve had in a long time, if ever. ”

-IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in an interview with Tax Analysts October 17 ($link)

The Commissioner also had an interesting idea for large partnerships ($link):

Our position is the most significant thing we can do to break that bottleneck — and I think it’s supported by a lot of people in the private sector — would be to say we need to amend [the 1982 Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act] and say we can audit a partnership,” Koskinen said. “And when we make an adjustment to the tax quantities, the partnership will absorb that that year,” he said, adding that the reporting would take place on the partnership’s Schedule K-1 for that year and the adjustment would automatically flow through to the partners.

Koskinen added that even though that statutory change would effectively shift the tax liability from those who were partners in the year under audit (and who benefited from the improper tax position) to the current partners, “that happens with mutual funds all the time. . . . People are used to buying and selling investments, recognizing whatever the tax and investment situation is.

Maybe that makes some sense for large partnerships, but it would be horrible for small ones, as anybody buying a partnership interest would also be buying three open years of audit exposure.

 

buzz20140923It’s Tuesday. That means Robert D. Flach is Buzzing with links from around the tax world!

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Tax Filing Deadline is October 31: Claim Your $54 Credit Before Then

Paul Neiffer, Will ACA Require You To Include Health Insurance as Wages. Spoiler: no.

Matt McKinney, Can I force my Iowa corporation to buy my stock? (IowaBiz.com). A common question from minority owners of closely-held corporations.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #10 – IRA and Qualified Plan Rollovers Are More Treacherous Than You Realize.

TaxGrrrl, Suspected Nazi War Criminals Collected Millions In Social Security Benefits After Fleeing The U.S.

William Perez, Payroll Taxes: A Primer for Employers

Peter Reilly, Taxpayer Barred From Communicating With CPA Still Hit With Late File Penalty. Weird and unjust.

Kay Bell, Jury doesn’t buy ‘vow of poverty’ as excuse for not filing taxes. Well, this tax evasion conviction will help the defendant fulfill the vow.

 

 

20141021-1Martin Sullivan, A Double Bias Against Infrastructure (Tax Analysts Blog)  He doesn’t mention the biggest problem: When most of government spending is just transfers from some taxpayers to others, it squeezes out everything else.

Donald Marron, A “Normal” Budget Isn’t Really Normal (TaxVox): “From 1975 to today, the federal debt swelled from less than 25 percent of GDP to more than 70 percent. I don’t think many people would view that as normal. Or maybe it is normal, but not in a good way.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 530

 

News from the Profession. AICPA Seeks to Better Weed Out Losers, Misfits with Evolved CPA Exam (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). Good thing I passed the exam before this development.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/22/14: Lerner speaks, sort of. And: a federal tax amnesty?

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner gives an interview. The former IRS officer at the center of the Tea Party disclosure scandal won’t testify under oath, but she sat down for a two-hour interview with Politico: Exclusive: Lois Lerner Breaks Silence:

And she’s a savvy lawyer: She studiously avoided answering fundamental questions about her role in the IRS scandal that could land her in deeper trouble with Congress. During her POLITICO interview, flanked by her husband, a partner at a national law firm, and two of her personal attorneys, she opened up about her life as a pariah, joked about horrible news photos and advice that she disguise herself with a blond wig, and cried when expressing gratitude for her legal team’s friendship.

It is, of course, a public-relations play, designed to make her look like a misunderstood victim of a partisan witch hunt. But it isn’t an especially impressive effort. From the Politico piece:

Several Lerner allies said she was so focused on enforcement that she failed to see the sensitivity of bringing cases against incumbents running for reelection.

But Republicans continue to point to emails in which Lerner inquired about Crossroads specifically, asking her colleagues why the group hadn’t been audited and suggesting the group’s application should be denied. And just weeks before the tea party news broke, after she had seen a draft of the damning inspector general report, she asked colleagues if internal IRS instant messages are tracked and could be requested by Congress.

A little history sheds some light on her “non-partisan” background:

– Before she worked at the IRS, she worked at the Federal Elections Commission, she attempted to get an Illinois GOP senate candidate to withdraw from public life as the price for ending an FEC investigation. The allegations were later dismissed.

– The IRS Commissioner, Doug Shulman, repeatedly denied there was any targeting before the report. Either he knew better, or as a subordinate, she didn’t pass the word up the chain.

– She was in the middle of the Tea Party efforts at an early date. When the Treasury Inspector General Report was about to open the scandal, she did a modified limited hangout, using a planted question to spin the story as just a Cincinnati rogue agent problem.

– She had a hang-up about the Citizens United decision, and her emails show that she was trying to use the tax law to accomplish what the Supreme Court had forbidden.

– The numbers are glaring, showing that conservative groups got much more scrutiny, and it took much longer for their applications to be approved than liberal groups:

targetingstats

Ms. Lerner has, of course, invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress about her role in the scandal.

Presumably this interview is the start of a P.R. campaign. I don’t think it will work, but it might get her some good press from outlets inclined to dismiss the scandal.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 500. It features Stonewall Koskinen: The IRS Commissioner Was Supposed to Clean Up the Mess. Instead, He’s Running Interference from Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal:

 The only thing Mr. Koskinen has seemed remotely interested in turning around is his agency’s ugly story-line. He has yet to even accept his agency did anything wrong, spending a March hearing arguing that the IRS didn’t engage in “targeting” and claiming the Treasury inspector general agreed. This was so misleading the Washington Post gave Mr. Koskinen “three Pinocchios, ” noting the IG had testified to the exact opposite.

He seems intent on de-throning Doug Shulman as the Worst Commissioner Ever.

 

 

get-outRobert D. Flach asks WHAT ABOUT A FEDERAL TAX AMNESTY?

This would be a one-time only offer. The legislation creating the Federal Tax Amnesty Program could so state by forbidding any future Amnesty programs. Or it could state that the federal government would not be able to institute another Amnesty Program during the twenty years after the end of the current amnesty period.

I have my doubts. One Congress can’t bind another, and if it is popular, the pressure for another amnesty will start building as soon as the first one ends. I also worry about the chump effect – people will feel like chumps for complying, and will convince themselves that if they don’t comply, there will be another amnesty anyway. But I might be convinced otherwise, especially if it were combined with tax reforms that would help prevent the need for another one.

 

Russ Fox, “I’ve tried to tell you the truth every time I’ve been here”. “That quote is from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during his testimony from earlier this week on Capitol Hill. I have a simple question for Commissioner Koskinen: Why doesn’t that quote read, ‘I’ve told you the truth every time I’ve been here?'”

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Childcare Expenses

Jack Townsend, Trial Management of the Cheek Good Faith Defense.  Or as an old lawyer I know calls it, the “good-faith fraud defense.”

Kay Bell, Getting old sucks. We can’t stop Father Time, but we can prepare physically, emotionally and financially. And it still beats the alternative.

 

David Brunori talks about Nevada’s Tesla giveaway in State Tax Notes ($link):

Nevada is giving $1.3 billion to a company that is essentially owned by a guy worth $12 billion. I don’t begrudge Elon Musk his money. On the contrary, I admire his ability to create and accumulate great wealth. I just don’t see the need to give him public money. Assuming you ascribe to the belief that horizontal equity requires that similarly situated taxpayers bear similar burdens, Nevada is giving away public money…

I know that the politics of incentives are impossible to overcome. And I have had numerous readers tell me to give my constant ranting a rest. But the political inevitability of tax incentives does not make them appropriate or good.

Tax credit corporate welfare doesn’t just hurt the states that “lose” the competition to bribe companies like Tesla. It hurts all of the businesses of the “winning” state that have to pay full-freight while brazen and well-connected companies like Tesla pay nothing.

 

20140922-1William Gale, Income Tax Changes and Economic Growth (TaxVox) “While there is no doubt that tax policy influences economic choices, it is by no means obvious on an ex ante basis that tax rate cuts will ultimately lead to a larger economy.”

Joshua McCaherty,  Senator Schumer’s Retroactive Tax Bill (Tax Policy Blog). Part of the inversion diversion.

Ajay Gupta, Renouncing the Dogma of Surrey’s Infallibility (Tax Analysts Blog). Sounds like something involving the Pope and Henry VIII, but it’s really about transfer pricing.

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Workers Comp Resource Center, with posts from around the insurance and risk-management world.

 

News from the Profession. 15 Reasons Why EY’s BuzzFeed Post Is a Bunch of Malarkey (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/18/14: The $14.8 million suitcase squeeze. And: Koskinen visits the Hill.

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy Sascha Kohlmann under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Sascha Kohlmann under Creative Commons license

Accounting Today visitors: click here for the item from the September 17 “In the Blogs.”

When tax-free merger isn’t. Working with family-owned businesses, a common misunderstanding arises: if a deal is tax-free, like an “A” merger or a partnership contribution, there can’t be gift tax, right?  Very wrong, as a New Hampshire couple’s experience in Tax Court shows.

The parents, Mr. and Mrs Cavallero, had a successful S corporation known as Knight Tool Co. Their son Ken set up another business to make liquid dispensing machines, Camelot.  As part of their estate planning, the two companies merged in an income tax-free deal.  From the Tax Court summary:

Ps and their sons merged Knight and Camelot in 1995, and Camelot was the surviving entity. Valuing the two companies in accordance with the advice their professionals had given, Ps accepted a disproportionately low number of shares in the new company and their sons received a disproportionately high number of shares.

It turns out that the estate planners “postulated” a technology transfer earlier in the lives of the companies that would have resulted in most of the value already being in the second generation. One planner explained to a skeptical attorney that “History does not formulate itself, the historian has to give it form without being discouraged by having to squeeze a few embarrassing facts into the suitcase by force.”

The trouble with doing that is that when the latches break, the suitcase spills all over the place. But the planners persisted.  From the Tax Court decision:

As a result of Mr. Hamel’s correspondence campaign, however, the previously separate tracks of advice — one from the accountants at E&Y and Mr. McGillivray, and the other from the attorneys at Hale & Dorr — now came together for the first time. The contradiction was evident to all the professionals: The accountants had assumed no 1987 transfer (and thus believed there was a need for a means to transmit value to the next generation), but the attorneys postulated a 1987 transfer (and subsequent transfers) pursuant to which that value had already been placed in the hands of the next generation. The attorneys eventually prevailed, however, and the accountants acquiesced. Eventually all of the advisers lined up behind Mr. Hamel’s suggestion that a 1987 transfer be memorialized in the affidavits and the confirmatory bill of sale. They provided a draft of the documents, which Mrs. Cavallaro read aloud to Mr. Cavallaro. After they reported a few typographical errors, the attorneys prepared final versions, which Mr. Cavallaro and Ken Cavallaro executed on May 23, 1995.

So in 1995 they executed documents for a 1987 transaction.  What could go wrong? Well, perhaps the IRS could come in and assess $27.7 million in gift taxes, plus fraud penalties.  And they did. The dispute ended up in Tax Court.  The IRS won the main issue — its argument that the valuable technology was not in fact transferred in 1987 — and with that win, predictably also won the battle of appraisers.  The IRS appraiser at trail asserted a $29.6 million gift, which would result in a gift tax of about $14.8 million at 1995 rates. Because of the involvement of the outside experts, the Tax Court declined to uphold penalties.

This shows how important valuation can be even in a “tax-free” deal.  When doing business among family members at different generations in estate planning, you don’t have the conflicting interests that unrelated buyers and sellers have, so you have the possibility of creating a taxable gift if you are careless. It’s natural for family members to believe numbers that help their estate planning, so it’s wise to get an independent appraiser in to provide a reality check.  And if the facts, or values, don’t fit into the suitcase, don’t squeeze; get a bigger suitcase.

Cite: Cavallero, T.C. Memo 2014-189

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Instapundit, IRS COMMISSIONER: Our Story On The IRS Scandal Isn’t Changing. It’s Just, You Know, Evolving Now And Then.  “I’ve taken a dislike to this Koskinen fellow. He seems sleazy even by DC standards.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 497. Mostly coverage of another slippery appearance by Commissioner Koskinen before House investigators.

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: American Opportunity Credit

Kay Bell, Private and often untaxed home rentals under fire

Peter Reilly, Need To Show Rental Effort To Deduct Expenses. “I think the way I would put it is ‘If at first and second and third you don’t succeed, try something different.  Otherwise forget about deducting losses.'”

 

David Brunori, Fairness and the Reality of State Tax Systems (Tax Analysts Blog) “etc. This week WalletHub released a rating of the fairest state and local tax systems… I am not doubting the accuracy of WalletHub’s survey. But the results don’t align with political reality.”

Cara Griffith, Single Sales Factor May Be Inevitable, but Is It Fair? (Tax Analysts):

In the end, if state officials are truly concerned with making their state more attractive to businesses, perhaps they should consider retaining (or returning to) the three factor apportionment method and focus on a less burdensome corporate tax system overall. In the end, if state officials are truly concerned with making their state more attractive to businesses, perhaps they should consider retaining (or returning to) the three factor apportionment method and focus on a less burdensome corporate tax system overall.

No, they are concerned with ribbon cuttings, press releases, and campaign contributions from those seeing tax credits and carveouts.

 

 

20140805-2Renu Zaretsky, A Hail Mary or Two on the Hill.  The TaxVox tax headline roundup covers inflation adjustments and beating up on the NFL with the tax code, among other things.

Alan Cole, Why do I have Four Different Retirement Accounts? (Tax Policy Blog) “Give us one unlimited saving account, tax it properly, like an IRA, and let us use it how we will.”

Russ Fox, Zuckermans Sentenced; No Word on Fido & Lulu “Unfortunately, members of a board of directors must be human: Fido and Lulu don’t qualify.”

Adrienne Gonzalez, Mad Scientist Gets Prison Time for Using His Dog and Cat in a Tax Avoidance Scheme (Going Concern). PETA couldn’t be reached for comment.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/10/14: Another campaign season, another Iowa tax credit proposal. And: a property tax appeal goes very badly.

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

How Iowa’s tax law gets worse and worse, episode 7,433.  From TheGazette.com (my emphasis):

Gov. Terry Branstad and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, traveled to college campuses Tuesday offering their plan for making higher education affordable and reducing student debt.

The GOP team proposed offering fixed-price degrees or $10,000 bachelors degree for popular major at public universities to cut costs for al limited number of in-state students and tax credits for being volunteers in qualifying community activities during stops at Iowa State University in Ames and Drake University in Des Moines.

Say that again, slowly: “tax credits for being volunteers in qualifying community activities.”  Paid volunteerism.  What a wonderful concept, like non-alcoholic whiskey.

To reduce debt that is among the nation’s highest for college students, Branstad and Reynolds said they would work with the Legislature in 2015 to create a state tax credit that would allow students to reduce debt by participating in volunteer activities within their community through a qualified Student Debt Reduction Organization.

Details and specifics of the tax credit would be worked out so it would encourage community volunteerism while also maintaining the strength of other successful tax credit programs, such as the Student Tuition Organization Tax Credit, [campaign spokesman Tommy] Schultz said.

Bluto20140910It’s something cooked up to sound good in a re-election campaign.  Well, cooked-up may be too strong a term, when it is admittedly only half-baked (details and specifics to be worked out).  You would give the Department of Revenue a new job of supervising “Student Debt Reduction Organizations.” These organizations would be set up by non-profits and government agencies to spend state money.

Can you think of any way this will end well?  Does anyone really think the “volunteer” time will be well used? Or that these local communities will have useful projects for all these “volunteers?”  And does anyone doubt that local politicians will find ways to use these “volunteers” to help them get re-elected?

But it sounds good. “Promote civic involvement.”  And the Iowa tax law gets another barnacle.

Another fallacy of the Governor’s plan: the idea that the reason college isn’t “affordable” because there aren’t enough government programs and tax credits to subsidize it. Yet every few years there is a new subsidy or tax credit, on top of the old ones.   Pell Grants, student loan subsidies, Lifetime Learning Credits, HOPE Credits, American Opportunity Tax Credits, student loan interest deductions…  all touted as making college “more affordable.”  Yet somehow tuition keeps outpacing inflation.  It should be obvious by now that higher education just raises prices to soak up the subsidies.  More subsidies and tax credits are the problem, not the solution.

 

Why you might want to hire somebody to handle your property tax appeal.  From the Des Moines Register:

An Iowa man angry about his property taxes was fatally shot during a public meeting Tuesday after he pulled a gun from a briefcase and pointed it at the county assessor, law enforcement officials said.

Francis Glaser, a former Maquoketa city manager, had become agitated and vocal about his property taxes going up during a weekly meeting of Jackson County’s board of supervisors in Maquoketa, a town about 30 miles south of Dubuque.

It apparently involved a tax incentive.

 

Paul Neiffer, Will Tax Inversion Debate Yield Permanent Section 179

Peter Reilly, Andrew Kay Passes – Helped Accountants Abandon Pencil Pushing:

 I never knew who he was, but the machine that his company made had a profound influence on tax and accounting practice , at least in my neck of the woods.  Mr. Kay was responsible for the Kaypro.

I never used a Kaypro, but I am probably indebted to Mr. Kay. With my penmanship, I could never have survived in accounting without computers.

 

20140910-1Richard Auxier, Nearly All States Play the Lottery, But None Are Big Winners (TaxVox). “Playing the lottery can be fun. But politicians selling lotteries as a panacea for education spending are just as disingenuous as lotto advertisements promising big wins. And states pushing instant and electronic games on their poorest residents are doubling-down on a bad bet.”

Russ Fox, New Jersey Tries Hail Mary on Sports Betting; Will IRS Intercept?

Kay Bell, Will Tax Inversion Debate Yield Permanent Section 179

David Brunori, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Tax Ideas (Tax Analysts Blog)

Matt Gardner, Wisconsin Contemplates Property Tax Shift from Business to Homeowners. (Tax Justice Blog). Business don’t ultimately pay taxes. They merely collect them on behalf of customers, employees and owners.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, New Earnings Stripping Bill is Fundamentally Unserious (Tax Policy Blog).  Of course it is. That doesn’t mean it won’t pass someday.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 489. Today’s roundup includes this from the Washington Post about Commissioner Koskinen’s duplicity in handling the scandal:

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testified this summer that he played no part in spreading word of the agency’s controversial missing e-mails to the Treasury Department or the White House. But one of his closest advisers apparently did.

And he wonders why Congress doesn’t want to give him all the money he asks for.

 

Career Corner.  How Failing the CPA Exam Might Actually Help You Succeed (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax roundup, 8/26/14: Oh, that backup file. You can’t have that one. And lots more!

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

perryheadOh, that email backup?  From Today’s TaxProf IRA scandal roundup, The IRS Scandal, Day 474, comes this dazer:

Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe.  The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search. 

Tremendous.  After telling the court that there just was no way on earth those emails survived, now they say there is a backup, but it’s just too much of a hassle for them to use it to comply with the court’s orders.  I find it hard to imagine the brashest private-sector lawyer saying something like that, at least more than once.

But wait, there’s more:

The IRS filing in federal Judge Emmet Sullivan’s court reveals shocking new information. The IRS destroyed Lerner’s Blackberry AFTER it knew her computer had crashed and after a Congressional inquiry was well underway. As an IRS official declared under the penalty of perjury, the destroyed Blackberry would have contained the same emails (both sent and received) as Lois Lerner’s hard drive. 

Yet Commissioner Koskinen says we should just stop bugging him about this silly abuse of power stuff and give him money instead.  Because we can trust the IRS.

Related: TaxGrrrl, Judicial Watch Claims IRS Attorneys Admit Lois Lerner’s ‘Missing’ Emails Exist;  Russ Fox, Remember Those Missing IRS Emails? They Appear to Exist….

 

Peter Reilly, Home Sweet RV Does Not Always Produce Best Tax Result.  Peter discusses the recreational vehicle tax Catch-22 we noted recently.

harvestPaul Neiffer, How to Sell Your Land and Pay No Tax – MAYBE.  It involves stretching out the payments and keeping your other income down.

Jason Dinesen, More Commentary About Year-Round Proactive Services to Clients.  “Those of us who are good professionals rarely demand the respect we have earned. And then we wonder why clients seemingly don’t respect us, don’t value us, don’t listen to our advice, or jump ship the moment you breathe about a rate increase.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Computing Earnings and Profits.  “The primary purpose for computing E&P is to determine whether a distribution represents a taxable dividend, a nontaxable return of shareholder capital, or capital gain to the recipient shareholders.”

 

Leslie Book, A Stolen Check, Mistaken Identity and Prisoners (Procedurally Taxing):

This post considers Hill v US, a case from the Court of Federal Claims involving a prisoner named Mark Hill whose $1182 tax refund was stolen and cashed by another prisoner with the same name after the prison system mistakenly delivered an IRS letter relating to the missing refund check to the wrong Mark Hill. With time on his hands, but no check, the right Mark Hill sought justice in the form of a new check. After getting the runaround from the IRS, the right Mark Hill sued the US to force it to issue a new refund check. For good measure, he also wanted interest and punitive damages.

Turns out the IRS doesn’t get any more helpful if you are behind bars.

 

20140826-1Robert D. Flach serves your fresh Tuesday Buzz, with links about smart giving, educational savings options, and what you can earn working tax season at a national return prep franchise.

That’s a long time.  Cobb County man sentenced to 20 years for ID theft, tax fraud (ajc.com).  The guy is also supposed to pay back $5 million he stole.  Good luck on that.  Sure, the guy should go away for a long time, but the real crime is that the IRS let him steal that much from the taxpayers.

Jeremy Scott, Fracking Taxes Help States Now, but What About the Future?  (Tax Analysts Blog)  “North Dakota has been transformed by its rapidly growing energy sector, but it should be cautious about staking too much of its fiscal future on continually increasing severance taxes.”

 

Andrew Lundeen, Solutions on Inversions and Corporate Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog).

Steve Warnhoff, Will Congress Let Burger King’s Shareholders Have It Their Way?  (Tax Justice Blog).  If it means we get Tim Horton’s donuts, I’m all for the proposed merger.

 

Renu Zaretsky,  Tax Rates: Growth, Competition, and Debt.  The TaxVox headline roundup ponders the effects of individual rate cuts, the badness of corporate rates in the U.S., and film credits in North Carolina, among other things.

lizard20140826Have a nice day.  1.2 Billion Reasons to Worry: Security firm reports Russian crime ring compromised 1.2 billion usernames and passwords (John Lande, Iowa Banking Law Blog)

News from the Profession.  Extra-Marital Affairs Site Claims Accountants are Kings of Romance Because Their Jobs are Boring (Adrienne GonzalezGoing Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/8/14: Get a Room Edition. And: Koskinen, cronyist.

Friday, August 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Flickr image by Ellenm1 under Creative Commons licenseTax Court: Get a room!  If you spend a lot of time on the road, you may have wondered whether it might make sense to buy a Winnebago instead of hopping between motels.  The Tax Court yesterday weighed in on the side of motels.

A California insurance man with an RV found a market for his wares among his fellow tin-can nomads, as the Judge Wherry explains:

Starting in 2004, petitioners began attending RV rallies not just for pleasure but also for business purposes. At or around the same time, they purchased a 2004 Winnebago RV. We reject petitioners’ contentions that they attended RV rallies solely for business purposes from 2004 but instead find that they had mixed purposes. Petitioners would gather sales leads at every rally. To that end, petitioners had a banner that they attached to their RV advertising Dell Jackson Insurance. Petitioners would set up an information table outside of their RV or outside the clubhouse, if the site had one. If they set up a table by a clubhouse, petitioners moved the banner from the RV to the table. Otherwise, the sign remained on the RV from the time they arrived until the time they left. Petitioners would invite potential customers to come to their RV, and they would sit either outside or inside the RV and discuss the prospective client’s insurance needs. It would often take months, if not years, for a relationship with a potential customer, which could begin with a lead, to develop into an actual sale.

Naturally the salesman deducted expenses of his RV in preparing the Schedule C for his insurance business.  The IRS limited his deductions using Section 280A, which limits business deductions for personal residences.  The Court said that the RV was a house, as far as the tax law is concerned (citations and footnotes omitted, emphasis added):

Generally, “a taxpayer uses the dwelling unit during the taxable year as a residence if he uses such unit (or portion thereof) for personal purposes for a number of days which exceeds the greater of — (A) 14 days, or (B) 10 percent of the number of days during such year for which such unit is rented at a fair rental.” “Dwelling unit” is also a defined term and “includes a house, apartment, condominium, mobile home, boat, or similar property”. Sec. 280A(f)(1)(A). This Court has previously held that a motor home qualifies as a dwelling unit within the meaning of section 280A(f)(1)(A).  Although we use the more modern term throughout this opinion, an RV and a motor home are one and the same thing. Petitioners and counsel used the two terms interchangeably at trial. Accordingly, petitioners’ RV is a dwelling unit for purposes of section 280A. 

The Tax Court said that while the expenses were otherwise legitimate, the Section 280A disallowance of business expenses when a residence, or part of one, isn’t used “exclusively” for business overrides the deductions:

This result may seem harsh, but it is the operation of the statute, which reflects Congress’ desire to prevent taxpayers from deducting personal expenses as business expenses.

While the court admitted the result was harsh to begin with, that didn’t stop it from piling on, adding over $8,000 in “accuracy-related” penalties to the $42,000 in additional taxes assessed by the IRS — another example of the unfortunate tendency of the IRS — with the blessing of the Tax Court — to penalize everything, even when the taxpayer used an apparently reputable preparer.

The moral: RVs may be great for retirement travel, but they aren’t the best thing for business deductions.  If they had rented hotel rooms, the deductions apparently would have been just fine.

Cite: Jackson, T.C. Memo 2014-160

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

So the IRS Commissioner is just fine with cronyism in tax administration.  John Koskinen Indicates IRS Revolving Door Is A Feature Not A Bug (Peter Reilly).  It will be hard to unseat Doug Shulman as the Worst Commissioner Ever, but John Koskinen is giving it the old college try.

 

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Iowa Tuition and Textbook Credit and Back-to-School Shopping

Jack Townsend, It’s So Easy to Say No — The IRS Often Gets to No for Streamlined Transition Relief in OVDP. “The bottom-line is that the IRS is denying the nonwillful certification in far more cases than practitioners thought would be the case.  And, the process of denial is a bit of a black box.”

Leslie Book, Summary Opinions for 7/25/14 (Procedurally Taxing).  A roundup of recent tax procedure happenings.

 

tax fairyKay Bell, FTC sending $16 million to former American Tax Relief clients. Don’t fall for tax relief scams in the first place:

Federal prosecutors first filed charges against ATR in 2010. In August 2012, a federal court entered a partial summary judgment in favor of the FTC, finding that the defendants falsely claimed they already had significantly reduced the tax debts of thousands of people and falsely told individual consumers they qualified for tax relief programs that would significantly reduce their tax debts.

The court issued a $103.3 million judgment against the company.

Outfits like ATR, J.K. Harris, TaxMasters and Roni Deutsch pulled in lots of revenue from taxpayers desperate to believe in the Tax Fairy.  There is no tax fairy.

 

 

It’s Friday, the Iowa State Fair is underway, and Robert D. Flach is buzzing!  So it’s a good day three ways.

20140808-1

 

TaxGrrrl, normally the soul of restraint, lets loose on the inversion diversion in Obama Joins Blame Game As Companies Flee U.S. For Lower Tax Rates:

But to point fingers at lawyers and accountants as if they are holding all the cards is plain wrong. If we want to talk about responsibility, let’s talk about responsibility.

Let’s talk about a bloated Tax Code that just keeps getting bigger. Let’s talk about a global tax system that encourages companies (and people) to flee. Let’s talk about stalled tax reform efforts.

The tax code is the instruction manual for taxpayers, and their lawyers and accountants, for tax compliance.  And now the politicians don’t like what happens when we read and follow instructions.

 

20120702-2Andrew Lundeen, To Stop Inversions, Fix the Tax Code (Tax Policy Blog).  “But the lack of competitiveness created by the corporate tax isn’t the only issue: at its core, the corporate tax is inherently not neutral. It is highly distortive, opaque, and economically damaging tax.”

Christopher Bergin, Beware the Individual Income Tax Inversion (Tax Analysts Blog)  “The truth is that our tax system is in trouble – all of it: the corporate side, the administration side, and the individual side. And that means the country is in trouble.”

Kelly Davis, Tax Policy and the Race for the Governor’s Mansion: Illinois Edition (Tax Justice Bl0g).  Political wrangling in a doomed state.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 456.  The scandal has been Voxplained. Keep calm, all is well.

 

Art appreciation tip: “Like the folks who believe that the limits on maritime jurisdiction, explained by a talking salamander, holds the key to beating a federal criminal charge, the full tapestry of wacko tax fraud theories is a lovely thing to behold….” (Matt Kaiser, Above The Law).  He covers a “sovereign citizen” from Omaha who learned that filing a phony $19 million lien on a judge is perhaps not the optimal way to handle a tax controversy.

Related: TaxProf, Nebraska ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Convicted of Filing False Liens Against Federal Officials and Federal Tax Crimes

 

Adrienne Gonzalez, California Might Ditch the Attest Requirement for CPA Licensure.  I’m sure I would have been a better person if I had to waste two years observing inventories and otherwise bothering real auditors.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/25/14: Check your mailbox edition. And: the Commissioner’s real goal.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Ignore them and they will come anyway.  A Chicagoan tried to avoid IRS pursuit by the simple expedient of not picking up his mail.  The Tax Court told him yesterday that doesn’t work:

 On several occasions the U.S. Postal Service (Postal Service) attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to deliver the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency to petitioner at the address of his Columbus Drive apartment. On at least two occasions the Postal Service left notices of attempted delivery of certified mail at that address. In those notices, the Postal Service informed petitioner that it had certified mail to deliver to him and that he had to sign a receipt for that mail before the Postal Service would deliver it to him.

The taxpayer never got around to doing so. Yet he still wanted to fight the deficiencies in Tax Court:

It is petitioner’s position that he is entitled under section 6330(c)(2)(B) to contest the underlying tax liability for his taxable year 2006. In support of that position, petitioner contends that although respondent mailed to him by certified mail, return receipt requested, the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency that was addressed to his Columbus Drive apartment, he did not receive that notice within the 90-day period during which he could have filed a petition with the Court with respect to that notice. In support of that contention, petitioner relies on his testimony at the partial trial in these cases. 

There’s a 90-day deadline to file with the Tax Court, starting with the receipt of the Notice of Deficiency.  The Tax Court enforces the deadline pretty strictly.  And you can’t extend the deadline just by ignoring your mail:

On the record before us, we hold that petitioner may not decline to retrieve his Postal Service mail, when he was reasonably able and had multiple opportunities to do so, and thereafter successfully contend that he did not receive for purposes of section 6330(c)(2)(B) the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency. On that record, we reject petitioner’s contention that he is entitled under that section to dispute the underlying tax liability for his taxable year 2006.

Nice try.

Cite: Onyango, 142 T.C. No. 24.

 

Paul Neiffer, Is Low Section 179 Causing Low Equipment Sales?

 

Mixed message.   From Tax Analysts ($link): “Taxpayers considering the IRS’s new streamlined filing compliance program need to think carefully about whether their actions were truly non-willful, because a certification that proves untrue could expose them to more charges from the Justice Department, Kathryn Keneally, former assistant attorney general for the DOJ Tax Division, said June 24.”

The Treasury just can’t quite get the hang of this.  What taxpayers need is bright-line guidance that lets them come into compliance, at least below a relatively-generous dollar threshold.  Instead they have to come in with their hands up, while the IRS reserves the right to open fire — to second guess their state of mind.  That’s not necessarily very comforting.

 

 

Rose Mary Woods checks her e-mail in the Nixon administration.

Rose Mary Woods checks her e-mail in the Nixon administration.

Howard GleckmanThe Real IRS Flap Is About Dark Money, Not Emails (TaxVox):

But get past the shouting and two very important issues remain on the table: The first is the IRS has been terribly managed for years and needs to be fixed. It’s easy to forget, but that’s why Koskinen is there.

The second is that the commissioner appears undeterred in his efforts to rewrite the rules for 501(c)(4) non-profits that are engaged in political activities. That seemingly obscure effort will have an enormous impact on future U.S. elections and the balance of political power in the U.S.

This is chilling.  And Mr. Gleckman seems to think it’s just an effort by a disintersted public servant to impose order on chaos:

Koskinen is under great pressure from liberal and conservative groups and from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to abandon the effort. Don’t for a minute think that the House’s proposed $300 million cut in the IRS budget, its endless requests for IRS documents on multiple subjects, and even the email hearings themselves are not in part an effort to sink—or at least slow–these regulations.

Yet, Koskinen has refused to blink.

If you think Koskinen isn’t a partisan operative at the IRS, you haven’t been paying attention.   All of the pressure to “reform” the (c)(4)s has come from the left.  And it’s clear from the Tea Party targeting that the IRS can’t be trusted to regulate political actors evenhandedly.  If Mr. Gleckman is right, Koskinen’s mission is not to help the IRS to recover from its scandalous practices, but to institutionalize them.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 412.  About 40 links today, primarily on Commissioner Koskinen’s appearance before Congressional investigators and related missing e-mail developments.  It’s hard to imagine how this Commissioner could do a worse job at coming clean and improving IRS relationships with GOP congressional appropriators.

Jonathan Adler, IRS agrees to pay non-profit group $50,000 for unauthorized release of tax return.  But nobody will lose their job, and the $50,000 won’t come out of any individual perpetrator’s pocket.  In fact, the leaker gets to maintain his/her anonymity, and presumably employment too.  And even though it was an illegal, and presumably partisan, disclosure of taxpayer information, the Justice Department isn’t going to investigate.

TaxGrrrl, Lois Lerner And The Case Of The Missing Emails.  “Yes, that’s right: the IRS used the same backup strategy for its important data that I used to record my soap operas in college.”

Russ FoxKoskinen Channels His Inner Nixon. “The IRS continues to look hyper-partisan, and that’s not a good thing for anyone.”

The Hill, Archives official: IRS didn’t follow law on missing emails.   But Commissioner Koskinen says no apologies are in order, so stop bothering him.

 

No Walnut STAccounting Today, AICPA Says IRS Voluntary Tax Preparer Certification Program Is Unlawful:

The AICPA’s letter emphasizes the following points:

• First, no statute authorizes the proposed program;

• Second, the program will inevitably be viewed as an end-run around Loving v. IRS, (a federal court ruling rejecting an earlier IRS attempt to regulate tax return preparers);

• Third, the IRS has evidently concluded, in developing the proposed program, that it need not comply with the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. This is incorrect; and

• Finally, the current proposal is arbitrary and capricious because it fails to address the problems presented by unethical tax return preparers, runs counter to evidence presented to the IRS, and will create market confusion.

Not that being illegal will bother them; see above.

 

Arnold Kling, In Our Hands.  Mr. Kling discusses his idea for replacing all means tested welfare programs like the Earned Income Credit with a universal voucher: “Keep in mind that under current policy, many low-income households face effective marginal tax rates of 100 percent or higher. That is, they are better off with something less than full-time, year-round work.”

 

David Brunori, A Bad Law Addressing a Bad Business Tax (Tax Analysts Blog)

Local option business taxes, whether imposed on income, gross receipts, or personal property, are terrible ways to raise revenue. Only 14 states authorize their use, and they raise a paltry sum compared with the property tax or even local option sales and income taxes. Virtually all the public finance experts who have studied the issue denounce their use.

Of course, Iowa has lots of these.

 

20120606-1Sydni Pierce, Congress, Take Note: More States Are Reforming Antiquated Fuel Taxes This Summer (Tax Justice Blog)

Andrew Lundeen, Obamacare Increases Marginal Tax Rate on Labor by Six Percentage Points (Tax Analysts Blog).   “In the case of the Affordable Care act, Mulligan is talking about implicit marginal tax rates, or ‘the extra taxes paid, and subsidies forgone, as the result of working.'”

 

Adrienne Gonzalez, Bernie Madoff’s Former Accountant Pleads Guilty But Clueless (Going Concern).  “Prosecutors say that Konigsberg didn’t intend to help defraud Madoff investors, but knowingly used fraudulently backdated trades provided by Mr. Madoff’s firm as he prepared tax returns for some clients’ investment account.”

 

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Tax Roundup 6/24/14: Koskinen’s political gifts. And: in case you didn’t think Hitler was bad already…

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Just the man to build bridges to Republicans who fund the IRS.  From Bryan Preston, IRS Chief Koskinen Has Donated Big to Democrats Over the Years:

According to the Washington Free Beacon, Koskinen has donated about $100,000 to Democrat candidates and committees since his first donation in 1979. His donor recipients include Gary Hart, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic nominee in each presidential campaign since 1980 (which would even include Walter Mondale, who stood no chance of beating President Ronald Reagan in 1984), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s campaigns. He most recently donated $2,500 to Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) in 2013.

He has given no money to Republicans.

It’s hard to believe how tone-deaf he is to the Tea Party scandal, but this helps explain it.  (Via Instapundit)

 

Jeremy Scott, Lost Lerner E-mails Latest Example of IRS Death Wish (Tax Analysts Blog), my emphasis:

In contrast to their GOP colleagues, Democrats rushed to Koskinen’s defense. That is, perhaps, understandable, even though much of what the IRS has done during this scandal is indefensible. Democrats probably want to defend their president’s pick to head the IRS, and maybe they want to try to change the narrative heading into a potentially disastrous midterm election. But the reality is that the IRS isn’t doing them any favors. There’s only so much incompetence and disingenuous behavior that can be run through a political spin machine. The Democrats’ reflexive defense of Lerner (whose conduct can’t be excused) and their apparent willingness to accept any explanation from Koskinen (who didn’t even try to adequately explain why he hid information on the lost e-mails from February until late June) is baffling. Democrats weakly attempted to paint the GOP as on a witch hunt for a conspiracy, as though the IRS’s mismanagement and appearance of bias weren’t enough to justify congressional inquiry.

The IRS isn’t doing Democratic congresscritters any favors, nor are they doing any for the IRS.  They are just making the IRS look more like a partisan agency, which could cripple tax administration for years.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 411

 

20140507-1Kay Bell, Save space and trees: Digitize your tax records.  That way if you lose them, the IRS will surely understand.

Russ Fox has some valuable information for online gamblers trying to stay FBAR compliant: Online Gambling Addresses (Updated for 2014)

Robert D. Flach has a Tuesday Buzz for you!

Tony Nitti, How State Taxes Could Play A Role In Carmelo Anthony’s Landing Spot.  Nah, state taxes don’t matter…

Peter Reilly, Step Kids Remain Step Kids After Divorce.  So you may still have a dependent, if not a spouse.

Jack Townsend, Comments by IRS Personnel on New Streamlined and OVDP Procedures.  “The new procedures were designed to ‘encourage folks who are considering quiet disclosures to come in with their hands up’ and avoid taxpayers coming into OVDP with the intention to opt out.”

Annette Nellen, Bitcoin Taxation – Clarity and Mystery, “If you are a tax practitioner and don’t think you need to deal with it, I’d be surprised if none of your clients uses bitcoin.”

William Perez, Backup Withholding.

 

Tyler Dennis, The Clinton’s Estate Tax Planning Demonstrates the Arcane Nature of the Estate Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

When the Clintons created the trust in 2011, their property’s assessed value was $1.8 million.  Without a residential trust, the future appreciation between 2011 and 2021 would count against the gift tax. If the property appreciated at a 4% annual rate and reached $2.6 million by 2021, that’s the amount that would count. With the residential trust, though, the Clintons were able to “lock in” the value of the home at its 2011 value of $1.8 million without actually relinquishing the property to the beneficiary of the trust.

Most supporters of higher taxes assume that they won’t have to pay them.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Disbelief, Devolution, and Death Benefits.  The TaxVox headline roundup talks about the Koskinen appearance before the Issa committee, and about how a surprising proportion of new life insurance is taken out on employees.

Andrew Lundeen, The Average U.S. Worker Pays over $16,000 in Income and Payroll Taxes (Tax Policy Blog):

The tax burden is a combination of income taxes at the federal, state, and local levels as well as the employee and the employer payroll taxes. Of the 31.3 percent tax burden, 15.4 percent is due to income taxes and 15.9 percent is due to payroll taxes, over half of which is paid by the employer on the employee’s behalf. (Workers pay the cost of the employer-side payroll taxes through lower wages.) 

Heck of a deal.

 

Stephanie Hoffer, Kuretski, the Tax Court, and the Administrative Procedure Act (Procedurally Taxing).

 

Another great tax planning idea down the tubes.  Kidnapping Prostitutes Is Not a Good Way to Claim Dependents for Tax Purposes (Greg Kyte, Going Concern)

If you didn’t think he was a bad guy already…  Adolf Hitler: Billionaire tax-dodger?

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/23/14: Making no friends edition.

Monday, June 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Rose Mary Woods checks her e-mail in the Nixon administration.

Rose Mary Woods checks her e-mail in the Nixon administration.

New IRS Commissioner Koskinen isn’t exactly making new friends for the agency in Congress.  His testimony Friday on the implausible rash of hard-drive failures that hit the IRS just as Congress began looking at Tea Party harassment amounted to an insistence that Congress take the IRS at its word, and give it more money.  From Tax Analysts ($link):

     “I don’t think an apology is owed,” Koskinen answered. “Not a single e-mail has been lost since the start of this investigation.”

Regarding the six other IRS employees who have experienced computer failures since the investigation began, Koskinen said technology experts told him that 3 to 5 percent of hard drives can be expected to fail during their warrantied lifetimes. 

It just happened to all the hard drives of the people most involved in beating up on the Tea Party.

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Commissioner Koskinen (correctly) points out that the IRS is underfunded for all of the chores (unwisely) given it by Congress.  With Congressional Republicans understandably reluctant to fund an agency it percieves, with justification, as its opposition, Mr. Koskinen ought to be going out of his way to assure them that he is making sure to eliminate political bias in the agency and to fully cooperate with the investigation.  He is doing nothing of the sort, and he may have already irretreivably lost his opportunity to convince GOP appropriators that he can be trusted.

IRS stonewalling isn’t a new thing.  As the many lawsuits filed by Tax Analysts to get the IRS to release its internal documents show, covering up is a way of life in the agency.  Christopher Bergin, in The Coverup Is Usually Worse Than the Crime (Tax Analysts Blog), gives some background:

Maybe it’s just sloppy record-keeping, which would be bad enough. Most of the government’s business is now conducted digitally, and those records need to be properly handled. Or is it worse? Is the IRS deliberately keeping things from the public? Excuse my cynicism, but the IRS’s penchant for secrecy is what led Tax Analysts, using the new Freedom of Information Act, to sue the agency in the 1970s to force it to release private letter rulings. There have been several subsequent lawsuits to pry records that should have been public out of the agency’s hands.

The idea that IRS emails are public records requiring preservation is nothing new, and was well-established at the time Ms. Lerner was busy.  It’s either negligent and outrageous incompetence or criminal destruction of public records, and to say that the IRS owes no apologies is to say that at least one of these unpleasant choices is just fine with him.

 

 

20140623-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 410

Megan McArdle, An IRS Conspiracy? Not Likely … Yet.  “To be clear, of course six tragic hard drive failures in a relatively short period of time would make it very hard to believe in a benign explanation.”

Brian Gongol, Backing up your email isn’t hard to do.  “Someone should tell the IRS, which is making excuses for losing administrative emails — excuses that wouldn’t pass muster in an IRS audit

Russ Fox, We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Backups

 

TaxGrrrl, Raking It In At Summer Yard Sales: Does Uncle Sam Get A Cut?   

Roger McEowen, U.S. Supreme Court Says Inherited IRA’s Not Exempt in Bankruptcy

Jason Dinesen, Bedside Manner is Important for Tax Pros, Too

Peter Reilly, Does Sixth Circuit ABC Decision Give Tenants Incentive To Buy?  “ABC Beverage Corporation is entitled to deduct the premium portion of the price it paid for the real estate as a cost of terminating the lease.”

 

Keith Fogg, D.C. Circuit Upholds the Constitutionality of Presidential Removal Powers of Tax Court Judges (Procedurally Taxing)

I think it’s only half-baked.  Stick a Fork in It: Is the Corporate Income Tax Done? (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog)

It’s not just a problem in Florida.  Seven indicted in Minnesota identity theft ring (TwinCities.com).

 

Wind turbineQuad City Times, Tax credits boost solar power in Iowa

David Henderson, Low-Carbon Alternatives: Solar and Wind Suck (Econlog).  “[A]ssuming reductions in carbon emissions are valued at $50 per metric ton and the price of natural gas is $16 per million Btu or less–nuclear, hydro, and natural gas combined cycle have far more net benefits than either wind or solar.”

 

Roberton Williams, U.S. Taxes Have Changed A Lot Since 1929 (TaxVox)

Steve Wamhoff,  Good and Bad Proposals to Address the Highway Trust Fund Shortfall (Tax Justice Blog).  The TJB has started putting individual author names on their posts, so I’ll do so too.

David Brunori, Tax Policy Is Not the Way to Deal With an Ass (Tax Analsyts Blog).  Not every problem is a tax problem.

Going Concern, IRS Can’t Afford to Upgrade to Windows 7 But Can Afford to Pay Microsoft to Use XP

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/11/14: IRS Bill of Rights: just words? And: when your state got its income tax.

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

billofrightsTalk is cheap.  The North Korean constitution has a whole bunch of rights,  per Wikisource.  For example:

Article 70. Citizens have the right to work. All able-bodied citizens choose occupations in accordance with their wishes and skills and are provided with stable jobs and working conditions. Citizens work according to their abilities and are paid in accordance with the quantity and quality of their work.

Article 75. Citizens have freedom of residence and travel.

Article 78. Marriage and the family shall be protected by the State. The State pays great attention to consolidating the family, the basic unit of social life.

 

So written declaration of rights are just empty words when there is nothing behind them. That’s why I can’t get too excited about the big Taxpayer Bill of Rights announced by IRS Commissioner Koskinen and Taxpayer Advocate Olson yesterday.

Nothing to disagree with on the list, but what will the IRS do to make it more than empty words?  Going down the list:

The Right to Be Informed.  The IRS is infamously secretive.  Will they no longer require Tax Analysts to sue them to make public their positions and procedures?  Will the required compensation for S corproation employee- shareholders be only known to the whim of the examining agent?

The Right to Quality Service.  The IRS continues to get worse at answering taxpayer questions.  It seems like they are worse than ever at dealing with correspondence.  It has become nearly impossible to reach IRS personnel in D.C. by phone to ask technical questions. Is the Commissioner going to change any of this?

The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax.  The nearly-automatic assertion of penalties for every asserted deficiency will have to end for this to mean anything.

The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard.  The consolidation of appeals offices and their seeming loss of independence will have to be reversed for this to mean something.

The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum.  See you in Tax Court…

The Right to Finality.  Does this mean IRS will enable offshore FBAR foot-faulters to come into compliance without facing financial ruin?

The Right to Privacy and The Right to Confidentiality. These are a big ones, and the IRS hasn’t been doing so well at them lately.

The Right to Retain Representation.  Yet the IRS wants to choose who gets to do this for you. When the IRS can shut down your representative, he may not be a really zealous advocate.

The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System.  This is something that the IRS can’t ultimately reach on its own — Congress designs the system — but it could sure do a lot better.  When the IRS routinely assesses $10,000 penalties for filing Form 5271 one day late, when they effectively loot foreign pension accounts of expats for inconsequential paperwork violations, it’s hard to see the fairness and justice.

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Other coverage:

TaxProf has a roundup.

Kay Bell, Would the newly adopted Taxpayer Bill of Rights have prevented the IRS Tea Party scandal?

Robert W. Wood, IRS Reveals Taxpayer Bill Of Rights

Joseph Henchman, IRS Approves List of Taxpayer Rights (Tax Policy Blog).  “My own addition is that much as requiring police to know and inform arrestees of “Miranda” warnings has increased awareness of those rights, so too will this.”

TaxGrrrl,  IRS Releases Much Anticipated ‘Taxpayer Bill Of Rights’  “With the wrap up of filing season, the IRS is now in its peak correspondence mailing season. This was, according to Koskinen and Olson, the perfect time to introduce the rights since they will be mailed out together with those correspondences.”

Russ Fox, IRS Adopts “Taxpayer Bill of Rights;” Will Anything Change?  “Until the IRS comes clean on the IRS scandal, what was released today makes a great sound bite but is otherwise nothing new. The IRS appears to have violated six of the ten rights, and is still stonewalling Congress on the scandal. The IRS’s budget won’t be increased because of today’s press release.”

 

Scott Drenkard, Richard Borean, When Did Your State Adopt Its Income Tax? (Tax Policy Blog):

20140611-1

No, they haven’t been around forever, it just feels that way.  Wisconsin was first.

 

Jason Dinesen, Same-Sex Marriage and Amending Prior-Year Returns.  “A broader way of asking the question is: if someone who’s in a same-sex marriage amends a prior-year return that they had previously filed as a single person due to the Defense of Marriage Act, must that amended return show a filing status of married?”

Tony Nitti, District Court: Lone Sale Of Undeveloped Land Generates Ordinary Income, Jeopardizing Land Banking Transactions   

William Perez, Home Office Deduction

Keith Fogg, Government Drops Appeal in Rand Case (Procedurally Taxing).  This is the case where the Tax Court ruled that a recovery of refundable credits in excess of income tax was not a “deficiency” for computing penalties.

Jack Townsend, Reminder: Category 2 Banks Will Serve Up Their U.S. Depositors .  Consider banking secrecy dead.

Brian Strahle provides a list of state and local tax blog resources. 

 

20140611-2Alan Cole, Japan’s Tax Reforms and its Blockbuster GDP Growth (Tax Policy Blog):

Paired together, theory would predict that these two tax changes create a structural shift in the Japanese economy; the more favorable corporate tax climate would encourage investment, and some income would be spent on that new investment instead of immediate consumption. Over the long term, this will boost Japanese wealth and productivity, and eventually allow for a higher standard of living than before.

The data fit this theory so far; private nonresidential investment grew at a “blockbuster” rate of 7.6% in the first quarter of 2014. 

 

David Brunori, A Coke and a Smile and a Tax (Tax Analysts Blog). ” It would tax a can of Coke, but if you went to Starbucks and dumped five teaspoons of sugar into your latte, there would be no additional tax.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 398

Going Concern, Ex-BDO Vice Chairman Given 16 Months to Think About His Choices. He will retire to a Bureau of Prisons meditation facility.

He was ashen after the sentence was announced.  Gray man sentenced to 18 months for tax evasion

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/4/14: IRS to ease up on FBAR foot-faulters? And: nanny-state taxes!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: The Tax Update will take Thursday and Friday off this week to tend to a family wedding.  We’ll be back as usual Monday.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Maybe we shouldn’t be shooting jaywalkers?  The IRS may be declaring a cease-fire in its long war on inadvertent foreign account violators.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that IRS Commissioner Koskinen told a tax conference that it will be modifying its Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative:

“We are well aware that there are many U.S. citizens who have resided abroad for many years, perhaps even the vast majority of their lives,” Koskinen told a luncheon audience at the 2014 OECD International Tax Conference in Washington. “We have been considering whether these individuals should have an opportunity to come into compliance that doesn’t involve the type of penalties that are appropriate for U.S.-resident taxpayers who were willfully hiding their investments overseas.”

Gee, you think so?  You really think 25%-300% penalties might not be appropriate for the crime of committing personal finance while living abroad?  What could possibly have given him that idea?

     Koskinen also pointed to taxpayers residing in the United States with offshore accounts “whose prior noncompliance clearly did not constitute willful tax evasion but who, to date, have not had a clear way of coming into compliance that doesn’t involve the threat of substantial penalties.”

“We believe that re-striking this balance between enforcement and voluntary compliance is particularly important at this point in time, given that we are nearing July 1, the effective date of FATCA,” Koskinen said. 

One of the things that made Doug Shulman the Worst Commissioner Ever was his brutal treatment of trivial inadvertent offshore paperwork filing violators.  Hopefully his successor will make coming into compliance voluntarily a transparent, predictable process designed primarily to ensure future compliance.  Something like state programs for non-resident non-filers, where taxpayers pay back taxes, if any, and interest for a limited number of open years would make sense  People are understandably reluctant to come into compliance when it can mean financial ruin.

The IRS has not released any details of this kinder, gentler approach, so curb your enthusiasm for now.

Related: IRS Commissioner Koskinen Announces that Changes — Liberalizations — Are In the Offing for OVDP 2012  (Jack Townsend)  “All in all, this is good news, at least from a hope perspective.”

 

20140409-1Robert D Flach offers YET ANOTHER POST CALLING FOR A VOLUNTARY TAX PREPARER DESIGNATION.  Robert makes his case for a “voluntary” designation for preparers who meet some standard.

Robert says something I agree with:

  Having the IRS oversee the designation is not the best idea.  I have suggested that the voluntary RTRP-like designation be administered by an independent industry-based organization like an American Institute of Registered Tax Return Preparers (see “It’s Time for Independent Certification for Tax Preparers“).

If the IRS has nothing to do with it, fine.  If it does, it will inevitably do special favors for its “voluntary” friends and make like difficult for others.

Robert is a little like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, looking for a brain.  The movie quickly makes clear that the Scarecrow already has a perfectly good brain; all he lacks is a diploma.  Robert, a perfectly good (if old-fashioned) preparer, doesn’t need a diploma to save his clients from the Wicked Witch.

 

TaxGrrrl, After TIGTA Report, Expect More Tax Refund Delays,  The IRS is encouraged to expand its refund offset programs.

Paul Neiffer, Portability Revisited. “With the “permanent” changes in the estate tax laws from about 2 years ago, we now have a permanent provision called portability.  This allows for the unused portion of someone’s estate to be “ported” over to the surviving spouse to be used on their final estate tax return.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 391

 

 

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

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

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats Just Love Their Nanny-State Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Tax Foundation recently spotlighted a Democratic tax proposal that gives substance to the name-calling: the Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act, introduced last month by Sens. Tom Harkin, and Richard Blumenthal.

According to its champions, the act would protect children from the predations of junk food purveyors. In particular, it would deny manufacturers any sort of tax deduction “for advertising and marketing directed at children to promote the consumption of food of poor nutritional quality.” It would use the resulting revenue to help fund the Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

That all sounds great. Except for the fact that it’s arbitrary, capricious, and an egregious misuse of tax policy.

The tax law – is there anything it can’t do?

Joseph adds, wisely:

Reasonable people can disagree about what qualifies as a loophole. But by almost any definition, the deduction for advertising junk food is not one.

Once you decide the tax law is a public policy Swiss Army Knife, there’s no logical place to stop.

 

20140411-1Kay Bell, Calories or volume: Which is the better tax on sugary drinks?  Neither.  Some problems just aren’t tax problems.

David Brunori’s righteous anger at taxes on e-cigarettes is now freely available at Tax Analysts Blog: Taxing E-Cigarettes Seems Crazy.  “Yet politicians routinely say that e-cigarettes will lead people to start smoking, or worse — use drugs! Are they daft?”  No, just greedy.

 

Renu Zaretsky, In the Midwest, Across the Pacific, and Down Under.  Tax Custs in Ohio and a rejected tax boost in Missouri are part of the TaxVox headline roundup today.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Will Anti-Tax Yogis Sink Tax-Reform in D.C.?.  If that’s what it takes to get the pic-i-nic basket.

 

This will make the homecoming in 2042 a little less awkward.  WMUR.com reports:

The woman who, along with her husband, held police at bay during a nine-month standoff in 2007 over tax evasion has apologized to the community.

Elaine Brown’s apology appeared in Plain Facts, a monthly publication written by Plainfield residents.

She said she and her husband Ed were trying to advance the “cause of justice.” She went on to say they “failed to take into account the impact we were having on others in the town. We failed to realize the fear, anxiety and impact we were causing these good people.

She was unable to apologize in person because she has been detained — until November 2042, according to the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator.  She should be home in time to invite her neighbors to her 102nd birthday party.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/22/14: IRS teams up with Bernie Madoff. And: more on the new e-file ID rules.

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff

The IRS wants in on Bernie Madoff’s action.  The Tax Court is going to think about it.

Bernard Kessell died in July 2006.  He might have died content believing he was leaving a healthy investment portfolio for his heirs.  After all, just one part of the portfolio had issued its most recent month-end statement showing a value of $3,221,057.  That statement was issued by Bernie Madoff.

Of course Mr. Madoff was arrested in 2008 and is now residing in federal prison on charges arising from the Ponzi scheme that victimized Mr. Kessell and so many others.  The real value of the securities in Mr. Kessell’s Madoff portfolio was zero.

But the IRS isn’t letting that get in the way.  The agency says Mr. Kessell’s estate should pay estate tax on the value that Mr. Kessell died thinking he owned, rather than the zero actual value.  It wants to piggyback on Mr. Madoff’s fraud to tax an estate value that wasn’t there.

The IRS asked the Tax Court for summary judgment that the asset to be taxed was the account itself, not the vaporous underlying assets, and that because Mr. Madoff hadn’t been unmasked, a willing buyer would pay full sticker for the lying value on the Madoff statements.  The Tax Court court wasn’t willing to go along on summary judgement:

We cannot say on the record before us, however, whether that agreement constituted a property interest includible in Decedent’s gross estate separate from, or exclusive of, any interest Decedent had in what purported to be the assets held in the Madoff account. This question is best answered after the parties have had the opportunity to develop the relevant facts at trial. We will therefore deny respondent’s motion on this point.

As to the issue of the value, Judge Kroupa had this to say (citations omitted).:

     Respondent argues that a Ponzi scheme, by its very nature, is not reasonably knowable or foreseeable until it is discovered or it collapses. Respondent notes Mr. Madoff’s particular skill and that his Ponzi scheme was not disclosed until it collapsed in December 2008. Respondent then reasons that Mr. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was knowable or foreseeable only at the point when it collapsed — when the amount of money flowing out of Madoff Investments was greater than the amount flowing in. For purposes of this motion, at least, we disagree.

Some people had suspected years before Mr. Madoff’s arrest that Madoff Investments’ record of consistently high returns was simply too good to be true. Whether a hypothetical willing buyer and willing seller would have access to this information and to what degree this information would affect the fair market value of the Madoff account or the assets purportedly held in the Madoff account on the date Decedent died are disputed material facts.  Thus, we will deny respondent’s motion on this point as well.

The rule on how assets are valued is in Reg. Sec. 20.2031-1(b):

 The fair market value is the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.

Most folks would consider the fact that the account was invested in a Ponzi scheme to be one of those relevant facts.  I guess that’s why most of us don’t work at IRS.

Cite: Estate of Bernard Kessel, T.C. Memo. 2014-97.

 

20130121-2The AICPA doesn’t care for the “voluntary” IRS preparer regulation proposal.  The Hill.com reports:

That system, the AICPA argues, would create implied government backing for those preparers who comply with the standards, while punishing those who do not.

“The proposed voluntary system would undoubtedly leave the impression among most taxpayers that certain tax return preparers are endorsed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS),” according letter.

Further, nonbinding standards would fail to root out bad actors, according to the group.

“As a practical matter, any voluntary regime constructed would still not address the problems with unethical and fraudulent tax return preparers,” the group contends.

All excellent points.  The AICPA has figured out that the “voluntary” program would eventually be voluntary like United Way contributions were “voluntary” when I was a green staff accountant at a national accounting firm.  They were voluntary, but amazingly, participation in the drive was always 100%.  Maybe the AICPA leaders still remember their staff accountant days.

I would add one more point.  Commissioner Koskinen and Taxpayer Advocate Olson never tire of telling us how underfunded the IRS is.  If so, why are the diverting some of their already inadequate resources to start a new nonessential program?  The obvious answer is they are trying a back door power grab now that the courts have barred the front door.

Going Concern: The AICPA Voiced “Deep Concerns” About the IRS’ Voluntary Tax Preparer Proposal.  “This means war…”

Larry Gibbs, Recent Developments in the IRS Regulation of Return Preparers (Procedurally Taxing).  A long guest post by a former IRS Commissioner about the power grab he never tried.

 

Russ Fox, New Identification Rules Go Over Like a Lead Balloon:

In this morning’s post, Joe Kristan told his readers to call the IRS. I agree; I urge all tax professionals to speak to or email their IRS Stakeholder Liaison.  

Russ quotes a new post by Jason Dinesen, I Was Wrong: We SHOULD Be Outraged About the New IRS E-File Requirements, which Jason followd up with Questions to Ponder About New IRS E-file Requirements.  I love Question 8: “How many ID thieves use a tax pro?”

Robert D. Flach has a special Thursday Buzz!, which includes Robert’s take on “voluntary” preparer regulation and the new IRS e-file requirements.

 

20140321-3TaxGrrrl, Still Looking For Your Tax Refund? Errors, 4464C Letters And Other Explanations

Peter Reilly,  Tax Court Threatens To Sanction Courtroom Commando Mac MacPherson.

Kay Bell, NYC arena Madison Square Garden pays no property taxes

Me, IRS Releases Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for June 2014

 

William McBride, High U.S. Corporate Tax Rate Chases Away Companies, Jobs and Tax Revenue (Tax  Policy Blog).  If it didn’t, it would be a fascinating case of economic actors failing to respond to incentives.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 378

Renu Zaretsky, Relief, Credits, Cuts, and Roads.  The TaxVox daily headline roundup talks about new tax relief for Minnesotans and the continuing worthlessness of film tax credit programs for everyone but filmmakers.

Cara Griffith, Should Taxpayers Challenge States if They Fail to Enact Rules? (Tax Analysts Blog):

State regulations are often vague or ambiguous, and authorities can use that to their advantage. But states should not be permitted to simply take the position that is in their best interest. They should be required to provide guidance and clarification on the positions they intend to take and, even better, clear-cut examples of how that position will be applied. And if a position will be applied to an entire industry, the state should issue a rule.

States prefer Calvinball rules.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Junk Economics: New Report Spotlights Numerous Problems with Anti-Tax Economic Model.  I suspect the biggest problem is that TJB doesn’t care for any model that doesn’t justify infinitely-high tax rates.

 

Des Moines, sometimes you are just adorable:

adorable des moines

Des Moines has started posting commute travel times, just like a big city.  On a bad day, it could be as much as 2 minutes to downtown from here.

 

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