Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Henchman’

Tax Roundup, 11/5/15: Congress, the H.R. consulting specialists! And: Zombiecare?

Thursday, November 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130113-3Maybe Congress makes a poor compensation committee. Some years ago, Congress decided that it knew how executives should be compensated better than corporation boards of directors. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 limited public company deductions for executive compensation to $1 million per year, per executive, except for “performance based” compensation.

Victor Fleischer says it’s past time to get Congress off the compensation committee in The Executive Paycheck Myth (via the TaxProf):

In my view, the obsession with pay-for-performance is overkill. A risk-averse executive seeking the quiet life — if indeed such a person ever existed — would not climb the corporate ladder today. The labor market for executives already rewards those who act over those who stand on the sidelines. A risk-averse executive will soon find himself out of a job and unable to find a new one.

Yet the tax code operates as if we need a special incentive to encourage risk-taking. Section 162(m) was enacted in 1993. Instead of reining in executive pay, the tax code sprinkles holy water on high-risk, high-reward compensation plans. To qualify for the deduction, companies must use instruments like stock options and performance share plans with asymmetric payout structures — lots of upside, no downside — that encourage excessive risk-taking.

I don’t really think 162(m) was passed to encourage risk taking. If you take the Senate committee report at its word, it was passed to cut executive pay:

Recently, the amount of compensation received by corporate executives has been the subject of scrutiny and criticism. The committee believes that excessive compensation will be reduced if the deduction for compensation (other than performance-based compensation) paid to the top executives of publicly held corporations is limited to $1 million per year.”

Congress arbitrarily decided $1 million was the maximum appropriate pay for running a business with market capitalization in the billions. But it left an out for “performance-based compensation.” Stock options are part of the “performance-based compensation,” so naturally option packages became a big part of executive packages.

Prof. Fleischer makes the case for repeal:

There’s a strong case for simply repealing Section 162(m). We don’t need the tax code to encourage chief executives to give up the quiet life.

Congress might even consider flipping Section 162(m) upside down for investment banks and other large financial institutions where excessive risk-taking creates large social costs.

Would Wall Street executives suddenly become timid and risk-averse, regressing to the fabled quiet life? I doubt it. The forces of the labor market will continue to produce executives who take risks, and boards will probably continue to structure pay that rewards them generously.

Repealing 162(m) would be a good start. A good next step would be to repeal Sec. 409A, a moral-panic set of restrictions enacted as a result of the Enron scandal that now functions mostly as a malpractice trap for attorneys and a potential disaster for employees whose employers inadvertently fail its baroque requirements.

Related: 409A: the worst single tax provision of the Bush era; Congress, meet unintended consequences




Kevin Williamson, Obamacare Is Dead. But it still walks the earth.  Zombies are a bad thing to have around.

Bob Vineyard, The Problem With Obamacare (Insureblog). “OK, in case you missed it, the healthy people are not buying coverage, but the sick ones are.”



Jason Dinesen, Taxation of Railroad Retirement Benefits

Paul Neiffer, Social Security Potpourri. ” If you live less than age 80, then starting at age 62 will pay the most.  If you live past age 80, then waiting to age 70 is usually the best.”

Russ Fox, Time Running Out on the Miccosukee Tribe’s Battle with the IRS. “Indeed, I’m all for fighting the IRS when they’re (imho) wrong. However, fighting quixotic battles when you are wrong isn’t a good idea.”

TaxGrrrl, Members Of Congress Speak Out Against Private Tax Debt Collections.

Robert Wood, If Clinton Foundation Fails To Amend Its Taxes, ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ “In general, and subject to timing constraints, one can correct tax mistakes by filing amended returns. However, sometimes the IRS views amended tax returns as too little too late.”

Del Wright, Section 6676 – the Problem Penalty (Procedurally Taxing). “Section 6676 provides generally that an erroneous claim for refund on an income tax return is subject to a 20% penalty, based on the ‘excessive amount’ of the penalty, i.e., the amount by which a taxpayer’s claim for refund exceeds the allowable claim.”

Peter Reilly, Taxing The Virtual World.  “The actions of third parties creating a secondary market in all those things in contravention of the terms of service turned World of Warcraft into a hybrid economy.”


Jack Townsend, Not Your Ordinary U.S. Taxpayer With Foreign Accounts. “The press release narrative is a bit cryptic, but states the key points — he cheated and lied to his estranged spouse and then to others including a court and federal agents.” When your drive with a carful of cash from Alaska to Panama and back results in a Department of Justice press release, that’s a good sign that it went awry.




Jeremy Scott, A Look Back at the Most Interesting Part of Bowles-Simpson (Tax Analysts Blog).

As a tax reform plan, Bowles-Simpson has been superseded by former House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp’s H.R. 1, which also hasn’t garnered much support. But Camp didn’t really consider the most interesting part of the 2010 proposal: the elimination of the preference for capital gains.

Unless either ordinary gain rates come way down or corporation double taxation is eliminated, eliminating capital gain preferences strikes me as an awful idea.


Joseph Henchman, Voters in Five States Decide Tax-Related Ballot Initiatives (Tax Policy Blog). Coloradans voted to let the state keep an unexpected Marijuana tax windfall, but Ohio rejected an odd pot legalization scheme.

Howard Gleckman, Tax Reform Is Possible, But It Won’t be Easy (TaxVox). “As Breaux put it,’You’ve got to be able to sell it to members of Congress who don’t know the difference between a balance sheet and a tax return.'” Because that would get you a majority.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 910.

Jenice Robinson, Tax Cut Crazy Talk (Tax Justice Blog). To the CTJ folks, that would be pretty much all tax cut talk.


The Critical Question. Are Sellers of Cheap Pizza Tax Scofflaws? (Jim Maule, Going Concern).

News from the Profession. Proposal Would Let Retired CPAs Take Their Three Letters Off Into the Sunset (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 10/28/15: Tax Court blocks IRS assessment of Gremlin-era gift tax. And: Impeachment is too good for him.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Wikipedia image ploaded by GrapedApe under Creative Commons license.

Wikipedia image uploaded by GrapedApe under Creative Commons license.

Closing the book on tax disputes arising in the Nixon administration, the Tax Court ruled this week that a taxpayer — the brother of Viacom mogul Sumner Redstone — did not make a taxable gift in 1972 when he transferred corporation shares to a trust as part of a lawsuit settlement.

The facts are confusing. Sumner Redstone’s father Mickey capitalized a business in 1959 but named his sons Sumner and Edward as 1/3 owners. When Edward wanted out and tried to sell his shares, the father refused to provide the certificates, saying that they were held in trust for Mickey’s children. Tax Analysts ($link) explains the result:

Mickey claimed that in 1959, when he created NAI, the shares had been held in an oral trust created at the same time. After months of negotiations, the parties agreed to settle by giving one-third of Edward’s shares to trusts in the benefit of his two children. His remaining shares were sold back to NAI for $5 million.

Edward didn’t consider this a gift, and he never filed a gift tax return for 1972. This left the statute of limitations open on the gift, and the IRS assessed gift tax on Edward’s estate after he died in 2011.

The tax law says there is no gift when property is transferred for full consideration and with no benevolent intent. The IRS says that because the beneficiaries of the trust, Edward’s children, paid nothing for the shares they received in the settlement, the transfer was a taxable gift. The Tax Court disagreed:

The evidence clearly established that Edward transferred stock to his children, not because he wished to do it, but because Mickey demanded that he do it…

Respondent’s argument focuses on whether the transferees provided consideration. But that is not the question the regulation asks. It asks whether the transferor received consideration, that is, whether he made the transfer “for a full and adequate consideration” in money or money’s worth. Sec. 25.2511-1(g)(1), Gift Tax Regs. (emphasis added). We have determined that Edward received “a full and adequate consideration” for his transfer — namely, the recognition by Mickey and Sumner that Edward was the outright owner of 66 2/3 NAI shares and NAI’s agreement to pay Edward $5 million in exchange for those shares. Section 2512(b) and its implementing regulations require that the donor receive “an adequate and full consideration”; they make no reference to the source of that consideration.

Decision for taxpayer.

The Moral? First, there’s no gift to the thief who points a gun at you, and there’s no gift when you transfer shares because you have to.

Perhaps more importantly, gift tax can be assessed forever if you don’t file a gift tax return. If there is any question on whether a gift might have happened, or realistic risk that the IRS will challenge the amount of a gift, it’s wise to file a gift tax return even when it doesn’t appear gift tax is owed. Otherwise the statute of limitations never starts running, and you might be fighting a forty-years war with the tax man.

Cite: Estate of Edward S. Redstone, 145 T.C. No. 11




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 902. A resolution has been introduced to impeach IRS Commissioner Koskinen. While his conduct in office has been awful, I hope they don’t really try to make it happen. It could backfire, and even if he were impeached, there will never be a conviction. I would rather they spend the time and energy reducing the powers of all IRS commissioners by reducing the power of the IRS through tax reform.

Russ Fox, Chaffetz Introduces Impeachment Resolution of IRS Commissioner Koskinen. “My view of this is simple: Mr. Koskinen has become a mouthpiece of the Administration rather than an independent head of the IRS… The IRS’s budget does need to be increased, but that’s not happening until Mr. Koskinen leaves the agency (and the scandal is resolved).

Kay Bell, House GOP seeks impeachment of IRS commissioner

Robert Wood, Impeach IRS Chief, Say Republicans Alleging Lies, Obstruction


William Perez, What Every Small Business Owner Should Know About the Health Care Tax Credit

Peter Reilly, Maureen O’Hara’s Ill Fated Cuban Oil Tax Shelter


20151028-2Joseph Henchman is Remembering the Deceased Iowa Pumpkin Tax You Helped End (Tax Policy Blog). “It’s a weird tax system that taxes the same item differently depending on the buyer’s intent. I’m sure Iowa pumpkin patches have better things to do than quiz their customers on future pumpkin uses.”

David Brunori, Billionaires Who Want to Tax Poor People (Tax Analysts Blog) “Second, and just to show you that it really is all about the money, the initiative will impose significant taxes on electronic cigarettes. If people really cared about the health risks of smoking, they would be encouraging — indeed subsidizing — electronic cigarettes.”

Howard Gleckman, Gimmicks Galore Litter the Boehner/Obama Budget Deal (TaxVox) “But one thing seems certain: This deal is far worse for fiscal conservatives that the Grand Bargain that Boehner and President Obama nearly reached in July 2012, a deal the speaker never could sell to his restive caucus.”

Caleb Newquist, Florida Still Cranking Out Unsophisticated Tax Schemes (Going Concern): “If you or someone you know is thinking about concocting a haphazard tax fraud, it may be tempting to go with a tried and true method that goes something like this…”


Programming Note: My travel schedule will keep me from posting a Tax Roundup tomorrow. See you Friday!



Tax Roundup, 10/22/15: Iowa to credit municipal taxes in other states, allow out-of-state credit against school surtaxes. Plus: 2016 numbers!

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150925-2City taxes eligible for credit; school district surtaxes must be counted. Like other states, Iowa gives its residents a credit for taxes paid in other states. The credit is supposed to be the lesser of the tax imposed by the other state on the income taxed by that state or the Iowa tax on the same income.

Iowa has excluded the surtaxes applied by many Iowa school districts from the total Iowa tax against which the taxes paid in the other states are compared. Iowa has also excluded out-of-state municipal income taxes, like the Kansas City Earnings Tax, from the list of taxes eligible for the credit.

The Department of Revenue has announced that the Wynne decision earlier this year requires the tax credit to be applied taking the surtax into account:

The Iowa Department of Revenue’s (“the Department”) previous practice was to calculate the surtax prior to applying the out-of-state tax credit.  This produced a similar result to Maryland’s; that is, Iowa’s out-of-state tax credit was only being applied to state income tax liability, not local tax (surtax) liability.  Because this practice is inconsistent with the Supreme Court ruling, the Department must change its practice.  The result is that the out-of-state tax credit calculated on form IA 130 must be applied prior to other nonrefundable Iowa tax credits and before calculation of any school district surtax or EMS surtax. 

The Department also is expanding the credit to apply to municipal income taxes (my emphasis):

Any Iowa resident who has paid taxes on income earned in any other state, a local jurisdiction of any other state, or the District of Columbia may be eligible for a refund. 

This will apply to many S corporation and partnership owners whose businesses are involved in other states. I suspect the Kansas City earnings tax may be one of the more commonly municipal taxes paid by Iowans, but such taxes are also commonly seen in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Kentucky. Some localities collect these taxes through “composite” returns filed by the S corporations or partnerships on behalf of their owners, so partners and shareholders should review their K-1 information to see whether they contain municipal taxes that can generate Iowa refunds.

Iowans will have to file amended returns under the normal IA 1040X refund claim process:

The 2015 IA 1040 and IA 130 will reflect these changes; however, prior year Iowa forms will not.  For taxpayers filing 2013 or 2014 returns for the first time or amending those returns using the IA 1040, rather than the IA 1040X, the out-of-state tax credit calculated on form IA 130 should be entered after line 49 on the IA 1040, rather than on line 57 as shown on the form for those prior years. For tax years 2007 through 2012, the out-of-state tax credit calculated on form IA 130 should be entered after line 52 on the IA 1040, rather than on line 62.

The period to claim 2011 refund may still be open until October 31 for Iowans who filed their 2011 returns at the extended return deadline. Otherwise refunds may be avaialable for 2012 and later filings.


Joseph Henchman, Iowa to Refund Local Income Taxes After Wynne Decision (Tax Policy Blog)

Des Moines Register, Court ruling gives 32,000 Iowa households tax refunds

Prior Coverage: Is yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision an Iowa refund opportunity?




Kay Bell, IRS issues 2016 tax inflation adjustments

Me, 2016 401(k) max remains $18,000; most other qualified plan limits unchanged and FICA Max remains unchanged for 2016 at $118,500.


William Perez discusses Various Types of Individual Retirement Accounts.

Hank Stern, Two more CO-OPS down the tubes (Insureblog). The Colorado and Oregon co-ops follow Iowa’s Co-Oportunity into co-oblivion.

Alan Cole, The CBO Thinks Repealing Obamacare Mandates Would Lower the Deficit. Here’s Why. (Tax Policy Blog):

The numbers tell the same story that the paragraph above tells: some people respond to the penalties by paying them, but others respond to the penalties by purchasing (often-subsidized) insurance. The subsidies paid to the latter group actually outweigh the revenue the government earns from the penalties.

What a disaster.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 896


Aidan Russell Davis, New ITEP Brief: A Primer on State Rainy Day Funds (Tax Justice Blog). “Rather than waiting for another crisis to occur, ITEP’s new policy brief explains why states should make structural improvements to their rainy day funds right now.”


Because they’re not hiring? Six Percent of People Looking for Talent Not Sure What All the Complaining Is About (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).


The Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is 29 years old today. 


My, how you’ve grown.



Tax Roundup, 10/7/15: Iowa Dept. of Revenue proposes sound policy, protests erupt. And: skating to a low-tax state.

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150122-1The Iowa Department of Revenue proposes broad definitions for industrial sales tax exemption. The chief Democratic taxwriter in the Iowa Senate is unhappy.

The Des Moines Register reports:

State legislators will consider a proposal next week that would reduce the tax burden for manufacturers by up to $46 million in a move critics say bypasses the legislative process.

In an effort to avoid a “double tax,” current law exempts from taxation some items used during the manufacturing process and instead taxes the final product. The proposal would expand the number of items that qualify for that exemption.

The policy behind the exemption is sound. As David Brunori points out,

Only bad things happen when businesses pay sales tax. First, the businesses paying the tax pass the burden on to their customers in the form of higher prices. But the tax is hidden. People do not know they are paying it. Politicians, and perhaps the New York Times, may like that lack of transparency, but it is awful government policy. Second, the higher priced products purchased by consumers are often subject to tax. This gives rise to a tax on a tax. That is awful tax policy. Finally, taxation of business inputs artificially keeps sales tax rates low. People think the sales tax rate is lower than it actually is. None of this is good.

Whether the Department has overstepped its authority is a separate question from the tax policy. From the Register story:

But state Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, pointed out the fiscal effects of the legislation on Monday.

“We’ve been told repeatedly by this governor that we can’t afford to educate our kids, and here he goes again with another big tax cut for Iowa’s largest corporations and putting their needs ahead of our kids,” Bolkcom said. “It’s wrong.”

“I don’t remember ever tax policy being made by the rules committee or being made by the executive branch without the consent of the Legislature,” Bolkcom said. “This is a huge tax policy change that (Gov. Branstad) has unilaterally decided.”

Iowa businesses have long complained about the restrictive definition of “equipment” and “property directly and primarily used in processing.” It seems to me that the new definitions are more in line with business reality and the intent of the exemption. Still, I haven’t seen a fight over proposed regulations like this, so I have no idea how this will play out.

Link: Proposed new Iowa rules.




TaxGrrrl, Hockey Players Ice High Tax Teams In Favor Of Tax Savings:

With teams located in Canada and in the United States, high performing hockey players may be able to negotiate their tax home with their team home in order to choose a more favorable tax result. That is, according to a new report released jointly by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) and Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), exactly what’s happening.

According to the report, 54% of the 116 Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) and 60% of players with no-trade clauses who changed teams picked teams with lower taxes.

Sports free agency is an unusual natural experiment on whether state taxes matter. There are always other factors than taxes in choosing a team.  Winning is worth something. Still, it’s pretty much the same job, just with different taxes. The resulting low-tax preference is what you would predict.


Kay Bell, Fantasy sports: Gambling or just good, clean online fun?  Either way, taxes are due, but deduction options differ.

Jack Townsend, Swiss Asset Manager Settles Up with DOJ Tax. A $295,000 fine. Another example of second prong of the IRS approach to international tax compliance — shoot the jaywalkers so you can slap the big offenders on the wrist.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: A Buyer’s Best Friend – Understanding The Section 338(h)(10) Election. “What if a buyer could acquire a target’s stock for legal purposes — thereby keeping the target alive and preserving its non-transferable assets — but acquire the target’s assets for tax purposes, giving the buyer the stepped-up basis in the asset it seeks?”


Jim Maule, Putting More Tax Information “Out There” for the Tax Database Thieves:

Until and unless the protection of online data is heightened to a point of 99 percent confidence, the IRS should not create yet another vulnerability, another door through which the robbers can force their way in. In the meantime, why not focus on the problem rather than the symptoms? The underlying cause of some noncompliance is the complexity of the tax laws. Treating the symptoms does not cure the illness.



Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 8/31/15 to 9/11/15. Procedurally Taxing rounds up recent developments in tax procedure, “heavy on estate and gift this week.”




David Brunori, North Carolina Tax Changes — Sort of Good, Kind of Bad (Tax Analysts Blog):

On the good side, the state lowered the personal income tax rate from 5.75 percent to 5.49 percent. Lowering rates is usually good for the economy and for the people paying taxes. I believe that people know how to spend their money in ways that improve the economy much better than the government does. The state also expanded the no-tax exemption to $15,500, providing more relief for low-income taxpayers. In general that is a good thing.

On the super-negative front, the legislature is giving Hollywood moguls $30 million in each of the next two years to make films in North Carolina. I guess they haven’t read any of the studies showing that film credits don’t work. But why let facts stand in the way of policymaking?

It’s probably only a matter of time before they realize the wisdom of Iowa’s enlightened approach to hosting filmmakers.


Joseph Henchman, California Supreme Court Hears Arguments in MTC Case (Tax Policy Blog).

Roberton Williams, New Estimates Of How Many Households Pay No Federal Income Tax (TaxVox). “We now figure it is 45.3 percent, nearly 5 percentage points higher than our 2013 estimate of 40.4 percent.”  Mitt Romney, call your office.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 881. Quoting Victor David Hanson: “What now constitutes actionable criminal behavior in the scandals at the IRS, EPA, ICE and a host of other alphabet agencies are not treated as per se violations of the law. Rather, they are judged according to whether the offender and his crime were deemed progressive and well-intended—or reactionary and thus prosecutable.”

Peter Reilly, Paul Caron’s Day By Day IRS Scandal Has Jumped The Shark – Part 1. Sometimes I think the TaxProf has to reach deep to have something to run every day, but his continued focus on the outrageous IRS behavior is a public service. I’m not sure Peter thinks there is a scandal in the first place.


Career Corner. Do PwC Employees Really Like the New Student Loan Perk? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). No word on whether the spiff is available in cash for those thrifty students who got by without loans.



Tax Roundup, 10/6/15: Tax Fairy fails to show up for Kansas ESOP. And: lots of other tax stuff.

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

tax fairyThe ESOP Tax Fairy Cult has long had Midwest adherents. The Tax Court told gave a Kansas believer the bad news yesterday — there is no tax fairy.

A successful Kansas orthopedic surgeon, a Dr. Prohaska, set up a new corporation, DNA Prof Ventures, with his wife. The surgeon and his wife were the only DNA employees. On the day it was incorporated, DNA created an employee stock ownership plan for its employees.

Problems arose. Tax Court Judge Dawson tells the story:

On December 31, 2008, DNA issued 1,150 shares of class B common stock to the trust with a par value of $10 per share. The trust then allocated the 1,150 shares of DNA stock to Dr. Prohaska’s ESOP account in 2008.

During 2008 DNA did not pay any salaries, wages, or other officer’s compensation. For 2009 DNA issued separate Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, to Dr. and Mrs. Prohaska reporting the respective amounts of $4,500 (during its fourth quarter beginning October 1). DNA issued Forms W-2 for 2010 to Dr. and Mrs. Prohaska reporting the respective amounts of $3,000.

DNA deducted a $1,350 retirement plan contribution on its Form 1120, U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return, for 2009.

Although DNA was the sponsor of the ESOP, it did not file any Forms 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, for plan years 2008, 2009, and 2010.

The IRS examiners found problems with this and other aspects of the way the ESOP was run (my emphasis):

    In this case, the ESOP had two separate failures to follow its plan document during 2008. First, the ESOP sponsored by DNA Pro Ventures allowed Dr. Daniel J. Prohaska and Amy Prohaska to participate in the ESOP as of the plan year ending December 31, 2008, in violation of the terms of the ESOP plan document regarding eligibility and participation. Second, the ESOP plan document required the ESOP to use appraisal rules substantially similar to those issued under I.R.C. sec. 170(a)(1) when it obtained annual appraisals for the same plan year. The ESOP, however, failed to obtain any appraisal for the 2008 plan year or for any plan year.

That led to a bad result:

For the reason stated above, it is determined that the ESOP is not qualified under I.R.C. sec. 401(a) for the plan years ending December 31, 2008 and all subsequent plan years. As a result, the Plan is not exempt from taxation under I.R.C. sec. 501(a) for trust years ending December 31, 2008 and all subsequent plan years.

A Google search reveals that the ESOP reported net assets of nearly $400,000 at the end of 2012. That would mean that much additional income for the ESOP participants over the term of the ESOP.  That’s an expensive sacrifice to the tax fairy. As the ESOP was set up the same day as the corporation, it appears likely that the purpose of the corporation was to feed the ESOP. Iowa has been a hotbed for bad ESOPs. While there is no evidence showing that this is linked to any other bad ESOPs, I note that the corporation had an Iowa mailing address.

The Moral: ESOPs aren’t easy. They can be useful under the right circumstances, but they require appraisals and careful compliance with the plan document an ESOP rules. They aren’t an easy tax shelter, and there is no ESOP Tax Fairy.

Cite: DNA Pro Ventures Inc. Employee Stock Ownership Plan, T.C. Memo 2015-195.




It’s Tuesday, so it’s Buzz-day for Robert D. Flach. He rounds up news ranging from the developments in the Section 105 $100-per-day penalty (Tax Update coverage here) to the ongoing problems in keeping EITC from squirting all over the place.

Kay Bell, IRS says ‘No’ to tax-exempt status for pet care group offering heated spa, massages and other animal amenities. My beagle would approve this exemption.

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: MACRS. “MACRS refers to “modified accelerated cost recovery system,” which is the default depreciation method used for tax purposes.”

Russ Fox, Well, That’s One Way to Avoid ClubFed. But fatal heart attacks have serious non-tax drawbacks.

Peter Reilly, Boston Bernie Backers Probably Not Bashing Bruins



Joseph Thorndike, The ‘Cadillac’ Tax Shows Why Obamacare Was Never Built to Last (Tax Analysts Blog). “All of which suggests that Obamacare will be in trouble for a long time.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 880

Joseph Henchman, California Supreme Court to Decide Fate of 48-Year-Old Multistate Tax Compact. (Tax Policy Blog). “Maybe it’s time we accept that the MTC isn’t working, and the Gillette case might be the first step of that realization.”

Renu Zaretsky, Evasion, Cuts, Hikes, and Drops. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers a planned “global crackdown” on tax evasion, business tax cuts in New Hampshire, and much more.

Leslie Book, District Court Hands IRS Loss in its Bid to Exclude Discretionary Treaty Benefits From Judicial Review (Procedurally Taxing).

Robert Wood, As IRS And DOJ Hunt Offshore Accounts, Banks Pony Up.


News from the Profession. Oh Great, Public Accounting Discovered the Selfie Stick (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 9/10/15: True crime edition; or, how to get the IRS to pay attention.

Thursday, September 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_0603How to make sure the IRS comes looking for your tax fraud. A Minnesota man will have 6 years to ponder mistakes he made diverting employment and excise taxes he owed to finance good times. From

Fifty-seven-year-old Bartolemoea Montanari, formerly of Bayport, was sentenced Wednesday. Montanari was also ordered to pay mandatory restitution of $100,000 and, additionally, to pay more than $1.5 million as a special assessment for the taxes, interest and penalties owed.

According to court documents, from 2009 until January 2012, Montanari willfully evaded the payment of employment and excise taxes owed by him and the three businesses he controlled: St. Croix Development, Emlyn Coal Processing, and Montie’s Resources.

He was convicted on the three counts of an indictment accusing him of diverting funds to a shell company from his legitimate businesses, and then withdrawing funds from the shell company to finance, well, stuff:

During sentencing, the judge noted Montanari used the money he stole to finance an “incredibly flamboyant lifestyle,” that this was “not a single error of judgment,” and that Montanari had “many chances” to correct his behavior, but did not. 

The indictment says the lifestyle included a $1.4 million home in Tennessee and “numerous personal vehicles.”

The defendant would seem to have made two mistakes to help ensure that the IRS would come snooping. First would be the “incredibly flamboyant lifestyle.” Taxgrrrl notes a Pennsylvania tax investigation apparently started when federal agents noticed a fancy house from the air. If the feds don’t notice themselves, envious or annoyed neighbors or associates might bring their questions about a flamboyant lifestyle to their attention.

More importantly, he failed to pay over employment taxes. His employees certainly  wouldn’t have failed to report their W-2 wages and claim their refunds. Despite its information processing shortcomings, the IRS can and does notice that. The main difference between committing employment tax fraud and confessing to it is the amount of work the IRS has to do before pressing charges.




Speaking of foolproof crimes: Hot Lotto rigger sentenced to 10 years (Des Moines Register). The case involved an alleged inside job by an IT professional at the Multi-State Lottery:

The case has enthralled Iowans and gained national attention since late December 2011, when a New York attorney tried to claim — just hours before it would expire — a Hot Lotto ticket worth $14.3 million on behalf of a trust incorporated in Belize. The identity of the original ticket purchaser was a mystery.

Authorities with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation began looking into Tipton after several people identified him as the hooded man in a video showing the ticket being purchased at a Des Moines QuikTrip. At the time, Tipton was the information security director for the Urbandale-based Multi-State Lottery Association that provides games such as Hot Lotto to lotteries nationwide.

[Assistant Attorney General] Sand told jurors at trial that Tipton installed a self-deleting software program, called a rootkit, onto lottery drawing computers to manipulate the outcome of a Dec. 29, 2010, draw. Tipton then filtered the winning ticket he bought through a friend, Robert Clark Rhodes II, from Texas in an attempt to claim the money, Sand said.

There’s a reason lottery workers aren’t allowed to play the lottery. The lawyer and Belize trust didn’t help the whole thing slip by unnoticed.


Tony Nitti, How To Talk About The Yahoo Spin-Off Without embarrassing Yourself. A walk through the mysteries of tax-free corporate separations.

Russ Fox, IRS Removes Social Security Number from Some Notices But…:

The reason for this is the problem of identity theft. And I give kudos to the IRS for this. Unfortunately, the IRS hasn’t executed this that well.

Today I opened an IRS notice that was sent to a client. The good: The social security number in the header had only the last four digits. The bad: Right below the header the IRS put in a bar code–presumably to make processing of the return mail easier. Below the bar code in relatively small print (but easily readable by me, and I wear glasses) was the deciphering of the code. Of course, it contained the social security number.

The IRS, protecting your identity since 1913.

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Will Obamacare Tax Your Home Sale?

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Forget Those Fuel Tax Credits. “Most farmers obtain dyed diesel without having to paying federal and in most cases state excise taxes.  However, there can be many other uses on the farm that will allow a farmer to claim a fuel tax credit on Form 4136.”

Kay Bell, Tax diplomas, computer games and soap operas. “Will informing folks about the role of taxes in their countries, especially starting at an early age, help create more tax responsible citizens?”

Jim Maule, It’s a Failure of Some Sort, But It’s Not a Tax Failure. The professor reminds us not to believe everything you read on the internet.






TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 854

Howard Gleckman, Jeb Bush’s Tax Plan: High Marks for Transparency But Key Questions Remain (TaxVox). “At first glance, GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s tax reform plan is a standard lower-the-rates, broaden-the-base overhaul of the revenue code. But a closer look shows a something-for-everyone stew filled with interesting ingredients—most basic GOP fare but seasoned with a few surprising ideas.”


Well, it’s not my thing, but if it’s for the kids…  Let’s Get High for the Children (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog):

Every proposal, like the one in Arizona, calls for dedicating marijuana tax revenue to schools, which is a terrible idea. Perhaps everyone will be stoned and won’t care, but aren’t schools important enough to pay for with real, broad-based taxes on income, sales, or property?

Politicians might look for a way to legalize slavery if they thought it would give them more revenue.

Joseph Henchman, Colorado Suspends Marijuana Tax for One Day on September 16 (Tax Policy Blog).


News from the Profession. Rihanna and 50 Cent Need New Accountants (Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 8/12/15: Bad news: blogging doesn’t make your vacation deductible. And more great stuff!

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


Accounting Today visitors: the due date post is here.

Road Trip! I had a great time on vacation last month, but it would have been sweeter if I could figure out a way to deduct it. Maybe if I mentioned it here at the Tax Update Blog? Alas, a Tax Court case this week thwarts my cunning scheme.

The Tax Court takes up the story:

In June 2008 petitioner’s adventure began. Over the next 5-1/2 months, petitioner made his way across the continents of Europe and Africa and even made a foray into the Middle East.

Throughout his journey petitioner updated his blog with anecdotes and pictures from his travels. While petitioner included details about some of the sites he saw, places he stayed, and food he ate, many of his explanations do not give enough details for a reader to find the specific site, lodgings, or restaurant described. For example in petitioner’s Paris blog entry he states: “[W]e hit up The [sic] BEST ice cream in Europe. * * * there are a couple of places that serve it and pricing is much higher at one (the ‘tourist’ one as Jeff put it) than at the other one. We walked past the tourist one, which had a huge crowd and walked down the street about half a block to the other one.” Petitioner does not give any more details about where in Paris the best ice cream in Europe can be found.

Petitioner did keep copies of all his receipts, flight confirmations, lodging confirmations, tour confirmations, rail passes, shuttle confirmations, bank statements, tour vouchers, credit card statements, and other miscellaneous receipts from the trip.

The problem wasn’t so much the recordkeeping, then, but the business plan:

Petitioner realized as he traveled, and even more so after he returned to the United States, that the market was already saturated with international backpacking blogs and that his plan for generating income through affiliate sales from his blog would not be profitable. Petitioner then shifted his focus to writing books about his travels and the insights he gained while traveling.

One way to ease the pain of a bad business plan is to deduct the losses:

Petitioner timely filed his 2008 Federal income tax return (return). He listed “world travel guide” as his principal business on the Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business, attached to the return. On the Schedule C, petitioner did not report any business gross receipts or gross income. He claimed total expenses of and reported a net business loss of $39,138. As part of his net business loss, petitioner claimed deductions for travel expenses of $19,347, deductible meals and entertainment expenses of $6,314, and other expenses of $5,431.

The IRS threw a wrench in this part of the business plan by disallowing the loss under the Section 183 “hobby loss rules.” These rules disallow losses on business activities not really entered into for profit. The Tax Court reviewed nine factors that are used to distinguish a real business from a hobby, and found against the taxpayer (my emphasis::

Petitioner did not maintain any books or records for the activity. He had no written business plan and no estimate as to when his Web site would be operational, when his books would be published, or when he would begin to earn income from the activity. Although petitioner documented and retained receipts for his travel-related expenses, merely maintaining receipts is not enough to indicate a profit motive…

Furthermore, petitioner did not investigate the activity before embarking on his trip. Petitioner incurred over $39,000 in expenses before doing any research into the activity’s profitability. This is an indication that the activity was not engaged in for profit.

My favorite part of the opinion is this footnote, where the court tells us what a “blog” is:

“Blog” is a truncation of the expression “Web log”, which is a regularly updated Web site or Web page written in an informal or conversational style and typically run by an individual or small group.

So now we know.

The Moral? Travel may be broadening, and fun, but not necessarily deductible. Before spending $39,000 on it, you might want to figure out how to earn it back first.

Cite: Pingel, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-48.




Tony Nitti, Teacher Fails To Qualify As Real Estate Professional: Who Can Pass The “More Than Half” Test?. Tony discusses the case we covered here yesterday.

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Use Your Product When Preparing a Tax Return. I think it depends a lot on the product, but Paul gets more specific in the text: “…it is apparent that you should not be using marijuana when preparing your income tax return.”

Jack Townsend, Two U.S. Return Preparer Enablers Sentenced for Offshore Account Conspiracy.

Russ Fox, There’s Innocent FBAR Violations, and There’s This. But jailing an occasional real tax violator doesn’t justify shooting jaywalkers.


Robert Nadler, Spousal Abuse Continues to Provide a Powerful Basis for Innocent Spouse Relief (Procedurally Taxing).

Robert Wood, Trump, Taxes, Tampons, And Snoop Dogg

TaxGrrrl, Defendants Sentenced For Stealing 9,000 Identities, Including Army Soldiers


David Brunori, Taxing Beer (Tax Analysts Blog):

The lowest excise tax rates are in Wyoming, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Oregon. To put it in context, Tennessee taxes beer at $1.29 a gallon. Wyoming’s tax is $0.02 a gallon. Buy your beer in Cheyenne.

I wonder if Jack Daniels has an effective lobby in the Tennessee statehouse.




Joseph Henchman, Ten Years of the North Carolina Lottery (and Why It’s In Part a Tax) (Tax Policy Blog):

The Lottery was set up ten years ago as a state enterprise to generate revenue for education programs. 50 percent of gross sales are paid out as prizes, 7 percent paid to retailers as a commission, 8 percent to pay for operations (including advertising, which cannot exceed 1 percent of total revenues), and 35 percent to the state for education funding. Additionally, winners pay income tax on their prizes. The odds are not great – table games in casinos have much better odds – but the Lottery has no real competition as it is state-sanctioned.

Think of it as a tax on people who are bad at math.


Howard Gleckman, Clinton Would Tinker With, Not Rewrite, the Tax Code. (TaxVox). And what the tax law really needs is more tinkering, right?

Kay Bell, Is Obamacare headed back to the Supreme Court yet again? I think Justice Roberts has made it clear that he will find a way to protect the mess from all challenges.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 825. Today the Prof links to Peter Reilly’s concession that just maybe Lois Lerner ran a biased shop.


News from the Profession. New Study Validates Old Accountant Joke (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 8/7/15: Iowa sales tax takes a holiday, and other brutal assaults on reason.

Friday, August 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150807-1Today is the firm field day. Once again my proposal for an all-office open chess tournament failed to win support, so it’s golf again.

The annual Iowa sales tax holiday for clothing and footwear is today and tomorrow. Details from the Iowa Department of Revenue:

-Exemption period: from 12:01 a.m., August 7, 2015, through midnight, August 8, 2015.

-No sales tax, including local option sales tax, will be collected on sales of an article of clothing or footwear having a selling price less than $100.00.

-The exemption does not apply in any way to the price of an item selling for $100.00 or more

-The exemption applies to each article priced under $100.00 regardless of how many items are sold on the same invoice to a customer

“Clothing” means…

-any article of wearing apparel and typical footwear intended to be worn on or about the human body.

“Clothing” does not include…

-watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas, handkerchiefs, sporting equipment, skis, swim fins, roller blades, skates, and any special clothing or footwear designed primarily for athletic activity or protective use and not usually considered appropriate for everyday wear.

Sales tax holidays are a bad policy, for reasons explained well by Joseph Henchman and Liz Malm, including this:

Political gimmicks like sales tax holidays distract policymakers and taxpayers from genuine, permanent tax relief. If a state must offer a “holiday” from its tax system, it is a sign that the state’s tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, then they should cut the sales tax rate year-round

The Federation of Tax Administrators has a complete list of sales tax holidays for 2015. Mississippi and Louisiana have holidays for firearms purchases September 4-6, so you can dress up in Iowa and drive south to do your weapons shopping in Iowa style.

Related: Kay Bell, 13 state sales tax holidays on tap this weekend


Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz, including a special offer on THE NEW SCHEDULE C NOTEBOOK, his tax Baedeker for the sole proprietor.

William Perez, Changes in Tax Deadlines to Take Effect in 2017 (Plus Deadlines for 2015 and 2016)

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: LLC

Keith Fogg, The Room of Lies (Procedurally Taxing). No, it’s not about debate settings, Congress or the White House Press Briefing Room. It’s about the process the government uses in deciding whether to appeal tax cases.

Robert Wood, Mo’ Indictments For Mo’ Money Taxes, 20 Years Prison Possible. “Indeed, the fallout for innocent taxpayers patronizing a tax preparation shop that is in trouble can be far-reaching.”  Yes, that’s why taxpayers should be wary of a shop that seems to always get bigger refunds than anyone else.

Tony Nitti, If You Hired Mo’ Money Taxes To Prepare Your Return, You Continue To Have Mo’ Problems.  “The most institutionally corrupt organization south of the New England Patriots…”

TaxGrrrl Live-blogged the GOP presidential debate last night. As the political season seems to be fully underway, it’s time to express my joy of the season, best stated by Arnold Kling:

To me, political campaigns are not sacred events, to be eagerly anticipated and avidly followed. They are brutal assaults on reason. I look forward to election season about as much as a gulf coast resident looks forward to hurricane season.

And reason never comes out well in the contest.


Renu Zaretsky, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers international tax reform, gas taxes, and sales tax holidays.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 820. Lots of reaction to the Senate Finance report on the scandal.

Peter Reilly, IRS Scandal – Blame It All On Lois Lerner And Move On?

Joseph Thorndike, Clinton Should Keep It Simple and Just Propose Repealing the Capital Gains Preference (Tax Analysts). No, no, no. She should keep it simple and propose repealing the capital gain tax.


Career Corner. The “I’m Leaving” Conversation (Green Dot Peon, Going Concern).


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

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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


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

It’s a good day.



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

Monday, June 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Cite: TD 9725


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

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

The most promising of the steps:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

Annette Nellen, Tax reform for 2015? Seems unlikely

Kay Bell, Lessons learned from being tax Peeping Toms

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

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

Robert Wood, Beware Tax Cops At Farmers’ Markets


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

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

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


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


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


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



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

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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



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

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


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 756




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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

In another post, he says:

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

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


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

Robert D. Flach has some fresh Friday Buzz!




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

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


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

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




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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 750


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The TaxProf has a roundup of coverage.


supreme courtMore coverage:

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

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

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

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

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





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


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

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

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

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




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

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

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


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

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

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


Tax Roundup, 3/30/15: A Year After the Fire Edition. And: Can fraud be accidental?

Monday, March 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Friends, if your 1040 information isn’t in by now, you’re getting extended. 

It’s been a year since the old Younkers Building burned down. It was kitty-corner from our office at 7th and Walnut in Des Moines. Here is what it looked like a year ago:



And here is the site yesterday:



The remaining portion of the site is called the Wilkins Building. The old Younkers store was actually three buildings built at different times and connected as one store. The part that didn’t burn down was built about 20 years after the part that was obliterated.

The building was being remodeled into apartments, and the work was well along when the fire broke out in the wee hours. The sprinkler system had not been turned on, and the building went up too quickly for the fire department to do more than keep it from spreading.

The developers intend to remodel the remaining portion as apartments, retail and a restaurant. Seventh Avenue is again open, providing easy access to our office, but Walnut remains closed indefinitely.


Sunday Morning Skywalks.

Goodbye, Younkers Building.




20150326-2No, you’re not. Two headlines from my Google news feed: Are you accidentally committing tax fraud? And 5 ways you’re accidentally committing tax fraud.

You don’t commit tax fraud “accidentally.” You don’t have to tell yourself “hey, I’ll commit me some fraud” to be a fraudster. But for something to rise to the level of fraud, it has to be more than an accident.

For example, accidentally leaving a $50 1099 off a return isn’t fraud. “Accidentally” omitting one for $1 million just might be, as it’s harder to accidentally forget you made that much.


This may be the most depressing tax case I’ve ever seen. From

The Parsons are guilty of accepting benefits from the government – benefits intended for Erica – even though Erica was no longer with them.

Erica had gone missing late in 2011, but her disappearance was not reported for nearly two years.

The adoptive mother received 10 years, and the father 8, from a judge convinced they killed their adoptive daughter after years of abuse and covered up the crime to keep collecting her government benefits — on which they failed to pay taxes.


9 Tournament & Tax Tips On The Road To The Final Four. “Betting on the Final Four? Here are a few tax and tournament tips to keep in mind.”

Kay Bell, Some Final Four teams could suffer under seat tax proposal. A proposal to reduce deductions for contributions that get you good seats at the game.

William Perez, What Is the Alternative Minimum Tax?

Jana Luttenegger Weiler, 529A ABLE Account Guidance (Sort Of….) (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “The ABLE Act will amend Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code to create a tax-free savings account for certain individuals who had significant disabilities before turning age 26.”

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 5: Examples of Taxes in 1920


Peter Reilly, Nay Nay We Won’t Pay – Evaders, Protesters and Resisters Versus IRS. “Deliberately not paying your taxes violates the law, so I don’t want to imply that there is an “official” correct way to do it.”

Bob Nadler, Who Won the Sanchez Case? (Procedurally Taxing). “In Sanchez, the taxpayer sought innocent spouse relief in the Tax Court and lost her case because the Court held no joint return was filed.  But the underlying assessment of a joint tax may have been erroneous.  If the assessment is found to be invalid the taxpayer will probably have no tax liability.”


Jack Townsend, Third Circuit Affirms Sentence Based on PSR Calculation of Tax Loss In Excess of Stipulated Tax Loss in Plea Agreement. Just because you admit evading one amount of tax doesn’t mean the judge can’t be convinced you evaded more.

No, it’s not. Next question. FATCA Repeal Efforts Just Failed, But Is It A Good Law? (Robert Wood):

FATCA’s massive and systemic overkill is great and vastly expensive. It is an elephant gun aimed at mosquitoes. And it has damaged the lives of over 7 million Americans abroad. Many can no longer open or maintain bank accounts where they live, get mortgages, or run their local businesses or households without difficulty. Many institutions around the world simple will not–perhaps cannot–open and maintain accounts for Americans, financial pariahs.

Its supporters say that international tax evasion justifies it, but like so many laws claiming good intentions, it has horrendous unintended (but easily foreseeable) consequences. Its complexity makes offenders out of ordinary citizens committing personal finance abroad, and its attempt to export U.S. tax enforcement invites other countries to do the same here.


Younkers Tea Room in its last week.

Younkers Tea Room in its last week.

Joseph Henchman, Nevada Governor Attacks Tax Foundation Report:

The proposal replaces Nevada’s current $200-flat business license fee with a tiered gross receipts tax.

Governor Sandoval quickly responded with a statement calling our report “utterly irresponsible, intellectually dishonest, and built on erroneous assumptions.” His ally Senator Michael Roberson added that our report “is nothing more than a disingenuous hatchet-job.”

The disappointing ad hominems from Governor Sandoval and Senator Roberson cloud the serious issues raised in our impartial analysis:

  • The BLF proposal has 67 revenue ranges for each of 27 industry categories, totaling 1,811 possible tax brackets.

  • BLF taxpayers will face absurdly high marginal tax rates, reaching over 13 million percent and likely distorting business decisions.

  • If the BLF tax burden were calculated in terms of a state corporate income tax, rates would range wildly from 0.2 percent to a punitive 77 percent.

  • Tax-motivated business restructuring would harm Nevada business competitiveness, and the punitive rate on the railroad industry likely violates federal law.

  • The tax rates for each industry were calculated using Texas data from a single year, which is not representative of Nevada’s economy.

  • The revenue estimates are probably overstated, which will lead to a revenue scramble when the tax underperforms.

Gross receipts and gross profits taxes have an inherent flaw: you can have large gross receipts or gross margins, but still have a net loss after expenses. Nevada doesn’t have an income tax. The politicians seem to want one in the worst way, and they are trying to get one that way.


Younkers elevator


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day690The IRS Scandal, Day 689The IRS Scandal, Day 688

Len Burman, Do Senators Lee and Rubio Have a Secret Plan to Help Poor Families?


Russ Fox begins his annual listing of bad tax ideas with Bozo Tax Tip #10: Email Your Social Security Number. Please, don’t. And don’t sent tax documents with your identifying information as an email attachment. Identity fraud is easy enough without helping the fraudsters that way.

News from the Profession. Deloitte University Is a Cruise Ship Without Swimsuits (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).


Tax Roundup, 3/23/15: ACA is five years old today. How’s that working out?

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Productivity wins! All three Iowa teams are out of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. Back to those 1040s, fans!



President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act. Image via

Five years. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was signed into law five years ago today. Thanks to many delays — some part of the original law, others done in spite of the law to get past the elections — taxpayers and preparers are just beginning to cope with key portions of the law.

This is the first year for returns with the individual mandate — officially, and creepily, the “Individual Shared Responsibility Provision.” While many taxpayers thought this would only amount to $95, taxpayers hit with the penalty are learning that their refunds will get dinged for up to 1% of their AGI over a relatively low threshold.

This is also the first year that taxpayers have to true up overpayments of the advance premium tax credit.  Many taxpayers who bought policies on the ACA exchanges had their monthly premiums reduced based on their estimates of 2014 earnings. This subsidy is actually a tax credit, and it has to be reconciled at year end with the actual earnings.  Taxpayers with earnings in excess of what they estimated are now learning from their preparers that they need to write checks.

20121120-2The premium tax credit is horribly designed, with a stepped, rather than gradual, phaseout. One additional dollar in income can result in a loss of thousands of dollars in premium tax credits, which then have to be repaid with the tax return. H&R Block reports that most taxpayers who claimed the credit have to repay an average of $530. The IRS has tried to patch over some of the unpleasantness, unilaterally waiving penalties this year for taxpayers who have to repay the credits.

Here in Iowa, smaller employers who want to offer ACA-approved health insurance can’t, in the wake of the failure of the heavily-subsidized CoOportunity health insurance carrier. The IRS will still allow Iowa businesses to claim the convoluted credit for small employers for 2015. It required carriers who had signed up with CoOportunity to scramble to find new coverage, and it required many families who had already reached their out-of-pocket limits to start them over with a new carrier.


Looming over all this is the Supreme Court’s impending decision in King v. Burwell. The IRS decided to allow the premium tax credit in the 34 states using federal exchanges, in spite of statutory language limiting the credits to exchanges created “by the states.” If the court goes with the way the law is drafted, the premium tax credit will be gone for those 34 states, including Iowa. Employers in those states will be suddenly exempt from the “employer mandate” that begins to take effect in 2015. Millions of taxpayers will also be free of the individual mandate penalty because their insurance will no longer be “affordable.”

If you want to celebrate, head over to Insureblog, where they are always updating the latest developments and unintended consequences of the ACA.



20150312-1William Perez, Did You Pay Interest on Student Loans? It May be Tax Deductible

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Forms: 1098-T, Tuition Statement

Roger McEowen, Are Payments Made to Settle Patent Violations Deductible? (ISU-CALT)

Kay Bell, Tax returns on hold while IRS asks ‘Who Are You?’

Peter Reilly, Ninth Circuit Rules Against War Tax Resister

Jim Maule, Tax Credit for Purchasing a Residence Requires a Purchase. “Nothing in the opinion explains why the taxpayer thought she had purchased the residence. Nor does it explain why the taxpayer, if not thinking that she had purchased the residence, would claim that she did.”

Peter Hardy, Carolyn Kendall, Between the National Taxpayer Advocate and the Courts: Steering a Middle Course to Define “Willfulness” in Civil Offshore Account Enforcement Cases Part 1 (Procedurally Taxing). “The OVD programs have netted many people who may have inadvertently failed to file FBARs, and who are not wealthy people with substantial accounts.”

In other words, shooting jaywalkers while giving international money launderers a good deal.


Robert Goulder, When All Else Fails, Blame a Tax Pro (Tax Analysts Blog) “OK, the tax code is a disgrace. I get it. But a member of Congress is blaming tax professionals? Really?”

Congress is sort of like the guy who leaves his food plate on the floor, falls asleep, and then blames the dog for eating it.




Joseph Henchman, 10 Remaining States Provide Tax Filing Guidance to Same-Sex Married Taxpayers. “After the IRS decision to allow gay and lesbian married couples to file joint federal tax returns, we noted that a number of states would have to provide guidance because they require two contradictory things: (1) if you file a joint federal return, you must file a joint state return, and (2) same-sex married couples cannot file jointly.”

Renu Zaretsky, Budget Battles and Filing Follies: The Sagas Continue. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup tells of abundant ACA tax filing headaches and more tax nonsense from the only avowedly-socialist senator, Bernie Sanders.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 683Day 682Day 681. “Commissioner John Koskinen, testifying before the House Appropriations subcommittee this week, admitted that nearly a dozen grassroots conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status are still awaiting determination.”

Robert Wood, Report Says Former IRS Employees–Think Lois Lerner–Can Still Peruse Your Tax Returns. Well, that’s reassuring.


Career Corner. Going Concern March Madness: More #BusySeasonProblems (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Brackets asking important work life questions like Which is the bigger busy season problem? Working Saturdays (#1 seed), or Colleagues who heat up smelly leftovers (16 seed).”

I’ll take the underdog.



Tax Roundup, 12/16/14: Extenders as dessert after the Senate eats its peas.

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy seriousbri under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy seriousbri under Creative Commons license.

It appears that the extenders will be served up to the Senate only when the Senators clean their plates. The Hill reports (my emphasis):

Once they are out of the way, Senate aides expect an agreement to confirm Obama’s other pending nominees by midweek.

That would speed up final votes on a package extending a variety of lapsed tax breaks and on the stalled Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

Senate aides say a one-year extension of expired tax breaks will be one of the last items to move because it has strong support on both sides of the aisle and gives lawmakers incentive to stay in town to complete other work. They predict it will pass quickly once put on the schedule.

So lingering uncertainty about the tax law for taxpayers and advisors is the price we have to pay for the Senate to do its job. Glad to help, guys!


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.

Joseph Henchman, A Big Year for State Tax Reform, and Congrats to COST! (Tax Policy Blog):

All groups who work on state tax reform should feel proud of the accomplishments of 2014. North Carolina simplified and reduced its whole system, Indiana and Michigan cut investment taxes, New York reformed its entire corporate tax system, and even Rhode Island and the District of Columbia enacted tax reductions. Additionally, voters defeated tax increase proposals in Colorado and Nevada, and in the spring a big tax increase proposal in Illinois failed. Maine raised its sales tax, the only tax increase at the state level in 2014.

Iowa is painfully absent from this list, and it needs tax reform as much as any place.


buzz20140923Robert D. Flach offers your Tuesday Buzz, with links from all over.

William Perez explains How to Make Sure Your Charity Donation Is Tax-Deductible

Jason Dinesen, Changing the Way I Work with Business Clients. “For all entities, I now require some sort of year-round relationship.”

Keith Fogg, Bankruptcy Court Grants IRS Equitable Tolling and Denies Discharge on Late Return (Procedurally Taxing).

Peter Reilly, Tom Coburn Tax Decoder Takes On Clergy Tax Abuse. “Senator Tom Coburn has served as a deacon in a Southern Baptist church but that has not prevented him from taking a blast at a tax break that benefits the Southern Baptist Convention mightily.”

Kay Bell, Congress’ job rating improves! But just by 1 percentage point.

David Henderson, Deadweight Loss from the New California Gas Tax. Rather than using the money for roads, it goes into a big hole high-speed rail.


Martin Sullivan, Will Orrin Hatch Lead on Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog). “. If — as Hatch writes in the preface to the report — “reform is vital and necessary to our nation’s economic well-being”– should he not also go beyond publishing reports and principles and write a real bill?”


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 586


When there are so many worthy nominees, it’s hard to pick only twenty. 20 Really Stupid Things In The U.S. Tax Code (Robert Wood) I still think the Section 409A deferred comp rules and everything Obamacare should head any such list.

News from the Profession. The Office of the Future Looks Kind of Like a Homeless Encampment Under a Bridge (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 10/28/14: Back-to-school edition! And: IRS says it will stop stealing.

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The 2014 tour of Iowa begins. I am helping Roger McEowen and Kristy Maitre teach Day 1 of the Farm and Urban Tax School this year, and this morning we are starting the first of eight sessions in Waterloo. We hit Maquoketa Thursday.  Other sessions will be in Sheldon, Red Oak, Ottumwa, Mason City, Denison and Ames. It’s two great days of CPE, and it’s a bargain. Get your details and sign up for a convenient session at the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation today.  Here is the crowd this morning:


Looks like fun, no?

f you are a Tax Update reader, come see me (Hi, Kevin!). You qualify for a discount! Well, not really, but I can get you a free postcard from the DNR Chickadee Checkoff booth…



Have a nice day. We’re All Flies in the IRS’s Widening WebMegan McArdle on the IRS’s sudden turnabout on asset seizures stealing from innocent businesses after the New York Times reported on it:

It’s as if the IRS just noticed that they were grotesquely abusing their power in order to punish people who appear to have done nothing actually wrong. Did this not occur to them when the victims’ lawyers pointed it out? Did none of their thousands of employees wonder aloud whether they really needed to make war on America’s college funds?

I’m sure it was forced on them by budget cuts.

So think about what has happened to our government agencies. We passed a law, to raise taxes, or curb the usage of addicting drugs. That law didn’t work as well as we wanted, because a lot of people were evading it. So we passed new laws, to make it easier to enforce the original one, like requiring banks to report all transactions over $10,000. And then people evaded that, so we made another rule … and now people who had no criminal intent find themselves coughing up tens of thousands of dollars they shouldn’t owe. 

There’s a lot of that in the tax law. FATCA and the FBAR foreign financial account reporting requirements are classic examples of laws nominally aimed at big-time tax evaders that destroy the finances of thousands of innocent foot-faulters.

As in the case of the fly, we were better off leaving the original ailment alone. No, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to catch tax evasion. I’m saying we shouldn’t try so hard that we end up criminalizing a lot of innocent behavior. There are worse things than a country with some tax fraud. And one of those things is a government with vast and arbitrary power to punish people who have done no wrong. 

And a willingness to use it carelessly.

Joseph Henchman, IRS Promises to Curtail Property Seizures After Abuses Come to Light (Tax Policy Blog)

Kay Bell, IRS seizes honest taxpayers’ assets under forfeiture program. “Oh my Lord, IRS. What in the hell were you thinking?”


buzz20140909Paul Neiffer, IRS Disagrees With Morehouse Ruling (Of Course). It looks like they will continue to assess SE tax on non-farmers with CRP income outside the Eighth Circuit.

Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz!!

Tax Prof, Tax Revolving Door Enriches Former IRS Officials Who Cash in by Navigating Inversions Through Rules They Wrote. And Commissioner Koskinen approves.


Leslie Book, A Combo Notice of Deficiency Claim Disallowance Highlights Tax Court Refund Jurisdiction (Procedurally Taxing)


Jeremy Scott, Will a Graduated Income Tax Sink Martha Coakley? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Steve Warnhoff, Senators Defend LIFO, a Tax Break that Obama and Camp Want to Repeal (Tax Justice Blog)


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 537. Today’s scandal roundup features Bob Woodward saying “If I were young, I would take Carl Bernstein and move to Cincinnati where that IRS office is and set up headquarters and go talk to everyone.


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)


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.



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)



Tax Roundup, 8/1/14: Links edition. And: no oppression.

Friday, August 1st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Today is the annual office golf outing.  It’s also the one time I play golf each year.

For some reason golf is supposed to be fun for everyone, not just the three or four people in the office who actually have enough skill to enjoy the game.  I have proposed alternative field days, including all-office chess tournaments, shooting, rock climbing — things where I might be competitive — and have made no progress.  So golf it must be.

But I will wear my New Mexico hat, that’ll show them.


20130114-1Roger McEowen, Minority Shareholder in Closely-Held Farming Corporation Had No Reasonable Expectations that Majority Could Violate – Case Dismissed.

This case generated a controversial Iowa Supreme Court decision on the rights of minority shareholders.  The decision covered in Roger’s article was the trial court’s attempt to apply the Supreme Court’s decision to the facts in the case. Roger concludes:

The trial court’s remand decision is welcome relief for closely-held corporations in Iowa from an Iowa Supreme Court decision that is out-of-step with reality.  To find, as the Iowa Supreme Court did, that there can be shareholder oppression (with the likely result of corporate liquidation) where there isn’t even an allegation of a breach of fiduciary duties by the controlling shareholders would result in, as the trial court’s remand decision points out, oppression of the majority and could also result in corporate liquidation anytime a minority shareholder wants to “cash-out” for personal gain (as in the present case).  The trial court’s decision also upholds the use of bylaws that set forth stock valuation upon buy-out.  In this case, the Iowa Supreme Court allowed the minority shareholder to ignore the bylaw setting forth the valuation methodology for a buy-out (which he drafted), but the trial court held him to it.  That’s more welcome news for closely-held corporations.

This, too, can and probably will be appealed.


20140801-2Paul Neiffer, Pay Your Kids; It Saves Taxes!:

A farmer who operates as a sole proprietor may pay their children under age 18 wages and be exempt from payroll taxes.  If the farmer operates as a partnership (either regular or a LLC taxed as a partnership), paying wages to children under age 18 is still exempt from payroll taxes if the only partners of the partnership/LLC are parents of the children. 

But grandpa is out of luck.

From Jim Maule’s Tax Myths series, Retired People Do Not Pay Income Tax

Peter Reilly,Don’t Leave Money To Children Buried Under IRS Liens.  “Leaving money to someone who is subject to IRS liens can be like leaving money to IRS.”

Keith Fogg, When Should Bankruptcy Court Hear a Tax Case (Procedurally Taxing).

TaxGrrrl, Guilty Plea In One Of The Largest, Longest Running Tax Fraud Schemes Ever.  Kelly explains how some New York grifters milked the Treasury for years, stealing $65 million under the nose of Doug Shulman.


Joseph Henchman, Maryland Argues There’s No Constitutional Bar to Taxing Over 100% of Residents’ Income.  Maryland argues that it doesn’t have to allow a credit against county taxes for taxes paid in other states.  Joseph argues, I think correctly, that Maryland’s position is an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce.

Howard Gleckman, How REIT Spinoffs Will Further Erode the Corporate Tax Base‘ (TaxVox).




Kay Bell, Seersucker Day returns to Capitol Hill, but lawmakers can’t deduct their special summer duds

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 449


Kelly Davis, ales Tax Holidays = Not Worth Celebrating (Tax Justice Blog).  “In the long run, sales tax holidays leave a regressive tax system basically unchanged.”

Iowa’s sales tax holiday for clothing and footwear is today and tomorrow.
News from the Profession.  Teamsters Get Dynamic With a Giant Rat at Grant Thornton’s Downtown NYC Office (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 7/31/14: Tax Holiday Weekend! And: how defined benefit plans hurt Iowa municipal services.

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140731-1You’ve had your calendar’s marked for a long time, and here it is: Iowa’s annual sales tax holiday is tomorrow and Saturday.  From the Iowa Department of Revenue:

If you sell clothing or footwear in the State of Iowa, this law may impact your business.

  • Exemption period: from 12:01 a.m., August 1, 2014, through midnight, August 2, 2014.
  • No sales tax, including local option sales tax, will be collected on sales of an article of clothing or footwear having a selling price less than $100.00.
  • The exemption does not apply in any way to the price of an item selling for $100.00 or more
  • The exemption applies to each article priced under $100.00 regardless of how many items are sold on the same invoice to a customer

“Clothing” means…

  • any article of wearing apparel and typical footwear intended to be worn on or about the human body.

“Clothing” does not include…

  • watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas, handkerchiefs, sporting equipment, skis, swim fins, roller blades, skates, and any special clothing or footwear designed primarily for athletic activity or protective use and not usually considered appropriate for everyday wear.

Stylish tax-savvy shoppers can combine holidays across states.  For example, you can pick up a cute new outfit in Iowa this weekend and wear it to Louisiana for their September firearms tax holiday.


Kay Bell, 12 states kick off August 2014 with sales tax holidays

Joseph Henchman, Sales Tax Holidays: Politically Expedient but Poor Tax Policy


Robert D. Flach has some sound ADVICE FOR A NEW GRADUATE STARTING OUT IN HIS/HER FIRST FULL-TIME JOB.  One nice bit: “If you have any cash from graduation gifts left over open a ROTH IRA account and use this money to fund your 2014 contribution.”

Jason Dinesen makes it easy to follow his excellent series on one client’s ID theft saga: Find All of My Identity Theft Blog Posts in One Location.



taxpayers assn logoGretchen TegelerFallout from Iowa public pension shortfalls (

The increase in public spending for pensions has impacted the ability of our state and local governments in Iowa to pay for other services.  The result is a decline in the quality of public services and an increase in property taxes.  For example, all Des Moines libraries have closed an additional day each week just to help cover the cost of police and fire pensions.  Urbandale is raising property taxes.  Some have questioned whether it’s worth the substantial public cost to pay such a generous benefit to so few individuals.  Police and firefighters in our largest 49 cities can retire at age 55, and receive 82 percent of their highest salary each year for the remainder of their lives.  Almost all of the retirees in this system will have a higher standard of living post-retirement than they did during their highest earning years.

This is true even though Iowa’s public-sector pensions are better-funded than those in many other states.  The problem won’t be fixed until public employees go on the same defined contribution model as the rest of us — you get paid the amount that has been funded.  Defined benefit plans are a lie – to the taxpayers about what current public services cost, or to the employees about what they can expect as pension income, or to both.


20140731-2Paul Neiffer, Another Cattle Tax Shelter Bites the Dust:

Essentially, Mr. Gardner would issue a promissory note to these entities for the purchase of cattle and/or operating expenses and equipment.  The promissory notes totaled more than a $1 million, however, it appears that Mr. Gardner effectively paid less than $100,000 on any of these promissory notes.  Also, in almost all cases, Mr. Gardner defaulted on all notes and no collection efforts were made to collect.

This is almost quaint.  When I first started working in the 1980s, I saw a few shelters like this.  A cow worth, say, $2,000 would be sold for $50,000, $2,000 down and the rest on a “note” that would never be collected — but the “farmer” would depreciate $50,000, rather than $2,000.  I’m a little surprised it still going on, considering the at-risk rules, passive loss rules, and hobby loss rules against this sort of thing.



Jim Maule’s “Tax Myths” series includes “Children Do Not Pay Tax.”  He notes “A child of any age, with gross income exceeding whatever standard deduction is available, has federal income tax liability.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 448.  Read this and tell me again how the Tea Party targeting was just a non-partisan, unbiased attempt to clear a backlog of application that was driven by low-level functionaries in Cincinnati.

Jack Townsend notes UBS Continuing Woes, Including Settlement with Germany


2140731-3Cara Griffith, Access to Public Records Isn’t a Fundamental Right – But It Should Be (Tax Analysts Blog).  But bureaucrats everywhere prefer to work without witnesses.

Leslie Book, The Tax Law, EITC and Modern Families: A Bad Mix (Procedurally Taxing).  “I read a summary Tax Court case from a few weeks ago that reminds me that the tax laws in general– and the EITC and Child Tax Credit rules in particular– can sometimes lead to unfair results, especially in light of the complicated and at times messy modern family lives.”

Len Burman, What Ronald Reagan Didn’t Say About the EITC (TaxVox).  I bet he didn’t say it was a floor wax or a dessert topping, either.

Peter Reilly, Obamacare Upheld Against Another Challenge – Court Rules Against Sissel.  The origination clause argument was never more than a forlorn hope.


Lyman Stone, Kentucky Considers Tax Rebate for Creationist Theme Park (Tax Policy Blog).  Considering how many legislators think they can play God with state economies by means of tax credits, this has a sort of perverse logic going for it.

Adrienne Gonzalez, PwC Report Declares a Future Free From Nine-to-Five Work (Going Concern).  When I worked at PriceWaterhouse, a PwC predecessor, they were already free from nine-to-five work.  Nine-to-five would have been wimp work for a Sunday.